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The plot thickens

By Michael J. Smith on Wednesday February 2, 2011 06:05 PM

Mubarak's foolish gestures -- the appointment of Suleiman, the promise not to "run" again -- have entirely failed to pacify the crowds in Cairo. It appears that the last-ditchers in the regime have rallied round him and decided to try repression, rather than attempting the experiment of bundling La Vache's sorry ass onto an airplane.

It's hard to see why; business as usual could quite easily go on without Mubarak, surely, if only those pesky people in the street would just go home. And maybe they would go home, if Mubarak retired to Jiddah -- or Kiryat Shemona.

But for whatever reason, the decision to repress has clearly been taken. Hence the flying squads of goons and cops -- sorry for the tautology -- unleashed against the demonstrators today.

Looks like a hinge of fate to me. The possibility of pacifying the crowds, after today, looks a lot more remote, even if Mubarak did take off. The regime has committed itself to a trial of force.

What happens next, it seems, crucially depends on the army, which stayed on the fence today -- though many of the protestors felt very strongly that the troops should have intervened against the goons; further fence-sitting could easily erode the army's reportedly considerable prestige among the public.

No doubt the high command is thoroughly compromised, thoroughly Mubarak-ite, thoroughly dependent on Uncle Hegemon's billions to line its collective pockets. If they were all on the same page and determined to ditch Mubarak, he would have been gone long since. Evidently they're not, then.

What about the colonels, the majors, the captains? The troops themselves are out on the street in their tanks and APCs , in actual contact with the demonstrators. They must be experiencing some seriously conflicted loyalties.

How far up the chain of command do those conflicts percolate?

Damn. I wish I knew more about Egypt.

Comments (52)

Paul Alexander:

I think the military has shown they could care less if Mubarak sticks around. I also believe that although the US definitely has a tremendous amount of influence on events, they are not necessarily calling the shots there. Mubarak has been in power for 30 years, I'm sure that in that time he's developed a network of actual supporters and followers in positions of importance and they aren't too keen on someone else coming in and giving them the boot or worse. The struggle here isn't going to be determined by a phone call from Washington. And I don't think at this point that Mubarak and his cronies necessarily see it like everyone else sees it. The military hasn't come down on either side. The protests, although large and vociferous, haven't exactly been particularly threatening in a violent manner. And people who are used to getting their way are much more inclined to convince themselves that things are actually beginning to go their way. I would not be surprised if Mubarak feels he could possibly just wait this thing out.


It would set a dangerous precedent to allow the people to evict their master.


The time for catalonian highs is over
Convert the barracks or be crushed

My take on the run of the goons
If the military has pledged not to intervene
How can you make demonstrations risky?

The opportunity created by a pre text of chaos
Isn't necessary if you know the military will step in
Seems the die hards aren't willing to find out yet

There is a great danger in gooney


As the shape of the die hard response tries to morph toward the Iranian model of '09 the uncle Olympians face only one option
Get the laughing cow out of there

Though an aristide type Scoop out seems beyond the pale

One remembers diem killed by another magical regime


My guess is that the Egyptian army is receiving all of its orders directly from the State Department, and probably has been from fairly early on.

I think that they realize that there are limits on how the army can be used, or else they already would have set it against the protesters. As it stands, I don't see any part of the army taking up the side of the protesters and breaking the chain of command.
It's only if they order the army to attack the protesters would you see dissension in the ranks. They're not doing that, probably for that reason, rather than humanitarian concerns. It seems that the US would want to preserve the army and the oil pipeline above all else. As long as the army stays intact the US is probably still in control. As long as they don't test the army, they can probably keep it intact, ergo the army stays "neutral".


While uncle 's at it
He may need to take out the entire mubby clique
Including some generals
How far down the military officer corps ranks must the coup be built ?

Majors and Captains

But only the military officer corps at some level blowing off
the mubarak top echelon
Can both save uncle's position
And have a chance to quiet the people

The military itself must be dissolved into the uprising
From the bottom up

Calls to protract the people ought ring out
Face to face


Fb what are you translating me now into English

Of course I agree completely.
So long as you mean by military the officer corps
When will uncle direct some big Minh to move on the cow ?


I'm violating my pledge to limit myself to two comments
This topic seems worthy of it's own rules

The chance of dissolving the military I agree with fb
Not gonna happen so long as the faith of the people seems intact
The best shot is to implore the military to choose
Is it us the people of egypt or Mubarak
There is no neutrality in patriotism


Time for martyrs

Well, I just got in contact with my cousin in Saudi Arabia and an Egyptian dissident who has been holed up in the States for a decade.

I hope to be able to persuade them to (a) translate Arabic (b) and give a better account of Egyptian angles and dynamics we Americans might not understand. My cousin's going to be in the States soon, so perhaps she'll be able to make sense of what she knows.

