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Live from Cairo (2)

The human wall protecting the Cairo Museum [#198].

Via Sean Paul, who comments "So beautiful!"

* * *

[Anch: Anchor; Rep: Reporter; Int: Interviewee]

[Report Looters have Ministry of Interior IDs. "Thugs" is a key word: Means Mub's hated plainclothes security force. --lambert]

Well, I just loaded the Al Jazeera live stream again:

10:05AM Mub in crisis meetings; massive crowds still defy curfew. Rep: "It's the amount of people on the streets." No idea when new government announcement will be made.

10:10AM Dutton: "Passionate and emotive funeral" of protestor in Tahrir [Liberation] Square [where Ministry of Interior is].

10:14AM Rep: Where is the Muslim Brotherhood in this? Int, of Muslim Brotherhood: Cannot reduce massive popular movement into one party. [I can't figure out whether this is bullshit or genius]. This is the only path. I call on one and all to safeguard the public party. Rep: You're banned! How can you contemplate being part of a unity govt? Int: Want to be part of a duly elected govt. Outside forces are Islamaphobes, blame us. Ann: Like who? Int: US, Western. We want a parliament expressive of people. We are not part of the power struggle.

[What I get is that Mub is dangling govt slots to opp figures, "govt of natl unity" and so forth. --lambert]

10:18AM Intel chief Omar Suleiman sworn in as VP [If domestic intel, that's rewarding fail! But I can't tell. He's point man on I/P, the special relationship with the US, and on extraordinary rendition. --lambert] Int: VP is the successor to the Pres, so first signal Mub will go. Ann: Intel chief is respected. Int: Not corrupt.

10:19AM Crowds bigger today.

10:20AM Sulieman key broker in I/P. [!!]

10:21AM Crawler: Cairo Museum of Antiquities preserved [yay]. Luxor NDP HQ torched.

10:24AM Crawler: 50,000 in Tahrir Square. Ministry of Interior being "stormed."

10:31AM Evening prayers. Breaking curfew. Army does nothing.

10:32ANN "This is live television, of course." [No shit.... --lambert]

10:27PM Sulieman tightlipped, loyal, in the shadows. The sobqiquet seems to be "spy chief."

10:36AM Protesters storming Ministry of the Interior. [Again. Three killed earlier today.]

10:40AM Anch: Why VP now, never in 30 years? Ruling NDP member as int: It's a response to the demand for reform. Anch: This isn't a demand from the people! They're demanding that the Pres stand down NDP: If you want a govt to stand down you need to do it legit. The VP has the same authority as Pres under the Constitution Anch: Is Mub relinquishing some powers to the VP? NDP: Did not say that. Pres can delegate to VP. Have to wait to see what. Anch: This is probably not going to be enough, Mub at helm. NDP: He's an elected Pres Ann: He's been in power for 30 years! NDP: ... "mobs" ... Anch: Not "mobs"! "These are not mobs, ordinary E with grievances!" NDP: "Mobs" are now "burning and looting." Anch: Look at pix in Tahrir Square! There are tens of thousands peaceful! NDP: 21 Jan legit, then demos were "manipulated into mobs" 100s of people are "looting and burning down." ... NDP: Mub was elected. Ann: If there were mobs, they were in the elections NDP: Can you deny that there are mobs throughout Cairo burning every part of Cairo? Ann: Not everywhere. Govt: Those mobs leading the demonstrations, now "lead them to burn and loot." Anch: Look again at Tahrir Square largely peaceful. [Amazing lesson for our own lapdog press, were they but interested in hearing it. --lambert]

10:55PM 8 Prisoners died as result of clashes with police, trying to break out. Reports of looting in upscale neighborhood. "Police have melted away." Anch: Who is maintaining security? Rep: Nobody, citizens themselves [#198]. Military protect key installations. Some stores spray-painted [#26]. "Element of chaos". Now reports of vandalism [agents provacateurs? --lambert]

10:58AM Mub appoints Air Marshall Ahmed Shafiq as new Prime Minister.

[Looks like Suleiman and Shafiq were the plan all along?

10:41 pm - Flashback to December: The Wall Street Journal's Charles Levinson handicapped a potential successor to President Hosni Mubarak: Ahmed Shafiq, the minister of civil aviation and the former commander of Egypt's air force.

