Sunday, January 30, 2011
-- Cindy Sheehan, "The 'R' Word" (Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox).
Most of the signatories are principled women and men disgusted with war. But the action against Obama they call for does not match the crimes they cite – it does not even come close. Electoral action, among other forms of activism, is needed, and the considerable prestige attached to some on this list of signatories can help to initiate such action. On the other hand, some among the signers have always come down on the side of the Dems in the end, no matter what they do. Let us hope that the latter are not in the driver’s seat and that this manifesto is but one brief step on a determined and forceful march to field a badly needed alternative in 2012. The hour is late and lives by the score are lost every day at Obama’s hand.
-- John V. Walsh, "Obama's Chokehold on Left Antiwar Activists," (Antiwar.com):
What happened? Personal plans. We started this edition at 3:00 p.m. (PST) so we actually did it very quickly. We may do that again in the near future because so many of us loved being able to sleep Saturday night. We'll see.
But we thank everyone for their help. The credits for it are Dallas and the following:
The Third Estate Sunday Review's Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess and Ava,
Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude,
Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man,
C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review,
Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills),
Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix,
Mike of Mikey Likes It!,
Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz),
Ruth of Ruth's Report,
Wally of The Daily Jot,
Trina of Trina's Kitchen,
Marcia of SICKOFITRDLZ,
Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends,
Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts,
and Ann of Ann's Mega Dub.
And what did we come up with?
more information on the protest at A.N.S.W.E.R.
And that's what we ended up with.
-- Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava and C.I.
Let's review. January 1st, 1 person was reported dead and nine injured. January 2nd, 9 people were reported dead and six wounded. January 3rd, 5 were reported dead and twenty-eight wounded. January 4th, 3 were reported dead and five wounded. January 5th, 2 were reported dead and eleven injured. January 6th, one person was reported injured. January 7th, 5 were reported dead. January 8th, 9 were reported dead and eight injured. January 9th, 1 person was reported dead and another reported wounded. January 10th, 4 were reported dead and sixteen injured. January 11th, 4 were reported dead and nineteen injured. January 12th, 4 were reported dead and four were injured. January 13th, 3 were reported dead and fourteen injured. January 14th, 2 people were reported dead. January 15th, six people were reported injured. January 16th, six people were reported wounded. January 17th, 1 person was reported dead and nine injured. January 18th, 60 people were reported dead and one hundred and sixty four injured. January 19th, 25 people were reported dead and forty-two injured. January 20th, 68 were reported dead and one hundred and sixty injured. January 21st, no reports of deaths or injured. January 22nd, no reports of deaths or wounded. January 23rd, 8 people were reported dead and thirty-seven wounded. January 24th, 34 people were reported dead and one hundred and fifty-six people were reported wounded. January 25th, seven people were reported wounded. January 26th, 6 were reported dead and one injured. January 27th, sixty-three people were reported dead and one hundred and four injured. January 28th, 2 were reported dead and eight injured. January 29th, five were reported dead. Through Saturday, at least 320 people have been reported dead and eight hundred and three injured. In addition, 6 US service members have died in Iraq so far this month.
Monday the big bombing was Karbala. Thursday's biggest bombing targeted a Baghdad funeral. There was news of another attempted power-grab by Nouri al-Maliki. Rumors continued to swirl around Moqtada al-Sadr. al-Sadr returns and the press salivates day after day after day after . . . al-Sadr departs and most ignore it. Despite the fact that the most popular rumor is the League of Righteous posted fliers calling for al-Sadr's death.
So much interest in his return, so little in his departure.
Iraqi women are targeted. If their husbands are or become terrorists, Kelly McEvers (NPR's Morning Edition) reported, the widows are left without social services apparently because "Ministry of Defense spokesman Mohammad al-Askari says he finds it hard to believe that any of them are totally innocent." And if they're widows whose husbands weren't classified as terrorists? Roula Ayoubi (BBC News) reported that instead of providing social services to these woman and their children, the policy being pimped is to marry these women off to men . . . who already have wives.
