Wednesday, February 02, 2011


Watching the live video coming out of Egypt tonight reminded me of something I was thinking of including my earlier post on events there, something I should have included but didn't: Another tactic dictators often use when faced with mass opposition is to try to provoke violence specifically in order to justify a massive, severe, violent repression of the opposition in the name of "security" or "public safety" or some similar spurious crap.

I didn't include it for a couple of reasons, one being that I thought the post was already rather long but another being that, as I said there, such large-scale repression would require the cooperation of the military, a cooperation of which it certainly appears Mubarak can have no assurance.

Perhaps that's why when Mubarak's hired thugs and police goons attacked the protestors in Tahrir Square today, they weren't trying to provoke a violent reaction, they were trying to physically drive the protestors out of the square, to achieve a sort of overt physical victory over, a clear physical defeat of, the regime's opponents. That this was a coordinated, planned, assault can't be denied: An attack that comes "without warning," including riders on camels and horses, which includes
[r]egime supporters dropp[ing] concrete blocks on the opposition protesters from the roofs and balconies of surrounding buildings
doesn't occur spontaneously. Neither does what appears to be a planned intention to attack journalists. Meanwhile,
Mustafa el-Fiqqi, a top official from the ruling National Democratic Party, told The Associated Press that businessmen connected to the ruling party were responsible for what happened
and some government workers said they were ordered by their employers to participate in pro-government protests. Even the New York Times, hardly a friend to "instability," referred to Wednesday's events as Mubarak
unleashing waves of his supporters armed with clubs, rocks, knives and firebombs in a concerted assault on thousands of anti-government protesters.
The attackers, however, ultimately got more than they bargained for and were driven back out of and away from the square even as sporadic violence, driven by anger and a desire for revenge, continued through the night.

The position of the military remains a question. Journalists and other observers on the scene appear to agree that the army is trying to keep out of events, perhaps partly for fear of being seen as partisan and partly for fear of a rebellion within its own ranks if it did try to impose "calm" by force after having made much of saying how it will not fire on protestors. But that position is a difficult one: By not intervening, the army also risks being seen as partisan. The military leadership no doubt just wants the whole thing over with and just needs lets call it a nudge in the right direction.

So this is what I think should happen right now: The US has already broken with Mubarak, a fact made plain by Obama's deliberate use of the word "now" in referring to a "transition" in Egypt. (If there was any doubt that it was deliberate, Robert Gibbs made it plain: "Not September. Now means now.")

According to The Globe & Mail (Canada), a range of US officials, both civilian and military, are
all giving their Egyptian counterparts the same message. The Americans are warning of consequences – believed to be cuts in the $1.3-billion in military aid that provides Egypt’s officer corps with a privileged lifestyle in a society plagued by poverty.

“Officers throughout our command ranks have spoken to their counterparts … it's safe to say, again, each and every one of those conversations starts out with a conversation about restraint and non-violence,” Mr. Gibbs said.

It's time to go that one better. It's time for PHC* to tell Bob Gates to tell Mike Mullen to get on the phone to Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Sami Hafez Enan, Mullen's Egyptian equivalent, and tell him that the US has determined that it will be impossible for stability to return to Egypt so long as the Mubarak regime is in power and that we're so very sorry but, y'know, the US simply can't provide military aid to unstable governments. Put it as diplomatically and politely as you want, as you can, but make it clear: As long as the Mubarak regime is in power - and having Mubarak graciously "retire" seven months from now in another set of rigged elections designed to put his some Gamal in his place is not getting rid of the regime - there will be no more military aid.

See how long Hosni Mubarak stays around after that.

*PHC = President Hopey-Changey

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