Mubarak: Destroying Egypt to Stay in Power

In the face of a spectacular and inspiring people's revolution, Hosni Mubarak's first tactic to hold onto his despotic post was to send his police thugs into the streets as looters and rioters to provide him with an excuse to do what he does best: clamp down and terrorize Egypt's citizens. But thanks to the incredible solidarity of the people, this subversion was unsuccessful. Neighborhood watch groups repelled and 'arrested' those looters and turned them over to the army.

When demands for Mubarak's departure grew louder from from an even bigger crowd, he dug his nails in deeper, staking his claim to the few remaining months in his tenure of torture and intimidation of the Egyptian people. As his intransigence stretched out, so did the protests and the risk of chaos grew. It was easy to predict, as I did in a Twitter post, that Mubarak was waiting for mayhem to ensue naturally, due to the inevitable food and fuel shortages, so he could step in to "restore order".

But the people's resolve for freedom, civil liberties, and government transparency could not be conquered by exhaustion or hunger. Now we see that Mubarak's latest tactic is to send in armed gangs, mostly from his notorious police force, to ignite riots.

Mubarak is intentionally trying to provoke a bloodbath in Egypt, his own country! Why?

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Mubarak's defiance 'offensive, patronising'

Hosni Mubarak's defiant decision to remain Egypt's leader until September reveals just how out of touch he is with his people, one analyst says. Tens of thousands of protesters thronged Tahrir Square in the heart of Cairo late Thursday, expecting to hear the 82-year-old strongman step down. Instead he delegated presidential power to vice president Omar Suleiman. Mr Mubarak said he would remain nominally in charge until September and vowed he would one day die in Egypt rather than seek exile, infuriating protesters.

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Mubarak's defiance could spell disaster

The stubbornness of the beleaguered Egyptian president has embarrassed the army and endangered the people

Egypt's popular uprising seemed on course for a significant escalation – and possibly for direct military intervention – last night after a defiant Hosni Mubarak handed some powers to his vice-president but again flatly refused to bow to demands that he stand down at once. Mubarak dashed what turned out to be catastrophically misplaced expectations that he was finally about to go – fuelled by apparent signs that the army was stepping in to ensure stability after more than two weeks of unprecedented unrest. The president said he was committed to key constitutional amendments – though he gave no timetable – and announced a bigger, though undefined, role for Omar Suleiman, his newly appointed deputy and veteran intelligence chief.

In a bizarre performance on state TV, Mubarak played father to his people, self-centred, angry and above all determined not to be forced from office before September, when new presidential elections are due. Looking grave, he repeated his most memorable line from his last big speech, vowing that he would "not leave this soil until I am buried underneath it" – a sharp reminder, amid speculation about retirement to Sharm al-Sheikh or medical treatment in Germany, that he will not follow in the footsteps of the deposed Tunisian leader Zine al-Abdine Bin Ali, now living in gilded exile in Saudi Arabia.

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Mubarak in his true colours

A second day of deadly clashes in Cairo's Tahrir Square has been more than enough to show President Hosni Mubarak's 30-year-old regime in its true colours. Refusing to step down until the next elections in September 2011 and keeping silent on the demand that he rules his son Gamal out as a candidate for the succession, Mr. Mubarak has presided over fighting in which thousands of unarmed and peaceful protesters have had to defend themselves against brutal attacks by his purported supporters.

Eyewitnesses identified among the attackers members of the government's semi-official thug militias and the notoriously vicious police, now in plain clothes. The role of the army, which was initially praised on all sides for its statement that it would not fire on protesters, is suspect after it let the hoodlums through the lines formed by soldiers around the edges of Tahrir Square. The violent turn has caused at least five deaths in addition to the 300 that the United Nations estimates have already occurred across the country; and more than 1,500 people are believed to have been injured since the mass protests started nine days ago.

It is clear that Mr. Mubarak will not change the way his government has always responded to dissent, namely, by unleashing repression. His earlier vague talk of political and economic reform, and his more specific moves — such as the hastily appointed Vice-President Omar Suleiman's promise to implement appeal-court decisions on contested election results, and the replacement of the notorious Interior Minister by a retired general — were no more than a smokescreen. The regime's initial moves served to buy time from its strongest backers, the United States and other western countries, and to delay their recognition that the Egyptian state has lost all legitimacy.

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A tyrant shows his true colors

The tyrant stood his ground Wednesday when Egyptian thugs plowed into protesters with whips, machetes, guns and Molotov cocktails and faced minimal resistance from government security forces. President Hosni Mubarak has deluded himself into thinking he can preserve his dictatorial power with force. His speech Tuesday, followed by the actions of his provocateurs Wednesday, show how badly Mubarak underestimates his opposition and the danger of outright civil conflict. The Obama administration has understandable reasons for working behind the scenes to nudge Mubarak out. As events spiral out of control, though, Washington must eliminate any hint of continued tolerance.

Mubarak can no longer credibly claim that his continuation in power serves his nation’s best interests. Considering the brittle conditions on the streets of the Arab world’s most populous country, the last thing Egypt needed was the violence Mubarak backers unleashed.

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Enter the Thugs

Human Rights Watch, which has had observers on the ground in Tahrir Square today, supports the emerging view: that the anti-government protesters there had remained peaceful until the arrival of pro-Mubarak forces and that violence was initiated and continues to be instigated by the pro-Mubarak forces. HRW's observers "saw men on horseback and camels charging the crowd, and rock and bottle-throwing by the people charging the [anti-Mubarak] protesters," says Tom Malinowski, Washington Director for HRW.

The violence looks familiar to Malinowski. "The Mubarak regime traditionally uses plainclothes thugs who are paid and directed by the regime to break up demonstrations, harass voters on election day and generally do its dirty work," Malinowski says.

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