Saturday, July 19, 2003

Egypt's paper tiger will roar forever..

I deserve a medal, really, I do!Once, not so long ago, there was a war in a certain country in Europe. I was drawn to this war for personal and moral reasons. At the tender age of 18, I travelled to the above-mentioned European country and volunteered for frontline service. I saw and did many things. After one year had passed, I decided that I had seen and done enough things, and asked to be discharged as was my right after a full year of combat service. About a year later I was awarded a wartime service medal by the country I had served.

As any veteran of any war will tell you, I am fiercely proud of my wartime service, but I also harbor a deep hatred for those who claim to have done and seen what they clearly haven't. You would be amazed at how many people claim to have been in war when they haven't. I would say that out of every 5 "veterans" I have met, only 1 has turned out to be bona fide. When I discover this kind of lie I feel that my own service has been dishonored, and I am tempted to inflict extreme violence on the offendor. It might sound extreme, but if you ask any (real) war veteran about this I am sure he will concur.

True heroes only pleaseIn 1983, Hosni Mubarak, who had been president for less than two years since Anwar Sadat's death, awarded himself the highest military decoration in Egypt, the Order of the Sinai Star (pictured left). He is very proud of this medal, as it is the topmost on the long list of his military decorations that is displayed on his personal website.

What is the Order of the Sinai Star? The Sinai Star was awarded to about 200 people (almost half of them posthumously) in the aftermath of the 1973 October War. Since that war, only 15 of these medals were awarded, all posthumously, to the commandos and pilots who fell in Cyprus in 1978, during an attempted anti-terrorist operation (For reasons unknown, they were attacked upon landing by Cypriot regular army forces).

I have the honour of personally knowing two individuals who were awarded the Order of the Star of Sinai. One of them parachuted under heavy fire behind the Barlev line into occupied Sinai on October 6, 1973, and led units in the capture of Israeli anti-aircraft and artillery units. His unit sustained unbearable casualties but nevertheless prevailed. The second is my aunt's husband, who (I can't be too specific, sorry) commanded a large force in and around Suez during the war, and led several key units across the canal in the initial cross-water assault.

Anwar Sadat was known to be extremely careful about who received this medal. Each commendation was scrutinised and carefully judged before the medal was awarded. One reason perhaps was that this medal was posthumously awarded to Sadat's own brother, Atef, who was shot down over Sinai on the first day of the October war. Sadat often wore his brother's medal around his neck (leading to some false rumors that he had also awarded himself the medal). The medal was only awarded to those who had shown unusual bravery in battle, and whose actions had caused serious damage to enemy forces. Perhaps in memory of his brother, Sadat made sure that the medal was awarded only to the deserving few.

The key phrase for wannabes, and I hope our noble President-monarch is paying attention , is bravery in battle. Every single recipient of the Sinai Star, every single one, had amply demonstrated his courage under fire, and in many cases made the ultimate sacrifice for his country, all, that is, for the very last recipient - Hosni Mubarak.

Hosni Mubarak has has never been in a battle zone. He served as a Tu-16 bomber pilot for the EAF, and afterwards commanded a wing of Tu-16s in the 1960's, before becoming EAF commander. Never once did he directly participate in combat. Mubarak's service is of course commendable, and he deservedly received many service and merit decorations, but on what grounds was he awarded the nation's highest military honor? Did he paddle accross the Suez Canal in a rubber dinghy like my uncle? Did he parachute into occupied Sinai from a helicopter like my other friend? Did he command a tank in armored assaults on Israeli columns? Did he fly fighter-bombers low-level all the way to Haifa and Tel-Aviv for precision strikes? I met one Egyptian fighter ace who during his career had been shot down twice, once by friendly fire. He didn't receive the Sinai Star for his actions, yet King Hosni did!

Shame! Shame on you Mr. President!!!