Saturday, February 12, 2011

"Give me liberty or give me death" By Pepe Escobar

I have announced I will stay with this post
and that I will continue to shoulder my responsibilities.
- President Hosni Mubarak

We'll go to the palace and tear him out.
- Chant in Tahrir Square

What's a revolution to do when it expected a decrepit dictator to pack up and go, live on al-Jazeera? Especially when a few hours earlier the expectation was of a military coup?

"Go back home"? Forget it.

Eerie Pharaoh Mubarak is indeed an immovable ancient statue buried in the desert sands. "I have laid down a clear vision"? Reforms will be "implemented by our armed forces"? Article 179 - the basis for emergency law - will be amended, maybe one day? Vague powers granted to Vice President Omar "Sheikh al-Torture" Suleiman?

(Octogenarian President Hosni Mubarak's deliberate vague language meant anything from "delegating power" - not all power - to "delegating the authorities" of the president, to the point that the Egyptian ambassador to the United States had to call CNN to explain that he is now a "de jure" president, Suleiman being "de facto". Translation: he's become an official ghost. A figurehead. Or maybe not.)

Compared to what the military dictatorship (Suleiman, Defense Minister Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi and army chief Lieutenant General Sami Annan) had been spinning all along this Thursday, none of that made sense.

Then came "Sheikh al-Torture", as sinister as a B-actor playing Nosferatu. It's as if Sheikh al-Torture was announcing that from now on all the excruciating practices under his supervision would be orderly transitioned towards a more democratic approach. We have "opened the door to dialogue"? "Don't listen" to the "sedition" of "satellite television stations"? "Go back home"? The same it's-us-or-chaos rant? Sheikh al-Torture at least remained in character. After all he had already threatened to unleash "dark bats of the night ... to terrorize the people". The street knows he's itching to go Medieval.

The regime as a whole had threatened the army could crack down big time by imposing martial law. Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit had told al-Arabiyya if "we want the armed forces to assume the responsibility of stabilizing the nation through imposing martial law, and army in the streets".

The Muslim Brotherhood's Essam al-Erian feared the army was about to stage a coup. The New York Times, in another characteristic amnesia attack, stressed, "The military intends to take a leading role" (modern Egypt has always been a military dictatorship).

For all the Nile of expectations, the street was not exactly sure whether they should prepare for a big party or a bloodbath. In the end, none happened.

The Egyptian High Command - crucially without Mubarak and Suleiman - had issued a bayan raqm wahad ("statement number one", in Arabic), which in the Arab world is standard code language for a military coup. The statement took pains to advertise its "support of the legitimate demands of the people". That's their idea for a new bright future for Egypt (median age: 24 years old); a lousy communique.

Yet part of the street even considered an "interim coup" better than having an interim Sheikh-al-Torture. They had already made it plain they will not tolerate a Sheikh al-Torture-led interim government - aka face-lifted Mubakarism.

In the end Mubarak himself announced that Sheikh al-Torture was taking over - or maybe not. So for the street there's no turning back. The stage is set for a regime-directed framework of "negotiations". The street knows Suleiman will manipulate this as the perfect cover to force his facelift and perpetuate the regime. Bye bye democracy. After all, Sheikh al-Torture himself has said Egypt is not ready for democracy.

Is the army cracking up?
Before the Mubarak/Suleiman state TV double bill, the hottest rumor in Cairo was that Washington was pulling no punches to have Mubarak transfer his powers - all of them - to Suleiman. Annan and a majority of senior officers were against it, but air force commanders and the top of the Republican Guard were in favor. Tantawi was sitting on the fence. The inside dope was that Annan would win.

He didn't. Will the army secede? Immediately after Mubarak's speech, people in Cairo started receiving text messages from the Egyptian High Command, saying that it is "monitoring" everything and will "decide how to act" - that's as ambiguous as it gets. Takes time to come up with communique number two.

All evidence seems to point to a serious palace civil war going on in Cairo. Perhaps a double split; inside the military dictatorship (the army against military intelligence), plus the army against Mubarak. That may turn bloody at any moment. The army simply cannot go on playing a double game and sitting on the fence. The street is left with the strategy of applying overwhelming pressure on army commanders and conscripts alike to force them to align with democracy.

Meanwhile, the top narrative in Washington is that the White House was once more horribly humiliated by a satrap; precedents, as we have already pointed out, exist, from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the Pakistani leadership. But considering the ultra high stakes, Washington, Tel Aviv and Riyadh more or less are getting what they want, as in their horse in charge of an "orderly transition".

