'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Egypt Erupts (Part 10) 

UPDATE 2: The response of the youth movement to Suleiman:

Youth movement negotiators told me tonight that a meeting today between Suleiman and intermediaries went poorly. Protest expansion expected.

UPDATE 1: Suleiman has had enough:

With protests invigorated, Vice President Omar Suleiman issued a sharply worded warning, saying of the protests in Tahrir, We can't bear this for a long time, and there must be an end to this crisis as soon as possible," in a sign of growing impatience with 16 days of mass demonstrations.

Suleiman was dismissive of the protesters' demands:

Suleiman said there will be no ending of the regime and no immediate departure for President Hosni Mubarak, according to the state news agency MENA, reporting on a meeting between the vice president and the heads of state and independent newspapers.

He told them the regime wants dialogue to resolve protesters' demands for democratic reform, adding in a veiled warning, We don't want to deal with Egyptian society with police tools.

Civil disobedience? Forget about it:

He warned that calls by some protesters for a campaign of civil disobedience are very dangerous for society and we can't put up with this at all.

No need to worry, though, because Joe Biden allegedly set him straight.

INITIAL POST: Egyptians are protesting today in Tahrir Square in Cairo, as well as other cities around the country, demanding the departure of Hosni Mubarak. Protesters and journalists present in the square say that this is the largest one to date, with Jack Shenker of the Guardian saying that many of people there have participated in the protests for the first time. Meanwhile, this may be the most positive development:

A whole range of workers seem to be walking out of their jobs in solidarity with the protesters. We've already mentioned Cairo University staff and journalists but Ahram online reports that over 6,000 Suez Canal Company workers from the cities of Suez, Port Said, and Ismailia began an open-ended sit in today over poor wages and working conditions. And thousands of Telecom Egypt staff at various branches are protesting and threatening a sit-in if their demands are not met. They want a 10% pay rise and the managing director to be sacked.

Back here in the US, there was this troubling report in the New York Times:

Vice President Omar Suleiman of Egypt says he does not think it is time to lift the 30-year-old emergency law that has been used to suppress and imprison opposition leaders. He does not think President Hosni Mubarak needs to resign before his term ends in September. And he does not think his country is yet ready for democracy.

But, considering it lacks better options, the United States has strongly backed him to play the pivotal role in a still uncertain transition process in Egypt. In doing so, it is relying on the existing government to make changes that it has steadfastly resisted for years, and even now does not seem impatient to carry out.

After two weeks of recalibrated messages and efforts to keep up with a rapidly evolving situation, the Obama administration is still trying to balance support for some of the basic aspirations for change in Egypt with its concern that the pro-democracy movement could be hijacked, as Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton put it, if change were to come too quickly.

Or, maybe, Suleiman is doing exactly what the US wants him to do? Apparently, that thought never crossed the minds of the Times reporters who wrote the story, Helene Cooper and David Sanger.

Maybe, they should consider reading Ali Abunimah:

The greatest danger to the Egyptian revolution and the prospects for a free and independent Egypt emanates not from the baltagiyya -- the mercenaries and thugs the regime sent to beat, stone, stab, shoot and kill protestors in Cairo, Alexandria and other cities last week -- but from Washington.

Ever since the Egyptian uprising began on 25 January, the United States government and the Washington establishment that rationalizes its policies have been scared to death of losing Egypt. What they fear losing is a regime that has consistently ignored the rights and well-being of its people in order to plunder the country and enrich the few who control it, and that has done America's bidding, especially supporting Israel in its oppression and wars against the Palestinians and other Arabs.

The Obama Administration quickly dissociated itself from its envoy to Egypt, Frank Wisner, after the latter candidly told the BBC on 5 February that he thought President Hosni Mubarak must stay in office in order to steer any transition to a post-Mubarak order ("US special envoy: 'Mubarak must stay for now'," 5 February 2011).

But one suspects that Wisner was inadvertently speaking in his master's voice. US President Barack Obama and his national security establishment may be willing to give up Mubarak the person, but they are not willing to give up Mubarak's regime. It is notable that the US has never supported the Egyptian protestors' demand that Mubarak must go now. Nor has the United States suspended its $1.5 billion annual aid package to Egypt, much of which goes to the state security forces that are oppressing protestors and beating up and arresting journalists.

Abunimah's perspective certainly sounds more plausible than what one reads in the Times.

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