February 4, 2011

Day of Departure

Filed under: Civil Disobedience, Freedom — Tags: — Russ @ 1:33 am


That’s the name Egypt’s democratic protestors have given Friday’s demonstrations in anticipation of the decisions expected today. As with last Friday’s Day of Wrath, the people will be going to prayer at the mosques, and then will face their own decision, finding themselves in communion with God and already assembled on the street. 
It’s an ambiguous term. It refers to the citizens’ main demand, that Mubarak resign immediately. The Chief Thug himself yesterday whined that he’d like to resign but feared “chaos” if he did. In that case, he shouldn’t worry but just go ahead and quit. After all, he and his regime are completely responsible for the upheaval and especially for all the violence. Mubarak’s responsible for both the proximate disturbance of the uprising as well as the true chaos of Egypt’s economy, grossly unequal, unjust, and crushed by crony looting and global capitalism. The economic chaos of the regime, just like the chaos of neoliberalism everywhere, is the true chaos of our time. It is the true violence.
As I’ve said before in other contexts, today to be a revolutionary is truly to be a champion of order, while the real rioter is the advocate of the status quo. Mubarak has given us abundant new proof, both figuratively and literally.
The term also refers to the call for the democracy to march on the presidential palace. A plan to do this several days ago fell through. It would be a tremendous risk for tremendous stakes. It’s two kilometers through the streets, presumably harassed the whole way by thugs and obstructed by army barriers. And that leaves out of account possible uniformed police ambush. I don’t know the layout of the streets, whether they’d be surging on a wide front down several streets at once, whether the boulevards converge toward their goal or dangerously diverge, setting up potential bottlenecks.
If they try to do it, it would mean shifting the focus and presumably all their forces away from their base in the Square and into an uncertain transitional state. But how long can they stay in the Square? While there may be increasing pressure from the US on Mubarak to resign now, he’s still defiant, and it seems clear that his plan is to wait out the protests in the square, wearing them down by attrition. If that’s true, the people have gotten all they’re going to get by holding the Square.
I don’t know enough about the geography or the forces available to offer a judgement on what the people should do, but so far their instincts and tactics have justified all our confidence in their courage and resolve.


  1. Hi Russ, I have made a small map of the march by overlaying successive google maps images, because I couldn’t wrap my head around just how far this really was otherwise. It’s a large file, but I think it shows enough of the terrain to be useful. There seem to be a number of approaches to the Presidential palace, marked with the google A marker, from Tahrir sq., in the bottom-left-most extremity of the image, so I didn’t indicate any particular route. The terrain is pretty dense most of the way through, multi-story densely packed blocks with a lot of side streets. There are a few more open areas like the University and some of the boulevards approaching the Palace itself, which will probably prove difficult for the protestors to pass through if they are opposed by gunfire. Can’t really tell elevation from satellite data though, so I have no idea what routes would be more likely/advantageous.

    Comment by paper mac — February 4, 2011 @ 2:30 am

    • Thanks, paper mac, that’s great.

      From that vantage it sure looks daunting. It looks like only a few main thoroughfares. But the people on the ground would know a lot better than I would from here, and many of them think it can be done.

      If I have the time right, it’s 10AM there now. Nothing new to report in looking around right now. I don’t know what time the prayers get done.

      Comment by Russ — February 4, 2011 @ 3:02 am

      • Approx 1.00pm Cairo time, watching live on Al Jazeera.

        The People have come back stronger than ever. Really impressive. Like a rerun of Romania 20 years ago.

        Same in Alexandria.

        Comment by doggett — February 4, 2011 @ 6:14 am

      • Egyptian state tv showing stills of Liberation Square, describing the demonstration as being in “favour of stability” (??)

        Comment by doggett — February 4, 2011 @ 6:46 am

      • Sounds good! I’m reading as well that lots of people are coming in.