They get Sheikh al-Torture as the new de facto rais; Mubarak as a ghost, or figurehead, or invisible master-puppeteer; and the army theoretically backing the new strongman. The only thing missing is the people. It's interesting that al-Arabiyya - which is essentially a House of Saud mouthpiece - was absolutely spot on about Mubarak's speech, at least one hour before the broadcast, while everyone else, White House and the US Central Intelligence Agency included, was sure he would step down.

On a parallel level, the closest US President Barack Obama has gone so far to unequivocally endorse people power, sort of, is this meek line in his statement post-Mubarak/Suleiman fiasco, which reads, "those who have exercised their right to peaceful assembly ... are broadly representative of Egyptian society". Mr President, the Egyptian street is watching you.

The larger-than-life ball is now in the Egyptian street's court. The fight now is to force the complete dismantling of the Egyptian police state. In the words of many a Tahrir Square protester; "Give me liberty or give me death." Egypt may burn because the regime is betting on it. So what's a revolution to do? Storm the Bastille or go on with endless passive resistance? Either way, the time for freedom or death is now.

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His new book, just out, is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

He may be reached at

Israeli and PA Forces Suppress Solidarity with Egyptians - by Stephen Lendman

Despite Palestinian Authority (PA) officials banning anti-Mubarak demonstrations, hundreds rallied in support. On February 5, Jerusalem Post writer Khaled Abu Toameh headlined, "100s demonstrate in Ramallah in support of Egyptians," saying:

Marching in Ramallah with Egyptian flags, they publicly supported them "(f)or the first time since the beginning of the(ir( uprising...." Another Ramallah demonstration followed as well as a Bethlehem one.

Toameh's February 2 article was in stark contrast headlined, "PA launches pro-Mubarak demonstration in Ramallah," denouncing Mohamed ElBaradei as a "CIA agent."

On February 4, the Popular Committees Against the Israeli Occupation issued a press release saying:

"The Egyptian Arab nation....We salute this great Arab nation, our brothers. This is the salute of freedom from the people of Palestine who have been fighting for decades for freedom and independence, and to retain the honor of Arabs."

"The Palestinians are watching what is happening across the Arab world in general and Egypt in particular with great pride....We hope that the rebelling Arab people make it their priority to demand from any government or leadership to come to sever their ties with the Israeli occupation and abandon the Egyptian - Israeli peace treaty....We call on all free nations in the world, especially Europe and the US, to get out in massive demonstrations on 2/11/11 to confirm the right of peoples to live in freedom and dignity - a day of anger" for justice, the "beginning of the Global Intifada."

On February 3, Haaretz writer Amira Hass headlined, "Why isn't the PA supporting the Egypt uprising? saying:

Instead, it "banned demonstrations in solidarity with the rebelling peoples. Palestinian television has virtually ignored the events in Egypt." Demonstrators at Cairo's Ramallah consulate were monitored by plainclothes security forces.

"What is the (PA) afraid of....?" It has close ties with Mubarak like Israel, and "when a regime is insufficiently democratic, it fears that popular demonstrations might spin out of control."

On February 7, Hass headlined, "Palestinian security suppressing West Bank fervor over Egypt protests," saying:

PA security forces suppressed a Ramallah demonstration. Adnan Dmeiri, PA security forces spokesman, said "demonstrations could lead to chaos. The priority for Palestinians was to empower popular resistance against the occupation and to work for independence."

In fact, Abbas/Fayyad security forces work cooperatively with Israel against it, enforcing occupation harshness. They've been well trained and financed to do it. A previous article explained, accessed through the following link:

America's Lt. General Keith Dayton, US security coordinator (USSC) for Israel and the PA, has been heavily involved in creating, building and training a 25,000-strong force. In recent years, Washington spent around $400 million institutionalizing hard-line control, supplementing Israel's efforts.

Dayton's in charge of building and renovating garrisons, training colleges, Interior Ministry facilities, and security headquarters. President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad head an illegitimate regime as Israeli/Washington enforcers, solidifying occupation and Israel's settlement project, including entirely Judaizing Jerusalem.

Governing as political opportunist traitors, their Mubarak moment awaits them, perhaps sooner than they imagine for exploiting and betraying their own people, including attacking peaceful protesters.

Commenting on Ramallah events, an anonymous demonstrator said:

"We had not yet done a thing. A number of policemen in uniforms began arguing with one of the demonstrators, apparently on purpose, so as to create a pretext for arresting him. They took his identity card and then began dragging him in the direction of the police station."

