Dangerous Hidden Truths

February 9, 2011

Egypt and Akhwan ul Muslimoon – On Rich Boiling Point in Geopolitical Context

Filed under: Uncategorized — unhideit @ 3:22 pm

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, four transformative events have reshaped the global setting in enduring ways. When the Soviet empire collapsed two years later, the way was opened for the triumphalist pursuit of the American imperial project, seizing the opportunity for geopolitical expansion provided by its self-anointed global leadership – as ‘the sole surviving superpower’.

This first rupture in the nature of world order produced a decade of ascendant neoliberal globalisation, in which state power was temporarily and partially eclipsed by passing the torch of lead global policymaker to the Davos oligarchs, meeting annually under the banner of the World Economic Forum. In that sense, the US government was the well-subsidised sheriff of predatory globalization, while the policy agenda was being set by bankers and global corporate executives. Although not often identified as such, the 1990s gave the first evidence of the rise of non-state actors – and the decline of state-centric geopolitics.

The second rupture came with the 9/11 attacks, however those events are construed. The impact of the attacks transferred the locus of policymaking authority back to the United States, as state actor, under the rubrics of ‘the war on terror’, ‘global security’ and ‘the long war’. This counter-terrorist response to 9/11 produced claims to engage in preemptive warfare – ‘The Bush Doctrine’. This militarist foreign policy was put into practice by initiating a ‘shock and awe’ war against Iraq in March 2003, despite the refusal of the UN Security Council to back American war plans.

This second rupture has turned the entire world into a potential battlefield, with a variety of overt and covert military and paramilitary operations launched by the United States without appropriate authorisation – either from the UN or by deference to international law.

Selective sovereignty

Aside from this disruption of the liberal international order, the continuing pattern of responses to 9/11 involves disregard for the sovereign rights of states in the global south, as well as the complicity of many European and Middle Eastern states in the violation of basic human rights – through engaging in torture, ‘extreme rendition’ of terrorist suspects and the provision of ‘black sites’, where persons deemed hostile to the US were detained and routinely abused.

The response to 9/11 was also seized upon by the neoconservative ideologues that rose to power in the Bush presidency to enact their pre-attack grand strategy, accentuating regime change in the Middle East – starting with Iraq, portrayed as ‘low-hanging fruit’ that would have multiple benefits once picked.

These included military bases, lower energy prices, securing oil supplies, regional hegemony – and promoting Israeli regional goals.

The third rupture involved the continuing global economic recession that began in 2008 – and which has produced widespread rises in unemployment, declining living standards, and rising costs for basic necessities – especially food and fuel. These developments have exhibited the inequity, gross abuses, and the deficiency of neoliberal globalisation – but have not led to the imposition of regulations designed to lessen such widely uneven gains from economic growth – to avoid market abuses, or even to guard against periodic market collapses.

This deepening crisis of world capitalism is not currently being addressed – and alternative visions, even the revival of a Keynesian approach, have little political backing. This crisis has also exposed the vulnerabilities of the European Union to the uneven stresses exerted by varying national domestic capabilities to deal with the challenges posed. All of these economic concerns are complicated – and intensified by the advent of global warming, and its dramatically uneven impacts.

A fourth rupture in global governance is associated with the unresolved turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa. The mass popular uprisings that started in Tunisia have provided the spark that set off fires elsewhere in the region, especially Egypt. These extraordinary challenges to the established order have vividly inscribed into the global political consciousness the courage and determination of ordinary people, particularly the youth, living in these Arab countries, who have endured intolerable conditions of material deprivation, despair, alienation, elite corruption and merciless oppression for their entire lives.

Resisting the status quo

The outcomes of these movements for change in the Arab world is not yet knowable – and will not become clear for months, if not years, to come. It is crucial for supporters on the scene – and around the world – not to become complacent, as it is certain that those with entrenched interests in the old oppressive and exploitative order are seeking to restore former conditions to the greatest extent possible, or at least salvage what they can.

