Friday, June 24, 2022

Assassination and Execution of Leaders


Rockport History Book Club

Assassination and Execution of Leaders

History Book Club

Wednesday, June 29, 2022


Mohammad Anwar el-Sadat

محمد انور السادات

Wednesday, June 29, 2022. Assassinations and executions of leaders. Read the stories of how famous people were assassinated and what came after. From modern times--- Anwar Sadat, Olaf Palme, Yitzhak Rabin, Aldo Moro, Mahatma Gandhi, Indira Gandhi, or Presidents Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley, and Kennedy, or Franz Ferdinand, King of Albania, Nicholas II of Russia, or earlier-- Henry VI, James III, Henry III, Julius Caesar. [Proposed by Janos Posfai]

Charles River Editors, Anwar Sadat : The Life and Legacy of the Egyptian President, 2015, Audiobook.

            This was my first occasion to “read” a book by audiobook, and it was challenging.  I was unable to make yellow underlining of text in a Kindle book, and that meant I scribbled many notes.

            Anwar started life in 1918, born in a village to working class parents.  He found his way to join the Egyptian army and began a career that eventually made him one of the most consequential leaders in the Middle East.

            Sadat graduated from the Egyptian military academy in 1938, and early in his career he worked to get rid of the British occupation. He formed the “Free Officers’ Association” to work toward creation of a free Egypt.  Egypt had been under British occupation for years, and there was much unrest.  His first attempt at revolution was a failure and the British threw him into prison in 1941, as war was spreading across the world.   

            Another leader of Egypt under British rule, Ahmed Pasha, was assassinated in 1946, and Sadat got thrown in prison again for that.

            He made friends with a fellow officer, Gamal Abdel Nasser, and they worked together with others toward eventually driving out the British and overthrowing the puppet leader, King Farouk, on July 23, 1952. This marked the start of Egyptian sovereignty, and Gamal Abdel Nasser became leader.  

            Nasser grew more and more under Soviet influence.  The six-day war of 1967 was a stinging defeat for Egypt. Nasser was growing old before his time, and died on Sept. 28, 1971, of heart attack, with much speculation that he had been killed by the Soviets, the Americans, or the Israelis.

            Sadat was vice president, so he became acting president.  No one considered him a serious leader.  He’d long been called “Nasser’s black poodle”, alluding to his Nubian (black) ancestry.

            Nasser had encouraged the country’s alliance with the USSR, even though many thought that the Soviets treated Egyptians poorly. Sadat saw them as worse than the British, who characteristically had treated all Arabs with disdain. In 1972 Sadat had had it with the Russians and he ordered them all to leave.  This came as a surprise to the Americans, as he had not confided in them or sought their support.  The Americans under President Nixon apparently were slow to see this as an opening.

            In 1973 Sadat started the Yom Kippur War against Israel, and the Arabs lost again, but Sadat claimed he “went to war to make peace.” I had just taken command of a new ammunition ship, and just before we departed for the Middle East the war broke out and the Pentagon ordered us to load up with cluster bombs.  Our carriers in the Med had given the Israelis their cluster bombs, which are deadly in attacking troop formations.  We sailed for the Med with our decks and magazines stuffed with cluster bombs, as well as our regular ammunition. We re-supplied the American carriers.  These bombs were banned in 2008 but the Russians were known to have used them this year in Ukraine against civilians.

            In his early years it was clear that Sadat was smart, and got along well with his contemporaries, but unlike his friend Nasser, he wasn’t self-centered and eager to get to the top. Now that he was at the top in Egypt, he showed his ability.

            In November 1977 a Soviet-American plan for peace in the Middle East fell apart, and Sadat went to the Egyptian parliament and declared his willingness to go to Israel to discuss peace.  He worked with the Americans, and Israel’s Menachem Begin invited him to visit.  On November 19, 1977, Sadat landed in Jerusalem and was met by Begin. He addressed the Knesset, and the two leaders began a process which, under the auspices of President Jimmy Carter, in meetings with Begin and Carter in the U.S. resulted in the Camp David Accords on September 17, 1978.

            Sadat made a move that marked him as a prince among leaders in the Arab world when he committed to seek peace with Israel.  It was an earth-shaking event that was met with celebration in Egypt and delight in Israel, but disgust and hatred in most Arab nations. Egypt was expelled from the Arab League. Islamist factions in Egypt hated it, too.

            Sadat and Begin were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, but the Arab world, including Egypt’s Islamic Jihad, were furious. And so were the Soviets, who had nurtured support for the Arab world as the U.S. had lined up on the side of Israel, with the Shah of Iran and Saudi Arabia.

            The Shah was kicked out of Iran in 1979 as Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini began the Islamic Republic of Iran.  Americans left Iran in droves. The Soviets began their invasion of Afghanistan. Although Sadat enjoyed support and admiration in Egypt, Islamists were on the rise, and the Soviets were right there to offer help. 

