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A Day of Revolution
January 25, 2011 1:14 PM   Subscribe

Rioting spreads to Egypt. Plans had been percolating online for the past several weeks about a "Day of Revolution" in protest of the corruption of the Mubarak government, and widespread unemployment, similar to those seen in Tunisia. In response to the online coverage through social networks, the government has responded by blocking access to Twitter. It has also been reported that police have fired into the crowds, resulting in several deaths, and that the presidential family has fled the country.
posted by zabuni (83 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Uh oh.

Egypt and Tunisia are very different places. For starters, Egypt is some seven times bigger population-wise, the country is geographically huge. I am worried about what will come of this. Some of Mubarak's most strident opponents are rather immoderate war-mongers. Not everyone who hates the dictator has better plans in mind.
posted by 1adam12 at 1:26 PM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Video of the rioters chasing the police.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:30 PM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Shadi Hamid of Brookings Doha:
But he said a popular revolt in Egypt would be more difficult. "The Egyptian regime has always been particularly adept at playing the Islamist card. Tunisia didn't have a large Islamist opposition to frighten people with. There is a minority in Egypt that will stop at nothing to prevent Islamists from even having a chance to gain power. Also, Tunisia wasn't crucial to western security interests.

"Egypt, on the other hand, is the second largest recipient of US aid and is a pro-American pillar in the region. The US can afford to lose Tunisia. But Egypt is a different story. The Obama administration won't take too kindly to the idea of losing Egypt to the opposition, particularly when that opposition is likely to include the Muslim Brotherhood."
posted by jng at 1:36 PM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


fwiw: last two links. Several deaths so far is two, and there is an UNconfirmed rumor that some of the presidential family has fled.

And are all "riots" the same/similar? In the absence of anything more than some random news writer saying this is like this I remain at least marginally skeptical. Myself? I'd be more prone to comparing it to the Iran protests... but you know that's just me.
posted by edgeways at 1:36 PM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Video of the rioters chasing the police.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:30 PM on January 25


I realise it shows no political astuteness or maturity on my part, but I have to say that the sight of civilians chasing riot police and sending them packing will always, always make my heart beat a little faster and bring tears of joy to my eyes. I don't care where in the world it happens.
posted by Decani at 1:38 PM on January 25, 2011 [37 favorites]


Is this really a revolution? Or just some protests going around?
posted by usertm at 1:38 PM on January 25, 2011


That video... I... Isn't a dictatorship supposed to have like gas and vicious cops? I can't believe they don't have anything like that.

I've heard that the Muslim Brotherhood is sitting this out? That doesn't mean that, if there is a revolution, they won't be waiting in the wings, but I don't think they've got any better grasp on the situation than anyone else.
posted by symbioid at 1:38 PM on January 25, 2011


from As'ad AbuKhalil's AngryArab News Service blog today:

Many Egyptians are furious that Aljazeera has not been covering the massive protests in Egypt today. Explanation? Mubarak visited Emir of Qatar last month and basically reached an agreement to reduce Aljazeera's critical coverage of Egypt and Mubarak's tyranny.

(for those interested in current events in Tunisia, Egypt, Palestine and Lebanon, I very much recommend Prof. AbuKhalil's blog)
posted by Auden at 1:40 PM on January 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


the links in this post are not good. here is a wall street journal article on the protests. one of the many reasons why i doubt this will amount to anything is that it would be a catastrophe for US power in the middle east: the egyptian military will not waver *at all* from defending mubarak until the US is done with the royal family of Egypt
"This is an historic day in Egypt's history because we have started to say 'no'," said Mohammed Saleh, who had joined protesters Tuesday night. "I'll tell my children someday that I was standing here in Tahrir Square."
more like Tianamen square.
posted by ennui.bz at 1:43 PM on January 25, 2011


"Egypt, on the other hand, is the second largest recipient of US aid and is a pro-American pillar in the region. The US can afford to lose Tunisia. But Egypt is a different story. The Obama administration won't take too kindly to the idea of losing Egypt to the opposition, particularly when that opposition is likely to include the Muslim Brotherhood."

This is so stupidly counter productive. We should support democracy everywhere, and stop being so fucking hypocritical.
posted by empath at 1:43 PM on January 25, 2011 [6 favorites]


support Democracy? In Egypt? Where do you find it? Here is why this is happening:
"Al-Azhar Sheikh: Israel Aims To Crumble Arab World

Al-Azhar Sheikh Dr. Ahmad Al-Tayyeb has warned of what he calls Israeli and Western plots to crumble the Arab world, with the aim of turning Israeli into a large country controlling the region.
He said that the best proof of this is what happened in Iraq, Sudan, Yemen, and the Arab Maghreb countries.
Al-Tayyeb complained about the calls abroad to split Egypt into three smaller states – a Muslim one, a Christian one, and a Nubian one – and said that Egyptian society is the most cohesive in the world.

