Mubarak: clumsy endgame
On Thursday two of Mubarak's recently reshuffled cronies spoke. Ahmad Shafiq, the Aviation Minister newly recast as vice president, apologized for the violence, promised those responsible would be held accountable, and announced a series of sweeping actions that effectively made Mubarak's government irrelevant. The new prime minister Omar Suleiman, Egypt's "spymaster in chief" and an ally of Israel and the US, now appointed prime minister, gave an "interview" on state TV in which he made pointless and contradictory remarks proving his own irrelevance, despite Washington's desire to ease him into the chief of state's spot to engineer a "smooth transition," i.e. one that protects US and Israeli interests. Suleiman, looking like the aging Salvador Dalí as he sat in his gilded chair, meandered incomprehensibly. He condemned youth and the Muslim Brotherhood for destroying order. Then he claimed all their "legitimate demands" would be met through "dialogue." Who's in charge? Compared to Mubarak, Suleiman's a youngster, only 74, but he may be losing it. In one way or another all the regime is.
And their games weren't working, thanks to the foreign press, which the regime is trying more and more to terrorize and silence, but still has shown what is going on hour by hour. Like Noam Chomsky, Rachel Maddow pointed out in a forceful commentary that Mubarak's orchestration of fake violence by bringing in the baltagiyya, really subcontractors of the شرطة /shurṭa
, the police forces, is a familiar trick from the dictatorial "playbook." When mass revolt threatens, the dictator stages scenes of violence and chaos -- then says he must crack down to restore order and protect the people (from his own goons).
Sure enough, this is just what Mubarak has said and done. After the baltagiyya turned the peaceful protests into street warfare, in an interview on ABC on Friday Mubarak played the world-weary protector of his dear people. You could almost see the crocodile tears as he said that though after "62 years in public service" he has "had enough," he simply must stay on because if he resigns today "there will be chaos" So we're supposed to feel sorry for him because he's got to hang on -- to prevent the country from the disorder he himself creates. Maddow pointed out this was the spin put on things when mass protests occurred in Iran. Mainstream America may believe what Christiane Amanpour is flattered to be told, if her interview is all they see. But those following events more closely can't be fooled, because the baltagiyya came in too late, and whenever they're pushed out, things are too calm and cooperative. Things are far from safe and calm, however.
What was Thursday like on the street? It's confusing to follow the long days of the Egyptian intifada from far away, especially with Cairo ten hours ahead of San Francisco. Fights continued between the anti-government protesters and the baltagiyya thugs, with many continuing to be injured, but were they more violent? It appears the army calmed things down at one point and set up barriers to separate the opposing sides and quiet things down at the end of the day. But there were many reports of the baltagiyya's acts of violence outside Tahrir Square, with many international journalists, including Anderson Cooper, being beaten and some kidnapped, beaten, and threatened with beheading. Shahira Amin resigned from her position as deputy head of Nile TV, the state-owned station, telling Al Jazeera English that she could not lie to the people about what was going on. It seems clear that the intifada is going to win eventually, but what will the new Egypt be like? The only program of the protesters is إرحل/irhal,
leave. And while last Friday was the Day of Rage, this one's simple theme is يوم الرحيل/yom ar-raḥīl
, the Day of Departure.