Subject: Why =?utf-8?q?Egypt=E2=80=99s_popular_rebellion_is_the_greatest_h?= =?utf-8?q?istorical?= event in a decade, and how Barack Obama missed the boat.
Date: Friday 28th January 2011 10:46:35 UTC (over 5 years ago)
(This is on the web, with the images, at <http://canonical.org/~kragen/egypt-massacre-sotu.html>.) > [ليس هناك جيش أقوي من فكرة حان وقتها](http://twitter.com/zakwanhaj/status/30176266963386368) (Above: *No army is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.*) I’m writing this on January 28th, 2011, at 11:53 AM Cairo time, although I’m an ocean away from Cairo. But, as someone wrote the other day on Twitter, yesterday, we were all Tunisian; today, we are all Egyptian, and **tomorrow, we will all be free**. So today I am writing this on Cairo time. Three days ago, I read Barack Obama’s [State of the Union] address. He delivered it on the same day that the [#Jan25 protests] began in Egypt. I was dismayed that he **didn’t mention the protests at all**, because they’re more important than almost everything he did mention. This essay is an attempt to explain why they are so important, why Obama ignored them, and what the possible results of that choice could be. [State of the Union]: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/01/25/remarks-president-state-union-address [#Jan25 protests]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2011_Egyptian_protests ### What Egypt is like ### http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1329/is_2_33/ai_n24376223/ "The body snatchers: inside the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program — and the bungled abduction that exposed its secrets, in Mother Jones, March-April 2008, by Peter Bergen" [Ahmed Osman Saleh]: http://obsidianwings.blogs.com/obsidian_wings/2004/06/extraordinary_r.html "Extraordinary Rendition: Not Just for Republicans!, posted on Obsidian Wings on 2004-06-15, from 2001 WSJ story ‘CIA-Backed Team Used Brutal Means To Break Up Terrorist Cell in Albania’ by Andrew Higgins and Christopher Cooper" [Extraordinary rendition]: http://www.commondreams.org/headlines05/0208-13.htm "Outsourcing Torture: The Secret History of America’s “Extraordinary Rendition” Program in The New Yorker, 2005-02-08, by Jane Mayer" The Egyptian police are famous for their lack of controls. Last year, [Khaled Said] was sitting in an internet café; a couple of policemen came in and demanded to see everyone’s ID, which is against Egyptian law. He refused, so they dragged him outside, **beat him to death**, and dumped his body in the street. [Khaled Said]: http://www.sandmonkey.org/2010/06/13/on-khaled-said/ It’s also one of the **top recipients of US aid** in the world, much of which is earmarked for the security forces — the same security forces who are currently beating journalists bloody and shooting protestors with US-made tear gas, birdshot, and now bullets. Much of Egypt’s military, the **tenth largest in the world** and the largest in Africa, is actually [paid for by the US]. Egypt produces US-designed armaments such as the M1 Abrams tank under license. Without the political and financial support of the US, it is generally believed in Egypt that the current dictatorship would have fallen decades ago. [Paid for by the US]: http://www.janes.com/articles/Janes-Sentinel-Security-Assessment-North-Africa/Defence-budget-Egypt.html "Most major military equipment is purchased with US Foreign Military Financing, which amounts to USD1.3 billion annually. These funds can only be spent on US weapons systems..." As [Shahi Hamid] said, “If the army ever decides to shoot into a crowd of unarmed protestors, it will be **shooting with hardware provided by the United States.” [Shahi Hamid]: http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2011/01/after-tunisia-obamas-impossible-dilemma-in-egypt/70123/ Worse, as Steven A. Cook of CFR says, all those soldiers “are not there to project power, but to protect the regime.” He calls the Egyptian military “the ultimate instrument of political control.” In other words, all those weapons are **bought to be used against Egyptians**, not to protect Egypt. This is exactly the sort of situation that fosters non-state terrorism: a disempowered citizenry, kept in check by only the military might of an unaccountable and corrupt dictator backed by a faraway country, watching their future being destroyed one year at a time — all so that that faraway country can have a "reliable friend" to support political goals the nation opposes. This country profile fits both Saudi Arabia and Egypt, as it has for decades. And, indeed, non-state terrorism has been on the rise in Egypt for decades, and in 2001 an Egyptian flew a plane into a US building with the help of 15 Saudis and a couple of guys from other countries. We have not begun to see the end of this. [US elites believe] that **crushing the Egyptian people’s dreams** of opportunity and justice, year after year, is a worthwhile price to pay for having Egypt as an ally in the region. Understandably, US elites are not very popular among Egyptians. [US elites believe]: http://www.cfr.org/publication/19696/political_instability_in_egypt.html ### The revolution in Tunisia ### http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2010%E2%80%932011_Tunisian_uprising The Tunisian dictatorship had been considered stable and a steadfast ally of the US government, to the point that it, like Egypt, accepted “extraordinary renditions” from the US government for torturing. There’s a lot of debate about **what made this revolution happen now** and not at some time during the previous 23 years. Perhaps the economic situation finally got bad enough; perhaps it was the Al-Jazeera coverage; perhaps a critical mass of Tunisians had access to Twitter and Facebook to organize; perhaps US embassy cables leaked via Wikileaks sparked new anger, or made Tunisians realize that their dictator’s backing from the US government was weaker than it had appeared. ### The uprising in Egypt ### http://politics.dreamwidth.org/70486.html On **January 25th**, Police Day, almost a hundred thousand people protested in the streets — mostly peacefully. This was the biggest protest since 1977, when Sadat cut off the bread dole. There were mass arrests, but only of a few hundred people. A policeman was killed by a thrown rock, and several protesters were killed. The government illegally and