Summary of the Egyptian protests

The Mother Jones website has a summary of the current Egyptian protests, with links to more info.

Also, ABC Journalist Rosanna Ryan has created a Twitter list of protest-related accounts; but their accuracy is anyone’s guess.

The Twitter hashtags #Jan25 and #25Jan also have information, but as always with Twitter, treat most of it as unverified.

77 Responses to “Summary of the Egyptian protests”

  1. 1 Arthur

    Looks like Egyptians aren’t waiting to see the final outcome in Tunisia!

    Its still unclear whether the Army will permit thorough uprooting of the old order in Tunisia (eg the islamist party Hizb Ennahda is still outside the government and the revolution still seems to be dominated by French speaking middle class rather than broad Arabic speaking masses who are much more islamic).

    Tunis is far from the worst of the autocracies, so events there are a clear threat to all. When Egypt goes the whole region goes.

    My guess is that current events in Egypt are just an opening round that won’t see an immediate uprising but an extended period of events unfolding throughout the region.

    The Muslim Brotherhood are the decisive players in Egypt and seem to be proceeding very strategically. Their english language ikwhanweb has excellent coverage, including western analysis.

    The US statement is pretty pissweak, but at least there doesn’t seem to be much sign of them panicking into backing the Autocrats again. Given US unpopularity a laid back approach is probably appropriate.

    There’s no way any of the autocracies can survive the reality of an Iraqi democracy, even though the impact of that is sharply reduced as a result of it having been externally induced. Once any of them has a thorough internal democratic revolution the others won’t last long. But its important to understand that Ben Ali fleeing is not yet a thorough going revolution, but only an opening for one.

  2. 2 Arthur

    I haven’t looked at the semi-official voice of the Egyptian government, Al Ahram for quite a while.

    Found this oped more or less openly inciting a Domino Effect revolt against the government that owns it!

    This suggests to me that the regime really could be close to falling apart!

    BTW Teheran Times is also publishing stuff enthusing about the impending collapse of pro-Western Arab dictators that could be problematic for anti-Western Persian dictators. Interesting reference to Iraq as the only non-dictatorship in the Arab world (combined with “the usual” against US and Britain).

    Muslim Brotherhood has now fully committed to a protracted united front struggle.

    Israeli papers (Haaretz, Jerusalem Post, Y-net) are understandably preoccupied with the recently leaked documents on negotiations between Israel and Palestine Authority. But the strange absence of commentary on events in Egypt etc suggests that they are more than a little uneasy.

  3. 3 patrickm

    I just watched SBS News Hour and can’t get the smile off my face. It’s apparent to everyone that the Tunisian people are inspiring Egyptians, and that the Egyptian masses in taking to their streets are encouraging the people of Yemen to stand up. The unrest is right across the classes and who knows where this will break out next. Great stuff if people want to see an entire region wide ‘swamp’ changed from tyranny to bourgeois democracy.

    After tyranny, the other common theme of mass unemployment and rising cost of living is now right up front as producing the ‘nothing left to lose’ factor that is turning these demonstrations into uprisings. The GFC is not just causing big problems for the PIGS of Europe. Basket case economies like those in play in the ME are obviously coming apart at the seam, for both the young and the poor; just to name the first of the vast number of oppressed that come to mind.

    With these levels of demonstrations as the starting point revolutionary transformation could easily be possible in weeks. Despite Mubarak banning demos, nothing is stopping; and so he is losing the ability to intimidate the masses. Dr Al-Baraday is heading home to Egypt right now, so the masses will greet him. The scale of the crowds that incidents like this generate might begin to decide the issue, as I think these demonstrations will swell into the millions.

    Once they do they can’t be prevented from taking charge of Cairo’s streets shortly after, and then the buildings. Al-Baraday’s message is for all who want change to unite, stick together and demand change now. It’s an insurrectionist message directed at winning the immediate goal of taking control of the streets and pushing the police back into their proper scale. It’s about momentum what the Americans call keeping the big mo.

    It’s also apparent that the broad spectrum of the politically restless in the region must negotiate the democratic revolution that we have been referring to since the U.S. abandoned its old policies in 2002. Islamist forces from Hezbollah; to Muslim Brotherhood (MB); to Hamas; all are unable to come to outright power and must share it to solve their current problems and move forward and the same applies to the secular forces.

    Less than a decade after the U.S. reversal of policies and the launch of the bourgeois democratic revolution in the ME I think we are witnessing the end of the beginning to what we have called the swamp draining project. So,just the beginning phase will have taken a full decade to 2011.

    The next phase will require a strong left input to address the economic questions that capitalism has thrown onto the table during the first phase. The world is different now than ten years ago.

    The Mubarak tyranny has high inflation of about 10%; high unemployment officially about 9%; but the person interviewed on SBS thought probably double that in reality; and very high youth unemployment, maybe 3 times that later number.

    Tunisia, Egypt, and Yemen are police states; that are going flat broke, in a world economic climate plagued by ripened structural problems in even bourgeois democracies. All have thirty-year long rule of one individual to put an end to as but the first step of the next phase.

    The person interviewed on SBS thought that the MB had been caught behind events rather than leading them strategically, and that the professional classes in Cairo shown demonstrating seemed to be the first to start protesting. But everyone is coming out and uniting now.

    What are the props keeping the regime up? What will knock these props over?

    The retreating last-superpower’s ruling-elite is in a very deep hole and they are determined not to dig any deeper. Youngmarxist and Arthur have highlighted this point above with the statement described as piss weak. It is, but it’s still clear that Obama can’t go back on the Bush policy direction and the police state of Egypt is still being cut adrift in U.S. interests.

    I think this is far different than Burma some years back. I think this IS the start of a very broad uprising and that the Egyptian tyranny must crackdown in a very big way (killing lots of demonstrators) to put any growing uprising back in its box – IF it can.

    OK, so nobody can predict where this will go – but-keeping in mind the agonisingly slow backdrop to ME issues, (that have always taken much longer than any of us has hoped for); here are a few things I think are strategically central.

    1 It’s boilerplate that if the army and police don’t hold as the repression unfolds then naturally it’s over for Mubarak etc..

    I think that the Mubarak regime will fall in a mass uprising similar to the ongoing dress rehearsal in Tunisia and earlier rather than later. But sooner or later, when Mubarak is finally put to flight the reforms must then unfold without there having been the dissolution of any of the current centres of state power. As with Tunisia nothing will have been abolished or disbanded. Those that are leading the uprising will still demand the ‘scalps’ of leading Mubarak supporters, and current office bearers in all the relevant state authorities.

    We are seeing how concessions are being squeezed from the ‘authorities’ (the weak ruling class) in Tunisia and that’s how it will unfold in Egypt. The reforms will be eked out all the way to full democratic elections under an agreed to constitution validated by a vote of the people.

    IMV there is no possibility of the armed forces just taking over and running a Junta, nor the Muslim Brotherhood taking over without any elections and or constitutional restraint.

    If anyone tried to go in a direction that did not have a power-sharing election as the gatekeeper for the new era, a huge civil war that nobody but Al Qaeda sorts would want would crack wide open. So once people believe that the current very powerful tyranny must be ended they look around for allies and develop understandings in order to unite to achieve the end of the tyrant. After that’s achieved everyone ‘left standing’ as credible mass forces will continue to talk and it will be clear that a resolvable negotiation is possible without a resort to a test of arms.

    2. Consider the ubiquitous mobile phone in the clip showing the Mubarak poster being ripped down! That is a new era! Mubarak will not be permitted to pass on the tyranny to M junior! This is election year and only a crooked election could see Mubarak win, but no election with Mubarak is now possible. He therefore must go and ‘if t’were well it were done; then t’were well it were done quickly! His support will rapidly collapse.

    3. Modernity has a deep enough hold in Egypt that there are many Egyptians (in this very youthful part of the world – including in the massive and comparatively well paid armed forces) that want western democratic freedoms. They will not just be steamrollered by Islamist forces as the tyranny is forced out. The modernist elements will avoid any Iranian style religious outcome from this uprising largely because of the very example of Iran. But also because of the thirty-years and vast change between the events.

