Today multiple news sources are suddenly reporting practically word for word a new meme on the Egyptian “transition” that is obviously coming from the Obama administration. And the message has been coordinated with Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman. Mubarak is being gradually edged out, and the U.S. needs to make sure they stay in control of the situation. Obama must make sure to prevent real democracy from taking hold in Egypt.
So the new meme is that Mubarak will be kept around as a powerless figurehead, but first he needs to make some changes in the constitutional rules of succession so that Suleiman can legally be in charge of the “transition” government. Why Suleiman? Supposedly because the guy who is supposed to succeed Mubarak, Ahmad Fathi Sorour, is “much worse” than even Suleiman the torturer. Yet there is never any credible explanation for why Solour is so terrible that it’s better to have a torturer in control of the lead-up to
US-controlled “free and fair” elections
From the Village organ: What Mubarak must do before he resigns.
If today Mubarak were no longer available to fulfill his role as president, the interim president would be one of two candidates. If he chooses to leave the country, say for “medical reasons,” the interim president would be Omar Suleiman, the former intelligence chief who was recently made vice president. Egyptians, particularly those of us calling for an end to Mubarak’s three-decade rule, see Suleiman as Mubarak II, especially after the lengthy interview he gave to state television Feb. 3 in which he accused the demonstrators in Tahrir Square of implementing foreign agendas. He did not even bother to veil his threats of retaliation against protesters.
On the other hand, if Mubarak is pushed to resign immediately we would have an even worse interim president: Fathi Surur, who has been speaker of the People’s Assembly since 1990.
And he would be worse because?
Surur has long employed his legal expertise to maintain and add to the arsenal of abusive laws that Mubarak’s regime has used against the Egyptian people. Since neither Suleiman nor Surur would be able to amend the constitution during the interim tenure, the next presidential election would be conducted under the notoriously restrictive election rules Mubarak introduced in 2007. That would effectively guarantee that no credible candidate would be able to run against the interim president.
So before Mubarak resigns he must sign a presidential decree delegating all of his authorities to his vice president until their current terms end in September.
But Suleiman “has long employed his [military and intelligence] expertise” to cooperate with U.S. rendition and torture policies. Why is he better? Why should anyone believe that Suleiman will push for real democracy? Give me a break! The U.S. wants Suleiman in charge because he is their guy.
This post will update periodically with breaking tweets, links, and news overnight. Scroll down to the end for Al Jazeera Live feed (embedded within this post for your convenience).
BBC News: Egypt set for ‘Day of Departure’
4 February 2011 Last updated at 00:24 ET
Protesters in the Egyptian capital Cairo are preparing to stage a “Day of Departure” for President Hosni Mubarak.
Photo above: Anti-government protesters in Egypt are staging another mass rally billed as a “day of departure”, as their efforts to overthrow President Hosni Mubarak continue for an 11th day. (AFP)
Latest Updates on Day 11 of Egypt Protests from NYT’s The Lede.
Yesterday Mona Eltahawy tweeted: “My heart, my sould, my memories, what most excites me about Egypt, is there at Tahrir. Only thing keeping me optimistic re Egypt is youth” and “am torn between staying here NYC and continuing my media uprising to amplify Egypt voices and returning to Cairo for revolution.”
Mona’s tweets reminded of the title of a Rumi poem. From the Coleman Barks translation:
In Baghdad, Dreaming of Cairo: In Cairo, Dreaming of Baghdad — by Rumi
excerpt: It may be the satisfaction I need
depends on my going away, so that when I’ve gone
and come back, I’ll find it at home
My thoughts and prayers go out to the Egyptian people and to all the Egyptians and Arabs watching the revolution from outside the region. Our hearts break with yours as we watch the aftermath of the ugly state crackdown that has taken place over the last two days.
Special Note: Mona Eltahawy will be on Real Time with Bill Maher (HBO, Friday, 10 pm EST).
