Egypt, still a military dictatorship – “may God help everybody”

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    12th February 2011

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    “In the name of God the merciful, the compassionate, citizens, during these very difficult circumstances Egypt is going through, President Hosni Mubarak has decided to step down from the office of president of the republic and has charged the high council of the armed forces to administer the affairs of the country. May God help everybody.”
    – Omar Suleiman, 16:12 GMT, 11/2/2011


    Do YOU have any feelings of unease now that Mubarak has been ousted by “the people”  in Egypt? Or is it just me? As usual, the contrarian?

    Despite my admiration for the so-called generational/technological revolution and the sight of all those seemingly disparate groups and individuals with seemingly innocent wishes for western-style liberal democracy, I’m afraid I do feel quite a bit of trepidation.  My concerns started well before 4:00pm GMT on Friday when we first heard that Mubarak had finally succumbed to pressure from various quarters and was “stepping down”.


    They began at the start of the entire media coverage of the last 18 days. We can expect that our free, liberal and democratic (sort of) press would be delighted at the demonstration for liberal democrat freedom. If that was the only issue, so would I.  In fact I AM delighted! If that is the only issue.

    Trouble is, it isn’t the only issue.

    Despite being delighted that democracy (at least in some form – there are many forms) has seemingly taken the upper hand at last in the largest country in the Middle East, I DO have concerns. Many of them.  My first concern is the earlier mentioned 18-days-old one.


    From the start of this Egyptian People’s Revolution it always seemed somewhat careless to me that the media as a whole was determined to take as read the general opinion against Mubarak. True, tens of thousands, perhaps at times hundreds of thousands were demonstrating to be rid of their (military) dictator of 30 years.  But why did none of our supposedly dispassionate press ever mention that the tens/hundreds of thousands of demonstrators were but a tiny fraction of some 80 million citizens in that country?

    Mainly, I should imagine, because we should all be delighted in principle that the people were speaking AT ALL against Mubarak’s government, and were being heard and even read on the internet. Overthrowing tyranny is something to yell happily about always, in every case. Well, isn’t it?

    Egypt was/is hardly a democracy. Its press is (still, today) government controlled. So there aren’t too many opinion polls telling us how most people feel about anything much. The mainly young group of understandably jubilant demonstrators in this mainly young population, may well have been speaking for everyone there, even those over 35, but I’ve seen no proof that they were.

    All politics is local, they say, and from their local viewpoint all that was needed for democracy to take root was for Mubarak to be sent packing. In fact democracy is about far more than one person/one vote. Until the structures surrounding and supporting democracy are also in place – an independent judiciary, a free press, honest reporting as regards external, particularly foreign policy/international complexities and of the longterm ambitions of all parties for getting that vote is clarified, to name but a few, we are living in cloud cuckoo-land. It took us in Britain centuries of work and development regarding the rights and responsibilities of the people, politicians, the judiciary, the input from the background religion (Christianity) before we in Britain achieved what we now have – an accountable democracy.

    As far as having an accountable press is concerned – what do you expect? Miracles?

    Honesty would be something.

    Someone needs to explain to those determined to remain in Tahrir Square until ‘Democracy Rules OK?’ that the junta is hardly, even with the best will in the world, going to be able to produce democracy in a matter of weeks.

    We  can see where the press were coming from in their limited report of the Egyptian fight for freedom and democracy. To show their true allegiance to democracy and freedom they even interviewed plenty of members of  The Muslim Brotherhood, presumably to show us that they’re not all such bad sticks.

    Where the press are going may be an entirely different matter.

    The 18-day demos ended in a MILITARY COUP. Now a junta is in charge.  As it has been for 60 years. As it was after Anwar Sadat was assassinated in 1981 for his 1979 peace deal with Israel. A peace deal to which Mubarak continued to hold until he departed on Friday.

    Today this military junta now replaces the former military man put in place by an earlier military junta. Please don’t let that slip past you in your jubilation.