"Shafiq has a good reputation. He's tough, honest, and low-key," a senior official in Egypt's ruling party told the newspaper. "His name is definitely out there."


11:07AM Protesters chanting "No to looting!" [#7] It's against our religion. Still traffic on the Nile [?] bridge, despite curfew.

Downtown "extraordinarily different from yesterday." Quiet. Everybody has moved to "the square" and the Ministry of the Interior. [This near Hilton.] Tourists walking about.

11:13AM Shots in a wealthy area [in which, amazingly, a prison also seems to be located] Anc: Who? Int: Don't know. South, from prison. [IIRC, Saddam opened the prisons to create "chaos." --lambert] Int: "Incredibly tense."

11:16AM Rep: Hundreds dead across E. Hospital pix. Live ammo fired by E police. "Images Mub will not want the people to see." Images like this tipped the scale in Tunisia. Images from Alexandria, in morgue, 20 bodies. Other morgues. [Again, like Iraq, no body count but from morgue. --lambert] Reuters: Two children, 7 and 4. Police have all but evaporated.

11:20AM Int: New appointments not enough. Should have been appointed at the right time. This will not help. Mub adamant, people adamant. Leaders have gone to "a security solution." Reaction will increase, and will not take us to a fruitful end.

11:22AM Administration view:

A senior Obama administration official, meanwhile, said Friday evening that Mubarak's speech was "hardly conciliatory and highly disappointing, but what did you expect?"

It's clear, the official said -- speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter -- that Mubarak believes he can ride this out, "and this time, we're not so sure that is the right assumption."

11:26AM This (yesterday) is important:

As they approached the state-run television building, soldiers linked arms, forming a human chain to hold back the protesters. The crowd stopped respectfully in front of the troops, and continued chanting "Down, down, Hosni Mubarak" and "the people want to bring down the regime." [#7]

[So, the limits of what the people can do have been set? --lambert]

11:27AM Army guy from tank: "Express yourself," leave the streets at night and let us deal with the thugs.

[That's important, "thugs" is a key word. --lambert]

11:28AM No police anywhere, and that includes traffic cops.

11:33AM Anch: Int: Suleiman credible to "external forces" [I/P] but timing, again, I bad.

11:34AM Ordinary E int: Cairo turning into a madhouse, looting. Anch: "Do you no longer believe in the protests?" Int: "The demos are amazing, they are beautiful, this is a real revolution, they are peaceful" but "on the periphery there is a lot of looting, they are thugs, hooligans" were they "let out of prisons to create havoc?"

11:38AM Anch: Who is making up the protesters? Int: Everyone, men, women, children. Anch: Looting at Cairo Mus? [Yesterday, Friday] Int: People prevented this from happening [#198] [see pictures above. Pix in museum, some broken glass of cases, soldier guarding. --lambert] Anch: Were people protecting? Int: Yes, but violence so massive. [The pix look like vandalism to me. Looters wouldn't leave artifacts. So, I'd say agent provocateurs, FWIW. --lambert] Ann: Important to note these looters are not the protesters.

11:42AM Interview caller from Al Madhi, wealthy diplomatic area downtown. Int: Criminals from prison, took guns from police station. No police, and no military [Italics mine. --lambert] People in the streets defending their houses. Anch: Who is doing the firing? Int: No soldiers, no police. Anch: Are they on the way? Int: Not even traffic police. We called the military, "Don't worry we will come." Anch: Thieves arriving on motorbikes. [This is Mub poisoning the well, bet to it. --lambert]

11:57AM Cairo under lockdown. Military closes the center of Suez with tanks; protesters angry with the Army; Army arrested three, starting a struggle. Very different from hours before, protesters bringing tea. Anc: Suez most violent. Clearly Army has a limit. Rep: Suez is very poor, widespread looting. A lot of the protesters ask the army, "Why don't you help us?" Army stands by.

12:00PM Top of the hour wrapup: Nationwide curfew, defied by tens of thousands [#141]. Death toll over hundred Cairo, Alexandria, Suez. 50,000+ in Tahrir Square [#47]. Police completely absent since Friday. And a VP, first in thirty years, and a Prime Minister.

