The future of Mubarak.
For several days now I have thought that Egyptian dictator, Hosni Mubarak, has been destined for the rubbish heap of history.
The first indication has been the size and number of protests against the man. But that is insufficient. The strongest indicator has been how the police and the military have responded. These are the strong-arm men of any regime, these are the people committed to violently attacking people in order to secure a governments power. Without them it is only a matter of time before a regime falls.
Early shots of protests showed some attempts by police and the military to break up demonstrations but there were also many shots showing protesters and their "controllers" chatting and smiling together. In some places the protesters were climbing on tanks and having their pictures taking with the troops sent to stop them.
One incident I remember was when a police officer tried to break up a group of protesters, who turned on him. He was overpowered quickly and some of the protesters were inclined to continue their attack. But the man was sitting on the sidewalk and one of the civilians had come to him and put his arms around him, holding him close and telling other civilians to leave the man alone—and they did. One photo showed an elderly woman protesting who kissed a soldier on the cheek.
Those images told me that this is the end for Mubarak. The UK's Sky News reports: "The Egyptian army has said it will not use force against protesters calling for the removal of President Hosni Mubarak ahead of a "million people" march. The military said it considers the people's demands 'legitimate.'" Sky News also said that when the military made this announcement tanks that were blocking access to Cairo's main square pulled back opening access. A reporter from Sky says: "Mubarak is no longer calling the shots, quite literally."
Israeli Ynetnews.com reports that army spokesman Ismail Etman appeared on television telling protesters that "the army understands the legitimacy of the demands of the protesters in Egypt, adding that the army does not intend to use force on them." They quote a police officer who resigned his position saying, "I was asked to kill protesters, so I decided to resign from my post. The head of our unit ordered us to kill protesters who endanger us but I told him I could not confront my own people. I threw my weapon down, took off my uniform and joined the protesters. Their demands are just. The Egyptian government has no compassion for the people; they treat us like we're not human." I would note this officer has more decency than the typical employee of the TSA.
Mubarak can call elections and make a dignified exit or he can depart in a less dignified manner, either with his tail between his legs fleeing for some friendly country, or hanging from the nearest lamppost Mussolini.
A report I saw from Sky says that the military is making it clear that this refusal to shoot is under all circumstances. As the reporter says, this seems to indicate that even if the presidential palace were under attack and Mubarak being dragged out to hang from the nearest lamppost, they would sit by and watch.
The first incidents I recounted indicated to me that Mubarak had perhaps days in office. The latest reports indicate it may be just hours. It also appears that the demographics of the demonstrations have been changing, which I think is an important indicator. Early demonstrations were conducted almost exclusively by men, mostly younger men. Older men joined in along with many younger women. Recent photos that I surveyed show more elderly women and people bringing their children to demonstrations.
When demonstrators start bringing their kids and grandmothers they are no longer acting out of fear. The demonstrators clearly believe that they have the upper hand and that they are no longer at significant risk.
I would suggest paying more attention to Iran over the next few weeks. The end of the government in Tunisia and the imminent collapse of the Mubarak regime in Egypt has to be an inspiration to the Iranian people who have long ago had enough of the Islamist regime there. Iranian demographics lean heavily to the young and young Iranians tend to like western culture and want more freedom for themselves. They are rather unhappy with the rule of their version of the Religious Right: a collection of dour old farts steeped in the Koran and bursting with a desire to destroy the enjoyments of most people. Gee, maybe if Iran gets the courage to finally throw out the Ayatollahs the Republicans will finally get the courage to tell the Religious Right to take a flying leap, but don't count on it.