February 1, 2011

Egypt Will March

Filed under: Civil Disobedience, Freedom — Tags: — Russell Bangs @ 4:39 am


As today’s Egyptian Million gets ready to March, the US government has decided to become broad-minded and grant that if they behave themselves and give all the requisite assurances, it may deign to consent to the participation of the Muslim Brotherhood in a new government.
I’m sure the protestors are aglow with joy and gratitude over this gracious dispensation from their betters. Or they will be once they recover from their laughter.
Meanwhile the NYT’s all over the administration’s other pressing question – Is Elbaradei someone they can “work with”? The article makes a good implicit argument that US neoliberalism can indeed work with him. His whole record is some political clashes with Bush, but never any fundamental economic critique. He warmly greeted the Obama presidency, applauded the sick joke of his nobble pries (thus retroactively tarnishing his own), and only criticized him over Gaza. So there’s no evidence that Elbaradei is anything but a sometime dissenter but fully within the system. The people mustn’t trust him to do anything but publicly call for the regime to go. Give him no authority.
We must hope the people of Egypt remain a force the system cannot work with.
According to this (an MSM piece, no less), the people have the means at hand to dispense with not only the Mubaraks and Elbaradeis but all centralized government. The article describes the Popular Committees of Alexandria.

From this small gesture, Mr. Mardini, 37, and several other men who stepped in to help discussed the fact that citizens would have to work together if the protests against the Egyptian government were going to proceed without tearing their city apart.

Out of these humble beginnings, the Popular Committee for the Protection of Properties and Organization of Traffic was born. “What we tried to do first was protect the electricity, water, gas — even the state-owned ones,” Mr. Mardini said, his voice a hoarse whisper after starting on the street at 8 in the morning on Sunday and finishing at 6:30 a.m. Monday, with a two-hour nap before hitting the road again. His stubble is gaining on his soul patch, and if he does not shave soon he will have a full beard…..

“We want to show the world that we can take care of our country, and we are doing it without the government or police,” said Khalid Toufik, 40, a dentist. He said that he also took shifts in his neighborhood watch, along with students and workers. “It doesn’t matter if one is a Muslim or a Christian,” he said, “we all have the same goal.” ….

Soon after Mr. Mardini’s first tentative steps, committee members were recognizable by the simple white armbands they wore, often just strips of fabric. They created logos and distributed fliers asking for more help from the public. Some wear photocopied pieces of paper on their chests like marathon runners’ numbers. Mr. Mardini wore a badge that read simply People’s Committee in red Arabic. But the way people walked up to him and began talking, it appeared he needed no introduction.

The civic enterprise is now divided into four branches: traffic, cleanup, protection and emergency response.

Though others refer to him as the head of the committee, Mr. Mardini said: “We don’t have a leader. This is our country, and we all have to protect it.”

This is how it naturally begins, and the next step is for these committees to realize that since they’re exercising the responsibilities of government, they should also assume the authority and exercise the power. They should use their existence as the platform upon which to call together democratic assemblies to discuss and vote upon their community affairs. These assemblies then confederate to achieve broader “governmental” coordination. We really don’t need more than that.
But it’s hard to expunge the faith in representative government.

Mr. Mardini said he was doing it for free elections. Asked what kind of government he wanted, he said he did not care, even if he disagreed with it, as long as it represented the people’s will….

“Candidate? No, I don’t want that,” he said. “I’m a normal guy.”

It’s easy to see why the NYT is fixated on that, but I hope people like Mardini soon realize that they’re already functioning as the government, and they ought to trust themselves to do so permanently. People are bound to think first about elections. But as history has proven, elections lead nowhere good if the people do nothing but exercise their sovereignty on election day and then relapse to private life. Which is exactly what the representation scam wants them to do. A democratic people must scrutinize its elected “representatives” and, when they realize these representatives are nothing but usurpers running a scam, take the final democratic step and assume direct responsibility for their own government. That not only leads to a far better society than the kind imposed from the top down by the Mubaraks, but it’s the only way to keep from having to revolt endlessly against the Mubaraks for the rest of history.
(I trust people don’t think council government would be some exotic idea to advocate for non-Western countries. I think that’s a typically patronizing attitude. As we see once again, it comes naturally to people everywhere as soon as they have democratic aspirations, regardless of regional cultural variations.)


