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Essentials on the situation in Egyp

by Bill Van Auken with General Joe and friends Wednesday, Feb. 09, 2011 at 8:49 AM

"Then, over the weekend, came the public statement by Frank Wisner, the former ambassador to Cairo tapped by the Obama administration to serve as its envoy to Mubarak. Speaking at a security conference in Munich, Wisner declared, “President Mubarak remains utterly critical in the days ahead as we sort our way toward the future.” He added that the dictator “must stay in office in order to steer those changes through.” The State Department immediately responded that Wisner was speaking in a personal capacity and had not cleared his remarks first with the US government. While mortified that Wisner had the audacity to say publicly what the administration—behind all its phony rhetoric about democracy—is actually doing, no one disputed the content of Wisner’s statement. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs found a somewhat more elegant way to echo Wisner’s view, declaring that the issue was one of “process not personality.”

Dear friends of peace and justice everywhere,



Essentials on the situation in Egypt:

The following articles cut through the web of lies being spun by corporate media on events in the lands of Pharaohs and kings. It would be hard to underestimate the benefits of an Egypt freed from imperialist/corporatist domination. And they know it too. Please share these notes with progressive forces everywhere. Again, Obama is not working for us or the citizens of that coragous nation.

-----

Obama’s cold-blooded defense of Egyptian regime

8 February 2011

The Obama administration’s cynical and reactionary policy toward Egypt won telling praise Monday from the right-wing New York Times columnist Ross Douthat. Entitled “Obama the realist,” Douthat’s column ostensibly defended Obama from right-wing criticism.

“On nearly every anti-terror front, from detainee policy to drone strikes, the Obama administration has been…maintaining or even expanding the powers that George W. Bush claimed in the aftermath of 9/11,” the column states.

While noting that the administration’s “entire approach to international affairs looks like a continuation of the Condoleezza Rice-Robert Gates phase of the Bush administration,” Douthat adds approvingly that “Obama’s response to the Egyptian crisis has crystallized his entire foreign policy vision.”

Dismissing criticism from the likes of Fox News, he adds: “It’s clear that the administration’s real goal has been to dispense with Mubarak while keeping the dictator’s military subordinates very much in charge. If the Obama White House has its way, any opening to democracy will be carefully stage-managed by an insider like Omar Suleiman, the former general and Egyptian intelligence chief who’s best known in Washington for his cooperation with the C.I.A.’s rendition program. This isn’t softheaded peacenik dithering. It’s cold-blooded realpolitik.”

These observations are substantially correct. What is to account for the Obama administration’s policy?

The upheavals that have gripped Cairo, Alexandria, Suez and smaller cities and towns in this ancient nation of 80 million are not part of some color-coded “revolution,” coordinated between Washington and privileged social layers to oust a regime that is out of sync with US policy and interests.

On the contrary, the Egyptian uprising has been dominated by the working class and its demands for an end to the mass unemployment, pervasive poverty and grotesque levels of social inequality that are the defining features of present day Egypt. It has deeply shaken one of Washington’s most valued and long-standing client states in the geo-strategically critical region of the Middle East.

Some in the media have described the Obama administration as bumbling in relation to the Egyptian events, its policy supposedly characterized by “mixed messages” and an appearance of being “at sea.”

The administration went from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s description of the Mubarak regime as stable and Vice President Joe Biden’s praise for the dictator to, just days later, Obama’s declarations of solidarity with the demonstrators and calls for an immediate and “orderly transition,” which was widely interpreted in the media as a call for Mubarak’s resignation. This was followed by a declaration on the part of the White House spokesman that the time for this transition was “yesterday.”

Then, over the weekend, came the public statement by Frank Wisner, the former ambassador to Cairo tapped by the Obama administration to serve as its envoy to Mubarak.

Speaking at a security conference in Munich, Wisner declared, “President Mubarak remains utterly critical in the days ahead as we sort our way toward the future.” He added that the dictator “must stay in office in order to steer those changes through.”

The State Department immediately responded that Wisner was speaking in a personal capacity and had not cleared his remarks first with the US government. While mortified that Wisner had the audacity to say publicly what the administration—behind all its phony rhetoric about democracy—is actually doing, no one disputed the content of Wisner’s statement. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs found a somewhat more elegant way to echo Wisner’s view, declaring that the issue was one of “process not personality.”