Source: Al-Ahram, Egypt, January 25, 2011
[see...we are always the ones at fault]
posted by Postroad at 1:49 PM on January 25, 2011


And slight shift by the progressive Egyptian presidential candidate Mohamed ElBaradei who came under fire for not supporting the protesters full throat. Here's his quote from last week:
"These things need to be organised and planned properly," said the 68-year-old. "I would like to use the means available from within the system to effect change, such as the petition we are gathering demanding political reform. The government has to send a message to the people saying 'yes, we understand you', and of course, if things do not move then we will have to consider other options including protests and a general strike.

"I still hope that change will come in an orderly way and not through the Tunisian model," he added. "But if you keep closing the door to peaceful change then don't be surprised if the scenes we saw in Tunisia spread across the region."
And then yesterday:
SPIEGEL: Mr. ElBaradei, the opposition in Egypt has called for a nationwide "Day of Anger" on Tuesday. Do you support the protests?

ElBaradei: Yes, I do. I stand behind any peaceful demand for change. My call for reforms has gone unheard with the regime, which leaves taking to the streets as the only option. These are young, impatient people who are now demonstrating their resolve, and I very much hope that the protests will not get out of hand.

SPIEGEL: Do you believe that the protests will truly lead to change?

ElBaradei: They mark the beginning of an historic process. The Egyptians have recognized that they must take their fate into their own hands. For the first time in the country's recent history, they are really prepared to take to the streets. The culture of fear that the regime cultivated has been broken. There is no turning back now. Activists anticipate the biggest demonstrations in decades. These protests are a snowball that could turn into an avalanche.
The short interview is worth reading, especially for ElBaradei's explanation for why he stands with the Muslim Brotherhood against Mubarak.
posted by jng at 1:50 PM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


support Democracy? In Egypt? Where do you find it? Here is why this is happening:

I can't quite put my finger on it why I think this, but what is happening in Iran, Tunisia, Lebenon, Egypt, etc, feel like the color revolutions. Are they not rebelling in support of democratic reforms?
posted by empath at 1:55 PM on January 25, 2011


OTOH, significant changes from Iran's much celebrated "green revolution" do not seem to have materialized.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 1:57 PM on January 25, 2011


the derspiegel interview with elbaradei is really interesting:
SPIEGEL: Can he still prevent the protests from spreading?

ElBaradei: To do so, Mubarak would have to not stand for election and he would have to allow a democratic constitution that makes free elections possible. And naturally the martial law that has been imposed on the country for the last 29 years would have to be lifted. Without these concessions, the regime will not survive.

SPIEGEL: Israel fears a revolution in Egypt. Many people in Jerusalem believe that the Muslim Brotherhood would then come to power and declare war on the Jewish state.

ElBaradei: We should stop demonizing the Muslim Brotherhood. It is incorrect that our only choice is between oppression under Mubarak and the chaos of religious extremists. I have many differences with the Muslim Brotherhood. But they have not committed any acts of violence in five decades. They too want change. If we want democracy and freedom, we have to include them instead of marginalizing them.
it seems like el baradei is really sticking his neck out.... i wonder whether the us has decided to take a more active stance against a mubarack succession. i believe mubarack I is very ill.
posted by ennui.bz at 1:59 PM on January 25, 2011


I have a sneaking suspicion that this is just Tiananmen & Tehran all over again.

...some people will die, some will get arrested & subsequently executed, everyone will get all excited, and then a whole lot of not much else will happen.
posted by aramaic at 2:05 PM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


some people will die, some will get arrested & subsequently executed, everyone will get all excited, and then a whole lot of not much else will happen.

A lot happened as a result of Tiananmen Square. It wasn't a revolution, but China implemented a lot of economic reforms, and even political reforms to some degree.

I think the story in Iran is not over at all. Revolutions can take time. The Islamic revolution didn't happen overnight.
posted by empath at 2:07 PM on January 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Anti-Mubarak is not the same thing as Pro-Muslim Brotherhood. I've seen that bogeyman brought up a few times now and expect more of it as the Western news sources continue their coverage of the story. It's not Islamic revolution being called upon but simply an end to political corruption, of which there is currently several cubit ass-tons.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:08 PM on January 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's moments like these that I remember why Twitter is actually useful for stuff: Steven A Cook of CFR at Tahrir Square.

CheeseDigestsAll: Agreed that Iran's green revolution was overhyped, but that's because the foreign policy thinkers were hoping for revolution rather than soberly analyzing the situation as it was, which in turn swayed the media (Washington talking heads dreaming on television about what might be). With Egypt, the foreign policy consensus seems to be that this is destabilizing for the U.S., so I think you'll get less cheerleading from Washington, in which case the media reports should be more trustworthy. Also, this time we have the college students AND the "fundamentalists" on the same side, whereas in Iran it was much more fractured--plus the majority of the population there actually had benefited from rule under Ahmadinejad. In Egypt you have a lot of angry people united against a regime that seems to be universally despised within the country.