erratically blocked the web sites of Twitter, Facebook, Bambuser, the opposition newspaper Dostor, and other services. The Muslim Brotherhood, the strongest opposition party (one of the illegal ones), didn’t participate in the protests. One freelance Al Jazeera news cameraman survived being shot by the police with 11 rubber-coated steel bullets, which were surgically removed over the following days. There was a rumor that Gamal Mubarak, the son of the dictator, had fled to England with his family. Nour Ayman Nour, the son of Ayman Nour, the leader of the El Ghad party, was arrested at from a protest, but escaped. Hillary Clinton said that Mubarak’s government as “stable and looking for ways to respond” to the protestors’ demands. On **January 26th**, protests continued, and activists made plans to have big protests on January 28th after prayers. Police began shooting protestors with birdshot instead of rubber-coated bullets. Hundreds of detainees were being held incommunicado with no access to lawyers. (The interior ministry said it had detained 860 people.) Hillary Clinton said that Mubarak should allow protestors to demonstrate, and “[should implement reforms].” Crowds burned down government buildings in Suez and reported being “massacred”. Minister Rachid canceled his planned trip to the World Economic Forum. [should implement reforms]: http://english.aljazeera.net//news/middleeast/2011/01/201112617427113878.html "Clinton calls for reform in Egypt" By **January 27th**, at least [three more people] had died. Mohamed ElBaradei returned to Egypt. Crowds stormed morgues in Suez to recover the bodies of the dead. The stock exchange halted trading for 45 minutes due to rapidly dropping stock prices. 140 protestors were charged with sedition. Ahmed Ezz, the country’s wealthiest businessman, was rumored to have fled the country. The Muslim Brotherhood pledged to participate in Friday’s protests. Crowds burned a fire station in Suez. Egypt canceled football games. ElBaradei published an op-ed entitled “[A Manifesto for Change in Egypt]”. [Three more people]: http://www.juancole.com/2011/01/egyptians-defy-protest-ban-plan-big-rallies-for-friday-death-toll-rises-to-6.html [A Manifesto for Change in Egypt]: http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2011-01-26/mohamed-elbaradei-the-return-of-the-challenger/ On the morning of **January 28th**, [they turned off] nationwide internet access, BlackBerry messaging, and SMS, and there are rumors that satellite phones are jammed. The news media is supposedly forbidden from reporting. Ham radio and telephone systems are still in operation, including internationally. Mona Eltahawy, an Egyptian expatriate journalist, has warned that this dark curtain being drawn around Egypt is intended to conceal a massacre. [They turned off]: http://www.al-bab.com/blog/2011/blog1101b.htm#information_lockdown_in_egypt The police began mass arrests of Muslim Brotherhood activists, and police started setting fire to cars for no apparent reason. Joe Biden says he wouldn’t call Mubarak a dictator. One ISP remains connected internationally, permitting banks, the stock market, and activists to reach the rest of the world. ### What is at stake in Egypt ### First, **Mubarak could fall**. The new government could be democratic, military, or Islamist. 80 million people could be liberated from tyranny. Tunisia is a tiny country with little influence. Egypt, however, is **one of the most powerful countries** in the Middle East and in Africa. It houses al-Azhar university; it’s the origin of many of today’s Middle Eastern political movements; and it has immense military strength. Its current government is also a key ally of the US in the region. If Egypt democratizes, it is very likely that other Arab autocrats will be overthrown by popular uprisings, too. Hundreds of millions of people could wrest back their futures from the hands of the greedy autocrats who rule them today. Because the people of the region have been living under US-supported dictatorships for so long, it is likely that any new governments will be less favorable toward the US (and Israel) than the current ones — although Egypt is probably the most severe case of this. It’s likely that such a transition would result in more violence in the short term, but less in the long term. And the influence of the US would be dramatically reduced. On the other hand, the army could **massacre hundreds of thousands of people**, finally putting to use all those US-made, US-funded guns and bombs. There is surely some level of violence at which the people would be cowed, even if there wouldn’t be anything left fighting for afterwards. Obama’s choice to snub the Egyptian activists --------------------------------------------- http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Backchannels/2011/0127/Joe-Biden-says-Egypt-s-Mubarak-no-dictator-he-shouldn-t-step-down "Joe Biden says Egypt’s Mubarak no dictator, he shouldn’t step down... by Dan Murphy, in the Christian Science Monitor blog ‘Backchannels’, 2011-01-27 " Obama is a first-class politician, maybe the best in the world. He wouldn’t leave out Egypt by accident. It seems that he’s simply continuing the policy described earlier, supporting the Egyptian government no matter how oppressive it is, because it might survive and he believes its support is essential. Perhaps he has calculated that any new government would likely be anti-US whatever he does, so he has nothing to lose by backing Mubarak. Or perhaps he thinks he can get away with taking no real action, and later claiming that he always supported the democratic aspirations of Egyptian people? In any case, his support emboldens Mubarak for the massacre he is planning a few hours from now. Some of the innocent Egyptian blood shed today will be on Barack Obama’s hands. It is often difficult and risky to take the side of justice, righteousness, freedom, and democracy. But those who side against them will not be remembered kindly by those who risked their lives for them. **Obama has chosen cowardice and expediency** over principles and honesty. And that choice undermines his stirring rhetoric much more than any sloppy choice of words could have. By Kragen Javier Sitaker, [@kragen](http://twitter.com/kragen) on Twitter. http://canonical.org/~kragen/style.css" /> -- To unsubscribe: http://lists.canonical.org/mailman/listinfo/kragen-tol