I love word games. Whether it’s old-school ones like Scrabble and Boggle or the increasing number of iPhone word games (Words with Friends, Scramble with Friends, Letterpress, Ruzzle, etc), I play them all. Our federal government is playing a different word game right now, by hesitating to describe the overthrow of the Morsi government in Egypt as a coup d’ etat.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines coup d’ etat this way:
: a sudden decisive exercise of force in politics; especially:the violent overthrow or alteration of an existing government by a small group
Here’s how the Oxford Dictionaries define coup:
- 1 (also coup d’état) a sudden, violent, and illegal seizure of power from a government:he was overthrown in an army coup
The Wikipedia entry on coup is more extensive, and is perhaps the best description of the current situation:
A coup d’état (/ˌkuːdeɪˈtɑː/; plural: coups d’état), also known as a coup, a putsch, or an overthrow, is the sudden deposition of a government, usually by a small group of the existing state establishment—typically the military—to depose the extant government and replace it with another body, civil or military.
Did the military depose the government? Yes. All indications are that Morsi is currently under house arrest. Did they replace it with another body? Yes. The chief justice of Egypt’s supreme court was sworn in and placed in charge mere hours after Morsi’s removal.
So why won’t our government call this change what it is? Perhaps because the U.S. provides more foreign aid to Egypt than to any other country except Israel for the purpose of preventing another shooting war between Egypt and Israel. Perhaps because a section of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 “restricts assistance to the government of any country whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup or decree”. Whatever the reason, now that the Egyptian army has killed 51 and injured hundreds in clashes yesterday, it’s unclear how much longer the Washington word games can (or should) continue.