Anyone with information about counterprotesters or Mubarak supporters?
posted by jng at 2:08 PM on January 25, 2011


TVO's The Agenda with Steve Paiken linked to several relevant youtube videos posted by Nadia El-Awady.
posted by HLD at 2:12 PM on January 25, 2011


I think a lot of what you might see in Egypt is pent up rage towards the police forces being vented. It may be much lower on the scale than any social revolution.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:14 PM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Every time America is faced with this opportunity it manages to royally screw it up by sitting on it's hands. The Kurds, Lebanon, Iran, Tunisia, and now Egypt. Rather than undertaking nation destroying missions, we should be the first to reach out and encourage/help protestors and work behind the scenes to find a happy ending. Unfortunately, too often we'd rather the devil we know.

This is the cheapest way to win the War on Terror.
posted by karst at 2:16 PM on January 25, 2011


Site of Egypt's Ministry of Interior is unavailable.
posted by HLD at 2:29 PM on January 25, 2011


Rather than undertaking nation destroying missions, we should be the first to reach out and encourage/help protestors and work behind the scenes to find a happy ending.

... I would imagine those in power in each situation would think of America intervening on the side of the protesters as very explicitly being nation destroying. The results of revolution is not always a betterment of society. Iran went from a moderately bad regime to a very bad regime, and no one knows exactly what is going to happen in Tunisia (or Egypt). If the US tries to intervene at all it well could turn out much much worse then if they did not, it is not hard to whip up anti-America sentiment even when the US is NOT involved.
posted by edgeways at 2:32 PM on January 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


We should support democracy everywhere, and stop being so fucking hypocritical.

Er, isn't that essentially what Bush II was arguing as a Jus ad bellum?
posted by edgeways at 2:36 PM on January 25, 2011


It all depends on how thinks shake out. If when the Shah fell they'd been able to keep the Mullahs back, Irab would probably still be a fairly staunch US ally. It was by no means certain that things have to end up with the most radical and hostile elements of te opposition running things. Also Mubarak is a survivor.
posted by humanfont at 2:39 PM on January 25, 2011


wild fire.
posted by clavdivs at 2:43 PM on January 25, 2011


well, have no idea what will happen, and I am not a religious woman so I cannot pray for them, but the protesters are in my thoughts.
posted by angrycat at 2:46 PM on January 25, 2011


jng: One of the reasons I'm skeptical is that (from my limited perspective) there doesn't appear to be an organization in place to keep any momentum from the protests going, which seems similar to the situation in Iran.

While Twitter may be great for organizing and calls to action, it seems a revolution needs a revolutionary leader to rally around, not just spontaneous anger.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 2:48 PM on January 25, 2011


Every time America is faced with this opportunity it manages to royally screw it up by sitting on it's hands.

That's because we, and a lot of other countries, spent centuries screwing up these countries in ways that resonate to this day. For example, the whole situation in Iran can be easily traced back to our insistence on fiddling with the Shah-as-puppet model.

True Democracy is messy. True Democracy can get you a Hizbollah or a Hamas in change of things. But that's the cost of allowing people to decide their own fate, and we've seen the opposite side of that coin.

I think it's safe to say we have people on the scene doing exactly what you're saying, but if the moves we took in the Green Revolution are any sign, we're going to be very subtle, and we're going to let the mess of Democracy play itself out. As others have pointed out, and in part because of the bad history we have in the region, it's easy to turn any overt American support against the demonstrators.
posted by Asim at 2:57 PM on January 25, 2011


Er, isn't that essentially what Bush II was arguing as a Jus ad bellum?

Support democracy <> invade country and impose it.
posted by empath at 3:01 PM on January 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


I would imagine those in power in each situation would think of America intervening on the side of the protesters as very explicitly being nation destroying.

I don't think we should intervene. I think we should stop supporting regimes like Mubarak's. Let them decide their own fate.
posted by empath at 3:02 PM on January 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm not skeptical, not at all.

One of the reasons I was so eager to promote and comment on the Green Revolution is that Western media had been walking on the edge of demonizing "Muslims" for some time. Seeing that not all Muslims were the same, and that there was a cry for a more honest and Western-friendly state, did a lot of good for how we see those cultures, I think. That situations like Park 51 still occurred, and will continue to occur, are part of a battle, yet every act of protest over there is another chip in the wall of Islamophobia over here.

But that's my very Western-centric perspective. I also think that the case of Egypt is special. For too long we've ignored how Egypt is only nominally democratic, and my understanding is that it's long been a thorn in the side of the populace. I content that, the more light is shown on his situation, the more Mubarak will be forced to make some concessions, some changes to this regime. And although that might not help the US in the short run, I contend it would help the region in the long run. And frankly, the Egyptian people have a damned right to decide amongst themselves how, and by whom, they will be ruled. As a fan and student of the Egyptian dance styles, I have a small stake in the outcome -- but it's so very minor compared to someone living there, it's not funny.