In this regard, it would be a naïve mistake to think that transformative and emancipatory results can come from the elimination of a single hated figure – such as Ben Ali in Tunisia or Mubarak in Egypt – or their immediate entourage. Sustainable, significant change requires a new political structure, as well as a new process that ensures free and fair elections and adequate opportunities for popular participation. Real democracy must be substantive as well as procedural, bringing human security to the people – including tending to basic needs, providing decent work, and a police force that protects rather than harasses. Otherwise, the changes wrought merely defer the revolutionary moment to a later day, and the ordeal of mass suffering will resume.

To simplify, what remains unresolved is the fundamental nature of the outcome of these confrontations between the aroused regional populace and state power, with its autocratic and neoliberal orientations. Will this outcome be transformative, bringing authentic democracy based on human rights and an economic order that puts the needs of people ahead of the ambitions of capital? If it is, then it will be appropriate to speak of ‘The Egyptian Revolution’, ‘The Tunisian Revolution’ – and maybe others in the region and elsewhere to come – as it was appropriate to describe the Iranian outcome in 1979 as the Iranian Revolution.

From this perspective, a revolutionary result may not necessarily lead to a benevolent outcome – beyond ridding the society of the old order. In Iran, a newly oppressive regime resting on a different ideological foundation emerged, itself challenged after the 2009 elections by a popular movement calling itself the Green Revolution. So far this use of the word ‘revolution’ expressed hopes rather than referring to realities on the ground.

What took place in Iran – and what seemed to flow from the onslaught unleashed by the Chinese state in Tiananmen Square in 1989 – was ‘counterrevolution’ – the restoration of the old order and the systematic repression of those identified as participants in the challenge to power. In fact, the words deployed can be misleading. What most followers of the Green Revolution seemed to seek in Iran was reform – not revolution – changes in personnel and policies, protection of human rights – but no challenge to the structure or the constitution of the Islamic Republic.

Reform vs counterrevolution

It is unclear whether this Egyptian movement is at present sufficiently unified – or reflective – to have a coherent vision of its goals beyond getting rid of Mubarak. The response of the state, besides trying to crush the uprising and even banish media coverage, offers at most promises of reform: fairer and freer elections and respect for human rights.

It remains unknown what is meant by – and what will happen during – an ‘orderly transition’ under the auspices of temporary leaders closely tied to the old regime, who likely enjoy enthusiastic backing from Washington. Will a cosmetic agenda of reform hide the reality of the politics of counterrevolution? Or will revolutionary expectations come to the fore from an aroused populace to overwhelm the pacifying efforts of ‘the reformers’? Or, even, might there be a genuine mandate of reform, supported by elites and bureaucrats – enacting sufficiently ambitious changes in the direction of democracy and social justice to satisfy the public?

Of course, there is no assurance – or likelihood – that the outcomes will be the same, or even similar, in the various countries undergoing these dynamics of change. Some will see ‘revolution’ where ‘reform’ has taken place, and few will acknowledge the extent to which ‘counterrevolution’ can lead to the breaking of even modest promises of reform.

At stake, as never since the collapse of the colonial order in the Middle East and North Africa, is the unfolding and shaping of self-determination in the entire Arab world, and possibly beyond.

How these dynamics will affect the broader regional agenda is not apparent at this stage, but there is every reason to suppose that the Israel-Palestine conflict will never be quite the same. It is also uncertain how such important regional actors as Turkey or Iran may – or may not – deploy their influence. And, of course, the behaviour of the elephant not formally in the room is likely to be a crucial element in the mix for some time to come, for better or worse.

Richard Falk is Albert G. Milbank Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University and Visiting Distinguished Professor in Global and International Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He has authored and edited numerous publications spanning a period of five decades, most recently editing the volume International Law and the Third World: Reshaping Justice (Routledge, 2008).

