An unnecessary, yet much needed explanation

Mahmoud Salem
9 Min Read
Mahmoud Salem
Mahmoud Salem

Dear Mahmoud,

I have been following your writings, and I must say that I’ve been a bit disappointed by the shift in your views lately. While you were a big supporter of 30 June and the end of the unfortunate episode of Egyptian history called “The Morsi Presidency”, it seems that you have started to take issue with the direction that the country is taking, especially when it comes to my role in it and its future. I think an explanation might be in order to clear the air between us.

First of all, you seem to have subscribed to the notion that I have orchestrated everything since the beginning of the Morsi presidency in order to take his place, which is not true. I wish we were such master minds of manipulation that the Egyptian public thinks we are, but in reality we are less chess masters and more backgammon aficionados: we go where the dice takes us. Personally, I never wanted to start any of this. I was very content being a minister of defence in my age, but that idiot Morsi screwed the pooch so badly by trying to entice my subordinates to replace me, that they informed me that I needed to either remove Morsi or they would have both of us removed. I gave him all the ultimatums in the world, but he didn’t listen, and the rest is history.

The moment this happened, though, I was faced with a new reality: no matter who becomes Egypt’s next president, I would be removed from my position. No president in his right mind would keep a defence minister that was part of removing two of his predecessors. I tried to secure my position vis-à-vis the new constitution, but while the constitutional committee approved having the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces appoint the defence minister, they did not give them the power to remove him. Had that been the case, I would’ve stayed as defence minister, secure in my position and the immunity it offered. But that didn’t work out, unfortunately, and I can’t quit, because I did manage to secure the undying hatred of every Islamist in Egypt and abroad. I have no intention of getting assassinated just because I helped the people remove Morsi from power. So, as you can see, I have no choice but to answer the call of destiny and run for president, because I would like to live, and I really wouldn’t hate to do that in the presidential palace. That’s all.

You seem to also have a big issue with the “military’s achievements”, such as the success of the war on terror, securing Sinai and our AIDS cure machine. I get that you are frustrated because most of this is obviously not true, but son, you need to understand that our people value image over performance and will believe anything that makes them feel good about themselves – no matter what the reality is. I wouldn’t hate for the country to have functioning state institutions, a professional police force and efficient judiciary, but, like your comrades, you seem to demand things that are completely detached from the reality of the country you are living in. Egypt is not Switzerland, and someone like me must make do with what I have. That means quick and/or superficial improvements and wins. Why do you think I chose Ibrahim Mehleb as my prime minister? The man is a building contractor, so he will fix roads, build bridges and develop housing projects, which will give the people the image that we are working. Sure, it will all be subcontracted to private contractors and the government won’t do anything, but at least something will get done. I would also like to see you critics try to make those 6 million unemployable schmucks that make up this state do work. Even I can’t, and I have tanks and men with guns at my disposal.

As for the AIDS cure machine, well, you got me there. It would be unbecoming to say that we were conned by this Dr Ibrahim Abdel Atty fellow, but the reality is that we were. He cured the loved one of a high-ranking general, who then introduced him to even more generals, who ended up believing vehemently in him. When he told them that he could cure Hepatitis C and AIDS, they, out of patriotism, took the initiative to help him achieve that goal. I must say that his theory was very convincing to me when I first heard it; sending laser beams into the blood stream to destroy the virus made sense to me as a man with a military background. In the military we call that carpet bombing. How would I know that it is scientifically unsound? What do I know of science? So, yeah, we brought him on TV, and to our horror it turned into a fiasco. We couldn’t back down now, and it doesn’t help that people like you won’t let it go. You are like a dog with a bone.

I get that you and the youth are frustrated. You are justified in this – and you will be even more justified as time goes by. You will not see good days. The good days are long gone. Not because we are in power, but because the math doesn’t add up. So, if you do have a good brain and a good education, I suggest you use both and leave the country, because some very bad days are upon us, filled with demands that cannot be met and expectations that cannot be fulfilled. I wouldn’t count too much on the insubordinate youth bringing me down. We get insubordinate youth in the military all the time, and a brief stint in military prison does miracles to adjust their attitudes. And let’s face it: all of you need an attitude adjustment. All of this anger is not healthy, and quite honestly it amounts to lots of wasted energy. So either control it, or we will have to control it for you.

A last word of caution: we are not the Muslim Brotherhood. You can make all kinds of comparisons between us – and God knows we are similar – but there are two fundamental differences you must take into consideration. First, the Brotherhood was trying to control the country, while we actually control the country, and have been in control for more than 60  years now (We are what people refer to as “entrenched”.). Second, the MB tried to be the sole representation of Islam, but there were many alternatives to them (Salafis, Sufis, Al-Azhar to name a few). But us? There are no alternatives to us. There is only one army, and you cannot break it, because what uniformed men with guns will keep order if we are gone? Your other alternative is the police, and they make us look like peace-loving hippies. Why do you think we will never reform the Ministry of Interior? They are the bad cop to our good cop; they make us look good without us doing anything. Image over performance, son. Never forget that.

All the best regards,

Your Next President

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Mahmoud Salem is a political activist, writer, and social media consultant. His writings could be found at and follow him @sandmonkey on Twitter