So no, not skeptical at all, because I don't expect capital-R Revolution. I do expect, and hope for, some amount of change in a system that hasn't, from many accounts, listened to it's populace in many, many years.
posted by Asim at 3:10 PM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Every time America is faced with this opportunity it manages to royally screw it up by sitting on it's hands. The Kurds, Lebanon, Iran, Tunisia, and now Egypt. Rather than undertaking nation destroying missions, we should be the first to reach out and encourage/help protestors and work behind the scenes to find a happy ending.

How exactly do you see that playing out? Do we airlift weapons to the protestors? Attack Egyptian troops, or just threaten them? Does Obama go on TV and yell "Go for it!! Kill cops!"

I agree that it's horrible how the US govt, for example, supported the Shah's infamous SAVAK secret police. But in general, intervening in a civil war makes about as much sense as joining a biker fight, or running into someone's house because you think you hear domestic violence.

After Iraq, I think we might be well advised to mind our own goddamn business.
posted by msalt at 3:13 PM on January 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


I don't think we should intervene. I think we should stop supporting regimes like Mubarak's. Let them decide their own fate.

Now there's some change I can believe in....
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 3:18 PM on January 25, 2011


Made in the USA!

I just found that kind of funny.

Anyway, it's impossible to know how this is going to go. I didn't watch CNN anything about the Tunesian riots and I'm not watching it now, so obviously I can't compare the coverage. But the online commentary features a lot more fearmongering about islamist crazies taking over.

It may simply be that Islamists were the only ones willing to put their necks on the line while Mubarak was in charge, but there's really no way to know how a society feels if it's being repressed.
Every time America is faced with this opportunity it manages to royally screw it up by sitting on it's hands. The Kurds, Lebanon, Iran, Tunisia, and now Egypt. Rather than undertaking nation destroying missions, we should be the first to reach out and encourage/help protestors and work behind the scenes to find a happy ending.
We did encourage an uprising in Iraq after the gulf war, and the result was a disaster. In Iran trying to "help" the green movement would have actually harmed it. It's not always that simple.
posted by delmoi at 3:49 PM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


For background information on the political situation in Egypt, the International Crisis Group has a log of recent developments, as well as more detailed analysis.
posted by russilwvong at 3:52 PM on January 25, 2011


This is absolutely excellent. Seeing the riot police chased down especially.

TAKE HEART DEMONSTRATORS!

Once you have that critical mass and the balance has tipped, your rocks will be an ever replenishing ammo supply. Hurl, advance 10m, repeat.

Good luck, see you at the barricades.
posted by Meatbomb at 3:58 PM on January 25, 2011


Once this spills to Saudi Arabia, oil will become really expensive.

But good on these Arab countries and their people. Here's a chance for them to prove that not all of them are destined to be ruled forever by despotic assholes.
posted by sour cream at 4:28 PM on January 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


The #JAN25 hashtag on twitter is making for some pretty harrowing reading right now.

Man facing down water cannon truck footage.
Riot police running away from protestors.
Live updates from Al Ahram (which isn't a neutral source, considering majority government ownership)

A lot of people are calling the clearing out of Tahrir square and events preceding it a Tiananmen moment. I don't think it's analogous at all because people in China didn't hate the CCP nearly as much as people seem to hate Mubarak, and doing so quite openly. No one seems to be shocked about the level of police repression, whereas all the accounts I've read from 6/4 include a palpable feeling of betrayal and dismay at the actions of the PLA and the government. Which then implies a certain amount of naivety on the part of protestors. Reading the online commentary today, there is a sense that people are aware of what they're getting into, and continuing so despite the risks.

Another important difference is the spirit driving people to protest. The participants in '89 were largely coming from places of hope, with desires to speed up liberalizing reforms that were already happening - both economic and political. (Though this is true more so of the student faction, and not the workers who for the most part opposed the economic reforms and were protesting for a return to previous economic models as much as against authoritarianism, facts that are conveniently glossed over by most Western remembrances of the Tiananmen narrative.) Egypt, on the other hand, is coming into this after decades of repressive dictatorship where living conditions are getting worse, not better, with the situation looking to become more precarious for the middle class in coming years, not less.

And then of course there is the US factor to consider.

I have no idea though how any of this would affect the long term outcomes.
posted by dustyasymptotes at 4:29 PM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am not an expert in Middle East politics but it strikes me that we (the US) could easily arrive at the same position that Jimmy Carter did with backing the Shah. By ignoring the abuses of an ally we risk losing the entire country to something far worse. Hopefully Obama and Clinton have the foresight to ease Egypt into a much more stable transition rather than a revolution that brings in the fundamentalists.
posted by Ber at 4:37 PM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hilary is going to have a busy week.
posted by clavdivs at 4:57 PM on January 25, 2011


Oh, and here is a reddit thread started by someone in Egypt. Apparently Al Jazeera isn't covering these protests to the same extent they were the ones in Tunisia, and actually Mubarak talked with the Qatari government into geting Al Jazeera not to be so critical of him.
posted by delmoi at 5:08 PM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Activist Ahmad Medhat has apparently been swiped up by the authorities from a hospital in Cairo. Arrested and conveniently denied representation. source is another activist at the hospital via IRC. thank god for the n900 ;)
posted by xcasex at 5:27 PM on January 25, 2011


and the rubber bullets? Well... http://yfrog.com/h8tc1vj
posted by xcasex at 5:28 PM on January 25, 2011


First Tunisia and now Egypt?

