Planes don't normally break up in mid air. Even badly maintained Russian ones. So the most likely cause of the crash is that someone placed a bomb on the plane. In normal times and normal countries you would have thought that it would be extraordinarily unlikely that anyone would lose their humanity to such an extent that they could decide to kill a plane load of random people. Yet these are not normal times in Egypt. It is all too easy to think of reasons why someone could become so angry that they would lose their humanity enough to regard murdering children as a necessary evil.
The recent history of Egypt is not a pretty one. After a sequence of brutal dictators who manipulated elections and jailed opponents the country finally got the reasonably honest democratic elections it deserved in 2011-12. It took the real bravery and determination of millions of ordinary people who faced down horrendous physical intimidation in places like Tahrir Square to get those elections. Most of us will never forget the optimistic pictures of the huge turnout and the happy people queuing peacefully for hours. It resulted in a complex mess of different political organisations being represented in the parliament. Exactly what you would expect from a genuine exercise in political democracy.
The clear winner was the Muslim Brotherhood which won 37% of the vote whilst a more extreme religious grouping won 28%. I can't say I particularly liked the outcome. It meant that Egypt was governed by a group of people who thought that what it said in a religious book many centuries ago was the best guidance on how to run a modern country. Nevertheless the point about democracy is that it is the people within a country who get to vote for what they want not political commentators outside it. Since the Muslim Brotherhood had spent decades providing useful charitable networks across the country it was small wonder that people felt they could trust them. They appeared honest and had provided practical valuable local services whilst the old government had proved corrupt and uninterested in the welfare of ordinary people.
Mohamed Morsi turned out to be a very poor leader. Instead of reaching out to the whole of Egypt he went for the narrow minded option of trying to establish himself as an authority figure who pushed through the narrow self interest of those who had supported him. He was pompous, incompetent, arrogant, and ineffective. When he did succeed in doing something it was usually to promote reactionary and old fashioned values and to undermine the free press or liberal values. In short he was pretty dreadful.
But he was a properly elected incompetent. I am sure that he was a deep disappointment to many who voted for him and that they may well have voted for someone else next time around. They never got the chance. After a year and a week he was overthrown by a military coup.
What took place from then on tells us an awful lot about why the West has failed to spread liberal democratic values across the planet. They have failed because whenever the outcome of applying those values proved temporarily inconvenient they have been dumped unceremoniously.
For months our leading politicians had heaped praised on the brave protestors in Tahrir square and made endless statements about the importance of their brave struggle for freedom and democracy. When a nasty military regime overthrew the messy outcome of that democracy the vast majority of world leaders they suddenly went very silent. They took a conscious decision to tolerate a coup d'etat. The new regime was not met with sanctions, refusal to sell military weapons, travel bans on its leaders and diplomatic isolation. It was met with a stunning silence and a shameless acceptance.
The legitimately elected leader of Egypt is in jail facing a death sentence. The leader of the coup that overthrew him and the organiser of a rigged election where any serious opposition was banned is coming to visit London as an ally. Whilst here it is possible that the question of human rights abuses back home might get raised once or twice in a polite and civilised way. What is going on in Egypt is not polite and civilised. Nor is it a few mild human rights abuses. It is horrible determined oppression and an attempt to rule by fear. Anyone who is accused of supporting the democratically elected but overthrown government can be sentenced to death in a mass trial lasting minutes. Young adolescent boys are spending months in appalling jails before being dragged into court and then taken out and executed on the say so of regime spies who are encouraged to fulfil their quota of suspects. Journalists who dare to write about this get thrown in jail if they are foreign and a lot worse if they are locals with poor connections outside the country.
In the face of such powerful and well equipped repression the people who elected a relatively moderate Muslim leader are learning a dangerous lesson. If you try and get to power by the ballot box then you'll be overthrown and no one in the West, or indeed in Russia, will lift a finger to help you. Indeed the Prime Minister of Great Britain will welcome the murdered of your children through the front door of his home within a couple of years.
The options that are left open to an opponent of the Egyptian dictator is to either shut up and do what you are told by the military or use whatever weapons you can lay your hands on in whatever way you can. It would therefore not entirely be surprising if some of the more resentful and determined members of the population took to blowing up plane loads of innocent foreigners. Deeply and totally wrong but not something we should be surprised at. Nor is it something we can regard ourselves as entirely innocent of responsibility for.
No doubt as Mr. Cameron welcomes El-Sisi to his home he will feel that he is taking a necessary and responsible real-politic approach to lessening world problems. He isn't. Sometimes real-politic approaches are simply bad approaches. Many in the West thought that things could be made better by supporting the horrible Shah of Iran. That didn't exactly work out as the best way to stem the tide of radical religious intolerance did it?
Having dinner with a mass executioner rarely works out well in the long run. Sooner or later this highly unpleasant dictator is going to be overthrown. What kind of regime does Mr. Cameron think we will get in Egypt then? I don't know about you but I am afraid that my money is on a much nastier, much more oppressive form of extremely intolerant religious rule than Morsi ever presided over or aspired to.
If we really believe in democracy then we need to show it by backing the outcome of elections even when we don't like the result. Cameron has just failed that test. I wonder if he will think about the long term consequences of his cynicism as he passes the non alcoholic wine.