Mubarak fights back
By Christopher King2
Christopher King argues that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s decision to use extreme violence by paid thugs and plain-clothes policemen against pro-democracy protesters must have been given the green light by Barack Obama, or at least the US president’s vague pronouncements could have led Mubarak to believe that Washington endorsed his violent clampdown on the protesters.
Today the demonstrations in Cairo turned ugly. President Hosni Mubarak supporters have been recruited through state television and, it is alleged, are being paid to fight the peaceful demonstrators occupying Tahrir Square. Mubarak’s supporters are shown on live television not as demonstrators but making aggressive attacks. They are there only to attack the pro-democracy demonstrators who, so far, are protecting themselves but taking no offensive initiatives.
Mubarak’s supporters, including police in plain clothes and uniforms, have been pelting the opposition with stones and riding into them on horses and camels.At 1450 London time, security services began using tear gas to clear the square and this appeared to have angered the crowd. At the same time Mubarak supporters began lobbing rocks, roofing materials, petrol bombs, chairs or anything at all from a high-rise building onto the crowd of anti-government demonstrators. There can be no doubt about their aggressive intentions and by whom it was. Many peaceful demonstrators were being injured on camera.
“It is likely that the army will have to intervene in order to restore order and this is doubtless Mubarak’s objective as he will calculate that the army will, in the final analysis, choose to side with him and the existing regime in the interests of order and stability.”
Point of no return
There is no doubt that the violence is organized by the police and the security services. Some of their attackers have been captured by the pro-democracy demonstrators and they have been found to be carrying police identification cards. The police and the security services, as well as an elite who have enriched themselves as friends of Mubarak, have a great deal to lose if he should fall.
It is clearly the objective of Mubarak’s supporters, heavily reinforced by police and security men in plain clothes, to create trouble in order to provide a pretext for heavy-handed repression and to draw the army into the conflict. These scenes are being broadcast worldwide and are unmistakable. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon has condemned the government action against peaceful protesters. It is unlikely that the attitude of the anti-government demonstrators will remain peaceful in the face of these attacks.Mubarak has stated that he will not stand down. It can only be concluded that this violence is his response to the pro-democracy demonstrator’s demands. In this course he has probably passed a point of no return. Opposition spokesmen are now speaking of putting him and his supporters on trial. This is the problem with dictators and criminals once in government. It is the case with British politicians who should be put on trial for war crimes. Such people will use all the apparatus of the state in order to avoid facing a court. They have nothing to lose once unforgivable crimes have been committed.There are two factors of major significance in this confrontation:
The Egyptian army has undertaken not to use force against their fellow countrymen
US President Obama has sent his envoy, Frank Wisner, to see Mubara.
It is likely that the army will have to intervene in order to restore order and this is doubtless Mubarak’s objective as he will calculate that the army will, in the final analysis, choose to side with him and the existing regime in the interests of order and stability. Until now, the army has looked on, despite scenes of great violence. This probably cannot go on but it would take great courage for senior army officers to decide to depose Mubarak and seek to organize a caretaker government.Mohamed el-Baradei, former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has asked the army to intervene in what he calls “criminal” aggression and has offered to head an interim government and organize democratic elections.
“It is … likely that Mubarak’s decision to stand firm and attempt to maintain his grip on power is the result of the message brought by the US envoy, Frank Wisner.”
El-Baradei is a man of great integrity who did an excellent job as head of the IAEA, showing technical and professional qualities of the highest order in his inspections of alleged nuclear programmes in Iraq and Iran. Despite enormous pressure from the United States, including its attempts to get him dismissed from the IAEA, El-Baradei insisted on producing factual reports based on evidence rather than what the Americans wanted him to say. He is well known and well thought of internationally but less so in Egypt where he appears to be seen as Westernized or even Americanized, which is very far from the case.
Obama’s green light to Mubarak
It is also likely that Mubarak’s decision to stand firm and attempt to maintain his grip on power is the result of the message brought by the US envoy, Frank Wisner. President Obama and US politicians speak vaguely of maintaining stability, avoiding violence etc, which is by no means inappropriate for a foreign government. There are even reports that Obama has said that Mubarak should prepare to step down.We know more about the relationship between the White House and Mubarak, however. The White House has supported Mubarak for many years with money and arms in the interests, it is said, of stability in the region. By stability, the White House means avoiding supporting the Palestinians against Israel and maintaining a closed border with Gaza, which enables Israel to control Gaza completely. Naturally, there are other advantages such as keeping Egypt on its side in relation to its invasions of Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, in the United Nations, etc.
Obama’s forked tongue
More significantly, however, Egypt was the destination of first choice in the CIA’s programme of international kidnapping and torture that ended in illegal imprisonment and torture in the Guantanamo torture facility, outside law, Bagram air base in Afghanistan and Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Egypt was a major first-stage torture centre and Mubarak’s new vice-president, Omar Suleiman, was the intelligence chief who was in charge of the torture programme.
“Mubarak’s actions following the White House envoy’s visit indicate clearly that he believes America to be behind him. He will try to hang on as long as possible and if not stay in power himself, to arrange for a pro-American government to take power.”
Obama speaks with a forked tongue. One cannot believe his public statements. One must believe what one sees; one must believe events and facts. America has an enormous past investment of many billions of dollars in Egypt and would see its entire Middle East policy disintegrate if a real democracy were to be established there. It cannot afford to see that happen. Mubarak’s actions following the White House envoy’s visit indicate clearly that he believes America to be behind him. He will try to hang on as long as possible and if not stay in power himself, to arrange for a pro-American government to take power.
Mubarak says that he would rather die on Egyptian soil than leave. I do not think that he will choose that. He has, to be sure, ambitions for his son to take power, but as an old man he has to think beyond himself and at a certain point he will leave with as much money as he can take, along with his family. That is what dictators do. In the meantime, he has great scope for mischief and it is not clear how these events will turn out.Catherine Ashton, the European Union foreign affairs chief, makes bland statements exhorting Mubarak to listen to the people, etc. in truly boring, bureaucratic statements. Ashton is in fact a bureaucrat and her appearances only convince one that bureaucrats are completely unable to respond to change. The EU’s foreign policy follows America in the Middle East. It has learned nothing from the wars that have ravaged Europe in the recent past.Hopefully, the European Union will give much needed economic aid to a truly democratic Egyptian government in the near future and revise its Middle Eastern policy. We shall see.
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