    4 I think it is now close to a no-brainer that the ‘people’ as they form up in Egypt, won’t cop a government that’s unrestricted by any constitution and without any effective separation of powers. So a constitution would be required (to be guaranteed by the current army and police etc as their part of the negotiations). Of course they will also have to be reformed as part of this process. Also necessary is reform to the judiciary and bureaucracy. So, a very complex bourgeois democratic revolution must unfold post Mubarak. (Just like we are watching in Tunisia. After the president runs for it and those left make concessions more is demanded and so forth. The masses clearly hate much more than Mubarak and his cronies of this police state) Real revolutions and uprisings are indeed messy and become protracted.

    5 If the police and army do hold the situation together for a while using such a level of repression then an international backlash will quickly unfold and the economic crisis will swell the ranks of what will become an ongoing active underground organising for an uprising. We have seen how bloody Iraq gets, so nothing ought to surprise us. I very much doubt they will hold it because to ‘win’ any crackdown would have to be so bad as to force the U.S. into pulling out all props it can from under the regime! At that point, even the armed forces can no longer be well paid, and all bets are off. Note: There are no vast oil revenues streaming into Egypt. If the PIGS are bankrupt than Egypt is out the back door.

    6 The U.S. apparently could not to-date accomplish No 5. in the case of Israel. That failure has continued to harm them year after year! The U.S. cannot upset the masses of the ME any further than they already have, by in anyway condoning what would be required to stop this uprising. So they would dramatically abandon Mubarak cutting off finance and deliberately trying to send the country into an economic tailspin, thus forcing change, something that could just not be done in the case of Burma.

    7 On the other hand if Mubarak holds for the present without mass slaughter (only low level thuggery and widespread arrests) then the rot will continue, and the U.S. will continue to move in the same direction. IMV the people could only be more emboldened, so I can’t see it and this can’t work if the money does run out!

    Anyway I’m very hopeful that Egypt is close to being very much in play and thanks for the post YM and Arthur for pointing to the very useful articles.

    I could be far too optimistic (ahmm) and another couple of years might drag on (can anyone say Marwan Barghouti) but that seems the overall picture to me as I continue to wait for ALL the Palestinian prisoners to be released – just as the political prisoners are being freed in Tunisia.

    There is still the elephant in the room and the vital U.S. interest of ending the failed war for greater Israel – and the formation of a Palestinian state; that is still unfolding and nothing has happened that makes it less required, or the shape of the defeat less predictable. Yet it drags on and on! But the rhetoric has changed and now we have the top U.S. General in the region Petraeus, telling the world that the establishment of a Palestinian state is vital to U.S. interests.

    The latest Palestinian move (threat or challenge) being a proposal to take the issue before the UN security council with motions based upon U.S. Policies. [Can the U.S. veto motions based on their own policies and continue to damage their own self interests in the ME in the current climate?!]. That could not possibly be a good look, so the train keeps coming along this very long track, and we observers wait. Meanwhile the Palestinian elections are long overdue but they are working to a timetable/s and continue the work of building all the elements of a functioning state under the leadership of the credible PM Fayyad. Something has got to give.

    The twist is that this revolution is to be at a time of unfolding world wide crisis in capitalism, so some old options will not be on the table. There will be a protracted struggle in a situation where the bourgeois forces will have to earn their keep in a broad united front, and so will greens and everybody else. This won’t and can’t be like the East Europe revolution with a confident bourgeois element backed by ‘booming’ western capital stepping forward, so a left that makes sense will have to emerge from the rubble.

  4. 4 Arthur

    I like the general thrust of patrick’s remarks, especially that there is a solid basis for unity between secular and islamist oppositions. This is the key failure of stuff in the mainstream media, which still fears the reality that any democracy in the middle east is going to have islamists winning elections.

    There’s no way to predict any details, but it seems clear at least that “it’s started”.

    We’ll know soon enough (within an hour of this post). The first really mass mobilization is scheduled for noon prayers today (Egypt is 9 hours behind Melbourne).

    My guess is that yesterday’s level of repression in arresting a thousand or two but only killing a few will be completely inadequate to prevent the masses turning out today.

    If so, the regime has a choice of Tien an men style massacre or retreat. Neither can be ruled out, but there’s so little reason to expect the regime to survive for very long that one would have to be a very “committed” officer to attempt to carry out orders for a massacre and be confident that one’s troops would comply.

    More likely “extreme” (violent) protests would be repressed forcibly and the rest retreated from.

    Retreat could take many forms. I don’t see a reason to expect immediate transformation from increasing mass protests forcing further retreats into immediate insurrection. How long it takes and the path followed will depend on numerous future decisions taken on each of many sides.

  5. 5 Steve Owens

    I think that the interesting question is where does the US stand?
    Obama in his state of the union speech was quite upbeat about the democratic rights of Tunisians but Eygpt is another matter and suddenly a peoples right to democracy is not so clear.
    The US gives about $2 Billion in military aid to Eygpt per year. A lot of this goes to the internal security forces.
    Here is a litmus test for the idea that the US ruling class has changed its position, its one thing to promote democracy when the dictator is an enemy, its another thing when the dictator is a friend.
    I hope your right I hope that the US gives a strong lead and tells every one to let the bell of democracy ring.

  6. 6 youngmarxist

    What a silly thing to say.

    There has always been a struggle between factions of the US ruling class, and the neocon faction which believed in turning things on their head has lost any public influence, in part because the pseudo-leftists have picked up the arguments of “stability-at-any-price ‘realists'” like Kissinger and Scowcroft.

    Remember the words of Secretary of State Rice five-and-a-half years ago in Cairo?

    “For 60 years, my country, the United States, pursued stability at the expense of democracy in this region here in the Middle East –and we achieved neither. Now, we are taking a different course. We are supporting the democratic aspirations of all people.”

    However, the stability party is back in charge in the USA now. It seems unlikely they’ll be able to hold the Egyptian people back, but Vice-President Bidden and Secretary of State Clinton have certainly tried to pour cold water on the current Egyptian uprising.

    If people think the leading figures of the Obama Administration should actively support the Egyptian people, maybe everyone who fooled themselves that Obama was the hope of a generation should wake up and realise just how conservative a government their anti-war activism helped elect.

  7. 7 Steve Owens

    Young Marxist it may be a silly thing to say but it is what people at this site have been arguing. Patrick has consistantly argued that the US ruling class has changed strategy. This is not the superficial Republican-Democrat tweedle dee tweedle dumb stuff but that the US ruling class has overturned 60 years of foriegn policy and embraced the draining the swamp metaphor.
    Do you think that Obama is the leader of the ruling class or just their spokesman?
    Are you arguing that the US is no longer draining the swamps?
    Has the US given up on democratic revolution in the ME?

  8. 8 Arthur

    The revolution WILL be televised…

    Internet and mobile phone networks shut down but Al Jazeera has video!

    So far seems to be water canons, tear gas etc but no massacre. Crowds not dispersed by this level of repression, but not overwhelming police either.

    Police retreating in Suez.

  9. 9 youngmarxist

    A faction of the US ruling class changed strategy. Another faction resents that change and thinks the policies of the last 66 years can continue.

    Clearly, Obama is in the faction that fears and despises change from below. He managed to co-opt desire for such change in the USA but the Egyptians aren’t falling for his phoney charms.

    So, the struggle in the US ruling class for control of policy continues. I hope people like Clinton and Biden lose, but they’re firmly in control at the moment.

  10. 10 keza

    People may like to re-read an old post of mine:

    Obama in Cairo (therapy for liberals) in which I compared Condi Rice’s 2005 speech in Egypt, with Obama’s far weaker speech in 2009.

    YM is quite right when he talks of there being a real struggle within the US ruling class over this.

  11. 11 Steve Owens

    Keza, Young marxist is not saying that theres a struggle. He’s saying that the stability faction has won (at least for now).
    If that is so then the US ruling class has reversed its drain the swamps position and now has a stabilise the dictatorships position. They have swung from reactionary to progressive and back to reactionary. Thats the logic that is being argued on this site.
    Is the USA draining the swamps or not?

  12. 12 youngmarxist

    “So, the struggle for control of policy in the US ruling class continues”

  13. 13 Steve Owens

    Kesa the whole point of your post was to make the point that Obama was being dragged along by history and that his speech was just therapy for liberals. No where do you conceed that Obama could reverse history.
    So which is it, is the USA still draining the swamps or is it propping up dictators?
    It seems pretty simple to me, for years you guys have been arguing that the strategic interests of the US ruling class have changed and that now they must drain the swamps and anything else is just window dressing.
    Now YoungMarxist is arguing that the history reversers are in charge and if that is so then Kesa you must conceed that you were wrong to argue that Obama was being dragged along by history.
    Boy to imagine that the ruling class changes its strategic orientation because one of its parties defeats its other party at an election. One thing you guys have taught me over the years is that party politics dont change nothin , thats why you ran the niether campaigns wasnt it?

