Hold the Celebration: Egypt’s Struggle Just Began – by Stephen Lendman
Hopefully beneath celebratory euphoria, Egyptians know ousting Mubarak was simple, especially since Washington long wanted him out. Covertly with Egypt’s military, it facilitated long-planned regime purging for with new faces under old policies. In other words, have everything change but stay the same, a common imperial bait and switch con.
As a result, the real liberating struggle continues against long odds for success because Washington, Egypt’s military, Israel, Western powers, and big money will do everything to prevent it. The usual scheme was hatched – a facade of change that may or may not work, and will be months, maybe years, to know.
For now, however, Al Jazeera headlined, “Post-Mubarak era dawns on Egypt….just four weeks after Tunisians toppled their….ruler.” Or did they? Their struggle also continues against comparable long odds. People throughout the region face them against powerful dark forces, representing imperial/monied interests, not theirs.
Al Jazeera, however, reported:
“Egyptians have woken to a new dawn after 30 years of rule under Hosni Mubarak.” All night celebration preceded it. “Fireworks lit the night sky, cars honed under swathes of read, white and black Egyptian flags and people hoisted children above their heads. Some took souvenir pictures with smiling soldiers atop their tanks city streets,” unaware that military commanders are enemies, not allies, a reality they’ll confront ahead and should prepare.
For now, opposition figure Ayman Nour called February 11 “the greatest day in Egyptian history. This nation has been born again. These people have been born again, and this is a new Egypt.”
Al Jazeera correspondents said street euphoria was “indescribable,” “an explosion of emotion,” quoting one pro-democracy campaigner, Dina Magdi, saying:
“I have waited, I have worked all my adult life to see the power of the people come to the fore and show itself. I am speechless. The moment is not only about Mubarak stepping down, it is also about people’s power to bring about the change that no one….thought possible.”
Supportive Media Reports
Euphoria also characterized most US media reports. Notably, however, unless Washington plans war or wants foreign adversaries denigrated, rarely ever are overseas events covered, especially uprisings against purported allies. Yet, for days, Egypt’s was main-featured on television and in print, including unheard of anti-regime views, meaning official Washington supported them against an out-of-favor leader.
American (and Western) media reports manipulate public opinion on official foreign and domestic policies. Their managed news unabashedly supports monied interests, imperial wars, and police state laws, while paying scant attention to corporate lawlessness, eroding democracy, sham elections, government and corporate corruption, civil liberties and human rights concerns, rule of law issues, a growing wealth gap, unmet human needs, and increasing poverty, hunger, homelessness and despair for growing millions globally, including at home besides countries like Egypt.
As a result, had Mubarak been in favor, spotty coverage would have called protesters agitators, rabble-rousers, insurgents, terrorists and jihadists, never pro-democracy heros.
On February 11, Nation magazine’s Katrina vanden Heuvel headlined, “Triumph in Egypt,” saying:
“After eighteen days of protest, Mubarak’s nearly thirty-year reign over Egypt was brought to a triumphant close today. Ousted by the people, Egyptian protesters stood strong, exhibiting nothing short of sheer jubilation as the news broke.”
New York Times writer David Kirkpatrick headlined, “Egypt Erupts in Jubiliation as Mubarak Steps Down,” saying:
Egypt’s revolution “overturn(ed) the established order of the Arab world. (Mubarak) was toppled by a radically new force in regional politics – a largely secular, nonviolent, youth-led democracy movement that brought Egypt’s liberal and Islamist opposition groups together for the first time under its banner….Mr. Mubarak’s fall removed a bulwark of American foreign policy in the region.”
In fact, he became a major obstacle to Washington’s Greater Middle East Project (renamed the New Middle East) and had to go. Notably, the day Cairo protests erupted, January 25, key Egyptian military commanders, including Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Sami Hafez Enan, were in Washington. For years, State Department and Pentagon officials wanted him out because he opposed key US policies, including Iran’s nuclear program and Bush’s 2003 Iraq war.
