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05-02-11 - Robert Fisk - Obama Administration Has Been Gutless and Cowardly in Dealing with the Mubarak Regime

05-02-11 - Robert Fisk - Obama Administration Has Been Gutless and Cowardly in Dealing with the Mubarak Regime

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Published by William J Greenberg

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Published by: William J Greenberg on Feb 05, 2011
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Robert Fisk: Obama Administration Has Been Gutless andCowardly in Dealing with the Mubarak Regime
The renowned Middle East journalist speaks from Cairo on the historic uprising and how PresidentObama has lost an opportunity to back a democratic movement in the Middle East. "One of the blightsof history will now involve a U.S. president who held out his hand to the Islamic world and thenclenched his fist when it fought a dictatorship and demanded democracy," Fisk said.
By the way, you can follow Sharifs tweets at democracynow.org, our senior producer on the ground at Tahrir Square in Cairo, and as well as the blogs and the latestreports.I want to turn now first, though, to Robert Fisk. The longtime Middle East correspondent of 
The Independent 
newspaper in London has been voted best correspondent by reporters and editors inBritain for years. He’s the author of a number of books, including
The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East 
. Writing from the streets of Cairo, he wrote, "Oneof the blights of history will now involve a U.S. president who held out his hand to the Islamicworld and then clenched his fist when it fought a dictatorship and demanded democracy."We reached Robert Fisk just hours before the broadcast and asked him his reaction to theunfolding events in Egypt, as well as the U.S. response.
Well, immense courage displayed by those who are demanding the overthrow,effectively, of Mubarak, oddly matched by the complete gutlessness of the U.S. administration.In fact, the cowardice of the language coming from Mrs. Clinton in the State Department, theendless calls for restraint and the endless calls of Mubarak being a friend of America, etc.— Mubarak himself being a dictator, runs a secret police state, in effect—against these loneEgyptians who are being filmed by state security, who are being filmed on television around theworld, who are giving their names, identifying themselves as being against the regime, it’s beenan extraordinary example of lost American opportunities, in fact. You know, I’m on the streetwith these people. They’re not anti-American. There are no anti—nobody is burning Americanflags, though I probably would if I was among them and I was an Egyptian in thesecircumstances. They’ve been immensely understanding of the international situation, but of course immensely betrayed.What they’re buoyed up with is basically a simple fact. When you throw constant humiliationand fear and repression and increased education, when you throw off your shackles, as the oldcliché goes, when you say, "I’m not afraid anymore," you can never re-inject a people with fear.They’re on their feet. They may get defeated temporarily, but they’re still going to be standingup. And that’s why more and more people are coming to join the protesters.
And now what we’re seeing is that having shown their defiance of the state security police onFriday of last week in those big battles in Cairo, having now had to fight literally against theMubarak people with stones—I mean, literally fight and be wounded—they’re showing that their courage is real. It’s not just voices on a screen that are going fade back to middle-class homeslater or go back to farming or something. It’s the real thing. And this is something that Mubarak clearly doesn’t understand. I think the army is beginning to.The key that I’ve seen over the last few days has been the way in which the army on Friday wastold by Mubarak to clear the square, and the individual tank officers refused. I actually saw themtearing off their tank helmets, where they were receiving orders on their own military net, andusing their mobile phones. And in many cases, they were phoning home, because they comefrom military families. They wanted to know from their fathers what they should do. And, of course, they were told, "You must not shoot on your fellow citizens." And that, I think, was theactual moment when the Mubarak regime broke. Or if we look back historically, that’s whatwe’ll believe. So I think it is broken, it’s finished, whatever Mr. Mubarak may dream about in his pantomime world. And I think that was a very critical moment. Now, of course, the great drama is this. The Americans want the military to control the situationand get rid of Mubarak, but then are we going to have Mubarak’s vice president? Are we goingto have an Egypt led by the former intelligence officer for Mubarak, a chief negotiator withIsrael, Israel’s favorite Egyptian, running this country, and running the army to run this country?We’re going to have just another benevolent military dictator running another army which runsanother country in the Arab world, which is basically what we’ve had all along. So, the protesters, who tend to be about 24 hours behind in working this sort of thing out—they’re awfultired, and they’re trying to stay alive and so on—they’re going to have to struggle hard to makesure that the political future belongs in their hands and not in another bunch of generals whogrew up under Mubarak and got tired of his rule. Because the army is against Mubarak, which Ithink it pretty much is now, does not mean that the army is going to support wonderful, free,open elections in Egypt. It will be nice to think so, but I can’t think of an army that’s ever actually done that in history, certainly not in Egypt. So I think that these are the questions that aregoing to come up.And it’s been interesting watching the behavior. I mean, I’m right up right next to the tanks and,you know, where stones are falling and so on. Yesterday, for example, a young soldier wasstanding in tears as the stones went in both directions past him. And he was obviously torn apart by what he should do between his duty as a soldier and his duty as an Egyptian. And in the end,he jumped down from the tank, right in front of me, crying and throwing his arms around one of the protesters. And that—you know, that was a very significant moment, I thought, in this. Youknow, if big history is made on the streets, this was a little tiny microcosm of what was actuallygoing over. The army are against Mubarak. I think that’s what’s going to come across in the next24 hours.

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