Dead Men Walking

Thursday, February 3, 2011 6:52 PM

Colorful article about Egypt, written yesterday. Well worth reading.  Hard to believe that Mubarak could be worth $40 billion, however.


Dead men walking, with license to kill 

By Pepe Escobar  [AsiaTimes online] February 3rd, 2011

So Pharaoh Mubarak had to prove once again he's a real superstar of the "war on terror". Old habits die hard. He's now unleashing terror against his own people. 

It was just a matter of time before Mubarakism unleashed its thugs and goon squads to try to smash people power. In the absence of "chaos" in the streets - in contrast to the regime's "stability" - the manipulation of crude divide and rule techniques duly fabricated chaos; if, as opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei has coined, Mubarak is now a "dead man walking", what about his zombie army, straight out of The Return of the Living Dead? 

The regime put on quite a production. Rent-a-mobs; organized convoys in pick-up trucks; bused-in machete-wielding gangs; agent provocateurs throwing Molotov cocktails from rooftops around the Egyptian Museum; thugs invading Tahrir Square to beat up people, some on horseback and even - a cheap Orientalist trick worthy of a Z-movie - riding camels and brandishing whips. 

The average IQ must have been around 50, as protesters captured dozens of thugs carrying their police IDs or confessing they had been paid a few paltry Egyptian pounds to run riot. Mohamed Abel Dayem, the Middle East and North Africa program coordinator of the Committee to Protect Journalists, stressed Mubarakism engendered "a series of deliberate attacks on journalists carried out by pro-government mobs". 

And then, in the dead of night, came pure, unmitigated, state-provoked terror - Mubarakism rearing its real ugly head. Sporadic heavy gunfire; the unmistakable sound of sniper fire; the tanks that were surrounding Tahrir Square as protection eerily gone; the protesters under siege and under machine gun fire, encircled by masked Mubarak goon squads. 

This is an extremely ominous development. Even without employing the army- which seems to have "dissolved" just as the police did over the past weekend - Mubarakism is able to mobilize an immense flotsam and jetsam who depend on the regime - from the 1.5 million-plus repression apparatus of the Ministry of Interior, including an army of informers, to the three million registered members of Mubarakism's National Democratic (NDP). This mega-mob is terrified of losing the crumbs thrown by the dictatorship in the form of a steady government job and a few connections. 

No crumbs for the Pharaoh though. According to a mix of United States, Syrian and Algerian sources his personal fortune amounts to no less than US$40 billion - stolen from the public treasury in the form of "commissions", on weapons sales, for instance. The Pharaoh controls loads of real estate, especially in the US; accounts in US, German, British and Swiss banks; and has "links" with corporations such as MacDonald's, Vodafone, Hyundai and Hermes. Suzanne, the British-Irish Pharaoh's wife, is worth at least $5 billion. And son Gamal - the one that may have fled to London, now stripped of his role as dynastic heir - also boasts a personal fortune of $17 billion. 

Mr Torturer, there's a call for you 

Before the zombie show, state media duly warned of "violence" ahead. "Foreigners" were blamed for the protests. The dreaded Interior Ministry ordered everybody in the streets to "go home" - and so did the Mubarak-approved Grand Mufti of Egypt. And according to an opposition source talking to al-Jazeera Arabic, the "businessmen" - that is, the billionaire cronies of Mubarakism - duly dished out the funds to smash the protests. 

Either Hosni Mubarak himself, the "suave torturer" Omar Suleiman-headed military junta (Suleiman, Shafiq, Tantawi and Annan), or the whole bunch altogether, the fact is the regime, predictably, unleashed counter-revolution with a bang. Whatever the content of the now notorious 30-minute phone call between US President Barack Obama and Mubarak, it's clear that "orderly transition" was interpreted as a green light to go zombie. 

The other, infinitely more appalling, possibility is that all these hardcore military men - no matter the rhetoric somersaults coming from Washington - are playing Obama for a gigantic fool (recent precedents already exist, from Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Pakistan's army chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kiani). What the hell US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talked about with Suleiman in her phone call? Old Omar Sharif movies? 

Suleiman, by the way, is quaintly described by The New York Times as "a cunning operator" with "the largest base of support in Egypt's security forces". If Egyptians read this they wouldn't know whether to laugh or cry; he was, after all, the torturer-in-chief. 

From the point of view of those protesting with their life, it's clear the Obama White House has failed to grasp the current sense of historical inevitability, and has been eaten alive by the revolutionary dynamics. For instance, this is a mild Tahrir Square slogan: "Mubarak and Obama? The clown and the traitor." After what happened this Wednesday, they're bound to get way nastier.

Your democracy will have to wait 

Assuming the crackdown does not escalate into a horrendous bloodbath in the next few hours, from the point of view of people power there are only two possible scenarios:  

Plan A - people storm the presidential palace, state TV and government buildings, preferably on this "Friday of Departure". That's increasingly problematic, considering the counter-revolution is on. 

Plan B - the army takes over and throws the Pharaoh out. Also problematic, considering the army is, after all, the government, not to mention its demand that the protests stop immediately. 

A typical regime black ops to shift the narrative - and spook the West for good - would be to shoot dead a few protesters and blame it on the Muslim Brotherhood. It is alarming in itself that this "takeover by fanatic Islamists" plot is already being spun to death by US corporate media. The CNN website is now openly warning about "the risk of democracy in the Middle East". And Fox News sounds like Mubarakism propaganda, frantically spinning the risks of "instability". 

A widely circulated Fox News opinion piece - crammed with factual absurdities - is shaping the master narrative that will be repeated ad nauseam by Zionists, neo-conservatives, Zio-cons, the assorted far right, evangelists and Tea Party nut jobs; it accuses the Muslim Brotherhood ("the Godfather of radical Islam") of being ready to enter "war against Israel", close the Suez Canal and force Egypt to "stop the flow of natural gas into Israel". 

Even so-called progressive American sectors are already falling for this massive propaganda offensive of configuring people power in Egypt as a radical Islamist plot that must be stopped - as it poses a supreme danger to US national security. Very few in the US and Europe are connecting the dots that the rise of radical Islam in the Arab world has been directly connected to Western-supported autocracies and dictatorships such as Mubarak's smashing the secular left. 

Since the start of the protests, the Repulsive Ideology Trophy has got to go to former British prime minister and Iraq invader Tony Blair in his interview with CNN's Piers Morgan. For Blair, democracy for the Middle East may be a good thing; but "we" have to manage it; and that means compromising with Mubarakism. Blair simply can't understand that if Mubarakism survives with a facelift, blowback will be cosmic. And it will come from all sectors of Egyptian society, the young, the apolitical, secular and Islamists alike, and from the whole Arab world. 

Slovenian Slavoj Zizek, the Elvis of philosophy, is right on the monstrous hypocrisy of Western liberals (or so-called liberals); "They publicly supported democracy, and now, when the people revolt against the tyrants on behalf of secular freedom and justice, not on behalf of religion, they are all deeply concerned." 

Real democracy can only be a dynamic grassroots process, from the bottom to the top. It's not a fixed formula, it's constantly reshaping itself. That's bound to scare Western global elites - from "liberals" to the fear/warmonger set - because real democracy implies a huge loss of privilege for the "stable", developing world comprador classes that are slaves to these haughty Western elites. No wonder they're all as scared - and scary - as dead men walking. 

(Copyright 2011 Asia Times Online Ltd. )