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

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Egypt Erupts (Part 11) 

UPDATE 9: From Al Jazeera:

3:14am Al Jazeera Arabic reports roughly 10,000 protesters are surrounding the state TV building in Cairo. The protesters are planning to spend the night there.

In China, protesters would have already cut off power to the building and attempted to burn it down. Whether that would be a good thing or not in this context, I really can't say.

UPDATE 8: At last, the White House issues a statement. Click on the link, and read it carefully, even though it is a bit verbose. No insistence that Mubarak and Suleiman resign, just a regurgitation of their objections as to how they are managing the process, with an insistence that the state of emergency be lifted. They are sticking with their policy that only Mubarak or Suleiman can administer an orderly transition.

UPDATE 7: From the BBC:

Robert Springborg, from the US Naval Postgraduate School tells Reuters Egypt's leaders are desperate men. He says: The speeches tonight are not intended to bring an end to the crisis in a peaceful way but to inflame the situation so there is justification for the imposition of direct military rule. They are risking not only the coherence of the military, but even indeed - and I use this term with advisement here - civil war.

All with the connivance of the US. There are now reports that Mubarak has delegated all meaningful powers to Suleiman, which is what the US has been urging for quite some time.

UPDATE 6: Oh, by the way, did you notice that President Obama's brief remarks were, as they were last week, entirely consistent with the content of Mubarak's speech? Meanwhile, there is this from Alexandria, according to the New York Times:

Ahmed Mekkawy, a blogger in Alexandria, reported on Twitter in the past 40 minutes:

Rage is extreme in Alexandria. Very large protest moving from Sidi Gaber to the sea. I can feel the hate in the air. Very worried about what will happen.

Protest stopped at the army command center in Sidi Gaber. People are sitting on the ground. The rage is going to the army now, calls to them to remove Hosny.

Chants: people want to execute the president.

North area military command center is getting totally surrounded by protesters.

Events may be proceeding a little faster than Bradley anticipated.

UPDATE 5: Crowds in Cairo and Alexandria are incensed. Suleiman speaks briefly on Egyptian state television, maligns Al Jazeera, insists upon the need to restore order and urges everyone to go home to revive the Egyptian economy. His remarks are a clear provocation, an incitement to violence so as to justify a crackdown and the continuation of the state of emergency. Is this why Secretary of State Clinton is so supportive of him?

John Bradley, the author of a recent book about the potential for revolutionary change witihn Egypt, Inside Egypt, speaks from Al Jazeera's London studio. He says that the revolution starts tomorrow, and, agreeing with Abukhalil, bluntly states: They are saying one thing in Washington and doing another. Indeed. The mendacity of the Obama administration is breathtaking. It will consign Egypt to an indeterminate period of out of control violence if necessary to prevent the success of the movement. Predictably, the US response to the speeches of Mubarak and Suleiman is silence.

UPDATE 4: Wow! Not even a lifting of the state of emergency! I've come around to accepting what As'ad Abukhalil has consistently said. The US, Israel and Saudi Arabia will not let him go. The speech sounded like it was written by Frank Wisner. The empire has dug in for the long haul. It looks like things are going to start getting really violent. As Abukhalil posted a few minutes ago, Mubarak is begging the protesters to storm the Bastille.

UPDATE 3: The celebration began about 5 hours ago after the reading of this statement on Egyptian state television:

Statement Number One, issued by the Higher Council of the Armed Forces,

Stemming from the armed forces' responsibility and committing to the protection of the people, safeguarding their interest and security, and keen on the safety of the homeland, the citizens and the achievements of the great Egyptian people, and asserting the legitimate rights of the people,

The Higher Council of the Armed Forces convened today, Thursday, 10 February 2011, to deliberate on the latest developments of the situation and decided to remain in continuous session to discuss what measures and arrangements could be taken to safeguard the homeland and its achievements, and the aspirations of the great Egyptian people.

Peace, mercy and the blessings of God.

UPDATE 2: From As'ad Abukhalil:

A most reliable source sent me this: D.C is striving to transfer the president's power to omri shlomo [`umar sulayman]. anan & most senior officers are against. only the commanders of the air force & republican guard are [in favor]. tantawi is in the middle. anan will win

Still waiting for the Mubarak speech. Is the US holding it up? Al Jazeera reported that the military council had agreed to conduct meetings in public. Was this the reason for it? To expose those in the Egyptian military unwilling to break with the US?

