Egypt: Can the Army Neutralize the People?

Hope is a powerful feeling, it is contagious, and it tends to increase geometrically.  And hope is exactly what Tunisia gave our Arab people everywhere.  Tunisia the land of the revolution where today three martyrs fell in the Kasbah, is still the inspiration of a whole Nation.  Our great dormant nation, from Rabat to Baghdad.  This Arab nation that many people called a myth, and many others see as a project, is in need of awareness: it needs to have a sense of itself, its possibilities, its potential, its power.  Tunisia gave us all that, and the results are exploding in the streets of Egypt today.

Tunisia ousted Ben Ali after almost a month, Egypt is close to doing it in a few days.

Today the Egyptian people controlled the country and burned all ruling party buildings and all police stations.  The army then went to the streets and controlled all strategic places.  Mubarak went out to speak as if he is living on another planet — no concessions whatsoever apart from sacking a government that cannot govern anyhow.  Some say the message was recorded and the tyrant already left the country, many believe otherwise.  I believe that he either left or will leave very soon.

I wrote yesterday of the hand the Americans can still play.  I believe that a military coup may be in the making.  General Sami Annan (chief of staff of the army) was in Washington and is heading home; maybe he is carrying with him the secret American card to play now.

This is dangerous for the uprising, as dangerous as the respect the people in Egypt have for the army.  The army is viewed by the average Egyptian as an entity that sacrificed for the fatherland in several wars against Israel and also as the only functioning and modern institution.  It is similar to the position the army has in Tunisia.  Nothing is less true: the Egyptian army, just like the Tunisian army, has organic ties with the Pentagon and the CIA — it is not to be trusted.  The only difference in this case is that in Tunisia the army took to the streets when the regime fell and not before, so a coup scenario was already a difficult option.  The Egyptian army may be a hurdle in the way of the people in toppling the regime.

Would the people sweep aside the army on its way towards destroying the rest of the regime?  Or would the army shoot at the people?  Would the people and the army clash?  I personally do not think so.  The challenge now is for the people to be determined and persevere while making it clear to the army that the word now is power to the people, not to the army.  Otherwise, the regime will just recuperate and regenerate with Mubarak or another American puppet at its head.

It is my conviction that the Egyptian people are far from being satisfied with the outcome so far, and that this revolution will continue in all its glory.  It will now take either more peaceful forms . . . or extremely more violent forms.

Dyab Abou Jahjah is founder and former president of the Arab European League.  This article was first published in his blog Abou Jahjah Comments on 29 January 2011; it is reproduced here for non-profit educational purposes.  Cf. “Protesters Warmly Welcome Four Armed Military Vehicles in Downtown Cairo” (Al-Masry Al-Youm, 28 January 2011); “Military Coup or Popular Revolution?
Egyptian Presidential Guard Head to State TV Station, Cheered On by Protesters”
(Al Jazeera, 28 January 2011); As’ad AbuKhalil, “I Received This Message about Egypt” (Angry Arab News Service, 28 January 2011). 

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