Human Right Watch (HRW) said PA policemen were joined by detectives, preventive security force personnel and others from general intelligence, "all of them plainclothesmen." They beat, kicked and dragged demonstrators away violently. Numerous arrests were made. Photograph-taking was prohibited. Cell phones and cameras were confiscated, and PA forces videotaped events, wanting activists identified for later arrests and detentions.

Their numbers, however, grew to about 2,000, marching and chanting the slogan heard in Tunisia and Egypt:

"The people want the fall of the regime....The people want the fall of Abbas," and an end to the internal Palestinian "inqisam (rift)!....Raise your voice, Arab masses! Dignity or death, we need a true unity!" Two (unnamed) "well-known" Fatah members joined them in solidarity.

On February 5, hundreds of Bil'in residents, joined by international and Israeli supporters, protested in solidarity with Egyptians and Tunisians. Calling for national unity, Israeli troops attacked them with tear gas and concussion grenades.

Gathering in Bil'in center for their weekly Friday demonstration, they marched toward Israel's Separation Wall, what they call the Annexation Wall on village land. Their public statement said:

(1) "We salute the Egyptian and Tunisian people" in solidarity with their struggle for freedom;

(2) "We call for national unity and the preservation of civil peace (to) pass this historic stage successfully;"

(3) "We hope that rebelling Arab people make it their priority to demand from any government or leadership to come to sever their ties with the Israeli occupation and abandon the Egyptian - Israeli peace treaty" that ignored Palestinian people, leaving them occupied and repressed under militarized harshness.

(4) "We call on all free nations in the world" to rally in solidarity with Arab people struggling to be free.

From his perspective, Omar Barghouti, a founder and director of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, expressed no surprise how PA forces reacted, saying:

"Unelected, authoritarian regimes tend to stand together. They are very scared of popular mobilization especially in light of the Palestine Papers. (They) agree on repression and have no interest in empowerment of people or mobilization."

On February 10, Haaretz writer Gideon Levy headlined, "The Middle East does not need stability," saying:

When children throw stones at tanks entering neighborhoods it's called "Disturbing the peace." When they're detained for resisting occupation, it's called "Restoring order."

"The occupier oppresses, the occupied people overcome their instincts and their struggle, and good order is maintained - for now. Stability."

Egyptians dared "disturb the peace," undermining Middle East stability. "Indeed, that stability should be undermined" throughout the region, including in Occupied Palestine. How else can oppressed people be free. Stability suffocates them. Resistance is liberating if sustained long enough.

Egyptians and Tunisians made a good start, but their struggle has just begun. When will Palestinians begin theirs? When tanks invade neighborhoods, "stones must be thrown at (them); the infuriating stability of the Middle East must be wiped out," replaced by liberating freedom, perhaps contagious enough to spread regionally, but never easily, quickly or without great risks and costs.

Egyptian Events Resonating Regionally

Egypt's outcome has regional implications, including in Occupied Palestine, especially given Mubarak's cooperative role with Israel and Washington. As a result, PA officials noticeably distanced themselves from uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan, Yemen and Algeria, fearing soon one may target them. They've also aggressively cracked down to prevent it through violence, intimidation and arrests.

So far, it's worked, but for how long. Egyptians endured three decades under Mubarak. In 1948, Palestinians lost their homeland, and for nearly 44 years suffered brutally under militarized occupation, exacerbated by collaborating PA enforcers.

Perhaps Egyptian courage will inspire them to summon theirs for liberating freedom under leaders they choose.

A Final Comment

On February, BBC's Jon Donnison headlined, "Gaza youth vent anger on Facebook," saying:

"Khaled (a pseudonym) had become something of an online sensation in Gaza, but is now effectively living in hiding" for his safety after cooperatively creating the Gaza Youth Manifesto for Change, "a 450-word tirade against the frustrations" of occupied life under siege. Posted in December, it has over 19,000 followers under the name Gaza Youth Breaks Out.

Everyone is pilloried, including Hamas, Fatah, Israel, Washington, and the UN, saying:

"We, the youth of Gaza, are so fed up (with) occupation, the violations of human rights and the indifference of the international community!"

"ENOUGH! Enough pain, enough tears, enough suffering, enough control, limitations, unjust justifications, terror, torture, excuses, bombings, sleepless nights, dead civilians, black memories, bleak future(s), heart-aching present, disturbed politics, fanatic politicians."

"WE SAY STOP! This is not the future we want! We want to be free. We want to be able to live a normal life. We want peace. Is that too much to ask?"

Is Manifesto passion a prelude to mass street protests throughout Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, matching breathtaking Egyptian courage. It's how freedom at times is won, but never easily, quickly or longstanding without sustained vigilance to retain long-fought, hard-won gains, easily lost otherwise.