I'll offer it up if it's of sufficient volume and quality, MJS.


the thing about this situation is that the choice is usually forced on the military. They have to pick a horse at some point.

But in this case where is the impetus to choose a side when the army has financial and political backing from an outside entity, the US. They can just wait it out

As far as the lower ranks turning, I wouldn't count on it. That's probably summary execution on the spot, and if the order doesn't come from up high, then the first regiment to turn would have to reckon with the rest of the army. You would need at least some high level officers to turn


Fb uncle wants mubee out and his clique too

The general staff simply has to find the nucleus and the sand to act
An actual violent over throw with maybe a dead mubby
Will look authentic
And the promise of real change have an authentic ring

At this point a voluntary mubby out would look too uncle ish


"At this point a voluntary mubby out would look too uncle ish"

You think? That's what I'm expecting (basically the same as Tunisia), rather than a military coup.


What the experts know is now worthless
History might write a new story here
Each day or two so far has topped the last
The uprising has renewed itself
We may have a pause but then the new will be required again
Of the people uprising

What is there to know only fools figure odds and pathways
at this point

This may not be merely Egyptian history here
But world history
I see a possible moment like 1848
Then It was continental Europe
now the Arab world

So far all the non oil Arab states save Syria morocco
Have seen upheaval
More then half of the Arab world is in motion

Yes we have a floating hegemon that makes England circa 1848
Look exceeding slight
In uncle two fists
But uncle
as you said is a pitiful giant when facing the people. On their feet

Look small


The voluntary involuntary flight
Without the rest of his boys might serve better ...if doable
But only if you aren't convinced the people have staying power
I don 't know of course but I think they do have that staying power
If I was. The cir I'd encourage
A total top tier wipe out
Hoping that might seem real enough
If on the other hand producing more heads to the people and after mubby there will be more heads demanded including the heads of regime connected generals
Only emboldens the people
And demoralize the captains and below


That is producing the heads by the ones and twos over a period of continued
Popular arrousal as if on demand
Is folly
Take em all out at once
And hope for the best
When an unknown junta of colonels and majors emerges as the gallant champions of the people


"A total top tier wipe out
Hoping that might seem real enough"

I think that's most likely,but that they allow all the military brass to stay. I imagine that they are quite pliant and not very loyal to Mubarak


"When an unknown junta of colonels and majors emerges as the gallant champions of the people "

That's the part I don't expect. They probably want to keep the army just where it is. I think some sort of provisional government under ElBaradei and then elections is most likely.

all idle speculation, of course...


The fait of generals is indeed one of the pivots here

Kill one get one free might unsettle uncle indeed

But even the military must appear to clean house

A few old generals ...no 73 war heroes of course
Need the long knife here

It's all for an occidental friendly Egypt with a wealthy set of foreign sponsors


The appointment of a civilian transitional gub
Is a secondary matter
I agree el boob a die
Fits nicely into the slot
And elections most assuredly must be promised
And far sooner then next fall
I hardly see elections as much of a threat to the compradore elite
If it has uncle's money behind it and the arab oilers money of course

The Hamas
ham string in gaza
is a nice chip to cash in either way


Again we have to try to figure out what range the people have without
A revolution
I think quite a lot
Repression really looks off the table ...err...as mjs would say
From here at least
As to The revolution erupting
Like the second coming only devilish false prophets predict that


As if on cue, it sounds like the army may be getting involved in the square

oh well, I suppose that's what I get for speculating


If el boob I'd eye
Is appointed by a regime that has merely flushed mubby
Well he won't operate as an effective enough cover to send the masses home

Some thing bloody is necessary in that sense moooby has done the coup plotters a great service by not leaving voluntarily

This may not be merely Egyptian history here
But world history
Yep. I have to admit, the phrase "ten days that shook the world" is floating, blasphemously no doubt, through my head.

fb what is this about changes in the square ??


There's a lot of gunfire right now, and aljazeera was reporting that one of the tanks was driving towards the mubarak supporters while firing in the air... that was it though. Now they don't seem to be doing anything

Gun battle in the Square, now. Pro-Mubarak police have seized one of the bridges, and are now firing down into the crowd.

AJE switches between reporting these as gun battles, and repeated reports that the revolutionaries are unarmed, against the plainclothes cops.

AJE just reported all the tanks have now left Liberation SQ. None left.


Much confusion. But the Battle of the 6th October Bridge deserves its Homer. Apparently at one point the unarmed protestors stormed the bridge and drove the heavily-armed goons off it. The goons seem to be back now. There was so much gunfire on Al-J's soundtrack a few minutes ago you could hardly hear the newsreaders.