Egypt’s New Leader
Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi is new head of state as chairman of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces of Egypt, ruling with its Supreme Constitutional Council – effective February 11. He also served as Minister of Defense, Military Production, Deputy Prime Minister, Commander of the Presidential Guard, and chief of the Operations Authority of the Armed Forces.
He’s a powerful old regime stalwart closely aligned with Washington, though US diplomats call him “aged and change-resistant…. “Charming and courtly, he is nonetheless mired in a post-Camp David military paradigm that has served his cohorts’ narrow interests for the last three decades. (He’s also) opposed both economic and political reform that he perceives as eroding central government power.”
Whether he’ll cooperate or conflict with Washington remains to be seen. If not, he’ll go next, the same anti- Mubarak process resurrected against him and others less than fully compliant.
Earlier, he participated in Egypt’s 1956, 1967 and 1973 wars as well as in America’s Gulf War “coalition.” As part of Egypt’s old guard, he’ll most likely become president, installed, of course by military coup d’ etat.
His mission: preserving the status quo, serving global monied interests, supporting Washington’s imperial agenda, and making few substantive constitutional and other old order changes, including little in the way of jobs, independent unions, higher wages, and other essential services – social, economic and political.
Why expect them from a man who led a military, not populist, coup against a sitting ruler, no matter how corrupt, illegitimate and ruthless! They’re both cut from the same mold, representing power, not popular interests.
As a result perhaps, on February 12, Reuters headlined, “Egypt protest leaders vow to protect their revolution,” saying:
In two overnight communiques, core organizers “demanded the dissolution of the cabinet Mubarak appointed on January 29 and the suspension of the parliament elected in a rigged poll late last year.”
They also want “a transitional five-member presidential council made up of four civilians and one military person to prepare for an election to take place within nine months, and (a) body to draft a new democratic constitution.”
Moreover, they demand media and (professional) syndicates freedom, military and emergency courts abolished, free formation of political parties, and since protests began, immediately ending Egypt’s Emergency Law, enacted in 1981. Surprisingly, however, it wasn’t in either communique though clearly a top priority.
Pharmicist Ghada Elmasalmy told Reuters:
“The army is with us but it must realize our demands. Half revolutions kill nations. Now we know our place. Whenever there is injustice, we will come to Tahrir Square.”
According to Al Arabiya television, army officials will soon dismiss Mubarak’s cabinet and suspend parliament. In addition, the Constitutional Court head will join the military council and participate in Egypt’s governance.
One protester, Mohammed Farrag, spoke for others saying:
“(W)e will not give up on Egypt as a civilian state, not a military state. If things move away from our demands, we will go into the street again, even if we have to die as martyrs.”
Hopefully, he and others mean it because doing it again will prove urgent. Otherwise, all is lost and nothing gained beyond substituting one strongman for another, backed by the full might of Egypt’s military, armed and financed by Washington.
Nonetheless, Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood, its main opposition group, called Mubarak’s ouster a “historic victory,” America and Israel the main losers. Whether true, however, remains to be seen. For sure, it’s too soon to tell or know how far Egypt’s people power can go before bucking stiff resistance sure to come.
“The victory scored by this revolution is in the first place directed against the United States,” said Brotherhood members, “which so far sponsored the toppled regime, and wanted it as a strong ally and defender of the Zionist entity and an enemy of the Arab jihad and resistance movements.”
Other Regional Protests
On February 1, Jordan’s King fired his government after protests over high fuel and food prices, slowed political reforms, high unemployment and poverty levels, as well as other economic and social issues. Nonetheless, Jordanians want more, including new Prime Minister Marouf al-Bakhit’s resignation. In addition, members of its Farmers Union tossed tomato crates onto the Karak-Aqaba highway over low prices paid them.
Tunisians ousted President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali with no resolution so far. As a result, they’re demanding all his cronies ousted, including interim Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi. They also want attention given deep social needs, including jobs, higher wages, and right to unionize. Hundreds rallied in Tunis, calling themselves a “Caravan of Liberation,” one man saying “We have come to bring down the rest of the dictatorship.” In addition, civil servants and primary school teachers aren’t working, instead protesting against interim officials representing old policies.