12:01PM Anch: New faces, enough? Int, Brookings Doha [????]: If you were serious about signaling your commitment to democracy, would you appoint your intel chief as VP? Incredibly clear that the protesters want to go all the way and the regime isn't responding. Regime "caught by surprise," there has not been a history of this kind of large scale protest. This is entirely new and unprecedented. They underestimated the E people. Is there anything Mub can do to satisfy protesters? Anch Who available for dialog? Int: Every few years Mub calls for dialog, never comes to anything. Es know. Who would be willing to join a coalition? ElBaradei, Muslim Brotherhood, neither want to be part of "national dialog," ElBaradei willing to lead transitional govt, so thinking of life after Mub. Anch: Is MB telling truth when they say they don't want power? Int: Mub has been effective in using Islamophobia in the west. MB will be content to be part of a transition, not "hijack" movement. Anch: Flags are E flags not MB flags [or leader portraits]. Int: So far leaderless movement, comes a stage when the opposition has to articulate demands, talk about transitions, all takes leadership, eg ElBaradei. MB, like it or not, 100,000s of members, well placed to play major role later. Has clinics, banks, day care, so have experience providing social services, useful in transition.

12:09PM Rep: "Alarming pattern" of looting and vandalism. No police. TV plea last night from Museum director. "Disturbing images" for Eqyptians. [If Mub didn't organize it, he was happy it happened, part and parcel of looting. --lambert]

12:12PM Defense Ministry plea to respect curfew stay off streets to deal with the thugs.

12:14PM Rep: Fewer people on streets, as people respond to looting reports by returning to their neighborhoods to protect them. In Tunisia, it was ordinary citizens who set up watch groups. Same scene occurring here, young men take to streets with sticks to protect their property [#198].

12:15PM Military pushing through streets to protect people from thugs. Rep: But military is meant to fight wars, not perform a police function, which they haven't done in 20 years. So military will be in difficult position. Anch: "Could be stretched to the limit."

12:16PM Protesters still in Tahrir Square.

12:16PM DC demo.

12:18PM Al Jazeera Arabic reports that planes carrying families of Israeli diplomats have flown back to Israel.

12:32PM Int: Mub being cornered. Only option seems to be live ammo, at which point they lose world support including US aid package. So it looks like there is no way out for this regime. Anch: Should US do more? Mub: E all over the world are calling on O to take a stronger stand. Could privately urge Mub to take further serious action. May come to urging privately that he will step down and hold free and fair elections.

12:34PM Tahrir Square: Past few minutes, "upsetting incidents" of looting and vandalism in the suburbs. "Thugs that belong to the regime on motorcycles" looting. Some captured, ID cards found on them saying belong to Ministry of Interior, had on them govt-issued weapons [#21]. More calls "these incidents are taking place" Stores, shops, residential neighborhoods. Anch: WTF?!?! Rep: Pattern is that MoI forces are divided into several forces, including "plain clothes, called thugs." So perhaps the thugs are running amok. Also in Tunisia, Presidential Guard disintegrated and attacked armies and looted. Sources described as "NDP, Party thugs," people let loose to create havoc. [See if this is reported in the US. --lambert]

12:40PM ElBaradei statement [#1] via AJ in Arabic translated [seems like Q and A read aloud?]: Army ordered people to obey curfew, their goal is to maintain security. Peaceful demo right of the people. People can defend themselves. State is collapsing because the head of state is not listening to the people. We are seeking a regime change. Mub must step down, the people speak with one voice. Pres is responsible because of his lack of response. Who is in command? Pres or Army? Mub must step down or E will collapse. Mub must understand he must step down today. Natl Salvation Government. The E people will not go home until their demands are answered. We are speaking of toppling the Pharonic dictatorship. "Burning the green and the white" [???] Need a govt of national unity, new constitution. Mub gave an empty speech, cliches, empty words, he has not gotten the message. We cannot have a middle ground, it is the people or the regime [speaking of outside countries, i.e. US] The people who will decide their destiny. First domestic, then I/P [another message to "outside forces"]. The military solution is not acceptable. Democracy must be restored. Youth: I salute you, you are the future. Defend property, institutions. Call on Army: Take the side of the people, not the tyrants.

12:59PM Top of the hour, anchor shift! 18:00GMT in Cairo. Thousands still on streets. Looking down on Tahrir Square, very peaceful, but nobody is leaving. Death toll form morgues: Cairo: 25, Suez: 38; Alexandria: 36.

