Photo from Tahrir Square by Hossam el-Hamalawy
EE: Report #12, FOCUS ON EGYPT: Revolution and Counter-Revolution
Encircling Empire Reports is a selection of essays, blog posts, and news reports covering a given time period. They are intended to be useful for those interested in: ● contemporary and critical political anthropology ● public anthropology ● imperialism and imperial decline ● militarism/militarization ● the political economy of the world system ● hegemony and soft power ● counterinsurgency ● revolution ● rebellion ● resistance ● protest ● activism ● advocacy ● critique.
This and previous issues have been archived on a dedicated site—please see: ENCIRCLING EMPIRE.
In this report, some “opening statements” by key actors who helped to shape this report; then an editorial on revolution and counter-revolution; followed by a list of some Egyptian democracy activist sites worth following; also a list of live blogs on the Egyptian revolution; keeping track of missing persons in the Egyptian uprising; some essays worthy of note on Egypt; and, “Empire’s Egypt,” a special focus on news and essays concerning U.S. intervention in Egypt.
A comrade’s tweet, read aloud and posted on the screen on CBC Newsworld, 02 February 2011:
From now we are not a peaceful protesters , The next Friday gona be a real war between us and the Mubarak,s thugs #Jan25 #Tahrir
@mar3e — Mohammed Maree
I was getting really upset that every time I went on a show, all you would see is “Crisis in Cairo,” “Unrest in Egypt.” And they were totally missing the historical significance of what was happening. My country, you know, my people, these incredibly courageous people in Egypt, were standing up to a tyrant of 30 years, and all they wanted to focus on was this looting, that was clear at the time and now has been proven to be linked to the Mubarak regime. And all they wanted to ask was, “Are American citizens safe? And how are the artifacts in Egypt?” And I said, “Look, everybody is safe. We all care about the artifacts, but can we please talk about Egyptians and what a historic moment this is?” –Mona ElTahawy, see:
“I am also a man of the army, and it is not in my nature to give up responsibility….This dear country is my country just like it is the homeland of every Egyptian man and woman. I have lived in this country. I have fought for it. I have defended its sovereignty and interest, and I will die on its land, and history will judge me and others.” –Hosni Mubarak, Tuesday 01 February 2011
…it is quite likely that the president and his colleagues in Europe are as frightened of the potential explosion of people power across the Middle East and North Africa as are the sclerotic autocratic leaders of the region against whom the protests are being directed.
The question is, why?
Why would Obama, who worked so hard to reach out to the Muslim world with his famous 2009 speech in Cairo, be standing back quietly while young people across the region finally take their fate into their own hands and push for real democracy?
Shouldn’t the president of the United States be out in front, supporting non-violent democratic change across the world’s most volatile region?
–Mark LeVine, Professor of History at UC Irvine: “It’s Time for Obama to Say Kefaya!”
A tweet from P.J. Crowley, spokesman for the U.S. State Department allied to the Mubarak regime:
We reiterate our call for all sides in #Egypt to show restraint and avoid violence. Egypt’s path to democratic change must be peaceful.
…and as if knowing exactly what was coming in the form of “democratic reform” to be ushered in by its ally, Hosni Mubarak, the State Department urgently instructed American citizens to evacuate Egypt immediately, at one point seemingly forgetting there was still a curfew when issuing its statement.
REVOLUTION AND COUNTER-REVOLUTION
Mark LeVine answers his questions above: “Obama not only prefers the status quo, but the United States will actively subvert democracy in order to ensure that governments that will follow its policies remain in power,” outlining details of how the Obama administration has also opposed free and fair elections for Palestine. That Obama has not backed radical but peaceful change in a region that demands it, as acknowledged by U.S. diplomats in numerous leaked cables, shows that Obama has taken an approach that can only be characterized as “tragic and stupid” for backing the status quo. At most, Obama has backed some promised reforms that fall well short of what Egyptians rightly demands, reforms to be ushered in and directed by a dictator who is personally responsible for the murder and torture of Egyptians, and whose immediate actions following such promises on Tuesday night was to unleash a wave of violence against pro-democracy protesters, and to demand that protesters forsake their rights to freedom of assembly, movement, association, and free speech by instructing them to “evacuate immediately” from the streets. Egypt is a rich source of lucrative business opportunities for the U.S. military-industrial complex, for defense contractors such as Lockheed Martin (which has committed itself to fulfilling its standing $230 million contract to supply Egypt with 20 new F-16s), and for U.S. mega banks.
There is nearly unanimous agreement among foreign mainstream media and many European leaders, that the violence by those wrongly dubbed “pro-Mubarak protesters” is orchestrated by the Mubarak regime. There is also considerable circumstantial evidence pointing to that, as well as the government and police IDs of those thugs who were seized by the pro-democracy protesters.