This is only the beginning.
posted by reductiondesign at 6:05 PM on January 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Once this spills to Saudi Arabia, oil will become really expensive.

I watched Collapse, which was a little too alarmists for my tastes, but Michael Ruppert had a pretty interesting idea: Saudi Arabia may be purposefully overstating their oil reserves, not only to keep the world economy from collapsing in an oil price bubble, but also to keep their population pacified with the promise of eventually reaping the benefits of the wealth currently squandered by the King and his relatives.

The peak of $147 oil was almost the historical high a couple years ago, and if the Saudis figure out that their government has been lying to them and lock the nation down, you're easily talking $200-$250 per barrel for a while, which would work out to $6 or $7 per gallon, in the US, and $12-18 internationally.

The cost to the US will be much higher than that for Europe, despite the price difference. If I recall, the average European uses about 11% of the oil of the average American. Our yearly consumption of 175 billion gallons of gasoline would increase in cost from 525 billion to 1.2 trillion dollars.

Our expenditure on energy bottomed out at 6% in 1998 and has risen above 12% as of 2008 (which was a high year.) That sort of energy spike would bring it to 15% at least. I'm starting to wonder if much of our economic success during those years was due to the extra half trillion dollars we suddenly found.
posted by notion at 6:17 PM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I say we go with the devil we don't know. If thats what the people want.

Yes, from time to time we trade one evil for a greater. But more often supporting the devil we know leads to a far worse scenario than an organic "people's revolution" ever would.

See 50's Cuba, 80's Afghanistan, 00's Pakistan, 70's Cambodia, 80's Iraq, 70's Iran. Each did our bidding as a bulwark against an imagined boogeyman.

The Rumsfeld Doctrine was to guard the wells while democracy ran its ugly course. It failed. Likewise, platitudes from Hilary while secretly hand wringing about the potential loss of our "ally" Mubarek, or the d bag in Tunisia, or Musharraf is counter to democracy and the will of the people.

Ultimately, our government doesn't believe what is was founded on. That is-that humans yearn for freedom. Life, liberty, etc. Bush and Palin and the flag waving red staters are the first to proclaim our superiority as a nation and a notion, and the first to fear being felled by Commie/terrorist/islamo fascists/wikileaks threat.

Should we airlift guns to protestors? Absolutely not. Should we provide work-arounds for Internet/twitter outages, firewalls, and communication failures? Yes. Should we be the first to airlift food and supplies into areas hit by unrest? Yes. Should we promise incentives for fledgling governments? Yes.

As Fidel and the Ayatollah how effective sanctions are.

Kill em with kindness.
posted by karst at 7:58 PM on January 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


But good on these Arab countries and their people. Here's a chance for them to prove that not all of them are destined to be ruled forever by despotic assholes.

Yeah, those Arabs need to prove to the rest of the world that they're worthy of oh no you know what I can't even finish typing this crap, fuck this racist nonsense.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:23 PM on January 25, 2011 [9 favorites]


While Twitter may be great for organizing and calls to action, it seems a revolution needs a revolutionary leader to rally around, not just spontaneous anger.

It seems the West needs better information. It is hard to watch people take the editorials and blathering of msm as the foundation for their understanding of what is going on. Egyptians are not naive child-minded people who NEED the US or anyone else to step in and SAVE them.

Lessons of Tunisia: To the Arab dictators: u r not invincible. To the West: u r not needed. To the Arab people: u r not powerless. -- FB post

BTW, has anyone noted ... this was not a 'revolution' fit for those who like action films , it was a protest ... one with over 100,000 protesters throughout the country. There was no sign of ANY weapons (pots and pans thrown from the windows by grandmothers?) or violence by the protesters (no looting??!!). The police got out of hand, but there are stories of some of them taking off their uniforms and joining the protest (and films of protesters protecting the police from the jostling).

Wrap your heads around that, oh people of violence.
posted by Surfurrus at 10:21 PM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


An interesting blog by eyewitness in Cairo: Tonight in Cairo, the Parliament is Surrounded

And pre-JAN25 tension: Hushed and Growing Dissent " ... 65 million people are controlled by one million people," he said. “How long can this go on?”
posted by Surfurrus at 12:38 AM on January 26, 2011


And ... faces of the 'violent' protesters - children, women, grandmothers ... marching and singing (women were quite actively involved, btw)
posted by Surfurrus at 12:57 AM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure where to puke with outrage or hilarity whenever Americans worry that democracy will lead to a dangerous regime amongst the scary brown people. When the scary brown people use their democracy to enact something comparable, say, the bombings of Cambodia and Laos, the destruction of Iraq, the butchery of the Philipines, then perhaps they'll have as shitty a record as the US.