1:00PM Wikileaks cables from State: Suleiman detests idea of Gamal [Mub son] as Pres. [important!]

1:04PM Rep: Aswan NDP HQ burned. Military sending troops to suburbs. Summarizes earlier reports on looting from plainclothes thugs. Neighborhood watches forming. Reports of hospital looting. Protesters had tried to storm Ministry of Interior [keep hearing about this, no detail --lambert]

1:06PM Protests continue in Alexandria despite curfew. Rep: No teargas is last few hours. Complete breakdown law and order. Repeated sightings of young men breaking into shops. Large numbers of Alexandrians confront the looters. Every now and then, silence, then shouts of "Thieves, thieves!" Peaceful protest using loudspeakers (for first time) saying no to Suleiman.

[Took a break here. I have so much work to do... But I guess this is my work. --lambert]

1:28PM CAP guy from DC: Admin disappointed by Mub speech, "How can we help the E decide for themselves?" Principals meeting today, he reminds us.

1:32PM E Foreign Ministry travel advisory.

1:35PM Rep Cairo: Treating looting reports with suspicion, since campaign by state TV against MB. Need multiple sourcing! Reports from Tahrir and the suburbs are very, very different. Phone reports coming in from family and friends outside Cairo. A different kind of tension tonight from last night. Tonight, wading through calls coming in.

1:38PM Rep Alexandria: Eyewitness report of water cut off by "thugs." Same kind of people taking part in the vandalism. A lot of neighborhood controls. In one case eyewitness citizens killed a "thug." We are getting a lot of calls from citizens asking for help.

[Seems that things are quieting down. --lambert]

1:51PM Int from E Democratic Academy Anch: How protecting themselves? Int: Forming committees. [Crawler: Military calls on citizens to protect their own property from looters].

1:55PM Museum authorities say "nothing stolen" Museum spokesman: Entered from the top, destroyed two mummies. Some tried to stop.

1:57PM Brookings Doha guy: Neighborhood patrols effective in Tunisia. [I love that AJ is quoting a Brookings guy; shows the limits, and how insanely skewed our domestic limits are. --lambert]

2:06PM Alexandria: Everywhere we went, impromptu discussions. Start with cabinet shuffle, see reaction of rejection. Can feel fear in the air. Earlier people stocked up on food, water, lines outside ATMs.

2:08PM Anch: A long night ahead.

2:09PM Anch: Couldn't sell artifacts. Rep: Museum incidents very small scale, since Museum is right next to NDP HQ, which was torched and still smoking. So at some point, chance Museum would catch fire. Last night was looking down from 24th floor Hilton, got sense of how bad it could be. But was attempt by civilians to protect Museum from "small fringe" that wished to attack it. Anch: Will home grown vigilante groups persist? Rep: Possible, but official said would be huge numbers of military on streets, throughout the city. But also called on people to stand up for themselves. Military doesn't have strength to cover 20 millions resident! Will be interesting to see who really is doing the looting. Prisoners? Thugs? Act like security force with no ID, brutal. Anch: Still a long way to go. Defense Ministry statement, respect curfew.

2:17PM Cairo rep: When Army appears in street, chants immediately changed from Down with Mubarak to "the people and the army are one." [#7] [interesting] Worth remembering that in Egypt all these demonstrations, even peaceful, are illegal without a permit [#196]. Normally the police would be shutting down with riot gear, military doing nothing like that. Anch: State TV thanking youth for protecting property. But also sharp warning on curfew breaking and looting. Rep: A wishful order. But curfew tonight is from the military to protect property and curfew last night was from police to shut down demonstrations. So different curfews and a different kind of tension and danger. Not about shutting down free speech tonight. [Possibly. --lambert]

2:30PM [Bottom of the hour: First "house ad" I've seen for AJ in the many hours of blogging. So things are indeed slowing down]. Mub no sign of stepping down. Suleiman, "highly trusted confidant," E envoy to I/P peace talks [Surely then this is only for "outside forces" then. --lambert]

2:41PM Anch: Danger people stop protesting. Majiid Nawaz: Militia have arisen, and whoever they are, it's not the Democratic opposition. [state TV blames MB??] Mub never had a VP because the VP might take over!! I do think by appointing Suleiman, Mub paving way for own resignation. Suleiman responsible, hope orchestrate transition and not military dictatorship. [Assured by contacts this is so] MB good to step away, secular young people. "This is the revolution of the 60% of the pop that are under 21." Advises MB to stay in background.

