Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
Opinion Editorials, February 2011
Tales of Tyrants:
Ben Ali, Mubarak, & Suleiman
By John Spritzler
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, February 15, 2011
Many mysteries remain and questions still go unanswered about what just happen in Egypt last week, particularly with regards to Mubarak and Sulieman. Who even knows where they are and what they're doing now?
It is now well established that Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak was supposed to have stepped down when he spoke on state TV, 45 minutes after the announced time, late Thursday evening. That's why NBC News reported the 'scoop' early in the day, why various U.S. government sources were making assurances and even the supreme council of the Egyptian army, and that is where the power really lies anyway, all but proclaimed it.
The fix was in. Mubarak had promised to resign and turn his powers over to his new Vice President Omar Suleiman. Then at the last moment he threw the hook again. This was the third time that he had spoken publicly since the mass protests began on January 25th and it is being said that on each of the previous occasions he had been expected to resign but twice, on Jan. 27th & Feb. 1st, he had failed to do so but this time it was for sure.
He surprised almost everyone. Instead of resigning, he announced that he was staying on as president but giving some of those powers over to Mr. Rendition, Omar Suleiman, he chastised his children, promised punishment, said he would serve out his term and hoped to die in Egypt. The people were outraged!
The next morning Omar Suleiman gave Mubarak's resignation speech for him. It took all of 20 seconds. Hosni Mubarak is now reported to be at home at Sharm el-Sheikh on the Red Sea but hasn't been seen or heard from publicly since he was so unceremoniously removed from office. All ministers from his government are forbidden to leave the country. There is talk of criminal proceedings. Suleiman has also been very quiet lately, keeping a very low profile.
Tthe announcement made on Sunday by Egypt's prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq, was quite significant. He said "The role of Omar Suleiman will be defined by the Higher Military Council." That is welcome news. IMHO the "role of Omar Suleiman" should be that of cell-mate to Hosni Mubarak.
As to what transpired between Mubarak and Suleiman in those last hours of his presidency, time will certainly tell the tale. Meanwhile we can take as a possible template, the last hours of Tunisian Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's presidency.
Thanks to the French publication, Nouvel Observateur , we now have the juicy details. It seems that Mubarak wasn't the first North African dictator to express a wish to die in his country before leaving:
He refused to board the plane. On the tarmac of the airport of Tunis, he resists, wrings his hands he shakes his little black briefcase, his only luggage, trying to turn back toward the black Mercedes he had just come from. He pleads, "Leave me, I do not want to go, I want to die here in my country." [...]
It is Friday, January 14 about 5pm, while resistance is growing in the streets of the capital, Ben Ali is still refusing to leave. Seriate Ali, Ben Ali's feared secret police chief and companion of thirty years is haggard and groaning as he pushes Ben Ali up the stairs of the aircraft that will take him to Saudi Arabia, "God Damn! You will go up!"
None of the soldiers who form a circle around the small group composed of the president, his wife Leila, their son Mohammed, his daughter, Halima, her fiance, the butler Mustafa, and two Filipino domestic employees is offering to help. Leila is exasperated as she bullies the dazed and whinning Ben Ali with the flowery language she loves "Go up Monte, you idiot, all my life, I've had to support your bullshit!" ...
Le Nouvel Observateur reported this week that Seriate Ali and Ben Ali's diabolical wife Leila worked together to get Ben Ali to leave by promising him that it was only temporary and he could return soon. As if!
I don't imagine that he will want to return anytime soon now that Tunisia has put out an Interpol international arrest warrant for him. They just might help him fulfill his desire to die on Tunisian soil.
Egypt's Hosni Mubarak is a criminal too.
It is good that Hosni Mubarak hasn't left Egypt and they should not let him leave because he has some very serious charges to face. We now know that on the night of January 30th, at one of the most critical junctures for the Egyptian Revolution, that President Mubarak ordered the army tank command to massacre the people in Tahrir Square and the tank commanders refused. As Robert Fisk reported on Friday:
The critical moment came on the evening of 30 January when, it is now clear, Mubarak ordered the Egyptian Third Army to crush the demonstrators in Tahrir Square with their tanks after flying F-16 fighter bombers at low level over the protesters.
Many of the senior tank commanders could be seen tearing off their headsets – over which they had received the fatal orders – to use their mobile phones. They were, it now transpires, calling their own military families for advice. Fathers who had spent their lives serving the Egyptian army told their sons to disobey, that they must never kill their own people.
Later we could see some tank commanders in Tahrir Square striping off their uniforms and joining the protesters. The revolution and Tahrir Square had yet to endure the horrific violence that Mubarak's thugs were to unleash on February 2nd and 3rd but already his most powerful tool of violent suppression had abandoned him.
Although the army took a neutral position when Mubarak's thugs came riding horses and camels into the crowds and then ended up my employing Molotov cocktails and machine guns on them, while the army stood by, those thugs didn't have tanks and artillery and Mubarak already knew that they weren't going to be in this fight. So once this thug assault failed to drive pro-democracy activists from the square and the people came back even stronger on the Friday, Mubarak was out of options. His fate was all but sealed.
So soldiers with cell phones stopped the massacre. This is yet another way that new technology has played a surprising role in this new wave of revolutions. A lot of armies, including the U.S. army, allow their people to carry cell phones. Now an army in the field has used cell phones to organize a mutiny. Will they be re-thinking that?
Please note also something else that can be deduced from Robert Fisk's description of these events. Namely that it was the low level officers in the tanks, the ones that got their orders over headsets, that refused to carry out the mass murder in Tahrir Square. Had the top brass refused Mubarak, those orders never would have been heard over headsets.
This should give all some insight into the true character of the supreme military council, show that this revolution is not safe in their hands, indicate the importance of the people building strong ties with the lower ranks of the army and most importantly, not letting down their guard or abandoning Liberation Square.
While there are still many questions and problems in the road going forward and the success of the Egyptian Revolution is by no means assured simply because Mubarak has finally been forced from office, the Egyptian people have shown a good account of themselves so far and the future looks bright.
This article was also published at WikiLeaks Central, before the author had submitted it for publication at Al-Jazeerah.
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