It was by no means a slow week but if people were looking for something to talk about, if they were struggling with an Iraq 'hook,' this might have been the week to finally give some attention to Iraqi women. It was the week that Manal Omar, author Barefoot in Baghdad: A Story of Identity -- My Own and What it Means to be a Woman in Chaos, was interviewed by NGO Coordination Committee in Iraq about the status of women's rights in the new 'democratic' Iraq. Excerpt:
NCCI: As the former Regional Coordinator for Women for Women International in Iraq, what do you feel are some of the greatest obstacles facing NGOs which operate in the sector of women's rights?
Manal Omar: The biggest challenge is when women become the negotiating chip. One of the titles of my chapters in my book is "Negotiating Chip," because I witnessed too often how women's rights were used during political or social bargaining. For example, you may have high-level Kurdish representatives that believe 100% in women's rights. However, during political debates, or when it's time to vote on a resolution, they will not vote pro-women. When I would challenge them, they often would say that their primary issue is federalization, and as a result, they would strike a deal on a resolution for women if more conservative parties would vote on the resolution of federalization. The second challenge is what I call the "not now" argument. This argument usually states that because of overall violence and instability, it is not an appropriate time to discuss women's issues. I have witnessed how the "not now" easily becomes the "not ever." Women must maximize the window of opportunity to push their rights forward.
A one time cutting edge show became flaccid, long, long ago. But it could still, from time to time, provide a sharp jab of comedic humor. That all ended with the ascension of Seth Myers to head writer. Now the long running show is nothing but a never-ending embarrassment.
Barack Obama gave a State of the Union address. In times past, regardless of who was president -- Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton or George W. Bush -- it would have been comic gold. But back then, head writers were interested in comedy. Myers, who donated to Barack's presidential campaign, is interested not in getting laughs but in protecting his candidate.
It may help Barack's 2012 rollout but it doesn't do humor any favors.
Instead of addressing the speech, SNL used the opening skit (their most watched spot every episode) to present Kristen Wiig doing her Suzy Orman routine but in a longer wig and supposedly portraying Michelle Bachman as she stammered and fumbled through the, again, most watched skit of the program.
Michelle Bachman, for those who don't know, delivered a response to the State of the Union Address last week on behalf of the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party and CNN carried it live (on TV, only CNN carried it live). The speech quickly became a media joke with many laughing about how US Rep. Bachman didn't know which camera to face and delivered the entire speech to the wrong camera.
Actually the joke was on CNN because anyone who is at all familiar with live TV knows you immediately switch to the other camera when someone is being carried by the wrong one. "Go to camera two! Go to camera three! Get me something!" should have been the cry from the CNN control room. The fact that it wasn't has two obvious meanings, CNN can't do its job or CNN found the attempt to turn Bachman into a joke too tempting to pass up. Neither meaning speaks well of CNN.
And certainly a live show like Saturday Night Live is well aware of camera mix ups and who is responsible and how they are fixed. But they chose to play dumb and pretend that the joke was Bachman.
Michelle Bachman wasn't even delivering the Republican response. That was done by It Boy Paul Ryan. To be clear, Saturday Night Live hiding behind Paul Ryan for state of the union humor would have been very sad as well. Lucky for them, they were able to work out all their Mommy issues using Bachman.
Neither Ryan or Bachman leads in the House. But aiming low, at soft and easy topics, allows SNL to be meaningless as well as unfunny.
Meaningless? When you can't comment on the events of today -- on a live show, no less -- what do you do?
Why you hit the nostalgia button. Which is why we suffered through not a skit about kids learning science but a skit about a 70s TV show where kids learned about science. Not a spoof of horror movies, mind you, but a skit about TCM airing a horror movie. The distance, the detachment, went along way towards routing out the humor.
Big laughs were never going to be found in a balloon rubbed on a man's groin, granted. But putting everything in flashback ensured that the comedy was even less pertinent. Sort of like the soft focus way they gingerly approach Barack.
Despite devoting the opening skit to Bachman, Seth Myers just knew more guffaws were to be found in Bachman so he made her a joke in his floundering "Weekend Update" -- an update so bad that if you get very silent you can hear the cries of "Come back, Kevin Nealon, come back!"
Somewhere among all the dick jokes, including a product called El Shrinko, we figure most viewers turned off thirty-five minutes in as they grasped that this was one of those really bad broadcasts. Saturday Night Live does appear to be having an ever greater number of those episodes this year, yes.