  1. Here’s an inspiring video on the same phenomenon in Tahrir Square(H/T paper mac):

    Comment by Russ — February 1, 2011 @ 5:43 am

    • That is a feel-good video, but ultimately, one power base replaces another and becomes just as hard to dislodge. With few exceptions (Norway and Denmark, perhaps), governments, even “revolutionary” governments, as Orwell illustrated so well, are run by the pigmen or by those who devolve into pigmen. The only truly democratic elections I’ve ever seen are on the small town level, and it is amazing to watch as even these small town elected officials morph into ego-driven kleptocrats. Years ago, I witnessed the intense ego battles that poisoned the SDS movement. Jerry Rubin became a stock broker. Boys will be boys, and people will be pigmen. It was nice to see the Egyptian protesters cleaning their streets after a few days of protests, but the streets of Detroit, after decades of protests, are not so clean.

      Egypt has 5,300 people per square mile (Bangladesh has 2,900), and the average income is $3,500 a year. Since 2005, the price of food in Egypt has inflated by over 45%. The average age in Egypt is 24, and its population is projected to grow by 32% over the next 30 years. There are just some problems so endemic, that they can’t be fixed–even after throwing the tyrants out.

      Comment by black swan — February 1, 2011 @ 7:24 am

      • Most people rise or sink to the level of their social environment. At a moment like this generosity and social optimism are at a height. The hardest thing is to then maintain that inertia against the malefactors of power-seeking and the obstructions and diversions always try to impose.

        It’s a struggle, but it’s not unwinnable. If it were impossible then even what we’re already seeing would be impossible. Has any of this been “rational” from the Chicago point of view? Quite the opposite.

        Comment by Russ — February 1, 2011 @ 7:33 am

  2. Not to be all paranoid, but given the flagging nature of the WOT, you can imagine where certain elites would be, despite their public rumblings, quite keen to see a few Arab states become ostensibly more radical so as to give an excuse for continued, and/or escalated militarism in the region on the part of the U.S.A. All for reasons of “security”, of course.

    Comment by Edwardo — February 1, 2011 @ 6:37 am

    • Hi Edwardo,

      We can take it as a rule that the criminals will find pretexts to do whatever they want to do, so we should never refrain from action or support for action on the grounds that “you’ll only encourage them”. It’s a scam.

      We saw lots of that from “progressive” enemies of Wikileaks.

      Comment by Russ — February 1, 2011 @ 7:21 am

  3. And from the voices of a repressive occupying nation:

    Shimon Peres:

    “We always have had and still have great respect for President Mubarak,” he said on Monday. He then switched to the past tense. “I don’t say everything that he did was right, but he did one thing which all of us are thankful to him for: he kept the peace in the Middle East.”

    And from Israeli newspaper columnists:

    “One comment by Aviad Pohoryles in the daily Maariv was entitled “A Bullet in the Back from Uncle Sam.” It accused Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of pursuing a naive, smug, and insular diplomacy heedless of the risks.

    Who is advising them, he asked, “to fuel the mob raging in the streets of Egypt and to demand the head of the person who five minutes ago was the bold ally of the president … an almost lone voice of sanity in a Middle East?”

    “The politically correct diplomacy of American presidents throughout the generations … is painfully naive.”

    “The question is, do we think Obama is reliable or not,” said an Israeli official, who declined to be named.

    “Right now it doesn’t look so. That is a question resonating across the region not just in Israel.”

    Writing in Haaretz, Ari Shavit said Obama had betrayed “a moderate Egyptian president who remained loyal to the United States, promoted stability and encouraged moderation.”

    “Throughout Asia, Africa and South America, leaders are now looking at what is going on between Washington and Cairo. Everyone grasps the message: “America’s word is worthless … America has lost it.”

    These spokesmen for Israel sound a lot like the members of the Mob did when they felt the US Government betrayed them by allowing Fulgencio Batista to be overthrown in Cuba. Remember where Batista then took up residence? Don’t expect Mubarak to be extended the same courtesy. Perhaps he can move to Israel.

    Comment by black swan — February 1, 2011 @ 7:54 am

    • There’s a good reason the Israelis sound like gangsters.