    On BBC Newsnight last night I heard a  supporter of the popular uprising in Egypt saying that “18 million” people had demonstrated against Mubarak. We all  know that truth is the first casualty of war (some might say of politics too), but this woman seemed to be getting her 18s confused. Cairo has a population of 18 million and it has been an 18-day People’s Revolution. But 18 million demonstrated? I don’t think so. And yet she said it twice, and was not pulled up for it once by the presumably dispassionate Newsnight interviewer.

    And today I heard a male commenter from Egypt say that “almost half the country” (that’s around 40 million people!) had come out on the streets to show their support for the removal of Mubarak. How does he know? Who counted them?


    How the press treated the demonstrators and the demos themselves reminded me of something else, closer to home, in a real democracy; ours.

    During the 2002/2003 demonstrations against the Iraq war some said that as many as a million marched against. That despite opinion polls showing that as many as 63% supported Tony Blair’s decision. Then, at the next general election, two years after the Iraq invasion, in 2005, Tony Blair’s government still won. For a third historic time!  The big opinion poll showed that most people did NOT disagree with Blair or the Iraq invasion. Odd how that is seldom if EVER referred to as of any importance by the anti-Blair, anti-Iraq war press.

    In 2005 his party’s percentage dropped 5.5% from the 2001 election, but they still won 355 seats in parliament c/w 198 for the Conservatives and all of 62 for the anti-Iraq war Liberal Democrats.

    Disillusion with government, for one reason or other, invariably sets in after a party has been in government some years, so some drop in support was to be expected, with or without Iraq.  Contrast that with the 2010 election: the Conservatives (winning only 306 seats) failed to achieve an overall majority at all and had to rely on a coalition with the Liberal Democrats (who won 57 seats, an actual  drop on 2005)! Labour, under Gordon Brown, lost 98 seats (from 355 in 2005 under Blair to 258 in 2010) .

    So what’s all that to do with the price of bread, or democracy in Egypt?

    To put it simply it’s the press, sweetheart.

    A free press and their opiners can get away with disseminating all sorts of untruths as truths if we, the people, let them.

    The conclusion, since we DO let them – democracy is only TRUE democracy when the PRESS decide NOT to undermine it by peddling inexactitudes as “truths” for reasons concerning their own agenda.

    So, TRUE democracy? True accountability of the press as well as the politicians?

    Way to go, Egypt.

    And Britain.

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    12 Responses to “Egypt, still a military dictatorship – “may God help everybody””

    1. Aiah Says:

      Does any one know how Tony Blair International Academy in Bo, Sierra Leone can contact Mr Blair?

      Please help.

      • keeptonyblairforpm Says:


        I have already sent your information on the school through to Mr Blair’s ofice. Sorry I can’t be of more help. They should have been in touch with you, to be perfectly frank. I know he’s busy, but this is not good.

    2. Mark Gerrard Says:

      You still don’t get it do you ?

      Its for 80m Egyptians to decide what form of government they want…

      Provided they threaten no-one it is entirely down to them whether they elect a democratic government OR support the coninuation of martial rule under a miltary one oR even revert to a further arab dictatorship –


      Your track record is nothing to write home about so if you genuinely (do you recognise the essence of that word ?) care for tghe future of Eqypt then keep your beak & your size 10s out of their business



      • keeptonyblairforpm Says:

        @ Mark Gerrard,

        I suppose you think you are addressing Mr Blair here. You’re not.

        There’s a whole case to be made by those with more than two braincells to rub together, that the Iraq invasion actually encouraged Egypt and other countries in the region to seek democracy for themselves. Personally I think it’s more complicated than that, but that may have had some input. After all, Iraq, now a democracy, must have been a little galling for the Egyptians to watch.

        Btw, I think Tony Blair’s track record is certainly something to write home about: saving Muslim Kosovans from Christian ethnic cleansing; saving Sierra Leonians from rebel butchery; saving Ireland/Northern Ireland from itself.

        I suppose your track record is equally as astounding?

        Keep your ignorant input out of the Egypt situation. It has no room for small-minded bigotry and political naivety.