In particular, the military, which had sealed entrances to Tahrir Square, and was frisking those seeking entry to check for weapons (then not allowing them to leave), was freely admitting gangs of thugs who came and went as they wished, and openly brandished weapons. Robert Fisk, echoing some of the activists, was one of the few Western journalists to have shown skepticism about the supposed “protection” seemingly offered to pro-democracy protesters early on. They were right: indeed, if anything the military used the protests to achieve one of their goals, to prevent succession passing to Mubarak’s son Gamal instead of one of their own officers. That members of the government are now starting to point fingers at each other, with the Prime Minister issuing something of an apology, disclaiming any responsibility (which simply does not correspond with facts on the ground), directing attention at the police (and not the army’s mysterious withdrawal and failure to intervene to stop the violence happening under its nose), and the reported arrest of the former Minister of the Interior for his involvement, shows a regime in disarray with some internal cleavages. The timing of the violence was instructive too, beginning almost immediately after the end of Mubarak’s Tuesday-night speech, after Mubarak consulted by telephone with Obama and in person with Obama’s envoy, Frank Wisner.
The regime and its thugs showed an amazing lack of any historical sense of what it means to turn public opinion in the U.S., its major supporter, against it. In particular, the repeatedly aired footage of the attack on a CNN crew on Wednesday, 02 February (see below) with Anderson Cooper getting struck in the head several times, makes one wonder where the leaders of this violence were when an officer of the Nicaraguan National Guard, under dictator Anastasio Somoza Debayle, executed ABC News’ Bill Stewart—see President Jimmy Carter’s official condemnation—shown on the six o’clock news to all Americans.
Anderson Cooper attacked in Egypt
“The military’s refusal to act is a highly political act which shows that it is allowing the Egyptian regime to reconstitute itself at the top and is highly, utterly against the protesters,” explained Prof. Joshua Stacher, an Egypt specialist who met with three White House National Security Council officials to talk about the Egyptian crisis. He added that the absence of military action serves two purposes: “Make the protesters go home, and two, scare the population that isn’t protesting. They want the Egyptian people to submit to the police state, and they want the people to pine for their police state, so that they have stability back.”
One open question now is whether Mubarak is merely acting on American advice, or rejecting American advice, as supposedly shown in these publicly rendered clashes between Egyptian and U.S. government officials. There is the possibility that this is theatre stage managed by friends, an attempt to provide political cover for Washington’s covert intervention so that it can appear to have clean hands. Indeed, plausible deniability seems to have become a leading theme in recent violence. Less of an open question is that Mubarak seems intent on having a hold on power, if anything to safeguard his accumulation of a vast fortune estimated to be between $50 and $80 billion, accumulated from decades of corruption and strategic positioning in lucrative contracts with foreigners, derived from Mubarak’s military and government service, and to not be forced to admit that Egypt and its people do not belong to him, to be used and dispensed with as he pleases.
For some (see: “Game over: The chance for democracy in Egypt is lost”) the regime’s turn to violence inevitably invites violent revolution. If that is the case, those most capable of delivering anti-regime violence will likely emerge as leaders of a post-Mubarak Egypt, and are also likely never to forget nor forgive the U.S.’ complicity in backing Mubarak and his government. That ordinary Egyptians should be held down in such poverty, and under such threat from their own government, as if it were their cross to bear for the sake of Israeli security and U.S. geopolitical interests, is not something that many of us will ever forget, or forgive.
ACTIVIST SITES WORTH FOLLOWING
From Hossam El-Hamalawy:
- 3ARABAWY Blog
- 3Arabawy Twitter
- Live stream via cell phone: Tahrir Occupation
- 3arabawy Flickr photostream
From Mohammed Maree:
Jan25Voices on Twitter
Egypt Protests Live (The Guardian, UK)
Live Blog-Egypt Protests (Al Jazeera—not actually one blog devoted to this, rather posts organized by date, no central URL)
Human Rights Watch—Live updates from Egypt and the region
Egypt in Revolt (Mother Jones)
Live Blogging the Egypt Uprising (Not updated) Christian Science Monitor
Egypt Protests 2011–collection of all Global Voices Online posts
Upheaval in Egypt–The Daily Beast
And a very good roundup of live updates throughout the critical events of Wednesday 02 February, was produced on CNN, which also came under attack from Mubarak’s paid thugs.
See also the ZA Twitter List for Egypt, which includes only Egyptian pro-democracy activists, journalists, and messages from our comrades.
Thanks to the efforts of Samer Karam and Tamer Salama, we have a Missing Persons List (see the Wall Street Journal’s article about this: “Using Crowds to Find the Missing”) that can be used for crowd sourcing information on the whereabouts of those disappeared since January 25 in Egypt. For a while we very concerned about the abduction by state security of anthropologist Mohamed Waked (also here), with his capture described in this article in the New York Review of Books by Yasmine El Rashidi.
