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Mubarak’s Game of Chicken


In the aftermath of Mubarak’s extraplanetary speech in which he seemed to be living in a parallel Egyptian universe to the one inhabited by the hundreds of thousands in Tahrir Square and elsewhere in Egypt, the Father of the People was playing a game of chicken with the nation as the prize.  There are three players: Mubarak, the army, and the people.  The people will clearly not blink first.  They are in it till the end.  But Mubarak appears to be daring the army to intervene and expects that they won’t have the nerve to do so.  If the army does blink first, then what will happen?  Mubarak and Suleiman either unleash their thugs and secret police and thousands die in order to suppress the revolution.  Or perhaps the army joins in and even more die.

Alternatively, suppose the army refuses to blink, calls Mubarak’s bluff and stages a soft coup in order to allow the revolution to move forward toward its democratic destiny.  This is what Mohammed al Baradei has summoned it to do.  But one has to wonder why it hasn’t done so already?  Perhaps division in the ranks between old guard senior officers loyal to their patrons who got them this far, and the younger junior officers who still retain a connection to the street?

You can tell something extraordinary is going on when even I come to admire words from the pen of Tom Friedman.  Even Tom the plutocrat understands the moment we are living and he has returned to his roots as a terrific interpreter of events which he once was so long ago before he was co-opted and bought by the power elites.  Even Tom has this terrific comment about Mubarak’s out of touchness:

This man is staggeringly out of touch with what is happening inside his country. This is Rip Van Winkle meets Facebook.

At any rate, something will have to give.  Tomorrow will clearly dawn on a nation even more firmly resolved to rid itself of this pestilence.  I only hope the protesters will retain their remarkable sense of discipline.  Just watching their resolve, their steadfastness, their restraint in the face of violent provocation–how can anyone speak of a nation that would descend into chaos if Mubarak falls?  For shame on the autocrats of Saudi Arabia, Israel, the Gulf States and elsewhere who raise the specter of Islamist bloodbaths as if Egypt was in the throes of the Al Qaeda.  Anyone spending a few minutes watching Al Jazeera’s live video feed can see that these are a disciplined people, one that has earned its revolution.  There is no looting.  There are no acts of revenge.  There is are no acts of religious intolerance.

If we can, we must not let anyone take it away from them.

Over the past three weeks I’ve often written here in fear that external powers or events might wrest the revolution from the hands of the Egyptian people.  That Obama might stand aside at a critical moment, that Bibi might insert his strident, irrelevant rhetoric and muddy the waters, that the army or Mubarak might steal the show.  But over the past 24 hours I’ve come to realize that no one can take this victory away from the people.  It is their achievement and they will not be denied.  Whatever happens they will have won and they very likely will come out of this with a result something like what they are now demanding.  It is only a question of how and when, but no longer a question of “if.”

This article was first published at Tikun Olam.

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Richard Silverstein

Richard Silverstein is an author, journalist and blogger, with articles appearing in Haaretz, the Jewish Forward, Los Angeles Times, the Guardian’s Comment Is Free, Al Jazeera English, and Alternet. His work has also been in the Seattle Times, American Conservative Magazine, Beliefnet and Tikkun Magazine, where he is on the advisory board. Check out Silverstein's blog at Tikun Olam, one of the earliest liberal Jewish blogs, which he has maintained since February, 2003.

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