And possibly it has to do with with whom they select as hosts? We have no problem with Jesse Eisenberg per se. He appears to be a gifted character actor. However, we're fully aware that gifted character actresses don't really get to host SNL. Betty White is pretty much the only big name, non-babe woman ever to host that wasn't a child and, for White to be booked, a massive online campaign had to be launched. And Betty White still qualified as a media It Girl at the time she was booked. You have to go back to 1979 for the last and only character actresses (plural) to ever host (Maureen Stapleton in May, Bea Arthur in November). In the many years since then, there's been the occasional nod to the non-leading lady -- in other words, Rosie O'Donnell and Rhea Perlman both got to host -- well, Rhea got to co-host with husband Danny De Vito. That's really it and we're talking 31 years since Stapleton and Arthur.
If the criteria were actually being funny, we'd guess that Rhea, and not Sarah Michelle Geller, would have hosted the program three times by now. And it's really something to watch how far the show will go to avoid booking funny women who don't qualify as 'babe. For example, many an SNL skit has been killed by the I-can't-read-my-lines-on-the-cue-cards work of sports stars. Yes, SNL hosts have included, for example, John Madden, Andy Roddick, Peyton Manning, Michael Jordan, Walter Payton, Joe Montana, Michael Phelps, Charles Barkley, Fran Tarkenton, Derek Jeter, Wayne Gretzky -- the list is endless. If you're a male athlete. If you're a female? In November of 1989, the year she retired, Chris Evert became the first and last female athlete to host the program. Figure skater Nancy Kerrigan hosted in March of 1994 for those who want to stretch the limits of "athlete" and ignore that she was booked solely for being a tabloid victim. In what world are the Williams sisters, butt of so many SNL jokes, not hosts but Rudy Giuliani repeatedly is? And do you really want us to talk about the (male) politicians who have hosted? And how no female ever has?
When we bring up facts like that to some SNL friends still with the program, we're told none of that matters, that SNL's only job is to be funny. As we noted at the start, it's failing there as well.
Ava and C.I. note, 1-31-11: Third paragraph from the bottom has been reworded for clarity.
Fortunately, the gutting of Social Security will wait for another day in the near future. Even without that massively unpopular move, Barack still managed to underwhelm. The reviews are in and the speech should have closed out of town.
"President Obama grossly understated the heavy toll that the Afghanistan and Iraq wars are baring on troops and the economy. The Afghanistan War is now the longest war in U.S. history. Military healthcare costs are rising at twice the rate of the national average and occupy a major chunk of the Pentagon budget (USA Today 4/25/10). 2009 was the first year since recordkeeping began that mental health disorders were the major cause of hospitalization (USA Today 5/16/10), a grim symbol of compounding trauma. Obama declared in his speech that veterans are returning home 'with heads held high,' a fable not reflected in the record suicide rates." -- Iraq Veterans Against the War.
"If you've been in a coma for the last five years and just woke up, we have a housing crisis in this country, specifically people losing their homes as a result of predatory lending practices. And where is their relief? Supposedly, the TARP program (which Barack strong-armed the House into going along with -- don't say, "Bush's plan!" -- Barack strong-armed the House into going along with it, it is on him) and the other bailouts after Barack was sworn in were supposed to make the economy better and protect families. But that hasn't happened. And families continue to lose their homes. Having worked non-stop for Wall Street during his first two years as president, I foolishly thought he might have something for Main Street. I was very, very wrong." -- Trina McKinnon, Trina's Kitchen.
"The White House and Congress can reduce the deficit drastically by ending the wars and occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq, cutting military spending and the number of US bases on foreign soil, and taxing the wealthy so that they pay their fair share. Future meltdowns can be averted by breaking up the "too big to fail" financial firms into smaller locally-based companies. The Green Party's goal of a decentralized economy, based on Main Street rather the Wall Street, will restore economic stability and security to the US." -- the Green Party response
"[. . .] Obama has truly been a hypocrite on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As a candidate, he promised to end them. Tonight we heard more hollow promises. The fact is, as president, he has kept those wars going, and has greatly escalated the war in Afghanistan. As a percentage of GDP, military spending is higher now than it was during any year of the George W. Bush administration." -- Wes Benedict (link has text and video), Libertarian Party.