2:46PM Anch: New info on looting Rep: Men carrying sticks, can't tell if thugs or vigilantes. People are gathering in Tahrir Square because it is safer! Campfires. Numbers greatly decreased. Ministry of Interior, protesters tried to storm it, hours of battles, ambulances periodically make way to "front line" Seems to be an ongoing stand-off between MoI and protesters. [Finally, word on this! --lambert] It is getting cold, here, that's why the campfires have been set.

3:04PM Cairo rep: For the most part, difficult to substantiate claims that looters are "thugs," but many consistent citizen reports. Other attacks: Buildings linked to Central Banks, tax collection agencies. Protesters were after govt institutions, however.

3:06PM Alex rep: Fertilizer factory fire set on fire, much next to a larger factory with nitric acid and ammonia. Possibly of huge explosion, effect reach kilometers. No fire brigades. Anch: Problems, looting and thugs, and water. Rep: Reported residents said "thugs" cut off water, now confirm in three neighborhoods. Anch: Security presence on streets? Rep: Not whatsoever, military is not doing much at all.

3:10PM Anch: Shafik, aviation minister, "competent." Hmm, top NDP figure resigns, and his company had been looted. The state forces:

450,000 Army

350,00 Central security force [the police, who melted away. 350,000 is a lot of melting...]

22,000 Pres guards [protect TV, banks]

3:13PM Int: Opposition figures continue to call for Mub resignation, national unity govt. Opposition figure: Cabinet shuffle is last ditch attempt. The replacements are demands we made 15 years ago and this is too late. We need courtmartial for torture and corruption. Anch: Name a leader? Int: Constitution says Pres resign speaker replaces, so demand head of Constitutional court replace speaker (since Mub owns speaker). Then transition and new Constitution. Warn: The army is respected but entire regime must be removed. Anch: For the present, 100,000s on street, how maintain their enthusiasm, or don't need to? Int: Mub should realize we are "very tough" people. He cannot keep the sword at our necks. We need a smooth transition of power.

3:22PM Rep: Gunfire from the interior ministry. Street to the MoI guarded by personnel carriers but protesters there just hanging out. But can clearly hear heavy machine gun fire form MoI (not small arms). MoI one of the most despised institutions in E. Consists of a variety of layers of troops and a lot of plainclothes officers. Allegations of torture often cited. Anch: What news on local militias? Rep: Use to guard properties, happening all over Cairo, guarding doors to apartment buildings. Anch: Seeing stop and search implemented now. Rep: Haven't seen, but depends on who stops and search. Neighborhoods have set up checkpoints [#198]. One eyewitness reports one committee stopped motorcycles, turned out to be plainclothes security.

3:29PM Suez rep: Military restored area. But a lot of looting. Our own crew got mugged. Also neighborhood watches. 100s out with clubs, knives. These men have a lot of adrenaline, and any small argument can spark. Situation very unstable. Anch: What is feeling in Suez, do they know they are not alone, demo in Cairo? Rep: They know they are not alone. Army still on sidelines, even as cars set on fire.

3:35PM National Press Club is on fire [not NDP HQ] Rep: Earlier today, concern in suppressing fire. Again, the concern is that the Antiquities Museum is next door. All it takes is a spark, and disaster. Rep: Gripping Cairo, lack of services for daily civilian life, like fire services, traffic and so on.

3:41PM Int: Look out my window, youth of "civilian watch groups" protecting by neighborhood. All over E. Anch: Continue to maintain these vigilante groups? Int: Will continue to demonstrate on the one hand and protect our property on the other. This man has smashed our humanity. Now they are releasing thugs from the police personnel.

3:47PM Anch: In the long term, people want to see a conclusion Int: Heard more Army, but have seen nothing yet. Worried that when the watch is worn out, violence (stress, exhaustion). Every hour people more scared, have never seen a situation like this.