      I thought of Batista yesterday, remembering the scene in “Godfather II” where the gangsters are partying in Havana. They keep saying Batista “understands the needs of business”. Then Michael Corleone throws a wet blanket over the festivities when he says “the soldiers are paid to fight, the rebels aren’t”, and therefore the revolutionaries can win.

      Roth scoffs at that in front of the others, but then pulls Michael aside and says “you can’t say things like that in front of everybody!”

      I wonder who’s now saying such things in private on Wall Street and in Washington? The only thing clear is how confused and disgruntled they look in public. Their MSM too.

      France wouldn’t take Ben Ali. He had to go to Saudi Arabia, a frequent refuge for this scum. I don’t know where Mubarak plans to go with all the loot. Same place, maybe.

      I can’t wait to see this same uprising in Saudi Arabia itself. Will the US government cite its imperialist “Carter Doctrine”, this time not against a so-called rogue government but against a democratic uprising?

      Comment by Russ — February 1, 2011 @ 8:05 am

  4. It looks like they’re trying to get ahead of the curve in Jordan.


    There the king sacked his government and announced “reforms” as soon as the protestors started to gather.

    I appreciate the seeming, but not really, anachronism of still having a king. Now that the globalist criminals are trying to close in on the home stretch of the round trip back to feudalism, in Jordan they saved effort by not bothering to rename their king a “president” or something.

    Back in Egypt, I like the scenes of all the panicked colonial occupiers from the US and elsewhere struggling to flee the country. It’s like the embassy roof in Saigon.


    Comment by Russ — February 1, 2011 @ 10:51 am

  5. This appeared in the Jerusalem Post, and seems to fly in the face of Paper Mac’s depiction of the Muslim Brotherhood being a peaceful organization. Here is what one important MB member had to say:

    Muhammad Ghannem reportedly told Al- Alam that the Suez Canal should be closed immediately, and that the flow of gas from Egypt to Israel should cease “in order to bring about the downfall of the Mubarak regime.” He added that “the people should be prepared for war against Israel,” saying the world should understand that “the Egyptian people are prepared for anything to get rid of this regime.”

    Ghannem praised Egyptian soldiers deployed by President Hosni Mubarak to Egyptian cities, saying they “would not kill their brothers.” He added that Washington was forced to abandon plans to help Mubarak stay in power after “seeing millions head for the streets.”

    Comment by black swan — February 1, 2011 @ 3:58 pm

    • I don’t think anyone said they were pacifists. They’re certainly willing to fight aggressors.

      The remark, if accurate (I don’t consider what Israeli newspapers put out these days to be all that authoritative), is anti-Israeli, but who could blame anyone there for feeling that way? There’s all that’s gone before, and today there’s Israel’s saber-rattling about how Mubarak needs to be saved. I reckon you’d be hearing some rhetoric out of me as well.

      Anyway, it’s only according to the imperial “Carter Doctrine” that Egypt would be presumed not to have sovereignty over the Suez Canal, and any hindrance of the flow of oil would be considered “aggression”.

      Not that I’m recommending they do that right now, but my point is that that’s hardly an example of the most extreme things I’ve been hearing lately. Those have come from the global elites.

      Comment by Russ — February 1, 2011 @ 4:30 pm

    • Supposing that Ghannam’s “statement” is endorsed by the whole of the MB: this tells us that the MB believes that all available measures should be taken to overthrow Mubarak, and that in doing so, the Egyptian people should be prepared for Israeli intervention to prevent Mubarak’s overthrow. Is this unreasonable? Belligerent?

      Or are you seriously suggesting that the MB believes that they will somehow take control of the military and invade Israel, something that the Egyptian military is both clearly incapable of doing, and would immediately result in the failure of the revolution due to US/NATO/UN intervention?

      I’m not sure if you’re simply arguing in bad faith or well-intentioned but incapable of accepting that orthodox religious groups can be and often are a force for social good. Either way, I think you should know that you’re mouthing the propaganda of a violent neocolonial project which, as we speak, is mounting a campaign to convince its docile domestic audience that the Egyptian revolution is a bunch of scary, looting, radical Islamists.

      The MB is a complex organization with a long history. It is not a terrorist organization, despite “designations” by neoliberal-colonial powers. It runs hospitals and soup kitchens, elects representatives peacefully to Egypt’s governing body, and participates in public life. It is not capable of, or interested in, invading Israel. It was not until somewhat late in the game even interested in the protests.