"The worst of the recession is over for Wall Street because they're prospering. They're the ones that got all the bailout -- not, not the average citizen who's unemployed, so, no, not at all. And just listen to the rhetoric. He's saying, you know, we can't spend money, we've got to make cuts.' Where are they going to make the cuts? Discretionary spending is only 12% of the budget. That leaves out defense. And, of course, this joke that they're going to cut the defense budget, the Republicans will fight that tooth and nail and the Democrats will cave as they normally do." -- former US Senator Mike Gravel on Tuesday's Morning Mix (KPFA).
"The war in Iraq occupied no more space in President Obama's State of the Union address than it has in his administration's foreign policy: not exactly a footnote, but no longer the contentious, consuming, convulsive center of all attention. Iraq came up only briefly in the 46th minute of a speech that lasted just over an hour, but his five sentences and 72 words amounted to a declaration of victory, if a subdued one." -- Steve Lee Myers and Alissa J. Rubin (New York Times).
"When he finally got around to discussing the two wars that eat up billions of tax dollars and that have killed or maimed thousands of young men and women, he spoke as if these conflicts are just another wonderful American program for progress and peace. He mentioned 100,000 troops returned from Iraq, but neglected to mention the 50,000 who remain. He mentioned how our civilians 'will forge a lasting partnership with the Iraqi people,' but did not explain that they can only move about the country in a military convoy. If, or when, we leave that devastated country, we will leave it with millions of unemployed, angry people who cannot possibly contribute to their own security, let alone ours." -- Military Families Speak Out's Sarah Fuhro (Boston Globe).
"There were many things missing from the president's address, and every American can take his or her choice as to which was the most significant. I wondered how he could all but leave out Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, when we are fighting at least three (think, too, of Somalia and Yemen) bitter "wars of choice." These are the wars that will poison his chalice in the next two to six years, no matter what he does; these are the hopeless conflicts that will eat American blood and treasure alive, as every American soldier on the ground in those sad and miserable countries serves only as a lighting rod to create more al-Qaida and Taliban terrorists as they perceive they are defending their lands from foreigners. But then, American citizens themselves care so little about these wars, it should be no surprise that our leaders don't care that much, either." -- Georgie Anne Geyer's "SOTU: What was said -- and not said" (News-Herald).
"And, so, I guess my reaction to the speech was very positive the first day, but it's gotten a little sour the subsequent days." -- Republican David Brooks on PBS' The NewsHour.
"The competitiveness theme extended to education and 'Race To The Top'--where sadly competitiveness means some kids win and some kids lose out in the American educational system. At least with "No Child Left Behind" the Bush Administration presented the same policies under the a phony title that made it sound like they meant to help all kids." -- Ruth Conniff, The Progressive.
Stumpy Flacks wrote:
The growing progressive drumbeat about President Barack Obama’s failed presidency, coupled now with fantasies about opposing his re-nomination, or with anguished hand-wringing about his failure to communicate, to lead, etc. etc., dismays me. This hysteria is rooted in fear and anger over the intransigence of the corporate plutocracy we are up against.
And like us, your first thought might have been bottom line -- specifically, how much did In These Times pay for this tired old crap? Limp Flacks was writing this same piece months ago with "What is Next?"
Are you as tired as I am with never-ending critiques of Barack Obama coming from the left as well as the right? Mainstream punditry has decided that he is largely a failed president (never forget that the MSM thought he was a failed candidate before he wasn't).
When did the MSM think Barack was a failed candidate? Answer: Never.
He was the choice of the press whores doing their bidding for the corporations.
That Limp Stumpy would lie about reality is only surprising if you missed his all-over-the-internet entitled "On Tom Hayden" in 2008 which was really about himself and revisionary tactics. Reading him writing about CED (Campaign for Economic Democracy), the first question should have been: "Isn't Dick required to note his connection to and work for CED?" Ethically he is required to do so. But when have ethics ever mattered to Dick?
Those aware of the CED are probably even more puzzled by Dick's rush to bury it claiming "It came to an end as Tom focused on his own political career, getting elected from Santa Monica to the California state Assembly, while many other CED activists found niches in government, party politics and mass media." Seriously?
