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

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Egypt Erupts (Part 7) 

UPDATE 5 (1:02AM Pacific time, 2/3/11): It is now reported that 7 people were killed in Tahrir Square last night.

Hat tip to Max Ajl at Jewbonics for the second video.

UPDATE 4 (6:26PM Pacific time): According to Al Jazeera, Reuters is reporting that 7 people in Tahrir Square have been wounded by gunfire, with one of them having died. Live video from the square, shown over Al Jazeera, is constantly punctuated by bursts of such gunfire.

UPDATE 3 (5:55PM Pacific time): Reports of clashes throughout the night in Egypt from the Al Jazeera live blog:

1:47 am Al Jazeera correspondent, reporting from just off Tahrir Square reports that dozens of Mubarak supporters have erected a barricades on either side of a road, trapping anti-government protesters. They are also gathering stones, breaking streetlights and putting on balaclavas, covering their faces, apparently in preparation for a fresh standoff with anti-government protesters. Sources tell our correspondent that the men preparing for the standoff are police officers.

Ongoing reports can be seen on the Al Jazeera live feed. About an hour ago, an Al Jazeera reporter in central Cairo states that the military is continuing to refuse to stop the pro-Mubarak mobs.

Meanwhile, As'ad Abukhalil has posted a remark by Leslie Gelb during an NPR interview today that is very enlightening as the US stance:

Mr. GELB: The danger in this situation is that we push the Egyptians to plow ahead without due reference to two things. One is that they do so in an orderly way to give themselves the best chance of achieving a real democracy, rather than - as Secretary Clinton said - a fake democracy. So to do everything from the streets and from riots and get the democracy, a very complicated business.

Gelb is a former New York Times foreign affairs reporter, former State Department official, and current president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, so his public statements are very revealing as to US elite opinion. If we examine this comment careful, we discover that, according to the imperial perspective of people like him and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a real democracy is one created on terms imposed by the US. It is one dispensed from above, like a gift from a feudal sovereign to the peasantry, subject to restrictions imposed by the US and its allies as described in my initial post yesterday. People may participate in a constricted process wherein specified policies may not be challenged, and these policies are invariably associated with unqualified support for US foreign policy objectives and the imposition of neoliberal economic measures domestically.

Conversely, a fake democracy is one that arises from the streets and riots, one that emerges from the energized involvement of the populace from below. Unlike the real democracy desired by Gelb, one controlled by elites, a fake democracy has features of direct participation, such as the popular committees created in various neighorhoods to protect the residents from government organized looters. Such a democracy substitutes the participation of the populace at the neighborhood level for the representational alternative so prized by Gelb and Clinton, as I discussed in Update 3 on Sunday. To varying degrees, Venezuela and Bolivia have sought to include features of direct democracy in the governance of their societies, and the mere mention of them reveals why the US is so fearful of it. Direct democracy values the fulfillment of collective concerns to the detriment of capital and centralized authority, and, hence, must be suppressed by the US at all costs. The prospect that it might be extended to Honduras through constitutional reform partially explains why Obama and Clinton abandoned Zelaya and backed Micheletti and the other participants in the July 2009 coup.

UPDATE 2 (2:30PM Pacific time): 3 dead, 1500 injured. Rumors that Obama has spoken with Mubarak and told him, Faster, please, are unconfirmed.

UPDATE 1 (1:47PM Pacific time): Al Jazeera continues to report periodic clashes live on its video feed. For some reason, Obama administration officials appear incapable, unlike the rest of us, of hearing the attackers described as pro-Mubarak. Right now, I'm watching tape of P. J. Crowley, spokesperson of the US State Department, say: We don't know who did it.

INITIAL POST: You can watch Operation Ajax, pulled out of the drawer, dusted off and updated for Egypt, live on Al Jazeera. As As'ad Abukhalil prophetically said yesterday: The US is now arranging for a coup against the will of the Egyptian people. Now, we can watch the implementation of it live over the Internet. If such technology had existed in 1953, the coup in Iran, carried out by the US and the UK through Operation Ajax, might have failed.

Interesting to see the US media coordination on it. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs refused to attribute the violence to Mubarak today, and, in an interview on Al Jazeera just now, former US Ambassador Nicholas Burns, currently associated with Harvard, said that he couldn't tell who was responsible for the violence from Boston. Everyone is singing from the same songbook, and conforming to the Israeli insistence that there should be no criticism of Mubarak.

For those of you who like a print summary, here it is:

Thousands of pro-Mubarak supporters have attacked pro-democracy supporters in central Cairo. Some rode in on horses and camels (1.24pm). Many brandished iron bars and baseball bats and they have also thrown rocks and ripped up bits of pavement to create weapons.

Pro-democracy protesters have fought back and managed to keep control of Tahrir Square as clashes took place in all the side streets around Cairo's central plaza (4.43pm)

Eyewitnesses say hundreds of people have been injured. An unconscious boy, no more than 8-years-old, was among those seen being carried away for medical treatment. The health ministry said one person has been killed in Tahrir Square and 403 people injured (5.49pm)

The violence of the pro-Mubarak supporters appears to be organised, with policemen and hired thugs seemingly involved. The UK prime minister, David Cameron, said it would be completely unacceptable if the government was involved (3.16pm). The Egyptian interior ministry has denied any involvement but has made no attempt to intervene in the clashes.

Mohamed ElBaradei has urged the army to intervene to stop the violence in Cairo (3.24pm). He told the Guardian the determination not to negotiate with the Mubarak regime had been strengthened by today's events and people now want to see the Egyptian leader put on trial (5.52pm).

And, it hasn't stopped:

Jack Shenker is one block north of Tahrir Square, where he says there is intense fighting.

I can see Molotov cocktails being thrown from different roofs...There are two battles going on, one on the ground and one in the air, on the rooftops...They are throwing petrol bombs down on the crowd.

And, even as I write this, Al Jazeera reports that it looks like the movement has prevailed, at least for now:

11:06pm Pro-democracy protesters beating on metal barricades in unison, in celebration after driving pro-Mubarak groups back.

10:55pm Latest from Al Jazeera Web Producer in Cairo's Tahrir Square:

The pro-Mubarak crowd suddenly retreated, and the pro-democracy protesters advanced a moveable wall of metal shields to a new front line much further up.

A side battle erupted down a street behind the pro-Mubarak lines, with rock throwing and molotov cocktails.

An armored personnel carrier opened fire into the air, shooting red tracers up over Cairo, in an apparent effort to disperse/frighten the pro-Mubarak crowd, who contracted again.

The pro-democracy protesters are now advancing their line of staggered metal shields farther and farther and seem to have gained decisive momentum.

10:45pm Clashes in Tahrir Square being described as medieval. Anti-government supporters are moving makeshift metal barricades slowly forward, one by one.

10:37pm Anti-Mubarak protesters still in Tahrir Square where they are being attacked by groups believed to be supporters of Mubarak. Al Jazeera showing them holding up a sign World says time to go Mubarak.

Now we know why President Obama has been insisting that people in Egypt protest peacefully. He wanted them to get slaughtered so that Mubarak and Suleiman could quickly reassert control over the country. Fortunately, Egyptians, unlike American liberals, know better to pay than to any attention to anything he has to say. They are not about to go gently into that good night.

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