      Comment by paper mac — February 1, 2011 @ 4:57 pm

      • Paper mac, did you not read the part that said, “the Suez Canal should be closed immediately, and that the flow of gas from Egypt to Israel should cease”? If, in fact, that statement, which is attributed to Ghannem, has any real Muslim Brotherhood backing, then cutting off the oil and gas supply to Israel could certainly be construed as an act of war by the Israelis.

        “I think you should know that you’re mouthing the propaganda of a violent neocolonial project”

        I will “mouth” all reported information that could contain some modicum of validity. Then, after taking everything I read into consideration, I will render an opinion.

        You have already rendered an opinion, and do not question your own confirmation bias. In the past, I’ve traveled that road myself, but since taking a detour, I’ve done very well speculating in a stock market based on mark-to-madoff accounting and the prognostications of those accountants and ratings agencies that are paid to report fabricated past, present and future profits, so that the paying of bonuses can be justified for those who employ these professional liars. I’ve listened to the rhetoric of “compassionate conservatives”, of those who promise “hope and change”, and of those who organized against “taxation without representation” (only to become more concerned with gays, guns and God). I no longer believe much of what those seeking power say in order to gain more power.

        Paper mac, how long do you believe any new Egyptian government will honor the “peace pact” with Israel? Once there is a new Egyptian government, do you believe the US Government will continue with the taxpayer money laundering scam, in which $2 billion is given annually to the Egyptians in power in order to buy weapons from US defense contractors? How much power do you believe the Egyptian military will actually cede to the Muslim Brotherhood? With your professed knowledge of the Muslim Brotherhood, you should have little trouble answering questions about their honorable future intentions.

        Comment by black swan — February 1, 2011 @ 7:36 pm

      • Sorry, but the cessation of exports conducted under the auspices of a trade agreement made by a dictator’s government is not, and has never been, casus belli. Even if it were, it would be the Israelis as aggressor. The MB has zero control over NGL exports and negligible influence over the military. This is all moot, of course, because literally the only reference to “Mohammed Ghannam” is the article you cited. He is not a recognized leader of the MB and I can find no other references to him.

        You have now repeatedly made an effort to cast the MB as a violent fundamentalist group. To do so, you have presented:

        1) a single line from the MB wikipedia article
        2) a dubious quote from a known COIN front group describing a 20-year old article written by someone who, by the quote’s own description, had little or nothing to do with the Egyptian MB
        3) an alleged quote from the Jerusalem Post (the JP uses “reportedly”) from someone who may or may not be a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, but who the MB have heretofore never recognized as a leader

        You have also avoided substantiative debate about your allegations and ignored two scholarly and highly detailed accounts which clearly outline the scope and type of the Egyptian MB’s activities (Saba Mahmood’s work and the Davis & Robinson paper). I find it hilarious that you would accuse me of “confirmation bias”, given the scurrilous tidbits you have been passing as “evidence”, and your apparent inability to engage with actual, peer-reviewed research on the topic.

        I’m sure your speculative activities are rewarding you richly. I’m not sure why you think those activities are relevant to the discussion- perhaps you think your casino winnings are a substitute for knowledge? Seems to be a common disease among finance types.

        You conclude with the line “I no longer believe much of what those seeking power say in order to gain more power.” I’m again not sure what this is supposed to refer to. Are you saying I am seeking power, and lying to gain more power? Or that the academics who have made their meagre way reporting on the MB are? I again suggest that you read some of the material I recommended in the earlier thread- perhaps by gaining some legitimate knowledge of the disposition of regional players you can place some more informed bets?

        As to your questions-
        I have no idea what the orientation of any new Egyptian government will be toward Israel. To the extent that it reflects the legitimate will of the people, it will probably be wary and will uncompromisingly negotiate for the end of the apartheid state they have erected.

        As to the aid money, I’m extremely concerned about this, as I noted earlier. It seems obvious to me that this will serve as a powerful inducement to the military to put a halt to any genuine populist movement, but I don’t have any insight into the decision making process of the Egyptian military brass. That answers your last question as well- if the military intends to protect a legitimate democratic movement, the MB will continue to be represented as a significant minority in whatever form of government the Egyptian people chose, as they are now.

