Saturday, February 5, 2011

We Must Maintain Our Revolutionary Solidarity With the Egyptian People!





The Media Bogeyman of the Muslim Brotherhood vs. The Secular Identity of the Egyptian Revolution


This is a very important article because it intelligently highlights a very important reality that many Americans and Europeans (because of pervasive ignorance, religious paranoia, demagogic bigotry, general xenophobia, and rightwing political propaganda in the U.S. and throughout the West) simply refuse to honestly acknowledge and properly address: The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is NOT an extreme Islamist organization committed to a violent notion of Jihad and has virtually no political or religious influence among the overwhelming majority of Egyptians (its 100,000 members constitute an extremely tiny 1/8 of 1% of Egypt's population of 80 million people). Furthermore despite its banned status under Mubarak's regime and its stated Islamic opposition to Israel's oppression of Palestinians, the Brotherhood does NOT advocate or support violence to advance its largely religious aims and objectives. As the article points out this stance has resulted in the Brotherhood taking a constant stream of intense criticism, public condemnation, and bitter ridicule from terrorist Islamic groups like Al Queda.

Most importantly the predominately young Egyptian population (nearly 70% of the country is under the age of 30!) is overwhelmingly secular and are far more supportive of mass democratic principles and values than any coercively religious or theological conception of society and culture...



Egypt’s Bumbling Brotherhood
February 2, 2011
New York Times

AS Egyptians clash over the future of their government, Americans and Europeans have repeatedly expressed fears of the Muslim Brotherhood. “You don’t just have a government and a movement for democracy,” Tony Blair, the former British prime minister, said of Egypt on Monday. “You also have others, notably the Muslim Brotherhood, who would take this in a different direction.

The previous day, the House speaker, John Boehner, expressed hope that Hosni Mubarak would stay on as president of Egypt while instituting reforms to prevent the Muslim Brotherhood and other extremists from grabbing power.

But here’s the real deal, at least as many Egyptians see it. Ever since its founding in 1928 as a rival to Western-inspired nationalist movements that had failed to free Egypt from foreign powers, the Muslim Brotherhood has tried to revive Islamic power. Yet in 83 years it has botched every opportunity. In Egypt today, the Brotherhood counts perhaps some 100,000 adherents out of a population of over 80 million. And its failure to support the initial uprising in Cairo on Jan. 25 has made it marginal to the spirit of revolt now spreading through the Arab world.

This error was compounded when the Brotherhood threw in its lot with Mohamed ElBaradei, the former diplomat and Nobel Prize winner. A Brotherhood spokesman, Dr. Essam el-Erian, told Al Jazeera, “Political groups support ElBaradei to negotiate with the regime.” But when Mr. ElBaradei strode into Tahrir Square, many ignored him and few rallied to his side despite the enormous publicity he was receiving in the Western press. The Brotherhood realized that in addition to being late, it might be backing the wrong horse. On Tuesday, Dr. Erian told me, “It’s too early to even discuss whether ElBaradei should lead a transitional government or whether we will join him.” This kind of flip-flopping makes many Egyptians scoff.

When the army allowed hundreds of Mubarak supporters and plainclothes policemen through barricades on Wednesday to muscle out protesters, the Muslim Brotherhood may have gained an opportunity. It might be able to recover lost leverage by showing its organizational tenacity in resisting the attempts to repress the demonstrators.

Nonetheless, the Brotherhood did not arrive at this historical moment with the advantage of wide public favor. Such support as it does have among Egyptians — an often cited figure is 20 percent to 30 percent — is less a matter of true attachment than an accident of circumstance: the many decades of suppression of secular opposition groups that might have countered it. The British, King Farouk, Gamal Abdel Nasser and Anwar el-Sadat all faced the same problem that Hisham Kaseem, a newspaper editor and human rights activist, described playing out under Mr. Mubarak. “If people met in a cafe and talked about things the regime didn’t like, he would just shut down the cafe and arrest us,” Mr. Kaseem said. “But you can’t close mosques, so the Brotherhood survived.”

If Egyptians are given political breathing space, Mr. Kaseem told me, the Brotherhood’s importance will rapidly fade. “In this uprising the Brotherhood is almost invisible,” Mr. Kaseem said, “but not in America and Europe, which fear them as the bogeyman.”

Many people outside Egypt believe that the Brotherhood gains political influence by providing health clinics and charity for the poor. But the very poor in Egypt are not very politically active. And according to Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, a former member of the Brotherhood’s Guidance Council, the group has only six clinics in Cairo, a city of 18 million. Many of the other clinics are Islamic in orientation simply because most Egyptians are Islamic. The wealthier businessmen who often sponsor them tend to shun the Brotherhood, if only to protect their businesses from government disapproval.

Although originally the Brotherhood was organized into paramilitary cells, today it forswears violence in political struggle. This has made it a target of Al Qaeda’s venom. In January 2006, Ayman al-Zawahri, the former leader of Egypt’s Islamic Jihad and Al Qaeda’s leading strategist, blasted the Brotherhood’s willingness to participate in parliamentary elections and reject nuclear arms. You “falsely affiliated with Islam,” he said in vilifying the group. “You forget about the rule of Shariah, welcome the Crusaders’ bases in your countries and acknowledge the existence of the Jews who are fully armed with nuclear weapons, from which you are banned to possess.”

People in the West frequently conflate the Brotherhood and Al Qaeda. And although their means are very different, even many Egyptians suspect that they share a common end that is alien to democracy. When I asked Dr. Erian about this, he retorted that the United States and Mr. Mubarak had conspired after Sept. 11 to “brainwash” people into thinking of all Muslim activists as terrorists, adding that “the street” knew the truth.

The street, however, manifests little support for the Brotherhood. Only a small minority of the protesters in Tahrir Square joined its members in prayers there (estimates range from 5 percent to 10 percent), and few Islamic slogans or chants were heard.

Obviously the Brotherhood wants power and its positions, notably its stance against Israel, are problematic for American interests. “Israel must know that it is not welcome by the people in this region,” Dr. Erian said. Moreover, the Brotherhood will probably have representatives in any freely elected government. But it is because democracies tolerate disparate political groups that they generally don’t have civil wars, or wars with other democracies. And because the Brotherhood itself is not monolithic — it has many factions — it could well succumb to internal division if there really were a political opening for other groups in Egypt.

What we are seeing in Egypt is a revolt led by digitally informed young people and joined by families from all rungs of society. Though in one sense it happened overnight, many of its young proponents have long been working behind the scenes, independent of the Brotherhood or any old guard opposition. Egyptians are a pretty savvy lot. Hardly anyone I talked to believes that democracy can be established overnight.

The Brotherhood leadership talks of a year or two of transition, although that may reflect a vain hope of using that time to broaden its popular support enough to reach a controlling plurality. The more common assessment even among democracy advocates is that the military will retain control — Omar Suleiman, the intelligence chief and new vice president, will be acceptable to Egyptians if the army gets rid of Mr. Mubarak now — and over the next decade real democratic reforms will be instituted.

“Egypt is missing instruments essential to any functioning democracy and these must be established in the transition period — an independent judiciary, a representative Parliament, an open press,” Mr. Kaseem said. “If you try to push democracy tomorrow we’ll end up like Mauritania or Sudan,” both of which in recent decades have had coups on the heels of democratic elections.

A military in control behind the scenes — for a while — is probably the best hope for a peaceful transition. “Let the U.S.A. stay away,” urged Mr. Kaseem, who insisted that he is pro-American and abhors the Brotherhood. “They are only bungling things with calls for immediate reforms and against the Brotherhood. We are handling this beautifully. Even a military leader with an I.Q. of 30 wouldn’t go down the same path as Mubarak because he would understand that the people of Egypt who are out in the streets are no longer apathetic, their interests are mostly secular, they are connected and they will get power in the end.”

If America’s already teetering standing among Egyptians and across the Arab and Muslim world is not to topple altogether, the United States must now publicly hold Mr. Mubarak responsible for the violence and privately inform the Egyptian Army that it cannot support any institution that is complicit.

But there is little reason for the United States to fear a takeover by the Muslim Brotherhood. If Egypt is allowed to find its own way, as it so promisingly began to do over the past week, the problems of violent extremism and waves of emigration that America and Europe most fear from this unhappy region could well fade as its disaffected youth at last find hope at home.

Scott Atran, an anthropologist at France’s National Center for Scientific Research, the University of Michigan and John Jay College, is the author of “Talking to the Enemy: Faith, Brotherhood and the (Un)making of Terrorists.”

Fidel Castro Declares His Revolutionary Solidarity With the Egyptian People!

