- Inside Egypt: The Land of the Pharaohs on the Brink of a Revolution
Inside Egypt depicts a callous police state, pervaded by violence and ripe for revolution. Only a takeover by the Muslim Brothers, which author John Bradley deems unlikely, could be worse than the despotism of President Husni Mubarak and his ilk. Bradley lightens this bleak diagnosis with commentary from a recent tour. Nearly all of his eight chapters include at least one interview with an Egyptian notable (such as religious thinker Gamal al-Banna or columnist Salama Ahmed Salama) or a story about his travel companions ("Abbas" of Aswan, "Alaa" of Luxor). Beyond these tantalizing anecdotes, specialists will find Bradley's empirical material offers much that they already knew or, in some cases, already wrote.
In a "Note on Sources," Bradley explains he opted against footnotes or "other academic clutter," but names six authors whose writings "were particularly useful" (p. 231). Missing from the list is Ha'aretz journalist Zvi Bar'el, whose reporting appears to have been useful enough that it opens "Chapter Four: The Bedouin" and provides discussion of the Sinai Bedouin's suspect fealty [End Page 501] (pp. 101-102, pp. 111-112).1 Bradley only credits Bar'el after these passages (for a single quote on page 114). In the same chapter, Bradley understates his debt to a study by the International Crisis Group (ICG), from which he appears to lift two sentences, including 37 words of translated text from an Al-Wafd newspaper article, without acknowledging they came from ICG (p. 107).2
The phenomenon of insufficient attribution recurs in "Chapter Five: Torture," where Bradley stitches together prior investigations rather than offering new research. A story of lethal police brutality comes across through a patchwork of accounts by Marwa Al-A'sar, Aziz El-Kaissouni, and Karim El Khashab (pp. 121-124).3 Language from El-Khashab's article features again, after non-credited portions of a Washington Post column by Saad Eddin Ibrahim, when Bradley profiles the Egyptian security forces (pp. 140-141).4 Between these passages, the tales of extraordinary rendition victims Mamdouh Habib and Usama Mostafa Hassan Nasr (aka "Abu Omar") (pp. 132-135) read almost verbatim, like Amnesty International's exposé on torture in Egypt, right down to the "tiny cell with a dim amber light" (p. 133) in which Habib was reportedly confined after American agents brought him to Cairo.5 Soon after that section, Bradley turns a gruesome multiple murder in southern Egypt (pp. 141-143) into a kind of crime scene investigation (CSI): Beni Mazar —easily read but even more easily written, when the plot details could be lifted from three earlier news stories.6
The chapter closes with a recounting of a media firestorm over two Egyptians tortured in Kuwait (pp. 145-146). As with the ICG and Saad Eddin Ibrahim excerpts, Bradley's quotes and associated text closely match those of an English language passage available online.78 In the next chapter, "Corruption," he cites a Kefaya study for its data but not for the surrounding paragraphs he also uses (pp. 156-157).8
Bradley's undisclosed reliance on translations and other writers' work partly explains why he perceives a "grim reality the people … can do little about" (p. 5). Recent political critiques hardly register inside his book, leaving Bradley ill-suited to assess, much less build upon, a vibrant literature —led by Abdel Halim Qandil, Tarek El-Bishri, and Ibrahim Eissa, among others —that has castigated the Egyptian state and expanded opportunities for dissent. Content with his collage of secondary texts, Bradley is nonplussed when he catches someone exploring ideas first-hand: "I had befriended [Ehab] on the train to Cairo from Upper Egypt … A tall, thin, and vulnerable-looking young man, he had been reading a newspaper in the train carriage I was traveling in. A young Egyptian reading anything is enough of an oddity to draw immediate attention...