Numerous previous times, longtime insider Bob Chapman made impressive calls, often before others noticed. On air February 10 on the Progressive Radio News Hour, he said Washington overplayed its hand in Egypt. Now it has a tiger by the tail perhaps too hard to control and will end up losing its regional grip when events finally play out.

Others agree, including Immanuel Wallerstein in his February 3 article headlined, "The Second Arab Revolt: Winners and Losers," saying:

Months will pass before they're known. At this point, events are fluid, outcomes uncertain. Yet he calls Washington the "great loser," Iran the biggest winner, then Turkey for supporting the Arab revolt and confronting Israel.

Indeed, it's too soon to know, but it may be the right side of history. If so, it'll defy long odds favoring power over populist uprisings, an exception perhaps proving the rule if gains hold and aren't lost because of lack of eternal vigilance.

Note: Fast-breaking events in Egypt will be discussed in a forthcoming article. Things aren't always as they seem. Below the surface maneuvers, manipulation and machinations are far more important than what's visible on the surface. Major media reports, of course, won't explain. Real journalism and analysis are essential. Focus on them and Al Jazeera's online stream for up-to-date news.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at Also visit his blog site at and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.
posted by Steve Lendman @ 1:08 AM 

CIA makes up half of some US embassies, runs independent air forces and armies

The Central Intelligence Agency makes up fifty percent of U.S. embassy staff in certain countries, according to a former senior State Department official who has recently been in Afghanistan. In fact, the U.S. embassies in Kabul, Afghanistan and Baghdad, Iraq have the highest complement of CIA official cover and non-official cover agents of any U.S. embassy.

Along with the massive CIA presence among the U.S. diplomatic corps is the presence of independent air forces and armies that are operated in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other countries by the CIA. The operations are run out of U.S. embassies in the countries.

The issue of the CIA's large presence under diplomatic cover in foreign nations has recently taken on new significance with the arrest in Pakistan of Raymond Davis, an American "diplomat" charged by the Punjab provincial government with the shooting to death of two Pakistani men in the city of Lahore. Punjab authorities are also seeking the arrest of the driver and passengers of a U.S. consulate car that struck and killed a motorcyclist in Lahore just moments after Davis shot the two Pakistani men. There are reports that the CIA has successfully spirited out of Pakistan the car's driver and three passengers. The car was reportedly traveling with Davis's vehicle.

The Obama administration is playing hardball with Pakistan, which is refusing to recognize the diplomatic immunity claimed for Davis since he is a contractor for Hyperion Protective Consultants, LLC.

WMR has learned that Hyperion is part of the CIA's worldwide private army of paramilitary forces. There are reports that Davis knows enough about CIA operations in Pakistan and Afghanistan that Obama's national security adviser Thomas Donilon has threatened to expel Pakistan's ambassador to the United States if Davis is not freed. The Obama administration is concerned that Davis will spill the beans on the CIA's support for "militants" engaged in false flag terrorist attacks in Pakistan. There are reports that Davis had been in "professional contact" with Lashkar-e-Jhangvi guerrillas in South Waziristan before he was arrested for the murder of the two Pakistanis in Lahore.

The hardball being played by Obama toward Pakistan and his continued protection for the CIA-backed Hosni Mubarak-Omar Suleiman ("Sheik Al-Torture") regime in Egypt is additional proof that Obama is a product of years of loyal CIA employment, as well as grooming for higher office.

The CIA's global team of "State Department" agents, acting under virtual diplomatic immunity, is present in every U.S. mission and embassy abroad from the US mission to the Holy See to the U.S. Consulate in Tijuana, Mexico, just a few miles from San Diego. Other embassies and missions where between one-third and one-half the diplomatic complements are made up of CIA agents are Sanaa, Yemen; Islamabad, Pakistan; Damascus, Syria; Amman, Jordan; Cairo, Egypt; Tripoli, Libya; Khartoum, Sudan; and Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

CRISIS IN EGYPT: Bread, dignity and lies By Pepe Escobar

So Omar "Sheik al-Torture" Suleiman has warned that the only alternative to dialogue with the opposition is "a coup". The suave United States Central Intelligence Agency point man for extraordinary renditions to Egypt, now Washington-anointed "orderly transition" conductor, may be more versed in electroshocks than onanism; otherwise he would have realized that a military dictatorship toppling itself still ends up as a military dictatorship.

