Get him a visa
- Chant heard on Tahrir Square
Anybody believing that Washington's "orderly transition" led by Vice President
Omar Suleiman (aka Sheikh al-Torture, according to protesters and human-rights
activists) could satisfy Egyptian popular will believes Adolf Hitler or Joseph
Stalin could have gotten away with a facelift.
The young, urban masses in Egypt fighting for bread, freedom, democracy,
Internet, jobs and a decent future - as well as their
counterparts across the Arab world, two-thirds of the overall population - see
right through it.
Real "change we can believe in" (the Egyptian version) means not only getting
rid of the dictator of 30 years but of his torturer-in-chief, who happens to be
so far a key interlocutor of Washington, Tel Aviv and European capitals, and a
key exponent of a regime rotten to the core, dependent on pitiless exploitation
of its own citizens, and receiver of US aid to pursue agendas virtually no one
would vote for in the Arab world.
"Orderly transition" may also be regarded as a ghastly euphemism for sitting on
the fence - way distinct from an explicit call for democracy. The White House
has morphed into a succession of white pretzels trying to salvage the concept.
But the fact is that as much as Pharaoh Mubarak is a slave to US foreign
policy, US President Barack Obama is boxed in by geopolitical imperatives and
enormous corporate interests he cannot even dream of upsetting.
A crash course on 'stability'
To cut to the chase; it's all about oil and Israel. That's the essence of
Washington's foreign policy for the past six decades as far as the Middle East,
Arabs and the Muslim world at large are concerned. This has implied coddling an
array of dictators and assorted autocracies, and sprinkling their countries
with military bases. A crucial example - the story on how the US Central
Intelligence Agency (CIA) brought down democracy in Iran in 1953. 
Geostrategically, the code word for this state of things is "stability".
Egypt plays out a very special strategic role. This is how Obama himself
spelled out the strategic value of Hosni Mubarak and his regime when he went to
Cairo in June 2009 to deliver his freedom message to the Arab world; "He has
been a stalwart ally in many respects to the United States. He has sustained
peace with Israel which is a very difficult thing to do in that region."
So as one of the pillars of the "cold peace" with Israel, Egypt is a paradigm.
It's a bipartisan phenomenon, in US terms; Republicans and Democrats see it the
same way. There's the Suez Canal, through which flows 1.8 million barrels of
crude a day. But "partner with Israel" in the 1979 Camp David accords is what
explains all the billions of dollars showered on the Egyptian military and the
three decades of unconditional support to the corrupt Mubarak military
dictatorship (and make no mistake, the US implication in that vast shop of
horrors is all documented in the vaults of the regime). On a parallel track,
"stability" also translates as a lousy quality of life for virtually the
totality of Egyptians; democratic rights of local populations are always
secondary to geostrategic considerations.
The dominant geostrategic status quo in the Middle East, that is that is the
Washington/Tel Aviv axis, has hypnotized Western public opinion to accept the
myth that Arab democracy = Islamic fundamentalism, disregarding how all
attempts of popular rebellion in the Arab world over the past decades have been
squashed. The Israeli government goes beyond this equation; for Tel Aviv it's
Islamic fundamentalism = terrorism, ergo, Arab democracy = terrorism. Under
this framework, Mubarakism is an essential ally more than ever.
It's me or chaos
Yet the fact that former president Anwar Sadat made a deal with Israel in 1979
in exchange of precious gifts from the US - a system perpetuated under Mubarak
- does not mean that Egypt and Israel engage in French-kissing.
Take for example Egyptian state TV insistently spreading the blatant lie of
Israeli spies in the streets of Cairo disguised as Western journalists; that
led to concerted, terrifying attacks not only on foreign journalists but on
Egyptians working with them. And, believe it or not, Mubarakism had the gall to
include the Israeli Mossad, along with the US, plus Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas
as co-participants in a huge conspiracy to overthrow it.
This happens while in fact it was the Jihad Amn-Ad-Dawlah ("The Security of the
State Apparatus") - the most sinister of the state security agencies, a
counter-terrorism unit with extremely close ties with the CIA, the Federal
Bureau of Investigation and Mossad - that unleashed its goon squads over the
protesters and foreign media alike, funded by the billionaire cronies of
Mubarak's son Gamal (who has not fled to London after all).
To add to the perversity, Mubarak then says he's "fed up" and wants to quit but
can't because otherwise there will be chaos - the chaos the regime's own goons
provoked; meanwhile his number two, Suleiman, blames the Muslim Brotherhood for
As much as the revolution threatens the political survival of an entire ruling
class in Egypt - including the current military junta of Suleiman, Prime
Minister Ahmed Shafiq, Defense Minister Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi and
Lieutenant General Sami Annan, chief of staff of the army - the new young
actors, because they are an expression of local communities, are not
manipulated by foreign powers. These are new, more autonomous, more
unpredictable, more self-respecting actors. Another factor to scare the US
What's most extraordinary is that as these new actors emerging in the Maghreb,
Mashrek and Middle East directly collide with the Israeli obsession in keeping
the extremely unbalanced status quo (which includes the genocide in slow motion
of Palestine), they provoke a major strategic clash between US interests and
The Obama administration had understood that the absolutely crucial issue to be
solved was the Palestinian tragedy. Now the administration is absolutely
helpless to deal with an Israel under the acute paranoia of being encircled by
"hostile" forces; Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza, an ever more assertive
mildly Islamist Turkey, a "nuclear" Iran, an Egypt dominated by the Muslim
Truth will set you free - maybe
"But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things:
the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed,
confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice,
government that is transparent and doesn't steal from the people, the freedom
to live as you choose. These are not just American ideas. They are human
rights. And that is why we will support them everywhere."