3:51PM Int from rich neighborhood: Formed watch on rumors of looting. Anch: What does militia consist of? Int: Some of us are well-armed with shotguns and small arms. Anch: Are they prisoners or "thugs"? Your impression? Int: Haven't seen any of them. We got TV reports, but not true! Govt is spreading false information. He has to go! This man will not let go. This is the generation he has created, undereducated. Anch: You are not appeased by the appointments? Int: Absolutely not! I come from an affluent part of Cairo. We all concur, the stubbornness of an 82-year-old man.

3:55PM [pix of "looting" suspects lined up against wall from Alexandria. State TV is broadcasting them!]

4:00PM [top of the hour] October 6 bridge, quiet. Protesters still in Tahrir Square. Reporter has found a watch and interviewed one: Nasser City Int: Heard from neighbors robbing, the army is not here [all in English]. Nothing protecting us, so we protect ourselves. [A car comes, they stop it, carrying sticks, "the people have become the police," ID check, they wave it through.] Army protects the big buildings not the neighborhoods. Int: We heard Minister of Police left the country. What you are seeing is 1%, any person walking street is in danger. Anyone with money. We are young, we have shields, god protects us first, but first there is reason, first no army, second no police, hundreds are dead, so what can we do? We are in the street. Rep: What are you planning? Int: We are not planning to do anything, we just want to protect our neighborhood. Rep: What do you want? You're educated, studying graphic arts. Int: We want safety and security. [He cannot think beyond the night.... --lambert] It's a war zone, see when you go to inner Cairo. Hands and arms are on the floor. [Not "war zone" if AJ is correct, so where is the young man getting is info? Or is AJ wrong? --lambert]

[When a repressive regime ends up ruling a lot of educated and unemployed young men, the consequences for that regime tend to be very bad. --lambert]

4:14PM How: Who worried are people in your neighborhood? Int: Tense, but have to say there are over 500 of us in the watch. Anch: Curfew hasn't deterred people from going out? Int: No, military not here so must protect ourselves.

[Lord Eschaton shorts the discourse:

Of course is what this will mean for US gas prices. [ding]

I've been informed that the real reason for the protest in Egypt is widespread anger at high deficits and a too generous retirement program. [ding ding]

The best next step is a 150,000 person US occupation of Egypt so we can write their constitution, figure out who their interim leader should be, and then spend 10 years training security forces. Also mercenaries. Lots and lots of mercenaries [ding ding ding]

[NOTE By "short," supra, I pun on the "shorter" riff, but and so also that he's betting against it, with which I concur. Lord Eschaton is the Master of Short.]

4:51PM Tourist, "First time I smelled tear gas." "We were the only ones there, it was great."

4:57PM Weather report covers North America and Europe. Sigh. --lambert]

5:05PM Int with Cairo Resident: Heart of shooting at MoI, asked Army to protect us, but they say their orders are to protect the Ministry, not the streets. "No orders to protect the streets," we checked this so many times with other Army guys. "They don't want to defend us." [!!]

[12:15AM in Cairo, now]

5:11PM Cairo rep: Maybe 10 dead at the MoI battle. Anch: Army doing nothing? Rep: Correct. Not trained for this. Heavy vehicles. Anch: Is everything being looted? Rep: NDP HW, mall, most troubling news from personal friends, people saw "thugs" looting. Shortly after watch committees started popping up. Curfew is defied, but not all across city. 2K - 3K at Tahrir Square. Campfires. Anch: New appointments? Rep: Lot of analysis, speculation. People not happy, these are Mub's friends, the same faces with different titles. Others speculate beginning of the end. Others think consolidating grip with military allies. Departing from "economic dream team" of previous admin. [Thank, neoliberals! --lambert]

5:29PM 19 private planes have just arrived in Dubai from Egypt [!!]. Businessmen, not officials, apparently.

The Times on the MoI battle:

At least some troops seemed to be sympathizing with the protesters. In the most striking instance, four armored military vehicles moved at the front of a crowd of thousands of protesters in a pitched battle against Egyptian security police officers defending the Interior Ministry [#148].

Protesters there crouched behind armored trucks as they advanced on the police line surrounding the building, then darted forward to hurl rocks or Molotov cocktails and to set abandoned cars on fire.

But the soldiers refused protesters’ pleas to open fire on the security police. And the police battered the protesters with tear gas, buckshot and rubber bullets. There were pools of blood in the streets, and protesters carried at least a dozen wounded from the front line of fighting.