ESSAYS TO NOTE
Among his many online essays, this one by Mohamed Waked is rather unique in using the electricity outages last year as a vehicle for assessing the failures of the Mubarak regime, its ties to Israel, the “reward” to the Egyptian people for the compromises of the dictatorship, the impact on Ramadan, and more—see: “Are Mubarak’s Gas Sales to Israel Partly to Blame? The Politics of Power Cuts in Egypt” (02 September 2010).
“A Guide: How Not To Say Stupid Stuff About Egypt” –great points include: “This is so sad;” “What they did to the Mummies is horrible;” “The Muslim Brothers are Terrorists;” “The Twitter Revolution;” “If they get Democracy they will elect extremists,” and more.
Hillary Clinton: Interview With Randa Aboul Azem of Al Arabiya: “I really consider President and Mrs. Mubarak to be friends of my family.”
LENIN’S TOMB: The imperialist remedy for Egypt: “Asked if he would characterize Mubarak as a dictator Biden responded: ‘Mubarak has been an ally of ours in a number of things. And he’s been very responsible on, relative to geopolitical interest in the region, the Middle East peace efforts; the actions Egypt has taken relative to normalizing relationship with – with Israel. … I would not refer to him as a dictator’….”
“Mubarak is Our Berlin Wall;” Egyptian Columnist Mona Eltahawy on How the Youth Drove the Uprising in Cairo and Implications for Democracy in the Region: “as you remember, in 1989, when the Berlin Wall fell, you saw revolution—revolutions and freedom movements across Eastern Europe. Mubarak is our Berlin Wall. When Tunisia had its revolution and toppled Ben Ali, everyone thought, “Beautiful little Tunisia, you’re so brave. But it’s never going to happen anywhere else.” Now it’s happening in the traditional leader of the Arab world. Egypt is a country of 80 million people. Once Mubarak falls—and he will fall; I mean, he’s crumbled. Several days ago, as far as I was concerned, he was done. Once Mubarak falls once and for all, you will see what will happen in the Arab world. This is going to—every Arab leader is watching right now in terror, and every Arab citizen is elated and cheering Egypt on, because they know the significance of this.”
Made in the U.S.A.: Tear Gas, Tanks, Helicopters, Rifles and Fighter Planes in Egypt Funded and Built Largely by U.S. Defense Department and American Corporations: “WILLIAM HARTUNG [author of Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex]: It’s a form of corporate welfare for companies like Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics, because it goes to Egypt, then it comes back for F-16 aircraft, for M1 tanks, for aircraft engines, for all kinds of missiles, for guns, for tear gas canisters, as was discussed, a company called Combined Systems International, which actually has its name on the side of the canisters that have been found on the streets there. So these companies—for example, Lockheed Martin has been the leader in deals worth $3.8 billion over that period of the last 10 years; General Dynamics, $2.5 billion for tanks; Boeing, $1.7 billion for missiles, for helicopters; Raytheon for all manner of missiles for the armed forces. So, basically, this is a key element in propping up the regime, but a lot of the money, as you said and Juan Cole mentioned on this program, is basically recycled. Taxpayers could just as easily be giving it directly to Lockheed Martin or General Dynamics.”
“Egyptian protesters are conflicted over US role:” “One of the insults flung at President Hosni Mubarak by Egyptian protesters seeking his ouster was: ‘Mubarak, you coward! You American collaborator!’ Hostility toward the United States is widespread among the crowds in Cairo’s streets, who feel Washington’s alliance with Egypt — along with billions of dollars in military aid through the years — has helped Mubarak’s authoritarian regime keep its grip on power for nearly three decades…. “Look at this!” one man shouted in a makeshift emergency room in a mosque near Tahrir Square on Saturday, as doctors treated bleeding demonstrators and other volunteers removed the bodies of slain protesters. He held up tear gas canisters emblazoned with ‘Made in the USA.’ Another man shook a fistful of bullet casings at reporters. ‘America! This is America!’ he shouted. A military helicopter that swooped over Tahrir Square and warplanes that buzzed Cairo on Sunday highlighted the conundrum once again. Protesters shook fists at the two low-flying planes and declared that they were obtained with U.S. military aid….”
“Analysis: Which side of history does America want to be on?” : “ ‘The Obama administration is still trying to come up with a coherent policy’ to replace decades of over-promising and under-delivering on reforms, said Mohamad Bazzi, senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Washington-based Council on Foreign Relations. Washington has long viewed the region through the lens of stability versus democracy. But unfolding events puts the lie to the stability side of the argument, to varying degrees, country by country.”