Mubarak’s Failed Bait and Switch – by Stephen Lendman
On February 10, indications were he’d step down. He didn’t, but now it’s official, vice president Suleiman saying he resigned, handing power to Egypt’s military. A New York Times alert said “a historic popular uprising transformed politics in Egypt and around the Arab world.”
Times rhetoric way overstated reality as resolution remains very much in doubt, though odds strongly favor continuity, not populist change. More on that below.
For the moment, however, huge Tahrir Square crowds erupted in celebratory euphoria, perhaps forgetting their liberating struggle just began. It didn’t end with Mubarak’s resignation. That was a baby step, removing an aging dinosaur Washington and Egypt’s military wanted out. Now he’s gone. Focus must follow through on what’s next, requiring sustained popular protests. Otherwise, everything gained will be lost.
Behind the scenes, Washington and Egyptian military maneuvers were involved. They’re always crucial, not visible orchestrated events. As a result, discerning reality is crucial. Hopefully, Egyptians understand, knowing the folly of letting up now and losing out.
Investigative journalist Wayne Madsen believes Obama waffled to buy time for CIA operatives to secure and purge Egypt’s torture and rendition files, dating from when Attorney General Eric Holder was Clinton’s Deputy Attorney General in the 1990s.
He also said Secretary of State Clinton wanted her husband protected, and former White House chief of staff (now CIA head) Leon Panetta had the same aim. Doing so, of course, requires keeping Washington-favorites in power, permitting no uncertain alternatives, people Egyptians need for real change.
Besides short-lived confrontations, orchestrated street violence was avoided. Whether it continues, however, is unknown as Egypt’s military is notoriously brutal, a different reality than most on Cairo streets believe. Among them were hundreds, perhaps thousands experiencing its harshness, for the moment at least lost in a sea of celebratory humanity.
Behind the Scenes Washington Maneuvering
Notably on January 31, Obama sent former US diplomat Frank Wisner (son of WW II era intelligence chief Frank Wisner) to Cairo ahead of Mubarak’s February 1 address. His mission: tell him not to resign until after September elections.
Publicly, Wisner confirmed what White House officials claimed reflected his position, not US policy. In fact, diplomats, past or present, convey only the latter.
Wisner noteworthy credentials include:
— Career Ambassador (the highest foreign service rank) after serving as Under Secretary of State for International Security Affairs, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, and ambassador to India, the Philippines, Zambia and Egypt (1986 – 1991) when he and Mubarak became good friends;
— numerous corporate boards, past and present, including Enron, AIG, Ethan Allen Interiors, eogresources, Commercial International Bank (a leading Egyptian bank), Pharaomic American Life Insurance Company (ALICO, Egypt), Pangea3, and the American University in Cairo; and
— currently an international affairs advisor to Patton Boggs, an influential Washington-based lobbying firm.
High-level and well-connected, his Cairo mission showed Washington behind-the-scenes maneuvering to replace Mubarak, delay transition, and install new faces under old policies, publicly portraying change – the old bait and switch con on a world stage, though whether it works remains highly uncertain. Expect months before clarity, maybe longer.
Obama’s Public Statement on Egypt
Rhetoric always conceals policies, Obama’s February 10 statement Exhibit A, saying:
“As we have said from the beginning of this unrest, the future of Egypt will be determined by the Egyptian people. But the United States (stands for) core principles. We believe that the universal rights of the Egyptian people must be respected, and their aspirations must be met. We believe that this transition must immediately demonstrate irreversible political change, and a negotiated path to democracy (with) a roadmap to elections that are free and fair.”
— no transition timeline was mentioned, nor did Obama call for Mubarak’s immediate resignation with his entire regime popular outrage wants out;
— political change masks business as usual;
— universal rights weren’t specified nor were free and fair elections defined; Washington won’t tolerate either anywhere, including at home; and
— vague sentiments were enunciated, masking Washington’s real agenda for new regime faces under old policies – no compromises, no alternatives, no dissent, just hardline Realpolitik for unchallengeable imperial control; not just in Egypt; everywhere.
Obama’s Real Agenda
As part of Washington’s Greater Middle East Project, it includes neutralizing opponents, securing unchallengeable imperial control, preventing democracy, rigging elections to assure it, militarizing the region strategically, exploiting its resources and populations, orchestrating events covertly, and deciding how and when they play out.
In Egypt and throughout the region, they look similar to US-orchestrated color revolutions in Serbia (the 1990s prototype), Georgia (Rose), Ukraine (Orange), Myanmar (Saffron), Tibet (Crimson), Iran (Green), and currently perhaps Tunisia (Jasmine), and elsewhere in the Middle East, color-coded or not.
They all have a common thread: what the Pentagon calls “full spectrum dominance” for total global, space, sub-surface and information control. Whether it succeeds, however, remains uncertain given America’s declining world influence and stature, including on Cairo streets.
A previous article discussed past color revolutions, accessed through the following link:
Egypt: What’s Ahead
For sure, Washington, the Pentagon and Egypt’s military will decide, not Mubarak (an aging, now ousted dinosaur), Suleiman or other hated regime figures. Stratfor’s George Friedman believes Egypt’s military aims to save the regime, not Mubarak, suggesting three possible outcomes before he resigned:
— continuing standing aside, letting crowds assemble and march peacefully to the presidential palace and elsewhere on Cairo streets;
— blocking more protesters from entering Tahrir Square, containing those already there; or
— replacing Mubarak with temporary military rule.
