“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Monday, January 31, 2011

This May Be the Single Most Important Event Since the End of the Cold War

Egypt protests: Telegraph

Live news of the protests in Egypt against President Hosni Mubarak's Government in January 2011

• Police return to the streets of Cairo after two days
• David Cameron adds voice to calls for restraint
• Foreign Office Egypt hotline: 0207 007 1500'
09:51 Tony Blair, the Middle East peace envoy and former Prime Minister, has been speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live about Egypt (photo: BBC):
"People want change but they don't want chaos. There's going to be change - there's no doubt about that.
"And there will be a move, I think, to free and fair elections. But it's got to happen in such a way that political parties have got a chance to compete properly in those elections and so that there is a sense of order and responsibility as this process of change gets under way."
He downplayed the risk of an Islamist revolution, saying:
"I don't think there is a majority for that in Egypt, in fact.
"I don't think that's the risk. Funnily enough, I don't think they [the Muslim Brotherhood] would win an election. I think the danger is if you get chaos and then out of that chaos comes the wrong sort of change."
It was "perfectly possible that you (will) get a democratic government that is prepared to work with the government of Israel to bring about a Palestinian state".
He stressed that "Hosni Mubarak is not Saddam Hussein" and said he had done "an immense amount" for the peace process.
But he said it was not "sustainable" for out-of-touch elites to go on "governing in the way that they've been governing for decades".
09:47 And some analysis, also from overnight: Richard Spencer asks whether the revolution will turn out to be a blow to Western interests in the region:
"For most of his rule, Mr Mubarak has portrayed himself as a bulwark against two Middle Eastern forces; anti-Israel militarism, and Islamist politics, whether in the semi-establishment guise of the Muslim Brotherhood or the radical form of al-Qaeda. The latter's second in command, Ayman Zawahiri, is Egyptian. The protesters say this argument is wearing thin. Egypt's variegated society, its liberal, secular middle classes, its bloggers and tweeters, and its religiously devout shopkeepers and farmers all want democracy, however it turns out."
"President Barack Obama telephoned David Cameron to discuss the crisis, signalling a toughening of the Western position on Egypt after more than 100 people were killed in six days of protests against President Hosni Mubarak's rule.
"'The Prime Minister and President Obama were united in their view that Egypt now needed a comprehensive process of political reform, with an orderly, Egyptian-led transition leading to a government that responded to the grievances of the Egyptian people and to their aspirations for a democratic future,' a spokesperson for Mr Cameron said."
09:38 Omar Sharif, the great Egyptian actor, has joined the voices calling for Mr Mubarak to step down. The 78-year-old, best known for his role in Lawrence of Arabia, said in a radio interview:
"The president should have resigned. Given that the entire Egyptian people don't want him and he's been in power for 30 years that's enough.
"The president hasn't improved the standard of living of Egyptians. There are some people that are very rich – maybe 1 per cent – and the rest are all poor trying to find food."
Sharif also says he is worried about a rise of Islamism in the country now that the authorities' suppression of the Muslim Brotherhood has ended:
"I don't want the Muslim Brotherhood. They were trapped and now are starting to come out. They have 20 per cent of the population and it's frightening for me."
09:32 Tourism, one of Egypt's largest sources of income, is taking an understandable battering during the protests. The US State Department is evacuating its citizens from Cairo to Cyprus, using several flights over the coming days. US Assistant Secretary of State Janice Jacobs says that they may also send charter planes to other cities in Egypt, such as Luxor, if there are Americans stranded there, according to AP. Turkey and India are also evacuating their citizens.
09:29 As Richard Spencer reported, thousands of Egyptian prisoners escaped during the protests, either released by protesters or simply escaping in the chaos as security forces evaporated. Egyptian state television is now showing images of dozens of recaptured inmates, handcuffed and guarded by soldiers.