        Your final remark puzzles me – “With your professed knowledge of the Muslim Brotherhood, you should have little trouble answering questions about their honorable future intentions.” None of the above questions had anything to do with the MB or their future intentions. I was initially highly suspicious of your motives in repeatedly passing distortions about the MB, but it now appears that you’re genuinely confused about the MB’s place in Egyptian society and in the government.

        To briefly recap: the MB is a federation of orthodox Islamic social welfare organizations. It counts among its supporters the most poor and oppressed members of Egyptian society. It has a number of elected representatives who have, under the Mubarak regime, unsuccessfully advanced a social justice program. They have explicitly renounced the imposition of Shari’a on the population by legislative fiat. If you are legitimately interested in learning more about the MB, I’m happy to direct you to more reliable material to clarify areas you’re interested in. Otherwise, I will continue to render my “opinions”, backed by peer-reviewed research, as I see fit. Whether or not you chose to substantiatively engage with that material is, of course, up to you.

        Comment by paper mac — February 2, 2011 @ 12:42 am

      • It occurs to me that you may simply be too busy to read papers. I know you big money types like executive summaries, so heres one, just for you:


        You may wish to check out the actual Egyptian MB website available here:


        If you’re at all familiar with the websites of groups espousing violent jihad, I think you’ll find the contrast in rhetorical style notable.

        Comment by paper mac — February 2, 2011 @ 1:07 am

    • I believe it, because Israel’s been trying to provoke a bloodbath for days. So it wouldn’t surprise me if they’re sending the regime gifts.

      But I think it’s too late for that. This thing is too big to disperse with anything short of full-scale Nazi-style violence. Any brutality short of that will only boomerang, since it will spur on the protestors to become far more aggressive.

      And if Mubarak ever seriously wanted to use the army to fire on the crowds, it was a big mistake sending them in among them and then leaving them there to fraternize.

      Even if the generals wanted to renege on their pledge, I don’t think they could run the risk of ordering the troops to open fire.

      So while there’s clearly all sorts of opportunities for fascist subversion, and the police are already engaging in this, I don’t expect to see open state terrorism at this late date.

      One thing I’m worried about is something you mentioned above. I take it for granted that the generals won’t accept any outcome which could compromise their Washington gravy train. So while that still leaves open lots of possibilities, it also sets up possible confrontation scenarios, if the will of the people starts taking them places which the army leadership feels puts it in political jeopardy.

      Comment by Russ — February 2, 2011 @ 3:07 am

    • If the Israelis are arming Mubarak against those he oppressed, it is perfectly consistent with the paranoid-aggressive behavior that has historically driven the Zionist movement.

      As for the Muslim Brotherhood, paper mac states:

      “The MB is a complex organization with a long history. It is not a terrorist organization, despite “designations” by neoliberal-colonial powers.”

      However, the following passages are taken directly from the “executive summary” that paper mac posted and suggested I read in order to form a better understanding of the Muslim Brotherhood:

      “In the early 1940s, the group created a secret paramilitary wing known as the “secret apparatus,” which operated somewhat independently of the main organization. In 1948, the group assassinated the Egyptian prime minister.”

      “In 1942, the group created a created a militia called the “Secret Apparatus.” that used terrorist tactics within Egypt.”

      “Following a Brotherhood assassination attempt in 1954, Gamal Abd Al Nasser outlawed the group and made Egypt extremely inhospitable to members.”

      “A number of groups and figures who espouse terrorist tactics were taught or influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood, such Ayman Al Zawahiri, who founded the Egyptian Islamic Jihad (in part because he wanted an organization that would make more effective use of violence in the service of jihad), and Hamas, the Palestinian group that began as a branch of the Muslim Brothers.”

      Although today, the MB renounces violence, their history, according to the article posted by paper mac, suggests that they are, otherwise, predisposed to it. I have no more reason to believe any of the rhetoric the MB leadership espouses today, than I had believing what political leaders, like G.W. Bush, Carlos Menem, Putin and Obama had proclaimed in the past. Political animals are political animals, and members of devoutly religious groups frequently become political animals. So how will the MB members utilize their power if they are allowed by the Egyptian military to take important seats at the new government’s table? The jury is still out on that.

      Comment by black swan — February 2, 2011 @ 7:09 am

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