5:33PM [The Australian weather report. And a blustery day in New Zealand. Flurries in Japan. [lambert grinds teeth at Big Media provincialism] --lambert]

5:37PM On the looters, from the Lede live blog:

Peter Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch writes, "Two looters were just caught in the Muharram Beyh neighborhood of Alexandria who had police ID cards and were members of an undercover plainclothes force."

No link, though, and no search results on "Muharram Beyh."

6:00PM Top of the hour: [Nothing new, so checking out for now. --lambert]

No votes yet


Submitted by lefttown on

on the crowd's reaction to Mubarak's appointment of Suileman as VP. It seems to me Mubarak's trying to show he's still in charge. I did read that one protester said Suileman's the same as Mubarak. What does Mubarak think he's accomplishing, do you know? I can't imagine that the people would even consider Suileman.

Eureka Springs's picture
Submitted by Eureka Springs on

Why would a "revolution" allow the tyrant to appoint his successor?

This is like watching Egyptian Versailles circle wagons around a pyramid.

Submitted by lefttown on

is calling for a new interim government and says the ruling party should be completely excluded.
I imagine Mubarak has his suitcases packed and is ready to flee to whatever country will accept him. Better not be us...let Israel have him, since they're such good friends.

Submitted by Fran on

"The best next step is a 150,000 person US occupation of Egypt so we can write their constitution, figure out who their interim leader should be, and then spend 10 years training security forces. Also mercenaries. Lots and lots of mercenaries [ding ding ding]"

This is what I have been thinking.

I felt it would get worse because Mubarak was clearly not backing off, but rather escalating. He is a puppet of the U.S. - or at least, one of our back pocket dictators. Would he do this without tacit support from the U.S.? I don't know.

I also read that Wikileaks documents showed that the U.S. was supporting the student protesters and knew of their ultimate plans. (globalresearch)

A theory of mine is that U.S. is playing both sides of the game. I do think there are agent provocateurs, as Lambert suggested. Allowing the violence to escalate leads into .......see quote above. The U.S. must step in! I think that, if they have helped the student protesters, it is only because they believed this was inevitable. The dictators get tossed over when they cannot be propped up anymore.

I just think our gov't will want to control what happens. I was thinking about what happened with the Shah of Iran. They lost that one. Maybe why we stormed into Iraq? Our gov't never seems to support democracy just for the sake of democracy. You cannot easily control a truly democratic country.

Just an idea. I am no expert. I do not even play one on TV and I did not stay in a Holiday Inn.

Submitted by Lex on

I wouldn't put too much stock in that "the US supported the activists" meme yet. It's all based on one Telegraph article that's based on one cable from Wikileaks, and the Telegraph article insinuates a lot more than the cable substantiates.

In fact, the cable only says that the US helped an unnamed dissident attend a conference in DC. There's nothing uncommon about that. Motive for making the attendance possible is not discussed. Furthermore, the cable ends with a negative assessment of the mystery dissident.

We should question why the US would actively work to topple an allied government, question it more deeply than accepting the late-in-the-game narrative that DC has been in the corner of freedom and democracy to the extent that it can claim credit for the Egyptian uprising.

Certainly the USG wants to control what happens, but i seriously doubt that there's any talk of occupying Egypt...or at least i hope we're not that fucking stupid. But i believe we are stupid enough to figure that the dictator can hand off to his son and maintain the status quo. Failing that, they'll play for a military takeover, which...i'm what they're pushing for right now. (See: VP appointment by Mubarak)

Submitted by lambert on

... "too secret to be written down." Well, could be anything, then.

I can believe, in the fashion of the Czarist secret police, that the US "supported" the activists; good to keep tabs on them, after all. Friends close, enemies closer.

I'm with you that the preferred outcome for the US is a military regime; but I'm not sure that a regime supported by "outside forces" is going to fly (unless the "chaos" gets a lot, lot worse...).

Submitted by Lex on

At this point, i think that O and company are well out of their depths and so will make the mistakes that exacerbate the problem.

I'm of the not-terribly-informed opinion that right now the Egyptian people would accept a military coup against Mubarak with the promise of free and fair elections in the future. That would make the USG happy too, because it will figure that not really free or fair elections will work out fine as long as everybody chants "triumph of democracy" like a mantra.

