Tuesday, February 01, 2011

More Observations on Egypt

When I say "observations, " I mean observations. I like to look closely at photos and film to actually see what is happening, more than listening to talking heads, unless the talking heads have personal experiences to recount. By seeing what is happening one can get some grasp of what is actually happening, using the direct data instead of the predictions of experts, who so often are wrong.

The first observation showed a soldier who was clearly terrified. There was a large angry crowd wanting Mubarak. The soldier saw the crowd coming and panicked. He pulled his gun pointing it at them, backing up, his face frozen in a state of terror. The crowd continued to move forward and he kept backing up. A man behind him patted him on the back and tried to calm him down.

In another film clip the protesters are moving towards a few tanks parked on the road. The soldiers in the tank begin backing away from the crowd. One of the soldier popped up from the tank and gave a salute to the crowd.

Anderson Cooper was walking through the streets reporting on what he was seeing. Over and over people came to him and wanted him to know that American support for Mubarak does anger them. But they also wanted him to know that they are not Islamists. A well-spoken protester made it clear that the Egyptian people would not tolerate a government with the Islamic Brotherhood. He said, several times, "We won't let that happen."

A young American couple living in Cairo are interviewed. They intend to fly home, if the US embassy can get its act together. They still walk the streets and also recounted how Egyptians come to them and tell them they simply want Mubarak to go and that they want their rights respected, something the government has not done.

The male member of the couple said that he and another American friend were in a protest march when it started to appear that it would turn ugly. People around them, realizing they were Americans, surrounded them—not in fury, but to protect them from any harm.

This is an image I have seen several times over in recent months. I know the neoconservative types laughed at it, but when Islamic terrorists attacked a Coptic Church, the result of thousands of everyday Egyptians was to surround the churches for Christmas services, to protect them from further attacks. When the the great Cairo museum was in danger of looting hundreds of people flocked to the museum to surround it and try to protect it. I reported already of a soldier who got in a conflict with protesters, he was disarmed and when that happened one public member sat with him, and held him to protect him from any anger.

When a group of soldiers faced the protesters issues started to escalate. One man quickly ran into the "no man's land" between the soldiers and the crowd. He held his arms to calm everyone done. And it seemed to work.

Cooper reported on some looting and asked the American couple about their neighborhood. They said that every night dozens of Egyptians gather on the street and form a private militia to protect businesses and people from any possible attacks. Cooper seemed astounded and reported that this was reported throughout the city, private individuals taking control and protecting one another. I am not surprised, I believe all true solutions come from the bottom up and these are just examples of that.

As for the anger: all the anger I see is directed primarily at Mubarak and everyone holds him responsible for the oppression they feel. Secondly, there is strong resentment that the United States has propped Mubarak up in power for decades. I've seen no mention, so far, of Israel and no indications that the bulk of protesters are concerned about Israel.

Clearly, the US, in the hopes of having a "stable" partner in the Middle East, has supported Mubarak. A protester carried a sign, clearly directly mostly at the US., "Foreign governments stop they hypocrisy support Egyptian's freedom." But stability can't come from oppression, only resentment and anger. And when that anger accumulates it is like gun powder waiting for someone or something to ignite it. Then the stability disappears. But more important, to American interests, when that stability disappears it also ushers in anger toward the US because America stood behind a dictator. Had the US not sent billions to keep Mubarak in power little anger would be directed toward the country.

The solution is simple actually but I doubt it will happen. President Obama should publicly side with the protesters and say that America wants reform and freedom for the Egyptian people and that the US thinks the time has come for Mubarak to retire. That would help diffuse some of the sentiments against the United States. The reality is that continuing to back Mubarak is to back a losing horse. His time is over. Behind the scenes the United States should make it clear that Mr. Mubarak should leave the country. Not only would this move restore some confidence in the United States it would also undercut the Islamic Brotherhood and their ilk.

The fuel that sustains the Islamists is American intervention in the Middle East. It allows them to portray themselves as friends of the people while America is portrayed as the backers of oppressive regimes. But I tell you, those repressive regimes will go one day and it is best that we be on the side of freedom, for a change.

We are only hours away from the massive marches planned for today. This can be the end of Mubarak Hundreds of thousands are gathering. Reports are that from around Cairo people have begun walking to the city, walking because the government has shut down transportation. By morning, our time, it could be all over.

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