Politicalmonkey2010

The Truth Shall Set You Free…It might piss you off first, but it will set you free.

Posts Tagged ‘egypt’

Egypt – What Happened?! Symptomatic of the World

Posted by politicalmonkey2010 on October 11, 2011

We have all watched in horror and dismay the events in Cairo the past two days as the Coptic Christians clashed with security forces on the street leaving at least 25 dead, and over 330 injured.  As this country takes it steps towards democracy, the birthing pains are being felt on the street.  I do not think it is adding sensationalism to say that the world is in a state of flux, we see it on the national level, and right down to the small micro-systems we each operate in.  Egypt is no different, this is a complicated country, multi layered social fabric, and in the middle of  re-inventing itself.  I do not have any answers as to what happened, but it is important that all the components be factored into the events in Egypt and the larger ramifications.

The Media

If you want to look to the local media for the story and you want facts good luck.  The media for the past 30 years had been controlled tightly by the Mubarak regime.  During the revolution I remember watching Nile News, there were literally 1,000’s of people outside their studio and they were talking about the Valley of the Kings and tourism.  With the toppling of Mubarak a new door was opened – journalism, or at least the idea of reporting a different narrative than what the state wanted to provide.  The only problem is the idea of fact checking, canons of journalism, ethics and responsibility in reporting haven’t quite caught on – sensationalism, and promoting a specific agenda are alive and well.   This is no different than what we have in the US – i.e. Fox News where thinly disguised “opinions” are presented as facts.  There is a mentality that we have been conditioned to that says – if I saw it on TV it MUST be true.  This mentality has also moved over to social media, it was tweeted out so it must be true.  We have seen the emergence of more talking “heads” in cyberspace with their own internet radio talk shows – catering to a specific audience, cherry picking information and packaging it all very neatly for the consumer.  It is not different in Egypt.  News consumers world wide are facing the same problems with accuracy of information – news must be viewed in the same light as if you were buying a car, you have to contrast and compare, and you have to be brave enough when the facts show, no matter how much you want to believe “XYZ” they are wrong.

Social Media

As we watched the Arab Spring unfolding on social media, specifically on Twitter the world had the benefit of living in real time with people in Tahrir Square.  The peaceful protests over threw a dictator in 18 days, the world rejoiced.  From Twitter also sprang a new form of mico-celebrities.  Some rightly earned, some rightly earned and then started to believe their own press, and simply could not give up the limelight.  Egyptians knew the world was watching, they had a unified message, they carried it thru flawlessly.  Without a doubt the news media  was a part of the success of the revolution.  News organizations such as CNN and BBC provided coverage 24/7, interviewed tweeters from the square – they say fame is addicting and for some tweeting Egyptians it became a way of life.  The continual occupying of Tahrir Square moved from being a revolution to being an impediment to moving forward, because if Egypt moved forward and no protests were happening, their claim to fame was also over.

The Military and Security Forces

During the revolution when the tanks rolled into the city I literally sank to my knees in fear and terror.  The military acted with honor, not once did they open fire on the crowds in Tahrir Square.  When the tanks rolled into my neighbourhood, they were greeted like heroes.  The chants the people and the army are one reverberated throughout the country.  One of the complaints you hear from the youth of the Revolution is that the army is moving too slowly, that they want to retain power.  I do not believe that for one minute.  The military wants to go back to doing what a military force does, protecting the country, not running the country on a daily basis.  I think they are very eager to  give control to the civilian sect, and they are taking their responsibility during this transition very seriously.  Nobody wants to see the need for another revolution in a year.  They are proceeding with caution.

They have handled the protesters with kid gloves, they have acquiesced to demands, these are not the actions of people who want to retain power.  When the security forces disappeared during the revolution the people took over protecting their own neighbourhoods.  Security forces still are not back in mass, there is a security void being filled by the military.  People want to live in a safe place, basic need any where in the world, Egypt is no exception.  There is an overwhelming large silent majority that fully support the military.  They are going to have to find their voices – because what the media is covering are the “squeaky wheels”.

I, like everybody else watched in horror as the tanks went through the crowds two days ago, as hard as the images were to watch there are two things that stand out.  First, if the   military wanted to open fire they could have very easily wiped out all the protesters.  Second, the tanks were being used to disperse the crowd, you can see in the videos the driver slowing down, if he had wanted to crush them all he would not have slowed down.  Does that sound harsh?  Do I think it was handled right?  No, and the Egyptian government doesn’t think it was handled right either.  You cannot “un-ring” that bell.

Christian VS. Muslim?  or Divide and Conquer Extremism

For over 1,400 years Coptic Christians and Muslims have lived side by side.  Like any neighbours, problems have arisen.  This is not a unique occurrence.   Catholics VS. Protestants in Ireland.  Ultra Orthodox Jews VS. Reformed Jews in Israel.

One of the easiest ways to divide a society is through religion.   When anybody adds God into the equation you are lighting a match at a gas station.  The battle cry of “God is on our side” should send shivers down everybody’s spine.  The real question is.. are you on God’s side?  The most volatile, emotional wedge is one of religion.  It ignites passion.  We see this in the US don’t we?  In the last few days we have heard Dr. Robert Jeffress, a Dallas pastor and leader of the Southern Baptist Convention say  he believes Mormonism — along with Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism — are “false religions.”

Having lived in this country I can tell you what I see, I see Christians and Muslims living side by side as neighbours, I see them in business together.  I see them supporting one and other on their own spiritual journeys.  During Ramadan when Muslims are fasting I see Christians very much aware that they are fasting and they are very careful not to smoke and eat in front of them.  Conversely, I see Muslims returning the respect when Coptics fast.  I see them giving one and other greetings of peace.   I see them offering one and other holiday greetings.   I saw Christians during the revolution forming a human shield around praying Muslims, pouring the water for them to perform their ablutions.   I saw Muslims lifting a priest upon their shoulders and chanting, the Cross and the Crescent are one.

Every Egyptian male (with few exceptions) are required to enlist in the military.  That means both Muslims and Christians are serving in the military.  There is no special uniform that says I am a Muslim or Christian in the Egyptian army, they are brothers.  They are one.

In my own household, I as a Catholic, married to a practising Muslim we observe and support one and other on our spiritual path, for one very simple reason – the goal and the God are the same.   I participate in Ramadan and Eid, he participates in Easter and Christmas.  It isn’t a matter of “converting”  or who is “right”, it is a matter of love,  the greatest commandment  Matthew 22:36-40

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

This will upset right wing nut jobs to learn that in Islam there is an obligation to protect and non Muslim.  It is not a recommendation it is an obligation, no negotiating.

We too in the US are actively experiencing the effects of extremism, it has reared it’s head in politics and religion.  The result has been nothing short of disastrous.  People standing behind all or nothing mentalities caused the downgrade of US debt,  to get this Congress to enact a law for the benefit of the people has not happened for almost 3 years, and I wouldn’t hold my breath for the remaining term.  The Tea Party has held the country hostage, and now we have the emergence of the Occupy Wall Street.  Of course the Tea Party doesn’t like to be compared to them..but here’s the truth, Occupy Wall Street is a direct result of the push from the right, they are the left’s extremist. Religious groups like Westboro Baptist and Mr. Jeffress shoving their beliefs down our throats.  Koran burning pastors seeking the limelight.  There is an “attack on God and faith” in the US and it is coming from ignorant extremist, fundamentalist, self appointed saviours of our collective souls.  God must certainly weep as he looks down upon us.

Who Benefits from Division?

The real question is who would benefit from a civil war in Egypt?  There are a million conspiracy theories out there, and I don’t have enough time to cover them.  I will however, address what I feel is the most likely guilty party – and that would be left overs from the old Mubarak regime.