He is currently serving his third year of a six year term as a United Nations Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

Thank http://english.aljazeera.net

February 8, 2011

Egypt Tahrir Square – Symbol of Revolution in Different Shades

Filed under: Uncategorized — unhideit @ 2:37 pm

In the two weeks that have passed since Egyptians began street protests aimed at overturning president Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule, central Cairo’s Tahrir Square has become the movement’s beating heart and most effective symbol.

As long as protesters occupy the most prominent public space in Cairo – indeed in the whole country – they cannot be ignored by the international media or their own government, despite efforts by the army to contain the demonstrations and return life to normal.

Such an occupation, by hundreds of thousands of people from all walks of life, requires supplies and a degree of organisation.

In the square, both have been achieved on an impressively ad-hoc basis. Leaders have emerged and committees have been formed, but the roughly 55,000 square metre "Republic of Tahrir Square" – as some inside are calling it – still operates on a mostly informal system of economy and defence.

On the perimetre of the square, teams of men – most ranging in age from early 20s to mid-40s – guard barricades made of debris and form checkpoints to ensure identification of guards and give thorough pat-downs to make sure no one brings in weapons.

Some wear laminated badges bearing the Egyptian flag, others identify their job – "Security" – with a piece of tape. Such checkpoints sprang up from the beginning of the occupation and now co-ordinate with army troops who mostly stand on the side and observe proceedings.

Past the checkpoints, a protester sometimes waits to provide visiting journalists with the number of a media co-ordinator or an international organisation to call if they have any complaints about treatment at the hands of the government or government-backed "baltageya" – thugs.

Informal economy

Farther inside, the square’s informal economy becomes immediately apparent.

Next to a man holding a board festooned with anti-Mubarak cartoons – the "Republic of Tahrir Square Information Ministry" – vendors hawk armloads of Egyptian flags (5 pounds/$0.85).

Along the curb nearby, enterprising businessmen have arranged tables and carts to sell pre-made cups of hot tea (1 pound/$0.17) and containers of koshari (3-5 pounds/$0.51-0.85), the ever-present Egyptian lentil and noodle dish.

Some have even begun striding around the square, peeking into tents to offer trays of tea, as they would in one of Cairo’s hole-in-the-wall coffee and shisha shops.

Around the centre of the square – a circular patch of tent-covered ground that once was grass but now is hardened dirt and swampy mud – men park their wagoncarts of packaged sweets (0.5 – 1 pound/$0.08 – $0.17).

Here, we are discouraged from filming by a tired-looking protester whose head is wrapped in a black-and-white checkered keffiyeh.

He apologises profusely but tells us he does not want the rest of the world to think that the square is some kind of festival. Earlier on Monday, we are told, Ahmed Shafiq, the prime minister, compared Tahrir Square to London’s famous and bucolic Hyde Park; this is no Hyde Park, the man says.

He’s right, of course. And that is one of the great dichotomies of the square.

Celebration and funeral

Fiery socialist men in their twenties and conservative older women in hijab crack jokes, gather to sing
patriotic songs, and call ebulliently for the downfall of Mubarak, but all around hang huge banners depicting in gory detail the portraits of the "martyrs," those protesters who have died over the past two weeks.

Tahrir Square is a celebration and a funeral.

The man tells us there is no committee that organises the supply of Tahrir; people simply take initiative. Friends pool money, and those with funds make purchases for the poor.

Impressively, prices do not seem to have inflated inside the square. After we say goodbye to the man in the keffiyeh, we buy a piece of bread (1 pound/$0.17) and a packet of tissues (0.75 pounds/$0.13).

Many of the volunteers in the square simply offer food for free.

As we sit on unfolded newspapers in the centre of the square speaking with Nasser Abdel Hamid, a member of the new youth negotiating committee, we are handed long bread with La vache qui rit cheese and pieces of grainy, "baladi" bread packed with sweet, peanut butter-style spread.

We are approached by a young man who asks if he can interrupt briefly.

Seif, a student at the Bahareyya Academy university, offers to help us find blankets, food and medicine if we plan on spending the night.