(in reverse chronological order so the latest is first)
Largely Peaceful, with reports of small incidents
around 7:30 am CST (2:30 in the afternoon in Cairo): Another report that people keep coming in and “the protests are gaining momentum.” I’m hearing mostly peaceful stuff on the AJE feed, but there have been some reports here and there of small confrontations.
Reporter who said that she’s hearing about the upward momentum also says that she hears high profile Egyptians are getting together and trying to plan and structure the voice and face of the movement, but there is no one name or face for a leader of the movement. She says she’s hearing ElBaradei (and another name I didn’t catch) are not acceptable to the protesters.
A mood of defiance
7 am CST: Still peaceful.
NYT headline — “Egyptians Defy Crackdown With New Mass Protests.”
Note, at 7:08 am CST– Al Jazeera reporter saying there is a developing situation at the October 6th bridge with a small group of Pro-Mubarak supporters yelling “Where is Al Jazeera now? We’re the real people of Egypt” or something to that effect. Concentration of tanks and riot gear at bridge appears to have been in place in preparation for something like this.
Chants of “peacefully, peacefully”
6 am CST: AJE correspondent says one of the chants that the Day of Departure protesters are saying is “peacefully, peacefully.” Another correspondent checking in to report that the scene is a “mirror image” of the peaceful protests from Tuesday. She also says there are no signs of any of the pro-Mubarak thugs, the streets are quiet, as has been reported by multiple correspondents during the past several hours. Switch to another reporter who says there is a bit of tension outside of the barriers but there is largely a return to the celebratory mood of the protest before the bloodshed on Wednesday and Thursday.
The concerns that things would get violent after Friday prayers have *so far* not been born out. Here is hoping things continue this way.
Yet another reporter describing the crowd as “rejuvenated.”
Interview with al-Ghad party’s Ayman Nour: more than 1 million people. Still concerns about police-instigated violence. Says “president must be removed from political scene.”
“Day of Departure” protesters want Mubarak to leave but do NOT want Suleiman either
around 5 to 5:30 am CST and onward: AJE anchor estimates that there are a million people at Tahrir. Someone at the scene describes a poster from the protests with American presidents (if I heard correctly, from Carter to Obama) on one side and Hosni Mubarak on the other. Protesters want Hosni Mubarak to leave but are chanting against Omar Suleiman as his replacement as well. AJE anchor says reports are coming in that there are *upwards* of one million people in attendance. Correspondent now saying that safety in numbers is the strategy — there is a feeling that perhaps letting the numbers dwindle in the middle of the week made it easier for the crackdown/massacre over the earlier 48 hours. Another correspondent reports “an atmosphere of euphoria,” with people erupting into cheers (I think when news plays on a screen there)…he’s also having the camera feed zoom in to the main entry point (bridge) and pointing out the makeshift barrier that has been made.
Midday prayers over; the “Day of Departure” protests begin
around 4:30 am CST and onward: The protesters are chanting very loudly, among other things, “he must leave, he must leave” and “invalid, invalid” in reference to Hosni Mubarak. I believe someone in the square reporting via phone on AJE just referred to the sound of the chanting there as “deafening.”
The Egyptian National Anthem is now being chanted–more like roared. Wow. This is incredible to watch/listen to via feed, I can only imagine what it’s like to experience this in person in Tahrir square.
Cutaway to Alexandria–the scene there is very much like the scene at Tahrir, with a chanting, roaring crowd. The AJE anchor says things appear to be getting a bit more unruly than the peaceful sense there was in the morning.
“The calm before the storm”
Midday in Egypt/4:20 am CST: for the past 20 minutes or so, AJE has been characterizing this as the calm before the storm and there is great concern that abuses will be carried out later in the day. Midday prayers are about to take place. I’ve added a screengrab that I took at the top of the hour. Mablue2 has also embedded some pictures in the Sky Dancing comments: see here.