We have seen this hand at play before, during the revolution the bizarre “camel attack” was orchestrated by a member of Parliament.. the trial is literally ongoing as of this blog posting.  There is an ongoing investigation into the New Year’s Eve bombing of a Church in Alexandria, where it is being alleged that it was coordinated by the former Interior Minister Habib Adly.  Again, another on going investigation/trial.  The creation of chaos with prisoners being freed during the revolution, the police disappearing, another orchestrated event by Habib Adly.  Unleashing chaos is a way to keep people in fear, to keep people from moving forward, to make them long for the days of the safety of the tyrant and regime.   Is it a coincidence that this occurred as Egypt announced the date of elections? and there is a law being considered to prohibit members of the former ruling National Democratic Party from holding elected office.

When politic office is your career,  there is a huge danger that it is not about public service.  Walk down the prison halls of Tora prison outside of Cairo Egypt and you can literally start a government.  Presidents, members of Parliament, ministers of departments have all taken up residence on charges ranging from graft to murder.  If you have earned your living through raping the country’s treasury for your personal enrichment, it is hard to replace that kind of job and lifestyle.  These people stand a great deal to lose as Egypt goes forward.

I cannot help but draw comparisons to US politicians, how many have benefited from political action committees, contributions?  Left political office in order to become a lobbyist?  We in the US are not that far removed from an Egyptian situation.

What Triggered It? and Who is Responsible?

Again, if you are looking to the local media to give you the full story I am sorry to say you won’t find it.  This is what I know – take it with a grain of salt:

In order to build a church or a mosque, you must get permission.   (By the way Al Azhar is asking for the law to be applied, which I believe is on the books that says you can building a church or a mosque according to population, i.e. if you are predominantly a Christian neighbourhood then you should logically have more churches than mosques.(

There was a structure, it was not originally part of a church, it was a hall of sorts that was used for weddings, engagements etc.  According to the governor in Aswan, there was never a permit issued to build a church or any religious institution on that spot.  Some type of permit must have been issued as the hall was expanded, and evidently expanded beyond what the permit allowed for, as a result, it was demolished.  This was the trigger.  Other sources say it was a church to begin with.  Other sources says, it was torched by Salafi’s.  I don’t know what happened, and I am not sure we ever will.  In some ways it doesn’t matter why it happened, it did.  It illustrates what happens when government is in control of religion.  This should be a huge warning to Americans as we watch the “Christian” extremist trying promoting their belief system into our laws.

The march to Maperiro was a protest by the Coptic Christians saying they were not being treated fairly.  Then something went terribly wrong.  Some say plain clothes people in the crowd opened fire on the military forces, the Church says the group was infiltrated, but by whom?  The investigation is on going.

Who is responsible ultimately?  Everybody.  Nobody is innocent in this tragedy.  And it is time that everybody owned it.  The country has been engulfed in a protest fever…if you don’t like something then protest!  One of the things that caught my eye during this protest march were the signs in English “Quit Killing Christians”.  Why in English?  Egyptians speak Arabic.  Who was the audience they were appealing to?  That makes me uncomfortable.  If  I were in protesting in the US would I write a sign in Arabic?  Probably not.

How Egyptians take this revolution forward, take it from off the streets to practical application is being challenged.  Elections must go forward. Things in my neighbourhood remained calm.  People were shocked and surprised.  Everybody seemed to know that this was a danger  from the beginning- a division caused by sectarian violence.  They were determined that Egypt would not fall into this trap…and yet it happened.   It has become fashionable and almost expected to protest since the revolution.  Everybody has done it, teachers, doctors, drivers, and now religious sects.  It begs the question, for over 30 years you have been living with a boot on your neck and you choose now during a critical transition period which needs each and every Egyptian speaking with one voice – and  you choose now to protest?

How to Move Forward

I don’t know, I don’t have a magic wand, we can’t turn back time, but we have to move forward.

As my husband and I watched it all unfold, tears came to our eyes.  It was all so very, very wrong.  We also knew we could not change the country by ourselves, but we could set an example.  We went together to a  Mass at a Coptic Church – a Muslim and a Catholic, an Egyptian and an American…then I put on a scarf and I went to evening prayers at my neighbourhood mosque.  We are one.

I believe deep in my heart the Egyptian people will come out of this stronger, more united, democracy will bloom.  There will be more challenges, but at the end of the day, nobody will have died in vain, no blood will have been shed for naught.

 

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Egyptian – Israeli – Turkish Dynamics or Shifting Sands

Posted by politicalmonkey2010 on September 10, 2011

Israeli Embassy in Cairo

One of the first things that strikes you when you look at the Israeli Embassy in Cairo is that it is in a residential building.  I remember the first time the embassy was pointed out to me I was somewhat shocked.  I thought about US Embassies, and the level of security surrounding them, and wondered what the people who lived in the building thought about an Embassy being located there, virtually being used as human shields.   I didn’t think much more about it until recently…..

Before I address last night’s rampage on the Israeli Embassy, we need to review history.  I offer a brief snapshot of a very complicated part of the world.  Each of the areas plays a part in the events of the Israeli Embassy in Cairo being  attacked.

Egypt – Israel Peace Agreement

Egypt was the first Arab nation to sign a peace treaty with Israel in 1979.  This bold move cost then President Anwar Sadat his life,  and Egypt was ostracized from the Arab community.  The peace treaty also cost Yitzhak Rabin his life.  Both  men were assassinated by extremist from within their own countries.   The agreement paved the way for the return of Sinai to Egypt.  For over 30 years peace has been maintained, Israelis have often commented that it was a “cold” peace, but peace is peace.

The Gaza Factor

Gaza Strip

The ever evolving borders of  Israel since its inception has led to the Gaza strip being in essence sealed off – between the Mediterranean Sea,  Israeli borders on two sides and an Egyptian border on the other.  The population is about 1.6 million people in an area approximately 140 miles, most of them descendants of refugees.  In March 1979 when the peace treaty was signed between Israel and Egypt, the treaty provided for the withdrawal by Israel of its armed forces and civilians from the Sinai Peninsula, which Israel had captured during the Six-Day War, to the 1906 international border. The Egyptians agreed to keep the Sinai Peninsula demilitarized. The Gaza Strip remained under Israeli military administration until 1994  when under the Oslo Accord a phased transfer of governmental authority to the Palestinians took place.   In February 2005, the Israeli government voted to implement a unilateral disengagement plan from the Gaza Strip. The plan began to be implemented on 15 August 2005, and was completed on 12 September 2005.   You may recall George W. Bush calling for free and fair elections in the middle east, and that is exactly what happened…in a twist of irony the US kicked in the door of democracy and Hamas came to power.  The US wanted democracy, but didn’t like who showed up.   As Israel continued to choke the people of the Gaza Strip by not allowing supplies in, the now  famous Gaza tunnels were a natural outcome.  Everything from food, medicine, livestock and yes, arms runs through the tunnels.

The Gaza War or Operation Cast led was a three-week bombing and invasion of the Gaza Strip by Israel, and hundreds of rocket attacks on south of Israel which started on December 27, 2008 with a surprise air strike from Israel.  Israel’s stated aim was to stop rocket fire into Israel and arms import into the Gaza strip.  Israeli forces attacked police stations and other Hamas government buildings in the opening assault, striking in the densely populated cities of Gaza, Khan Younis and Rafah.   An Israeli ground invasion began on January 3.  Infantry commanders were given an unprecedented level of access to coordinate with air, naval, artillery, intelligence, and combat engineering units during this second phase.  Between 1,166 and 1,417 Palestinian and 13 Israeli deaths, 4 from friendly fire.  In September 2009, a UN special mission, headed by the South African Justice Richard Goldstone, produced a controversial report accusing both Palestinian militants and Israeli Defense Forces of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity, and recommended bringing those responsible to justice.  In January 2010, the Israeli government released a response criticizing the Goldstone Report and disputing its findings.   In 2011, Goldstone wrote that he no longer believed that Israel intentionally targeted civilians in Gaza. The other authors of the report, Hina Jilani, Christine Chinkin and Desmond Travers, rejected Goldstone’s reassessment.

As a side note, with all the promises including, from the US to rebuild Gaza, it hasn’t been done.  Hard to rebuild when Israel won’t allow cement in.

