Hosni Mubarak has been Egypt's modern day pharaoh for the past 30 years, winning elections in the same fashion the Harlem Globetrotters win basketball games. The last Egyptian presidential election held in 2005 is considered by some to be the first contested election during the Mubarak era. Mr. M. snuck by with a mere 88.6% of the vote – just a shell of his former self that used to rake in an excess of 95 percent.
Essential to the longevity of the Mubarak regime is terror — terror that it can project and the compliance it can expect. A report published just before the current Egyptian crises by Human Rights Watch details government brutality and its subsequent methods of intimidation toward those who consider reporting such abuses.
If you lack the inclination to read a 95-page report, the title itself provides a great synopsis: “Work on Him Until He Confesses: Impunity for Torture in Egypt.”
According to one of those pesky Wikileaks cables – torture isn’t just for those who may challenge the government or who are terrorism suspects. Apparently, when a murder is committed, a popular investigative technique has been to round up 40 to 50 young men from the area and hang them by their arms until someone confesses to something. This is hardly a model of modern policing or an effective method to win the hearts and minds of the governed.
One mechanism that the Mubarak regime has employed is the Egyptian “Emergency Law” that was implemented following the assassination of President Anwar Sadat. This “temporary” law has been in place for nearly three decades and can be utilized as the government deems fit. Some of its provisions include the ability to arrest and search people without charge and hold them indefinitely, prohibit political demonstrations and free speech including the shutting down of media outlets.
The “anti-terrorism” law is one of the major grievances of the Egyptian uprising but seems to be only a footnote in the coverage from major US news agencies, perhaps because our government has bankrolled this tin horn dictator and touted his “stable” regime.
By definition, a dictatorship is a government that is not restricted by a constitution or other laws or by the free expression of its people, so in a sense, it is “stable.” $1.5 billion a year in aid with most of that going to the Egyptian military, courtesy of US taxpayers, can buy a lot of “stability.” The stability that Mubarak has provided is about as genuine as the jet black color of his 82-year-old head of hair. His Egyptian Formula hair color may give the appearance of being younger than he is but his formula for ruling Egypt belongs in the Cairo Antiquities Museum.
The White House continues to straddle the fence on the Egyptian revolt. It painstakingly crafts statements that come as close as possible to asking Mubarak to step down without actually saying it.
Various reasons have been given for the equivocation of the Obama Administration but I think it hinges on covering one’s political backside. If the US demands Mubarak immediately leave office and he does – the ensuing evolution of the revolution could prove to be a potential political liability. There is simply no way to predict the outcome in that country.
However, the cause of turmoil is not the departure of a dictator but rather his decades of authoritarian rule. The Egyptians have been prevented from casting a meaningful vote at the ballot box and have taken their votes to the street. It’s unclear what direction Egypt will take, but it’s apparent Mubarak is not the chosen one to determine their fate.
A Globetrotter match is scripted for entertainment purposes but it's been a life or death contest in Egypt. I can only hope that the familiar “game over” sign displayed by protestors is accurate.