Unifying the various fluctuations in the administration’s statements are the basic interests of the US financial elite and its state apparatus, committed to maintaining Egypt as a key bulwark of repression and reaction throughout the Middle East.

The administration’s choice of Wisner for an envoy was no mistake. He is a man who embodies the deep concern of US imperialism in the fate of the Mubarak regime. Wisner went from being a US ambassador to a key player in the Democratic Party-linked lobbying firm, Patton Boggs, which counts Mubarak and the Egyptian regime among its premier clients.

Among the services rendered by the firm is ironing out any wrinkles in the .3 billion in US military aid that is dispensed to the Egyptian regime annually. These massive sums are not funneled solely into the pockets of the Egyptian military brass and Mubarak’s multibillion-dollar bank accounts. Of the billion in total US aid supplied since Mubarak came to power 30 years ago, half has been doled out to major US military contractors, who depend upon the aid package—second only to the one delivered to Israel—for a substantial share of their profits.

Thus, the aerospace giant Lockheed-Martin won a 3 million contract last year to supply the Egyptian air force with 20 F-16 fighter jets. Raytheon was awarded million to provide Egypt with stinger missiles. Boeing got .5 million last year to produce Apache helicopters for the Egyptian Army. The list of contractors, both household names and those familiar only within the military industrial complex, goes on and on.

The aim of the Obama administration in Egypt is of a piece with the profit interests of these giant US-based corporations. It is determined to keep in power a regime that remains dominated by the Egyptian military and subservient to the interests of the US and Israel.

To that end, it has directed its attention increasingly to the man Mubarak recently appointed as his vice president, Omar Suleiman, the longtime chief of military intelligence. Suleiman earned Washington’s trust by lending his services as an experienced torturer to the “extraordinary rendition” program inaugurated by the CIA under the Clinton administration and vastly expanded under Bush.

Hillary Clinton made it clear during her trip to Munich over the weekend that the administration is backing Suleiman as the steward of the “orderly transition.” She voiced concerns over a report—later proven to be bogus—of an attempt to assassinate Suleiman and over claims that an oil pipeline in the Sinai was bombed. The implications were clear: Egypt’s “democratic transition” requires the strong hand of a secret police chief with no qualms when it comes to killing and torture.

The cold-blooded realpolitik praised in the New York Times will inevitably mean the shedding of real blood in the streets of Cairo and other Egyptian cities as workers and young people resist this US-backed attempt to maintain a corrupt and oppressive regime.

That such policies are openly defended in the pages of the Times and broadly throughout the media and the political establishment speaks not just to the criminal and reactionary character of US foreign policy. It is symptomatic of the absence of any constituency for democratic rights within the US ruling elite itself.

Sitting on top of a country which, in terms of the Gini coefficient, the standard measure of income distribution, is significantly more unequal than Egypt itself, the billionaire pharaohs of Wall Street instinctively hate the mass revolutionary uprising of the Egyptian workers, fearing that conditions of mass unemployment, growing poverty, social inequality and a government that is completely indifferent to the interests and demands of the people will unleash similar upheavals in the US itself.

Bill Van Auken

and:

Egyptian protesters face mounting violence and repression

By Patrick Martin 
8 February 2011

Thousands of demonstrators remained camped in Cairo’s central Tahrir Square Monday night, defying threats of violence and a wave of arrests by the secret police of the Mubarak dictatorship.

Some demonstrators lay down under the tracks of army tanks that surround the square, in an effort to block any forward movement. A large group of demonstrators blockaded the Mogamma complex of government offices that adjoins the square, preventing an effort by the authorities to reopen it.

The Egyptian military intensified the pressure on the anti-Mubarak demonstrators, attempting to push the protesters into a smaller area in the square, while temporarily blocking delivery of food supplies.

The blockade was abandoned only after a sit-down protest began on the street near Qasr Al Nil bridge, with dozens of sympathizers who were bringing food to the demonstrators waving bags of food in the air. As the Washington Post reported the incident: “The crowd at this secondary protest grew until it numbered several hundred angry, chanting people. Similar scenes were enacted at other entrances to the square, threatening to spread the unrest outward into the city. After an hour, with no explanation, the army relented, and food was again allowed in.”