09:25 More news from last night in Cairo, where, as the 4pm curfew loomed, two Egyptian air force F-16s swooped low over the crowd in Tahir Square in the city centre, in an apparent and unsuccessful attempt to intimidate them into breaking up and going home:
(Photo: PA)
09:18 Israel, for whom Egypt is a strong regional ally, has been pushing its diplomats around the world to support the Mubarak regime, according to Israeli daily Ha'aretz:
"Israel called on the United States and a number of European countries over the weekend to curb their criticism of President Hosni Mubarak to preserve stability in the region.
"Jerusalem seeks to convince its allies that it is in the West's interest to maintain the stability of the Egyptian regime. The diplomatic measures came after statements in Western capitals implying that the United States and European Union supported Mubarak's ouster...
"Senior Israeli officials... said that on Saturday night the Foreign Ministry issued a directive to around a dozen key embassies in the United States, Canada, China, Russia and several European countries. The ambassadors were told to stress to their host countries the importance of Egypt's stability. In a special cable, they were told to get this word out as soon as possible."
Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, left, and vice president Omar Suleiman, centre, on Egyptian state TV (Photo: AP)
09:09 Police are back on the streets of Cairo for the first time in two days. Richard Spencer, who is in the Egyptian capital, has sent us the following:
"The Egyptian authorities returned police to the streets of Cairo this morning in an attempt to reestablish order in Cairo and other major cities.
"Gangs of vigilanties roamed the suburubs overnight to protect their homes from looters, some allegedly released from prisons stormed on Sunday morning.
"Mohamed ElBaradei renewed his calls overnight for the army to meet him to discuss the formation of a transition government.
"There was no immediate sign that the army was prepared to abandon President Hosni Mubarak, a former general. But protesters announced there would be a 'million-strong march' on Tahir Square in the centre of Cairo on Tuesday to renew their demands for Mr Mubarak to go.
"Protesters claim that poilice were withdrawn on Friday and over the weekend as a deliberate tactic to force protesters out of the city centre to protect their homes and families.
"This morning police were seen outside the Israeli embassy, but major junctions were still under the control of army tanks."
The streets of Egypt's major cities have been in chaos over the weekend: this is Alexandria on Saturday. (Photo: AFP)
08:54 David Cameron, the Prime Minister, has joined Mr Hague and Mrs Clinton in calling for the Egyptian government to refrain from cracking down harshly on protesters, according to Reuters, but has stopped short of demanding Mr Mubarak leave office:
"It's very important that if it's (U.S.) President Obama or whether it's me, we're not saying who should run this country or that country.
"It's sensible to say that you do have a choice here, this repression, if you opt for that, that will end badly for Egypt, badly for the world. It's the wrong choice to make."
Monday 31 January 2011 08:42 Good morning: Tom Chivers here with coverage of day seven of the continuing protests in Egypt against President Hosni Mubarak's regime.
Here's a run-down of the situation overnight.
Alex Spillius and Richard Spencer report that Mubarak has come under increased pressure from the West, as Hillary Clinton and William Hague call for an "orderly transition" to democracy:
"As an anti-government revolt raged for a sixth day, with thousands of protesters still on the streets, the US Secretary of State and William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, only just stopped short of demanding that Mr Mubarak end his 28-year rule immediately.
"But in a clear sign that their support for his regime is wavering, they made it clear they could envisage a time without the 82-year-old in charge in the not too distant future."
Meanwhile, in the absence of any sort of police presence on the streets of Cairo, looting has engulfed the city:
"Cairo residents boarded up homes and set up neighbourhood watches of citizens armed with guns, clubs and knives as looting and violence engulfed the capital.
"Thousands of inmates escaped prisons across Egypt, including at least one jail that housed Muslim militants northwest of Cairo, adding to the chaos engulfing the country as anti-government protests continue to demand the longtime President Hosni Mubarak step down."
We weren't running rolling live coverage yesterday, but take a look through our coverage of Friday and Saturday's protests as they happened here:

The Telegraph team covering Egypt:

Adrian Blomfield covers the Middle East from the Daily Telegraph's Jerusalem bureau. He has been writing for the paper since 2001, based first in Nairobi and later in Moscow.
Richard Spencer is one of the Daily Telegraph's Middle East correspondents. He was China correspondent for six years before moving to Dubai, where he lives with his wife and children.
Colin Freeman is the Chief Foreign Correspondent for the Sunday Telegraph. He has worked for the paper for five years, covering stories in Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
Rob Crilly is the Telegraph's Pakistan Correspondent. He previously reported on the Middle East and before that was East Africa correspondent of The Times, travelling extensively through the continent’s wars in Somalia, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Alex Spillius is the Telegraph’s Washington Correspondent. He covered the 2008 campaign in its entirety and has since documented the tribulations of the Obama administration and the rise of the tea party.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Anarchy in Egypt. Time for Mubarak to Act or Leave.

"It was deeply amusing to Egyptians that Obama – in Cairo itself, after his election – had urged Arabs to grasp freedom and democracy. These aspirations disappeared entirely when he gave his tacit if uncomfortable support to the Egyptian president on Friday. "

I thought it strange seeing tanks parked on the streets without paratroopers or marines forming a cordon around them. Surely young tankers being surrounded by protestors would establish relationships amongst the mob and in a day or two would become ineffective, isolated from the command and control structure necessary for military cohesion of a fighting unit. Their officers must know that. What is going on?

Today, there are reports of the police being missing in action, rioters and looters have moved from state targets and are now attacking the private property of business and middle class neighborhoods. Museums and mosques are being looted. There are reports of neighborhood private security being formed to hold back the mobs.

Public support for protesters of injustice will end quickly when the protesters turn to marauding mobs. It is time for a good dictator to fire up the tanks, use the political cover of  the rioting and reestablish order. Short of that, get on a plane and get out of Cairo.

Egypt protests - live updates  

the Guardian

The present regime is widely seen in Egypt as a state for the others– for the US, Israel, France and the UK– and as a state for the few– the Neoliberal nouveau riche. Islam plays no role in this analysis because it is not an independent variable. Muslim movements have served to protest the withdrawal of the state from its responsibilities, and to provide services. But they are a symptom, not the cause. All this is why Mubarak's appointment of military men as vice president and prime minister cannot in and of itself tamp down the crisis. They, as men of the System, do not have more legitimacy than does the president– and perhaps less.
 Hospitals are urging people to donate blood, according to the latest email update from Human Rights Watch's emergencies director, Peter Bouckaert, in Alexandria. He has also been told of that prison break out.
Hospitals in Alexandria and Cairo are requesting that people come in and donate blood.
The Cairo-Alexandria desert road is blocked because of a prison outbreak at Wadi el-Natroun- several thousand prisoners released. The army is deployed. Residents of local villages say the prison had 8,000 inmates.
The old Cairo-Alexandria "agricultural road" is open and traffic is running smoothly. People in Menoufeyya say criminals stopping cars at night demanding money. But day travel is safe.
 Mosques are being transformed into sickrooms for protesters with bullet wounds, according to this report from Jack Shenker and Peter Beaumont.
They write:

This place of worship is little more than a partially-roofed narrow passage between two tall buildings; now it has been transformed into a makeshift hospital, with blood soaking through the prayer mats. The muezzin's microphone – normally used to send out the call to prayer – pressed into use by a thick-set, bearded imam who is shouting out instructions to the medics. Occasionally, he prays.

 34 members of the Muslim Brotherhood, including seven leaders, have escaped from prison, according to Reuters.

Relatives stormed the prison in Wadi el-Natroun, 120 km (80 miles) northwest of Cairo, and set free several thousand of the inmates, Brotherhood office manager Mohamed Osama told Reuters. No one was hurt, he added.
At the moment, the Muslim Brotherhood is playing catch-up with a young, leaderless protest movement. But chaos always opens opportunities and years of oppression by the government has angered and frustrated ordinary people. The brotherhood has enormous support among the poor, encouraged by the network of charities it runs. Observers have been debating the sincerity of the brotherhood's apparent moves towards real political reform, and point to its inability to directly challenge Mubarak's government.
 Al Jazeera has just been taken off the air in Egypt, according to its reporter Ayman Mohyeldin.
Another al-Jazeera staffer Abdurahman Warsame tweets:
BREAKING: Al Jazeera Arabic signal is down. The screen is frozen. Has the satellite (Nilesat) been blocked? Jammed? #Aljazeera #press #Cairo
 Thousands of prisoners have escaped from jail in the Wadi Naturn prison, north of Cairo, according to AP.
Australia's Herald Sun has this AP report:
Inmates overwhelmed guards during the night, breaking out of the facility which holds many Islamist political prisoners, and spilling out into nearby towns and villages, as nationwide riots demanding the end of the regime gave way to looting.
It cited a "security official" for the information.
6,000 prisoners escape from #Abu Zaabel prison #egypt #jan25 (via phone)
 The US is offering its citizens evacuation flights out of Egypt.
"The US Embassy in Cairo informs U.S. citizens in Egypt who wish to depart that the Department of State is making arrangements to provide transportation to safehaven locations in Europe," a statement said, according to Reuters.
The evacuation flights will start tomorrow.
 The Foreign Office is advising Britons to leave Cairo, Alexandria and Suez, Britain's foreign secretary William Hague told Sky News.
He also talked of the danger of "extremism" taking hold in Egypt. "There is a great danger of violence running out of control," he said.
Hague also urged the Egyptian government to show restraint and to allow freedom of expression. He condemned the closure of al-Jazeera's bureau in Cairo.
We advise against all but essential travel to Cairo, Alexandria, Luxor and Suez. We recommend that British nationals without a pressing need to be in Cairo, Alexandria or Suez leave by commercial means where it is safe to do so. British nationals in other areas of Egypt where there are demonstrations should follow the advice below and stay indoors wherever possible.

 One of the Guardian's Middle East experts Brian Whitaker reflects on the latest rumours in Cairo. Writing on his own blog, he says there are reports that Mubarak's sons, Alaa and Gamal, have fled, but also that there will be could be an army crackdown today.
He writes:
Brian Whitaker
Rumours have been circulating that the army will take a much tougher line with protesters today – what some are calling the Tiananmen Square option. However, I am sceptical about that. For one, thing, the US has warned strongly against it, and though Mubarak may not listen to Washington I think his commanders are more likely to.
 There are more signs of Israeli nervousness, following those comments by Netanyahu. Our Jerusalem correspondent, Harriet Sherwood reports:
Harriet Sherwood.
Israel Army Radio said this morning that the Israeli military is preparing for the possibility that militants in Gaza may take advantage of the chaos in Egypt to bring in weapons from the Sinai.
Meanwhile, it's being reported in Gaza that three Palestinian prisoners being held in Al-Arish jail in Egypt have escaped and made their way back to Gaza through the tunnels.
The Rafah border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt has been closed until further notice, a Hamas official said.
 Al Jazeera has denounced the closure of its Cairo bureau. In a statement it said:

Al-Jazeera sees this as an act designed to stifle and repress the freedom of reporting by the network and its journalists. In this time of deep turmoil and unrest in Egyptian society it is imperative that voices from all sides be heard; the closing of our bureau by the Egyptian government is aimed at censoring and silencing the voices of the Egyptian people...
Al Jazeera Network is appalled at this latest attack by the Egyptian regime to strike at its freedom to report independently on the unprecedented events in Egypt."
 The government plans to shut down al-Jazeera's operations in Egypt, according to Reuters, citing the state news agency Mana.
"The information minister ordered ... suspension of operations of al-Jazeera, cancelling of its licences and withdrawing accreditation to all its staff as of today," a statement said.

The station was the first to report that the governing party's headquarters were set on fire. Breathless phone reports came in from Jazeera correspondents in towns across Egypt. Live footage from Cairo alternated with action shots that played again and again. Orchestral music played, conveying the sense of a long-awaited drama.
Al Jazeera kept up its coverage despite serious obstacles. The broadcaster's separate live channel was removed from its satellite platform by the Egyptian government on Friday morning, its Cairo bureau had its telephones cut and its main news channel also faced signal interference, according to a statement released by the station. The director of the live channel issued an appeal to the Egyptian government to allow it to broadcast freely.
 The Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has expressed concern about "stability and security" in the region, in his first comments on the Egyptian unrest.
Benjamin NetanyahuPhotograph: Reuters
"We are following with vigilance the events in Egypt and in our region ... at this time we must show responsibility and restraint and maximum consideration. Our efforts have been intended to continue to preserve stability and security in our region.
"I remind you that the peace between Israel and Egypt has lasted for over three decades."

