The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Column: A memo on national security

My latest column for al-Masri al-Youm is out. To commemorate Thomas Friedman's visit to Cairo this week, I've decided to write a Friedmanesque "memo from..." in which I imagine myself as a senior official in the Egyptian ministry of interior welcoming the new minister, Mohamed Ibrahim. The version up on AMAY is not formatted properly, so I am reproducing it below.

To: Mohamed Ibrahim, incoming minister of interior

From: A senior ministry official

Your Excellency,

I believe I speak for the entire ministry in extending you a warm welcome in your new position at the head of our august ministry. Your precedessor was a respectable man, a little too respectable perhaps, and perhaps not altogether attuned to the bitterness that has taken over our ministry since the regretted events of late January 2011. But, nevermind, he will now go to a well-deserved retirement and make room for the right person for this new era, which all of us at the top floors at Lazoughly1 agree is your own esteemed self.

With your leadership, Sir, we will complete the restauration of this ministry to its former glories, burnishing once again its glorious image so unfairly tarnished by its enemies. It is to inform you of the state of mind of those of us at the ministry who have gone through these difficult times that I am writing to you.

It is true that we were caught by surprise by the conspiracy hatched against us that black month of January, when a day dedicated to our humble service and sacrifice was so cruelly perverted by some rabble, and that some degree of panic after that affected our morale. Your predecessor-but-one, Habib al-Adly — to whom we all owe a debt of gratitude in making us what we are today — had turned this ministry into a formidable force, but alas also caused it to be caught in the murky palace wars of the late Mubarak era.

I am glad to tell Your Excellency that this recovery is well under way. This ministry has been poorly understood and suffered from the anti-Mubarak sentiment that has prevailed of late in the country. Too many still see us as associated with the former president, but it is only because they do not understand that we live to serve. This we should never forget: we are servants of the state no matter who is in charge. As you well know, Sir, we run the police, the public administration, the borders, the traffic, and so much else still. We are the cogs in this great machine of state, the indispensable bits that make it run. At times, Sir, my old eyes weep at this thought: would the Egyptian people do without us!? We are both smaller and bigger than any Mubarak or Sadat or Nasser, great men as they undoubtedly were.

Yet we seek no special recognition — such is our devotion to our great country.

We here at Lazoughly are happy to see that our friends in the military have began to recognize not only our usefulness, but also our patriotism. They should never forget, that our fate is shared, now that they too have been put in the position of doing the difficult, unpopular but necessary work of restoring public order. This can at time be a bloody affair, and of late we had been afraid that the esteemed generals who appointed you, whose service to the nation shall be inscribe in stone alongside the Pharaohs, had forgotten about us and sided with those who seek to meddle with our way of doing things in the name of “reform.”

But the close collaboration of recent months, the fruitful joint endeavor, their recognition of the usefulness of our networks and methods, in brief the trust and confidence they have placed in us have warmed our hearts. Your appointment comes as the ultimate confirmation of this development.

I cannot tell you how thrilled my men were to hear that one of your first decisions as minister would be to give them license to shoot to kill the thugs, foreign agents and troublemakers that have plagued our glorious nation for the past year. In one bold stroke you have restored their self-confidence, and it was not even necessary to give them a bonus in the exercise of this license. You have not only told them, but the entire country, that they are in the right at a time when we are being confused with more talk of human rights and the such. But the people will look at your decision and approve, for they know better: the thugs that threaten their families and belongings do not have rights.

Needless to say, we must remain vigilant, dear Sir. There are those in the circles who would make friends with our former enemies, including the Muslim Brothers and the political agitators that would sacrifice the stability of our nation for some vagues ideas. Perhaps they are afraid for themselves. We should remind them that we, the servants of the state, must stand together against the opportunists and politicians who would gamble with the fate of Egypt! Please tell them that we are patient, and that those who a year ago trembled when they received a call from us will soon enough need us again. Yes, they may despise us now, but they will need us more than we need them once again, for we are everywhere.

  1. The headquarters of the Interior Ministry are located on Lazoughly Street, and the name Lazoughly is often used as a shorthand for the building. ↩