Contrary to the Obama administration’s claims that a process of negotiation is under way that will produce a peaceful political transition, all indications are that the Mubarak dictatorship is using the talks as a smokescreen while it prepares a military onslaught on Tahrir Square.

Tensions are rising in advance of further mass protests planned for later in the week. There is a visible buildup of the military, with tanks pointing their gun barrels towards the protesters’ campground, and rolls of barbed wire and sandbagged checkpoints on side streets.

“Army units have increased their presence in and around Tahrir Square, parking tanks on every street,” the Guardian reported. “Military officials have gradually imposed obstacles—more checkpoints, more coils of razor wire, limitations on television cameras—and urged demonstrators to go home.”

New evidence of the savagery of the military regime’s repression is coming to light every day. Human Rights Watch issued a report Monday documenting that some 300 people have been killed during the two weeks of antigovernment protests. The report was based on visits to seven hospitals in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez and interviews with doctors and morgue workers.

Most of the victims were killed by gunfire, the vast majority in Cairo during the first week of the protests, with 217 killed from January 25 through January 30, and 15 more on February 2-3, when pro-regime thugs attacked the crowds in Tahrir Square. There were 52 deaths documented in Alexandria and 13 in the industrial city of Suez.

The actual death toll is undoubtedly far higher, given that protests have broken out all over the country and the HRW report included only three cities. A UN human rights official has estimated a death toll of more than 300 just in the first week of protests. Egypt’s own Health Ministry reported that at least 5,000 people were injured on a single day, Friday, February 4.

The Al Jazeera television network obtained and broadcast several videos of savage violence carried out by police and pro-regime thugs last week, during two days of attacks on the demonstrators in central Cairo, carried out February 2-3.

The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights estimates that at least 1,275 people have been detained by police since the protests began. Most were seized and later released, in some cases after beatings and other forms of torture. However, there is a growing list of missing or “disappeared.”

The crackdown on foreign journalists continues—an effort to reduce the number of witnesses for the planned bloody settlement of scores with the most militant students, workers and other demonstrators camped out in Tahrir Square. Two Al Jazeera correspondents were detained Sunday, including the Cairo bureau chief for Al Jazeera English, Ayman Mohyeldin, a US citizen. Mohyeldin was released Sunday night. He described hearing other detainees being beaten by soldiers.

Egyptian journalists are being rounded up as well, but few details are available, because most of these remain imprisoned and cannot tell their stories. Raids continue on human rights groups as well.

The widespread public sympathy for the oppositional movement continues to find reflection even among the most privileged layers of the Egyptian media. The leading news anchorwoman for state television quit her job Monday, declaring she could no longer continue dispensing official propaganda.

At the same time, the military dictatorship, in close alliance with the United States, is continuing its political maneuvers with sections of the bourgeois opposition, after several hours of talks on Sunday conducted by Vice President Omar Suleiman with a delegation that included representatives of the long outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. The aim of these discussions is to buy time to prepare a more definitive crackdown on protesters, while a “transitional” government is put in place equally as dedicated as Mubarak to defending the interests of the US and the Egyptian ruling class.

The decision by the Muslim Brotherhood to drop its longstanding precondition for talks—the resignation of Mubarak—was a major capitulation to the regime, and drew widespread criticism from demonstrators.

Three top leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood held a press conference where they attempted to justify their climbdown. Mohammed Saad El-Katatni, a member of the group’s Guidance Council, said, “We wanted the president to step down but for now we accept this arrangement. It’s safer that the president stays until he makes these amendments to speed things up because of the constitutional powers he holds.”

What exactly is “safer”? Certainly not the lives of those who are heroically defying the threat of a bloodbath in Tahrir Square. It is the “safety” of bourgeois property that concerns all the representatives of the Egyptian elite of businessmen, landlords and military bureaucrats.

This declaration reveals the class position of the bourgeois opposition groups, whether Islamist or secular: in the final analysis, they regard the military and Mubarak himself as a guarantor of their property interests against an uncontrolled revolutionary explosion from below.