Fidel Castro


The legendary Cuban revolutionary leader (b. 1926) is still kicking ass and taking names as he quickly approaches the age of 85 years young. That in itself is inspiring enough but the added fact that Castro is still actively involved in putting forward his own critical analyses of important world events like the Egyptian revolution is cause to rejoice. Thank you Fidel!


February 3, 2011

"History is Looking Down Upon Us"

Mubarak's Fate is Sealed

Mubarak’s fate is sealed, not even the support of the United States will be able to save his government. The people of Egypt are an intelligent people with a glorious history who left their mark on civilization. “From the top of these pyramids, 40 centuries of history are looking down upon us,” Bonaparte once said in a moment of exaltation when the revolution brought him to this extraordinary crossroads of civilizations.

By the end of the Second World War, Egypt was under the brilliant governance of Abdel Nasser, who together with Jawaharlal Nehru, heir of Mahatma Gandhi; Kwame Nkrumah; and Ahmed Sékou Touré —African leaders who together with Sukarno, then president of the recently liberated Indonesia— created the Non-Aligned Movement of Countries and advanced the struggle for independence in the former colonies.

At the time, the peoples of Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Africa, such as Egypt, Algeria, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Western Sahara, the Congo, Angola, Mozambique and other countries immersed in the struggle against French, English, Belgian and Portuguese colonialism backed by the United States were fighting for independence with the support of the USSR and China.

After the triumph of our revolution, Cuba joined this movement in motion.

In 1956 Great Britain, France and Israel launched a surprise attack against Egypt which had nationalized the Suez Canal. The brave and supportive action by the USSR, which included a threat to use its strategic missiles, stopped the aggressors dead in their tracks.

The death of Abdel Nasser on September 28, 1970 was an irreversible setback for Egypt.

The United States never stopped conspiring against the Arab world, which holds the largest oil reserves on the planet.

There is no need to profoundly debate this matter; it is enough to read recent news dispatches on what inevitably is transpiring.

Let’s take a look at the news:

January 28:

“(DPA) - More than 100,000 Egyptians took to the streets today to protest against the government of President Hosni Mubarak, despite a prohibition of demonstrations issued by authorities…”

“Demonstrators set fire to the offices of Mubarak’s National Democratic Party (NDP) and police surveillance points, while in downtown Cairo they threw rocks at police who tried to disperse the crowd with tear gas and rubber bullets.”

“US President Barack Obama met today with a group of experts to become better informed on the situation. Meanwhile, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said that the United States would reassess the multimillion dollar aid it provides to Egypt as events transpire.

“UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also sent a strong message from Davos.”

“(Reuters).- President Mubarak ordered a curfew in Egypt and the deployment of army troops backed by armoured vehicles in Cairo and other cities. Violent clashes between demonstrators and the police have been reported.

“Egyptian forces, supported by armoured vehicles, deployed throughout Cairo and other major Egyptian cities on Friday to put an end to large-scale protests demanding the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak.

“Medical sources reported that so far 410 people have been injured in the protests, while state television announced a curfew for all cities.”

“The situation represents a dilemma for the United States, which has expressed its desire for democracy to spread throughout the region. Mubarak, however, has been a close ally of Washington for several years and the beneficiary of extensive military aid.”

“(DPA)”.- Thousands of Jordanians protested today across the country after Friday prayers, demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Samir Rifai, and political and economic reforms.”

In the midst of the political disaster assailing the Arab world, leaders, who were gathered in Switzerland, discussed the cause of the phenomenon which they described as global suicide.

“(EFE).- Several political leaders at the Davos Economic Forum called for a change of the growth model.”

“The current model of economic growth, based on consumerism and a disregard of environmental consequences, can no longer be sustained because the planet’s survival is at risk, several political leaders warned today in Davos.”

“‘The current model is global suicide. We need a revolution. Revolutionary thinking. Revolutionary action,’ warned Ban Ki-moon. ‘Natural resources are becoming more and more scarce,” he added, during a debate on how to redefine sustainable growth at the World Economic Forum.”

“‘Climate change is also showing us that the old model is more than obsolete,’ said the head of the UN.

“The UN secretary general added that in addition to basic survival resources such as food and water, ‘one resource is the scarcest of all: Time, We are running out of time. Time to tackle climate change.’”

January 29:

“Washington (AP).- President Barack Obama tried the impossible: winning the hearts and minds of Egyptians furious with their autocratic ruler while assuring a vital ally that the United States has his back.

"The four-minute speech Friday evening represented a careful balancing act for Obama. He had a lot to lose by choosing between protesters demanding that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak step down from a government violently clinging to its three-decade grip on the country.

“Obama...didn't endorse regime change. Nor did he say that Mubarak's announcement was insufficient.

“Obama’s address was the most forceful of the day, but it stuck largely to the script already set by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.”

“(NTX).- The Washington Post called on the Obama administration to use its political and economic influence to convince President Mubarak to step down in Egypt.”

“‘The United States should use all its influence, including the more than 1 billion dollars in aid it provides each year to the Egyptian army to assure its ultimate outcome (the surrender of power by Mubarak),’ the paper states in its editorial.”

“…in his message delivered on Friday night Obama said that he would continue working with President Mubarak and regretted that he had not mentioned eventual elections.”

“The newspaper described Obama’s position as ‘unrealistic’ along with that of Vice President Joe Biden, who told a radio station that he would not call the Egyptian president a dictator, and that he did not think that he should resign.”

“(AFP).- US-Arab organizations demanded that the government of President Barack Obama stop supporting the Mubarak dictatorship in Egypt.”

“(ANSA).- The United States once again expressed its ‘concern’ over violence in Egypt and warned the government of Mubarak that it could not act as if nothing had happened.

Fox News reported that Obama only had two poor options with respect to Egypt.

“…warned the Cairo government that it could not ‘reshuffle the deck’ and act as if nothing had happened in the country.

“The White House and the State Department are closely following the situation in Egypt, one of Washington’s main allies in the world, and the recipient of some 1.5 billion dollars annually in civilian and military aid.”

“United States news agencies are giving extensive coverage to the disturbances in Egypt and have been indicating that the situation, no mater how it is resolved, could result in a headache for Washington.”

“If Mubarak falls, reports Fox, the United States and its other principal ally in the Middle East, Israel, could have to face a government of the Muslim Brothers in Cairo, and a turn towards anti-western sentiment in the North African country.”

“‘We were betting on the wrong horse for 50 years,’ former CIA agent Michael Scheuer told Fox. ‘To think that the Egyptian people are going to forget that for half a century we supported dictators is a dream,’ he concluded.”

“(AFP).- The international community increased its pressure on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to implement political reforms and to stop the repression of demonstrators who that have been carrying out protests against his government over the last five days.”

“Nicolas Sarkozy, Angela Merkel and David Cameron asked the president ‘to initiate a process of change’ in response to the ‘legitimate demands’ of his people and ‘to avoid, at all costs, the use of violence against civilians,’ in a joint declaration published on Saturday.”

“Iran also called on Egyptian authorities to heed the demands being made on the streets.”

“King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia said that the protests represent ‘an attack against the security and stability’ of Egypt and were being carried out by ‘infiltrators’ in the name of ‘freedom of speech.’

“The king called Mubarak by telephone to express his solidarity, reported the official Saudi press agency SPA.”

January 31:

“(EFE) Netanyahu fears that the chaos in Egypt could favor Islam’s access to power.

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said today that he fears that the situation in Egypt could favor Islam’s access to power, a concern he said he shares with leaders who have spoken to him over the past few days.”

“…the prime minister refused to discuss news reports by local media outlets that state that Israel has authorized Egypt to deploy troops in the Sinai Peninsula for the first time in three decades, considered a violation of the 1979 peace treaty between the two nations.

“In response to criticism against Western powers such as the United States and Germany that have maintained close ties with totalitarian Arab regimes, the German Foreign minister said, ‘We have not abandoned Egypt.’”

“The peace process between Israelis and Palestinians has been at a standstill since last September, mainly because of Israel’s refusal to stop building Jewish settlements in occupied Palestinian territories.”

“Jerusalem, (EFE).─ Israel favors the continuation in power of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. The Israeli head of State, Simon Peres, supported Mubarak today by stating that ‘a fanatic religious oligarchy is not better than a lack of democracy.’”

“The declarations made by the head of State are consistent with reports by local media outlets that state that Israel is pressuring its Western partners to tone down their criticisms of Mubarak’s regime, which the Egyptian people and the opposition are trying to overthrow.

“Anonymous official sources quoted by the Haaretz newspaper said that on Saturday the Israeli Foreign Ministry sent a communiqué to its embassies in the United States, Canada, China, Russia and several European countries to request that ambassadors emphasize to local authorities the importance of stability in Egypt for Israel.”