More from The Guardian 

Why Do I Think This Story is Phony?

Why didn't dad get on the phone after his three year old dialed it?

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Saturday Night At The Bar

The snow doesn't give a soft white damn whom it touches. ~e.e. cummings


So I'm gonna soak up the sun

I'm gonna tell everyone

To lighten up

I'm gonna tell 'em that

I've got no one to blame

For every time I feel lame

I'm looking up

I'm gonna soak up the sun

US Secret Documents on US Political Meddling in Egypt

This has been going on for a long time. Look at this published on the CIA website - All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror   Intelligence in Recent Public Literature

By Stephen Kinzer. New York: John Wiley and Sons, 2003. 258 pages.


The American Embassy in Cairo helped a young dissident attend a US-sponsored summit for activists in New York, while working to keep his identity secret from Egyptian state police.
On his return to Cairo in December 2008, the activist told US diplomats that an alliance of opposition groups had drawn up a plan to overthrow President Hosni Mubarak and install a democratic government in 2011TELEGRAPH

CAIRO 2454 C. CAIRO 2431 Classified By: ECPO A/Mincouns
Catherine Hill-Herndon for reason 1.4 (d ). 1. (C) Summary and
comment: On December 23, April 6 activist xxxxxxxxxxxx expressed
satisfaction with his participation in the December 3-5 \"Alliance of
Youth Movements Summit,\" and with his subsequent meetings with USG
officials, on Capitol Hill, and with think tanks. He described how
State Security (SSIS) detained him at the Cairo airport upon his
return and confiscated his notes for his summit presentation calling
for democratic change in Egypt, and his schedule for his Congressional
meetings. xxxxxxxxxxxx contended that the GOE will never undertake
significant reform, and therefore, Egyptians need to replace the
current regime with a parliamentary democracy. He alleged that
several opposition parties and movements have accepted an unwritten
plan for democratic transition by 2011; we are doubtful of this claim.
xxxxxxxxxxxx said that although SSIS recently released two April 6
activists, it also arrested three additional group members. We have
pressed the MFA for the release of these April 6 activists. April 6's
stated goal of replacing the current regime with a parliamentary
democracy prior to the 2011 presidential elections is highly
unrealistic, and is not supported by the mainstream opposition. End
summary and comment. ---------------------------- Satisfaction with
the Summit ---------------------------- 2. (C) xxxxxxxxxxxx expressed
satisfaction with the December 3-5 \"Alliance of Youth Movements
Summit\" in New York, noting that he was able to meet activists from
other countries and outline his movement's goals for democratic change
in Egypt. He told us that the other activists at the summit were very
supportive, and that some even offered to hold public demonstrations
in support of Egyptian democracy in their countries, with xxxxxxxxxxxx
as an invited guest. xxxxxxxxxxxx said he discussed with the other
activists how April 6 members could more effectively evade harassment
and surveillance from SSIS with technical upgrades, such as
consistently alternating computer \"simcards.\" However, xxxxxxxxxxxx
lamented to us that because most April 6 members do not own computers,
this tactic would be impossible to implement. xxxxxxxxxxxx was
appreciative of the successful efforts by the Department and the
summit organizers to protect his identity at the summit, and told us
that his name was never mentioned publicly. ------------------- A
Cold Welcome Home ------------------- 3. (S) xxxxxxxxxxxx told us
that SSIS detained and searched him at the Cairo Airport on December
18 upon his return from the U.S. According to xxxxxxxxxxxx, SSIS
found and confiscated two documents in his luggage: notes for his
presentation at the summit that described April 6's demands for
democratic transition in Egypt, and a schedule of his Capitol Hill
meetings. xxxxxxxxxxxx described how the SSIS officer told him that
State Security is compiling a file on him, and that the officer's
