I’m following the events in Egypt with breathless excitement. I’ve spent much of the past several days just soaking it in, overwhelmed by impressions, thoughts, images, analyses, possibilities… Things feel like they’re really changing, and Washington was caught absolutely flat-footed. So was Israel, which may soon lose its favorite US puppet dictator.
If there’s real democracy in Egypt — if people’s voices are really allowed to be heard, their views genuinely reflected — it’s the beginning of the end of Israel’s cruel dominion over the Palestinians. Egypt will most likely stick to its 1979 peace treaty with Israel — the protests are overwhelmingly about domestic concerns, not foreign policy — but it will no longer be quite as much of a fawning puppet as Mubarak was, to his people’s rage and shame.
If it spreads even further… it’s the beginning of the end of American control over the Middle East. Some people may find that terrifying, but you know what’s really terrifying? The fact that Egypt tortures and rapes people in prison in our name. Guess how those people feel when they’re set free (if they’re not murdered in prison)?
Bottom line, there likely wouldn’t have been a 9/11 if Egypt hadn’t been ruled by an inconceivably cruel dictator for 30 years propped up by the US.
If we can learn to treat Arabs as adults capable of running their own lives and making their own decisions instead of taking up the ole “White Man’s Burden” and telling them what’s what (nothing to do with our own business interests, surely), we can end up with real allies, real friends, real human beings with whom we can work to make this world a better place, instead of oppressed subjects who despise us.
I, for one, will sleep much better at night in that world than in this one.
More later, I’m still in the absorbing phase right now… So much happens by the minute… So exciting!
And that’s not even to mention the Palestine Papers (i.e., the death knell of bogus ‘peace talks’), the Lebanese elections, Tunisia, Wikileaks… The world is turning upside-down with reality checks, and individual human consciences have more power now than they’ve ever had before. It’s an exciting time to be alive. Thank you, Egypt, for providing this moral leadership.
Here’s the best overall article I’ve found on what the revolts in Tunisia and Egypt mean for US foriegn policy and how it relates to Israel, by Phil Weiss.
Here’s a guide on how not to completely embarass yourself when you talk about Egypt. Apparently, none of our American news pundits have read it.
To those worrying about Egypt turning into a theocracy: “Most Egyptians say they favor nothing more than an advisory role for religious leaders in the crafting of legislation. Egyptians choose democracy informed by sacred values, not theocracy with a democratic veneer.”
And here’s some fairly good analysis from the New York Times. As usual, the reader recommended comments are spot-on (and two of the top three mention the Israel lobby as the reason the US gov’t is hemming and hawing about democracy in Egypt) while the NYT-recommended comments are mostly establishment-style BS. Hooray for the people of Egypt and America. We both deserve better governments (and press).
As for the looters the news keeps talking about, most of them are agents of the Mubarak government and criminals who’ve been deliberately set free to create chaos so that people will believe “only Mubarak can restore order.” It’s a despicable, cynical tactic, and no one is fooled.
Inspiringly, the people of Egypt have come together to create their own neighborhood watches, to guard the Egyptian Museum, and even to sweep the streets since the Egyptian police force disappeared after the demonstrators overwhelmed them.
It’s really touching to see people come together like that and not be fooled by the usual heavy-handed bullshit. I think the era of rule by hard military power may be in its final decades. The writing seems to be on the wall…
Finally, here’s my super-quick Cliff’s Notes version of what’s going on in Egypt, for those who don’t spend entirely too many of their waking hours with their minds halfway around the world.
In very brief: Hosni Mubarak has been ruling Egypt for 30 years with an iron fist, allowing no real democracy, keeping people poor with corrupt economic policies that only enrich his oligarch buddies, and torturing or killing anyone who dares protest (also torturing people the US brings in under extraordinary rendition).
Meanwhile, he’s also been tacitly (and sometimes actively) supporting the oppression of the Palestinian people, which shames and angers his public (and the entire Middle East). Egypt is, after all, the second largest recipient of US foreign aid in the world (Israel is first), so he’s essentially a puppet of the US government, and thus of Israel, and everyone knows it.
This doesn’t begin to describe how brutal and undemocratic and corrupt the Mubarak regime has been, or what horrors have been unleashed on the Palestinians with his help. And now he’s grooming his son to be the next ruler. The Egyptian people are hardworking, educated people who want to live normal lives. Instead they face massive unemployment, lack of healthcare, declining quality of education, a police state with no opportunity for self-expression, constant voter fraud, massive government corruption, and a police force that beats up (or worse) anyone who looks at them funny. You end up with people who have law degrees selling vegetables on the side of the road, and then getting tortured in prison because he wrote a blog post that Mubarak didn’t like. At a certain point, people get fed up.
Implications: Democracy can’t be imposed from the outside. It has to come from the inside or it’s neither legitimate nor sustainable.
Also, Israel is about to lose the ‘shield’ of puppet dictators surrounding it. It’s about to be exposed to the will of the actual people of the Arab world. And they’re not willing to sit around while Israel expands its settlements and engages in frequent casual murders of Palestinian civilians. Israel’s happy shiny world of doing whatever the hell it wants while the US distracts everyone with a bogus “peace” process (see: Palestine Papers) and the Arab dictators surrounding it quash their own public’s dissent is about to come to an end.
I hope. Either way, Mubarak can’t just ignore what’s happening right now. Something’s gotta give, and something’s gonna change. It’s very exciting. I just hope the death counts stay relatively low.
My favorite Facebook status of the past few days:
Israel changes its relationship status with Egypt on FB to “It’s complicated.”