But if electing governments that have a habit of brutally mudering civilians is a reason to lose your right to have a democracy, well, when do we appoint a caretaker government to the US?
posted by rodgerd at 2:03 AM on January 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


Note that in this year's State of the Union address, President Obama explicitly gave official government support to Tunisian protestors but failed to mention Egypt's protestors.
posted by infinitewindow at 4:31 AM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Note that in this year's State of the Union address, President Obama explicitly gave official government support to Tunisian protestors but failed to mention Egypt's protestors.

Worse, Hillary Clinton said, with a straight face, that Mubarak's government is "stable and looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people."

If she was trying to replicate France's fiasco in Tunisia, she couldn't do it better (or worse).
posted by Skeptic at 4:51 AM on January 26, 2011


U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Jeff Feltman, visiting Tunis, encouraged the interim government to do more to satisfy the demands of the people, and said Washington was ready to assist Tunisia in preparing for its first free elections.
posted by HLD at 7:48 AM on January 26, 2011


To those upthread who worry about US intervention, agreed. However, not intervening here must be combined with withdrawing military and financial support for the dictatorial regime. Otherwise, the US is intervening, and not on the side of democracy.

If this were to happen in Saudi, that would be a real game changer in the Muslim world, and particularly the Arab world. And who knows: oil might become cheaper if its obscene profits are not shared among the enormously rich oil companies and the opulent 14,000 spawn of the House of Saud, with the rest given in hideously generous handouts to a largely idle population ... who if they do go to office, work from 10 AM to 1 or 2 PM. All work there is done by foreign labourers and expats.
posted by Azaadistani at 8:18 AM on January 26, 2011


Worse, Hillary Clinton said, with a straight face, that Mubarak's government is "stable and looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people."

If she was trying to replicate France's fiasco in Tunisia, she couldn't do it better (or worse).


What the fuck do you expect the US to do? We shouldn't be getting involved in the internal affairs of other countries. This isn't checkers. This is a matter of life and death, and if we make the wrong call, and the people rise up, lots of people could die if the government doesn't collapse, as happened in Iraq after Gulf War I.

We should just make statements of support for human rights and democracy, and deal with whatever government is in power.

Here is what the administration said after the speech last night:
As we monitor the situation in Egypt, we urge all parties to refrain from using violence, and expect the Egyptian authorities to respond to any protests peacefully. We support the universal rights of the Egyptian people, including the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly. The Egyptian government has an important opportunity to be responsive to the aspirations of the Egyptian people, and pursue political, economic and social reforms that can improve their lives and help Egypt prosper. The United States is committed to working with Egypt and the Egyptian people to advance these goals.
More broadly, what is happening in the region reminds us that, as the President said in Cairo, we have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and free of corruption; and the freedom to live as you choose – these are human rights and we support them everywhere.
posted by empath at 8:30 AM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


And I'll just copy a section of the president's 2009 Cairo speech, as well:
The fourth issue that I will address is democracy. (Applause.)
I know -- I know there has been controversy about the promotion of democracy in recent years, and much of this controversy is connected to the war in Iraq. So let me be clear: No system of government can or should be imposed by one nation by any other.

That does not lessen my commitment, however, to governments that reflect the will of the people. Each nation gives life to this principle in its own way, grounded in the traditions of its own people. America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election. But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn't steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. These are not just American ideas; they are human rights. And that is why we will support them everywhere. (Applause.)
Now, there is no straight line to realize this promise. But this much is clear: Governments that protect these rights are ultimately more stable, successful and secure. Suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. America respects the right of all peaceful and law-abiding voices to be heard around the world, even if we disagree with them. And we will welcome all elected, peaceful governments -- provided they govern with respect for all their people.
This last point is important because there are some who advocate for democracy only when they're out of power; once in power, they are ruthless in suppressing the rights of others. (Applause.) So no matter where it takes hold, government of the people and by the people sets a single standard for all who would hold power: You must maintain your power through consent, not coercion; you must respect the rights of minorities, and participate with a spirit of tolerance and compromise; you must place the interests of your people and the legitimate workings of the political process above your party. Without these ingredients, elections alone do not make true democracy.
posted by empath at 8:33 AM on January 26, 2011 [2 favorites]




"I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn't steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. These are not just American ideas; they are human rights. And that is why we will support them everywhere. (Applause.)"

I read that and I just can't make sense of it. I guess I believe that BO as an individual believes that, and the powers that be in American government don't believe that. Did Bush? Did Reagan? Carter? Dunno. Like energy independence, every president gives lip service to these concepts. And does little to bring it about.

