Fisk on America’s lost opportunity (which they were never going to take)

Egyptians are rising up and America is looking to install a torturing autocrat in place of Mubarak?

Robert Fisk on the streets of Cairo:

Well, immense courage displayed by those who are demanding the overthrow, effectively, of Mubarak, oddly matched by the complete gutlessness of the U.S. administration. In fact, the cowardice of the language coming from Mrs. Clinton in the State Department, the endless calls for restraint and the endless calls of Mubarak being a friend of America, etc.—Mubarak himself being a dictator, runs a secret police state, in effect—against these lone Egyptians who are being filmed by state security, who are being filmed on television around the world, who are giving their names, identifying themselves as being against the regime, it’s been an extraordinary example of lost American opportunities, in fact. You know, I’m on the street with these people. They’re not anti-American. There are no anti—nobody is burning American flags, though I probably would if I was among them and I was an Egyptian in these circumstances. They’ve been immensely understanding of the international situation, but of course immensely betrayed.

What they’re buoyed up with is basically a simple fact. When you throw constant humiliation and fear and repression and increased education, when you throw off your shackles, as the old cliché goes, when you say, “I’m not afraid anymore,” you can never re-inject a people with fear. They’re on their feet. They may get defeated temporarily, but they’re still going to be standing up. And that’s why more and more people are coming to join the protesters.

And now what we’re seeing is that having shown their defiance of the state security police on Friday of last week in those big battles in Cairo, having now had to fight literally against the Mubarak people with stones—I mean, literally fight and be wounded—they’re showing that their courage is real. It’s not just voices on a screen that are going fade back to middle-class homes later or go back to farming or something. It’s the real thing. And this is something that Mubarak clearly doesn’t understand. I think the army is beginning to.

The key that I’ve seen over the last few days has been the way in which the army on Friday was told by Mubarak to clear the square, and the individual tank officers refused. I actually saw them tearing off their tank helmets, where they were receiving orders on their own military net, and using their mobile phones. And in many cases, they were phoning home, because they come from military families. They wanted to know from their fathers what they should do. And, of course, they were told, “You must not shoot on your fellow citizens.” And that, I think, was the actual moment when the Mubarak regime broke. Or if we look back historically, that’s what we’ll believe. So I think it is broken, it’s finished, whatever Mr. Mubarak may dream about in his pantomime world. And I think that was a very critical moment.

Now, of course, the great drama is this. The Americans want the military to control the situation and get rid of Mubarak, but then are we going to have Mubarak’s vice president? Are we going to have an Egypt led by the former intelligence officer for Mubarak, a chief negotiator with Israel, Israel’s favorite Egyptian, running this country, and running the army to run this country? We’re going to have just another benevolent military dictator running another army which runs another country in the Arab world, which is basically what we’ve had all along.

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