  14. 14 Steve Owens

    Biden was just on the TV saying that Mubarak is not a dictator and that he should not stand down. Here’s the news flash Joe I don’t think it’s Mubaraks call any more with reports that police have given up the fight in many places this is truely wonderful and now theres protests in Jordan. How can we sleep on a night like tonight.

  15. 15 keza

    Exactly what I’d expect of Biden. He’s a very clear example of the forces within the US ruling clique who aren’t interested in draining the swamp.

  16. 16 Barry

    Steve, there’s a book worth reading on the rise of the neo-cons and their success in the foreign policy establishment. It’s called ‘The Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush’s War Cabinet’ and was published in 2004. Author is James Mann. (I don’t think it was released in Australia). It shows the complexities, the manouverings, and the stark differences between the neo-cons and the Kissingerists and the antipathy of one to the other. It also discusses differences among the neo-cons, though they were basically united along the lines expressed in Condi Rice’s Cairo Speech in shifting strategy from support for hated dictators to support for local democratic forces seeking to overthrow them. Mann’s book is available via Amazon and basic reading on this subject:

    The book makes it clear that it was never a matter of one side winning for all time, or a simple Republican/Democrat divide, but an on-going struggle between conservatives (who wanted and want stability in the region even if it means continuing support for dictators) and between neo-cons who seek the protection of US interests by promoting democracy and supporting the democratic forces in each country.

    It was a HISTORIC shift but not one that could be cast in stone.

    I have found a link to Biden’s pro-Mubarak position ( ) and can only wish for a return of Condi and George W asap – or at least people who think like them on foreign policy.

    The overthrow of one of the region’s worst tyrants in 2003, and the developing democracy there, cannot be isolated from the current uprisings elsewhere in the region – though the pseudo-left will of necessity have to deny the ripple effect. What else does it take for you guys to see that what ‘we’ said would happen, is happening?!

  17. 17 Steve Owens

    Thanks Barry Ill look out for that rise of the Vulcans book and yes you did say to watch Egypt in relation to a democratic revolution.
    Im glad that you were correct.

  18. 18 Arthur

    Not much doubt now that there will be a major retreat.

    Too late for a massacre as the army already called out without massacre to replace police unable to enforce curfew and has not attempted to enforce curfew.

    Mubarak made pathetic speech, sacked his government and said new government to resolve the situation will be appointed tomorrow. This clearly won’t work so Mubarek will go but army based regime making concessions will still have some room for maneuver.

    US still seems to be hoping to preserve regime but already fully distanced from Mubarek.

    BTW I don’t think the contrast between Obama and Bush is as sharp as others suggest. Initial 5 years of Bush was decisive and the subsequent retreat by Bush was basically continued by Obama, but in both cases was more of a retreat than a reversal and already results in trailing behind the popular revolution rather than actively opposing it.

    My impression is that US administration is still very nervous and negative about Muslim Brotherhood but won’t side with the regime. Either way the US position is no longer decisive. US made itself incapable of successfully propping up the autocracies by the measures Bush took in first five years.

  19. 19 Barry

    Interesting report from Aljazeera which indicates that the protestors – or some of them – want the Army to intervene against the police. Perhaps there is local reason to believe the soldiers are sympathetic to them. Which, if true, is further reason to suspect that the uprisings can develop into something much bigger: regime change.

    Arthur, my impression of Bush jr is that he really believed in and understood the ‘draining the swamps’ strategy. He wasn’t just going along with neo-con advice, but genuinely supported the new direction. With Obama, I am yet to read any speech of his, or hear any spoken words, that indicate an understanding of the bigger strategy. In Iraq, for instance, he just continued to implement the Status of Forces agreement that Bush jr’s admin had entered into with the Iraqi government. No need for much thinking in doing that.

    Of course, I might be wrong. As you know, I’ve been wrong in the past!

    Link to Aljazeera report here:

    Relevant excerpt: Protesters had previously chanted slogans calling for the army to support them, complaining of police violence during clashes in which security forces fired teargas and rubber bullets.

    “Where is the army? Come and see what the police is doing to us. We want the army. We want the army,” protesters in one area of central Cairo shouted, shortly before police fired teargas on them.

    Al Jazeera’s Mohyeldin said protesters reacted positively when a military armoured vehicle showed up.

    “The army is a respected establishment in Egypt, and many feel they need their support against what they see as excessive force by the police and security forces,” he said.

  20. 20 patrickm

    Just saw the U.S. spokesman making it as plain as can be in bourgeois diplomat land that the U.S. will cut aid to Egypt if the police carry on with their violence, and we know that if they don’t then it is over! So I conclude that the U.S. have really cut Mubarak adrift already.

    The spokesman also mentioned (reminded people if you like) that there is contact at the level of the military and I note that the police have now been withdrawn from the streets in Cairo; and the army have been welcomed onto those streets by those masses – with no doubt many being very suspicious and wary.

    This new situation may drag on for some days, even weeks, but Mubarak who has given no ground to date, can’t give enough now so it is far too late for him, and thus his close supporters! He is gone, and so are they! But the situation for lower levels is more negotiable. Enter the colonels.

    These Egyptian Colonels are well paid westernised types who have, like us watched TV over the years. They have seen the courts in the Hague over the last twenty-years dealing with military offenders, and they understand that they could easily end up in the dock too! To launch such violence is to take the risk of being hanged by their own people if they weren’t saved by the Hague. It’s to risky! What part of defending the tyranny is in it for them? In this modern era in this revolutionary environment they simply won’t take on these risks! Thus the Colonels won’t direct the machine guns against the people even if their troops would obey and that would be questionable.

    The police sniping at single demonstrators as they have been doing could be copied and escalated, but spill much blood and the western props get pulled!

    So the money would be pulled even if they used an ‘arguable’ level of violence to stop events unfolding, as the U.S. has made clear, so even in the short run the dead-end ought to be obvious to most officers.

    To date there twenty seven dead across the country and the U.S. are calling for restraint. The army would crack if some sections did use massive force and killed many in one incident.

    So I conclude that the army is putting the police back in their box and now managing the concessions or transition!

    Mubarak has just dismissed his government and is promising generalised reforms as his first concessions. Note that dismissing the government is his first move! That won’t be enough for the masses who are after removing him as the central goal of them taking to the streets in the first place. He is now without a government saying HE will appoint a new one tomorrow – and yet he has no way to appoint a new one that is acceptable to the masses so this is just dividing and destabilising his own crumbling supporter base. Actually he is now going to attempt to rely on the generals and for my money this has the smell of Nicolai Ceausescu about it!

    He won’t be stampeded and is going to try to hold on, but is too isolated from events to understand that his actual orders might not be carried out or even be able to be carried out.

    The whole Tunisian type negotiation process will shortly begin with the opposition now talking to former government figures while Mubarak demonstates that he is unable to control either events or a modern economy with his ‘new’ government that will spiral out of control day by day. The pay-master has spoken (bankrupt though it be in reality, nobody has noticed that the clothes are missing).

    Biden is a reactionary foot-dragger, who fortunately does not count! It’s quite possible that the next thing we will hear about Mubarak is when he turns up in some other country. (And his presence there won’t do that country any good)

    When he is gone the opposition will be seen by the Egyptian masses as the government in waiting as nobody within the old regime will be seen by those masses or even the other arms of the state as having any legitimate authority to back their real but negotiable power.

    The central point is that the U.S. will not go along with a slaughter, and nothing else could stop this from growing to the point of change right NOW.

    An interesting thing is that the youth are not being led by the MB and the U.S. would want to give the forces that will follow Al-Baradei the best chance ‘going forward’. The U.S. ruling-elite must now look well ahead to when the dust settles. (After the now inevitable free and fair forthcoming elections) They would prefer that the MB be the loyal opposition if at all possible, and if not then the forces that do become the opposition be seen as close to an alternative government.

