We raise our glass to the Egyptian people. In the end Mubarak propelled them to irresistible fury with his dotty broadcast on Thursday. It seems that for some years now he’s been drifting in and out of senile dementia, same way Reagan did in his second term. The plan had been to run his son Gamal in the last elections, but that turned out to be a non-starter so they rolled the semi-gaga Hosni out one more time and fixed the results, ringingly endorsed by the US. On Thursday morning Mubarak probably told Suleiman and the US that he was going to quit, then forgot and, braced by a supportive call from the Israelis and a pledge by the Saudis to give him $1.4 billion if the US withheld it, announced that he would be around till September.
The talk about the US calling all the shots, including a final peremptory injunction to the Army chiefs to dump Mubarak is surely off the mark, part of a tendency to deprecate any notion that the Empire has hit a bump in the road and is in total control. Most of the time the current executives of Empire have been panting along, trying to stay abreast of events.
Obama’s call for “clarity” on the part of Mubarak on Thursday didn’t do it. Phone calls from the Defense Department and Langley and the National Security Council didn’t do it.
The brave Egyptian demonstrators did it. Conscripts ready to mutiny if ordered to fire on the crowds did it. Immensely courageous Egyptian union organizers active for years did it. Look at the numbers of striking workers enumerated by Esam al-Amin on this site today. This was close to a general strike. It reminds me of France, its economy paralysed in the uprising in the spring of 1968. That was when President de Gaulle, displaying a good deal more energy and sang-froid that Mubarak, flew to meetings with senor French military commanders to get pledges of loyalty and received requisite assurance.
And next for Egypt? These chapters are unwritten, but the world is bracingly different this week than what it was a month ago. The rulers of Yemen, Jordan and Algeria know that. Rulers and tyrants everywhere know that. They know bad news when they see it, same way we know good news when we hear its welcome knock on the door of history.
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