This was Obama in Cairo in 2009. Is America really supporting these rights now
that Egyptians are willing to die for them?
As much as Obama went to Cairo to "sell" the case for democracy (and one may
say he's succeeded), one may bet that the Washington establishment will do all
it can to try to "damage control" really democratic elections in Egypt. The
financial markets and Machiavellian politicians (and we're not even considering
rabid rightwingers) are almost praying for the Brotherhood to become an
alternative reality so they can finally legitimate the concept of an Egyptian
military dictatorship forever.
It escapes them that the real actors in Egypt, the urban, middle class masses -
the people peacefully protesting in Tahrir square - know very well that
fundamentalist Islam is not the solution.
The two top mass organizations in Egypt are the Brotherhood and the Christian
Coptic church - both persecuted by the Mubarak regime. But it's new movements
that will be crucial in the future, such as the young labor activists of April
6, associations of white and blue collar workers, as well as the New Wafd
Party, a revival of the party that dominated Egypt from the 1920s to the 1950s,
when the country had real parliamentary elections and real prime ministers.
The Brotherhood hardly would get more than 30% of the votes in a free and fair
election (and they are firm believers in parliamentary democracy). They are not
hegemonic, and definitely not the face of the new Egypt. In fact there's a
strong possibility they would evolve to become similar to the AKP (Justice and
Development Party) in Turkey. Moreover, according to a recent Pew poll, 59% of
Egyptians want parliamentary democracy, and 60% are against religious
Egypt essentially makes money out of tourism, tolls in the Suez Canal,
manufacture and agricultural exports, and aid (mostly military) such as the
annual $1.5 billion from the US. It badly needs to import grain (the reason
behind increasing food prices, one of the key reasons for the protests). All of
this spells out a dependency on the outside world. The Egyptian souq (the
bazaar), with a large Coptic Christian community, totally depends on foreign
It's fair to imagine a really representative, democratic government in Egypt
would inevitably open the Gaza border and de facto liberate hundreds of
thousands of Palestinians. And that those Palestinians, fully supported by
their neighbors in Egypt, Lebanon and Syria in the fight for their legitimate
rights, would turn the "stability" of the region upside down.
So it boils down to the same old song. For bipartisan Washington, there are
"good" democracies (those that keep serving US strategic interests) and "bad"
democracies which vote "wrong" (such as in Gaza, or in a future Egypt, against
This is the dirty secret of the "orderly transition" in Egypt - which implies
Washington only meekly condemning the bloody Mubarakism wave of repression of
protesters and international media. That's considered OK - as long as the
military dictatorship remains in place and the glacial status quo is
maintained. Moreover, sacrosanct Israel came out swinging praising Mubarak;
this also means Tel Aviv will do everything to "veto" Mohamed ElBaradei as an
You're talking to me?
Washington after all bought Egypt and its army. Suleiman works for Washington,
not Cairo. That's another meaning of "stability".
Washington never really cared about Egypt's martial law, the crushing of labor
demands, the human rights abuses, not to mention the high unemployment among
the young, and college graduates barely surviving under a mega-corrupted
system. Over the years, "stability" literally killed a Nile of labor activists,
young idealists, human rights workers and progressive democrats.
In a sane world - and if Obama had the will - the White House would back people
power unconditionally. One can imagine, in terms of improving the US's image,
what a roaring success that would be.
For starters, it would instantly erase the perception in the Arab street that
Mubarak's Frankenstein response - totally ignoring Obama - shows how the
dictator believes he can get away with it. One more instance of US irrelevance
in the Middle East - the tail wagging the dog.
Shameless self-aggrandizing Mubarak must have thought; if Israeli Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can publicly humiliate Obama, why not me?
The Arab street is very much aware how the Mubarak system was bribed to send
natural gas to Israel at ridiculous prices; how it enforces the blockade
against civilians in Gaza; and how, bribed by the US, it acts as Israel's
bouncer. Netanyahu stealing Palestinian land or starving Gaza to death, and
Mubarak using billions in US military aid to crush people power - this is all
seen by the Arab street as supported by Washington. And then clueless US
rightwingers carp on "why do they hate us".
Obama saying to Mubarak "now" means "now" - and meaning not only himself but
the whole gang in uniform - would alienate the hyper-powerful Zio-con lobby.
Not such a bad deal, considering that after all the oil is in Arab lands, which
double as the crux of Middle East politics. But that won't happen. "Orderly
transition"? Beware of what you wish for.