“Israeli analysts said that the fall of Mubarak could endanger the Camp David Agreements that Egypt signed with Israel in 1978 and the subsequent signing of the 1979 bilateral peace treaty, especially if it brings about the ascent to power of the Islamic Muslim Brothers, which have widespread popular support.”

“Israel views Mubarak as a guarantor of peace along its southern border, as well as a key supporter in maintaining the blockade against the Gaza Strip and isolating the Palestinian Islamic movement Hamas.”

“One of Israel’s greatest fears is that the Egyptian riots, which follow in the wake of uprisings in Tunisia, will also reach Jordan, weakening the regime of King Abdullah II, whose country along with Egypt is the only Arab country that acknowledges Israel.”

“The recent appointment of General Omar Suleiman as Egypt’s vice president and, therefore, possible presidential successor, has been welcomed in Israel, which has closely cooperated in Defense matters with the general.”

“However, the Egyptian protests show that the continuity of the regime is not necessarily guaranteed nor that Israel will continue to have Cairo as its main ally in the region.”

As you can see, for the first time the world is simultaneously facing three problems:

Climate crises, food crises and political crises.

And we can add other serious dangers to them.

The risk of increasingly destructive war is very real.

Will the political leaders have sufficient serenity and equanimity to successfully face them?

Our species’ fate depends on it.

Mubarak Regime Targets And Violently Attacks Western and Arab Journalists Covering the Demonstrations

Sebastian Scheiner/Associated Press
Khalil Hamra, left, of The Associated Press and other photographers took cover on Thursday as they worked to cover the protests.

Gangs Hunt Journalists and Rights Workers

February 3, 2011

New York Times

Journalists covering the revolt against President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt have found themselves the targets of widespread anger and suspicion in an apparently coordinated campaign that is intended to stifle the flow of news that could further undermine the government.

No news organization seemed exempt from the rage, which escalated as the week wore on. Whether from Western or Arab media, television networks or wire services, newspapers or photo syndicates, journalists were chased through the streets and had their equipment stolen or smashed. Some were beaten so badly that they required hospital treatment.

ABC News reported that one of its crews was carjacked on Thursday and threatened with beheading. A Reuters journalist said a “gang of thugs” had stormed the news service’s office and started smashing windows. And four journalists from The Washington Post were detained by forces that they suspected were from the Interior Ministry. All four were released by early Friday. But two of them, the paper’s Cairo bureau chief and a photographer, had been ordered not to leave a local hotel.

“It appears that journalists are being targeted by the Egyptian authorities in a deliberate campaign of intimidation aimed at quashing honest, independent reporting of a transformational event,” said The Post’s foreign editor, Douglas Jehl.

If the aim was to suppress coverage, the actions were somewhat effective. Major television networks from around the world were largely unable to broadcast from Tahrir Square, the center of antigovernment protests, on Thursday. The Egyptian state news agency had earlier asked foreign reporters and crews to move out of the hotels near the square.

Live television images were so difficult to transmit that by the afternoon, the Fox News Channel anchor Shepard Smith was showing viewers exactly what his control room in New York was seeing — blank screens from The Associated Press and Reuters television feeds.

Jon Williams of the BBC said via Twitter that Egyptian security forces had seized the news agency’s equipment at the Cairo Hilton “in an attempt to stop us broadcasting.” Both CNN and the BBC relied on taped footage of the square.

Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya, which have provided some of the most extensive network coverage of the revolt, said their journalists had been hounded from the street and from vantage points above the square where their cameras had been placed. In the absence of live pictures, the networks relied on grainy amateur video taken on the streets.

Another Arab network, Al Hurra, had what it described as one of the only live feeds from the square.

The Committee to Protect Journalists said it had received nearly 100 reports of damage to news organization property or of individuals being detained or attacked.

The intimidation tactics were condemned at the highest levels of the United States government. The White House spokesman, Robert Gibbs, rebuked the Mubarak government and its supporters, calling the harassment “completely and totally unacceptable.” Speaking to reporters traveling with President Obama, he said that “any journalist that has been detained should be released immediately.”

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the attacks on journalists were an affront to the most basic principles of international law. “It is especially in times of crisis that governments must demonstrate their adherence to these universal values,” she said.

A reporter for Al Arabiya was beaten by a group of pro-Mubarak demonstrators on Wednesday. His injuries were significant enough that he remained in the hospital, though his condition was not critical, said Nakhle el-Hage, the network’s director of news.

The attacks were aimed at other independent observers, too, including representatives of groups like Human Rights Watch. The Egyptian security police also raided the Hisham Mubarak Law Center, detaining as many as 16 people, including some of the country’s most prominent human rights advocates and several foreign researchers.

Al Arabiya broadcast a plea to the Egyptian Army to intervene after the network’s headquarters in Cairo came under sustained attack from pro-Mubarak demonstrators who were wielding sticks and knives. “They destroyed some equipment outside the building, and they said they would come in and destroy everything,” Mr. Hage said in a telephone interview from Dubai.

He said the army initially responded by deploying more soldiers to secure the building, but the troops soon left. “The message we got from the army is that ‘you’re left on your own,’ ” he said.

Al Arabiya’s staff was forced to flee a nearby hotel as the pro-Mubarak mob broke into the network’s office. Four of its journalists stayed at the hotel to report, while others continued to work from their homes or from friends’ homes.

Two employees of Al Jazeera were dragged out of their car on the road from the airport to central Cairo and were detained; in the early evening, the network said that, over all, three of its journalists were still in custody. A spokesman for the network also said that its Web site had faced “security issues.” The site was not available in Egypt or the United States early Thursday, though it appeared to return online later.

Two reporters working for The New York Times were released on Thursday after being detained overnight in Cairo.

The attacks started almost as soon as the violent clashes began near Tahrir Square on Wednesday. “It’s clearly a bad situation these last two days — a stark contrast to the days before that,” said David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker, which has several journalists in Egypt, including a local translator who was assaulted, detained and later released.

The government has sought to control the information coming out of Egypt since large-scale protests against Mr. Mubarak and his subordinates began in late January. But before Wednesday, the harassment of reporters had been scattered, and attempts to control the gripping images and narratives from Cairo had mostly failed.

“We’ve never witnessed something like this in the Middle East,” said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, program coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa at the Committee to Protect Journalists. “That is not to say that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq or Muammar Qaddafi’s Libya were friendly places for journalists. There were massive amounts of harassment, intimidation and reporters put on trial. But you don’t see this level of physical violence against journalists in this kind of sustained fashion and coordination.”

David D. Kirkpatrick contributed reporting from Cairo, and Brian Stelter from Doha, Qatar.

What's Really At Stake in the Egyptian Revolution and Why the West--Especially the United States--Wants To Control It


Still another important, intellectually detailed, and well argued piece on the real dynamics of the Egyptian revolution and the challenges, opportunities, and dangers that it faces both now and after Mubarak leaves. Needless to say the article especially emphasizes the dangers and contradictions of the historically 'neocolonial'-like relationship between the United States and Egypt whether Mubarak is still personally in power or not. A very sound and telling analysis...


February 3, 2011

A Revolutionary Movement and the Future of Egyptian (In)dependence

Challenging America's Pharaoh

Anyone who has lived in Egypt for an extended period of time or has traveled there for extended stays over the past thirty years should not be surprised at the current uprising. The only surprising thing is that this uprising didn’t happen years or decades sooner.

I first visited Egypt in the summer of 1982, just half a year after the assassination of Sadat. I was twenty-two years old and had little understanding of the Middlex East, much less of America’s role in propping up Mubarak and supporting the Egyptian brutalities of martial law. I later studied Arabic, returned for several visits, lived in rural Egypt in 1989-90 conducting anthropological research, and have been present during several bloody police riots over causes ranging from the poor payment of police and military conscripts, to forced economic adjustments mandated by the International Monetary Fund.

A post-9/11 return to Egypt found a world one of increasing hardships for the bulk of Egyptian society as Mubarak pushed neoliberal economic models that intensified poverty for the many while a shrinking elite grew richer (which led to this account of political unrest and police brutality that appeared in the print version of CounterPunch). Neoliberal economic transformations require increased policing as states struggle to protect their own powerbase and elites from the spread of poverty that these projects leave in their wake; and the collapse of the authority of the Egyptian state must be understood as a major landmark in these international struggles.

