Tuesday 2 August. The second day of Ramadan. In Cairo, Egyptian troops storm Tahrir Square. The next day, the man who once inspired millions to gather there to call for his removal, Hosni Mubarak, stands in court. Rather, he lies in a hospital bed. He travelled to court in a helicopter, unlike the demonstrators arrested in Tahrir the day before.
How the mighty have fallen. Murdoch faces questioning in Parliament, and Mubarak is in a cage. You can see the humiliation in his eyes. But Sky is still on TV, and the Egyptian military are still the de facto rulers of the country.
It would be foolish to undermine the achievements of the Egyptian revolution. On a trip to Cairo shortly after the fall of Mubarak, I could feel a renewed sense of optimism. People spoke with hope, and contemplated a future that was theirs to mould. However, it would be equally naive to underestimate the attempts of the ruling elites to counter this revolution.
In neighbouring Libya, NATO bombs still pound the country. The Libyan people continue to see this foreign intervention, framed as the simplistic narrative of “pro-democracy-rebels-who-need-our-weapons versus the nasty monster,” for the hoax it is. Attempts at regime change, illegal under international law, have so far failed. But the central aim of the war in Libya, to destabilize the region and to weaken revolutions in neighbouring countries, seems to have been more successful.
So, who could be next to benefit from the friendly humanitarianism of NATO Apaches? Regarding Syria, the language of the “democracy-loving” governments is beginning to drip with the saliva of hungry imperialists. Statements of concern turn into warnings, turn into waves of sanctions, turn into demands for UN security resolutions. Demonization. “Sympathy.” War. Iraq. Libya. We have seen it before. But will we learn the lessons? As the media plays on our feelings of solidarity with those in Syria that express genuine grievances, we are never told of rebel elements being funded by the CIA.
It is not complex when our interests are at stake; these are poor Syrian people in need of our friendly intervention.
I remember during the Egyptian uprising, constantly tuning into Al Jazeera English online to see coverage of events, and the latest images from Tahrir Square. I always remembered an image link on the right-hand side of the home page, which read: ‘DEMAND AL JAZEERA IN THE US.’ Now, with stamps of approval from Hilary Clinton and John McCain, the banner has changed: ‘AL JAZEERA ENGLISH: NOW AVAILABLE IN NEW YORK.’
The agenda has clearly shifted. But media lines aside, let us see the current situation for what it is: a counter-attack, to exploit people’s lives in North Africa and Western Asia, and turn them into profit for North America and Western Europe. These are desperate attempts to maintain the status quo as it crumbles at its foundations.
For the Egyptian people, many of whom did not believe that Mubarak would actually attend court yesterday, his trial will be seen as a concrete achievement of the revolution they have struggled so hard and long to keep alive. And rightly so: just over six months ago, who could have predicted that a dictator who had stood at the helm of his country for three decades would have fallen so far from grace. But members of the military beast he headed are still roaming the streets. As Mubarak lies on a hospital bed, they will ensure that many more peaceful demonstrators are left in need of similar treatment.
In Israel, Labor Member of the Knesset, Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, announced he and Prime Minister Netanyahu had offered Hosni Mubarak political asylum several months ago, but that Mubarak had declined. Lying in that hospital bed, I wonder if he regrets the decision.