Sunday, January 30, 2011

Democracy struggling to be born in the streets in Egypt



Over the last two days, I've been obsessed with watching the live feed from Al Jazeera English TV from the streets of Cairo. This maybe-revolution is being televised, at least to the extent a few journalists can do it -- those journalists have had their credentials yanked by authorities that may not have much control themselves of the situation, but are still out among the crowds.

I watch filled with a yearning for a successful outcome for the majority of the Egyptian people, knowing I don' t know what that means, though it almost certainly doesn't mean more autocratic rule by some different general.

Dictator-President Hosni Mubarak has done something he never did before during his 30 year rule: he appointed a vice-president. That act takes on more meaning if one is aware that he slipped into his current job because he was vice-president to the previous president -- who was assassinated by members of the army.

His guy, General Omar Suleiman, turns out to be an old friend of the least savory elements in the United States government. Jane Mayer of the New Yorker reminds us that

As laid out in greater detail by Stephen Grey, in his book “Ghost Plane,” beginning in the nineteen-nineties, Suleiman negotiated directly with top [Central Intelligence] Agency officials. Every rendition was greenlighted at the highest levels of both the U.S. and Egyptian intelligence agencies. Edward S. Walker, Jr., a former U.S. Ambassador to Egypt, described Suleiman as “very bright, very realistic,” adding that he was cognizant that there was a downside to “some of the negative things that the Egyptians engaged in, of torture and so on. But he was not squeamish, by the way.”

For those of us who want more decent, democratic government at home, it's easy to identify with Egypt's protesters who have simply had it with a government not responsive to their wishes!

Regular blogging will return tomorrow. For now, back to the TV feed and the Twitter stream (#Egypt).

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