The hatred and distrust of President Mubarak is widespread among Egyptians; Cairo cosmopolitans and the rural fellaheen alike long ago grew tired of Mubarak’s suppression of democratic movements, and his kowtowing to American administrations long ago undermined his domestic credibility. Mubarak’s late night speech on Tuesday announcing he would not seek reelection and that he would remove laws corrupting the possibility of free and open elections will be used to placate Egyptians who are growing weary of the uprising, and the use of pro-Mubarak thugs brings new forms of violence and chaos to the protests that will be used by the regime to justify harsh oppression against the peaceful protestors. The Obama administration’s disappointing response to the popular democratic Egyptian uprising demonstrates to the world that the United States is the nation that is not yet ready for democracy in the Middle East.

As the popular protests got under way, John Bolton and other apologists of past and present American administrations took to the airwaves, clarifying the hypocrisy of the American position: complaining that the Muslim Brotherhood was secretly behind the current protest movement, and arguing this demonstrated the need for Mubarak to stay in power. The early statements by Clinton, Biden and Obama were not much better as the US Administration held on to hopes that their man Mubarak might weather the popular uprising. They avoided any statements acknowledging the brutality of Mubarak’s inefficient police state or suggestions that the United States might be entering into an era of decreased hegemonic control of Egypt.

This is not an Islamic revolution, ala Iran-1979. This is an economic and political revolution uniting Egyptians with secular, ethnic and religious differences, rising up against the US-backed, anti-democratic regime. While the pro-democracy movement in Egypt is based on a strong coalition that transcends traditional political and ethnic categories (uniting mainstream Egyptian Muslims, Christians, Wafds, the Muslim Brotherhood, farmers, academics and governmental workers), there remains real reasons for concern over the possibility of new levels of sectarian violence in the post-Mubarak period and while the Brotherhood is not at the fore of these current rebellion, the pre-existence of a working political structure with party discipline may allow them organizational advantages should Mubarak fall. The rise in attacks on Coptic Christians in Upper and Lower Egypt during the two moths preceding these latest dramatic events provide some glimpse into the ethnic tensions that may flare in the post-Mubarak era as a new Egypt searches for solutions to the economic inequities that lie at the base of the Egyptian crisis.

If real regime change comes to Egypt, concerns about the Suez Canal, and shifts in relations with Israel may be used by U.S. policy makers to assert US military might in the region. If any protest movement were to seize the gears and levers that open and close the gates of the Suez Canal, we could expect a rapid U.S. military response that would have serious international implications. Images of U.S. Marines landing in Suez to seize control over such a key global chokepoint could set new levels of geopolitical instability.

All the anthropologists and other westerners I know from my years in Egypt share a sense that Mubarak’s fall is part of a deeply popular uprising that was a long time coming, and there is widespread agreement that the Egyptian people strongly favor his end of political control. Yet, there is a push to find intellectuals who can add legitimacy to claims that the pro-democracy revolution in Egypt is actually a movement of a vocal minority. Prominent Norwegian anthropologist Unni Wikan just published claims that most Egyptians do not see Mubarak as a tyrant, and that the pro-democracy demonstrations present a distorted view of the popular Egyptian consensus. Wikan wrote in the Sunday edition of Norwegian daily, Aftenpostsen, that among the people she knows in Egypt (in a translation provided by a Norwegian friend):

“It is said further that the president himself is not particularly fond of power: it is the people around him, and his wife, who drives him. Why mention it here? Because it is no small feat in Egypt, for a man who has ruled for 30 years, to get away with such a "pure" reputation. Mubarak is no despot. He is not considered to be corrupt. Weak, weak, are the words used on Mubarak. Many feel a bit sorry for him. The sympathy he could have ridden on, he had not tried to introduce a dynasty.”

In all my conversations with various Egyptians over the past thirty years, I can not think of anyone (even his rare supporters) who ever described him as “weak.” Though Wikan has been working in Egypt since the late 1960s and is famous for her work studying Egypt’s urban poor, her analysis is unrecognizable to me as representing the mainstream views of the Egyptians.

Wikan goes so far as to claim that Mubarak’s son, Gamal, is beloved by most Egyptians and she assures her readers that “most people do not have a personal concern about his son.” While there is a long literature of anthropologists finding varying views within a single society (or once famously in the same town), I have difficulty understanding how any anthropologist who could find enough people to represent such a rare Egyptian view. It is strange that Wikan gives voice to that minority of Egyptians now attacking the peaceful anti-Mubarak demonstrators in Cairo and Alexandria, yet the majority of Egyptians of lower- and (shrinking) middle-class that I have spoken with over the years would categorically reject this slanted view of their leader. We can expect Wikan’s incredible claims to be paraded out by Fox News and CNN as part of a distortion campaign to support Mubarak’s efforts to cling to power, all in the name of balance.

It is commonly believed by many Egyptians that their leaders have been tools of the CIA since the days of Nasser, when Kermit Roosevelt had mixed results in efforts to capture Nasser’s loyalties from Soviet control. Many Egyptians understand (as was reported by the New Yorker this past week) that Mubarak’s Vice Presidential appointee, Omar Suleiman, was the CIA’s go-to man when running illegal extreme renditions in Egypt. That President Obama would send Frank Wisner Jr., to Cairo this week to clumsily help Mubarak negotiate his exit is just the latest installment on a long history connecting generations of American and CIA interference in repressing democratic movements. Many Americans might be surprised at how widespread such critiques are, not among the elites of Cairo and Alexandria, but among the rural peoples of Egypt.

The Fayoum Depression, where I lived in 1989-90, is a natural oasis fed by an ancient canal dug off the Nile millennia ago. It has been the home of some of the world’s oldest Christian monasteries (which still ring the Fayoum close to its desert edges). The Fayoum has a strong Islamic fundamentalist presence; with local ties to the blind Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman and key members of the Islamic Brotherhood. My friendships with farmers, students, and professional peoples of the Fayoum made clear to me that the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and the power of the Muslim Brotherhood was directly related to the brutality of the US-backed Mubarak regime; a relationship with parallels to the rise of Martin Luther King’s use of the church as a unique space to use Christian dictates advocating for brotherly love and social justice. In a country ruled by martial law and backed by the United States, where free speech rights are curtailed and political dissent was limited, it makes sense that critiques will emerge from within religious spaces which provide a unique opportunity for limited relatively autonomous critique.

The farmers and friends I met in Egypt taught me jokes about Mubarak, jokes in which he often had a recurring role as a slow gamoosa, the Egyptian water buffalo, ubiquitous in the countryside. Out in the countryside, when in any public setting—a coffee shop, waiting at a bus stop, or walking in a public place—my Egyptian friends were careful about voicing their critiques of Mubarak or his political party, the NDP. Through our friendship, they learned that my country’s international policies were not necessarily my own, and I learned just how deeply their own politics differed from the oppressive Egyptian state that Mubarak ruled, and my government propped up in place.

The events of this past week leave me thinking about how President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton’s bungling support of their Egyptian client Mubarak unites me with my Egyptian friends, as I find myself in a position in my own country -- with leaders whose support for Mubarak do not represent me or my interests in ways that parallel the distance my Egyptian friends have long felt from their President. As Mubarak’s career is one where his choices were limited by his Western minders, so Obama is limited by corporate interests, and long-term geopolitical forces he dares not upset and the shrill limits of Middle East possibilities imposed by America’s “special relationship” with Israel.

Egypt is full of contradictions. Modernity and traditional society clash and coalesce throughout its cities and countryside. A few years ago, I spent part of an afternoon talking to a longtime member of the flourishing Cairo art and literature scene who spoke of the local hipster rebel student scene at Cairo University during the 1960s. He recounted a recent chance encounter he’d recently had with a heavily veiled woman, who revealed to him she had known him as a radical liberationist during the days of campus rebellions.

Governmental censors limit what appears on radio, newspapers and television news; but lively political debates in private homes are a core cultural trait. Simple acts of kindness and courtesies are part of the fabric of daily life even while the nation has been under martial law since Sadat’s assassination, with corrupt police ruling the streets. It is not surprising that there are reports that un-uniformed police roaming as thugs wreaking havoc in Cairo’s neighborhoods, and that police IDs were taken from pro-Mubarak thugs attacking peaceful demonstrators on Wednesday. A fundamental dynamic supporting the military’s current decision to not fire upon anti-Mubarak protestors is that while elite forces and officers may come from educated middle-class backgrounds: the military’s rank and file are villagers (who could not afford the fee to avoid mandatory conscription) whose hatred of Mubarak is often on par with the pro-democracy protestors.