Yet maybe that's exactly what he meant. Suleiman said protests are "very dangerous" - not so subtly implying the interference of hidden agendas by foreign journalists; a subversive coalition of the US, Israel, Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran and al-Jazeera; the Muslim Brotherhood (MB); and all of the above (and all duly evoked by the regime).

Osama Saraya, editor-in-chief of the pro-government newspaper al-Ahram, who was there when Suleiman uttered his sinister warnings, is assured he meant not only a military coup, but an Islamist coup as well.

The street reaction was swift. The sit-in in front of parliament - a second front beside Tahrir Square - is now permanent; thousands of protesters have already forced military junta member turned Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq to relocate to the Civil Aviation Ministry on the other side of Cairo. Recapitulation: the current military junta in power is Suleiman, Shafiq, Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi (minister of defense for 20 years now) and Lieutenant General Sami Annan (the army chief).

And what about thousands of workers protesting in front of the Oil Ministry? Blogger Hossam El-Hamalawy is right on the money; the "working class has officially entered the battle".

The MB for its part is giving the regime a deadline of "one week" to comply with popular demands. The April 6 Youth movement, in an e-mail to all members of its Facebook page, reminded them there are no talks with the regime until President Hosni Mubarak goes. Only then comes the meat of the matter; key constitutional reforms on civil rights, political freedom and judicial independence; and key new economic policies to fight poverty, unemployment, social injustice and monstrous corruption.

As for Sheik al-Torture's "dialogue" with the opposition, the street as well as a more institutionalized opposition strand has seen it for what it is; a mirage. No wonder strikes are spreading like wildfire; state media employees are abandoning ship; new cabinet appointees are resigning; the regime is trying every trick in the book - from prosecuting former ministers to offering a 15% raise in salaries; and street protests are getting bigger and bigger.

Diaa Rashwan, of the self-described Council of Wise Men, says the negotiations are dead; "The regime's strategy has been just to play for time and stall ... They don't really want to talk to anyone. At the start of this week they were convinced that the protests were going to fade away."

Meanwhile, around the Potomac ...
That's what you get when the horse you bet is of the addicted-to-torture kind. Washington's power players, their dedicated imperial courtiers, their hordes of media sycophants in bad suits, they are absolutely stunned.

Very few, if any, scattered around this cozy, wealthy, high-tech, sprawling apparatchik land could even imagine being confronted by a non-violent, non-sectarian, non-Islamist, non-ideological, non-hierarchical, leaderless, street-level revolution conducted by decent, ordinary citizens of - Holy Koran! - an Arab client-state.

There's no (decrepit) army to fight - or to make a cynical deal with (well, "Sheik al-Torture" and his military cohorts can always be bought, but they are not the enemy; they are "our" horses). Where's Ho Chi Minh, Che Guevara, Ruhollah Khomeini, Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden when you need them?

There's no one to demonize, there's no "you're either with us or without us", there's no territory to be bombed by shock and awe. Unless you consider the "enemy" the youth groups (and not "wise men") that spearheaded the revolution, who on Sunday formed a coalition called Unified Leadership of the Youth of the Rage Revolution. "Wow, that sounds communist!" - many will be whispering at Langley.

The "enemy" is young Egyptians - guys from the April 6 Youth Movement, the Justice and Freedom Group, the Popular Campaign to Support [Mohamed] ElBaradei, the Democratic Front Party, and - terrorist alert! - the MB. That makes for a combined leadership of 14 guys in their late 20s to early 30s. In an ideal "us against them" world, a crack special forces team - or, more cost-effectively, a Reaper - would drone some realpolitik into their skulls.

How to topple Mubarak when the 325,000 goons/informers at central security and the 60,000 soldiers from the National Guard are under Mubarak's Ministry of Interior? And how to do it keeping the military dictatorship in place - the same military that got filthy rich by Mubarakism? How to make them accept some token electoral concessions to appease and demobilize the street revolution? And how to make this all credible, with the working class now into the fray, so that a mass of poor, rural, conscripted soldiers also don't start entertaining revolutionary ideas? (and we're not even mentioning the countryside, where 57% of Egypt lives, and 40% with less than $2 a day).

No wonder Washington is scared. No drone-infested surges apply.

Meanwhile, the other dictatorial pillars of "stability" in the Middle East - routinely described by imperial sycophants as "moderate" - are even more scared. Jordan's King Abdullah is pressing for "a quiet and peaceful transition" - as if Sheik al-Torture and his gang were Disney characters. That bastion of enlightenment, the House of Saud, at least showed its true colors, warning Washington that a hasty Mubarak departure could "undermine US interests" - as in "we're next".