Tom Hayden was elected to the State Assembly in the 1982 elections. The CED did not vanish. Not only did it not vanish, its coffers were overflowing. When first published in 1981, the author's profits from Jane Fonda's Workout Book went directly to the CED. This continued as the Workout became so much more than just a book by Jane Fonda garnering huge sales from vinyl and audio cassette copies and revolutionizing the home entertainment industry with its video cassette version. The Workout was created by Jane after brainstorming with her attorney over way to raise money for CED besides utilizng her film salaries. Fonda herself has estimated that, by the mid-1980s, the Workout had raised $17 million for CED. As the 80s came to a close, Jane separated the two.) As the eighties wound down, the CED became Campaign California.
Though the above may be news to some readers, it's not news to Dick Flacks -- he just prefers not to acknowledge it for reasons unknown.
His reasons for insisting that people stop criticizing Barack are very clear: He endorsed Barry.
Limpid Flacks didn't have much of a reputation left when he endorsed Barack (which is why he is so often identified as "the husband of"). But apparently, he feels his endorsement of Barack matters. Still matters.
Which is why he can't criticize his itty-bitty baby, his would be wet-dream crush were that still possible.
Tiny Flacks wants you to know that it is a distraction from real activism to criticize Barack. Tiny Flack is nothing but the Town Whore. If he had any ethics, he wouldn't be Richard Flacks.
This article should be read after: Tunisian trade unionist: ‘Our revolt inspires hope across the Arab states’
Judith Orr reporting live from Cairo
Socialist Worker editor Judith Orr is reporting live from Cairo as the revolution unfolds
1am: The medical care in Tahrir Square is well organised. but they have run out of basic medicines. At night, doctors sleep in a designated area so people know where to get help. Major injuries are taken to the temporary hospital in a nearby mosque.
Around all the homes in the area collections for money and goods are done.
One doctor said "What more can we do. We can look after ourselves but we need to be able to care for the sick and wounded. I want everyone to know what we are up against"
Midnight: Police have been seen in some parts of the city but not in Tahrir Square.
"They wouldn't dare show their faces here" said one young guy on checkpoint duty on a barricade. They wear white makeshift sashes and are keeping the streets clean as well as providing security.
A woman comes up and asks if the way to her home is safe. Two men are dispatched to make sure she can get through.
In the square, the symbolic centre of this movement is quieter but that still means thousands are sitting on walls chatting. Camps have been set up on every bit of dried up grass there is.
Arguments and debate are breaking out all over: ”What is happening? What can we do next?” And always with the worry that there will be an attempt to take the square in the dead of night.
Many here, me included, feel the situation is on a knife edge.
11pm: Reports are coming in that the police have started taking up positions in the city again. There has been tracer bullet fire from the opposite side of the city to where I am. These shots are warnings from the local defence committees to stay away.
According to Egyptian author Ahdaf Soueif the police are claiming that they will only carry out “normal” policing and will not go near the Tahrir Square. We will see.
9pm: Across Egypt people are still on the street. One activist reported that the town of Mahalla – a strong working class area– was on fire. He said that it is no surprise that areas where there has been an increase in workers’ militancy in recent years, have seem some of the most brutal fighting.
Rumours are spreading that textile workers in Mahalla and lorry drivers across the country are striking against Mubarak.
8pm: I walk down one of the major avenues off Tahrir Square.
Every road running off the square has a barricade and a committee checking cars.
Some people have set up chairs and a fire outside their shoe shop.
Two men sitting on plastic deck chairs stop me to welcome me to Egypt. They say that will be there all night to protect the offices they work in. “We are here until it’s finished”, they say.
People agree that there was widespread looting on Friday, but everyone blames the police. They describe the police going on a rampage.
It seems that the police wanted to create fear and chaos so that people would miss Mubarak's strong hand. It hasn’t worked.
People have taken their lives into their own hands.
At the edge of the square, the number of tanks has grown to nine. But still they are surrounded by chanting protesters who barely stop to take a breath.
Elsewhere people are bedding down in doorways for the night.
7pm: There is a scrum at one corner of Tahrir Square. The word has gone through the crowd – Mohamed ElBaradei is here and is going to address us.
Many believe ElBaradei is the person who can unite the opposition and force Mubarak out.
TV cameras compete with protesters holding up their mobile phones to catch a glimpse of the man who may be the next president of Egypt.
In the end no one but the TV viewers could hear what he said. But the different groups are gathering into one mass. Will he become the single voice of the movement?