UPDATE 1: It is expected that Mubarak will give a televised speech within minutes at around noon Pacific time. Meanwhile, the crowds in central Cairo are enormous, filing the entirety of Tahrir Square and the streets that flow into it. Egyptian state television is now providing favorable, live coverage of the protests. Follow events live on Al Jazeera. There are also good live news blogs on the Al Jazeera, Guardian and BBC websites. And don't forget Issandr El-Amrani at The Arabist, Hossam el-Hamalawy at 3arabawy and Zeinobia at Egyptian Chronicles.

INITIAL POST: We are on the verge one of the most significant anti-imperialist international events since the people of Venezuela poured out into the streets in April 2002 to reverse the US supported coup against President Hugo Chavez. President Hosni Mubarak was our Ceaucescu, a man sufficiently merciless that he created one of the harshed, most hermetically sealed dictatorial societies in the world. His country was consistently one of the top 5 recipients of US financial assistance, much of it directed to the military and the security services. Despite knowledge that torture was so pervasive that middle class Egyptians refused to report thefts, the US never pressured the Mubarak regime to stop brutalizing its people. Instead, US officials frequently praised him as one of our most steadfast allies. For the US, as with the Israelis, the suppression of the Egyptian people was an essential requirement for their control over the region. As As'ad Abukhalil has said, the architects of the Camp David accords should be ashamed, as they facilitated the creation of a monstrous dictatorship.

It is unclear how the country will be governed in light of Mubarak's impending departure. Al Jazeera has reported that the army refused to let Mubarak transfer power to Vice President Suleiman. It appears that, for all practical purposes, the military has already seized power, as the Egyptian military council has met without Mubarak and issued a public statement to the effect that it has moved to safeguard the country without his authorization. Faced with strikes spreading throughout the country, and the likelihood that many of their troops would refuse to use force against protests and strikes, the military finally intervened irreversibly on the side of the people. For the State Department and the Pentagon, the refusal of the military to facilitate an orderly transition, despite having received billions of dollars of US assistance, must be a grave disappointment, a geopolitical catastrophe. While, as a leftist of an anti-authoritarian kind, I am ambivalent about the intensity of the nationalist dimensions of the movement, the celebratory waving of Egyptian flags throughout Tahrir Square is, paradoxically, nothing less than the rebirth of pan-Arabism, something that the US and Israel thought had been interred with Nasser.

No doubt, it is, as evildoer has said in a comment to Rojo's post, a bourgeois revolution, but even that degree of political transformation is a disaster for the US and its allies in North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia. The dictatorial suppression of the populace has been a necessary precondition for not only the so-called war on terror, but US hegemony since the late 1970s, when the US, Israel and Egypt signed the Camp David accords, and Zia was subsequently assassinated in Pakistan in the following decade after crossing Henry Kissinger. It cannot tolerate the slightest expression of political autonomy. Policies like renditions, the economic strangulation of Gaza and drone strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan require the subjugation of the peoples of these regions. As a consequence, the US accepted the creation of kleptocratic dictatorships from Morocco to Pakistan. In return for maintaining strict social controls on their people, the rulers of these countries were allowed to become obscenely wealthy. The perils associated with such a mendacious foreign policy have finally come home to roost.

Of course, the Egyptian military has become economically powerful because of their relationship to President Mubarak. Accordingly, it has also intervened to preserve its economic privileges. For that reason, we can expect an intensification of class conflict within Egypt in the aftermath of Mubarak's departure. Labor activism laid the groundwork for challenging the dictatorship, and strike actions are likely to persist going forward. With the lifting of the state of emergency (which is now of limited utility, anyway), the way is now open for labor activists and leftists to openly organize within Egyptian society. Perhaps, there will be an effort by the military to stigmatize such activity in an anti-nationalist fashion, but, compared to the repression of Mubarak, such an effort would be less repressive. The most obvious, most immmediate consequence of Mubarak's departure will be an explosion of political activism among Egyptians. Maybe, President Chavez can be invited to Egypt soon to advise the military on how to most effectively manage this challenging political transition.

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