Equal administration of justice? Transparent government? A government that doesn't steal from the people? Freedom to live? These are concepts we are having a hard time embodying ourself, let alone encouraging in others. Gitmo, calls for Assange's assassination, bank bailouts, gay marriage bans? I could never reconcile Carter's support of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, and his Nobel Peace Prize 2 decades later.

"We shouldn't be getting involved in the internal affairs of other countries."

Which is why supporting corrupt regimes friendly to US "interests" has to stop. US interests aren't cheap access to oil, or locations for bases, or containing communism. It's freedom, transparency, and justice.

If there is a move towards freedom and rights and all that good stuff then we should be ready to see the despots hung. We shouldn't slip the noose round their necks, but we should give them the rope. When a despot rises to power he should be a stranger to us.
posted by karst at 9:41 AM on January 26, 2011


I don't think this is the right thread for yet another debate about US foreign policy. The US isn't all-powerful; it can't control the outcome of a conflict in a country of 80 million people.

A first-hand description of the protest. The author, Jonathan Wright, appears to be a Cairo resident and former Reuters correspondent.
posted by russilwvong at 12:44 PM on January 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


What the fuck do you expect the US to do?

I agree with your opinion that the situation is a shit sandwich. Indeed, the best the US can do is to deliver empty platitudes like the ones you cite. However, Clinton, in that sentence I linked to, clearly went off-message and uttered two blatantly, demonstrably false statements in a single sentence. To quote somebody who knew diplomacy better than me: "It's worse than a crime. It's a blunder."
posted by Skeptic at 12:56 PM on January 26, 2011


Meanwhile, Libya is an interesting contrast....
posted by clavdivs at 1:07 PM on January 26, 2011


clavdivs, I don't know how much Libyans yearn for democracy, but there are probably enough people there who still remember the horrible pre-Gaddafi days under King Idris . The far-reaching reforms under Gaddafi have never been discussed much in Western media, probably because they also included cutting out the Western oil companies and US/UK political influence.
posted by Surfurrus at 1:56 PM on January 26, 2011


Good use of youtube: Egyptian Revolution Jan 25th 2011 - Take what's Yours!

Egypt today is on fire ... a bloody mess.

It makes one wonder where the US schemers are ... we have always been so good at 'secretly removing' our pet dictators. Remember how Marcos was airlifted out of the EDSA revolution? And how we gave the Shah of Iran asylum ? How we downplayed Pinochet's human rights violations?

Maybe Egypt just needs the US to bring our man Mubarak home to the US and to a life of million dollar book deals.

Bring on the helicopters.
posted by Surfurrus at 2:10 PM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


US interests aren't cheap access to oil, or locations for bases

I am afraid that that is factually incorrect. Energy costs account for about 10 to 20 percent of after-tax income for U.S. household. When gas prices rise by a buck a gallon, that's about $1,000 bucks a year for the average family. There are things one can do to lower one's personal consumption, of course. But in America in 2011 most of the houses are located drivable distances from most of the stores and offices. This is not something that can be changed easily or quickly. I'm not saying it can't be done; i am saying it will take decades. Until it is it will be in America's interest to have cheap fossil fuels.
posted by Diablevert at 2:48 PM on January 26, 2011




I lived in Egypt for a couple of years--in fact, I used to work right near Tahrir Square, the central location for the Cairo protests on Tuesday. I was there for a couple of failed protest days. There was always so much hope, and then so much nothing.

Because of that, I have been incredibly moved by these protests. Egyptians hate Mubarak (and there's nothing democratic about Egypt; the elections are a sham; opposition candidates are regularly jailed before elections). But many Egyptians became apathetic and their anger was channeled into soccer and hating Israel.

And that's the real reason we give Egypt so much money: to keep the peace with Israel. I suspect the US government most wants stability in Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood is worrisome, of course, but really only has wide support because they're pretty much the only standing opposition. But Egyptians aren't necessarily looking for Islamic law. They mostly just want jobs and food and all that really important, basic stuff that many of us here take for granted. I suspect the US will support any stable government that isn't completely religious or corrupt.

I've been following this closely, via Twitter and FB and through friends in Egypt, and people are cautiously optimistic. Maybe it can really happen this time.
posted by bluedaisy at 10:53 PM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


You know what I'd really like to see? Some statement from in Israel in support of Arab democracy movements. It would probably be a tough needle to thread, but I think if it were carefully worded it could do a lot to reset relations with the Arab street.
posted by empath at 7:12 AM on January 27, 2011




You know what I'd really like to see? Some statement from in Israel in support of Arab democracy movements.

Boy, I'd be scared that the dictators would just use that to discredit the democracy movements as Israeli plots. And frankly, after Israel's reaction to Hamas winning in Gaza, they have no credibility whatsoever about supporting democracy.
posted by msalt at 9:26 AM on January 27, 2011


And frankly, after Israel's reaction to Hamas winning in Gaza, they have no credibility whatsoever about supporting democracy.

