Al-Ahram Weekly   Al-Ahram Weekly
25 Nov. - 1 Dec. 1999
Issue No. 457
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875 Issues navigation Current Issue Previous Issue Back Issues

Front Page

Credible conspiracies

By Hassan Nafaa *

Nafaa One of three causes could have brought EgyptAir 990 crashing into the Atlantic. First, a mechanical failure, in which case Boeing is responsible. Second, a terrorist attack, in which case the security authorities in the American port of departure would be accountable. Third, gross negligence on the part of the crew, in which case EgyptAir would take responsibility.

Investigations could have proceeded quietly until all the facts had been thoroughly examined. The failure to find instant solutions need not have aroused suspicions. In this case, however, some people have sought to use a heartrending human disaster to disrupt US-Egyptian relations. The Egyptian public has been swift in sensing this. Their unease was heightened by the fact that salvage operations did not begin the instant the plane disappeared from US radar screens.

I also wonder how the media came to hear that a technical defect or a terrorist attack were being considered as possible causes. Such leaks seem to have been aimed at focusing attention on EgyptAir. The media put forward the theory of the copilot's alleged suicide even before the voice recorder was found. When one of the pilots on the tape was heard saying "I put my trust in God", the entire US population seemed to cry 'Eureka!' This is material evidence only of US ignorance of other cultures -- compounded by a racist attitude and the presumption that a backward and inferior other is necessarily at fault. This attitude can only fuel conspiracy theories; and the implications reach far beyond the tragic crash.

*This week's Soapbox speaker is professor of political science at Cairo University.

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