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Violence erupts in Cairo as Morsi supporters dig in

Violence erupts in Cairo as Morsi supporters dig in

Shortly after dawn in Cairo today, as news spread that members of the Muslim Brotherhood had been slaughtered while saying their morning prayers, their spokesman told The Daily Beast that “the conscience of this country needs to wake up, and the conscience of the rest of the world needs to wake up."

The tragic events described by Gehad El-Haddad may just do that: the official death count is now over 40, allegedly including five children, one as young as 6 months old. El-Haddad blamed the military and police for firing on peaceful demonstrators without provocation.

The details may or may not be accurate. The military may or may not be responsible. In terse statements it has blamed an unnamed “terrorist group” for attacking the protesters outside the Republican Guard headquarters, or the headquarters itself, or both. The military says one police officer and one soldier died in the incident.

But in the Middle East as much as anywhere else, the first casualty of violence like this is truth, not just because it is hard to ascertain the facts even if you are in the middle of the confused and frantic action, but because people will believe what they want to believe. There’s a conspiratorial refrain that begins after each incident of politically fraught horror: “Ask yourself, ‘Who benefits?’” And each party will determine that its enemies benefit, therefore they must be held responsible.

Without in any way assigning blame for this massacre to the Muslim Brotherhood itself, any dispassionate observer must say that it will be the party that reaps the greatest short-term rewards from this incident. Nothing could better serve the Brotherhood’s purposes as it tries to win back the power that huge crowds and a military coup stripped away from Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and his Brotherhood cronies last week.

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