Bread and torture
Under three decades of Mubarak, Egypt was kept poor - 116th place in the world for gross domestic product per capita. It's fair to say that lately it has been kept even poorer by Wall Street.

Corn is up 92% in a year, wheat is up 80% - with the usual knock-on effect on the cost of bread, meat and dairy products. The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization has shown that global food prices have hit a record high, even higher than during the 2007/2008 food crisis. Food inflation now rules all over the world, not only Egypt (where, crucially, more than half of an average income goes for food; food price inflation in Egypt is at an enormous 17% a year).

But the absolute key point in all this is not rising demand from emerging giants such as India and China; cuts in food subsidies; states using more corn-based biofuel; or droughts and poor harvests in Russia, Australia, Argentina, or the next one in China. These are all factors. But to ask the protesters to pray for rain in China is a cheap shot. The absolute crucial factor is casino speculation by investment banks in food commodities.

To sum it all up: as much as the mortgage bubble exponentially increased the wealth of already wealthy global bankers (and plunged millions into homelessness), the food bubble works the same way (and is plunging tens of millions into starvation), with no end in sight.

That's a direct consequence of the deregulation operated by the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000, approved by the Bill Clinton administration, and the advent of "dark" unregulated futures trading markets such as the Intercontinental Exchange in London - invented by Wall Street, European investment banks, and sectors of Big Oil.

Institute for Policy Studies senior scholar Robert Alvarez notes what hedge fund manager Michael McMasters told a US Senate panel in 2008; this amounts to "a form of electronic hoarding and greatly increases the inflationary effect of the market. It literally means starvation for millions of the world's poor."

Masters has estimated that on US exchanges, 64% of all wheat contracts were pure speculation. It's probably more by now. This is what George Soros described as "secretly hoarding food during a hunger crisis in order to make profits from increasing prices".

Then there's Goldman Sachs and its commodity index fund - plus the artificially created "demand shock", which is essentially inventing an artificial demand to buy wheat, and then setting up the price. Who cares about hungry people in Northern African countries when there are billions of easy dollars to be made? And the bubble will go on. And Egypt will keep suffering from it.

Talk about suffering. Creditors from the "international community" are already waiting like a pack of vultures to collect. Egypt owes 17.6 billion euros (US$24 billion) to France; 10.7 billion to the UK; 6.3 billion to Italy; 5.35 billion to the US; and 2.4 billion to Germany. The vulture-in-chief International Monetary Fund is preparing more structural adjustments.

The same "international community" is already busy diverting tourism flows to Egypt (55% of the country's foreign currency) to other destinations in Africa - while foreign capital is going, going, gone, following leads by the small Mubarak-linked oligarchy, which includes telecom tycoon Naguib Sawiris and steel tycoon Ahmed Ezz.

The Western power elites demand from Egypt political "stability" and preservation of the status quo. This implies total security for Israel, draconian isolation of Gaza and Egypt totally aligned with Saudi Arabia and Jordan as faithful US vassals.

That's not exactly what the street revolution wants - after they finish with phase I. The Unified Leadership of the Youth of the Rage Revolution, via its spokesperson, attorney Ziad al-Olaimai, 32, has laid out its seven key demands - for now. Here they are: resignation of Mubarak; immediate lifting of emergency law; release of all political prisoners; dissolution of both upper and lower chambers of parliament; formation of a national unity government to manage the transitional period; investigation by the judiciary of the abuses of security forces during the revolution; and protection of the protesters by the military.

And this would be only the beginning; a truly sovereign Egyptian government won't possibly behave as a subservient US satrapy. But now there's no turning back. The street knows that it simply can't pack up and go home - as the regime badly wants.

They know that in the dead of night Suleiman could order his immense "secret" goon squad to ship the hundreds of thousands of them to the torture chambers he runs on behalf of the CIA, such as Abu Zaabal, or the maximum-security dungeon Scorpion, so they can be waterboarded, or electro-shocked upside down, or forced to lie in a electrified bed frame, or be beaten by electric cattle prods, or be anally raped by specially trained dogs, or have their spines hyper-extended to the point of fracture, or be kept for days in the dreaded "tiny coffin" cage, or simply be left to rot wrapped head to toe in duct tape, like a mummy.

And Suleiman would be there to supervise it all. All in secret, of course, so the "international community" would not be disturbed in their silent praise of "stability".

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His new book, just out, is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

He may be reached at

Monday, February 07, 2011

Counter-revolution brought to you by ...

Counter-revolution brought to you by ...
By Pepe Escobar

It will be a long, winding, treacherous and perhaps bloody road before the popular Egyptian revolution even dreams of approaching the post-Suharto Indonesian model (the largest, most plural democracy in a Muslim-majority country) or the current Turkish model (also sanctioned at the ballot box).