Some good news if true — seems army is intervening on behalf of the people:
CNN’s reporting is along similar lines: “Troops in riot gear patrol Cairo as demonstrators plan mass protests…Demonstrators have built a barbed-wire barricade and stacked piles of rocks throughout Cairo’s Tahrir Square, where a large number of protesters had already gathered Friday morning to demand President Hosni Mubarak’s resignation. Military forces surrounded the square, and anti-government protesters manned their own security checkpoints, which included numerous blockades. ‘We’ve been here for more than 10 days, and change is coming,’ a group of protesters chanted inside the square.”
http://twitpic.com/3wbnmn: Image grab of Tahrir on AJA, timestamped Feb 4, 2011 at 7:36 am GMT
Recommended Reading and Links
“Mubarak’s day of departure?“: Brian Whitaker’s latest take at his personal al-bab blog, with observations on the constitutionality of Suleiman taking over and on the attacks on journalists
Robert Fisk, via Democracy Now: “Obama Administration Has Been Gutless and Cowardly in Dealing with the Mubarak Regime”
Killed in Egypt: a user list on google updating with the names, ages, and other info of lives lost in the protests.
From mablue2 —Washington’s hopes for the ‘day of departure’(Mark Mardell’s BBC blog) : “At a prayer breakfast today President Obama said, ‘The presidency has a funny way of making a person feel the need to pray. Abe Lincoln said, I have been driven to my knees many times by the overwhelming conviction that I had no place else to go.’
Mr Mubarak’s defiance may have Mr Obama on his knees in prayer, but certainly not in submission. The White House is preparing, in great detail, for a world after Hosni Mubarak.”
Also from mablue2 — The art of counter-revolution (Arabist.net): “I have not been to Tahrir since the mob attacks on the protesters began. But what I’m seeing and hearing is amazing. People have braved gunfire and molotov cocktails. They have set up makeshift barricades and organized hospitals. Lifelong activists who once dismissed Egyptian youth as flighty and apathetic are coming away from Tahrir with their jaws agape at the persistance and ingenuity of this new generation.
But, when you wander the square or watch the protests on Jazeera, it’s easy to forget that there are still millions of Egyptians who haven’t been among the protesters, who distrust Arab satellite stations, and who derive their political narrative from state TV. Maybe they live in the countryside, and know their local NDP deputy (or NDP ‘independent’) well, and have a well-connected family patriarch to vouch for them before the police.”
Forced confessions and Torture
Bostonboomer heard on Rachel Maddow yesterday that the Egyptian government is airing forced confessions on state tv. She and I both have tried to look for any links on this but haven’t been able to find any yet. We’ll keep looking for information on this, but in the meantime, Bostonboomer did find these articles on the routine use of torture on ordinary Egyptian citizens:
US embassy cables: Police brutality in Egypt (The Guardian)
A journalist’s account
another from mablue2, Personal account: Attacked by thugs in the streets of Cairo: “As the Cairo mob turns against journalists, Yonathan Kellerman, 32, a Montreal photographer and documentary writer now living in Paris, details how he found himself under attack by thugs.”
For Live Tweets: Blogs of War
For Al Jazeera English LIVE feed:
If the feed above doesn’t work for you or crashes your browser: AJE Live on Youtube
Here is a link I noticed on twitter to a bunch of internet feeds from various news outlets — TVNewsRadio — Egypt: Watch Live Streaming. A partial list from the link:
WASHINGTON — 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.
President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, WH Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, and State Department spokesman PJ Crowly all took time on TV today to express American concern for use of overt use of violence, suppression, and intimidation of reporters, legitimate protest, and human rights groups. Reporters have been beaten and ‘disappeared’. Green Vans belonging to the State Police were caught speeding up, then running over protesters on their way to the Square. (WARNING: Video below shows this.)There is increasing evidence that the pro-Mubarak protesters are themselves state police and paid thugs.
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Thursday that the violence was carried out by “elements close to the government or ruling party.”
“I don’t think we have a sense of how far up the chain it went,” he noted.
There are no images coming out of journalists in Egypt. Nile TV–the government propaganda channel–has been blaming foreign forces for the protests which is leading to attacks on nonEgyptians all over Egypt. Nile TV journalist Shahira Amin has quit. She’s joined the protesters.
