Thursday, February 03, 2011
UPDATE 3 (5:22pm pacific standard): As As`ad is wont to say: conspiracy? what conspiracy? From the NYT:
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.
And a couple side notes:
When Hillary calls for accountability for the violence in Egypt, is she proposing to hand herself over for prosecution?
And, Obama had the gall to pray at this morning's so-called Prayer Breakfast, "that violence in Egypt will end and the rights and aspirations of the Egyptian people will be realized." It immediately brought to my mind Mark Twain's "Letter from the Recording Angel". If you are unfamiliar and don't have a Harper's subscription in order to view the full size pages at the link and enjoy the piece for yourself, this paraphrase will perhaps give you the smallest sense of its greatness, albeit with the 19th century businessman replaced with the figure of Obama:
....and re: Public Prayers and Displays of Piety nos. 173a and b "that violence in Egypt will end and the rights and aspirations of the Egyptian people will be realized." While these sentiments are commendable and elicited great cries of pleased astonishment among the host at the growing softness within thy breast, we are sorry to report that your request is superseded by Secret Supplications of the Heart nos. 195, 203, 333, 338, 444, 469, and 492 for things to "remain stable in the Middle East." As you failed to inform us what you meant by "stable" in the above Supplications, we have consulted Secret Supplications about Israel nos. 001, 005, 121, 134, et cetera. If we have made a mistake in this regard, please inform our office....
UPDATE 2 (4:15pm pacific standard o2/3/11): Relative calm, many more people at Tahrir square as night falls. Many men and women, less children, and a sense of increased security, according to one of the protesters, but with the protesters themselves being the sole source of that increased security.
UPDATE 1: This from the We are all Khaled Said Facebook page. It conforms with what I've been gathering elsewhere, if not necessarily in exact numbers:
INITIAL POST: Now that things seem to have calmed for a moment, with Tahrir (Liberation) Square still firmly in the hands of the pro-democracy forces, I thought it might be useful to review some of the issues that have, at least for me, been clarified by watching events unfold on Al Jazeera English and following Richard's very valuable postings here, as well as on many of the websites that he has been linking to and promoting.
13 activists & protest leaders have been arrested today. Amnesty International representative & human rights activists from several centres for human rights in Cairo have all been arrested today. 8 Journalists arrested and many more attacked also today. Welcome to 8 more months of Mubarak torture (if we wait for him to leave & not kick him out).
1.) These "Pro-Mubarak demonstrators" (as Al Jazeera was still somewhat infuriatingly calling them as recently as the past hour) have incontrovertibly been revealed as state-organized thuggery. This is not to say that there aren't perhaps a handful of people that indeed support Mubarak, as even the narrowest of patronage regimes will always have their small populations of genuine supporters. When the altercations were breaking out in Alexandria, I was unwilling to unequivocally decide that they were state-organized, but the evidence that the "Pro-Mubarak demonstrators" were organized and unleashed by the state has now mounted to incontrovertible levels. Among that evidence: the numerous reports from multiple eyewitnesses that the thugs detained had IDs from state security or the NDP; the very coordinated movements of these forces as they appeared and disappeared over the course of the afternoon and evening, brought in and taken away by vans and buses; and, as commented on by various figures on Al Jazeera as event unfolded, the sheer number of molotov cocktails and other weapons they were able to deploy over the course of the night (and the horses and camels and whips, etc.)
2.) The role of the military. Watching events unfold last night cemented my view of the game the military is playing. As the Mubarak thugs began their sustained attacks on Tharir, the army did more than remain neutral, they actively retreated from the positions from which they could have kept the opposing forces apart, this after having issued calls to vacate the square because, they said, the protesters demands had been met. The high ranks clearly hoped that the protesters could be dispersed without any pictures of the army actually firing on people themselves. I think there are two major factors coming into play here. First, there are still enough journalists reporting and filming that the international damage would extreme if the military were to be seen actively suppressing the movement. The military certainly is more concerned with the billions it receives from the US government than it is with the personal fate of Mubarak. Second, and just as or perhaps more importantly, the Egyptian army is a conscript army, and the officers may quite rightly be worried about the loyalties of the rank and file, including many lower-ranking officers. As`ad Abu-Khalil, earlier said "The dumbest view by the Egyptian protesters is to regard the Army as their protectors or even as being neutral. " I actually take a different view. I think the protesters were quite savvy to consistently cultivate the sympathies of the rank and file of the army so as to plant the seeds of doubt about its reliability into the regime itself. All of that footage of army soldiers and protesters drinking tea, sharing food, hugging, etc. may perhaps have given some the false perspective that when the top brass said that they were on the side of the Egyptian people that they had decisively allied with the protesters (I did hear this in interviews with a fair number of the protesters interviewed on the tube), but it also must have given pause to any of the regime figures as they contemplated attempting to use the army to suppress the revolution, as revolts by the rank and file in militaries has historically been one of the surest routes to more radical revolutions.
3.) The courage and determination of the Egyptian protesters. Watching the events at Tahrir overnight in Cairo was simply stunning. While the protesters may thank fate that there was the construction site in the square from where they were able to scavenge much of the material that they used to re-take the square and build their barricades in order to handily stymie the Mubarak goons from gaining any foothold in their plans to drive protesters out of the square as gunfire rang through the night, I can only offer amazed admiration at the organic and, dare I say, anarchistic way that they did so. From flying medical squadrons that moved along with the front lines; to the logistics that were evident in setting up the barricades and tearing up the pavement in order to hold off the thugs; to the apparent ability to bring in food, water, and medicine (although I'm sure more is probably needed) while under attack, the resourcefulness and courage of the protesters has been both inspiring and instructive. And, as I write this, the square is filling with reinforcements and I rather suspect the determination to stay has now been hardened.
4.) The pernicious role of the U.S. government and its desperate hope to retain a Mubarak regime ("a Mubarak regime" meaning the same regime with or without Mubarak). I won't comment much on this, as it should certainly be evident to readers of this blog by now. State Department Spokesman Crowley's disavowal, noted by Richard below, that the US didn't even knew who was responsible for the violence speaks for itself. I'll add to that Hillary Clinton's stance that she had demanded of Suleiman an investigation into the violence at Tahrir by the Egyptian government, as if that could mean the slightest thing and as if she didn't know very well who was behind the violence is also an extreme exposure of U.S. hypocrisy.
5.) The centrality of events in Egypt to the entire region. I would of course suggest going to As`ad Abu Khalil's Angry Arab site for a running tally on freaked-out Zionists, but hearing Yemen's president announce he's not going to run for another term and the Jordanian king do a government shuffle at just the moment that it might make them seem weak, suggests to me that they know they are weak and are also therefore trembling at the events in Egypt.