  21. 21 Steve Owens

    Barry I think that there always is a divide between the army and the police. The police know that they are there for suppression of internal forces and their day to day activity re enforces these ideas.
    The army on the other hand may well be drawn from a different segment of society ie conscripts and may well have idealistic views that it protects the nation from foriegn agression and its day to day activity doesnt usually involve busting the heads of the citizenry.
    For the dictator the police are the more reliable option.
    You might have been wrong in the past? You will have to refresh my memory on that one because nothing springs to mind.

  22. 22 Arthur

    Barry, I agree that Bush genuinely supported the new direction (and temporarily retreated reluctantly) whereas Obama opposed the new direction and genuinely supported the retreat and would prefer to be continuing retreat and is being dragged into resuming the advance rather than initiating it like Bush.

    But that contrast between them should not be presented as sharper than it is. They are both US imperialist leaders and are both adapting to the need to reverse previous US imperialist policy of propping up the autocracies and instead support democratic revolution in the region.

    Both have self-contradictory policies. Inevitable in a contradictory situation (ie in any situation).

    Checkout John Bolton’s hostility to real regime change in Egypt. As you mentioned there were indeed people on both sides in the Bush administration. Ditto for Obama – and I would estimate VP Biden as more of a sop to the foreign policy establishment whereas Bolton’s UN ambassadorship did real damage.

  23. 23 Steve Owens

    It’s interesting how things turn out Bolton is a neocon who now wants to do nothing to progress democratic revolution and Elbaridei is a person that the Bush administration did its best to undermine even to the point of tapping his phone in an attempt to discredit him.

  24. 24 byork

    Just saw a report on CNN. Protestors reportedly hugging and kissing soldiers. The police are hated as they are the force that has been used to crush dissent. Huge police station in Alexandria, where torture was commonplace, has been set on fire and evacuated. One protestor shouted into the TV camera, “This is it! We’ve had enough. This is our revolution!”


  25. 25 Arthur

    Seems fairly clear now that Mubarek will quit and retreat will be to a military regime headed by Suleiman.

    Similar situation in Tunis.

    Both might well work, but only on the basis of promised rapid transition to free elevtions. Longer term struggle to actually implement.

    Both might also fail (though Tunis seems to be holding), if people insist on an immediate regime change to transitional regime.

  26. 26 tomb

    I am not surprised by people calling on the army. Turkey’s army was able to survive for so long because the left was too weak and disorganised to win a revolution there. The threat of a religious revolution saw communists that had been tortured by the army supporting the army against the threat of a religious revolution. This fear no doubt was increased with the revolution in Iran

    It can be seen now (religious party has been in power for a long time now)the left there was totally wrong on this and should have united with the religious parties to overthrow the Army.

  27. 27 byork

    Very instructive to see which governments are supporting the people’s struggle for greater democracy in Egypt, which is uniting around the demand for free and fair elections, and which governments are worried about it.

    The regime governing China has just blocked the word “Egypt” on the popular Sina microblogging service.

    Closer to Egypt, Israel is worried that the pro-democracy movement may succeed and spread to Jordan.

    Remember how the dictators of the Arab League buried their differences in 2003 to oppose the liberation of Iraq? As the Lybian representative put it at the time (March 2003): other Arab states (read: tyrants) would fall if Iraq was defeated (read: if dictator was overthrown and replaced by democratic system).

  28. 28 Bill Kerr

    Some random observations:
    1) I watched Aljazeera briefly and one commentary there said that the Army would remain loyal to Mubarek. That this made it different from Tunisia where the army chief abandoned the leadership there.

    2) Republicans proposed to withdraw aid from Egypt before the uprising

    3) Gen. Stanley McChrystal was sacked because of his contemptuous attitude to Biden

    “Last fall, during the question-and-answer session following a speech he gave in London, McChrystal dismissed the counterterrorism strategy being advocated by Vice President Joe Biden as “shortsighted,” saying it would lead to a state of “Chaos-istan.” The remarks earned him a smackdown from the president himself, who summoned the general to a terse private meeting aboard Air Force One. The message to McChrystal seemed clear: Shut the fuck up, and keep a lower profile

    Now, flipping through printout cards of his speech in Paris, McChrystal wonders aloud what Biden question he might get today, and how he should respond. “I never know what’s going to pop out until I’m up there, that’s the problem,” he says. Then, unable to help themselves, he and his staff imagine the general dismissing the vice president with a good one-liner.

    “Are you asking about Vice President Biden?” McChrystal says with a laugh. “Who’s that?”

    “Biden?” suggests a top adviser. “Did you say: Bite Me?”

  29. 29 Steve Owens

    The citizens of Cairo have been reported as forming groups for self defence. How soon will it be before workers start to form workplace defence groups call them I dont know what about soviets? How long will it be before one of these soviets borrows a tank and heads towards the Presidential palace to see if anyones home?

  30. 30 Arthur

    Times of India carried an AFP report from Baghdad on Iraqis pointing out that Egypt, Tunis inspired by Saddam’s fall.

    Google news search shows hardly any other major media picked up this agency report.

    Nevertheless, while remaining in denial, its clear western public opinion is now overwhelmingly in favour of democratic revolution throughout the Arab world, despite ongoing muttering from Israel and the usual suspects of the US foreign policy establishment.

    The usual suspects are no longer the opinion leaders, but the cognitive dissonance remains.

  31. 31 Youngmarxist

    Yes, I’ve seen one social-democratic blogger say this is the end for the sort of exceptionalism that claims the Arab world isn’t ready for democracy. In his thinking (so he explicitly states), part of this exceptionalism was the idea that democracy in Iraq was only possible after an invasion, as it showed no faith in the idea that Iraqis could rebel like Egyptians are now.

    Of course he ignores the idea that Sadaam would have been far more ruthless than Mubarack has been able to afford. He also ignores the history of self-righteous liberal-lefties swallowing the Kissingerite line that “chaos” in Iraq proved the invasion was a failure, or the constant trolling we’ve faced here by our own usual suspects claiming the concrete conditions of Iraq made that country unready for democracy.

    I’ve also seen liberals online fall for the same fears as Fox News that the Muslim Brotherhood involvement makes this automatically a bad thing. I wonder who else will fall for the idea that generals are better than democratic “chaos” or an Evil Islamist Government.

  32. 32 byork

    Iraq was very susceptible to intervention by neighbouring rival states and had they risen up on their own, the result would have been unthinkable regional conflagration. The superior US force stopped this from happening and now the Iraqis have their own well-trained security forces to defend their democratic constitution and institutions.

    Regarding ‘Arab exceptionalism’, Elliott Abrams, former deputy national security adviser to G W Bush, argues that the uprisings shatter the myth of exceptionalism. I don’t know how many times I was told Iraqis were not ready for democracy yet. The people who told me that should try telling it to the 12 million Iraqis who braved death threats to vote in free and fair elections there. I doubt whether I’ll be told that about the Tunisians and Egyptians, etc; though, yes YM, there is a view that somehow secular rule (even if dictatorial) is preferable to Islamist rule. This line will appeal to those who ignore the essential struggle for democracy, especially for free elections.

    Arthur, Abrams draws the link to Saddam’s fall and the democratic developments in Iraq in this piece in The Washington Post, published Saturday 29th January.

    There are many good points in the article about the current Egyptian uprising. He suggests that Suleiman (new VP) and Shafiq (the new PM, a former Air Force commander) may turn out to be acceptable transitional leaders to the Egyptians if (and only if!) they promise free elections later this year.

    Abrams also argues that Obama has rejected Bush’s ‘freedom agenda’ – ‘abandoned the mind-set’. Obama will have to try to keep up with the democratic struggles.

    Abrams’ piece is also worth reading in full as a reminder of Bush’s support for the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon and for the creation of a Palestinian State. Abrams quotes Bush’s November 2003 speech: “Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe – because in the long run, stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty. As long as the Middle East remains a place where freedom does not flourish, it will remain a place of stagnation, resentment and violence ready for export.”

    (Full report of 2003 speech here: )

    The pseudo’s will engage in some fascinating contortions to try and rationalize their previous opposition to democratic change in the region. Perhaps we may even have one or two come out and acknowledge they were wrong. More likely, though, is that they will see the overthrow of fascism in Iraq, and the building of democracy there, as totally unrelated to the recent events in Tunisia and Egypt which, by amazing coincidence, also involve people overthrowing tyranny and demanding the free elections that Iraqis now enjoy.

    Yes, Iraqis relied on US and allied military force to do it, but this avoided civil war backed by regional powers. And if you support the people’s democratic aspirations, you also know that each country’s struggle will reflect its own particular circumstances.