There are increasing calls from the International Community to the Government of Egypt for restraint. Here’s a link to an article from, of all places, China.
Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd on Thursday condemned the violence, saying attacks on peaceful demonstrators are unacceptable and must stop.
“We call upon the government of Egypt to take steps to ensure that its citizens are free to demonstrate safely,” Rudd said in a statement.
“The disturbing events in Tahrir Square underline the urgent need for a negotiated and peaceful solution to this political crisis.”
UN chief Ban Ki-moon, who was on a visit to Britain, Wednesday urged all sides to show restraint during the unprecedented nine-day-old movement.
“I am deeply concerned by the continuing violence in Egypt. I once again urge restraint to all the sides,” Ban said after a meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron.
Ban also said that any attack on peaceful demonstrators in Egypt was unacceptable and that he strongly condemns it.
In Athens, Greek Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas called on Egyptians to exercise restraint.
Egyptian protesters continue to pour onto the streets. Friday protests are being characterized as a “final” Friday indicating the hope that Friday will be the day Mubarak will quit.
One man, a 30-year-old lawyer named Tareq Hussein Ali, whose sweatshirt was so bloodied it looked like a red-brown bib, ventured his analysis. “Egypt will never be as it used to be,” he said.
“Last night showed that the government is at the last of their options,” Ali said Thursday afternoon, sitting on a grass patch in the middle of Tahrir – which means “liberation” – where dozens of protesters were resting under anti-government banners.
Tahrir on Thursday resembled a bustling open-air triage center. With businesses locked up long ago, young women in head scarves served water to demonstrators from inside a Hardee’s while weary-looking men sporting bandages dozed on the doorsteps of travel agencies, too many to count.
At every entrance to the square, protesters had set up security cordons backed up by neatly arranged lines of stones, in case of another attack. As in previous days, the Egyptian army presence was thin, just a few dozen soldiers looking on, and no uniformed police were in sight.
In a back alley, volunteers set up an emergency medical clinic, where doctors in dirtied white coats re-dressed wounds from the previous night. Hussein Dawood, a physician, said that more than 3,000 people had been injured, a figure that far exceeded the government’s count.
“We want the whole world to know that the Egyptian president organized an operation against his own people,” Ali said, “as if he was in a war.”
When Ali left his Cairo home Jan. 25 to join the first day of the protests, he told his parents: “I will come home victorious, or you will receive my dead body.” Late Wednesday night, after nearly 10 hours of running battles in and around the square, he was on the front lines near the museum alongside scores of young male demonstrators.
After days of watching the coverage I think I can safely say that there are very few people left standing that support Mubarak with the exception of Fox News, Tim Pawlenty, Newt Gingrich and others representing the extremely right wing element in the US. It’s pretty obvious that instead of looking for communists under the bed that we are now to look for stylized, extremist ‘Islamists’. In fact, we’re now seeing some weirdish melting of Islam, Shari’a, socialism, leftists and communism. How desperately deluded to you have to be to push that one?
“Any honest assessment on 9/11 this year, ten years after the attack, I think will have to conclude that we’re slowly losing the war,” Gingrich said. “We’re losing the war because there are madrassahs around the planet teaching hatred. We’re losing the war because the network of terrorists is bigger, not smaller.”
Gingrich pointed to the unrest in Egypt as posing a potential new threat to American security.
“There’s a real possibility in a few weeks, if we’re unfortunate, that Egypt will join Iran, and join Lebanon, and join Gaza, and join the things that are happening that are extraordinarily dangerous to us,” Gingrich said.
The right wing buzz word of the day is “Muslim Brotherhood” which is now seen to have tentacles that reach–according to professional wacko Glenn Beck–to some unknown place in US Democratic Circles. Here is an example from right wing extremist Frank Gaffney on Sean Hannity, professional bully.