Gaza Humanitarian Aid, Flotillas and Turkey

There have been many humanitarian groups inside Gaza the past 10 years, one of which is the International Solidarity Movement.  A young American woman named Rachel Corrie had taken a year off to travel to Gaza and join the ISM.   She was killed in the Gaza Strip by an Israel Defence Forces (IDF) bulldozer when she was standing or kneeling in front of a local Palestinian’s home,  acting as a human shield, attempting to prevent the IDF from demolishing the home. The IDF stated that the death was due to the restricted angle of view of the IDF Caterpillar bulldozer driver, while ISM eyewitnesses said “there was nothing to obscure the driver’s view.”  Her family has had a wrongful death suit in the Israeli courts, where they have accused the IDF of withholding information.  (Read more about Rachel Corrie and her family at http://rachelcorriefoundation.org )

Part of the humanitarian efforts have also been Freedom Flotillas to Gaza.  Ships including one named after Rachel Corrie have attempted to land in Gaza and offer aid.   The the Mavi Marmara aid ship was bound for Gaza on May 31, 2010, was intercepted in international waters by IDF, 9 people were killed, including a Turkish  American Furkan Dogan, who was shot with four bullets in his head and one in his chest at close range.   The UN has released its findings, which in short say both parties were wrong, Israel had used excessive force, and they had a right to stop the flotilla.  The report of course is being challenged. ( http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/09/2011978161147706.html)  Turkey has dismissed the Palmer-Uribe Report because its conclusion about the siege contradicts previous statements and reports by the United Nations, including the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Council and statements by the U.N. secretary-general. Furthermore, the Palmer Report, contrary to some claims, is not a legally binding document to be voted on at the U.N. nor is the panel a court that can issue a juridical view on Gaza. But by giving a carte blanche to Israel’s piracy in international waters, it has disregarded international law and undermined the fundamental principles of justice and freedom for all including the Palestinians.   Turkey has asked for an apology from Israel.  Israel has refused.

The Netenyahu government’s refusal to issue a formal apology to Turkey has led to a swift reaction from Turkey. Prime Minister Erdoğan ordered the implementation of five measures against Israel including the lowering of diplomatic relations and freezing of military agreements. “No country is above the law,” said Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, referring to  the Israeli exceptionalism in regional and global politics.  PM Erdoğan described Israel as acting “like a spoiled child in the face of all U.N. decisions.” The prime minister also said Turkey has no quarrel with the people of Israel and Jews around the world. Refusing to apologize and then claiming to want to repair relations with Turkey, as Mr. Netenyahu said recently, is not only an oxymoron but also self-delusional. As PM Erdoğan has declared on various occasions, Turkish-Israeli relations will not be normalized until and unless Turkey’s three conditions are met. Turkey keeps the door of diplomacy open, but it is up to Israel to pass through it or close it.  Turkey has also announced it will beef up its naval presence in the Mediterranean  – Egypt and Turkey will hold a joint naval maneuver in Turkish territorial waters by the end of the year. Erdogan is scheduled to go to Egypt on Monday.. Erdogan, meanwhile, continued to up the ante, saying in an Al Jazeera interview that Turkish warships were directed to protect Turkish ships bringing humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, and that from now on “we will not allow our ships to be exposed to Israeli attacks, as was the case with the Mavi Marmara, because if this happens Israel will meet the appropriate response.”

Now let’s go back  to the Rafah Border

On Aug. 18, in violation of the peace treaty, Israeli forces crossed into Egypt in pursuit of  “militants” – ultimately this claimed the lives of five Egyptians.   This is not the first time Egyptians have been killed by Israel.  It happened quite often, and was always given minimal press coverage under Mubarak – as if Egyptian blood was cheap and plentiful.  Things have changed.  Egypt wanted an apology, seems like a reasonable request.   The response?  Israeli Def. Min. Ehud Barak  said in an interview with Israel’s Channel 2 News, Israel’s most widely-watched TV news network … “I didn’t apologize to Egypt, I expressed regret.”    Barak’s exactly statement was:  “Israel deeply regrets the deaths of the Egyptian officers.”  This was not enough for Cairo.  Egypt threatened to pull its ambassador.   Barak noted the importance of the Israel-Egypt peace agreement and expressed appreciation for the “discretion and responsibility” shown by Egypt.  “The peace agreement between Israel and Egypt is of great importance and strategic value to stability in the Middle East,” Barak said.  Barak’s statement came after he held a special situation assessment with IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz and other security and intelligence officials.   Barak ordered the IDF to investigate the incident after which a joint investigation will be conducted with the Egyptian military to determine the circumstances of the incident.

The idea that Egyptian blood is cheap, is a seminal point.  Under Mubarak no protest would have ever been tolerated at the Israeli Embassy…but on Aug. 23 there came a new folk hero, dubbed the Egyptian Spiderman or Flagman.  He climbed  13 stories… with nothing  to assist him to remove the Israeli flag and replace with the Egyptian flag.  “This is for Palestine. This is for Egypt. This is for every Arab. This is for every free person,” one Twitter user posted.

About Last Night…

Now let’s look at what happened last night.  Another Friday, another protest.  This time under the heading of  “Correcting the Path of the Revolution” .. frustrated at the slow pace of change, and for some let’s be honest protesting has become a career and lifestyle.   Some have found fame in Tahrir and simply cannot move forward.  The military has been in my opinion,  been wrongly accused by protesters.  It was the military who saved this revolution.  All you have to do is look at Libya and Syria to see what happens when the military doesn’t side with the people from the beginning.  The military deserves much more respect than it is getting from the protestors.  They have done exactly what they said they would do.

The revolutionaries deserve so much credit for having the guts to stand up to tyranny, but they do not have the ability to speak with one voice, the demands change day to day, and there is no readily identifiable leader.  This is a problem.  The continual sit ins and tent city erected in Tahrir was a problem, it would be like putting a tent city on Wall Street.  It would not be tolerated in the US.  It was an obstruction to business and movement forward.  Finally, the military said enough and cleared out Tahrir.  The military never denied the protesters the right to protest peacefully, let’s be very clear about that.  The military not wanting to be accused of using excessive force on civilians pulled out of Tahrir Square completely for Friday’s protest.

Enter the mob mentality….as the day progressed marches began to the Interior Ministry and to the Israeli Embassy.  Things quickly got out of control as the mob mentality ensued.  The beautiful thing about the revolution is it was about Egypt, about Egyptians.  There was no hating America, no hating Israel.  Last night was about wanting the world to know that Egyptian blood is not cheap…and then something went terribly wrong.  The embassy had recently been barricaded by huge cement slabs after the “Flagman” incident.  The barricade was destroyed.  The embassy was entered.

JERUSALEM, Sept 10 (Reuters) – Israel appealed for American help in guarding its Cairo embassy after Egyptian protestors stormed the building housing it on Friday.

A statement from Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said that in conversations with U.S. counterpart Leon Panetta and Obama administration envoy Dennis Ross he had “asked them to protect the embassy from the demonstrators”. (Reporting by Dan Williams; Editing by Jon Boyle)

This absolutely inflamed me.  Why is it the United State’s responsibility to protect an Israeli embassy in Cairo?

In essence, there are two  diplomatic ties under severe strain with Israel and both critical to Israel.  Why?  Because Israel has refused to apologize.  That spoiled child, digging their heels in and refusing to acknowledge they were wrong.  This is a self inflicted wound on Israel.  From the beginning of the Arab Spring they have refused to acknowledge the neighborhood is changing.  Let me be very clear, this is not about being anti Semitic, or not believing Israel has a right to exist in peace, this is about the facts.  This is about Israel growing up, moving from the victim archetype to the empowered survivor archetype.  The world is changing, there is a new paradigm in place.  You can either embrace change and be part of a positive outcome, or you can stand against it and watch your own downfall.

Israeli ambassador Yitzhak Levanon, staff and family members arrived home on Saturday but one diplomat stayed in Egypt to maintain the embassy, an Israeli official said.  Four officers and 42 soldiers were injured in the Israeli Embassy clashes between protesters and security forces on Friday evening. There are three dead and 1049 injured, the Ministry of Health announced on Saturday.  Egypt is on high alert.  Rumors are flying the Egypt’s Prime Minister may resign.

