Thursday, February 10, 2011

Mubarak Tells Egypt To F**K Off, He's Not Going Anywhere

David Ignatius

"Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is the richest man in the world, with more than $70 billion in hidden assets. That will go up even more once his unemployment kicks in." – Jimmy Fallon

"Prince William’s nightclub owner friend is said to be planning a wild bachelor party. It must be weird stuffing a bill in a stripper’s g-string when it has a picture of your grandmother on it." – Jimmy Fallon
"Washington, D.C. is updating its traffic cameras to enforce traffic laws. How about enforcing bribery and corruption laws?" – Jay Leno

So, how out of touch with reality can a world leader be? Top of the list had to be Uganda's Adi Amin, who was known to eat the heart of his enemies, often inviting unsuspecting dignitaries and journalists to share a "special" lunch with him. Papa Doc Duvalier wielded voodoo rituals and created the dreaded tonton macute, his own special security force of crazed killers... But right up there has to be Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, who today gave a "speech from his heart" telling the nation that he would not resign until his term ended in September. In doing so, he completely dismissed the hundreds of thousands of protesters who have taken to the streets during the past three weeks, and tried to spin it as holding strong against the desires of foreign powers like the US: "I can not and will not accept to be dictated orders from outside, no matter what the source is," Mubarak said."

He could have been a rock star, millions of people took time off to watch his speech. He could have retired gracefully, and instantly the anger of the protesters would have been changed into joy, and they would have forgiven him. Instead, he gave them an arrogant old man, clinging to the last vestiges of colonial style military rule, thinking that the few scraps he was going to give them would satisfy their hunger, and they would thank him: "Mubarak said that he is "totally committed to fulfilling all the promises" that he has earlier made regarding constituional and political reform. "I have laid down a vision ... to exit the current crisis, and to realise the demands voiced by the youth and citizens ... without undermining the constitution in a manner that ensures the stability of our society," he said. The problem here, is that thirty years ago Mubarak declared martial law, giving him and his security forces the power to detain people without a stated reason, and to put people in jail without trials. I think he got the idea from the CIA, who set up secret rendition camps in Egypt during the Iraq war. Anyway, he has promised to lift that several times before and never has done it, so his promises aren't worth spit. So far, there have been no proposals for change from the government. Mubarak's real vision is to wait until the protests have died down, then to ignore making any more changes, unless he absolutely is forced to. Come September, he might have enough people jailed and "disappeared" so that people will be scared to have another protest, much like the Iranian government has beaten down the spirit of its people...

"I will remain adamant to shoulder my responsibility, protecting the constitution and safeguarding the interests of Egyptians [until the next elections]. Except nobody wants him to continuing to shoulder any responsibility, he remains the biggest threat to the constitution, and he wants to safeguard the interests of his family and friends until they can get there money out of the country, this pesky revolution thing having caught them unaware...

My favorite part of his speech came when he was adamant that these people were not protesting against him personally: "Mubarak said the current "moment was not against my personality, against Hosni Mubarak", and concluded by saying that he would not leave Egyptian soil until he was "buried under it". This is where Bill O'Reilly interrupts him by asking why do you think they hate you so much? Be careful what you ask for, Hosni, because your speech satisfied no-one, everyone was predicting that you would resign and now they look foolish, so the next step may well be burying you beneath the Egyptian soil... Mubarak is hoping that this will be enough to carry him through the next few months, but I haven't seen how people have responded to his speech. We will find out tomorrow, on Friday, to see the weekend turnout in the streets and their mood. It's possible to drive the protesters over the edge, to turn the miracle of such a peaceful protest, into a very angry mob, and they quite literally, could tear the government apart. So far, they haven't wanted to give him any slack, get rid of him and his stooge Suleiman... I fear the next step is that Mubarak and his puppet will order the military to step in and make the crowds go home, with very bad results. For one brief, shining moment, Egypt showed the future for so many similar nations... Let this be a lesson of what can happen when we let mentally ill people remain in power, how having power can corrupt a person beyond reason and reality, and that corruption poisons a system over the years until it has to be surgically cut out...

The practice of one government trying to put all of its opponents in jail, especially when it's time to campaign again, is common all over the world. What always amazes mr is how open and in-your-face it often is, such as what is currently going on in the Ukraine: "Prosecutors appointed by the president, Viktor F. Yanukovich, are carrying out many investigations of opposition leaders, including the former prime minister, Yulia V. Tymoshenko, who was a hero of the Orange Revolution of 2004.

The United States and European Union, which had held up Ukraine as a post-Soviet model for relatively fair elections and the peaceful transfer of power between political parties, have expressed growing alarm over the Yanukovich government’s conduct.

Ms. Tymoshenko has been repeatedly interrogated by prosecutors who said they were examining official corruption during her tenure as prime minister. But so far they are focusing on an accusation that has not aroused much public outrage: they say she violated the law in 2009 by shifting hundreds of millions of dollars from environmental funds to pay pensions. (She is not accused of personally stealing any of the money.)"
“Yanukovich thinks that if he puts me behind bars, he will be able to go into the next campaign without competition,” Ms. Tymoshenko said in an interview. “He will have the same situation that exists in other former Soviet countries where there is no opposition.”
The spin, of course, is that each previous administration is corrupt, and they are just applying the rule of law: “When it comes to justice, the affiliation of this or that lawbreaker does not matter,” Mr. Yanukovich said last week during a trip to Poland. “The rule of law works in Ukraine.” The main philosophical difference between these two is that the current leader, Mr Yanukovich, is an old-school, conservative Russian style politician who is happy keeping Moscow happy. Ms Tymoshenko leans more towards the West and would like the Ukraine to join the European Union.

“Especially in the last five years, there was this impression in society that people in government were essentially immune from prosecution,” the Ukrainian foreign minister, Kostyantyn Gryshchenko, said in an interview. “We need to send a serious signal to society that this behavior is unacceptable.” The type of corruption uncovered, such as hiring a driver who is past retirement age, was enough to arrest a former minister while he was walking his dog, and keep him in jail ever since...

Of course, it will get worse in Russia itself, once the presidential campaigns between Dmitri Medvedev and Vladimir Putin heats up. If Putin allows a contest, his ego may not allow it. In fact, Mr Putin would do well to pay attention to what is going on in Egypt, because he has the same brutal, autocratic personality that Mubarak does, and his may be a similar fate...

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