I'm on vacation. As I've done in recent years, I've prepared a number of posts on topics of historical and cultural interest ahead of time, posts unlikely to be overtaken by events. There will be one or more of these per day, and I may drop in to comment on current developments as required.
"The Army Carries Out a Peaceful Military Movement."
"Dismissal of a Number of Senior Officers and Protection if Public Faciilities."
In the ensuing 70 years the Army was rarely directly involved in politics, given the presence of British troops in Egypt as a counterbalance. There were some military plots during the Second World War, and military dissatisfaction with King Farouq began to build after the defeat in the 1948 First Palestine War/Israeli War of Independence.
Sixty-one years ago today, all that changed. A group of dissatisfied officers, mostly colonels and lower but including General Muhammad Naguib, seized power, deposed the King, and the following year declared a republic.
|The Free Officers (1st row: Nasser, Naguib, Abdel Hakim Amer, Sadat)|
I have posted so often about 1952 that there is little new to add. You can read my posts from July of 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012, as well as all my posts tagged Naguib, Nasser, or Sadat, since all three of Republican Egypt's first three Presidents were senior figures in the original Free Officers.
The coup itself was a classic one and became a model for the Arab military regimes of the 1950s and 1960s, with other countries' officers even adopting the name Free Officers and/or calling their junta a Revolutionary Command Council. After the Army's not-a-coup-really on July 3, the Denver Post posted a collection of photos of the preludes to the coup (including Black Saturday) and the coup itself, including some of the same photos I posted last Friday.
|Naguib and Nasser|
Nasser became a symbol for the Arab world, first as the man who ended the British role in Egypt and then, in 1956, resisted the triple invasion of the British and French colonial powers plus Israel. Until his image received a setback in 1967 Nasser was enormously popular.
The third President from the Free Officers, Anwar Sadat, has also had a mixed legacy. Having lived in Egypt for two of the eleven years of his Presidency, I can attest to the shifts in his image through the years. At first seen as very much in Nasser's shadow, the 1973 war made him a hero. His 1977 trip to Israel and subsequent peace treaty was much less popular, and led to Egypt's ostracism from the Arab world. By 1981 he had become increasingly repressive, and his funeral after his assassination that year was attended mainly by foreign dignitaries with most Egyptians excluded, a sharp contrast to the millions who turned out for Nasser's. Yet now, more than 30 years later, Sadat is increasingly popular in retrospect and often referred to as a martyred President.
Egypt's fourth President, Husni Mubarak, was too junior to have been in the Free Officers (he graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1950), but he was very much a product of its legacy. Of Egypt's leaders since 1952, only Muhammad Morsi had no links to it. The Free Officers were forged in the 1948 war with Israel and led Egypt during the 1956, 1967, War of Attrition and 1973 wars. (By contrast, the current military chief, Gen. Sisi, is the first modern Egyptian military chief with no combat experience, being commissioned in 1977.)
So 1952, whether seen as a coup or a revolution, has dominated Egypt ever since.
Two videos, both in Arabic (though the first is probably self-explanatory, showing scenes of the coup; the second is Naguib addressing the country after the coup: