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Live Blogging Mubarak’s Speech

mubarak refuses to resign

Al Jazeera screen grab of aftermath of Mubarak's defiant refusal to leave

What?  What is this guy thinking?

Over the past few hours the international media has trumpeted the likelihood that Hosni Mubarak will resign.  I’m watching his speech and unless he’s got a rabbit in his hat that he’ll pull out later before he completes it, he seems utterly clueless.  I hear nothing that responds in any substantive way to the cries from the Square and the street.  The rhetoric of this speech is of a man who has completely lost touch (if he ever was in touch) with his people.  Strikes are sweeping through the country.  Crowds surround all the major institutions of the regime.  How can he speak as if none of this is happening?  Yet he does.

Thanks to the double screen Al Jazeera TV provides on its website you can see the crowds responding to the empty rhetoric of his speech.  Shoes are waving, the ultimate insult in Arab society.

Now he seems to be getting to the part of his speech in which he might step down.  But he keeps droning on with meaningless slogans bragging about his past glory on behalf of the homeland.  Meanwhile the crowd chants stridently for his exit.

He has said he will pass power to Omar Suleiman with no date for transfer of power.  An AJ correspondent explained that Mubarak passed only a portion of his executive powers to him.  This will in no way satisfy the crowds which don’t want a continuation of the regime by other means and faces.

We now enter a very dangerous phase.  The army, seen as a decisive force internally, has not stepped in to take control.  Until now, people looked to the army as a force in solidarity with the people.  But everyone must be wondering if anyone’s home there in the military barracks.  It appears that unless the military steps in in a more authoritative way, the crowds, the strikes, the unrest, will only grow.

I don’t know where this is going to lead.  How can a thin elite stand in the way of millions–and by tomorrow tens of millions?  It’s starting to remind me of the Filipino People’s Power movement which overthrew Ferdinand Marcos from power.  They did so by sheer mass of people standing up in unison to eject a hated leader.  But in that situation the army basically turned on the leader and threw in its lot with the people.  It remains to be seen what Egypt’s military will do.

Clearly, many national leaders expected Mubarak to step down.  They said so publicly.  So it’s mystifying that such figures understood Mubarak would resign and yet the man did a U-turn.  Did he agree to resign and then change his mind?

Now, we must also wonder what the U.S. administration will do.  Gone must be the hesitation and dithering exemplified by Hillary Clinton’s statement that the transition must be slow and deliberate, a statement made under severe pressure from the region’s autocratic figures.  As I’ve written here before, the train is leaving the station and we must not be left behind.  Do we want to be a friend of the Egyptian people or a bystander as they travel on their way to destiny?  The nation turns its lonely eyes to you, Mr. President.  What will you have to say?

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{ 4 comments… add one }
  • John Welch February 10, 2011, 2:20 PM

    I hope that President Obama and the Pentagon are pushing tonight on the Egyptian military, suggesting that Mubarak live out his days in, say, a mansion near Shal al Sheik, with nothing more than a title.

  • Kalea February 10, 2011, 4:18 PM

    I believe that unless Mubarak gets on a plane and gets out physically and Suleiman promises to meet with all opposition leaders to have them form an interim coalition to begin taking over the reins of government and prepare for elections; then the Egyptian people will not give up or give in because they don’t trust Suleiman any more than Mubarak.

    I believe Egyptians want to see Mubarak LEAVE THE COUNTRY; they need to see that image to feel vindicated.

    As for President Obama. What will he say? He’s been dithering since Jan. 25th, and today Ehud Barak met with U.S. officials. I’m sure he was cranking up the pressure to ensure Obama supports Suleiman or at the very least keeps sitting on the fence.

  • John Welch February 10, 2011, 5:20 PM

    It does not appear that Obama cares much what the Israelis say. (How many Israeli troops are in Afganistan? When Netanyahu threatens to bomb Iran, the Pentagon just laughs, politely).

    AlJazeera reporting now (8:09pm, EST) that Obama administration is requesting that both Mubarak and Suleiman step aside. Want to see “concrete steps”. Talking to the Egyptian military, which appears to be the only entity that the US government can directly influence.

    Big question: tomorrow. If (when?) the pro-democracy protesters march on Mubarak’s palace, what happens? Can the US influence the military? I think, yes. The US Army cannot detach a division from Kabul, but they can certainly cut all funding. Is that enough? I hope so!

    I’m watching / listening to AlJazeera…the most reliable and thoughtful source.

    • Richard Silverstein February 10, 2011, 9:19 PM

      Read yesterday that King Abdullah of S.A. threatened to replace all U.S. aid if we withdrew ours fr. the Egyptian military. He’s “all in” for Mubarak. But I think it’s a case of too little too late. It doesn’t matter any longer what anyone does. It’s in the hands of the people of Egypt. And I believe they will earn their proper destiny.

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