Just met Jack Shenker, the British journalist based here, fresh from his arrest and beating at the hands of the Egyptian police earlier this week.
He said there were some voices in response to ElBaradei shouting, "This is still our revolution".
But right now everyone is united on one thing: Mubarak must go.
4:30pm: It's half an hour into the curfew and the square is rammed. British photographer Jess Hurd will have the best photos – she is up on a roof somewhere.
The army is still on every corner and still they are cheered and embraced. Around the square knots of people read leaflets, paint slogans and pass around boxes of dates and sweets.
By being here they are showing they have lost the fear that has kept Mubarak in power for 30 long years.
Whatever happens tonight and in the days to come they have tasted struggle, they have resisted repression and they will never be the same again.
Some say the future of Egypt will be decided tonight. And the future of the whole region will be shaped by what happens in Egypt.
The helicopters swoop and darkness has settled around us. There are chants and songs. And still the army watches.
The stakes are high. But no one here looks like they're going home.
4pm: I go for tea with a revolutionary socialist who still can't take in that we don't have plain clothes cops following us.
We sit openly in a street cafe discussing revolution and exchange remarks about Mubarak's evils with people at other tables. "It's like another country," he said.
Then there is an ear splitting boom. Three or more fighter jets fly over. It seems they are just skimming the tops of the buildings they are so low. "What does this mean?", everyone asks, "They are just trying to terrorise us," one tea drinker says.
It's ten minute to the start of curfew at 4pm and the streets are filled with people. Everyone is talking politics and everyone is heading for the square. If something is going to happen no one wants to miss it.
The numbers in the square are growing. There is no plan. There is no one organisation responsible.
There is just the conviction that if they keep coming Mubarak will fall.
Young and old, women and men. In suits and jeans. This is all Cairo on the streets. Their streets.
3pm: I talk to a doctor still in his scrubs. "I saw so many people die on my shift on Friday," he told me. "Shot dead and many more wounded. But now the people have opened their eyes. We will finish this. Mubarak must go".
2pm: All afternoon the soldiers have fraternised with the people. Sometimes an officer will make them clear the tank roof, but there is no hostility – not yet anyway.
One soldier let loose some live rounds in the air to clear the crowd – there was a water cannon creeping up behind.
I bumped into Robert Fisk whose reporting on the Middle East is legendary. "See behind you," he said, "If they start shooting go for the underground entrance". You can see how he has managed to survive so many war zones.
They didn't shoot. The water cannon was put into reverse and protesters linked arms with soldiers to move people back.
No one wants to believe the army will turn on them. "We are like family to the army," says more than one protestor.
Noon: Many people have spent the night in the square, only taking a break for a smoke and a tea in the After Eight cafe which stayed open all night.
They lie exhausted on the grass in the centre of the square. Some have bloody bandages round their heads.
But fresh waves of protesters keep coming to join them.
They arrive from all corners of Cairo and swarm past the soldiers and their desert camouflaged tanks.
The protesters greet the soldiers as old friends. They hug and kiss and give each other high fives.
They clamber up on the tanks to chant and hold up home made placards.
One tank has "Fuck Mubarak" spayed on its side.
10am: A city without police is a sight to behold. Seeing tens of thousands brave bullets and tear gas to fight for a better society is a joy to experience.
In Tahrir Square the evidence of pitched battles is everywhere – burnt out police vans, makeshift barricades, blackened buildings and tanks on every street corner.
9am: I have just arrived in Tahrir Square (Liberation Square) – the equivalent of Trafalgar Square in London.
Tear gas, batons and live bullets have not deterred protesters from coming out on the streets.
Protesters who had spent the night in Cairo's Tahrir Square awoke to find fresh demonstrators joining them.
There is only one demand: "Mubarak Go".
Cairo is a city on a knife edge. The mass protests continue. The police have disappeared.
Police stations aross the country have been burnt down.
The prisons have been emptied, shops are shuttered up and local committees are maintaining barricades in 12 hour shifts to protect their communities.
The following should be read alongside this article:
© Socialist Worker (unless otherwise stated). You may republish if you include an active link to the original.
