Shortly after the uprising in Tunisia, the people of Egypt began to rise up, having had enough of the thirty plus years of President Hosni Mubarak’s military rule. The protests are now in their third week, with no real end in sight. The protesters have had everything thrown at them from rocks to Molotov cocktails to whip wielding Mubarak thugs on camels, and still the demonstrators refuse to budge an inch.
Each Friday has climaxed after prayers with hundreds of thousands of pro-democracy advocates crowding Tahrir Square, each one of them holding their breathe for that moment when President Mubarak steps down. Mubarak has promised to step down at the end of his term in September, but most Egyptians aren’t buying his delay tactics. They say he is just buying his time, riding out the present storm in order to cling to power and possibly extract his revenge on the dissidents at a later date. So the time is now, as they say.
With all the strain on Mubarak coming from the inside (the same people he has repressed) and virtually none coming from the outside, it’s hard to say just how much pressure he feels. In fact, it would not be absurd to think that there are outside powers telling him to stay on at least until September. It is not unheard of for western powers to support military dictatorships as long as it is in their interest to do so, the United States especially.
During the Iranian revolution of the late seventies, the U.S. opposed the overthrow of the Shaw, a brutal dictator the U.S. and British helped to install over Mohammed Mossadegh, who had tried to nationalize Iran’s oil industry (The coup was the first time the U.S. had openly overthrown an elected, civilian government). Ayatollah Khomeini had publicly criticized the United States government prior to his exile in the sixties, and if the U.S. had decided to support the Iranian people in what became their Islamic Revolution, Khomeini might not have come to power.
The United States right now is playing with that same double-edged sword in Egypt. An allied dictator whose main support now rests on the west, not his subjects. The Americans of course fear an Islamic revolution similar to that of Iran (I wonder why). In fact, most of the media coverage in the United States is concentrating not on the protests or Mubarak, but the fear of what might follow it.
The masses in North America seem to panic at the slightest mention of the Muslim Brotherhood, a multi-national religious conservative political movement comparable to the tea party in the United States. The Muslim Brotherhood has been around since the 1930s, has no central leadership and has not supported violence since a few of their members broke away to found Hamas. Its roots in Egypt might go deep, but even though they make up the largest opposition party, only twenty percent of the population support them. While some of them might harbour anti-American sentiments (no different than I) I refuse to believe they could become an anti-Israeli or anti-American state like Iran has becomeâ€¦ unless provoked.
The longer the U.S. (and Canada for that matter) waits on the sidelines without supporting the people of Egypt, the worse things will be for both sides in the future; the Egyptians will be stuck with a brutal dictator and the Americans will be forced to deal with more anti-Americanism. The Egyptians aren’t blind enough to not see the “Made in the U.S.A.” markings on those tear gas canisters. They’re also not dumb enough not to know that Mubarak’s family fortune is estimated at $60 billion; they know as well that American aid to Egypt has been about $2 billion annually for the last 32 yearsâ€¦ It would seem someone has been on Uncle Sam’s payroll.
If I were Barack Obama or Stephen Harper I would be doing everything I could to force Mubarak’s hand and make him resign. By not directly supporting the protesters we are in a sense supporting their master and the longer that goes on, the more the likelihood we see someone come to power who doesn’t see eye to eye with America, Canada or Israel. We seem to advocate democracy to the rest of the world with the exception of the people who really want it. It’s about time we practiced what we preach.