Egypt’s military coup ousted him. He didn’t resign. He was pushed, the heavy shoving from Washington. It’s not clear if Suleiman will stay on. Hopefully public anger won’t tolerate him or other regime figures, given how much they’re hated.
So far, confrontations have been avoided. Doing so now “would undermine the military’s desire to preserve the regime” and its people-friendly perception. Friedman believes options one and two were unacceptable. “That means military action” unseating him. Only the timing wasn’t known until now.
On February 11 Friedman’s Red Alert update said:
“Egypt is returning to the 1952 model of ruling the state via a council of army officers. The question now is to what extent the military elite will share power with its civilian counterparts.”
“The fate of Mubarak’s National Democratic Party (NDP)” remains unknown. Without it, “the regime will have effectively collapsed and the military could run into greater difficulty in running the country,” ahead of elections whenever they’re held.
For now, Egypt’s military council comprises provisional rule. Very likely it’ll want retained NDP elements and opposition parties help in managing transition. It’s biggest challenge is “avoid(ing) regime change while also dealing with a potential constitutional crisis.”
Popular pressure, however, must demand regime change, a clean sweep, ending emergency law powers immediately, and democratic constitutional changes.
Al Jazeera: “Hosni Mubarak Resigns as President”
On February 11, Al Jazeera reported massive crowds in Tahrir Square, a day called “Farewell Friday.” Cairo and Alexandria images showed wall-to-wall humanity as far as the eye could see, by far the largest demonstrations so far after protesters called for millions to come out for “a last and final stage.”
Despite mass public anger, tensions between army forces and crowds were absent, restraint very much shown, but how long will depend on unfolding events under the new military rule.
Earlier, AP said Mubarak flew to Sharm el-Sheik, the Red Sea resort 250 miles from Cairo.
The New York Times also reported a “Western official (saying) that Mr. Mubarak had left the capital, (and that) the Supreme Council of the Egyptian Armed Forces issued a statement over state television and radio indicating that the military, not Mr. Mubarak, was in effective control of the country.”
In fact, a coup d’etat replaced him, but what follows or its timeline isn’t known. What is known is that mass public anger and nationwide strikes effectively shut down the country beyond what any force could control.
The reaction following Mubarak’s address, followed by Suleiman’s, showed two officials disengaged from reality. As a result, Mohamed ElBaradei, now an opposition figure, responded bluntly, saying:
“I ask the army to intervene immediately to save Egypt. The credibility of the army is being put to the test.”
In a top-featured February 11 New York Times op-ed, he said:
“Egypt will not wait forever on this caricature of a leader we witnessed on television yesterday evening, deaf to the voice of the people, hanging on obsessively to power that is no longer his to keep….We are at the dawn of a new Egypt….We have nothing to fear but the shadow of a repressive past.”
Al Jazeera reported him saying Egypt “will explode” unless military forces intervene. They did but haven’t explained what’s ahead beyond commonplace boilerplate rhetoric – for sure no democracy according to Reuters quoting a National Security Council participant saying:
“What the US isn’t saying publicly is that it’s putting its power behind (Egypt’s) generals. The goal is to stack the deck in favor of the status quo – a scenario that removes Mubarak, yet is otherwise more about continuity than change.”
In other words, Obama’s “orderly transition democracy,” substitutes rhetoric for constructive change neither he nor others in Washington will tolerate. As a result, people power faces imperial Washington and Egypt’s military, united against populist change. However, what develops regionally remains unknown. Resolution can go either way or some unacceptable middle-ground compromise. Avoiding it is crucial, but doing so means continuing daily protests until all essential demands are met.
A Final Comment
According to Human Right Watch (HRW) and London Guardian reports, the professed neutrality and public persona of Egypt’s military belie its harshness.
On February 9, Guardian writer Chris McGreal headlined, “Egypt’s army ‘involved in detentions and torture,’ ” saying:
Military forces “secretly detained hundreds and possibly thousands of suspected government opponents since mass (anti-Mubarak) protests began, (and) at least some of these detainees have been tortured, according to testimony gathered by the Guardian.”
Moreover, HRW and other human rights organizations cited years of army involvement in disappearances and torture. Former detainees confirmed “extensive beatings and other abuses at the hands of the military in what appears to be an organized campaign of intimidation.” Electric shocks, Taser guns, threatened rapes, beatings, disappearances, and perhaps killings left families grieving for loved ones.
HRW researcher Heba Morayef said, “I think it’s become pretty obvious by now that the military is not a neutral party. The military doesn’t want and doesn’t believe in the protests and this is even at the lower level, based on the interrogations.”
Allied with Washington, the Pentagon and US intelligence, it supports power, not populist change, a dark reality street protesters better grasp to know what’s coming from a post-Mubarak regime. Unless challenged, promised reforms will leave entrenched policies in place, enforcing predatory capitalism with police state harshness, what Americans also endure under friendly-face leaders.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com. 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.