As predicted (Rage, rage against the counter-revolution - Asia Times Online, February 1) the counter-revolution is on, and brought by the usual suspects; the Egyptian army; Mubarakism's comprador elites; and the triad of Washington, Tel Aviv and European capitals.

After more than two weeks of protests on the streets of Egypt against President Hosni Mubarak, this is what the White House's "orderly transition" is all about - with Washington still playing all sides even as the Egyptian street smashed the mirror and defied for good the "stability"/terror imposed on it by the dark side.

The counter-revolution goes way beyond comments by Frank Wisner, a United States Central Intelligence Agency/Wall Street asset who is US President Barack Obama's secret agent to Cairo and a personal friend of the Egyptian president, on the desirability of Mubarak stay and supervise the transition.

It comes across almost casually as Robert Springborg, professor of national security affairs at the US Naval Postgraduate School, tells Reuters, "The military will engineer a succession. The West - the US and the EU [European Union] - are working to that end. We are working closely with the military ... to ensure a continuation of a dominant role of the military in the society, the polity and the economy." Translation; erase the people to ensure "stability".

The tent city in Tahrir Square in the capital, Cairo, is very much aware that decades of Egypt as a US client-state plus endless International Monetary Fund/World Bank manipulations created the perfect economic storm that was a key cause of the revolution. That's also a key cause for the street to want - according to one of its top slogans - the whole regime brought down. Connecting the dots, the street also knows that a truly representative, sovereign Egyptian government cripples the entire US-controlled Middle East power arrangement.

Historically, what Washington always really feared is Arab nationalism, not crackpot self-made jihadis. Arab nationalism is intrinsically, viscerally, opposed to the 1979 Camp David peace accords, which have neutralized Egypt and left Israel with a free iron hand to proceed with its slow strangulation of Palestine; for As'ad Abu Khalil of the Angry Arab website, every Middle East expert who worked on the accords "helped construct a monstrous dictatorship in Egypt".

Former Israeli peace negotiator Daniel Levy, now with the New America Foundation, spells it out further for the New York Times, "The Israelis are saying, apres Mubarak, le deluge ... The problem for America is, you can balance being the carrier for the Israeli agenda with Arab autocrats, but with Arab democracies, you can't do that."

Correction; in fact it's after Mubarak not the deluge but "our torturer" - Vice President Omar Suleiman, the head of the Mukhabarat, widely dubbed by protesters "Sheikh al-Torture", after his performance tossing at least 30,000 people in jail as suspected jihadis, accepting CIA renditions, and torturing the rendered. Innocents among them include Sheikh Libi, who, under torture, confessed that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's goons were training al-Qaeda jihadis; former US secretary of state Colin Powell had no qualms using this "information" at his infamous speech to the United Nations in February 2002 justifying war on Iraq.

Throw the bums into the Nile
Essentially, this is what the Egyptian street wants. Mubarak down immediately. Suleiman starts a national dialogue with an opposition coalition, observed by a neutral UN delegation. Then a constitutional assembly is established to amend articles 77, 78 and 88 of the constitution to enable any Egyptian to be a candidate for the presidency.

The state of emergency (in effect for over 25 years) is lifted. The judicial system establishes monitoring bodies for future elections. A national coalition body is established to monitor the transition during the next six months, and organize elections according to international standards. New guidelines are set for legal political parties not vetted by Mubarakism's National Democratic Party (NDP) but by an independent neutral body. The country starts over with the rule of law and an independent judiciary.

The youth groups central to the revolution go way beyond. They want; the resignation of the entire NDP, including Suleiman; a broad-based transitional government appointed by a 14-strong committee, made up of senior judges, youth leaders and members of the military; the election of a council of 40 public intellectuals and constitutional experts who will draw up a new constitution under the supervision of the transitional government, then put it to the people in a referendum; fresh local and national elections; the end of emergency law; the dismantling of the whole state security apparatus; and the trial of top regime leaders, including Mubarak.

The street simply does not trust the self-described "Council of Wise Men" - which includes secretary general of the Arab League Amr Moussa; Nobel prize-winner and Obama adviser Ahmed Zuwail; professor Mohamed Selim al-Awa; president of the Wafd party Said al-Badawi; powerful Cairo businessman Nagib Suez and lawyer Ahmed Kamal Aboul Magd - who are all in favor of Suleiman presiding over the "orderly transition", under the pretext that the opposition leadership is extremely divided and cannot agree on anything. But to believe that Suleiman will agree to dissolve his own party, dissolve parliament, dissolve the police state and change the constitution, they must be all under the spell of an Orientalist opium dream.