The last few months of Sadat’s presidency were plagued by internal uprisings. Sadat believed that the revolts were instigated by the USSR recruiting regional allies in Libya and Syria to incite a coup. In February 1981, Sadat learned of a plan to depose him. He responded by arresting 1,500 of his political opposition, Jihad members, Coptic clergy, intellectuals, and activists. He banned all non-government press. 

The widespread arrests missed a Jihad cell in the military, led by Lieutenant Khalid Islambouli.

Sadat Assassination, Oct. 6, 1981

            On October 6, 1981 Sadat attended a parade in commemoration of the eighth anniversary of    Egypt's crossing of the Suez Canal during the Yom Kippur War.  Men atop one armored personnel carrier saluted Sadat and he stood to return the salute, but then men jumped down and Islambouli threw grenades at Sadat and four others began shooting at him and other spectators in the stands.  Sadat was mortally wounded, ten others were killed, and 28 others were wounded, including Vice President Hosni Mubarak.       

            Islambouli and the other assassins were tried, found guilty, and sentenced to death. They were executed on April 15, 1982.

Sadat was buried in Cairo. The inscription on his grave reads: "The hero of war and peace". Three former U.S. Presidents (Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter) as well as Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, and leaders from France, West Germany, Italy, Ireland, Spain and Belgium attended. 

            Mohammad Hosni Mubarak became president and served until the Arab Spring uprisings in 2011, (1981-2011) 29 years. His presidency was marked by a continuation of the policies pursued by Sadat. This included the liberalization of Egypt's economy and a commitment to the 1979 Camp David Accords. Under Mubarak Egypt re-united with the other member states of the Arab League, and worked  with the U.S., USSR, and much of the west. However, international non-governmental organizations criticized his administration's  human rights record.




                                                                 Ironclad USS Monitor, 1862

Wednesday, July 27, 2022. Game changing maritime inventions. Read about the days of ships propelled by sail, oars, coal or oil, paddle wheelers, steam engines, or warships like dreadnought, submarines, aircraft carriers, or torpedoes, propellers, chronometers, sextants, etc. [Proposed by Janos Posfai]


Wednesday, August 31, 2022.   How Should We Deal with China?  Let's dig into the history of China and try to learn how the United States should approach China, in terms of human rights, trade policy, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Global Warming, Nuclear Weapon Proliferation, autonomous weapons, public health, and much more.  We are tremendously interdependent: should we continue to view China as an Opponent? [Proposed by Walt Frederick]

Ethel and Julius Rosenberg

Wednesday, September 28, 2022. Trials of historical significance. Read about the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials (1945-46), or the Trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg (1951), Burning of the Reichstag trial (1933), or the Trial of Galileo Galilei (1633), Martin Luther and the Diet of Worms, (1521) (not what it sounds like), the Trial and Death of Socrates by Plato (399 BC), or many more. [Proposed by Janos Posfai]

Cotton Mather and the Salem Witch Trials

Wednesday, October 26, 2022. Religion and Politics in America. Religious impact in American political events. E.g.: Influence of fundamentalist and Catholic churches on Supreme Court decisions, Puritan Exceptionalism, justification of slavery through the Bible, Abolition Movement, treatment of Native American Christianization movement, Justification of Imperialism’s Christianization mission, Father Coughlin vs. Franklin Roosevelt, Cotton Mather and the Salem Witch Trials. [Suggested by William Tobin]



Wednesday, November 30, 2022:  History of English/British Colonialism It started in the latter part of the 15th Century with plantations in Ireland. Read how the United Kingdom grew to become the greatest Empire in the history of the world.  If you wish, home in on British slave trade, and how the U.K. colonized the New World, bringing slaves to grow sugar and cotton. Or Napoleonic Wars and Britain’s seizure of French Colonies. America and Canada.  Colonization of Asia in Hong Kong, Malaya, Australia, New Zealand, India, Burma. Africa, and more for you to discover. [Suggested by Craig Corvo]





Wednesday, January 25, 2023: What will it take to have peace between Palestinians and Israelis?  It started as “The Land of Milk and Honey” 6000 years ago. Then there were the crusades. Centuries of mistreatment and exclusion of the Jews; the pogroms; the Holocaust which killed six million Jews in World War II; There was the United Nations General Assembly partitioning of November 1947; The creation of Israel, in 1948; The Six-day War of 1967 which resulted in huge loss of territory by the Arabs; And there were the meetings at Camp David hosted by President Carter with Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin; The Palestinians have steadfastly opposed any plan that gives them land, including part of Jerusalem, most of the West Bank, etc., as long as the Jews are still around.  What will it take?  Read any book on this subject. [Suggested by Craig Corvo and William Tobin.]