This afternoon (U.S. Eastern time) we were waiting anxiously for the statement that, Egyptian state TV promised, was coming “shortly” from– or on behalf of– Pres. Mubarak. Would it contain notice of his resignation or his departure from the country? In the end, no. He promised only that he “would not run again” in the presidential elections scheduled for September… And he vowed that:
- 1. He intended to “die on Egyptian soil”, and
2. He would stay in office until, apparently, the end of his term in order to “oversee” the process of transition in a way that would– he claimed– ensure stability.
He also accused the eight million protesters who, according to the German news agency DPA, had gathered in various cities around the country of having spread mayhem and said he had ordered his security forces to step in to suppress that.
(The truth being, as has been widely reported, that the protesters have been extremely peaceable and disciplined while such mayhem as has been observed seems often to have been undertaken by uniformed or un-uniformed thugs from the country’s various police forces.)
The effect– and likely also the intent– of Mubarak’s speech was to mobilize and unleash those thugs in many areas around the country. As I write this, I fear for the fate of the many heroic members of Egypt’s opposition movement. Their hopes were so high this afternoon! But now, as Egypt goes through the wee hours of the night, I fear many of them are being set upon by Mubarak’s hastily mobilized goons.
Of course, a lot depends on the attitude taken by the country’s large military. The army– and its military police– could have the capacity to protect the civilians of the opposition movement from the rampages of the goons, if it so chose. The statement by the military brass over the weekend that it would not actively intervene to suppress the protests was certainly welcome. But will it be enough to protect the populace from the goons’ rampages? And will the army stick to it anyway?
This evening in Washington, Pres. Obama also said a few words in public on the situation in Egypt.
I can’t find the full text of his remarks. But according to various accounts described the passion and dignity demonstrated by the people of Egypt as “an inspiration,” said the protesters would reach their destiny, and told them, “We hear your voices.” (That, from AP.)
Alternatively, from the WaPo’s own reporters we had this:
- Speaking after Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s announcement Tuesday… Obama said he had called Mubarak after the speech and discussed the situation in Egypt with him.
“He recognizes that the status quo is not sustainable and that change must take place,” Obama said at the White House. He said he told Mubarak of “my belief that an orderly transition must be meaningful, it must be peaceful, and it must begin now.”
I realize that Obama thinks he is is treading a thin line here. He does not want to be seen as “telling Mubarak what to do.” On the other hand, everyone in the whole world– including in Egypt– fully understands that Mubarak has been kept in power for the past 30 years only by the financial and “security” support he has received from Washington; so Obama and everyone else realizes that the U.S. will be held responsible for– is already being held responsible by the protesters for– the repressive actions, mayhem, and killings undertaken by Mubarak’s generously U.S.-funded deadenders.
We Americans, including Obama, need to understand the deeply anti-democratic nature of the claims Mubarak makes to any kind of “constitutional” legitimacy. He was elected president in 2005 in a heavily skewed election process. Read accounts of that election here. Then, last November. This one was also highly flawed. Read about it here.
Over the weekend, Mubarak for the first time in his 30-year presidency named a vice-president. This was almost like naming a “Crown Prince”, since he had taken over from Sadat because he was VP, when Sadat was killed in 1981; and Sadat had taken over from Nasser as President in September 1970m when Sadat was VP.
The man whom Mubarak named as VP on Saturday was Omar Suleiman, the man who as longstanding head of the Egyptian General Intelligence Service has been responsible both for most of the tortures and other abuses committed against suspected regime opponents as well as the person responsible on a daily basis for coordinating with Israel in the continuing campaign against Gaza and Hamas.
I can completely understand why the protesters in Egypt’s towns, cities, and villages do not believe that the upcoming presidential elections this September cannot be free and fair if their preparation is overseen by this president, this vice-president, and this parliament.
Obama and the U.S. Congress, and all other governments around the world, should cut off all aid to this government of Egypt until a credibly free and fair transition process is in place. It cannot be one that remains solely in the hands of Mubarak, Suleiman, and their puppet parliament.
Tonight, Mubarak was given the chance to be Frederik De Klerk, the South African PM who– however belatedly– saw the need to open up his country’s election system to full, fair, and free participation by all parties. De Klerk, you remember, ended up winning the Nobel Peace Prize for his vision.
Instead, he chose to be Nikolae Ceausesu. Ceausescu did, it can be remembered, die on the soil of his homeland. But I hope that was not the choice Mubarak was thinking of. At this stage, the fate of the millions of Egyptian protesters hangs in the balance.