There is no such thing as democracy in a box.  Egypt will get there, there are going to be some serious bumps in the road.  We saw one last night.

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The Sound of Freedom is Calling – Egypt

Posted by politicalmonkey2010 on April 2, 2011

I love this video!

Translation (rough)..I never said I spoke Arabic well…

I went and I said I’m not coming back and I wrote with my blood in every street.

We made everybody who was deaf, hear.

All obstacles are broke.

Our weapons are our dreams.

Tomorrow is very clear to us.

This awakening has been a long time in coming.

We were searching and did not find our own place.

Refrain:  In every street of our country the sound of freedom is calling.

We lifted our faces to the sky.

The hunger  is no longer important, the most important thing is our rights.

We will write our history with our own blood.

If you are one of us, stop telling us to leave and forget our rights.

Stop say “me”

Egyptians working hand have no discrimination.

We stood in the middle of fire, breaking all the boundaries.  The outstanding youth flip the autumn to spring

and achieved a miracle.

They woke up the dead.

Kill me or starve me to death, this is not going to bring a country of injustice back.

I’m writing with my own blood the history of my country, not my blood, it is the spring, the River Nile, that carries green to everybody.

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Egypt – the Soft Coup d’État

Posted by politicalmonkey2010 on February 28, 2011

I am still some what surprised that relatively few people  seem to be calling the outcome of the Egyptian  revolution what it was and is –  a Coup d’État.  This was not about Mubarak stepping down, about Mubarak giving the power to the military, it was a Coup d’État, he was stripped of power.  Not that I have been through many Coup d’États, but if one defines it as:  a sudden overthrow of a government by the military in order to replace a part or all of the previous government, this is what happened.

From the beginning the headlines screamed “Mubarak Steps Down” – this was not a voluntary event by any stretch of the imagination.  The subtle and not so subtle signs were there.

Let me stress that this is purely my speculation, nobody will ever really know what happened for a very long time, as the story continues to unfold more and more pieces of the puzzle are added.  From my perspective and timeline, the following events were significant.

  • When the army rolled into the streets on Jan. 28, and did not stop the protests, the parlor games began in Egypt.  What would the military do?  Everybody knew the fate of this country was in the hands of the military.
  • The next clue that somebody else was in calling the shots came when Mubarak appointed a Vice President on Jan. 29.   For over 30 years Mubarak has never had a V.P. – and since he was at one time the V.P. of Egypt he knows how one moves to the office of President.  Even the choice of VP was not not in Mubarak’s hand.  As Wikileaks reported in a cable dated 2007-04-04, Gamal Mubarak, the son of Egypt’s last Pharaoh viewed  the Minister of Defense Mohamed Hussein Tantawi and EGIS head Omar Suleiman as a threat to his presidential ambitions.  The cable went on to say that Gamal and his clique were angling to get rid of these two men with a cabinet shuffle.  Israel was very comfortable according to another Wikileak’s cable with Suleiman, he was viewed as a known contact.  Other cables leaks indicated that Mubarak had been promising Suleiman for at least 6 years he would be VP. The video below shows Mubarak swearing in VP Suleiman, look at the body language, this was not a happy event.

Immediately after appointing a VP, Suleiman became the spokesperson, news videos showed him addressing the cabinet.  Mubarak was taken out of the picture.  The hope was that appointing a VP, promising not to run for President, sacking the current cabinet and promising constitutional change would be enough to satisfy the protesters.  It was not.

  • The ante was upped significantly when prisoner’s were released throughout the country, and the police had literally disappeared off the streets on Jan. 29.  It is widely believed that this very scenario, the police disappearing, criminals on the streets was planned well in advance, perhaps taken directly from the  Saddam Hussein playbook.    Some say it was the plan that when Gamal took over the “throne” if people protested they would unleash the chaos, terrify people into submission and acceptance, Gamal would then restore order and be  hailed a hero.  The Interior Minister Habib Adly, who is currently under arrest was believed to be the puppet master behind the events.  As wild and outlandish as this may sound to sane an reasonable people, sane and reasonable people have never been consumed with the seduction of power and greed.   Did it make any sense at all when Saddam Hussein lit the oil fields  on fire when he left Kuwait?  This was a regime, a dynasty in its death throes, and nothing was going to be sacred.  Not the country, and not the people.
  • Jan. 30 – helicopters and F16s fly over Tahrir Square.  This was one of the most bizarre events, I remember thinking to myself, he is going to demolish the square and all of those people.

Some of the Arabic papers have in recent days suggested that in fact, it was Mubarak, at Gamal’s  insistence by passed the chain of command, and as Commander in Chief ordered, the tanks on the ground to open fire, and the Air Force to begin assessing the crowd for either using helicopters with machine guns mounted, or literally dropping a bomb on Tahrir Square.  It was Tiananmen Square Egyptian Style.  Robert Fisk, who is a reporter who has covered the middle east for many years,  and has received more British and International Journalism awards than any other foreign correspondent was on the ground reported:

“…But the critical moment came on the evening of 30 January when, it is now clear, Mubarak ordered the Egyptian Third Army to crush the demonstrators in Tahrir Square with their tanks after flying F-16 fighter bombers at low level over the protesters.

Many of the senior tank commanders could be seen tearing off their headsets – over which they had received the fatal orders – to use their mobile phones. They were, it now transpires, calling their own military families for advice. Fathers who had spent their lives serving the Egyptian army told their sons to disobey, that they must never kill their own people.” (Source)

That was the tipping point.  The military was not falling in line, most if not all were in agreement that they would not open fire on their fellow citizens.

  • Feb 2, violent clashes with “Pro Government” protesters broke out.  It was evident to all that these protesters were paid by the National Democratic Party, the ruling party in Egypt.  Some were government employees who were given a choice to either protest or not be paid.  Some were given an incentive, go and protest and we will give you an additional month’s salary.   Some were paid thugs, some were secret police in plain clothes, foreigners were targeted, journalist were targeted.  For the record, never have I felt threatened in Egypt at any time of day or night.   This was not the Egypt I knew for one very simple reason, these were not true Egyptians, these were paid thugs.  During the crisis my neighbors, my business contacts – each and every one of them checked on me continually in person.  Perhaps I am just the village idiot, but to be quite honest I felt safe.
  • A stronger sign that the coup was in place was on Feb. 10 – the Supreme Military Council met without Mubarak present, this was the second time they had met and Mubarak was not present.
  • Finally on Thursday evening General Hassan al-Rawani told the massive crowds  that “everything you want will be realised – all your demands will be met”, the people cried back: “The army and the people stand together – the army and the people are united. The army and the people belong to one hand.”

Everybody, from the Generals to the White House and everybody in between believed Mubarak was going to step down.  He didn’t, what happened?

Rumors were ripe in the Arabic newspapers, while we may never truly know what happened during those final days, there is one fairly safe assumption, Mubarak and his family had ever intention of riding this out.  It was not until Feb. 5, that Mubarak’s son, Gamal resigned from the National Democratic Party.  Keep in mind with the way the constitution was written, there literally was nobody else who would qualify to run for President.  The heir apparent had absolutely no interest in appeasing the protesters, this in  his mind was his rightful throne, and  he was not going to give it up easily.  It was widely assumed that Gamal would be the next President.  I remember sitting with a group of Egyptians watching the news – footage from Alexandria was being shown, posters saying “Yes to Gamal”.   One of the men in the group who was rather ambivalent about the protests leaned forward to look closer at the TV, you could literally see his face change.  He got up, and announced that he was going to go to Tahrir Square and join the protesters.

Reports began to surface that the military had prepared a speech for Mubarak to give, a way for him to exit with some dignity.  Gamal had rewritten the speech several times, and of course no where in the speech that was delivered were the words I am stepping down.  Many newspapers in the region have speculated about the final hours – Gamal and his brother Alaa fought over what was happening.  Alaa blamed Gamal for his father’s predicament, citing his greed for power.   According to palace insiders they almost came to blows.   Not that Alaa was innocent, but it must be said he never sought the power of the office of President.   Material greed was Alaa’s achille’s heel.   Virtually every large business franchise in Egypt he had a percentage in..by hook or by crook, as did all the family.  A famous story is often told in Egypt about the man who had the Peugeot dealership, Wagih Abaza was forced to take Alaa in as a partner.  He called Mubarak the day after Alaa came on board, saying he was trying to ruin everything, he didn’t understand business.  Mubarak shrugged it away and suggested that the man treat him as a son.  The next day he dropped dead.