At a formal meeting of his cabinet Monday, President Hosni Mubarak approved a 15 percent pay raise for public sector workers, as well as an increase in pensions. These measures are intended both to cement the loyalty of the security forces, the principal support of his regime, and to throw a sop to the mounting working-class opposition.

The enormous social polarization in Egypt, the driving force of the revolutionary upheaval, was underscored by the publication the same day, in the opposition newspaper Al-Masry al-Youm, of estimates of the personal wealth of a group of former government ministers and Mubarak cronies. These include:


• Ahmed Ezz, a steel magnate, and former Organization Secretary of the ruling party: billion


• Former Housing Minister Ahmed al-Maghraby: .8 billion


• Former Tourism Minister Zuhair Garrana: .2 billion


• Former Minister of Trade and Industry Rashid Mohamed Rashid: billion


• Former Interior Minister Habib al-Adly: .3 billion

These corrupt officials can be named in the press because the Mubarak regime is now prepared to sacrifice them to appease public opinion. Their assets have been frozen, three of them have been denied permission to leave the country, and formal corruption charges are being readied.

Even greater—but unreported by either the Egyptian or the Western press—are the assets accumulated by the Mubarak family and those cronies who are still being protected. Meanwhile the average Egyptian worker takes home barely a day, according to government statistics.

and from a sister nation:

Tunisian regime seeks emergency powers against mass protests

By Alex Lantier 
8 February 2011

Yesterday the Tunisian parliament’s lower house voted 177 to 16 to grant emergency powers to Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi, the head of the Tunisian regime since President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was forced to flee by mass protests on January 14. The Senate is expected to vote on the bill Wednesday, at which point it can be ratified by interim president Fouad Mebazza.

Ghannouchi, a top finance official under Ben Ali who helped design privatization policies that benefited Tunisia’s financial elite, applauded the bill. He said, “Tunisia has a real need of rule by decree to remove dangers. There are people who want Tunisia to go backwards, but we must honor our martyrs who fought for liberty.”

As lawmakers debated the bill, hundreds of demonstrators massed outside to demand the dissolution of the parliament—which was not dissolved after Ben Ali fled. Bin Ali’s ruling party, the Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD), still holds 80 percent of the seats in the parliament.

Ghannouchi’s move to obtain emergency powers came amid continuing popular protests and street fighting between the population and the Tunisian dictatorship’s police forces. After four people were killed and a dozen injured in clashes with police in El Kef on Saturday—as the population demanded the departure of a corrupt police chief—the El Kef police station was torched Sunday. Another demonstrator was killed.

In Kebili, in southern Tunisia, one youth died after he was hit by a teargas canister amid clashes with security forces.

A national march to Sidi Bouzid—the city where the self-immolation of fruit vendor Mohamed Bouazizi triggered the protests—gathered 7,000 people.

Strikes are also continuing against the regime. On February 4, Le Monde reported strikes in a number of industrial sectors—by mass transit workers, Tunis Air temp workers, and state media employees. However, it wrote, “overall the economic machine has restarted, especially at the Radès port in Tunis, which controls 70 percent of the country’s export-import trade.”

Under these conditions, the regime has not yet dared to carry out mass repression against the population. The emergency powers vote, however, clearly signals the type of policy the Tunisian regime plans to eventually pursue. It is not trying to reform itself, but to exploit Ben Ali’s departure to buy time, strengthening its repressive powers to prepare for conditions in which it believes it can move decisively against the working class.

This decision is not only an exposure of the Tunisian dictatorship, but of policies of the United States and other imperialist powers throughout North Africa. They are replying to mass protests in Egypt by claiming that the regime of Hosni Mubarak will make a “democratic transition,” transforming the country by eventually arranging for Mubarak to give up his post.

As the Tunisian example shows, however, simply changing who is dictator at the top does not transform the regime. In fact, only overthrowing the dictatorship and replacing it by a state based directly on independent organizations of the working class and pursuing socialist policies can provide a democratic way forward for the masses.

While top government officials and pro-regime papers cynically praise the revolution, the state is trying to disorient and draw down popular opposition.

The regime is handing out blood money to its victims. It will pay €10,300 to the family of someone killed by the state during the protests, and €1,546 to the wounded. As of February 1, the UN had counted 219 killed and 510 wounded.

