Egyptian Crowds Reject Mubarak Speech, Pledge Massive Friday Protests

Having refused to jump, Mubarak was pushed out by the military on Friday. Was traveling, will update tonight.

The roller coaster media ride on Thursday centered on stories coming out of unnamed, highly placed Egyptian sources that President Hosni Mubarak would give a speech that evening in which he stepped down. When the time came, and Mubarak finally spoke, he did no such thing. He remained president, and only said that he was transferring some unspecified powers, at some unspecified time, to his vice president, Omar Suleiman, a former head of military intelligence allegedly implicated in torture. Most likely, Mubarak interpreted what he planned to do in his own mind as a kind of stepping down, and gave sufficiently ambiguous indications that those around him misunderstood his intentions.

The danger is that by raising expectations and then dashing them, Mubarak may have created an even more volatile revolutionary situation, which could easily deteriorate into violence and a spiral of violence.

In 1992 the Algerian generals held parliamentary elections and allowed the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), the Muslim fundamentalist party, to compete. FIS unexpectedly won more than two-thirds of seats in parliament, which would have allowed them to amend the constitution. The generals were suddenly stricken with fear at what might happen, and they abruptly declared the election null and void. Millions of FIS supporters were outraged, feeling their victory had been stolen from them. The situation deteriorated into a civil war between fundamentalists and secularists that ultimately killed perhaps 150,000 to 200,000 persons over the succeeding decade, and left Algeria to this day in a fragile political condition.

Basically, the rule in politics is that you don’t raise people’s hopes if you aren’t prepared to follow through on your pledges.

After the crowd at Tahrir Square absorbed the news that Mubarak was still president and that his gestures to them were mostly vague or symbolic, they were from all accounts angry. Some took off their shoes and showed the soles, a sign of disrespect. To their credit, the protesters mostly quietly dispersed in order to get some rest for Friday, when they were already calling for major protests.

But, some were so exercised that 3,000 headed toward the presidential palace, where they staged a demonstration. Another 10,000 headed toward the television station, which they surrounded. The symbology here was dire, since the first thing a coup-maker in the Arab world does is to send tanks to surround the television station.

In the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria, the crowds were enraged by the speech, according to Aljazeera. correspondent. Some chanted, “Hosni Mubarak, shame, shame; you want Egypt engulfed in flame!” They planned for a big procession on Friday after prayers, and smaller neighborhood rallies.

23 Responses

  1. What are the chances that Mubarak purposely raised hopes and then gave less than what he promised, but something he felt he could claim was the same thing, just to inflame the protesters and move them to violence so he would have an excuse to put down the protests with the army?

    I am not sure this wasn’t just a way to get the army to step in on the government’s side if they are in fact not doing that wholeheartedly now.

    • I’m with BG.

      Is it any coincidence that he did this Thursday night? Or is he hoping that Friday prayers will get people mad enough that they’ll do something that gives him an excuse to crack down?

  2. I think it was a carefully orchestrated attempt to create violence because as long as the protesters remain non violent there is very little he can do to silence them but if they do something violent, his statements about being the bulwark against chaos will ring true to some (Israel and the US for starters). The only thing which gives me hope is the political astuteness of the organizers so far and the poltical awareness of your average felaheen.

    • Carole, I think the events of this afternoon (it’s 5:30 Cairo time) are showing you are correct re organizers’ “astuteness” and crowds’ “awareness.” Keeping this peaceful, as Mubarak leaves town (and, hopefully, Egypt).

      Nervously, Gordon

  3. “Basically, the rule in politics is that you don’t raise people’s hopes if you aren’t prepared to follow through on your pledges.”

    My goodness. Obama should have taken heed of this. Oh, well…

  4. Maybe it’s time for a new entry in the social science catalog, “the science of ‘slack’.”

    Every society has rules and norms and laws and the exercise of power and authority. Every society, including even Switzerland and the Vatican and the Scandinavian countries, has corruption and cops who will take 50 euros/dollars/renminbi to not give you a speeding ticket. I recall reading that the most common crime in America is remodeling your house without getting permits.