        I didn’t see the State TV quote, but it sounds like trying to claim all the “good” protestors have gone home since their demands were met, and now it’s just the hard core (and foreign-directed) troublemakers out there.

        But as we see from the numbers of people gathering, that’s false on its face.

        Comment by Russ — February 4, 2011 @ 7:12 am

      • Now I’ve seen that State TV was referring to the thug demonstrations as being for “stability”.

        Comment by Russ — February 4, 2011 @ 9:44 am

      • That’s puzzling because the stills were definitely of Liberation Square, and were reported as such by Al Jazeera.

        They also repeated several times that there had been no sightings of any pro-government supporters until a group of “about two hundred” attempted to approach the square about two hours later.


        Comment by doggett — February 4, 2011 @ 5:49 pm

      • The thing I saw was a split screen, I think on AJ, comparing the scene in Tahrir with the State TV showing some bucolic street somewhere with an orderly gathering chanting for “stability”.

        Comment by Russ — February 4, 2011 @ 6:44 pm

  2. George Soros says:

    “Some have articulated fears of adverse consequences of free elections, suggesting that the Egyptian military may seek to falsify the results; that Israel may be adamantly opposed to a regime change; that the domino effect of extremist politics spreading to other countries must be avoided; and that the supply of oil from the region could be disrupted. These notions constitute the old conventional wisdom about the Middle East – and need to be changed, lest Washington incorrectly put up resistance to or hesitate in supporting transition in Egypt.

    That would be regrettable. President Obama personally and the United States as a country have much to gain by moving out in front and siding with the public demand for dignity and democracy. This would help rebuild America’s leadership and remove a lingering structural weakness in our alliances that comes from being associated with unpopular and repressive regimes. Most important, doing so would open the way to peaceful progress in the region. The Muslim Brotherhood’s cooperation with Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel laureate who is seeking to run for president, is a hopeful sign that it intends to play a constructive role in a democratic political system. As regards contagion, it is more likely to endanger the enemies of the United States – Syria and Iran – than our allies, provided that they are willing to move out ahead of the avalanche.

    The main stumbling block is Israel. In reality, Israel has as much to gain from the spread of democracy in the Middle East as the United States has. But Israel is unlikely to recognize its own best interests because the change is too sudden and carries too many risks. And some U.S. supporters of Israel are more rigid and ideological than Israelis themselves. Fortunately, Obama is not beholden to the religious right, which has carried on a veritable vendetta against him. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee is no longer monolithic or the sole representative of the Jewish community. The main danger is that the Obama administration will not adjust its policies quickly enough to the suddenly changed reality.”

    Comment by black swan — February 4, 2011 @ 9:03 am

    • In all of this we seem to be seeing a schism between hard neolibs like Israel and politically softer ones like Soros (they’re all economically hard) who think the basic regime can continue even as protests like this are cosmetically appeased.

      Comment by Russ — February 4, 2011 @ 9:13 am

  3. c. 3:48 Cairo (about 20 minutes ago)


    —Chants urging Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, to leave office are reverberating across Cairo’s Tahrir Square.

    Hundreds of thousands of people have gathered at the square, the focal point of protests in Egypt, 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 resigns.

    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 correspondent reported that there was a standoff between about 300 Mubarak loyalists and pro-democracy protesters in the Talaat Harb square, which is located on a street leading to the main protest centre.

    People were throwing rocks at one another, and the Mubarak loyalists were eventually driven from the square.

    Our correspondents at the scene reported that there were up to five layers of checkpoints at some entrances, with makeshift barricades being put up by pro-democracy protesters.

    “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 the square.

    “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.—

    Comment by Russ — February 4, 2011 @ 9:08 am

  4. ‘In favor of stability’ no doubt means accepting Muburak’s appointments, particularly Omar Suleiman followed by election theater.

    Its nice that the street violence has stopped, but I won’t personally feel any better until we have word about what’s going on behind the scenes.

    Any sign of reform of police state, banker rip-off economics will give me reason to cheer.