It was a very polite Coup d’État, it was designed to try to give Mubarak a dignified exit, which Mubarak and his sons managed to ruin for themselves. Instead what was given was a refusal to step down.  I was so busy with the translation it wasn’t until much later we I re-watched it, that the poor editing job was evident, and the body language reflected a man at odds with himself.  The video below is in Arabic, there are plenty out there with translations, but sometimes it is insightful just to listen to the cadence of the voice, the body language, the editing..

 

It became immediately evident that he was no going any where, and as the crowd erupted and the anger grew, many started to march toward one of the Presidential palaces.  It was Thursday night,  many reported General Tantawi came out of the Presidential Palace and started passing out candy to the crowd.  A strange event to be sure, but let’s be honest, it was par for the course, nothing was predictable.  Speculation is that after the airing of Mubarak’s speech, where he did not step down, the military told him it was over.

Finally, in the video below, VP Suleiman, gives what can only be described as the briefest of speeches, to announce that Mubarak has stepped down and given control of the country to the Military Supreme Council.  Believe it or not that is not what caught the eyes of the Egyptians.  Who was the man standing behind Suleiman?  His eyes constantly moving…Egyptians with their delightful sense of humor were having a field day.  Finally, the mystery was revealed via Facebook.    “The guy behind Omar Suleiman” was none other than Egyptian army Lieutenant Colonel Hussein Sharif, commander of Group 64 of Egyptian Special Forces.  Lieutenant Colonel Sharif’s son identified his father on his Facebook page, and called on people to apologize for their remarks.  Which they did, many Facebook users expressed their regret for ridiculing the army officer, and paid their respects to him, writing “this man is an honorable army officer and deserves all the respect” and “”we respect all the armed forces for protecting the revolution and protecting the homeland” with a more lighthearted poster wrote “he [Lieutenant Colonel Hussein Sharif] is the greatest, and I wish I was the guy standing behind Omar Suleiman!”

Maybe nobody wants to call it what it was… a Coup d’État.  That conjures up all kinds of negative images..military juntas, martial law.  Egypt’s last Pharaoh, last Dynasty did not step down, but was quietly, politely taken down ultimately by the military, they tried to give one of their own an honorable exit and let the speech read that Mubarak had stepped down.   The problem with trying to give somebody honor  when they have lost the ability to act with honor is becoming more and more evident with each passing day, with each additional investigation.  Much like buying a house and deciding to paint it, when you start to do the prep work and scrape away the paint on the surface, you find out underneath all that paint is nothing but pure rot.  It was a soft a Coup d’État, I do not believe that the military has any intention of staying in “power”, I think at this point their intentions are honorable, and they have done exactly what they have said they would do to date.

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Reflections on the Egyptian Revolution – The Military and Hero Status

Posted by politicalmonkey2010 on February 14, 2011

Egyptian man embraces the militaryI remember when I first saw the military entering into the streets of Cairo, I had foreboding feeling deep in the pit of my stomach.  The rumble of the tanks on the road made me fear the worst.  Certainly a sign of a regime in its final death throes,  a desperation move.  The fighter jets making my windows shake,  flying over  Tahrir Square so low the crowd could see the pilot.  Military helicopters circling the protesters in the Square.  The police had virtually disappeared, what was to come?  Was he going to unleash the military on the people and violently squash the voice of the people?  Yet, while the tanks were rolling into the city, the crowd was electrified shouting “the people and the army are one.”  I admit at the time I had my doubts.  The talk on the streets from the beginning said the fate of the country will be in the hands of the military, that seemed to be a foregone conclusion.

I was trying to get my head around what I was witnessing, some where in my life conditioning military tanks and protesters made for a violent outcome, not a love-fest.  As I engaged in conversations with friends and neighbors trying desperately to understand WHY they were finding comfort in seeing the military on the streets they gave me quite an education.  It is one thing to read history,  I knew the history of Egypt on an intellectual level,  but to talk to people who had actually lived through it, their experiences, the raw emotion puts it completely different slant on it.  Egyptians are by nature passionate people, the love for their country runs deep, to the core of their being.  As an older neighbor told me his views on modern Egyptian history, and his eyes well with tears as he recounted it, I began to understand.   He had lived through  he 1952 Revolution, where the British occupation and King Farouk were ousted in a coup d’état.   The 1967 War was viewed as a “humiliating” event for Egypt.  Nasser the President at the time, offered his resignation, saying he had failed the people.  The people took to the streets and demanded he stay.  During the years that followed the people supported the build up of the military, and the military restored Egypt’s sense of pride and dignity when in 1973  Sinai was liberated.  The people supported the military in failure and in now in victory, that bond is viewed as unbreakable. The overwhelming sense of  the military is from and of the people is firmly embedded in psyche of the Egyptian people.

The military has played a significant role in the history of modern Egypt:   all of Egypt’s modern day leaders have come up through the ranks of the military. Virtually every family in Egypt has a son serving in the military from one to three years depending on education and skill level, not to mention those who choose the military as a career. Everybody I spoke to had absolutely no doubt that the military would not turn on the people of Egypt.  I still had my doubts, and watched suspiciously as they took up positions.

I was on edge as I watched the military NOT moving in on the protesters.  I watched more tanks roll in, more troops trucks being deployed through out the city.  When they rolled into my neighborhood I could not shake the uneasy feeling that came over me.  I happened to be downstairs bringing my neighborhood watch team tea and cookies when a young army Captain came into the neighborhood.  He was smiling, his hand extended, the neighborhood erupted in cheers of welcome and praise.   He was greeted like a son,  he spent a few minutes, thanked the neighborhood watch for doing such a good job and offered some instructions.  When he left you could feel the bond, the trust.  A completely different atmosphere than the police received  from the citizens.  That is when it  hit me, the military is literally the only credible, trust worthy institution in the country.  The chants of the crowd began to make sense, and I noticed there was also an almost intuitive line that the crowd would not cross with the military.  While some  protesters near the end marched to one of the Presidential Palaces, they did not stay, it was almost as if they knew how far they could push as well.  Mubarak was still in theory the Commander in Chief and those soldiers around his palace were hand picked.

I stared in awe at people sleeping under the enormous tanks in Tahrir Square to prevent them from moving…surreal was the word that kept going through my mind.  I watched in amazement as people wrote messages on the tanks – No to Mubarak, No to Sulieman,  Down with Mubarak…

As the analysis continued on cable networks, some saying the military was divided, the old guard was not ready for change, and the up and coming young officers supported  the change, it made it increasingly difficult for me to determine who the military was going to support.  Ultimately it came down to a moral decision, this “revolution” was not a foreign country invading, it was the Egyptian people speaking.  The military was placed in some what of an awkward position, the Commander in Chief had a glorious military record, a hero as a matter of fact, and they wanted him to have a dignified exit.  Actually I believe the vast majority of the Egyptian people also wanted this, but that was not to be.  I remember when a highly placed General went into the crowd and told the people “Inshallah, you will have everything you asked”, this was before Mubarak’s last speech.  I truly believe that a deal had been brokered to give Mubarak a way out, and at the last minute the man who once said “I have a PHD in being obstinate” changed the speech.  Everybody was caught off guard, from the US to the Egyptian people and the military.  The military risked its credibility with the people when that General went into the protesters, not to mention what ever action occurred behind the scenes with various governments.

About 4 a.m. Friday morning I received along with the rest of the nation a message from the Military, informing us of an important announcement soon to come.  As Friday dawned, and the streets were so angry at a defiant Mubarak, memorial services were scheduled after Friday prayers, and a call had went out for more protesters to join.  Coptic Christians made sure that the world knew this was not an Islamic movement, they showed their support and offered Mass in the Square.  Two different religions, speaking with one very clear voice, we are Egyptian.  Make no mistake, the military is made up of both Christians and Muslims, but first and foremost, they are Egyptian.