The only way they can gain that credibility is by actually supporting democracy.
posted by empath at 9:42 AM on January 27, 2011


Until they accept the will of Gazans and agree to work with the Hamas government there, Israeli endorsement will only hurt the cause of democratic protestors in Arab countries. It will be seen as proof that the protestors are undermining the country, and probably being manipulated by Tel Aviv.
posted by msalt at 11:01 AM on January 27, 2011


Israel can't support the protests. They have a treaty with Mubarak's government, and if they supported the protesters and Mubarak stayed in power, they'd risk damaging their tenuous relationship at a very important border. Also, Egyptians hate Israel so much that anything Israel says at this point would be suspect to them. So really they have more to gain by letting things play out.
posted by bluedaisy at 11:54 AM on January 27, 2011


The latest reports coming out of Egypt are that the government has blocked all internet and SMS and some landlines, to attempt to stop Friday's big protest after noon prayers. This came right after the AP posted a graphic and disturbing video of a protester being shot by Egyptian police.

The twitter stream out of Egypt is nearly silent.

There are reports on Twitter that Egyptian police are pouring gasoline on cars downtown so that there will mass chaos tomorrow and protesters will be blamed.

The BBC is now reporting that seven are dead.

The website for the US Embassy in Cairo is down.

Even my friends who have been using proxies and alternative routes to get online are quiet now.

I'm going to contact the White House and ask them to pressure Mubarak. I don't think there's anything else we can do.
posted by bluedaisy at 4:17 PM on January 27, 2011


On Point with Tom Ashbrook is on NPR/WNYC and has a pretty wide guest list.
posted by rosswald at 5:22 PM on January 27, 2011


I've heard that Mubarak believes that the Shah's mistake was that he wasn't willing to be hard enough on the Iranian street. This is quite depressing.
posted by humanfont at 5:29 PM on January 27, 2011


While Twitter may be great for organizing and calls to action, it seems a revolution needs a revolutionary leader to rally around, not just spontaneous anger.

From the West's perspective, you can't get much better than a Nobel Peace Prize-winning, NYU Law School doctorate-bearing, pro-democracy native son.

And ElBaradei declared earlier today as he arrived in Cairo, "If [people] want me to lead the transition, I will not let them down."

I think his stature on Egypt's streets is of a lower profile than among the international community because he's been away from the country for so long (someone can correct me on this), but if in these coming weeks there needs to be a ''hero" figure for Egyptians to rally around, he's pretty well-positioned especially now that he's embraced the role.
posted by jng at 7:18 PM on January 27, 2011


Here's a newer thread on the same issue.
posted by bluedaisy at 7:26 PM on January 27, 2011


The United States produces 2 billion barrels of oil per year as of 2009. It imports 4.2 billion barrels of oil per year, down from a high of 5 billion barrels in 2005. In 2008 we imported 2.1 billion barrels from OPEC nations, and that fell to 1.7 billion barrels in 2009.

To put it another way, if OPEC (which includes Venezuela) decided to stop shipping us oil, our strategic reserve of only 727 million barrels would not last us six months, and maybe a year or 18 months with extraordinary rationing that would cripple our economy. Even if prices of oil dropped due to the economic slowdown worldwide, the sheer lack of production capacity would inflate the price for the West.

I can't find the talk right now, but I remember Chomsky saying that most of the projections he read from the 70s and 80s discussed moving production to more reliable sources closer to the United States, especially North Atlantic sources, but keeping control over middle eastern resources as "veto power" in world affairs. Since the vast majority of our military action and base construction has taken place near Iraq, it seems they are following through with their long term plans.
posted by notion at 7:54 PM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


And, this is the wrong thread... sorry about that.
posted by notion at 7:55 PM on January 27, 2011


I've been to china, and people there were really childlike, they believe everything they're told by the government and authority. It's in the culture, and reinforced by one-child policy: each child has 2 parents, 4 grandparents all putting pressure on them eg at school, and zero partners in crime/rebellion: the history, up to the present day: they've spent virtually the whole of the 20th century in civil war (which is very different to external war(they had civil war during the external wars), since it involves 'traitors' and purges for saying the wrong thing) ending only in the late 70s, so generations have learnt to keep their opinions to themselves, and looking at england after the civil war, we spent a century being frivolous and rejecting thinking about religion, politics, revolution etc: you get put off after enough bloodshed and just want the good times. Finally, how on earth could you organise a country like china? Think: size of europe or whole of america. Too big. The only real rebellions are ethnic, tibet and uighur, have been met with mass slaughter of possible leaders (works) and rabid nationalism instilled in schools, to the point where the leaders are now captive to it, they have to live up to it and their policy is limited. The Han majority vs a minority is not what's happening in Egypt. And the central government always directs anger onto the very powerful local government; law is almost like between different countries, like the states, so local government has a lot of power.
Oh, i am so full of hope and happy about Egypt. If only we could establish a real democracy here! And finally i have found a use for twitter. I love Egypt!!
posted by maiamaia at 5:14 PM on February 10, 2011


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