    This site is called ‘Strange Times’ – maybe we can add for a while a sub-title: “And exciting times, too”!

  33. 33 byork

    Steve asked: “How soon will it be before workers start to form workplace defence groups call them I dont know what about soviets?”

    The ‘defence groups’ being formed are basically middle class property owners and business people protecting their private property from looters. This is a bourgeois democratic revolution. I see no evidence of any credible group advocating workplace soviets or anyhting like them.

    Don’t get carried away!

  34. 34 Dalec

    Barrt, YM, I have a question.
    Was/is the Mubarack regime as fascist as the Saddam one?
    If it was/is how come a purely internal bourgeois democratic revolution is on the point of overthrowing it – without the assistance of the US military and mercenaries and the wholesale destruction of its productive infrastructure, to say nothing of the wanton killings by the US?

  35. 35 Youngmarxist

    Gee, Dalec, why don’t you tell us first if you support the Egyptian people, or if you think they are unready for democracy, just as you’ve said many times the Iraqis were not?

    Damn troll.

  36. 36 Steve Owens

    Its already started Ive seen comments that say Egypt was influenced by Rice’s speech, by Bush’s speech, by Obama’s speech by Iraq’s elections and despite the Invasion of Iraq.
    It’s all speculation and funny people see the exact influence that supports their previous position.

  37. 37 Steve Owens

    Wow Robert Fisk picked a bad time to retire. Most of us would know that he retired last year. I read today that he was riding around on the back of a tank in Cairo. Way to enjoy your retirement Robert.
    As I mentioned before the Egyptian army is heavy with conscripts as it’s compulsary, which is why Im in favour of conscription they make the least reliable of soldiers.

  38. 38 Steve Owens

    Fox News just put up a map showing Egypt to be between Syria and Iran
    I think the slogan is Fair and Balanced and completely without idea.
    Its my fault I watch these people. There was a survey that showed people knew less about the world after wacthing Fox than they knew about the world before watching Fox.
    Gotta go Geraldo is on.
    actually he was on earlier and he interviewed a guy who was in the Bush administration and he was positive about Egypt and said he wanted more in countries like Saudi Arabia.

  39. 39 Bill Kerr
  40. 40 Dalec

    That’s the real point of difference between Iraq and Egypt. The Egyptian revolution against the Fascist dictator that the US supports, clearly has the support of the people. We should support this revolution in any way we can.
    The US and its supporters must have known about the the (now vanished) Egyptian police force, its hired goons and its torture rooms and so on, did the US do any-thing about this brutal apparatus? Not a single thing. Instead they rendered “Islamist Terrorists” to the fascist police force as part of the “draining the swamps” program. Did ST ever raise the question of Egypt as a brutal tyrannical regime? Not a word, except for the occasional passing reference.

    I see shades of 1917 in Egypt.
    The real crunch will come when either the people decide upon their future or the US and its sycophants try to force some new ruler or puppet “democratic” regime onto them. (ElBaradei‎ for example).
    Or (horror)they get The Muslim Brotherhood and the sky will fall in.

  41. 41 Youngmarxist

    Hi, my name’s Dalec.

    I like long walks on the beach, making up rubbish, and flailing blindly at non-existent shadows while I pretend that reality is what suits me.

    The idea that the stagnant, fascist swamps of South-West Asia need to be drained, and replaced with democratic states, has of course been central to our understanding of world politics.

    Dalec has frequently attacked us for this, stating his patronising and wrong idea that the Iraqi people were not ready for democracy.

    Readers who want to judge if we are serious about supporting the Egyptian Revolution can check to see previous mentions of Egypt on our sites:

    You’re also welcome to check what Dalec has written in support of Egyptian freedom over the years. Except that he doesn’t even have a blog where he states his own position, preferring merely to troll us.

    Oh, and he just *loves* pina coladas.

  42. 42 byork

    “Forget democracy, the Iraqis by their nature are too tough.” This advice, given to the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice in 2008, was rejected by those in power who were committed to supporting Iraq’s democratic aspirations. The advice was conveyed in a cable, recently revealed by Wikileaks. (Yaay, Wikileaks!). It’s a variant of dalec’s “not ready for democracy” line. But, hey, this line has been used by oppressors and reactionaries going back to British colonial times.

    Oh yes, the person giving the advice was Hosni Mubarak, well known opponent of the US invasion of Iraq and well-known opponent of democracy in Iraq and Egypt.

    As I have often said in my posts, it really is a matter of which side you are on: the oppressors or the people? The main contributors here have a consistent and admirable track record of siding with the people, for democracy. dalec is simply on the other side.

  43. 43 Dalec

    I have never said that the Iraqi people were not ready for democracy.
    On the contrary I believe that the Iranians, the Iraqis the Saudi people and all other peoples are desperate for democracy.
    Question is do they determine the form of this for themselves or do they have it determined for them by Imperial troopers, mercenaries and Abu Grhaib type institutions after their country has been destroyed to the extent that there is insufficient power and water to develop?

  44. 44 byork

    If you really believed that, dalec, you would support the democracy that the Iraqi people have built thus far, via a constitutional referendum and two federal elections and provincial elections. US military power enabled the overthrow of their version of ‘Mubarak’ and you still oppose it. The rest has been in their hands and will hopefully continue to be in their hands. No doubt you will be consistent and oppose as a “US puppet” any leader the Egyptian people vote into power in free elections.

    Repeat: you’re on the wrong side.

  45. 45 youngmarxist

    “I am waiting for the analysis that says that Democracy can be introduced to any society without heed to its underlying economic and social status of the people.” [in the context of Iraq not being ready for democracy]

    “I have never said or implied that Muslims or any-one else cannot cope with democracy, what I will say that ***democracy cannot flourish under tyranny and without suitable economic underpinnings***.”$b_start@int=20.htm

  46. 46 Dalec

    YM here is the full text from which you so selectively quoted.
    “Oh Arthur,
    Such blather might make you feel better but it does not answer my question. Why if your US heroes were so intent upon bringing democracy to Iraq did they systematically loot and then destroy all the commercial and industrial infrastructure of the place?
    Why did they reduce it to a blasted wasteland with no water , no electricity , and most importantly, no-jobs for the proletarians? Oh it was the fault of the Islamofascists – you will reply. Pathetic.
    Where , during the planning stage for the invasion was the plan for reconstruction and job creation after the Jackboots were in Bhagdad ? There was none. Without this plan and its execution the whole “democratic” exercise was a cruel hoax. It was a bullshit fantasy cooked up by a bunch of tatally disconnected academics in some far off land. I said so at the time and I will go on saying it. Show me the plan for jobs, the reconstruction of infrastructure, the restoration of services. There was none, there still is none, but now the situation has degenerated into anarchy and chaos and you guys are still saying “Oh if only we kill more people we will bring democracy to Iraq”. “We had to destroy the village to save it” sort of stuff.
    BTW I don’t need a half arsed lesson in the 19th century bourgois revoltion (It started well before that by the way, and also the 19th century was not exactly a shining beacon for democracy, at least for half the population, but you probably forgot that).
    I have never said or implied that Muslims or any-one else cannot cope with democracy, what I will say that democracy cannot flourish under tyranny and without suitable economic underpinnings.”
    The situation in Egypt totally proves this first the tyrant must and then the people must unleash the forces of production.
    Unlike Iraq they do not have to cope with a country that is a devastated shell.

  47. 47 Arthur

    I won’t bother copying the response to dalec that can be found at above link.

    The thread linked to contains valuable material which should be included in an accessible section of a web site when we are actually running one.

    I will just mention again that for the since all links to such material were destroyed several years ago I have declined to be listed as a contributor here or initiate any substantive posts and will not be making any effort to present serious analysis as I did in that thread because it is completely pointless in an ephemeral forum that is not attempting to attract an audience and where the material provided periodically gets destroyed.

    This mention is partly because I felt bitter about it again after reading above link and seeing the pointless repetition with dalec and partly because I don’t want anyone to imagine that the practice of trawling through google searches and linking to tidbits from old material in ephemeral blog posts here can ever become a substitute for actually organizing a website.

    All I can do while the flat refusal to do so persists is make occasional comments passing on links etc as an outsider.

    If you think analysis like that was worthwhile you need to do something about having an actual web site.