Egyptian protests intensify, challenge 30 years of pro-U.S. dictatorshipBy John Catalinotto
Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets in cities across Egypt demanding the ouster of U.S. ally President Hosni Mubarak. These are the largest anti-regime protests in Mubarak’s 30-year rule of this North African country of 85 million people. Though the White House has declared the Mubarak regime “stable,” even greater protests are expected on Jan. 28 following Friday services at mosques throughout the country.
Egyptian opposition forces were inspired by the uprising in nearby Tunisia, which on Jan. 14 forced that country’s dictator, Zine El Abadine Ben Ali, to flee to Saudi Arabia. The uprising in Tunisia surprised not only its own rulers but their imperialist overlords in Paris and Washington.
The smallest of the North African countries, Tunisia’s worldwide role has been limited. The Egyptian regime, on the other hand, is the lynchpin of U.S. foreign policy in the Arab world.
U.S. diplomacy in the region and its support for the Israeli settler state has also depended on Egyptian compliance and cooperation. Thus a collapse of the Mubarak-led dictatorship in Egypt brought about by a mass popular uprising could have an enormous impact on imperialist and Israeli policy in the entire region.
In Egypt, a coalition of opposition groups — including the Karama, the April 6th Movement, the National Association for Change, the Popular Democratic Movement for Change, the Justice and Freedom Youth Movement and the Revolutionary Socialists — had called for national demonstrations against the Mubarak regime on Jan. 25. The regime celebrates this day as “Law Day,” but the opposition called it a “Day of Anger.”
Usually anti-government protests in Egypt consist-s of a few hundred people, bravely defying double that number of quite brutal police. On Jan. 25, tens of thousands came out in Cairo and other thousands in Alexandria, Suez and many other Egyptian cities.
Police repressive, people fight back
The next day tens of thousands more came out to continue the protests. Their demands include that Mubarak leave, that his son Gamal Mubarak — who was expected to be named his successor — retire from politics, and for freedom, justice and a democratic regime. Egypt has between 5,000 and 10,000 political prisoners. The regime arrested another 1,200 demonstrators by late on Jan. 26, according to independent attorneys.
Most reports described an afternoon with demonstrators dodging water cannons, tear gas and police batons. The British Guardian’s Cairo correspondent Jack Shenker — who was rounded up with a group of protesters — brought out to the world what Egyptian protesters already knew. He graphically described how people were beaten and mistreated and nearly killed while trucked away toward the desert.
Then on Jan. 27, the police opened up with plastic bullets and live ammunition. In the town of Sheik Suwajed in the Sinai Peninsula, a Bedouin was killed. Overcoming the fear that a brutal system depends on to stay in power, the people came back even stronger.
In Suez City that morning, demonstrators set the local police headquarters on fire. In addition to raising political demands, families from all over gathered to demand that their relatives, imprisoned for up to three days, be released.
Official reports said that six people died during the first three days of demonstrations, two of them police. Hundreds more demonstrators were injured.
Role of the U.S.
Washington supplies $2 billion in aid yearly to Egypt, most of it military aid. It had Egyptian support in 1991 for the first assault on and invasion of Iraq. Israel counts on Egypt to police the southern border of Gaza, under blockade for the past four years.
Washington has supported Mubarak for decades. Now it is faced with the choice of backing his regime to the end or trying to arrange for a transition to a new government that is also dependent on imperialist support and would basically continue the same policies. This means a pro-imperialist and pro-U.S. foreign policy and neo-liberal economic policies inside Egypt.
In situations that had some similarities in the past — for example, the Philippines and Haiti in 1986, Zaire and Indonesia in the 1990s — U.S. imperialism was able to achieve both. It has supported dictatorships until their rule became untenable and then shifted its support to the opposition, helping to arrange the transition. If the change involved having opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei and his group replace Mubarak, that would likely be a change Washington could live with.
Statements by U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton have called for political reforms in Egypt but have also asked both the government and the protesters to refrain from violence. The government has a virtual monopoly on violence. Its tanks, tear gas and ammunition all come from the United States. But if the tens of millions of Egyptians who live on less than $2 a day join the protests of the political opposition, these weapons won’t be enough to save the regime.
To show solidarity with the Egyptian protesters, people are invited to join a demonstration on Sat., Jan. 29, from 1-3 p.m. at the United Nations in New York City at First Avenue and 47th Street.
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