JC -- Tanks gone is a very bad sign. Life's little ironies.


hey fb we're all just thinking out load here

crow thanx for the up dates

i put no weight
on the military brass calling on state tv
for the people to go home
after the mooby moment tuesday night
a pro forma move
of course the brass isn't going on state tv and calling for more demos
they remain steadfastly neutral

if ....if ...the miitary is leaving the square
i suspect its to avoid the crack down ahead no standing there arms folded as it gets really really ugly ...omorrow ???

the monday blanket pledge may be a bit
too confining
if indeed the people believe
the military enough
to take em at their word

that monday pledge effectively left
the streets to a slug out between
mooby's security forces and the people

this run of the goons
and sundry special police hooliganism
was a probe obviously
part of a plan independent of military moves

not co ordinated with them

if the military has info
that the security forces are going to double down on the square
why aren't they willing to pre empt that

i'd say
because as mjs suggests they are still divided
or at least un prepared to sieze power from the M squadron

mjs i think implies in his post
the liberal wish bone has snapped

" The possibility of pacifying the crowds, after today, looks a lot more remote, even if Mubarak did take off. The regime has committed itself to a trial of force. "

but has the military itself committed to a trial by force

i say no

the security forces alone could probably retake
the square

but the class war here
is one of maneuver anyway

the people can simply generate
too many new points of struggle

the riot police can be diverted or spread too thin or or ...
the people united can never be defeated

unfortunately they are so rarely united that ...

the danger with symbolic stands in one place
like the lib square
is the ease of mobilizing security forces
to crush it

numbers are best used to thin out the security forces
set a thousand squares apoppin'
so many tasks ..
the state tv must be knocked out
and the railroads must be liberated

oh the pain the pain

--one hears mjs's distant descendent
doctor smith saying this eh ---

only an anarchist could think spontaneity
with a dash of ad hoc inter group solidarity can win a protracted struggle like this

again the military ranks must dissolve
for a revolution
and the military officers must fear this disolution if real reforms are to emerge
in either event calling on the military to join the people must go from boot pair to boot pair tank to tank barrack to barrack
if the enlisted are kept isolated there is little change
there has to at least appear to be a fraternal
mood between trooperrs and protestors
convincing enough to stay the hand of the military

if the riot police crack down
and clear the square
--in the end do they have any choice ??...its clear the square or abdicate for mooby
he has some time but not much

if during the crack down lood flows handsomely
it will be a disaster for the regime

nope without the military actively
on the regimes side
the struggle has not written
its climactic chapter
and i think mooby's inner circle has to see all this

i can imagine mooby suggesting to the independent generals
--uncles friends perhaps ---

"look guys call for a popular stand down
at least you can do that for me
give it a shot "


Interviewee on al-J: "We can't stop now. If we stop they will hunt us one by one."


Agreed. I don't know enough about the specifics of the Egyptian military's interaction with the populace to see clearly, but I can speculate that the noncoms and grunts being severely underpaid conscripts makes them ripe for turning, with the right organization and conditions.

On the other hand, there are, IIRC, 1.5 million federal police - and they number about four times more than the members of the army and 3 times the combined total of the armed services.

So their advantage doesn't come from numbers so much as possession of American and western supplied weaponry and training.

And that's the rub, I think. The military is dependent on the US in ways that the civil society is not.


Jack -- The army is a force to reckon with, in the big picture. The cops not, I think. They're not soldiers -- they're just paid bullies, who enjoy wielding the nightstick and the gun against people who wield neither. They tend to evaporate when the going gets tough. Army's a different story -- it's really their life. But then they didn't sign up to fire on their own cousins and brothers.


Do they turn? It won't be enough for a unit or two to flip sides, and turn those American made weapons on Mubarak's officers. That's just self-isolating and probably a quick ticket to the firing squad.

Damn. I'm not really fond of the media term, "fluid," but the Egyptian situation actually merits the use.

It is heartening, all the same, to learn that there have been coordinating cadres from the beginning, running communications through several clearing houses. And that they've been working with groups in Alexandria and Suez to shut down factories, and keep the in-country information channels open. Explains how some of the so-called "spontaneous" actions seemed so coordinated. Because they apparently were.



"Tony Blair has described Hosni Mubarak, the beleaguered Egyptian leader, as "immensely courageous and a force for good" and warned against a rush to elections that could bring the Muslim Brotherhood to power."


"he army"
indeed and they remain intact
there isn't even any reports of one off interventions despite the obviously lopsided nature of some confrontations
firing into the air
only reinforces their obviously "order" passivity

"The cops ..'re just paid bullies, who enjoy wielding the nightstick and the gun against people who wield neither."
but long practiced in this sort of street scrap
they are armed and if their orders morph from
beat em up to kill em ....

