I guess Mubarak thinks that he has "compromised" with the Egyptian demonstrators now that he has decided he will not run for "reelection." This is the same guy who - upon facing hundreds of thousands in the streets asking him, personally, to leave office - fired people in his cabinet.
The Egyptian "president" has been trying all week to label these demonstrators as violent: sending plain clothes police and hired thugs to loot and terrorize neighborhoods. He wants the world, and Americans especially, to conflate the anti-Mubarak population with violence and rioting and terrorism. He wants the world to think there is some spontaneous outpouring of support for him to remain "president." Once the confrontations become more pronounced, the Army will then be compelled to violently quell it - and we all know which "side" the crackdown will land the most heavily on. To Egypt's autocrat, it won't matter, "justification" will have been provided in his imaginantion and for the cameras. That's his plan - to do one thing and make us believe his hand was forced. Some Americans are quite happy to oblige him.
Some of us know better than to be fooled.
The same Egyptians who knelt to pray in the face of batons, water hoses and tear gas formed human chains around libraries to keep the looters at bay. They are marching for freedom against a tyrant, one who has demonstrated what tyranny actually looks like on live television. They carry the flags of their own nation, and have stepped up to protect their own neighborhoods against the police state thugs. How can any American think ill of such people, considering our own long history of struggle for the expansion of personal and social liberty?
Especially with our national obsession with blame. There needs to be no debate on this point in this situation.
Because now that his "compromise" has not been accepted, the Egyptian autocrat has sent in his thugs, on horseback and with weapons, into the crowds with the intention of visiting violence on what had been to this point a mostly non-violent demonstration. Blood now runs through the streets. This means that the one man who could have ensured Egypt stepped away from a violent transition of power chose instead confrontation. And for what? So he can continue to be "President" for a few short months.
It will be much more difficult for him to live out his days in "his country" now.
And now we, as Americans, must consider this: a peaceful transition of political power in the Arab world's most populous nation would have been a game changer for our national and strategic security. Never underestimate the importance of any society achieving justice through peaceful means, much less a society such as Egypt, located at the heart of a region troulbed by violent autocrats and governments built of religious fanaticism.
Now, with the violent retribution, we have a higher risk of fanatic religious forces providing the violent counterpunch to the pro-government thugs. Logically extended, Mubarak's actions have now increased the chances that whatever government will follow him in Egypt will be much more anti-American. The window for addressing such concerns is short.
I only hope the platitudes out of Washington that continue to talk of "peaceful and eventual transfer of power" and "urging all sides to refrain from violence" are being matched with audacity of word and action behind the scenes to pressure Mubarak to immediately bring an end to the crackdown, and leave power.
Because his actions, especially those of this morning, have violated the contract we made with him to ensure stability over these last decades. His use is at an end for us, and every drop of blood that falls today increases the chances that whatever government Egypt uses to replace Mubarak will be one unfriendly to the United States.