The violent crackdown throughout Egypt is exposing the depth of the crisis in that country even as those who elected President Mohamed Morsy in 2012 face increasing brutality at the hands of the security forces following the July 3 military coup. In the third and most brutal series of attacks on Morsy supporters since his ouster, at least 638 people have been killed and thousands injured, with improvised street treatment centres overwhelmed and hospitals struggling to cope. Security forces have also bulldozed protesters’ makeshift camps, with victims saying the vehicles ran over people; the camps in two Cairo squares included women and children. Doctors also report officials as blocking ambulances from reaching the injured. A dusk-to-dawn curfew imposed under laws passed by the now deposed Mubarak regime has been partly successful, but further and potentially even deadlier confrontations loom. The Muslim Brotherhood, parent body to Mr. Morsy’s Freedom and Justice Party, has called for a nationwide protest march. The coup leadership, for its part, has declared a one-month state of emergency.

Reactions, both domestic and international, remain totally ineffective but this is hardly surprising given the prevarication earlier witnessed on the coup itself. The military’s nominated Vice-President, Mohamed ElBaradei, kept his promise to resign if the confrontation became violent, but even his own National Salvation Front, the main political opposition, which has substantial support among the purportedly liberal classes, has distanced itself from him and has backed the coup. Neither United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s nor the European Union’s condemnation of the violence has had any impact. Above all, U.S. President Barack Obama’s cautious equivocation is very revealing. Saying that cutting annual Egyptian aid would only bring about more funding from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates is disingenuous; U.S. aid greatly helps the Egyptian military, and it helps U.S. arms manufacturers, whose exports to Egypt Washington subsidises heavily. This hypocrisy is further confirmed by the White House’s failure to call the coup a coup, because U.S. law would then require an automatic stop to aid. Second, even the coup leaders have deplored the violence. Yet, international mediators have said it was the Egyptian military that wrecked a brokered plan which the Brotherhood had accepted. It is Egypt’s 84 million people who will pay the price for the military’s fear of democracy and for western self-interest, which is coupled with the West’s inability to accept the results of the very democracy it rapturously claimed heralded a new dawn for West Asia and North Africa.

More In: Editorial | Opinion