Are Egyptians Better Off Post-Mubarak?

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," October 10, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


EMAD GAD, EGYPTIAN POLITICIAN (via translator): It seems that there were instructions to use excessive force against protesters. I have never seen in my life armored vehicles speeding to run over protesters as if they were competing for a prize.


SHANNON BREAM, ANCHOR: Those comments from an Egyptian politician talking about an incursion this weekend that left dozens dead, most of them Christians. Now, before the break, we had a question of the day that we asked you. Is Egypt better off since President Hosni Mubarak was ousted? Five percent say yes, 95 percent of you say no.

Let's break this down with our panel. Charles, we're talking about a situation over the weekend where about 1,000 Christians were reportedly trying to protest peacefully against previous attacks. They say they're not being protected by the ruling military council. How do we look at this? I mean, are things better or worse with Mubarak out of the picture?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well there's a strange way in which dictators often give protection to minorities, if not out of sincerity but as a way to build at least a base of support. You've got that, for example, in Syria, where the dictator Assad, who is an Alawite, 10 percent of the population, obviously protects the Alawites, but also Christians in Syria are worried what would happen if he is deposed because of the rise of Islamism throughout the region. And Islamism is quite intolerant of all other religions, especially of Judaism and Christianity.

So what we're getting in Egypt, when you took away Mubarak, when he's sitting in a cage in the trial and he was the protector of the Christians. You've gotten a regime that succeeded him that is not exactly intent on containing the passions of the mob. So you've had a lot of churches destroyed, you've had a lot of attacks on Copts. You also had the attack on the Israeli embassy, about the only outlet for anti-Semitism, so that the Jewish community was long ago was abandoned in Egypt. And this is what's to come.

And this is in response to the rise of Islamic elements in the population. The regime, the military government is afraid of clamping down. And as a result, what you're getting, is at least neglect of supporting and protecting religious minorities, and in some cases encouragement of persecution. And that is really a bad omen for a democratic Egypt.

BREAM: Mort, there are a lot of Christians there in Egypt saying there were agreements that we reached that, you know, people were going to be protected, and that certain things would be implemented. You know, elections were coming. A lot of those timelines have passed. The military council is still in charge. We know parliamentary elections are coming today. The White House said that this violence should not delay those elections. What do you make of what progress has or hasn't been made in Egypt?

MORT KONDRACKE, ROLL CALL: Ya know, I don't see a great deal of progress toward democracy. I've been worried from the beginning that this 'Arab Spring' would lead to chaos or Islamic extremism or the re-imposition of military rule. I mean, this has happened before. It happened in Iraq when we -- when we invaded the Shiites started -- the Sunnis started - uh, sorry -- the Shiites started going after the Sunnis, and vice versa. It happened in Afghanistan. It happened in Iran. And it happened in Yugoslavia, you know, where everybody was killing everybody else.

So this is what happens when the iron rule is lifted and everybody is free to attack their enemies, and then somebody comes along and re-imposes iron rule. And it looks as though the military intends to crack down on anybody who gets out of line. But since the country is largely Islamic, they are going to have to make their peace with Islamism. So my guess is that the successor regime will be military, but also Islamic, which is the worst possible case.

BREAM: But Fred, we were told that in many of these uprisings in these countries, that we were dealing with secular interests, the Muslim Brotherhood was not going to be an extremist organization, that other Islamic extremists were. Maybe a small part of the move to oust the current rulers but it was more about democracy and secular aims. Is that not the case?

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: It's certainly not the case with the Islamists, who are attacking the Copts, who are burning down their churches.

And I would differ with one thing Mort said. Ya know the armed forces that are running things want to crack down on everybody who gets out of line. They're not cracking down on these Islamists. They're cracking down on the Copts, these perfectly innocent Christians.

Look one of the tests of the 'Arab Spring' in any of these countries that have thrown out their dictators is whether they bring in religious tolerance. And Mort gave a pretty good list of countries where there isn't religious tolerance. Egypt is failing. And now you have not only the Islamists but the armed forces financed heavily by the United States plowing into crowds of Copts who are having a perfectly peaceful demonstration.

This is an issue for the U.S. government. We're funding the Egyptian army basically, and have for years, and to put out a weak statement that the White House or the State Department did today, you know, really doesn't quite do it.

BREAM: Yeah, the White House sent out condolences to the families and loved ones of those who were killed or injured, but, Charles, didn't go a step further for calling for any specific changes, only that the elections carry forward. Is that enough?

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, we have a pretty weak hand here, because having abandoned Mubarak, which I think had to be done at the time it was done because he had lost the mandate of heaven entirely. But with him gone, and you have a regime that's unsteady, worried about the Islamist elements, we do have the pressure of our military aid. But there's not much of an option of suspending it, at least at this point.

I think that all we can do is put the pressure on them to talk about the possible suspension of aid if this goes on, but I think what we really have to worry about is not these demonstrations, but we've got elections coming up, in which the most organized elements are the Islamists. At least the presidential elections will be postponed until probably 2013, if it can be held off that long.

But the parliamentary elections are likely to bring to power the Islamists. And that's going to be much more difficult. At that point we're gonna have to exercise diplomacy and use the levers that we have, which are essentially economic.

BREAM: Will there be a place for Christians in these societies as they solidify and change?

BARNES: Well not if there's an Islamist government. I mean, these are the people who are trying to exterminate the entire Christian church in Egypt. It will be hard. They are 10 percent of the population, but you can, I think, count on the fact that we're gonna see one heck of a lot more immigration from Egypt of the Christian Copts.

KONDRACKE: And a collapse of the economy, I think.

BREAM: Alright, panel, thank you very much. That's it for the panel. But stay tuned. Live TV can be fraught with potential minefields. Coming up, see what happens when one local news anchor loses it.

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