  48. 48 davidmc

    Here is an interesting piece of consistency from Bolt despite his Islamophobia.

    Bush was right and the Left wrong: Arabs want democracy, too

  49. 49 Dalec

    Perhaps every-one should take a cold shower and then read this:
    It speaks to the US attempts to Co-opt and manage the uprising, the role of Israel and the position of the Egyptian military. Hopefully the uprising will sweep aside the impediments of Imperial control and allow the productive forces in Egypt to flourish, along with a real democracy.
    My thanks to J for the link.

  50. 50 GuruJane

    Am afraid I can’t take Sunni arab “democracy movements” at all seriously. Until those countries are prepared to jettison the presidential “strongmen” models and replace them with parliamentary models with clear constitutional legislative breaks on exectuve power as Iraq has done than these demos are just plus ca change.

    As for Egypt and Tunisia, I would have been far more impressed had these eruptions been taking place in Saudi Arabia. In any case, Mubarak has been in bad health for some time, and this has given the army there the chance to organise the succession to their own liking rather than have Gamal foisted on them. Egypt and Tunisia are both likely to move towards democratision via incremental liberalisation of their legislatures. Both countries are secular in the muslim spectrum, and the idea of supporting the salafist muslim brotherhood is bizarre to me.

    Interestingly the only sunni arab country in the region that has circumscribed the powers of the president more in favour of the Prime Minister is Palestine which is also secular and which has, not coincidentally, come out in support of Mubarak (ie status quo).

  51. 51 Arthur

    Presumably the aim of the attack by regime thugs was to enable the army to step forward and “restore order”.

    There are reports of protestors complaining that the army did nothing.

    But result seems to be that the democrats successfully fought of the attack and held the square, without “help” from army.

    So my guess is still that it is too late for a massacre and they will end up having to hold free elections.

    The muslim brotherhood are likely to be the largest party in any free elections.

    As an excuse for not holding them that is now so weak that those defending autocratic rule are becoming completely incoherent.

  52. 52 Bill Kerr


    Saad Eddin Ibrahim is one of the minority of Arab public intellectuals to have supported the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and to have believed that it might contribute to a democratic renaissance in the region. This argument will go on for a long time and can’t be resolved too simplistically one way or another, partly because the liberation of Iraq can’t be described as the act of its own people, and thus in a way underlines the same problem of dependency. The post-2003 democratic wave was brief and somewhat shallow, and it indirectly benefited Hamas and Hezbollah as well as the Kurds and Shiites of Iraq and the Lebanese democracy movement. But the regime-change school in America can claim a degree of vindication.

    We argued that the supposed attractions of authoritarian “stability” are in fact illusory, since nothing is more volatile and unsafe than dictatorship, which lacks any self-critical method for learning from its mistakes. Earlier “people power” episodes, in Asia in the early 1980s and in Eastern Europe in 1989, as well as in the general repudiation of military rule in Latin America and the peaceful liberation of South Africa, had definitively proved this point. They had also left the Arab regions looking rather conspicuous, and rather backward, in consequence. In the long term, this sense of being relegated to infancy and immaturity has had a salutary effect, which one hopes will outlast the temptations — of the immature culture of self-pity and victimhood, plus the equally false reassurances of theocracy — that are certain to arise now that the period of enforced adolescence is over.
    Arabs are tired of being laughed at by the modern world

  53. 53 Arthur

    Failure of the attacks and subsequent inability to renew them means victory now certain!

  54. 54 Dalec

    It is clear that the revolution in Egypt is “the act of its own people” as Hitchens puts it. It has caught the radical Islamists totally unprepared as well as US Imperialism and Israel. If the people of Egypt can avoid a status quo “interim government” that has been cobbled together by the US and/or the UN there is a chance that there will be rapid progress towards a flourishing democracy that actually does fulfil the aspirations of the people.
    If the Mubarak regime is completely deposed by the action of the people alone it will encourage the peoples in the region to act against their despotic regimes. I guess events in Egypt have blown the need for external intervention theory totally out of the water. Hopefully there will be no more Iraq episodes.

  55. 55 Arthur

    There’s a lot of commentary claiming the Muslim Brotherhood were caught unprepared. This is mainly to counter the fears about a jihadi or clericalist dictatorship – enthusiastically whipped up by a fascinating united front of the usual suspects in the US foreign policy establishment and Israel, who have always based their opposition to democracy support for autocracy on this line, together with the Iranian regime which is trying to take credit and present events in Egypt as inspired by the Iranian revolution.

    I’d say the brothers are very well prepared with a good understanding of united front strategy and form the backbone of the mass protests and militant defence against attacks by thugs.

    They will certainly be a reactionary influence in a future democratic egypt (and elsewhere) but they are clearly supportive of democracy and opposed to the sort of regimes that people like Dalec would love to preserve. In particular they have explicitly repudiated the Iranian claims, pointing out that it is an Egyptian democratic revolution uniting muslims and christians, not an islamic revolution, their Iraqi branch is the main Sunni party supporting the democratic coalition there and they also oppose jihadi and Taliban style politics.

    There’s also not much doubt that there will be an interim government still dominated by the army before there will be free elections rather than a direct revolutionary replacement by a new regime.

    As for future Iraq episodes, it seems unlikely that any would be needed. Even if Saudi Arabia required external intervention, that would come from its future democratic neighbours like Iraq and Egypt rather than from outside the region.

  56. 56 Bill Kerr

    letter from an Egyptian woman, highlights the importance of social media in democratic protest:

    “It is a revolution lead by young intellectuals. It started as a virtual idea in the social media. They did not at the time, just ten days ago, think that it could lead to such an astounding uprising. One young blogger told me that they did not think that one can simply set a date and a time for a revolution, ‘we used to joke about it saying let us meet tomrrow at cilantro after the revolution, or we better do this or that thing ahead of the revolution.’ Although it started and was fed by the connectivity of the internet, once it started rolling, people already were connected even in the absence of the internet and the mobile phones. Awreness and beleive is a super network that connected people.

    In the media they speak of an international community afraid of a power vaccum, they speak of a fear from Islamic radicalism, others speak of the absence of the building blocks of democracy. This is exactly because they do not undrestand the nature of this revolution, the people, literally for the first time in history, are taking the lead and deciding for themselves, the government will continue to make its concessions and offers, and the street is the judge. It is a different process where the voting is a continuous process, as the street reacts to the government announcements and measures

    The absence of a person or a group of persons as a recognizable leadership group or figures is intentional. The intellectual young people who started all this are actually leading by spreading awareness among the people in the square, rather than by giving orders and this is making the pressure of the street crowds even more forceful. Simply because it is the people rather than this or that specific name who is reacting and deciding…

    The story of the tahrir squre is not about who is with Mubarak and who is against, it is about a truely civilized, very peoceful people who decided to regain control of their destiny. This is a total super change. It means that they have given up their let go attitude, they have broken the seal of fear that has been stamped allover their bodies and soul. they will for ever be responsible and work to rebuild the whole country.”

  57. 57 Dalec

    Arthur I would not count the Brotherhood as jihadi or clericalist – “radical Islamists”. They appear to me to be rather pragmatic, and they certainly were not taken unawares by the revolution. I agree with your assessment “I’d say the brothers are very well prepared with a good understanding of united front strategy and form the backbone of the mass protests and militant defence against attacks by thugs”
    However your canard-“opposed to the sort of regimes that people like Dalec would love to preserve” – is simply a sad and pathetic attempt to divert attention from the elephant in the room-the Imperial invasion of Iraq that cost thousands of lives,the destruction of critical infrastructure and the control of income producing assets to foreign entities and that has given the Iraqi people a corrupt and ruthless “democratic” regime that is afflicted with paralysis.
    By contrast, the Egyptian revolution is entirely driven by the Egyptian people, the loss of life has been relatively low and has come from the Fascist thugs that your US “liberation” heroes so strongly supported. For the record I am unequivocally a supporter of the revolution in Egypt, I hope it spreads across the entire Middle East.
    The consequence of this will be very good for the people of the ME and a huge blow against US imperialism and its European parasites.

  58. 58 Bill Kerr

    Mubarak’s phantom presidency
    Analysis of forces and alignments at play in Egypt

  59. 59 byork

    In 1995 and 2002, prior to liberation, Iraq had two national elections. About twelve million Iraqis voted. Saddam Hussein recieved 99.9% of the vote in 1995 and 100% of the vote in 2002. After liberation from fascism, federal elections have been held on a multi-party basis, again with about twelve million Iraqis voting – thousands of candidates compete for a few hundred seats – and, you know what?, no single party or group receives more than 25% of the vote.