For the moment, the new Wafd party (six seats) and Tagammu (five seats) are the largest regime-approved opposition parties in parliament (518 seats). Then there's al-Ghad ("Tomorrow"), founded by Ayman Nour (he contested the last presidential election and ended up in jail). The Generation Y in the streets views them all as irrelevant; they congregate around the Kefaya ("Enough") movement, and have just formed a Youth Front for Egypt.

For the moment the only opposition group spelling out key economic demands is the brand new Egyptian Federation for Independent Unions; they want a monthly minimum wage of 1,200 Egyptian pounds (about US$204), annual raises matching inflation and guaranteed rights to bonuses and benefits.

Obviously nothing will change in Egypt without a new constitution capable of guaranteeing political rights to Copts, Shi'ites, Baha'i, Nubians, Bedouins, you name it. At the same time, secular Egyptians, Christians, the brand new Youth Front for Egypt, Nasserists, New Wafd partisans, socialists, all seem to agree there is no specter of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) turning Egypt into sharia law. Superstar scholar Tariq Ramadan, whose grandfather Hasan al-Banna founded the MB in 1928, stresses this is "completely an ideological projection to protect geopolitical interests".

The MB by all local estimates does not represent more than 22% of the Muslim population; so 78% wouldn't vote for them. Egyptian society already practices what can be considered a very moderate brand of Islam. Islam is the state religion; the hijab and the niqab are common, as well as the galabiya for men.

And for those brandishing the specter of the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran (and who obviously cannot tell a Shi'ite from a Sunni) Egypt's social and religions composition is completely different from Iran's. What's definitely more revealing is what the Arab world itself considers to be a threat. An August 2010 Brookings poll showed that only 10% of Arabs regard Iran as a threat; instead they consider the US (77%), and even more Israel (88%) as the major threats.

Allow me to spread you with democracy
The street has pyramids of reasons to worry. All evidence points out to these days that shook the world evolving towards a Washington-spun definition of "stability", with an "orderly transition" conducted by a former torturer and the regime fully in place, buying time, arguing that all crucial constitutional changes need to be discussed - plus the internal Egyptian argument that Mubarak cannot step down now either because it's unconstitutional or because then it would be chaos.

And as the standoff persists - even with the street still fully mobilized - what passes for dialogue between the regime and a few sectors of the opposition, including the usurpers of the revolution, is bound to split the already divided and essentially leaderless protest movement. Washington is not exactly unhappy. Nor are the EU minions. The EU's foreign policy chief Lady Catherine Ashton defends Suleiman - with whom she has spoken - as having a "plan in place" to meet some of the protester's demands. The crucial operative word here is "some".

Imagine the result of all this sound and fury, the hundreds dead and thousands wounded by the regime - in addition to the untold thousands eliminated these past three decades - being this aseptic "orderly transition" conducted by "Sheik al-Torture", hailed by politicians and corporate media in Washington, European capitals and Tel Aviv as a democratic victory for the street revolution/collective will of the Egyptian people.

Minimalist political/economic reforms are already being dangled as rotten carrots - even as foreign journalists keep being arrested, goons terrorize protest leaders and state media remains in Animal Farm mode. Egyptian public opinion is being slowly, methodically split. The military junta is showing no cracks. Suleiman and Annan are Washington darlings. Defense Minister Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi is Pentagon supremo Robert Gates' darling.

The military dictatorship certainly wants America to keep spreading democracy in Egypt - as in aid money paying for Abrams tanks assembled in suburban Cairo, Boeing selling CH-47 Chinook helicopters, Lockheed Martin selling F-16s (a $230 million contract), Sikorsky selling Black Hawks, L-3 Ocean Systems selling equipment for detection of submarine threats, CAE from Tampa, Florida selling C-130H weapons system, plus an influx of 450 brand new Hellfire II missiles, not to mention the very helpful tear gas canisters from Combined Systems Inc (CSI) in Jamestown, Pennsylvania.

And don't forget those Pentagon contracts showing the US government spent over $110 million to buy and maintain Mubarak's fleet of nine Gulfstream jets. Those in Tahrir Square would be wondering whether any one of the Gulfstreams could be used to jet him to Guantanamo?

A wily counter-revolution is exactly what the revolution needs right now to remain on maximum alert. When "orderly transition" is finally seen for what it is, there's a great probability not only Egypt but the whole Arab world will become a ball of fire.

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His new book, just out, is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

He may be reached at