While the outcome of the current struggle is unclear, deep problems will face whoever emerges to rule Egypt in the aftermath of this revolutionary moment. Democratic reforms will help, but the economic problems facing Egypt — problems exacerbated by Mubarak’s economic policies — are severe and there are real dangers for the populace if there is a governmental collapse, or if foreign aid is withdrawn over disapproval of the results of free and fair elections. The importance of foreign aid for Egypt is a double edged sword: one that could be used to pressure Mubarak into a rapid resignation, but also one that can be used to manipulate whatever new government emerges.

The rural Egyptian farmers I came to know had little formal education, yet there was a remarkably widespread understanding that the United States exerted direct control over their government, and that their national debt and American aid was used to extort domestic and foreign policies unpopular with the Egyptian people. I had more than one farmer explain to me that if Egypt ever got to the point of revolution, then the new government (which was most often assumed to be an Islamic regime) would not be bound by the debts of the previous administration and would be free to start over with a clean economic slate. This view always seemed to ignore the basic problem that Egypt’s rapid population growth had exceeded the nation’s capacity to grow sufficient food to meet its needs, and when I pointed out that declaring bankruptcy through revolution could lead to food shortages, I was always answered with the response that God would provide.

Rapid population growth contributes to the many fiscal problems facing Egypt: with a population over 80-million people, all living along the narrow strip of arable land along the thin Nile basin and the Delta, Egypt has the highest habitable population density of any country on earth. The almost Dadaist 1950s Egyptian screwball comedies that play on Egyptian TV record un-crowded streets and sidewalks, with grassy medians and rooftops of a Cairo with less than two million people, scenes that are today crammed with squatters, bumper to bumper traffic, and overflowing with twenty-million people. This population growth achieved under a growing dependence on foreign aid and imported wheat and other foodstuffs leaves Egypt today only able to produce enough food to feed itself for only seven or eight months out of the year. If the transition of leadership after Mubarak undermines Egypt’s strategic relations with the United States and other nations providing this food aid, the nation of Egypt could stand a severe risk of famine.

But rapid population growth isn’t Egypt’s only problem: Mubarak’s neo-liberal trickle-down economic policies, enacted in consultation with the International Monetary Fund and the United States, have led to increasing gaps between rich and poor and ideepening poverty. While Egypt may well break free from Mubarak, independence from the United States might be far more difficult to achieve. Egypt’s dependence on foreign aid from the US, which expanded as a result of Jimmy Carter’s Camp David Peace Agreement, will keep the United States as a key partner with whatever leadership emerges in post-Mubarak Egypt. Aid dependence is a powerful force, and as former economic hitman John Perkins made abundantly clear, while recipient nations come to have growing dependence on this aid, vast amounts of the aid remains in US corporate and private hands.

While the brave spirit of the Egyptian people rising up against an oppressive regime is a hopeful moment for all working for democratic reforms and justice, serious problems await whatever leadership emerges. If Mubarak is removed from power, there will be serious domestic problems ahead for whatever ruling coalition establishes itself. While a new regime will likely distance itself from Mubarak’s past subservient relationship with the United States, the economic problems facing Egypt will still require it to forge economic alliances with some foreign patron state(s), and Washington (and other nations) will be eager to establish ongoing relations, and obligations, with the new regime.

David Price a professor of anthropology at Saint Martin’s University in Lacey, Washington. He is the author of the forthcoming, Weaponizing Anthropology: Social Science in Service of the Militarized State to be published by CounterPunch Books, and a contributor to the Network of Concerned Anthropologists’ book Counter-Counterinsurgency Manual published by Prickly Paradigm Press. He can be reached at

The Egyptian Revolution and Its Implications for The Arab World and The West: Dependence vs. Self Determination

Egyptian protesters march the streets of Cairo during demonstrations against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on January 28, 2011. (Photo: Ed Ou / The New York Times)


Still more deeply disturbing and highly revealing truths anchored by a sober and critically insightful assessment of their many profound consequences for Egypt, the Middle East, the United States, and the world by Noam Chomsky...


"The Arab World Is on Fire"
Thursday 03 February 2011
by Noam Chomsky, Op-Ed


“The Arab world is on fire,” al-Jazeera reported on Jan. 27, while throughout the region, Western allies “are quickly losing their influence.”

The shock wave was set in motion by the dramatic uprising in Tunisia that drove out a Western-backed dictator, with reverberations especially in Egypt, where demonstrators overwhelmed a dictator’s brutal police.

Observers compared the events to the toppling of Russian domains in 1989, but there are important differences.

Crucially, no Mikhail Gorbachev exists among the great powers that support the Arab dictators. Rather, Washington and its allies keep to the well-established principle that democracy is acceptable only insofar as it conforms to strategic and economic objectives: fine in enemy territory (up to a point), but not in our backyard, please, unless it is properly tamed.

One 1989 comparison has some validity: Romania, where Washington maintained its support for Nicolae Ceausescu, the most vicious of the East European dictators, until the allegiance became untenable. Then Washington hailed his overthrow while the past was erased.

That is a standard pattern: Ferdinand Marcos, Jean-Claude Duvalier, Chun Doo Hwan, Suharto and many other useful gangsters. It may be under way in the case of Hosni Mubarak, along with routine efforts to try to ensure that a successor regime will not veer far from the approved path.

The current hope appears to be Mubarak loyalist Gen. Omar Suleiman, just named Egypt’s vice president. Suleiman, the longtime head of the intelligence services, is despised by the rebelling public almost as much as the dictator himself.

A common refrain among pundits is that fear of radical Islam requires (reluctant) opposition to democracy on pragmatic grounds. While not without some merit, the formulation is misleading. The general threat has always been independence. In the Arab world, the U.S. and its allies have regularly supported radical Islamists, sometimes to prevent the threat of secular nationalism.

A familiar example is Saudi Arabia, the ideological center of radical Islam (and of Islamic terror). Another in a long list is Zia ul-Haq, the most brutal of Pakistan’s dictators and President Reagan’s favorite, who carried out a program of radical Islamization (with Saudi funding).

“The traditional argument put forward in and out of the Arab world is that there is nothing wrong, everything is under control,” says Marwan Muasher, former Jordanian official and now director of Middle East research for the Carnegie Endowment. “With this line of thinking, entrenched forces argue that opponents and outsiders calling for reform are exaggerating the conditions on the ground.”

Therefore the public can be dismissed. The doctrine traces far back and generalizes worldwide, to U.S. home territory as well. In the event of unrest, tactical shifts may be necessary, but always with an eye to reasserting control.

The vibrant democracy movement in Tunisia was directed against “a police state, with little freedom of expression or association, and serious human rights problems,” ruled by a dictator whose family was hated for their venality. This was the assessment by U.S. Ambassador Robert Godec in a July 2009 cable released by WikiLeaks.

Therefore to some observers the WikiLeaks “documents should create a comforting feeling among the American public that officials aren’t asleep at the switch” – indeed, that the cables are so supportive of U.S. policies that it is almost as if Obama is leaking them himself (or so Jacob Heilbrunn writes in The National Interest.)

“America should give Assange a medal,” says a headline in the Financial Times. Chief foreign-policy analyst Gideon Rachman writes that “America’s foreign policy comes across as principled, intelligent and pragmatic … the public position taken by the U.S. on any given issue is usually the private position as well.”

In this view, WikiLeaks undermines the “conspiracy theorists” who question the noble motives that Washington regularly proclaims.

Godec’s cable supports these judgments – at least if we look no further. If we do, as foreign policy analyst Stephen Zunes reports in Foreign Policy in Focus, we find that, with Godec’s information in hand, Washington provided $12 million in military aid to Tunisia. As it happens, Tunisia was one of only five foreign beneficiaries: Israel (routinely); the two Middle East dictatorships Egypt and Jordan; and Colombia, which has long had the worst human-rights record and the most U.S. military aid in the hemisphere.

Heilbrunn’s Exhibit A is Arab support for U.S. policies targeting Iran, revealed by leaked cables. Rachman too seizes on this example, as did the media generally, hailing these encouraging revelations. The reactions illustrate how profound is the contempt for democracy in the educated culture.

Unmentioned is what the population thinks – easily discovered. According to polls released by the Brookings Institution in August, some Arabs agree with Washington and Western commentators that Iran is a threat: 10 percent. In contrast, they regard the U.S. and Israel as the major threats (77 percent; 88 percent).

Arab opinion is so hostile to Washington’s policies that a majority (57 percent) think regional security would be enhanced if Iran had nuclear weapons. Still, “there is nothing wrong, everything is under control” (as Marwan Muasher describes the prevailing fantasy). The dictators support us. Their subjects can be ignored – unless they break their chains, and then policy must be adjusted.

