Hosni Mubarak, the fighter pilot

Abdel Latif el-Menawy

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Some may disagree when evaluating former Egyptian President Mohammad Hosni Mubarak. But it's unjust to underestimate the value and role of Mohammad Hosni Mubarak as a pilot.

I will never forgot a comment made by one of my English friends during the phase of humiliating Mubarak, trying him, transferring him from his home to hospital then to the cage which was specifically built for him under the supervision of the relevant minister at the time and his return to jail. Back then, my friend inquired: “Didn’t Mubarak once fight in the army?”

I told him that Mubarak actually participated in three wars, the Suez War in 1956, the June War in 1967 and finally, the October War in 1973 which is really the most important victory in Arabs' history. Upon hearing this answer my friend was surprised over the humiliation Mubarak was subjected to and said: “If he were in our country, the situation would be different. This is a man who fought for his country (jeopardizing his life) not once but several times. To be a fighter for the sake of your country is of great value.”

‘Tools of justice’

God was patient with Mubarak as he granted him the chance to restore some respect after all he's been through following the collapse of his regime in February 2011.

Abdel Latif el-Menawy

Trying the former president wasn't the cruelest of actions against him. I think the cruelest of actions was the moment when they decided to strip him of his medals and decorations. I think stripping him of the Sinai medal was the most painful for him. Many, including myself, think that holding a politician accountable should be carried out through political acts. The latter can be carried out by resorting to tools of democratic change, protesting or implementing civil disobedience, ousting him or even staging a coup against him. But I do not agree that the tools of justice should be used to impose a vengeful punishment that carries a different name but has one result and involves adopting uncivilized behavior to achieve vengeance.

Mubarak ruled Egypt for 30 years. Some consider this phase as three decades of darkness, dictatorship, humiliation, corruption, theft and regression. On the other hand, there is a huge segment of the population which believes that Mubarak managed to be successful at some points and unsuccessful at others. They also think that if he had decided to withdraw from public life following the death of his grandchild and the serious operation he had, he would've marked his name in history with eternal letters and he would've had a special place in the Egyptian people's hearts. There's a third party however that totally believes in Mubarak and calls itself “Mubarak's sons.” This party believes that Mubarak has done nothing wrong. Their stance was strengthened by the manner in which the Muslim Brotherhood ran the country. As a result of the MB’s rule, many people began to miss life under Mubarak’s reign.

Pilot or president?

As we see, the apparent disagreements over evaluating Mubarak are understandable. What isn’t understandable however is the fierce criticism that was levied not against Mubarak the president, but against Mubarak the fighter pilot. Some spoke out undermining his role during the October War. Some even went as far as undermining the role of the Egyptian Air Force in the war claiming that what's been said about the Mubarak’s role was mere exaggeration in favor of the air force leader who became the country's president. This stance expressed a tangible decline in the mentality of some Egyptians blinded by anger and by the desire to achieve a vendetta. These negative feelings led them to kill the value of an honorable part of their history and their country's history- the major and brave role of the Egyptian Air Force during the October war.

God was patient with Mubarak as he granted him the chance to restore some respect after all he's been through following the collapse of his regime in February 2011. The anniversary of the October victory came before he was convicted of any of the charges levied against him. Most importantly, the role of the air force was brought up during this anniversary. Fate was on his side as the diaries he wrote when he was vice-president on the role of the Air Force, which he led in the October War, highlighted his real character as a military commander and a fighter pilot. I think that “Mubarak the fighter pilot” may be one of the happiest people these days as he celebrates the October victory in which he and his comrades played an important role in, a role that history will not forget even if the situation appears differently at times.

Life before

A young Mohammad Hosni Mubarak joined the military academy in 1947. He graduated in 1949 and in 1950 he graduated from the Air Force academy. He participated in the 1967 War. After that, president Gamal Abdel Nasser decided to assign him as commander of the Air Force Academy in Nov. 1967 then in June 1969, he assigned him as chief of staff of the Egyptian Air Force. In April 1972, President Anwar al-Sadat issued a decision to assign him as commander of the Air Force. He was also assigned as deputy minister of defense - in addition to his other post. The mission was clear: prepare the air force for a massive liberation war that restores all land and remove any trace of shame the air force as a result of the 1967 defeat.

At 2 p.m. on Oct. 6 forty years ago, 222 jets took off crossing the Suez Canal. At 2:45 p.m. the phone at the armed forces' headquarters rang. The phone call went as follows: “The mission has been completely accomplished at the specified times. All of our jets returned except for one and its pilot was martyred.” This was the script of the phone call made by Major General Hosni Mubarak.

This article was first published in al-Jarida on Oct. 5, 2013.


Abdel Latif el-Menawy is an author, columnist and multimedia journalist who has covered conflicts around the world. He is the author of “Tahrir: the last 18 days of Mubarak,” a book he wrote as an eyewitness to events during the 18 days before the stepping down of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Menawy’s most recent public position was head of Egypt’s News Center. He is a member of the National Union of Journalists in the United Kingdom, and the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate. He can be found on Twitter @ALMenawy

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