The Muslim Brotherhood is often a target of right-wing pundits like anti-sharia crusader Frank Gaffney, who last month claimed the group had infiltrated CPAC. And as the single largest organized opposition group in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood has emerged as a target for the right as the protests continue.
On Hannity last night, Gaffney argued that “the Obama Administration’s policies are being viewed through, and actually articulated and implemented through influence operations that the Muslim Brotherhood itself is running in our own country.”
“You cannot possibly get your strategy right, you cannot execute it effectively if you don’t know that the enemy is actually giving you advice on how to proceed,” he said.
I mentioned this earlier, but I’m personally having to de-friend people on Facebook from people perpetuating this obvious right wing paranoia and hatred. I’m not sure how any one could be following the coverage these last days and not realize that Mubarak’s behavior is unacceptable and that these are legitimate calls for democratic change from widespread and mainstream elements in Egypt. I have to admit that most of these people have also been serious Sarah Palin apologists also. We had removed blogs links from these people earlier this month for some of that behavior. I’ve had to completely remove contact with them after the posting of some really hateful right wing posts to FaceBook.
There are legitimate concerns about the treatment of women by all fundamentalist religions. However, it is becoming increasingly clear to most of us that these groups have jumped the shark and are motivated by ignorance and bigotry. The complaints and shout outs I have seen recently for the Beck idea that some “caliphate” takeover is happening is clearly rooted in racism and extremist views of Islam. Many of these are aimed not only at Egyptians but the President of the United States. This does not reflect well for the values traditionally held by this country. I personally find it deeply disturbing and frightening that these people are supporting a military dictatorship that is disappearing and brutalizing US journalists (more than 70), human rights activists, diplomats, and–as BB pointed out today–US academics.
Just after she completed the interview, Radwan was brutally beaten by thugs working for the Egyptian dictator. She told Amy Goodman of Democracy Now
“I got attacked by the mob and beaten half to death by the Mubarak thugs who were happy to snatch my necklaces off my neck and to rip my shirt open,”
There is a follow-up telephone interview with Radwan at the second link above. The call with Radwan begins around 37:19. She says that pro-Mubarak thugs asked her if she was pro- or anti-Mubarak. She didn’t want to answer and tried to walk past them. Then the thugs called to the rest of the “mob,” “She’s with them, she’s with them! Get her!”
Two large men held her by the arms while the mob ripped her shirt off, took a gold necklace that she wore during the interview, and beat her so badly that she had to get stitches in her head. She says that other people have been treated much worse than she was. Radwan says that the Egyptian government-controlled media has been “broadcasting nonstop” that “we are infiltrators, that we are foreign-paid…not actually real Eqyptians.”
Amy Goodman says that Democracy Now has been getting reports that the “pro-Mubarak” forces seem to be made up mostly of Egyptian police. The Guardian apparently reported that at least 100 police ID’s have been recovered. There is lots more in the video. If it becomes available on Youtube, I’ll post it here.
What will happen next?
At the Foreign Policy blog, Robert Springbord puts into words what I have been fearing for the past few days: Game over: The chance for democracy in Egypt is lost.
While much of American media has termed the events unfolding in Egypt today as “clashes between pro-government and opposition groups,” this is not in fact what’s happening on the street. The so-called “pro-government” forces are actually Mubarak’s cleverly orchestrated goon squads dressed up as pro-Mubarak demonstrators to attack the protesters in Midan Tahrir, with the Army appearing to be a neutral force. The opposition, largely cognizant of the dirty game being played against it, nevertheless has had little choice but to call for protection against the regime’s thugs by the regime itself, i.e., the military. And so Mubarak begins to show us just how clever and experienced he truly is. The game is, thus, more or less over.
The threat to the military’s control of the Egyptian political system is passing. Millions of demonstrators in the street have not broken the chain of command over which President Mubarak presides. Paradoxically the popular uprising has even ensured that the presidential succession will not only be engineered by the military, but that an officer will succeed Mubarak. The only possible civilian candidate, Gamal Mubarak, has been chased into exile, thereby clearing the path for the new vice president, Gen. Omar Suleiman. The military high command, which under no circumstances would submit to rule by civilians rooted in a representative system, can now breathe much more easily than a few days ago. It can neutralize any further political pressure from below by organizing Hosni Mubarak’s exile, but that may well be unnecessary.