superiors instructed him to file a report on xxxxxxxxxxxx most recent
activities. --------------------------------------------- ----------
Washington Meetings and April 6 Ideas for Regime Change
--------------------------------------------- ---------- 4. (C)
xxxxxxxxxxxx described his Washington appointments as positive, saying
that on the Hill he met with xxxxxxxxxxxx, a variety of House staff
members, including from the offices of xxxxxxxxxxxx and xxxxxxxxxxxx),
and with two Senate staffers. xxxxxxxxxxxx also noted that he met
with several think tank members. xxxxxxxxxxxx said that xxxxxxxxxxxx's
office invited him to speak at a late January Congressional hearing on
House Resolution 1303 regarding religious and political freedom in
Egypt. xxxxxxxxxxxx told us he is interested in attending, but
conceded he is unsure whether he will have the funds to make the trip.
He indicated to us that he has not been focusing on his work as a
\"fixer\" for journalists, due to his preoccupation with his U.S.
trip. 5. (C) xxxxxxxxxxxx described how he tried to convince his
Washington interlocutors that the USG should pressure the GOE to
implement significant reforms by threatening to reveal CAIRO 00002572
002 OF 002 information about GOE officials' alleged \"illegal\"
off-shore bank accounts. He hoped that the U.S. and the international
community would freeze these bank accounts, like the accounts of
Zimbabwean President Mugabe's confidantes. xxxxxxxxxxxx said he wants
to convince the USG that Mubarak is worse than Mugabe and that the GOE
will never accept democratic reform. xxxxxxxxxxxx asserted that
Mubarak derives his legitimacy from U.S. support, and therefore
charged the U.S. with \"being responsible\" for Mubarak's \"crimes.\"
He accused NGOs working on political and economic reform of living in
a \"fantasy world,\" and not recognizing that Mubarak -- \"the head of
the snake\" -- must step aside to enable democracy to take root. 6.
(C) xxxxxxxxxxxx claimed that several opposition forces -- including
the Wafd, Nasserite, Karama and Tagammu parties, and the Muslim
Brotherhood, Kifaya, and Revolutionary Socialist movements -- have
agreed to support an unwritten plan for a transition to a
parliamentary democracy, involving a weakened presidency and an
empowered prime minister and parliament, before the scheduled 2011
presidential elections (ref C). According to xxxxxxxxxxxx, the
opposition is interested in receiving support from the army and the
police for a transitional government prior to the 2011 elections.
xxxxxxxxxxxx asserted that this plan is so sensitive it cannot be
written down. (Comment: We have no information to corroborate that
these parties and movements have agreed to the unrealistic plan
xxxxxxxxxxxx has outlined. Per ref C, xxxxxxxxxxxx previously told us
that this plan was publicly available on the internet. End comment.)
7. (C) xxxxxxxxxxxx said that the GOE has recently been cracking down
on the April 6 movement by arresting its members. xxxxxxxxxxxx noted
that although SSIS had released xxxxxxxxxxxx and xxxxxxxxxxxx \"in the
past few days,\" it had arrested three other members. (Note: On
December 14, we pressed the MFA for the release of xxxxxxxxxxxx and
xxxxxxxxxxxx, and on December 28 we asked the MFA for the GOE to
release the additional three activists. End note.) xxxxxxxxxxxx
conceded that April 6 has no feasible plans for future activities.
The group would like to call for another strike on April 6, 2009, but
realizes this would be \"impossible\" due to SSIS interference,
xxxxxxxxxxxx said. He lamented that the GOE has driven the group's
leadership underground, and that one of its leaders, xxxxxxxxxxxx, has
been in hiding for the past week. 8. (C) Comment: xxxxxxxxxxxx
offered no roadmap of concrete steps toward April 6's highly
unrealistic goal of replacing the current regime with a parliamentary
democracy prior to the 2011 presidential elections. Most opposition
parties and independent NGOs work toward achieving tangible,
incremental reform within the current political context, even if they
may be pessimistic about their chances of success. xxxxxxxxxxxx
wholesale rejection of such an approach places him outside this
mainstream of opposition politicians and activists.