Other leaks also appear to lend support to the enthusiastic judgments about Washington’s nobility. In July 2009, Hugo Llorens, U.S. ambassador to Honduras, informed Washington of an embassy investigation of “legal and constitutional issues surrounding the June 28 forced removal of President Manuel ‘Mel’ Zelaya.”

The embassy concluded that “there is no doubt that the military, Supreme Court and National Congress conspired on June 28 in what constituted an illegal and unconstitutional coup against the Executive Branch.” Very admirable, except that President Obama proceeded to break with almost all of Latin America and Europe by supporting the coup regime and dismissing subsequent atrocities.

Perhaps the most remarkable WikiLeaks revelations have to do with Pakistan, reviewed by foreign policy analyst Fred Branfman in Truthdig.

The cables reveal that the U.S. embassy is well aware that Washington’s war in Afghanistan and Pakistan not only intensifies rampant anti-Americanism but also “risks destabilizing the Pakistani state” and even raises a threat of the ultimate nightmare: that nuclear weapons might fall into the hands of Islamic terrorists.

Again, the revelations “should create a comforting feeling … that officials are not asleep at the switch” (Heilbrunn’s words) – while Washington marches stalwartly toward disaster.

(Noam Chomsky’s most recent book, with co-author Ilan Pappe, is “Gaza in Crisis.” Chomsky is emeritus professor of linguistics and philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass.)

Copyright 2010 Noam Chomsky. Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate.

Despite Lethal Violence By the Mubarak Regime the Egyptian People Remain United in Support of Revolution

Ed Ou for The New York Times
Antigovernment protesters clashed with supporters of President Hosni Mubarak near Tahrir Square in Cairo on Thursday.

Crackdown in Egypt Widens but Officials Offer Concessions
Published: February 3, 2011

CAIRO — The Egyptian government on Thursday broadened its crackdown on a 10-day uprising that has shaken its rule, arresting journalists and human rights advocates across an edgy city, while offering more concessions in a bid to win support from a population growing frustrated with a devastated economy and scenes of chaos in the streets.

The campaign was a startling blend of the oldest tactics of an authoritarian government — stoking fears of foreigners — with the air of sincerity of a repentant order. Trying to seize the initiative from a revolt that has marked one of the most decisive moments in modern Egyptian history, the government promised that neither President Hosni Mubarak nor his son Gamal, long seen as a contender for power, would run for president and offered dialogue with the banned Muslim Brotherhood, gestures almost unthinkable weeks ago.

As protesters battled crowds rallied by the government for a second day, organizers sought to rally even bigger demonstrations for Friday — dubbed the “Friday of departure” — in hopes of keeping the momentum behind a popular uprising that has demanded that Mr. Mubarak step down after three decades in power.

Voiced often in the tumultuous scenes of defiance and determination in Tahrir Square was a fear that if they lost, the protesters and their organizers would bear the brunt of a withering crackdown.

“If we can’t bring this to an end, we’re going to all be in the slammer by June,” said Murad Mohsen, a doctor treating the wounded at a makeshift clinic near barricades, where thousands fought off droves of government supporters with rocks and firebombs.

Dr. Mohsen’s comments illustrated the changing dynamic of an uprising that has captivated the Arab world, reverberating through Jordan, Sudan and Yemen, where there were peaceful protests on Thursday. New calls for protests went out in Algeria, Bahrain and Libya.

From festive scenes of just days ago, the revolt has become more martial, as exhausted men defend what they describe as the perimeter of a free Egypt around Tahrir Square. Their demands have grown more forceful and the uprising more radical. After pitched clashes of two days that left at least seven dead and hundreds wounded, banners in Tahrir Square declared Mr. Mubarak “a war criminal,” and several in the crowd said that the president should be executed. Major television networks were largely unable to broadcast from the square on Thursday.

The United States joined a chorus of criticism, with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton saying, “We condemn in the strongest terms attacks on peaceful demonstrators, human rights activists, foreigners and diplomats.”

The government’s strategy seems motivated at turning broader opinion in the country against the protests and perhaps wearing down the demonstrators themselves, some of whom seemed exhausted by the clashes. Vice President Omar Suleiman, appointed Saturday to a position that Mr. Mubarak had until then refused to fill, appealed to Egypt’s sense of decency in allowing Mr. Mubarak to serve out his term, and he chronicled the mounting losses that, he said, the uprising had inflicted on a crippled Egyptian economy.

“End your sit-in,” he said. “Your demands have been answered.”

Mr. Mubarak said in an interview with ABC that he was eager to step down but if he did, “Egypt would sink into chaos.”

In interviews and statements, the government has increasingly spread an image that foreigners were inciting the uprising, a refrain echoed in the streets. The suggestions are part of a days-long Egyptian media campaign that has portrayed the protesters as troublemakers and ignored the scope of an uprising with diffuse goals and leadership.

“Millions turn out to support Mubarak,” read the banner headline on Thursday on the front page of Al Ahram, the leading government newspaper.

The propaganda has been so pronounced that an announcer on Nile Television, Shahira Amin, quit. “I cleared my conscience and walked out,” she said.

The Committee to Protect Journalists said it had 100 reports of attacks on journalists. Al Jazeera, the influential Arabic channel, said government supporters stormed the Hilton Hotel in Cairo, searching for journalists, and two of its reporters were attacked. A Greek journalist was stabbed with a screwdriver and others were beaten and harassed.

Police also raided the Hisham Mubarak Law Center, a headquarters for many of the international human rights organizations working in Egypt. The human rights workers were told to lie on the floor and the chips were removed from the telephones, someone present in the building said, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution.

As the day wore on, tension descended across parts of the city, which is still guarded by popular committees that banded together after the police withdrew Saturday. Government supporters roamed parts of the downtown, itching for a fight, and looters set fire to a shopping mall along the Nile that was already looted and burned Friday.

The menace was a counterpoint to Tahrir Square, where the literati and well-off demonstrators mixed with the poorest of rough-and-tumble neighborhoods in scenes of camaraderie and determination that have made the square an emblem of the revolt. Protesters flashed V-for-victory signs at dawn, celebrating their success in holding the square and even pushing the barricades forward in clashes that dragged through the night.

Protesters accused government supporters of trying to block them from delivering supplies to the square, but boxes of water, bananas, yogurt and medicine still made it in. The Internet was working. Volunteers swept the streets, pushing piles of rocks to the curb that looked like bluffs of snow. Doctors staffed first-aid clinics, near graffiti that read, “We are writing the history of a free Egypt,” and men frisked people entering for weapons.

“Don’t incite them!” shouted Mahmoud Haqiqi, holding aloft a sign that read, “No to shedding of blood.” But even those who lamented the turn to violence blamed Mr. Mubarak’s supporters for provoking them and vowed not to relinquish the square. “Right now, it’s all here, protecting Tahrir Square,” said Hisham Kassem, a veteran activist and publisher, who kept a wary eye on barricades built with corrugated tin, wrecked cars and trucks, barrels, buckets filed with sand and metal railing torn from the curb. “We keep it tonight, and tomorrow the whole country is going to come out.”

He surveyed the crowd and shook his head. “I can’t face the idea of this failing.”

For days, the government seemed to stagger at the scale of an uprising that overwhelmed Egypt’s once ubiquitous security forces on Friday. The concessions on Thursday marked its most concerted attempt to address at least some of the longstanding demands in a country that many believe has stagnated under Mr. Mubarak’s rule. The newly appointed prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq, apologized for the violence and vowed to investigate who instigated it. Mr. Suleiman followed with a lengthy television interview in which he recognized what he described as “the revolution of the youth.”

Mr. Suleiman sought to project an image of good will, offering dialogue with the Muslim Brotherhood, which remains banned, even though it is the country’s most influential opposition group. In a sign of the new landscape, Mr. Suleiman referred to it by name rather than the government’s usual coded language, though he and Mr. Mubarak have both suggested it was behind the revolt. Its followers have played a forceful role in the protests, but its leaders have, so far, tried to remain in the background.

“We have contacted the Muslim Brotherhood and invited them, but they are still hesitant about the dialogue,” he said. “I think that their interest is to attend the dialogue.”

Other concessions came from Egypt’s public prosecutor, who issued a travel ban on former government ministers and an official of the ruling National Democratic Party on suspicion of theft of public money, profiteering and fraud, state television reported. Among the four was the hated former interior minister, Habib el-Adly, who commanded a police force that was widely despised for its corruption and routine use of torture.

So far, the government’s concessions have done little to diminish the protests, but the relentless message of officials that Egypt faced chaos seemed, at least anecdotally, to be finding an audience.