    Comment by LeeAnne — February 4, 2011 @ 9:40 am

    • I saw that the “stability” references are to the pro-government thug rioters.

      Anti-police state, anti-bankster results? Yes, I could live with that as well. 🙂

      Comment by Russ — February 4, 2011 @ 9:51 am

  5. The Republicans seem as confused as Obama on how to handle this:


    McCain seems to have the right line for partisan warfare:

    At the same time, Obama’s rival from 2008, Sen. John McCain, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, went further than the administration in pointedly calling for Mubarak to transfer power to a caretaker government immediately. He also expressed concerns about “the influence of extremist organizations” and the Muslim Brotherhood rising to power. And, one day after meeting with Obama in the Oval Office on a range of issues, McCain also said the U.S. “must do a better job of encouraging democracy” in the Middle East.

    Right: Call for the tyrant’s ouster and pander to “democracy”, “freedom”, and all the other things McCain hates. At the same time express fears that Obama’s dithering is opening up an opportunity for “extremists” to hijack events.

    So you get the best of both worlds – you can pander to democratic, anti-tyrant feeling, while setting yourself up to accuse Obama and the Dems of losing Egypt if things take a really anti-neoliberal turn. “If Obama would’ve forced Mubarak out earlier, none of this would’ve happened.”

    Comment by Russ — February 4, 2011 @ 9:49 am

    • These fellas don’t come away from their “public service” living among the super rich by representing anything other than their own oppatoonadees.

      John Kerry, interviewed on Al Jazeera in the first hours of the uprising from Davos, while doing his best to appear statesmanlike, addresses the ‘conflict,’ with nary a clue other than the company propaganda line, that demonstrators are having with the military.

      He’s now rated richest Senator. When did that happen? Worth $165,000,000. He’s done well with the synergy of Senatorhood and his wife’s fortune.

      Its a bet McCain’s up there somewhere with him.

      These people no longer stand for anything in my book.

      Comment by LeeAnne — February 4, 2011 @ 2:29 pm

      • Yeah, I saw that Kerry stupidity. They’re all such worms.

        Comment by Russ — February 4, 2011 @ 2:33 pm

  6. It is rumored that Mubarak will leave with somewhere between $40 and $70 billion, which is not bad for someone who has only held jobs in the public sector. There’s no business like the dictator business. Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Rham Emanuel and even Rubin and Hank Paulson have got to be a little jealous, not to mention our own military generals, who have to settle for a few paltry millions after they have retired and are paid for their defense contract rigging abilities. Then there is Dick Cheney, who had never served in the private sector before going from Secretary of Defense to CEO of Halliburton. Cheney proved his ability to negotiate with the Defense Department early on, when, as a young man, he was able to wrangle five deferments from them in order to keep himself from having to serve in the military during the days of the Vietnam draft

    As Secretary of Defense, Cheney “privatized” the US Military, giving no-bid contracts to Halliburton. Then, as a reward for his public service, the board of directors at Halliburton made him CEO of the company, which he then drove to the brink bankruptcy. Following that, after leaving his Halliburton job to become US Vice President, Cheney was able to give his old company, that he still held stock in, enough no-bid contracts to raise its profits 600% A lot of young Americans had to die in useless wars for some of those hundreds of billions in taxpayers’ dollars to be funneled into Halliburton. Perhaps Cheney and the 83 year old Mubarak can go into the death business together. Wouldn’t it be interesting to watch those two old scorpions circling each other with their poison stingers raised up high.

    Comment by black swan — February 4, 2011 @ 10:29 am

    • They’d sure deserve each other.

      Comment by Russ — February 4, 2011 @ 2:34 pm

  7. What we’re witnessing in Egypt is both amazing and historic. Unfortunately, many (if not most) of things we should learn from these events will not even be recognized because they do not fit with the American worldview.

