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?