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When it was announced that the Mubarak had resigned and the military was in charge, there was literally a collective sigh of relief, and at the same time a deafening cheer rocked the country.  The military is a safe institution for Egyptians, they are respected, and to date they have done exactly what they said they would do.  While to the Western mind the military conjures up all kinds of fears, I can assure you this is not the case in Egypt.  The military members are the sons of Egypt.

In a series of statements below the Supreme Council of the Armed forces in short, has suspended the constitution, which given the way it was written there was no ability to have free and fair elections, so it was absolutely useless in going forward.  It has reaffirmed all of the international treaties, which should put Israel at ease, it has called for people to go back to work – this is critical that this country resume business.  Throughout the process they have continually reaffirmed a transition to democracy, free and fair elections.  There is no “democracy in a box”, we as Americans forget that when our country started we were not in agreement, a constitution had to be hammered out.   The chatter I hear about there is no constitution, nothing has changed it is unfounded.  Things are not nice and tidy in a revolution, but unlike Iraq and Afghanistan, this is change is coming from within, give Egypt a chance and you will be amazed at what she can do.

 

The 6th Communiqué of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces ( Feb 14,2011)

STATEMENT OF THE SUPREME COUNCIL OF THE ARMED FORCES

In light of the current conditions in the country, and the Armed Forces responsibility for the protection of the people who have demanded their legitimate rights, and now that, with God’s help, conditions are now appropriate to facilitate the democratic process through the issuing of a constitutional proclamation that will guarantee constitutional and legislative amendments that will realize the legitimate demands of the people for a true democratic environment. Nonetheless, it has been noticed that in certain sectors of the state demonstrations have been organized even though normality has been restored, and under conditions where it is expected that all groups and sectors of society would work together to support this positive progress and the efforts of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to realized the ambitions and aspirations of the people. Honorable Egyptians regard these demonstrations taking place at a critical moment as leading to negative consequences, including:First: Harming national security by disturbing all the institutions and the agencies of the state. 

Second: Negatively impacting the ability to supply the public with necessary goods.

Third: Disturbing and disrupting production and operations in the state.

Fourth: Delaying the public’s day-to-day life.

Fifth: Negatively impacting the national economy.

Sixth: Creating an atmosphere that gives the opportunity to irresponsible persons to commit illegitimate acts, a situation that requires that all citizens to work together to stabilize the country and prevent further impacts on the national economy and its development.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces with a view to achieving the security and stability of the nation and the people, and to guarantee the restoration of operations in all institutions of the state, calls on citizens and professional and labor unions to fulfill their respective duties, while recognizing the difficulties which they have long faced. We hope that everyone will work to create the necessary conditions to deal with this critical phase until authority is transferred to a legitimate and popularly elected civilian authority that will be responsible for democratic and developmental progress.

God is the source of success and support.

The 5th Communiqué of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (on Saturday, Feb 13/2011)

(still looking for a good translation)

The Supreme Council of Armed Forces announced on Sunday the suspension of constitution and the dissolution of the People’s Assembly and Shura Council.

In a communiqué number five broadcast live on state television, the council decided to form a committee to draft a new constitution for the country.

It said it would run the affairs of the country on a temporary basis for six months or until the end of parliamentary and presidential elections, promising a referendum on political reforms.

The communiqué said the military would form a panel to rewrite the constitution, which effectively locked down power for the National Democratic Party (NDP), and submit it to a referendum.

The statement also confirmed that the chairman of the supreme military council, Minister of Defence and Military Production Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, is now the de facto head of state and represents Egypt on the international stage.

According to the statement, the Supreme Council for Armed Forces promised to abide by all regional and international treaties Egypt had signed.

The 4th Communiqué of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (on Saturday, Feb 12/2011)

In the name of God the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful,

The fourth statement of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces,

In light of the conditions that exist in the country, and the difficult times that have placed Egypt at a juncture that demands of us all to defend the stability of the nation, and the achievements of the people; And due to the fact that the current phase requires a reordering of the priorities of the state with the objective of meeting the legitimate demands of the people, and of delivering the nation from the current situation; And as the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces is aware that the rule of law is not only necessary for the freedom of the individual, but rather it is the only legitimate basis for authority; And with determination, clarity, and faith in all our national, regional and international responsibilities, and with recognition of God’s rights and in the name of God, and with His support, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces announces the following:

First: The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces is committed to all matters included in its previous statements.

Second: The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces is confident in the ability of Egypt’s people and institutions to get through this critical situation, and to that end, all agencies of the state, and the private sector must play their noble and patriotic role to drive the economy forward, and the people must fulfill their responsibility towards that goal.

Third: The current government, and governors shall continue as a caretaker administration until a new government is formed.

Fourth: The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces aspires to guaranteeing a peaceful transition of authority within a free and democratic system that allows for the assumption of authority by a civilian and elected authority to govern the country and the build of a democratic and free state.

Fifth: The Arab Republic of Egypt is committed to all regional and international obligations and treaties.

Sixth: The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces calls on the great people to cooperate with their siblings and children in the civilian police forces, for affection and cooperation must exist between everyone, and it calls on the civilian police forces must be committed to their slogan “the police serve the people”.

God is the source of success.

*******************************

The 3rd Communiqué of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (on Friday, Feb 11/’11 – about 10pm Cairo time)

At this historical juncture in the history of Egypt , and in light of the decision by President Mohamed Hosni Mubarak to relinquish the office of the presidency of the Republic and the tasking of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces with the administration of the affairs of the nation , and with awareness of the seriousness of the demands of our great people everywhere for fundamental change , the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces is examining this matter, asking the aid of God Almighty, to fulfill the aspirations of our great people. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces will issue further statements that will announce forthcoming steps, measures and arrangements, and it affirms at the same time that it is not a replacement for the legitimacy that is acceptable to the people.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces extends its highest salutations and appreciation to President Mohamed Hosni Mubarak for his services over the course of his career in war and peace, and for the patriotic decision he took in choosing the supreme interests of the nation. In this respect, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces extends its highest salutations and admiration to the souls of the martyrs who sacrificed their lives for the freedom and security of their country, and to every one of our great people. May God grant us success.

May God’s Peace, mercy and blessing be upon you.

The 2nd Communiqué of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (on Thursday, Feb 11/’11 – about 4pm)

Due to the consecutive developments in current incidents and which define the destiny of the country, and in context of continuous follow up for internal and external incidents, and the decision to delegate responsibilities to the vice president of the country, and in belief in our national responsibility to preserve the stability and safety of the nation.

The Supreme Council of the Egyptian Armed Forces decided to secure the implementation of the following procedures:

First: End the state of emergency as soon as the current circumstances are over.

Decide on the appeals against elections and consequent measures.

Conduct needed legislative amendments and conduct free and fair presidential elections in light of the approved constitutional amendments.

Second: The Armed forces are committed to sponsor the legitimate demands of the people and achieving them by following on the implementation of these procedures in the defined time frames with all accuracy and seriousness and until the peaceful transfer of authority is completed towards a free democratic community that the people aspire to.

Third: The Armed Forces emphasize on no security pursuit of the honest people who refused the corruption and demanded reforms, and warns against touching the security and safety of the nation and the people. And emphasizes the need for regular work in state facilities and regaining of life to normal to preserve the interests and possessions of our great people.

God protect the nation and the people.

The 1st Communiqué of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces(On Thursday, Feb 10/’11 – about 5pm)

Statement of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces
Based on the responsibility of the Armed Forces, and its commitment to protect the people, and to oversee their interests and security, and with a view to the safety of the nation and the citizenry, and of the achievements and properties of the great people of Egypt, and in affirmation and support for the legitimate demands of the people, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces convened Thursday, 10 February 2011, to consider developments to date, and decided to remain in continuous session to consider what procedures and measures that may be taken to protect the nation, and the achievements and aspirations of the great people of Egypt.