    There is a necessary, tolerable amount of “slack” in the ties-that-bind-us, everywhere there are humans. I recall a science fiction story where a Puritanical mayor and council bought “police robots” programmed to bust EVERYONE who committed a crime or infraction, and uploaded every statute and regulation and ordinance into the cop-brain. Pretty soon, everyone, including the mayor who spat on a sidewalk, had been Tased, tie-wrapped, and dropped into a holding cell. Not enough “slack,” obviously, and a careful-what-you-wish-for moral to boot.

    I also recall reading a conversation between a US GI and a Vietnamese, in maybe 1969. They were discussing the US initiative to force “democracy” on the country. The GI touted the benefits of freedom, and voting every couple of years. The more pragmatic Vietnamese pointed out that his language had two adjectives to describe politicians and rulers: one translated to “full,” the other to “empty,” relating to the process whereby the “elected” reduce their demands for graft and baksheesh over time, as their fiscal bellies get stuffed. He asked the GI why a sane peasant would want to take the chance, every 2 years, of trading a set of “full” politicians for a new set of “empty” ones.

    Obviously, the present autocrats and oligarchs of many nations (our own included, I think) have passed that point of tolerable exaction of wealth and high-handed flouting of even the minimum modicum of RuleofLaw that is required to claim Legitimacy. Greed is not good or even survivable when it exceeds the tolerable quantum of “slack” that exists in any human polity.

    The kleptocrat/autocrats might benefit from retaining some Wise Economists (if there are any such creatures) and Social Scientists that advise them on how much they can steal and how predatory their demands for baksheesh can become, before they face a Tunisian Trimming or an Egyptian Flattop.

    • A lot of ‘slack’ results from one of the tricks of social control known as ‘selective enforcement.’

      A bit off-topic – though perhaps relevant as the Egyptian public have given an indication of the dedication necessary for ordinary people to effect systemic change – but a good example is the USA.

      In the USA the drug laws are on the face of it color-blind and levels of drug-taking by whites and blacks are at equal levels. However the rules are selectively enforced (whites get the slack) so that blacks are far more likely to be charged, sentenced and imprisoned.

      This has led to a New Jim Crowe of mass incarceration of black people, at far higher levels than in apartheid South Africa, so that the USA today, under Obama, is, objectively speaking an institutionally racist state and something akin to a racial caste system has been built in America.

      Michelle Alexander explains this in detail at:
      link to youtube.com

      • Good ol’ Selective Enforcement, and his brother-in-law, Prosecutorial Discretion. Yah, having been a Federal (and state) Regulator/Enforcer, I am well familiar with the whole family.

        Good link for any who are not familiar with concept or degree.

  5. Gilbert Achcar has a very good analysis of the different opposition forces present in Egypt at Zcom; it is the first time I’ve seen an indepth analysis of who is following El’Baradei and why and what are the other movements (kefaya and 6th of Aprile) (on the Muslim brotherhood, he say more or less the same as Juan Cole) :

    link to zcommunications.org

    Achkar is also comparing the situation in Egypt to that in Iran (Moussavi) and in Turkey. Really a great analysis.
    He doesn’t seem to have any confidence in the army however, increasing the fears I already had.

    After reading his essay, I’ve come in conclusion that we are actually seeing two things in Egypt :

    1) A popular uprising coming out of rage against both social conditions and the lack of freedom (which is well described by Achcar)

    2) A fight for power and for the succession of Mubarak at the head of the state and the military. It would help to have a description of the individuals and clans concerned by that power fight. One thing is clear : Mubarak’s son is out. Is Soleiman his potential successor ? isn’t he too old ? what kind of following does he have ? Is there a young guard in the army which may nevertheless side with the uprising ?

    3) What about the Americans ? who will they support ? Personnally I think that they didn’t put all their eggs in the same basket : they are slowly abandonning Mubarak and they would probably prefer an “ordently” transition. Right now they are observing and they will support the winners and put pressure on them later (through their aid money, whether for the military or for the civil society).

    If I was an Egyptian, I’d find that their arrogance (in telling the Egyptians what to do) is humiliating.

  6. Well, finally people have won in Egypt at 11 AM Friday Feb. 11, 2011 Chicago time.

    Mubarak has resigned.

    Hearty, Hearty Congratulations to all Egyptians.