As Ian notes, the blockade of Gaza is probably over for good. There are twists and ripples regionally and within US foreign policy that are probably getting more attention from the administration than the massive call for freedom from the Egyptian people.

Submitted by lambert on

... "too secret to be written down." Well, could be anything, then.

I can believe, in the fashion of the Czarist secret police, that the US "supported" the activists; good to keep tabs on them, after all. Friends close, enemies closer.

I'm with you that the preferred outcome for the US is a military regime; but I'm not sure that a regime supported by "outside forces" is going to fly (unless the "chaos" gets a lot, lot worse...).

Submitted by lambert on

I should have flagged it! Sorry, fran, I disagree.

I don't know if a "good" outcome is even possible; but I think we could definitely make for a worse outcome. This situation is way more complex and Iraq and Afghanistan, which we handled very badly. Except for the mercs, of course, who made a boatload of money.

Submitted by Fran on

I will go read your link.

All I am really saying is that I don't trust our gov't not to somehow make it worse. Of course, we are not the only outside element - although a big one. The surrounding countries are extremely important. Also, any transition will not be simple. Of course the situation is complex. That is why I don't want to take anything at face value.

BDBlue's picture
Submitted by BDBlue on

always interesting and this time with an alternate take on Atrios. While I enjoyed the snark in the "best next step" post by Atrios, I admit that overall I don't think his detached, too-cool-for-school style fits all that well with events like those going on in Egypt. One of the things I think is problematic about "progressives" is that - unless you're talking about Sarah Palin - they don't like to get too emotionally involved. They prefer to stand on the sidelines and snark (or, if they're in an earnest mood, talk about boring procedural details that nobody else cares about). The passion felt by the mass of Egyptians stands, I would argue, in stark contrast to the detached snark employed so often in this country. There's probably a whole post that could be written on the emotional detachment of much of the American "left" (with the exception of personal vitriol aimed at people like Palin or worship aimed at people like Obama).

I'd suggest hanging around Floyd's place and reading some of his other Egypt stuff. It's very good and doesn't all center on critiques of cat blogging.

Also, while I'm at it, Ian also has some interesting thoughts on Egypt here.

Nice work the last 2 days, lambert. It's been a great place to come and find out what's going on. What strikes me about Al Jazeera is how much it reminds me of the American network news I grew up with, which means our media has collapsed in less than 30 or so years.

Submitted by lambert on

The live coverage of something that isn't entertainment... We don't do that anymore. Katrina, maybe, came close, but the deep bench wasn't there, and we lost focus very fast.

Submitted by MontanaMaven on

of love me love me I'm a liberals. Do emotional detached humans go into politics and finance? Do empathetic types rum away from such occupations? In the early Seventies it was very cool to become a labor lawyer or labor organizer if you were interested in politics. Now, not so much.

Submitted by Fran on

That was why I threw that out there.

I believe that the protest by the Egyptian people is very sincere and non-violent, with the violence mainly coming from the police forces and unidentified 'thugs'. Even with the provocations, the people backed off and tried to protect people and property when any 'security' vanished.

What I am cynical about is any role our gov't will try to take in all this. It has not shown itself to care about 'the people' in the past, here or anywhere else. I don't really expect us to go literally marching in there - more like what they wish they could get away with.

I could hardly stand to hear Obama speak about the right of the people there to be heard, when our own gov't does not listen to the people.

I also thought that Mubarak would not be so brazen if he did not think he had some kind of support - unless he is just nuts.

Submitted by Lex on

I'm cynical about our motives and actions too, which is why i don't believe the Telegraph piece and assume (until proven otherwise) that it's the plant to begin a narrative for later.

Clearly the O administration doesn't know what to do here and is trying to play both sides until it can loudly proclaim that it always supported the winner. I also find it funny that mostly Obama hasn't come out with anything more than how Mubarak should let the Egyptian people have "more" freedom and be "more" hopeful...and his usual scolding of both sides even though there's no evidence that the protesters have been particularly violent.

As i wrote in another thread, these protests do not follow the color revolution playbook. Those are almost certainly products of US action...and the tell is that they've all happened exactly the same way. So i assume that this has nothing to do with US machinations. When we destabilize/foment revolution we want a clear leader that we (think we can) control out in front.

I don't imagine that there's much support for the Egyptian people in the WH meetings; more realpolitik about "stability" and other such bullshit.