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Reflections on the Egyptian Revolution – The Power of the Media

Posted by politicalmonkey2010 on February 13, 2011

If the pen is mightier than the sword, then a picture and live footage is mightier than a nuclear bomb.  It is one thing to read an article in a newspaper or magazine about an uprising, about people being shot in the street, it is a completely different thing to see it.  In some cases see it live, raw and unedited.  Without a doubt the media coverage of Egypt’s revolution was a major factor.  In all reality it may have very well prevented more bloodshed and more deaths.  I wonder if they had actually managed to get rid of the journalist,  what degree of violence would have ensued?  They were acutely aware that the world was watching.  Perhaps in a rare moment of lucidity the regime, Mubarak in particular realized his legacy was being written, and would not risk another Tiananmen Square moment aired lived to the world.   The regime acknowledged the power of the press  in several ways, first by shutting down the internet and cell phone, then  calling for people to turn off  satellite news, and finally targeting journalist, roughing them up, arresting them.  The power of media, including social media is a threat to any regime who stifles freedom of expression.

Al Jazeera became a household name across the world with their non stop coverage and live internet streaming in English.  Their offices were looted and ransacked, journalist arrested.  There is a history between Al Jazeera and the regime that is not particularly flattering, these two entities have long been battling each other.  Their journalistic credentials have been pulled on numerous occasions.  The US  government has a history of tension with Al Jazeera.   Many Americans got their first exposure to the network after the September 11, 2001, attacks, when it broadcast a taped message from Osama bin Laden, its logo emblazoned in the corner of the screen. The former secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, once accused it of spreading ”vicious, inaccurate and inexcusable” reports about US actions in Iraq.  Al-Jazeera accused the US of intentionally firing missiles at its offices in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 2001 and in Baghdad in 2003.  I remember watching Al Jazeera in Arabic during the Hezbollah crisis in Lebanon – at the time I thought these people are like the National Enquirer but on TV.  They would make announcements like 10,000 rockets have been fired into Israel – giving the impression that it had just occurred, when the reality was that over a period of 30 days 10,00o rockets had been fired.  It was spin, it was sensationalism. (Reminds me of a certain right wing group of people in the US..but I digress.)  The bottom line is Al Jazeera has an audience of about 60 million people in the middle east.  The Obama administration realizes this and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, Secretary of State  Clinton and Adm. Michael G. Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, all have appeared on the network’s Arabic and English channels in the last year. Tony Berman, Al Jazeera’s chief strategic advisor for the Americas, said that multiple meetings with U.S. officials have smoothed the relationship. Clinton had a frank, one-hour discussion with Al Jazeera’s top executives during a visit to Qatar a year ago that seemed to clear the air.  “The cold war that existed between the Bush administration and Al Jazeera has totally ended,” Berman said. “Now it’s a professional relationship between an aggressive government and an aggressive news organization.”

As I flipped like a wild woman between Al Jazeera, CNN, BBC, Al Arabia, and state run TV, and internet streaming news, including Fox… I would have to say that CNN and BBC did an outstanding job on their coverage.

What  struck me on CNN –  is the difference between CNN International and CNN USA.  Several times during the past 18 days CNN USA jointly covered the events at times with CNN International it was painfully evident that CNN’s USA staff just did not have an intimate understanding of the geopolitics, or an understanding of the local population.  I did in fact, tune in Fox online, and promptly turned it off when it became clear that they could not find Egypt on a map, and the main talking point was an Islamic uprising.  Fox coverage was an epic fail in journalism.

There are some journalist that really deserve recognition:

CNN’s Ben Wedeman.  Wedeman has lived in Cairo for over 15 years, he is fluent in Arabic, he understands the geopolitics of the middle east and obviously has an intimate understanding of Egypt, it is after all his home.  His commentaries were insightful and accurate.  Hala Gorani, another outstanding journalist for CNN is also fluent in Arabic, and hosts a show called I-Desk, a look at the international news.  Arwa Damon, another journalist who was able to get out into the crowds, talk directly to the people, without using an interpreter, making that personal connection.  Being fluent in the language and culture is vital.  Nic Robertson in Alexandria did an outstanding job.  Anderson Cooper certainly got a taste of the regime’s influence.  BBC  international correspondent Lyse Doucet, again another journalist who understands the culture and the geopolitics  of the region.  She is an award winning journalist for a reason.  The entire CNN and BBC team defined solid journalism and commitment to truth.

State TV – at times I would tune into state tv for more of its comic relief value.  Literally outside their window were crowds of protesters chanting “Mubarak must go!” and they were talking about Nile Cruises, Valley of the Kings or the Great Pyramids of Giza.  When the “news” came on it was absolutely surreal, mind boggling, the distortion, the out right lies.  I was absolutely fascinated, mesmerized and had to applaud what I could only think of in terms of theater, because there was absolutely no connection to reality.

But this is par for the course with state media.  The last time Mubarak was in the US, they took it upon themselves to alter reality with the following “adjustments” … here is the picture that appeared in the newspapers and on state TV, where Mr. Mubarak “leads” the group of international heads of state.

Here’s the reality:

When confronted with the evidence, the state offered a simple explanation, that really we were just illustrating that President Mubarak is a respected and revered leader…uh, huh.

Finally, with great relief Shahira Amin, a long time journalist with Nile TV offered her resignation.  She said she was on her way into work, and heard the chanting of the crowds and knew she could not continue to ignore facts.  She offered her resignation and joined the ranks of the protesters.  You can follow her on facebook at http://www.facebook.com/people/Shahira-Amin/520551813

In what I can only term the ultimate in irony, on Thursday when the world was anticipating Mubarak to step down, the Minister of Information, kept issuing the statement that Mubarak is not stepping down.  This was an institution that had absolutely no credibility, and the one time they were right, being truthful,  nobody paid any attention.

On Friday, just hours before Mubarak resigned, thousands chanted in front of the heavily guarded state TV building, preventing employees from entering. “The liars are here, where is Al-Jazeera?” some chanted, showing their preference for the satellite TV channel.  On Thursday reporters and editors at Al-Ahram demanded that the editor-in-chief be fired over the negative coverage of the protests. They demanded the newspaper run a front-page apology for what Hanan Haggag, a senior editor, called the “very unethical coverage.”  On Saturday, after Mubarak’s resignation, state TV issued a statement carried by Egypt’s Middle East News Agency, “congratulating the Egyptian people for their pure great revolution, lead by the best of the Egyptian youth.”  “Egyptian TV will be honest in carrying its message,” the statement said. “Egyptian TV is owned by the people of Egypt and will be in their service.”

Finally, you cannot deny the impact of social media on this Revolution.  Launched on Facebook, Tweeted across the world has forever changed the face of Egypt.  Even with turning off the access to the internet, it was too late.  The morning after the internet and cell phones were shut down I was having a cup of coffee on my balcony wondering what the day would bring when I heard  yelling “Ya Ahmed, yella! (Ahmed, let’s go).  I looked down and saw two young men wrapped in Egyptian flags calling to my neighbor, ready to go down to Tahrir Square.  My eyes welled with tears, and  I prayed,  I  prayed for the safety of my neighbor, his friends, and for the Egyptians that took to the streets in pursuit of liberty.

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WOW!! Egypt

Posted by politicalmonkey2010 on February 11, 2011

So much to say, but for now…my love, heart and support to the people of Egypt.  I witnessed today an ancient civilization taking it’s first breaths of liberty in 30 years…and I heard them yell Freedom!

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Egypt’s Tahrir Square – Love Finds a Way

Posted by politicalmonkey2010 on February 7, 2011

This brought a tear to a munky’s eye…in the midst of chaos and uncertainty one couple make the commitment.

Dr. Ahmad Zaafan, a pharmacologist, and Oula Abdul Hamid were married Sunday in the square where they have been camping out since Jan. 28, Gulf News.com reported.

“I am worried because my parents could not come to attend the party, but happy that all Egyptians and Arabs have witnessed my marriage and we both received blessings and congratulations from all over the world,” Zaafan told the Web site.

Hamid said she could not have chosen a better venue for the wedding ceremony.