    For example, Americans are taught that Islam is a violent religion, that all Muslims are violent (if not terrorists), and that we should live in constant fear of Islam and Muslims. These messages are currently being reinforced by attempt to tie the revolution to the Muslim Brotherhood, and the tactic seems to be working in some quarters.

    But you have to ask yourself, if the Muslim Brotherhood orchestrated this peaceful revolution (which I doubt, by the way, it seems organic), how violent are they really, and what is there to fear?

    Comment by Tao Jonesing — February 4, 2011 @ 10:44 am

    • This revolution proves that all such messages are lies, including this bogeyman of “Muslim extremists”.

      As for the MB, it’s clear:

      1. That they didn’t organize this and were caught off guard by it for several days.

      2. Once they did join it, their role has been constructive throughout.

      (Except maybe for rushing to hail Elbaradei as a Leader. That reminded me of decrepit “Communist” parties like the CPUSA telling people to vote Democrat. It seems the MB remains confused over the fact of a self-organized revolution.)

      Comment by Russ — February 4, 2011 @ 2:38 pm

  8. A link, “Khamenei hails ‘Islamic’ uprisings,” I didn’t click on, but couldn’t help thinking that everyone in the world understands how to game the US propaganda system.

    Comment by LeeAnne — February 4, 2011 @ 1:58 pm

    • It sounds like he doesn’t want Iranians getting any new ideas about alternatives to either Islamic regimes or US-puppet regimes (what they claimed the Iranian uprising was about). After all, Iran already had its revolution, the only kind of revolution. So that has to be what’s happening in Egypt.

      Comment by Russ — February 4, 2011 @ 2:41 pm

      • ohhhhh, I’m so confused.

        Comment by LeeAnne — February 4, 2011 @ 5:24 pm

      • Simply put, all governments fear and loathe what’s happening in Egypt, and are looking for the right way to spin it.

        Comment by Russ — February 4, 2011 @ 6:47 pm

  9. Here’s an interesting sighting:


    5.05pm: Jack Shenker has been speaking to people within the youth movement in Egypt, mainly based online, who have told him they have four very specific demands. They do not represent everyone but they do constitute an important part of the opposition:

    • the removal of Hosni Mubarak and the whole apparatus of the Mubarak regime;

    • a committee which will appoint a transitional government, the committee to be made up of 6 named senior judges, six representatives from their youth movement and two members of the military

    • a council to draw up a new constitution, which would then be put to the people in a referendum

    • elections at national and local level in accordance with the constitution.

    No details on what they’d want to put in this written constitution. But there’s one example of protest cadres who have some kind of plan in mind.

    Comment by Russ — February 4, 2011 @ 2:45 pm

    • now there’s an election to root for -the only kind. Like you’ve been advocating all along Russ, straight from the people.

      Oh, wouldn’t it be wonderful …

      Comment by LeeAnne — February 4, 2011 @ 5:22 pm

  10. Senator John McCain shows his true imperialist colors, as he describes the Egyptian pro-democracy movement as a “virus”:

    “This virus is spreading throughout the Middle East. The president of Yemen, as you know, just made the announcement that he wasn’t running again. This, I would argue, is probably the most dangerous period of history in—of our entire involvement in the Middle East, at least in modern times.”

    Comment by black swan — February 4, 2011 @ 7:28 pm

    • It look like he couldn’t keep up his lies about “democracy” for even a few days.

      “A virus”. That’s precisely how these criminals view the people.

      Comment by Russ — February 5, 2011 @ 3:22 am

  11. It sounds a lot better than this:

    Yes. This is quite witty: “The group reiterates its call for the military to ensure the security and safety of the Egyptian youth that is protesting peacefully in Tahrir Square and other streets in Egyptian cities, and to protect them from the risk of prosecution, persecution, and violation of their rights.”

    Comment by LeeAnne — February 4, 2011 @ 11:52 pm

    • Yes, I think the best assurance of that would be to follow through with the fight until the whole regime is gone.

      Comment by Russ — February 5, 2011 @ 3:21 am

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