In Rabat, Morocco, hundreds of protesters demanded badly needed public sector jobs to help alleviate high unemployment. They also want social inequality and government corruption issues addressed.
Similar anger riled protesters in Algeria, Yemen and elsewhere over unaffordable food and fuel prices as well as shocking levels of extreme poverty, unemployment and state repression.
Occupied Iraq is now affected, demonstrations occurring in numerous cities across the country. Earlier, Hamza protesters stormed government buildings and a police station over political corruption, repressive occupation, and shortages of power, food and jobs. The UAE’s The National quoted organizer Abu Ali saying:
“There will be a revolution of the hungry and jobless in Iraq, just as there was in Egypt. It was a march by the unemployed, by those who have lost hope and who see (Prime Minister) Nouri al Maliki and the new government becoming another dictatorship.”
On February 10, protests occurred in Baghdad, Basra, Mosul, Karbala, Diwaniyah, Kut, Ramadi, Samawah and Amara. In Sadr City, they were over public corruption, poverty, unemployment, and lack of social services. In Karbala, a sign said:
“We have nothing. We need everything. Solution: Set ourselves on fire,” referring to Tunisia’s Mohammed Bouazizi, an unemployed graduate working as a vegetable seller who self-immolated in protest over police confiscating his merchandise for operating without a permit he couldn’t get.
Najaf farmers demanded help they haven’t gotten. Basra protesters want changes in food ration policies leaving families unable to afford high prices. Others in Baghdad called for ending judicial corruption and prisoner abuse, including torture in Iraqi prisons. In Karbala, the lawyers’ guild head mocked inadequate funds replacing rations for cooking oil, rice, flour and sugar.
Near Baghdad’s Green Zone, placards read, “Where are your electoral promises, food rations and basic services?” Others said “Tahrir Square Two.” Reuters reported that:
“Almost eight years after the US-led invasion, Iraq’s infrastructure remains severely damaged. The country suffers a chronic water shortage, electricity supply is intermittent and sewage collects in the streets.”
Iraqis also suffer from extreme levels of unemployment, poverty, epidemic-like illnesses, massive environmental contamination, repressive security forces, and pervasive levels of desperation and dispair.
On February 12, Al Jazeera reported clashes between Algerian security forces and pro-democracy protesters in Algiers, demanding democratic reforms, jobs, and regime change. Thousands breached a security cordon joining others in May First Square. Earlier, police closed all city entrances and arrested hundreds.
AFP said, “Large quantities of tear gas grenades had been imported. Anti-riot vehicles were seen parked not far from the square where (a February 12) rally is scheduled to begin….and police in uniform patrolled surrounding streets.”
Hundreds more protested around the country, including in Annaba, Sidi Ammar and Raffour. Moreover, in recent weeks, about 20 people tried setting themselves ablaze. Three succeeded and died.
Al Jazeera also said thousands protested in Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, demanding President Ali Abdullah Saleh step down. AP reported government forces beating them and arresting at least 10. Unconfirmed accounts also said police used live fire, killing at least one demonstrator. Like elsewhere in the region, millions are deeply impoverished. Many also face chronic hunger, living on less than $2 a day.
A Final Comment
Globally with rare exceptions, including at home, democracy endangers entrenched power. As a result, subverting eruptions are crucial, allowing only controllable facades under anti-populist leaders – how America’s process works.
As a result, it’s fake. Mock elections pretend to be real. The process is kabuki theater run by political consultants and PR wizards, supported by major media misreporting, featuring horse race issues, not real ones. Everything is pre-scripted. Secrecy and back room deals substitute for a free, fair and open process. Party bosses choose candidates. Big money owns them. Key outcomes are predetermined, and cheated voters get the best democracy deep pockets can buy.
Egypt can expect the same thing, carefully scripted pretense, not democratic change Washington and Egypt’s military won’t tolerate. Unless millions demand better and fight for it, they’ll get old wine in new bottles, again cheated like for 30 years under Mubarak. Forewarned is forearmed. Hopefully savvy protesters understand and plan well their next move.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.