His Master’s Voice By William Bowles

By William Bowles
Featured Writer
Dandelion Salad
6 February, 2011

No Mobarak - Egypt Uprising protest Melbourne ...

Image by Takver via Flickr

On the 5 February, the New York Times published a piece entitled ‘West Backs Gradual Egyptian Transition‘ that illustrates exactly how the media and the state collude in presenting the imperial line.

Effectively, it’s a distillation of the corporate state’s changing public response to the Egyptian insurrection as presented by one of its leading mouthpieces, the New York Times and it doesn’t beat about the obamabush in telling it like it is.

From the opening paragraph it’s clear there’s to be no more BS about democracy and freedom,

“The United States and leading European nations on Saturday threw their weight behind Egypt’s vice president, Omar Suleiman, backing his attempt to defuse a popular uprising without immediately removing President Hosni Mubarak from power.”

Quoting Hillary Clinton (surely a woman who rivals Madelaine Albright for newsspeak), we read,

“Mrs. Clinton said Mr. Mubarak, having taken himself and Gamal out of the September elections, was already effectively sidelined. She emphasized the need for Egypt to reform its Constitution to make a vote credible. “That is what the government has said it is trying to do,” she said.

“She also stressed the dangers of holding elections without adequate preparation. “Revolutions have overthrown dictators in the name of democracy, only to see the process hijacked by new autocrats who use violence, deception and rigged elections to stay in power.”

So you see how it works: overthrowing dictatorships is okay as long as it’s the US that’s doing it. Only the US can guarantee an ‘orderly’, ‘peaceful’, ‘sensible’, ‘meaningful’, not-to-mention ‘soft’ ‘transition’ to what? More of the same that’s what but with the veneer of acceptability.

Echoing Clinton’s words, Angela Merkel states,

““There will be a change in Egypt,” Mrs. Merkel said, “but clearly, the change has to be shaped in a way that it is a peaceful, a sensible way forward.”

Shaped by whom? Clearly not the millions of Egyptians who have put their lives on the line since 28 January. Such things cannot be left to the Egyptians.

The NYT reinforces the call for ‘orderly’ transition telling us,

“At the same Munich meeting on Saturday, Frank G. Wisner, the former ambassador President Obama sent to Cairo to negotiate with Mr. Mubarak, appeared to take an even softer line on the existing government, saying that the United States should not rush to push Mr. Mubarak out the door. He said Mr. Mubarak had a critical role to play through the end of his presidential term in September.

“You need to get a national consensus around the preconditions of the next step forward, and the president must stay in office in order to steer those changes through,” Mr. Wisner said.

“The administration later said Mr. Wisner’s comments did not reflect official policy. “The views he expressed today are his own. He did not coordinate his comments with the U.S. government,” said Philip J. Crowley, the State Department spokesman.””

The NYT continues,

“Nor has Mr. Suleiman, a former general, former intelligence chief and Mr. Mubarak’s longtime confidant, yet reached out to the leaders designated by the protesters to negotiate with the government, opposition groups said.


“Protesters interpreted the simultaneous moves by the Western leaders and Mr. Suleiman as a rebuff to their demands for an end to the dictatorship led for almost three decades by Mr. Mubarak, a pivotal American ally and pillar of the existing order in the Middle East.”

I am minded of the months and years preceding the democratic elections that took place in South Africa in 1994 as it not only indicates a possible way forward for the Egyptian people but most clearly illustrates the very different balance of forces in Egypt and why such a ‘succession’ is unlikely.

Thus the (defunct) National Party’s first moves were not only to release Mandela but most importantly the unbanning of the ANC, the Communist Party and the repeal of a slew of ‘emergency laws’ the apartheid government had put in place since the 1950s.

The National Party recognized that the ANC and its partners were not strong enough to overthrow the Apartheid regime but was itself not strong enough to neutralize them. A deal had to be done. Thus talks began and it was during that time period (1990-1993) that the apartheid state did everything in its power to maintain its grip including the ‘Third Force‘ culminating with the assassination of Chris Hani (truly the real successor to Mandela and precisely why he was assassinated).

No such comparable calls have been made in Egypt (or in the Western media) for repeal of the emergency laws and the unbanning of political parties and a free media, surely the first step in ‘normalizing’ the situation, for without free political expression, the right to organize and assemble, all talk of an ‘orderly’ transition is newsspeak for maintaining the existing order.

Clearly this contrast reflects the very different power relations in Egypt. With all political opposition to the dictatorship locked up, driven underground or into exile, and a well-funded (by the US) security apparatus, the insurrection, that apparently lacks a coherent leadership that expresses the will of the majority risks losing its grip on the situation. Time is of the essence!

There is no Egyptian ANC nor organized and inter-connected resistance in the cities, towns and villages across Egypt and the initially ‘non-committal’ nature of the US response to the insurrection reflects this reality. None is possible because Egypt is a militarized, police state with all free political expression savagely repressed.

The imperial line is clear: wait it out and in the meantime try to engineer a ‘solution’ favourable to the Egyptian people but one that doesn’t alter status quo, especially in the Region, an almost unlikely outcome but one that depends on the passage of time for it to have the best chance of success. In the meantime, prepare for the worst.[1]

Thus are the protesters in Tahrir Square occupying it or imprisoned in it? Already the army has effectively sealed off the Square and replaced the conscripts with professional soldiers.

“In Tahrir Square, meanwhile, the military tightened its cordon around the protesters by reinforcing security checks at all the entrances. An army officer, Brig. Gen. Hassan al-Rawaini, negotiated with protesters outside a barricade near the Egyptian Museum, urging them to bring down the fortifications, allow traffic to return and move their protest to the heart of Tahrir Square.”

It’s a wait-and-see period with the US deliberately delaying a solution to the crisis that could quite easily be resolved by insisting that as a start the Emergency Laws be rescinded, the government dissolve and free elections held. But this is how the Empire responded to the idea, using the collapse of East Germany to justify it!

“[Clinton’s] emphasis on a deliberate process was repeated by Mrs. Merkel and Mr. Cameron. Mrs. Merkel mentioned her past as a democracy activist in East Germany, recalling the impatience of protesters after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, to immediately join democratic West Germany. But the process took a year, and it was time well spent, she said.”

Merkel fails to mention of course that the first thing to go immediately after the fall of the Wall was the East German state machine along with all of its laws, never mind integrating the former East German economy into the Western capitalist one. That’s what took a year (and it’s still ongoing over twenty years later with vast inequalities still existing between the East and the West).

The continued insistence of ‘time’ and an ‘orderly’ transition to whatever it is the Egyptians are meant to be transitioning to is not mentioned, betrays more than a whiff of desperation. Note too that unlike Western-engineered ‘revolutions’, this one has not been assigned a colour.

All quotes by the way are from the NYT article which took a platoon of writers to create, well half-a-dozen at least. Serious stuff this and not to be left to amateurs.


1. As I mentioned in the previous article, the US has already moved additional troops to Egypt and now,

“The Kearsarge, an amphibious assault ship carrying 700 to 800 troops from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, and the Ponce have arrived in the Red Sea, putting them off Egypt’s shores in case the situation worsens.” — ‘American Warships Heading to Egypt‘.


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