    The Egyptian people are fighting for what the Iraqis already have: the overthrow of a tyrant and the establishment of free and competitive elections through which the people decide who governs.

    When the Egyptians win their democracy, that huge step based on free multi-party elections, watch the ruling NDP’s vote and watch the opposition parties and groups gain power, almost certainly a coalition that will include the Muslim Brotherhood.

    Thank heavens, the dalecs and Mubaraks lost their fight against the Iraq war.

  60. 60 Dalec

    Barry, I respectfully suggest that you go through this:
    Then come back to me with a comparison of the human costs in Iraq and Egypt.
    No doubt you will attack the source of this document, thus exposing for all to see that when it comes to war you are just an ignorant cowboy.

    Oh and while you are at it how about a reprise of your argument that resource control should be handed over to Imperial companies, as Lenin argued about 100 years ago when the means of production were at a really primitive stage.

  61. 61 Dalec

    The Egyptian revolution has exposed Iraq for what it was, a brutal imperial bloodbath.
    Barry; “Hey Iraqis we are going to get you the vote in an impotent democracy, all we have to do is kill about 600,000 of you, torture a heap more, totally destroy your infrastructure and poison your kids with DU and let gangs of mercenary thugs run loose in the place”.
    Deal or No deal?
    Er sorry, you don’t have an option.
    That is how the Iraqis, I know, see it Barry.
    That is what your bluster will not hide.

  62. 62 byork

    dalec, I know of twelve million Iraqis who see it very differently. They braved death threats from ‘the resistance’ in order to exercise the right to vote.

    And, btw, terms like “ignorant cowboy” and misrepresentation of an opponent’s viewpoint merely confirm how totally tossed you are by the democratisation that we argued all along would flow from the victory in Iraq.

  63. 63 GuruJane

    Wish I shared BYork’s optimism but alas I feel David Pryce Jones might be more on the money:

    Haven’t seen the fully representative parliamentary Iraqi democracy with its legislative brakes on executive power embedded in the constitution being cited by the Egyptian “democrats” as their model. Perhaps the calls are still to come.

    btw, oddly didn’t get much coverage but the Egyptian parliamentary elections (mainly proportional representation) were held on Nov 28 last year, and the MB lost all the 88 seats it had won four years ago? Perhaps wisely, they boycotted the 2nd round. It is strange that the demonstrations did not break out then, if the election was so fraudulent as one presumes the MB would claim?

  64. 64 GuruJane

    And further. To be honest I have not paid much attention if any to Egypt over the years. But when the “revolution” broke out I was rather astonished by the Mubarak=Monster meme that instantly erupted in the media, commentariat and the capitals of the world. Was Hosni really just another Saddam and I hadn’t noticed? I couldn’t remember Egypt under his rule invading its neighbours, conducting state wars against its minorities, gassing and burning people with bio chemical weapons, cutting its opponents tongues out and placing their tongueless heads in stocks as a lesson to the people, torturing the Egyptian national soccer team and so on, so forth. Obviously I had missed it something significant.

    So I didn’t feel equipped to go into bat for Hosni when I first commented here.

    Now I can commend this piece by Lawrence Solomon (who is also a prominent climate skeptic I am pleased to note):


    “Mubarak, alone among Egypt’s many leaders over the last century, reversed what had been a relentless erosion of the Copts’ rights. He allowed hundreds of church repairs and even the construction of some new ones. He returned to the Coptic Orthodox Church more than half of the 1,500 acres of land that the state had seized in 1952 for the benefit of Islamic institutions and indicated an intention to have the rest returned. He decreed that churches and mosques should enjoy equal legal rights, and reintroduced into school curriculums the role that Christianity had played in Egyptian history. State media not only ended propaganda directed against Christians, it allowed live broadcasts of Easter and Christmas services.

    “Most of all, and much more than any of his predecessors, he attempted to physically protect the Copts against the continual violence that they faced from the country’s Islamic extremists, the Muslim Brotherhood. Despite public opposition in a country with widespread Islamic sympathies, he systematically tracked down those who murdered Copts and punished them. A terrorist attack this past Christmas that claimed 23 lives was the first the Copts suffered in 12 years. Little wonder that Egypt’s Christians — who number as many as 18 million in a country of 83 million — have been all but absent in the anti-Mubarak street demonstrations and have been praying in their churches for his continuance in power.”


    “Polls of Musim Egyptians taken by the Pew Global Attitudes Project and at the University of Maryland provide us with insights.

    “Muslim Egyptians as a whole do want democracy — polls show 59% view democracy as “very good.” But in the Egyptian mind, democratic rule implies something very different than it does to Westerners. Almost three-quarters of Muslim Egyptians wants to see the “strict imposition of Sharia law,” more than half want men and women segregated in the workplace, 82% want adulterers to be stoned, 77% view whippings and cutting off of hands as proper punishment for theft, and 84% favour the death penalty for Muslims who leave their faith. All told, 91% of Egyptians want to keep “Western values out of Islamic countries” (80% strongly), and 67% want “to unify all Islamic countries into a single Islamic state or caliphate.”

    “The coexistence of democracy and Sharia law should come as no surprise: The chief proponent in Egypt over the last decade advocating democracy has been, in fact, the Muslim Brotherhood itself.

    “If it comes to power, this organization, which has spawned most of the world’s Islamic terrorist groups, would bring Egypt a brand of democracy that would dash the West’s hopes for Egypt, starting with a rollback of social reforms. Mubarak officially banned female genital mutilation in 2007 — Egypt had had the world’s second-highest rate at 97% — leading to an immediate drop in the rate to 91% in just one year, according to the World Health Organization. Under the Muslim Brotherhood, that ban would likely be reversed, as would plans to return lands now controlled by Muslims to Christians, as would the relative tolerance shown Christians in worship and education.”

    Read the whole thing.

    The 2010 Pew Poll Solomon references make sobering reading. Enough of sentimental romanticism about the Brotherhood, says I.

  65. 65 Steve Owens

    Hi Jane of the guru type,
    If you look up the democracy index on Wikipedia, Egypt scores at 2 places behind the Peoples Republic of China.
    Now I think that if people face down internal security forces (and I had a friend who was tortured by these same internal security forces) and their demand is for elections, well I think we should support them even if the country was ahead of the PRC rather than 2 places behind.
    Now Mubarak may have done some fine things and as Bills link indicates, the situation is so much more complex than people thousands of kilometers away can grasp easily.
    But 2 facts remain, Egypt is less democratic than the PRC and the demonstrators demands are for basic human rights.

  66. 66 Arthur

    GuruJane, your arguments are getting longer but no more coherent. They seem to reflect basic ignorance about Egypt and uncritical acceptance of “the usual” propaganda.

    Quickly on the more recent post.

    1. Nobody claimed Hosni Mubarak is as bad as Sadaam. Nor were most of the autocrats that have been overthrown by revolutions throughout history.

    2. Sadaam was also less hostile to Christians than many of his opponents.

    3. There is a LOT of islamist extremism in Egypt (including 20% of muslims having a favourable attitude to Al Qaeda and large majorities supporting extreme Sharia punishments etc). There was a lot of Christian extremism in England during the bourgeois revolution and they burned witches.

    4. Although quite reactionary, the muslim brotherhood opposes attacks on Christians and other forms of islamic extremism in Egypt. The autocratic regime actually encourages such things at the same time as posing as the only protection against it and blaming the brotherhood for it.

    5. Mubarek banning genital mutilation in 2007 and reducing the prevalence from 97% to 91% does not strike me as an impressive achievement for secular reform. It rather illustrates the cosmetic nature of “progress” based on dictatorship and its preservation of backward attitudes among the general population.

    On your earlier posts I’ll just quickly mention:

    6. There is no serious dispute that the last elections were completely fraudulent. The whole point of all the stuff carrying on against the muslim brotherhood is that there is every reason to expect that they would at least be the largest party and most likely an absolute majority in any free election. Your simultaneous concern that overthrowing the dictatorship would result in them winning and suggestion that the election might not have been fraudulent refelcts complete incoherence and just parroting really transparent propaganda attacks.