The president and the military, have, in sum, outsmarted the opposition and, for that matter, the Obama administration. They skillfully retained the acceptability and even popularity of the Army, while instilling widespread fear and anxiety in the population and an accompanying longing for a return to normalcy.
This is an open thread to discuss the Egyptian protests.
Recent Tweet from
AJEnglish Al Jazeera English
A statement is also expected from the White House.
According to Diplomatic Sources via CNN: Egypt crisis: Mubarak won’t run again; report says Obama pushed for decision
Update 9:38 p.m. Cairo, 2:38 p.m. ET] Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has decided not to seek re-election, according to a senior U.S. official involved in the Obama administration’s deliberations on Egypt. The official cited “reliable contacts in Cairo” for the news. The New York Times reported Obama pushed Mubarak into the decision via a message delivered by former Ambassador Frank Wisner, who paid a personal visit to Mubarak on Tuesday.
The LA Times is reporting that US Envoy Frank Wisner was sent to tell Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to step aside.
Frank Wisner, a former ambassador to Egypt who has good relations with the Mubarak regime, traveled to Cairo at President Obama’s behest to talk to the Egyptian leader about the country’s future.
Wisner delivered a direct message that Mubarak should not be part of the “transition” that the U.S. had called for, according to Middle East experts who spoke on condition of anonymity.
One expert on the region said that in his regular conversations with the Obama administration about the unrest in Egypt, he learned that Wisner’s message to Mubarak was that “he was not going to be president in the future. And this message was plainly rebuffed.”
U.S. officials tells ABC News that on Saturday, President Obama made the final authorization to send former Ambassador to Egypt Frank Wisner to deliver – gently – the message to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak that neither he nor his son should run for the presidency this September.
Wisner, a well-regarded Egypt hand with a longtime relationship with Mubarak, was “in the orbit,” an official says, “because he’s been talked about as a potential Holbrooke replacement” to be a Special Envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The White House gave Wisner his talking points, the official said, and Wisner flew to Cairo Sunday to tell Mubarak that he should not run for re-election — and that his son Gamal should not run either.
Omar Suleiman was recently appointed Vice President of Egypt by desperate dictator Hosni Mubarak. There has also been talk that Suleiman could become Mubarak’s successor now that Mubarak’s son Gamal is seemingly out of the picture.
It will be interesting to see how the Obama administration responds to this appointment, since the U.S. has had very close relations with Suleiman. Some basic background on Suleiman from Reuters:
* He has been the director of the Egyptian General Intelligence Services (EGIS) since 1993, a role in which he has played a prominent public role in diplomacy, including in Egypt’s relations with Israel and with key aid donor the United States.
* He was born on July 2, 1936 in Qena, in southern Egypt. He later enrolled in Egypt’s premier Military Academy in 1954, after which he received additional military training in the then Soviet Union at Moscow’s Frunze Military Academy.
* He also studied political science at Cairo University and Ain Shams University. In 1992 he headed the General Operations Authority in the Armed Forces and then became the director of the military intelligence unit before taking over EGIS.
* Suleiman took part in the war in Yemen in 1962 and the 1967 and 1973 wars against Israel.
* As Egypt’s intelligence chief, Suleiman was in charge of the country’s most important political security files, and was the mastermind behind the fragmentation of Islamist groups who led the uprising against the state in the 1990s.
While he has shown little political ambition, General Suleiman has often been mentioned as a possible successor to the 82-year-old Mr Mubarak.
He would continue in the trend of military strongmen who have led Egypt since the 1952 revolution.
And perhaps more ominously, based on what you’re about to read about Suleiman’s activities,
Even if he is not the next president, even in a transitional capacity, some experts believe that Omar Suleiman is likely to be a kingmaker.