He says he is not a member of a committee, just a volunteer. He and his friends pooled $847 to buy medicine for protesters in the square.

Though Seif was beaten during the violence on Wednesday, he has returned, but he says people are having trouble bringing through supplies.

Firmly entrenched

Pro-Mubarak loyalists have been known to intimidate those arriving with supplies and to confiscate them on the roads leading to the square, and the army has occasionally shut down the flow of food and medicine.

But the protesters are firmly entrenched. The scattered tents and blankets that dotted the square a week ago have morphed into a semi-permanent encampment.

Protesters have driven wooden and metal stakes into the ground to anchor huge tarps and makeshift shelters that block out the chilly winter wind and bring to mind the expansive desert abodes of Egypt’s Bedouin population.

They have gutted lampposts and other electrical outlets to charge their mobile phones and power laptops that they use to project movies onto hanging cotton screens or read news on the Internet with still-operational wi-fi connections pirated from nearby buildings.

On a stage overlooking the central part of the square, next to a stuffed effigy lynched from a lamppost, protesters have built a stage complete with a fully functional, concert-level sound system.

On Monday night, a man strummed an acoustic guitar and sang protest songs to a crowd of hundreds.
A protester with an Egyptian flag wrapped around his waist tells us that that the people in the square have formed a new "social contract".

As we walked toward an exit with Abdel Hamid, the youth negotiator, he turned Shafiq’s statement on its head.

"This is better than Hyde Park," he said.

Thank You http://english.aljazeera.net

February 4, 2011

Revolution Enters In Final Round – This is Cairo Egypt

Filed under: Uncategorized — unhideit @ 1:48 pm

Chants urging President Hosni Mubarak to leave are reverberating across Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the focal point of protests in Egypt, where hundreds of thousands have gathered for what they have termed the "Day of Departure".

As the country entered its eleventh day of unrest, mass demonstrations commenced after Friday prayers.

Thousands also gathered in the city of Alexandria, holding up placards and chanting "He must go!" an Al Jazeera correspondent there reported. Protesters there have said they will march to the city’s main train station and stage a sit-in until Mubarak leaves office. Three thousand people also joined demonstrations in Giza.

In Cairo, about 200 Mubarak loyalists had gathered on the 6th of October Bridge, near Tahrir Square, with another 200 below the bridge. They were chanting pro-regime slogans, and holding up posters of Mubarak.

Our correspondents at the square reported that there were up to five layers of checkpoints at some entrances, with makeshift barricades being put up by pro-democracy protesters at some points, possibly in anticipation of violence if Mubarak loyalists were to approach the square.

"The feel here is that today is the final day for Mubarak, it’s time for him to go," Gigi Ibrahim, a political activist told Al Jazeera from Tahrir [Liberation] Square in Cairo.

"This whole process has been about who is more determined and who is not willing to give up. And everyday [the protesters] get more and more determined," Ibrahim said.

Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, Egypt’s defence minister, also visited the square earlier on Friday. He talked with the protesters and other military commanders.

Amr Moussa, Egypt’s former foreign minister and current secretary-general of the Arab League, also visited the square.

Earlier, Ahmed Shafiq, Egypt’s new prime minister, said the interior minister should not obstruct Friday’s peaceful marches. And Mubarak, on his part said he wanted to leave office, but feared there will be chaos if he did.

Speaking to America’s ABC television he said, "I am fed up. After 62 years in public service, I have had enough. I want to go."

But he added: "If I resign today, there will be chaos."

Mubarak’s government has struggled to regain control of a nation angry about poverty, recession and political repression, inviting the Muslim Brotherhood – Egypt’s most organised opposition movement – to talks and apologising for Wednesday’s bloodshed in Cairo.

Transition government

In a bid to calm the situation, Omar Suleiman, the vice-president, said on Thursday that the banned Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest opposition political movement, and others had been invited to meet the new government as part of a national dialogue.

An offer to talk to the banned but tolerated group would have been unthinkable before protests erupted on January 25, indicating the gains made by the pro-democracy movement since then.

