Well, I'm all moved in to my new apartment, and as expected, my time off from the blog was aptly marked by a shit storm of activity from around the world.
As I listened to NPR on the way to work yesterday, a reporter spoke to one of the protesters in Tahrir square, the epicenter of Egyptian protests in Cairo. The simple fact that this reporter ventured out into the throng is quite impressive. The last few days, the mob has turned on journalists, mugging and beating them. Some experts say they have found evidence that links these incidents to the Interior Ministry of Egypt, an attempt to silence the news of spreading dissent.
Despite this, the NPR reporter seemed to have found a relatively quiet corner where two men sat, breaking from the intense protests of the past week. In broken English, marked by a tired yet defiant air, one of the men said simply, "if you want something, do something."
What a concept.
Egypt is the focus of most international media at the moment, while President Mubarak stands his ground amidst the perfect storm. With Tunisia as a clear catalyst for the Egyptian protests, many other countries in the Middle East brace themselves and eye their constituents with cautious distrust. King Abdullah II of Jordan fired his entire cabinet in a pre-emptive attack against public uprising. The tension in the air is tangible.
Tunisia may be the catalyst but Egypt has been stewing in a pot ripe for revolution for quite some time. Mubarak has been president of Egypt for 30 years, and in that time, little political reform has forged ahead. Regardless of the name, Egypt is in practice, a dictatorship. Corruption from the top to the bottom rungs of government is apparent. With it's explosive population increase, Egypt has been suffering from widespread poverty and high unemployment for years.
Through repressive methods, Mubarak has been able to stifle much of the social and fundamentalist Islamic groups, calling for his resignation. No longer. His main nemesis in that category, the Islamic Brotherhood, is now stepping up as main orchestrator's of protests and demands for his removal.
Yesterday, Egyptian authorities announced a meeting with key members of the Muslim Brotherhood in a thinly veiled attempt, many critics believe, to get them off the streets where they continue to sew seeds of revolution. This makes us pretty damn nervous as well. The Muslim Brotherhood is no friend to the US. On their global website (globalmbreport.org), they remark on comments made a prominent Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood spokesman who said that if President Mubarak is replaced, a referendum will be held to decide the fate of the 1979 peace treat with Israel...awkward for us...here's why.
Egypt is a strong ally in our war on terror, not to mention their continued support, allowing passage through their air space as well as the Suez canal, a critical route to both Afghanistan and Iraq. They've also been instrumental in army training, giving us land to efficiently practice desert combat on...not that that seems to have helped much, but it's the thought that counts.
Then there's the economic factor. Another reporter commented on the cans of tear gas left in the streets, all with the arrogantly proud stamp "Made in the USA." The fighter jets flying over head, manufactured in the US. According to Business Week (businessweek.com), the military ties began during the "1979 Israeli-Egyptian peace agreement and has grown to $1.3 billion in assistance that includes weapons sales, training and joint missions."
That's a lot of dollars and cents in the hands of the fed up masses, particularly when the fed up masses may soon be looking to the Muslim Brotherhood for answers.
The US has a strict policy against negotiations with the Muslim Brotherhood, but what if they end up being custodians of Egypt's government? Again...awkward for us...
So, what do we do? Side with them without really siding with them.
The Senate unanimously (holy shit, they can agree on something!) signed off on a resolution to "immediately begin an orderly and peaceful transition to a democratic political system, including the transfer of power to an inclusive interim caretaker government, in coordination with leaders from Egypt's opposition, civil society, and military, to enact the necessary reforms to hold free, fair, and internationally credible elections this year."
Clearly the Senate didn't get the memo that the opposition includes the previously oppressed fundamentalist factions who hate us more than fat kids hate fat camp. We're not just dealing with freedom loving secularly educated citizens here. Furthermore, the military is rank with corruption. Many of the bones picked had to do with law enforcement and military flaunting their power and guns without cause.
What a surprise - we pick a side based on one fact alone: who has the most power and will hopefully appreciate our vague support in the future?
We may have short term memory loss when it comes to these things but I don't think the rest of the world does.
For example, in 2009, when Mubarak visited the White House, there was nothing but honey soaked praise dripping from both President's lips. From a Huffington Post article dated 8/18/09, "Obama thanked his Egyptian counterpart for joining him in trying to construct a deal that has eluded world leaders for more than six decades [Palestinian/Israeli Peace]."
First of all, fucking really? I will never understand why much of the world hypocritically cries out for peace between Israel and Palestine while strategically and economically supporting only Israel.
However, I also don't understand how we can lean on Mubarak and his US friendly government for our needs and now insist he get the fuck out of office and let his country work itself out.
Chances are strong that the new government will crave a more autonomous rule than we would like them to have. We want to get in there, move some cards around, stuff some cash into key players' pockets while smiling for the cameras and shallowly discussing world peace.
As my earlier post on the failing war on terror, the people are angry. The people in the Middle East don't appreciate our particular brand of "Uncle Sam knows best" politics.
I don't think they'll buy into our sudden support and condemnation of a man who only a few days ago was considered a friend and ally in the war on terror.
And just as an aside, a philosophical musing, if you will...
What would the world say if it were us out there? What would our president do if suddenly millions of Americans took to the streets, organized in a mass revolution against, well, the same things really: unemployment, corruption, dwindling rights, poverty, with the added issues of two un-winnable wars, a broken economy, a fucked infrastructure and no accountability for the wrong doers?
Oh shit, looks like we have quite a list of grievances...but not to worry corporate America, not to worry. We won't mobilize into a tangible protest against your stranglehold on our souls and livelihood. After all, if you want something, do something. And I guess we don't want it bad enough.