  7. I just read that Mubarak has actually resigned and that Sulieman will not take power either. It seems that an Egyptain version of the Joint Chiefs of Staff are now the official ruling body.
    What I thought was kind of funny is that yahoo news portrayed the situation in which Egyptian protestors were running around shouting that they are free. I hope that when they wake up tommorrow they realize that the struggle for what type of society that Egypt will be in the future has just begun. Freedom, what ever that word means to the jubilant, is certianly not guaranteed. Let the recent history of eastern Europe be a warning to them.

  8. “Basically, the rule in politics is that you don’t raise people’s hopes if you aren’t prepared to follow through on your pledges.”

    Unless you are Israel, then the rule is that raise people’s hopes, then you don’t follow through, but you blame the other negotiating partner for the failure, and when they complain, you go to your American corporate media sock puppets and they tell stories favorable to you, then you tighten the crews on the people in your occupied territories by denying them food or water and when they commit any act of violence, you bomb the hell out them and call it fighting terrorism. That’s how you do it in Israel.

    I wonder of Mubarak is trying to do the same thing? If so, then Beck and his minions (Hannity and that other guy) need to read the script and get with Murdoch’s program. Otherwise, the people in Egypt might not know that their demands are incompatible with the plans that have been made for them.

    • This just in….Apparently someone didn’t get the memo. Mubarak has resigned. I wonder if he is knows, yet.

      So, Suleiman takes over, and Mubarak has asked the army to take control. Things will be so different, now.

      How often has there been a dance of musical dictators until some group previously ignored takes over?

  9. I have absolutely no knowledge or experience with Egypt, but I do wonder whether getting power out of the hands of an impotent old man wasn’t the *easy* part, and now getting power out of the hands of the military (and into civilian hands) won’t be the hard part?

  10. @Juan: “Mubarak [...] remained president”

    On the upside: apparently that use of the past tense will now endure :-)

    @BG: “I am not sure this wasn’t just a way to get the army to step in on the government’s side”

    On the downside: the army now *is* the government. (If it wasn’t always: hasn’t Egypt had a military regime with 3 successive heads, rather than, e.g., a “Mubarak regime”?)

    • Why do we say “stepped down,” when his first stop was what is charitably called his “estate” in Sharm el-Sheikh, there to get a briefing on where all the billions he and family have stolen are stored away?

      Common characteristic of all these SOBs: Steal really big, take it out of the country (in so many senses of the phrase), and be ready to scoot if the proles start to shoot. Just ask another one, in whom so many placed such regard and who did such lucrative business with so many others, once again drumming his chest about Nation and stealing the birthright right out from under “his people’s” noses: link to theatlantic.com

      And of course, in the same link, you get a bit of a taste of the grotesque hypocrisy these “leaders,” including quite a number of nominal Israeli Jewish versions.

      Amazing how well trained most of us are, to hew to the narrow Narrative path, looking neither left nor right, and certainly not daring to make any effort to look behind the curtain to see what those charlatans are really up to…

      • And I almost forgot — “US crude hits 10-week low after Mubarak quits.” link to reuters.com This is only one little data point, but what does it say about “business” being fearful of “doing business” with a shall we say more “liberal” set of leaders in the Oil-Rich World of Arabia?

  11. The Egyptian newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm reported:

    A group of Tahrir Square protesters on Thursday called on the Iranian people to revolt against the Iranian Islamic dictatorship.

    A group of leaders of Iran’s “Green Revolution” against the Islamic Revolution called for the organization of a demonstration in solidarity with the Egyptian protesters less than a week after comments were made by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei calling on the Egyptian army to intervene and overthrow the regime of President Hosni Mubarak.

    In a statement, the Egyptian protesters said, “O Great Egyptians, O sons of the ancient Egyptian civilization, which spread light throughout the world, outsiders are trying to steal your revolution.”

    The statement went on to say, “Khamenei and his follower [the leader of Hezbollah] Hassan Nasrallah came out to drive a wedge in the nation’s fabric by talking about an Islamic revolution in an attempt to eliminate our Coptic brothers for our revolution.”

    “The great Egyptian people understand these nefarious aims to spread chaos and discord throughout Egypt and its people who carried out the most magnificent and honorable revolution in history and we will not give such people the opportunity to hijack our revolution which will continue until we achieve complete democracy .”

    link to almasryalyoum.com

  12. May the Egyptians have many days coming that feel as nice for them as this one does. May their military also help them to build a FREE, progressiv­e and peaceful society they’re ALL proud of.

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