But sensing victory, they have refused talks until Mubarak goes.

Opposition actors including Mohamed ElBaradei, the former UN nuclear watchdog head, and the Muslim Brotherhood said again that Mubarak, who wants to stay on until elections scheduled for September, must go before they would negotiate with the government.

"We demand that this regime is overthrown, and we demand the formation of a national unity government for all the factions," the Muslim Brotherhood said in a statement broadcast by Al Jazeera.

The government’s overture came after Shafiq, the prime minister, apologised for Wednesday’s violence and the breakdown in law and order.

Shafiq also said he did not know who was responsible for the bloodshed, blamed by protesters on undercover police.

In an important move, Mohammed Al-Beltagi, a leading member of Muslim Brotherhood, told Al Jazeera on Friday that his organisation has no ambitions to run for the presidency.

The developments come as the New York Times reports, quoting US officials and Arab diplomats, that the US administration is discussing with Egyptian officials a proposal for Mubarak to resign immediately and hand over power to a transitional government headed by Omar Suleiman, the newly appointed vice-president.

This report, though unconfirmed by the White House, comes after Mubarak’s statements on Tuesday this week, where he agreed to give up power in September at the end of his current term.

Mohamed Talaat El-Sadat, brother of the late Egyptian president Anwar El-Sadaat has backed Suleiman for the top post. He told Al Jazeera on Friday that he supported the youth revolution but did not want Egypt to go to civil war.

"We don’t want chaos and call for meeting [the] demands of demonstrators who should stay at Tahrir Square," he said, adding "I expect Mubarak will voluntarily and openhandedly step down and transfer power to Omar Suleiman."

Bloody clashes

At least 13 people have died and scores were injured, most over the last two days when Mubarak loyalists launched a counter-revolution on pro-democracy protesters.

The army took little action while the fighting raged in Tahrir Square over the past two days. However, there was a more visible military presence on Thursday; but this did not prevent new clashes.

The interior ministry has denied it ordered its agents or officers to attack prior pro-democracy demonstrations.

Vice president Suleiman told ABC Television that the government would not forcefully remove protesters. "We will ask them to go home, but we will not push them to go home," he said.

Ahead of Friday’s mass protests, eyewitnesses told Al Jazeera that thugs, with the assistance of security vehicles, were readying to attack Tahrir Square. They said protesters were preparing to confront them.

Protesters also reported finding petrol bombs on security personnel dressed in civilian clothes.

An Al Jazeera correspondent, who spent Thursday night in Tahrir Square, said "the numbers did not die down one bit" through the night. He added that there was an atmosphere of defiance among all the protesters he had spoken to.

The army’s role in shaping events is crucial. Only on Thursday did soldiers set up a clear buffer zone around the square to separate factions after having stood by. That did not prevent new clashes as opposing groups pelted each other with rocks.

Though less numerous than earlier in the week, there were demonstrations on Thursday in Suez and Ismailia, industrial cities where inflation and unemployment have kindled the sort of dissent that hit Tunisia and which some believe could ripple in a domino effect across other Arab police states.

Thank You Http://english.aljazeera.net

February 2, 2011

Islamic Revolution and The Time of Decision in Egypt

Filed under: Uncategorized — unhideit @ 6:36 pm

CAIRO, EGYPT – Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, has announced in a televised address that he will not run for re-election but refused to step down from office – the central demand of millions of protesters who have demonstrated across Egypt over the past week.

His announcement follows a week of protests, in which millions of people have taken to the streets in Cairo and elsewhere.

Mubarak seemed largely unfazed by the protests during his recorded address, which aired at 11pm local time on Tuesday.

Shortly after his speech, clashes broke out between pro-Mubarak and anti-government protesters in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, Al Jazeera’s correspondent reported.

Rock-throwing youths at the city’s Mahatit Masr Square scattered as automatic gunfire rang out and a tank advanced towards them before halting and then withdrawing. There was no sign of any casualties.