Above all, the regime is cynically trumpeting various measures carried out to defend its own interests as measures to undermine the RCD. Amid a mass demonstration demanding the resignation of the entire transitional government, a January 28 cabinet reshuffle removed Kamel Morjane, another hated RCD figure close to Ben Ali, as foreign minister. Ahmed Ounais, a high-ranking official and former ambassador trained in France—the former colonial power in Tunisia—took his place.

Morjane said that he was leaving “so that the popular revolution can bear fruit.”

The Ghannouchi regime has the support of Tunisia’s trade union bureaucracy in this maneuver. The General Union of Tunisian Workers (UGTT) called off a strike it had announced for that day, announcing that it wanted Ghannouchi to remain in power. It declined to participate in Ghannouchi’s government, however.

The Tunisian establishment press has taken to praising various ministers of the regime as progressive figures. In Le Temps, columnist Khaled Guezmir applauded Interior Minister Farhat Rajhi—a magistrate being promoted as a “left” figure—for moving his office from the old French colonial ministry to newer quarters and evading questions on state wiretapping. Guezmir cynically praised Rajhi, who is apparently appearing frequently on television, as “a minister from whom one expects only the best.”

Yesterday it was announced that the RCD would cease to operate. The Tunisian daily, La Presse, explained: “Given the state of extreme emergency and with the objective of preserving the superior interests of the fatherland, the interior minister has decided to suspend yesterday the activities of the RCD, and all meetings or rallies of its members, and to close all facilities belonging to this party or that it manages, in the expectation that a request for its dissolution will be placed with the competent judicial authorities.”

Such a “dissolution” is completely worthless, and designed to protect the RCD from the protesters far more than the other way around. It amounts to asking people to believe that leading members of the RCD—like Ghannouchi, as he demands emergency powers—are honestly attempting to dissolve the historic instruments of their own rule.

The reason that the machinery of the Ben Ali regime has continued to function after the departure of its leader, as the press peddles these cynical lies, is not that the regime is popular or that the press’s arguments are convincing. It is mainly because no force in Tunisia had a consciously prepared plan to lead the working class in the overthrow the Ben Ali dictatorship.

This confirms the warnings made by the World Socialist Web Site in its statement “The mass uprising in Tunisia and the perspective of permanent revolution”: “The crucial question of revolutionary program and leadership remains unresolved. Without the development of a revolutionary leadership, another authoritarian regime will inevitably be installed to replace that of Ben Ali.”

-----

If the middle east can truly change now as a result of these revolutionary outpourings our world will have moved so much closer to the "change we can believe in." Please spread widely and work as hard as you can to advance this critical process of change. General Joe





Find details for more publishing below:



Essentials on the situation in Egypt

Bill Van Auken with General Joe and friends

"At a formal meeting of his cabinet Monday, President Hosni Mubarak approved a 15 percent pay raise for public sector workers, as well as an increase in pensions. These measures are intended both to cement the loyalty of the security forces, the principal support of his regime, and to throw a sop to the mounting working-class opposition.

The enormous social polarization in Egypt, the driving force of the revolutionary upheaval, was underscored by the publication the same day, in the opposition newspaper Al-Masry al-Youm, of estimates of the personal wealth of a group of former government ministers and Mubarak cronies. These include:


• Ahmed Ezz, a steel magnate, and former Organization Secretary of the ruling party: billion


• Former Housing Minister Ahmed al-Maghraby: .8 billion


• Former Tourism Minister Zuhair Garrana: .2 billion


• Former Minister of Trade and Industry Rashid Mohamed Rashid: billion


• Former Interior Minister Habib al-Adly: .3 billion

These corrupt officials can be named in the press because the Mubarak regime is now prepared to sacrifice them to appease public opinion. Their assets have been frozen, three of them have been denied permission to leave the country, and formal corruption charges are being readied.

Even greater—but unreported by either the Egyptian or the Western press—are the assets accumulated by the Mubarak family and those cronies who are still being protected. Meanwhile the average Egyptian worker takes home barely a day, according to government statistics."

-----

Again, please spread widely now and stay tuned. And don't believe anything the corporate media or Obama tell you about Egypt. General Joe







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