“This is enough,” said Ahmed Mohamed, a 22-year-old broker at the National Bank of Kuwait, hanging out at a rarity in Cairo, a coffee shop doing business. “I want life to go back to normal. We want to go back to work. And what we have done in 72 hours we couldn’t achieve in 30 years. It’s only a few months until Mubarak leaves.”

David D. Kirkpatrick, Kareem Fahim, and Mona El-Naggar contributed reporting from Cairo.

Despotism, Dependence, and Revolution in the Arab World Today

Egypt Chaos Defines Bleeding in Despot Arab World
By Tariq Ali
Feb 3, 2011
Bloomberg Opinion

Feb. 3 (Bloomberg) -- Haleh Esfandiari, director of the Middle East program for the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, talks about protests against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. She speaks with Pimm Fox on Bloomberg Television's "Taking Stock." (Source: Bloomberg)

“Freedom lies behind a door closed shut,” the great Egyptian poet Ahmed Shawqi wrote in the last century. “It can only be knocked down with a bleeding fist.” More than that is bleeding in the Arab world at the moment.

The uprisings we are witnessing in Egypt have been a rude awakening for all those who imagined that the despots of the Arab world could be kept in place provided they continued to serve the needs of the West and their harsh methods weren’t aired on CNN and BBC World. But while Western establishments lull themselves to sleep with fairy tales, ordinary citizens, who are defeated and demoralized, mull their revenge.

The French government seriously considered sending its paratroopers to save former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is pleading with officials in Washington to delay Hosni Mubarak’s departure from Egypt so that Israel has time to prepare for the likely outcome. Former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair is even describing the Egyptian dictator as a “force for good.”

The almost 200 pro-democracy citizens who have been killed don’t bother him too much. That’s small beer compared with the tens of thousands dead in Iraq. And a desperate Palestine Liberation Organization is backing Mubarak and repressing solidarity demonstrations in Ramallah on the West Bank.

Hated Figures

In Yemen, another strongman in power for 30 years is beginning to totter. President Ali Abdullah Saleh is a hated figure, again backed by the West, as I discovered when I visited the country last year.

If Tunisia was a tremor, the Egyptian uprising has become an earthquake that is spreading throughout the region. The generals in Cairo are still refusing to disperse the crowds with tanks and bullets. A full-scale Tiananmen Square option, which Mubarak and his friends would have appreciated, becomes difficult in these conditions.

So what will they do? As the crisis moves a step further, Vice President Omar Suleiman, not trusted by many people as the former director of intelligence, is hoping to divide the opposition, clear the streets and negotiate a deal, offering Amr Moussa, the toothless head of the Arab League, the interim presidency. They want someone who will retain the remnants of the old institutions and, in particular, the apparatuses of the secret state that have been so useful in helping the West’s policy of renditions in the war on terror, which has so far only succeeded in engendering more terror.

Total Overhaul

The millions of people in the streets of Egypt are demanding a total overhaul. They want, as in Tunisia, a new constitution that guarantees political and social rights. They want an independent foreign policy that is decided in Cairo, not Tel Aviv or Washington. They want to lift the blockade of Gaza so that its people can live as normally as possible.

This week, the Egyptian regime, shaken by the mass mobilizations, threatened counter-revolution. Pro-Mubarak forces, a combination of the security cops out of uniform and gangsters released from prison, attacked protesters, creating mayhem in Tahrir Square. The military, which pledged to defend public safety, failed to do so.

In Alexandria, there were clashes between Mubarak’s desperate supporters and the anti-government protesters. The coming weekend is decisive. The planned march by several hundred thousand people on the presidential palace might drive Mubarak to get a helicopter to the airport. One assumes the Saudis are preparing a palace for him as is their wont.

Plan B

A post-Mubarak Egypt is difficult to predict with exactitude. What we can say is that it won’t be a repeat of the 1979 Iranian Revolution. The iron will of the Ayatollah doesn’t exist in Cairo. Instead there is a decent, amiable technocrat, Mohamed El Baradei, more known abroad than at home, as a possible Plan B for the White House.

Lurking behind El Baradei is the Muslim Brotherhood. It, too, is divided, with a dominant wing composed of young, modernist Muslims who want to mimic Turkey. If the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s favorite Islamists in Istanbul can do business with Washington, why not their Egyptian equivalents? They have been engaged in private discussions with informal emissaries from the U.S. for more than a decade.

Nonetheless, a regime propelled into office via an uprising from below can’t be as cavalier in disregarding public opinion, and nor is this a time for the U.S. to start preaching the virtues of liberal capitalism: The recent fate of Iceland, Ireland and Greece should be enough on that score.

Internally, what is required is to rebuild the abandoned social safety net, providing elementary health, education and housing for the poor.

Externally, Egypt’s relationship with the U.S. and Israel will have to be modified, regardless of who succeeds Mubarak. A peace treaty that benefits Israel alone was never accepted by the Egyptian people.

Only then will Egypt be able to stop the bleeding.

(Tariq Ali is a London-based writer, filmmaker and author of the 2010 book “The Obama Syndrome.” The opinions expressed are his own.)

To contact the writer of this column: Tariq Ali at

To contact the editor responsible for this column: James Greiff at

Does Egypt Remain A Client State of the United States With or Without Mubarak?--Only The Egyptian People Can Decide!

Stephen Crowley/The New York Times
President Barack Obama on Thursday. The White House is in discussions to find a way out of the crisis in Cairo.


Call it kismet, call it karma, call it chickens coming home to roost, call it what goes around comes around, call it PAYBACK (is a dog!), call it having your hold card "peeped", call it "you are SO busted!", call it I can't believe I ate the WHOLE thing, call it EXPOSED, call it any goddamn thing you wanna call it--it all MEANS the same damn thing anyway ("same ole shit/different day"): The United Hates of Hysteria and its political/economic elites via its "charmingly" duplicitous neoliberal tool of the ruling class--(uh...I mean da American President) has once again showed its embarassingly transparent ASS in calling for the CIA's man in Egypt Omar Sulieman, documented torturer and renditions cop (uh...I mean da Egyptian Vice President) acting on the behalf of that Grand Ole Thug and murderer/thief/pathological liar "where's the beef" Hosni Mubarak? (uh...I mean da Egyptian President) and yes THE ARMY to "run" Egypt's "new government" (with Barack promising Hosni a guest host shot on not only Jay Leno, but Letterman, and Oprah too!) if he would simply "step down" and let "much younger professional killers handle everything" and get "the little people to calm the fuck down!--WOW--What a deal!!--ONLY IN AMERICA (and now sadly Egypt 2), huh?...


White House, Egypt Discuss Plan for Mubarak’s Exit

February 3, 2011
New York Times

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is discussing with Egyptian officials a proposal for President Hosni Mubarak to resign immediately, turning over power to a transitional government headed by Vice President Omar Suleiman with the support of the Egyptian military, administration officials and Arab diplomats said Thursday.

Even though Mr. Mubarak has balked, so far, at leaving now, officials from both governments are continuing talks about a plan in which Mr. Suleiman, backed by Lt. Gen. Sami Enan, chief of the Egyptian armed forces, and Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi, the defense minister, would immediately begin a process of constitutional reform.

The proposal also calls for the transitional government to invite members from a broad range of opposition groups, including the banned Muslim Brotherhood, to begin work to open up the country’s electoral system in an effort to bring about free and fair elections in September, the officials said.

Senior administration officials said that the proposal was one of several options under discussion with high-level Egyptian officials around Mr. Mubarak in an effort to persuade the president to step down now.

They cautioned that the outcome depended on several factors, not least Egypt’s own constitutional protocols and the mood of the protesters on the streets of Cairo and other Egyptian cities.

Some officials said there was not yet any indication that either Mr. Suleiman or the Egyptian military was willing to abandon Mr. Mubarak.

Even as the Obama administration is coalescing around a Mubarak-must-go-now posture in private conversations with Egyptian officials, Mr. Mubarak himself remains determined to stay until the election in September, American and Egyptian officials said. His backers forcibly pushed back on Thursday against what they viewed as American interference in Egypt’s internal affairs.

“What they’re asking cannot be done,” one senior Egyptian official said, citing clauses in the Egyptian Constitution that bar the vice president from assuming power. Under the Constitution, the speaker of Parliament would succeed the president. “That’s my technical answer,” the official added. “My political answer is they should mind their own business.”

Mr. Mubarak’s insistence on staying will again be tested by large street protests on Friday, which the demonstrators are calling his “day of departure,” when they plan to march on the presidential palace. The military’s pledge not to fire on the Egyptian people will be tested as well.

The discussions about finding a way out of the crisis in Cairo take place as new questions are being raised about whether American intelligence agencies, after the collapse of the Tunisian government, adequately warned the White House and top lawmakers about the prospects of an uprising in Egypt.