Mubarak’s words were unlikely to carry much weight with the protesters at Cairo’s Tahrir, or Liberation, Square: they resumed their "Leave, Mubarak!" chant shortly after his speech, and added a few new slogans, like "we won’t leave tomorrow, we won’t leave Thursday …"

Mubarak mentioned the protests at the beginning of his speech, and said that "the young people" have the right to peaceful demonstrations.

But his tone quickly turned accusatory, saying the protesters had been "taken advantage of" by people trying to "undermine the government".

Until now officials had indicated Mubarak, 82, was likely to run for a sixth six-year term of office. But in his address on Tuesday, Mubarak said he never intended to run for re-election.

"I will use the remaining months of my term in office to fill the people’s demands," he said.

That would leave Mubarak in charge of overseeing a transitional government until the next presidential election, currently scheduled for September.

Economy and jobs

Mubarak promised reforms to the constitution, particularly Article 76, which makes it virtually impossible for independent candidates to run for office. And he said his government would focus on improving the economy and providing jobs.

"My new government will be responsive to the needs of young people," he said. "It will fulfil those legitimate demands and help the return of stability and security."

Mubarak also made a point of saying that he would "die in this land" – a message to protesters that he did not plan to flee into exile like recently deposed Tunisian president, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst, said: "It is clear that President Mubarak is in denial over his legacy.

"Until Friday we are probably going to watch a major escalation of tension in events both between the demonstrators on the one hand and the regime of Mubarak on the other."

Mohamed ElBaradei, the Egyptian opposition figure who returned to Cairo to take part in the protests, said Mubarak’s pledge not to stand again for the presidency was an act of deception.

ElBaradei, a Nobel peace prize winner as head of the UN nuclear agency, said if Mubarak did not heed the call to leave power at once, he would be "not only a lame-duck president but a dead man walking".

"He’s unfortunately going to extend the agony here for another six, seven months. He continues to polarise the country. He continues to get people even more angry and could [resort] to violence," ElBaradei said.

Indeed, none of the protesters interviewed by Al Jazeera earlier today said they would accept Mubarak finishing his term in office.

"He needs to leave now," Hassan Moussa said in Tahrir Square just hours before Mubarak’s announcement.

"We won’t accept him leaving in September, or handing power to [newly
installed vice-president] Omar Suleiman. He needs to leave now."

Waiting game

The protests continue to feel like a waiting game – as if Mubarak is hoping to simply outlast the crowds amassed at Tahrir Square.

"When the people of a nation decide something, then it will happen," Abdullah Said Ahmed, a student from Al-Azhar University, said. "The United States chooses its leaders. We’re going to choose ours. Our patience can do anything."

Saber Shanan said: "I’ll stay here until I die or until the system changes."

Mubarak’s announcement came after pressure from the US administration, which urged him not to seek re-election.

Frank Wisner, a former ambassador to Egypt, met Mubarak on Monday and reportedly told him not to extend his time in office.

In remarks to the media at the White House on Tuesday evening, Barack Obama, the US president, said he had spoken with Mubarak who he said "recognises that the status quo is not sustainable and a change must take place".

Obama said he told Mubarak that an orderly transition must be meaningful and peaceful, must begin now and must include opposition parties.

Obama emphasised, however, that "it is not the role of any other country to determine Egypt’s leaders".

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Mona Eltahawy, a US-based Human Rights activist and Newspaper columnist said that, "The Obama administration has been completely outpaced by what is happening in Egypt. They just do not understand the amount of rage and hatred for Mubarak in Egypt.

"Because for so long, they have sided with this dictator against his own people."

"This is the defining moment now, and we need to hear from the US administration, ‘Mubarik must go’. Anything short of that will reflect that they, like Muabarak, are completely out of touch with what is happening," she added.

"The courageous Egyptian revolution is telling the world essentially, that it is time to side with the people," Eltahawy said.

Thank You http://english.aljazeera.net for the precious information

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