“I am very happy about the idea of tying the wedding knot in this holy square, which is witnessing the rebirth of our nation,” she said.

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Egypt: The Impact on the Micro Level or What a Difference a Day Makes

Posted by politicalmonkey2010 on February 7, 2011

The stats started pouring in with regards to the amount of money that is being lost in Egypt during these protests.  Oil started creeping up..stock markets rattled, Nile River boat cruise ships are standing idle, the pyramids are empty, banks closed for a week, the Egyptian stock market still closed.  It is easy to track the financial impact of registered businesses, it is much more difficult to track the alternate side of the Egyptian job market which is huge.  But let me take to the micro level.

The vast majority of people live hand to mouth on a daily basis.  So one day without work is a significant event.  I spend quite a bit of time at the pyramids, I have a client in the area, he has a jewelry shop.  His youngest employee is a little boy named Mohamed, he is 12 years old.  His job is to get tea and refreshments  for visitors, run errands, and  sweep up the shop.  Mohamed is paid about $2.50 a day, plus any tips he gets from tourists.    The first time I met him, I chewed the owner of the shop, saying this child should be in school.  Then he told me Mohamed’s story.  Mohamed’s father died two years ago.  He and his other brother are the sole income for his family of five.  Mohamed goes to public school a few hours a day, of course those schools are closed now…and so is the jewelry shop.  There are no tourists, so they have decided to close for a week.  That means half the income to Mohamed’s family is now gone.

In the past few years the area around the pyramids has been fenced in with a huge chain link fence, but on the other side of the fence, you will find small children hawking their wares.  Postcards, little charms, papyrus..and in English they will ask you, where are you from?  What’s your name?  They will tell you the price of their wares “it’s only 10 Egyptian pounds”.  They have no income now, and these kids share something with Mohamed, the family depends on their income.   In that bizarre show of camels and horses charging into Tahrir square, these are the people at the pyramids who rent camels and horses.  No tourists mean no income.

If you take a Nile Cruise to Luxor when you hit the port of Esna, the boat stops to go through a loch, and much to the delight and surprise of the passengers the boat is surrounded by small rowboats with vendors hawking their wares.  With expert aim, they are throwing up blankets, scarves, and a variety of other textile items to the passengers on the deck and haggling over the price.  Merchandise and money are flying back and forth, for the record I have never seen any of them hit the water.  There are no cruises going on now.

So while we digest the huge dollar amounts being lost officially, let us not forget the cost to those who are all too often forgotten, the poor.

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The Unowned Cake and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt

Posted by politicalmonkey2010 on February 6, 2011

Whose cake is it anyway?

The world is glued to Egypt and the outcome with good cause.  The fall out effect of this is certainly rocking the middle east and the world, a new paradigm is in motion, and it cannot be stopped.  There are a million reasons why this happened, and there will be plenty of time to analyze those reasons, but I want to address the fear card of the Muslim Brotherhood, the fears around it, and what the average every day Egyptian thinks.

The Muslim Brotherhood has been around since 1928.  Like all groups it has evolved.  They are not a recognized political party in Egypt.  The Brotherhood has renounced violence.  There are plenty of sites, including their own for you to do research on..but I want to focus on the views of the average Egyptians that I know.

Popular statistics say 30% of the people support the Brotherhood, in my demographic breakdown of adult Muslims I personally know range from ages 18 and  up, included are illiterate to highly educated people.   I know of  NOT one who supports the Brotherhood.  I know some  very devout Muslims.  One in particular is so conservative, when he shakes my hand he pulls his shirt sleeve all the way down to cover his hand, so our skin never touches.  This is simply out of respect, nothing more, nothing less.  Having said all of that, let me try to put things in perspective.

There were a variety of miscalculations on the part of the government starting  from under estimated the anger of the people.  Was this Mubarak’s fault?  Or was he so heavily insulted that he was truly unaware?  I don’t have that answer.  Shutting off the internet and cell phones.  I recall a young man in my neighborhood who said he was not going to participate in the demonstrations until his cell phone and internet connection went dead.  That enraged him.  I think it enraged alot of people and added fuel to the fire.  The anger toward the police which has been building for decades.  Much like a dog who is kicked and beaten daily, sometimes that dog gets tired of being kicked and bites back, the people bit back.  The list goes on…

This revolution, uprising, revolt – what ever term you want to call it was started by the youth of the country, just as most revolutions are, and they did a damn fine job.  Their voices were heard,  their cause was and is legitimate.  The demands are being met, compromise has been made, the government obviously has a a credibility issue, but let’s capsulize what has happened:

  1. Mubarak appointed a Vice President, something he had never done in 30 years was a significant event.
  2. The old cabinet being sacked.
  3. Members of the old cabinet being investigated, accounts frozen, travel restricted – significant.
  4. Opening of dialogue between opposition leaders and government.
  5. Mubarak’s speech, which arguably was delivered about 4 days too late, did in fact have an impact.  Here was their President of 30 years, a proud man, humbled and doing something nobody ever thought they would see – he said he would not stand for election again.
  6. Gamal Mubarak resigning from the NDP – this would have been better had it happened earlier.
  7. Omar Sulieman addressing the nation, answering questions of the press.  I don’t recall that type of press conference in Egypt.

Given the above mentioned events, I think the average Egyptian, the silent majority as they have been called, those not down in Tahrir Square, but those watching from their home were satisfied.  Gas was poured on the quieting fire with the thugs in the street, the violence of the Pro Gov’t protesters (who let’s be honest nobody is quite sure who or where they came from  and that will be an interesting story to watch that develop.)

As I said before this was the youth that started this protest – the Muslim Brotherhood was no where to be seen.  A friend of mine said…this is the unowned cake – this revolution, there is no one clear leader, and now everybody wants to claim it as their own.  Only once the momentum took hold did the Brotherhood bother to show up.  The average Egyptian has absolutely no use for the Brotherhood, they view them as a pariah, opportunists.  They are the ones that are not willing to meet with Omar Sulieman, they are towing the hard line.  Latest  news indicates they may in fact be willing to talk..a fluid situation to be sure.

If you look at the crowds today in Tahrir, they are not the same faces they were in the beginning, it is an older crowd, there are more banners that are showing up saying “Islam is the way.”  Yes, a Muslim would agree that Islam is the way, just as a Christian would agree that Christianity is the way, and a Jew would say Judaism is the way.    The average Muslim Egyptian I know will say …yes Islam is the way, but not the way the Brotherhood applies Islam.  It should not be imposed on people,  Islam was never intended to be forced on anybody.  They believe that this movement is starting to be hijacked by people who had no “skin in the game” to begin with, as one Egyptian told me the rats are starting to come from the holes, seeing an opportunity.  While the Egyptian streets are ripe with rumors, there does seem to be a consensus that  the people in the square are being used by the Brotherhood.   El Baradei has chosen to align himself with the Brotherhood, I think he just shot himself in the foot politically with the people.  To begin with  he is viewed as an outsider – he has lived outside of Egypt for too many years…and his chosen alignment further alienates main stream Egyptians.

If free and fair elections were held today in Egypt, the Brotherhood would in fact take some votes, but certainly not the majority.  If given the chance to run for parliamentary seats they would in fact take some – just like in the US, we have right wing nut jobs and left wing nut jobs, Egypt would have the Brotherhood.  They are in fact part of the population, but NOT the  majority of the population.  In a true democracy, all voices are represented, whether you agree with them or not.  The fear card of the Muslim Brotherhood is being played by those who have the most to lose or gain.  Politics are indeed strange bedfellows.

Egypt must create her own brand of democracy, it is not Iran, it is not Iraq.  This democracy is being born from the children of Egypt.  Those children are from all walks of life and faith.  In every society there are undesirable elements.  I have great faith in the Egyptian people, they have watched Iran and Iraq, they do not want to follow them.  The cost of this revolution economically and socially has been great, blood and lives have been lost.  The price has been dear.

Egypt will be back, it will be back stronger and more vibrant.

By the way…if I were a betting Munky, I’d put my money on Amr Moussa if he runs..

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