    7. FYI the muslim brotherhood’s has perhaps the clearest position among the egyptian opposition in opposing a Presidential system and insisting on parliamentary institutions. They have also announced that they won’t run for President.

    8. Also FYI the “empowered Prime Minister” that was insisted on for the Palestine Authority to undercut President Arafat ended up being the Hamas (ie Muslim Brotherhood) leader. The PA has subsequently been under Presidential rule (over the West Bank only).

    9. Incidentally the muslim brotherhood is not salafi (and most of the Egyptian salafi groups have refused to participate in the current movement, opposing it for the same reasons that their Saudi mentors do).

  67. 67 Arthur
  68. 68 Arthur

    Cut and paste of “embed html” didn’t work above: here’s the link to a videoblog that kicked off jan25:

  69. 69 Arthur

    Unconfirmed reports that Mubarek will step down within hours.

    This could either be resignation or delegation of powers to VP Suleiman.

    Either way the military regime would still not be overthrown but would mark completion of a major retreat. Crowds too big to force dispersal so would have to proceed towards a transitional government and free elections even if there was some attempt to just say “go home” and “leave it to us”.

  70. 70 Arthur

    Well Mubarek announced that he was delegating powers to VP and not long after the army announced that he had relinquished power. Since Mubarek did not announce it himself, it was obviously done for him.

    The army is now in charge, with mass celebrations. It will be a long complex struggle but there really isn’t any option but to move forward towards free elections.

  71. 71 Youngmarxist


    I can feel the momentum, but logically I can’t grasp why the Army couldn’t just shoot a few hunsimply desyroy red people.

    Do you think that would just provoke a seriously violent reaction from Egypt’s people? Or would a fascist crackdown simply trash the economy so that even liberal capitalists would be forced to ally with the people?

    My political touch is quite poir, I never quite get why things can’t go on, why repression which has been effective for decades stops working.

  72. 72 byork

    YM: “I never quite get why things can’t go on, why repression which has been effective for decades stops working”.

    I think the answer is that the people empower themselves by their actions and resistance and, tasting their own power – their capacity to change things for the better – they feel free. Once this happens, it’s very hard for an authoritarian ruler to take away that taste for being free.

    I’ve been following the Egyptian events on CNN, BBC World and Aljazeera and often, when the reporters interview protestors at random, the protestor will say things along the lines of “We have created a space for freedom here in Tahrir Square”, or “We, the people, have the power – Mubarak must go!”

    Anyone who has seen the scenes on TV can feel the sheer exuberance of the people as they experience empowerment – freedom – for the first time in decades. Very hard if not impossible to take that away from them now.

    The nearest thing I can relate to it, in my own experience, was the excitement and spirit of rebellion – the sense of freedom arising from empowerment – of the period in Melbourne between 1968 and 1970. The political culture in Australia today and for too many years has been the anti-thesis of exuberance, rebellion and spirit of freedom. It’s why it’s so important to oppose those who think being left-wing means constantly complaining about how things are going from bad to worse and then worse still.

    But now in Egypt, with the first demand won – the removal of Mubarak – comes the next stage: elections in September that must be free and fair and genuinely multi-party and competitive. Given that Obama has finally caught up, and even Joe Biden is now supporting democracy for Egypt, it’s hard to see how the period of military-based rule will not be a transition to free elections. The people have not risked their lives just to replace one dictator with another in Egypt any more than in Iraq. And they’re no longer fearful – they know they can shape their own destinies and having the right to elect one’s government is an essential part of that.

    Who other than the Government of Israel, the Syrians and the Saudi King, and a handful of others, has any reason to oppose the transition to bourgeois democracy in Egypt?

  73. 73 Arthur

    Its hard enough to have a sense of the politics of one’s own country, let alone others.

    I’ve been following Nepal’s politics for quite a while as well as Egypt’s for the past couple of weeks and don’t feel at all close to having any real “feel” (just feel alienated from Australia’s non-politics).

    But on the narrow issue of momentum preventing a massacre I think I got it right in saying the possibility of a massacre was still open up till Jan 28 and closed from Jan 29 (see comments on those dates).

    Reason is that the “fear” was broken by Jan 28 (closely related to the exuberance Barry mentioned). This loss of fear was mentioned over and over in reports from protestors.

    Even now a majority of the population are still apathetic (and a large majority extremely conservative). But massacre only works to ensure and maintain fear. There is no way for a small minority to govern purely by massacre once fear has been lost.

    BTW apart from outsiders there are certainly significant sections of the ruling class in Egypt whose wealth is based on corruption and who have every reason to fear bourgeois democracy.

    Unfortunately this includes the army high command, who are still the real power, so the transition will still be long and complex. (Its taking several years in Nepal despite revolutionaries being largest party and having an army).

    Looks like the next major steps could be in Algeria or perhaps another lurch forward in Tunis while Egypt prepares for the next lurch.

    Interesting that Palestine Authority is now holding elections soon and China as well as Saudi Arabia and other tyrannies panicking.

  74. 74 byork

    Arthur: “BTW apart from outsiders there are certainly significant sections of the ruling class in Egypt whose wealth is based on corruption and who have every reason to fear bourgeois democracy”.

    Yes, and it will be very interesting to see over the coming months the extent to which there are ‘loyalists’ who still have a vested interest in the old regime. Some years ago, I read about the American revolutionary war and how approximately 6% of the population fled after the Americans’ victory. Many went to Canada.

    I suppose that’s one of the reasons why revolutions are not a dinner party: there’s always a cluster around the old regime that has an existential interest in its perpetuation or return.

    Regarding the Egyptians’ exuberance and absence of fear, I’ve noticed how several of the protestors have made remarks along the lines of “I feel alive now!” One was shouting: “I’m alive! I’m alive!” There was one woman who said she didn’t want to sleep as it seemed like such a waste of time now”. This idea that living, being more fully alive, is connected to being directly involved in collective activity that seeks to experiment and change things, brings to mind Marx’s notion of ‘human nature’ or species-being and humans fulfilling that nature – becoming more alive.

    Egyptian society will never be the same and, in changing it, the people have changed themselves. It’s going to be fascinating to follow the unfolding of events that answer the big question: What next?

  75. 75 tom

    Like many I’ve been wondering ‘what next’ too. While it is obvious that the ruling class generally ‘gets’ that they can’t rule in the same way (no prizes for guessing who didn’t get it until last Saturday), how far they’ll be prepared to be pushed is anyone’s guess. This is also going to be effected by the unfolding events in Tunisia and other countries in the region. Arthur might be right about that first being Algeria as the unrest appears to be most prominent in Northern Africa.

    Whatever happens in the immediate short term it is certainly not going to be smooth. The usual suspects in the media, western government spokespeople and so on, are all desperately hoping for a smooth transition. While I think that many genuinely hope and mean that this occurs non-violently or with a minimum of same they also mean that something like ‘business as usual’ continues with a minimum of fuss. This will be a desire strongly felt by the Egyptian military high command and will act as a drag or a conservative pull that will attempt to hold back just how far the democratic revolution will go.

    I think the lack of leadership coming from below might be a problem here (although I’m speaking from a distant and therefore ignorant position with this). One thing we can say with confidence is that the armed forces brass, key players in Egypt’s ruling elites since the British went home, don’t need to be told anything about the importance of organization or leadership. I somehow think too that a number of ruling elites and their flunkies across the region will be desperately hoping that the Egyptian military will be successful in ‘minimizing the damage’. Here’s hoping that they all have lots of sleepless nights and accompanying ulcers.

    Strange Times? More like Exciting Times.

  76. 76 Arthur

    Former UK Foreign Secretary David Owen has come out with a clear demand for UN Security Council to immediately enforce a no fly zone over Libyan to prevent air force attacks on opposition.

    All previous commentary has been hand-wringing. Al Jazeera interviewer uncomprehending asked inane question about whether regime would take any notice and was given clear explanation that the point was not to influence them but to shoot them down.

    Immediately available forces mentioned were NATO UK, Cyprus, and Egypt.

    Qatar also called for (unspecified) Security Council action.

    Meanwhile US still dithering and editorialists blathering about “dilemma” in Bahrain.

  77. 77 Bill Kerr

    A couple of articles about the situation following the Egyptian revolution:

    Understanding Egypt’s revolution
    Note the comments about the importance of the youth movement

    Fears of a ‘counter-revolution’ in Egypt
    Interview of a couple of activists who are both hopeful and worried about the future

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