During a Senate hearing on Thursday, both Democrats and Republicans pressed a senior Central Intelligence Agency official about when the C.I.A. and other agencies notified President Obama of the looming crisis, and whether intelligence officers even monitored social networking sites and Internet forums to gauge popular sentiment in Egypt.

“At some point it had to have been obvious that there was going to be a huge demonstration,” said Senator Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who is chairwoman of the Senate’s Select Committee on Intelligence.

She said that intelligence agencies never sent a notice to her committee about the growing uprising in Egypt, as is customary in the case of significant global events.

Stephanie O’Sullivan, the C.I.A. official, responded that the agency had been tracking instability in Egypt for some time and had concluded that the government in Cairo was in an “untenable” situation. But, Ms. O’Sullivan said, “we didn’t know what the triggering mechanism would be.”

Because of the fervor now unleashed in Egypt, one Obama administration official said, Mr. Mubarak’s close aides expressed concern that they were not convinced that Mr. Mubarak’s resignation would satisfy the protesters.

In an interview with Christiane Amanpour of ABC News, Mr. Mubarak said that he was “fed up” with being president but that he could not step down for fear of sowing chaos in the country.

“The worry on Mubarak’s part is that if he says yes to this, there will be more demands,” said Leslie H. Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations. “And since he’s not dealing with a legal entity, but a mob, how does he know there won’t be more demands tomorrow?”

A number of high-level American officials have reached out to the Egyptians in recent days. While administration officials would not offer details of the alternatives that were being discussed, they made it clear that their preferred outcome would be for Mr. Suleiman to take power as a transitional figure.

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. spoke by phone to Mr. Suleiman on Thursday, the White House said in a statement, urging that “credible, inclusive negotiations begin immediately in order for Egypt to transition to a democratic government that addresses the aspirations of the Egyptian people.”

Mr. Biden’s phone call came after a mission by Mr. Obama’s private emissary, Frank G. Wisner, was abruptly ended when Mr. Mubarak, angry at Mr. Obama’s toughly worded speech on Tuesday night, declined to meet with the envoy a second time, officials said.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has made three calls since the weekend to Egypt’s powerful defense minister, Field Marshal Tantawi, who served on the coalition’s side in the Persian Gulf war of 1991.

Pentagon officials declined on Thursday to describe the specifics of the calls but indicated that Mr. Gates’s messages were focused on more than urging the Egyptian military to exercise restraint.

Officials familiar with the dialogue between the Obama administration and Cairo say that American officials have told their Egyptian counterparts that if they support another strongman to replace Mr. Mubarak — but without a specific plan and timetable for moving toward democratic elections — Congress might react by freezing military aid to Egypt.

On Thursday, the Senate passed a resolution calling on Mr. Mubarak to begin the transfer of power to an “inclusive, interim caretaker government.”

Anthony H. Cordesman, an expert on the Egyptian military at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said that a transition government led by Mr. Suleiman and the military, with pledges to move toward democratic elections, was in his mind “the most probable case.” But he said the administration had to proceed with extreme caution.

“Everybody working this issue knows that this is a military extremely sensitive to outside pressure,” Mr. Cordesman said.

Even as the Obama administration has ratcheted up the pressure on Egypt, it has reaffirmed its support for other Arab allies facing popular unrest.

The White House released a statement saying that Mr. Obama called President Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen on Wednesday to welcome Mr. Saleh’s recent “reform measures” — the Yemeni president promised not to run again in 2013.

And on Thursday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called King Abdullah II of Jordan to say that the United States looked forward to working with his new cabinet — recently announced — and to underline the importance of the relationship between Jordan and the United States.

Philip J. Crowley, the State Department spokesman, declined to say whether Mrs. Clinton had enlisted King Abdullah in an effort to ease out Mr. Mubarak. But Mr. Crowley praised the king for responding to the unrest in Jordan.

“He’s doing his best to respond to this growing aspiration,” Mr. Crowley said. “And we appreciate the leadership he’s shown.”

Elisabeth Bumiller, Mark Mazzetti and Thom Shanker contributed reporting.

The Barbarity of Counterrevolution in Egypt led by the Mubarak Regime and U.S. Imperialism

Hosni Mubarak supporters ride horses during a clash between pro- and anti-Mubarak protesters. Photograph: Chris Hondros/Getty Images


The real nature of counter revolution, what it really means in Egypt today, and the ominous complicity of the United States and the Obama administration in its lethal perpetuation--both violently and non-violently.


Egypt protests: Mubarak shows his dark side
by Simon Tisdall,
Wednesday 2 February 2011

The counter-revolutionary message to the people from an unvanquished, still vicious regime is: it's over – go home, or else

Hosni Mubarak launched his counter-revolution today, sending waves of armed thugs to do battle with pro-democracy demonstrators in Cairo and other cities. The attacks, reportedly involving plainclothes police and vigilantes as well as pro-regime citizens, appeared to be carefully co-ordinated and timed. And the army, which only days earlier had sworn to protect "legitimate" rights of protesters, stood back and watched as the blood flowed.

This ugly turn of events should come as no surprise. What is unusual is that the regime tolerated such levels of unrest for nearly a week.

Mubarak was never quite a dictator in the Saddam Hussein or Robert Mugabe mould. His rule was more akin to the semi-enlightened despotism of an 18th-century European monarch. But at bottom, it always depended on coercion and force. Today, the pretence of reasonableness was torn away. His dark side showed for all to see.

Mubarak's speech to the nation on Tuesday night was widely misinterpreted. The president was, by turns, angry, defiant and unrepentant. He offered no apologies, proposed no new initiatives, gave no promise that his son Gamal would not succeed him, and instead lectured Egyptians on the importance of order and stability (which he alone could assure).

He appeared not to have learned anything from the past week. And his one "concession" – that he would not seek re-election – was no concession at all. After all, he had never said he would.

This was not the performance of a defeated man. Mubarak may be down but he's not out. And judging by today's events in Tahrir Square, he and the military-dominated clique around him clearly feel they have done enough, for now, to get the Americans off their backs, flex their still considerable muscle, and reclaim the streets for the regime. All the talk about reform and elections and negotiations can wait, whatever Barack Obama says.

Today's immediate message to the people from an unvanquished, still vicious regime: it's over – go home, or else.

There's a good to middling chance the counter-revolution strategy will work, given time. "Imagine yourself as Hosni Mubarak, master of Egypt for nearly 30 years. You're old, unwell, detested and addicted to power," wrote Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens.

"You could have orchestrated a graceful exit by promising to preside over free and fair presidential elections later this year – elections in which the Mubarak name would not be on the ballot. Instead you gambled that you could ride out the protests and hold on. It's a pretty good gamble ..."

Reasons for believing Mubarak can not only survive the next eight months but also exert decisive, possibly fatally obstructive influence over Egypt's new direction are plentiful. As matters stand now, the regime is unreconstructed, the opposition is split, and the Americans are undecided. Despite his insistence on a swift, orderly transition, Obama has not withdrawn his personal support. In Brussels today, the EU also declined to demand Mubarak's immediate resignation. David Cameron said reforms must be implemented faster.

All of them got a dusty brush-off. In an official statement, the Egyptian foreign ministry, still led by an old Mubarak crony, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, rejected US and European calls for the transition to start now. Calls from "foreign parties" were "aimed to incite the internal situation," it said. In other words: get lost.

Mubarak and his close confidant and deputy, Omar Suleiman, have more cards to play as they foment a backlash and seek to regain control. As in the past, they can play on Israeli and American fears of an Islamist takeover. They can point out just how disastrous it might be if a new government tore up Egypt's peace treaty with Israel.

The opposition leader, Mohamed ElBaradei can easily be portrayed as untrustworthy. In fact, such a campaign is already under way. The Americans, for example, suspected him of pro-Iranian bias when he headed the UN's nuclear watchdog – and believe, too, that he is far too cosy with Turkey's neo-Islamist leaders.

As he tries to reassert his primacy, Mubarak can rely on the conservative Arab states of the Gulf, Saudi Arabia, Libya and Algeria, and on any number of African governments that have no wish to encourage popular revolution. Even old enemy Iran is privately ambivalent on this score.

He can offer negotiations to the opposition and hope to gain advantage from their refusal, so far, to participate. And if all this fails, the regime can always let loose its thugs and hooligans, just to emphasise that without state-imposed order, only chaos, not democracy, reigns.

Mubarak's counter-revolution is still a long shot. Too much has changed in Egypt for it ever to go back the way things were. But today saw the beginning of a new stage in a complex internal struggle whose ultimate outcome remains deeply uncertain.