"they tend to evaporate when the going gets tough."

"Who's gonna make it that tough for em ??"

i agree they aren't a srtaegic barrier to popular
the huge number is really mostly as you say
thugs on the payroll
like ringo's boys in teheran

but if the rioot police can concentrate their forces they can defeat any crowd like the romans defeated vastly larger numbers of raging brits

again these guys have done this for years no force is probably better prepared for this set to

but they can't win so long as the people keep coming at em from everywhere

the sort of co ordination that sufficed for
the first phase of the struggle won't suffice now
keeping in touch isn't gonna cut it

the rebels need to combine independent units with a very compact central command
that has a secongd and third stand by central command else where

scatter converge scatter

and hit three places simultaneously
too far apart to be policed with
minimal units
but able to call in adequate reinforcements

attack attack attack
of course none of this is respectable demonstrating
and can easily be branded


as the work of fanatics criminals etc
giving the generals the green light to "intervene"

thus might it escalate to urban guerrilla warfare
the army is poorly equiped for that


"We are not leaving this place. There are only two options for the world: Either they stick to mubarak and his regime and we lose thousands of people in this square and it goes from Liberation Square to Massacre Square. Or, they say no to mubarak’s regime and give people here a chance at a real life."

this is not good talk...

first the we aren't leaving is silly bravura
martyr talk at best

the appeal one has to assume if its rational
must be to barry and the cia

not allies not the 7th cavalry

too many catalonian highs are getting smashed here

this woodstock's euphoria just morphed
into its own altamont on its way to kent state and jackson state

what is she expecting tomorrow ..??

exposing this sort of starry eyed
humanist person
to a thug onslaught with kill orders
strikes me as grotesque
but such is the case and always the case


Another interviewee was asked whether he was glad or sorry to see the Army show up. This is roughly transcribed from unreliable memory: "At first I was glad to see them, I felt more safe. Now, I don't know."


Does anyone know if the ordinary Egyptian soldier/sailor is a conscript?


Yeah they have mandatory military service


That's encouraging.


On Saturday, April 14, 1979, hundreds of Monrovians turned out to protest. The government had called out both the Military and the Police to turn back the demonstrators. The soldiers stood on the sidelines and watched, refusing to fire into the crowds, the police confronted the demonstrators. Shots were fired, some people got killed... Soldiers fired over the crowd, police into it.

In that case, this difference between police and military made the difference, very much helped determine outcome.


OP: I really wish you would limit yourself to two replies. Perhaps it might improve the signal to noise ratio.


Noise is the sign of victory


I'm ok with OP gushing over this event. We all are. Just don't describe a real revolutionary's call to action as "silly bravura".

C'mon now, senecal - arm chair Bolshies know far more than flesh and blood revolutionaries. They're the imaginary masters of a thousand illusionary revolts, paternally caring for the masses from afar, dispensing gnomic solonisms...


I never gush I blabbering
Calling her a revolutionary...... That's gushing

This is not a matter of ideology
It's a matter of attitude this is the attitude of a martyr
Back in the high 60's that distinction was clear

Candle light marches calling for an end to racism
That headed into south Boston .....that was martyrdom
I was around an outfit that thrived on using the martyr reflex
In fellow travelers and secondary members
To increase the outfits press exposure

There will be all too many unwilling martyrs without fabricating a cult of martyrdom
Last stands ought to be forced on you not contrived
Alamo complex is for the devils army


The battle for liberation square is part of world history
it is for all time now

The fighters are heros to stand in the first rank

A true battle in heaven
Won by the forces of light


What is at stake here is obvious
But you don't intentionally man a focal point like the square with martyrs

Shifting gears requires a whole re assessment of strategy
Once the uprising faced the ride of the goons
It's no longer a non violent movement it can't be
The shrewd concern with peaceful actions
Is now folly
Trusting in the military a severe risk

The mlk mind set ...this gal's mind set
Is as bad as adventurism

The great Al once wrote to me about general marches
Designed to be peaceful
Violated by nihilists with a Johnson for action

That puts people at risk that marched under the assumption any violation of non violence and non destruction if it came at all
Would be the work of cops and their agents

Not co marchers

Equivalent here
Get the non fighters out of the square if another show down is expected

It seems the focus of struggle is now headed toward the presidents palace
This should be prepared with huge care
Throwing a lot of folks like this bird like soul into the teth of the security forces would be a crime against humanity


Beg to differ, OP. Silly bravura, intemperate statement, is part of the rhetoric of protest everywhere. I notice that no one was misled into martydrom by her words. But my point was simply, how can we know, over here, what's intemperate there, and what kind of speech or action is necessary at the moment to keep the movement going?

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