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The Tahrir Blues

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Hosni Mubarak has chosen not to fold his losing hand and to play it to the bitter end.


After the CIA and the Egyptian military said he was going to resign, he didn't, which further escalated the tension around the question hanging over Cairo: Who is the military going to side with?

Is it the bloated kleptocrat and his bloody sidekick, Omar Suleiman -- the ally the generals have been in bed with since the State Of Emergency was declared in 1981 -- or the Egyptian citizens who refuse to leave Tahrir Square and demand a suspension of the constitution, then fair and open elections.

For the military the choice seems like whether to let go of your 300-pound mother as she's pulling you into powerfully raging floodwaters. If you don't let her go, she's going to drag you into even more dangerous waters that will assure all your doom.

As a veteran of decades of anti-militarism activism in America -- child's play here compared to Tahrir Square -- I feel the people in Tahrir are my brothers and sisters. Like many, I'm moved by their bravery and determination.

Always hanging over them is a relentless wet blanket, an oppressive, smothering force represented by the militarist juggernaut reaching from Washington DC, through Israel and Saudi Arabia, to the deeply funded and entrenched military class of Egypt.

Tahrir Square and Presidents Mubarak and Obama by unknown

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After Mubarak's speech on Thursday, the chants rose in Tahrir Square: "The people and the army! Hand in hand!"

Amazingly, the Egyptian Army, by all standards probably one of the more corrupt military institutions in the world, is now the peacemaker in Egypt, perched above it all like a vulture calculating how long the Tahrir Square forces can hold out and how long Mubarak and his fat cronies can keep believing they're leading Egypt.

Do the generals appease the demonstrators and essentially pull off a coup for democracy, pushing Mubarak into exile, then suspend the constitution and arrange real elections? Or do they appease Mubarak and Suleiman and start shooting demonstrators in front of the international media?

The top ranks of the military have a lot at stake. Its generals have vast holdings in shopping centers, water plants, consumer products and other commercial enterprises that they do not want to jeopardize. Much of this investment wealth, no doubt, is from the generous US funds extended to the Egyptian military to stabilize the Arab nation and serve the interests of peace with Israel.

Reportedly, the middle and lower ranks of military officers are more in real sympathy with the Tahrir Square movement. So far, the military has not made its intentions clear.

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What is clear, though, is that the longer the United States government continues to try to have it both ways -- say they're for real democracy as they support military repression -- the more it's going to lose ground in the hearts and minds of Egyptians. Some reports suggest the "strong" Obama statement Thursday afternoon was "too little too late."

Listening to the diplomatic foggery that has been the Obama Administration's triangulating day-to-day approach to the crisis has been nothing short of demoralizing. There was never a threat of removing the $1.5 billion a year in military aid if Mubarak did not give it up.

MSNBC's Chris Matthews and his guest Egyptian NYU Professor Irshad Manji both strongly felt that President Obama was personally behind the Tahrir demonstrators but that he was hamstrung and could not say so. "Why is that?" Matthews asked. "Oil and Israel?" "Yes," she said.

Our cynical support of despots is usually never so clearly articulated.

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I'm a 68-year-old American who served in Vietnam as a naive 19-year-old kid. From that moment on, I've been studying and re-thinking what US counter-insurgency war means. I live outside of Philadelphia, where I'm a writer, photographer and (more...)

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