    3. Peter Reynolds Says:

      “…he’s been immensely courageous and a force for good.” Tony Blair, discussing Mubarak’s record on Israel.

      I was very,very disturbed to see this. Major foot in mouth time it seems.

      • keeptonyblairforpm Says:

        Peter, I expected more from you. Tony Blair was telling it like it is on Mubarak. Unlike dullard Obama, who didn’t know what to think or say from one day to the next. Since 1981 when Mubarak took over from the assassinated Sadat, as the figurative head of the military Egyptian dictatorship, there had been peace in the region. Of a sort, true, but certainly betwen Israel and Egypt.

        All international politicians know this to be the facts. They would have preferred to have been dealing with an elected democracy in Egypt, and attempts have been made behind the scenes for years to bring Egypt towards democracy. But Mubarak HAS helped Israel maintain at least one reliable ally in the region. I’m surprised you don’t see this as important.

        You don’t belong to the gang who think ALL of the Middle East should be ANTI Israel, surely?

        If so, we might see that in the near future. Saudi Arabia and Jordan (neither of which are “democracies”) are probably the only sizable countries still on good terms with the west. And there are rumblings of “democracy” cries there too.

        But it’ll be fine. Islamist parties in a grand cross-nation coalition right across the region. What could be more liberally democratic than that? Hmmm?

        As usual, Blair was right. I await the calls of “Bring Back Mubarak” when the junta turns on the people.

      • Peter Reynolds Says:

        “Peter, I expected more from you.”

        Well, if I can find the time you might get a whole lot more yet if Tone cocks this one up anymore.

        I don’t like what you have written above at all. Democracy is, by definition imperfect, but it is better than the alternative and Mubarak is a monster.

        Peace and stability is not a reason or a justification for oppression. You know full well that I don’t think “ALL of the Middle East should be ANTI Israel” but I do think the whole world should be against the Nazionists – which is a different thing from Israel or the Jews.

        Democracy with instability is better than what was in Egypt before. Many heroes have died before you and I in that cause.

        • keeptonyblairforpm Says:

          Yes, time is always in short supply for we opiners, isn’t it, Peter?

          True, as Churchill said, and as I agree, democracy may not be perfect but it is better than any of the alternatives.

          I am not convinced that Mubarak is/was “a monster”. Certainly NOT in the Saddam mould. Though I expect you can show me things that prove he is/was.

          You should read Melanie Phillips on this.

          “Everyone’s a neo-con now”

          The cognitive dissonance from western commenters is written through all the ecstacy abounding from those who state as the bottom line that “Democracy Rules OK.” Their hyporcrisy or perhaps just blind inconsistency is something to see. Phillips points it up.

          To say that “peace and stability is not a reason or a justification for oppression” seems so so-called liberally- democratic wrongheaded, Peter. It is to break down international relations and situations to a (domestic) level which doesn’t begin to apply. Few countries in the Middle East are democratic in any way we’d recognise. China is not democratic in any way. Russia is hardly democratic. Yet we have to deal with these people and countries and make deals for international stability. We always have had to.

          The “Nazionists”? Would they be your equivalent of the “Islamofascists”?

          I wish them well in Egypt, but I do not see the largest Arab country in the Middle East as a country of no real concern to us as long as they get liberal democracy at home “right”. We thought that about Gaza and got Hamas. We thought it about Lebanon and got Hezbollah.

          I notice a new thinking around now on whether democracy is all it’s cracked up to be. There was even a debate on the “World This Weekend” on that today.

          So far, of course, I still think it is. But it comes in many forms, few of them anything near what WE think of liberal democracy.

    4. Krystyna Says:

      I am very happy that the Egyptians have got rid of Mubarak, as that was their wish, and that they will enjoy proper democracy. I am relieved that the treaties with Israel will be respected.

      I do note that the actions of Tony Blair and George Bush in Iraq are what made all of this possible, despite those anti-war people at work who told me in 2003 that people in these countries did not want democracy and could not cope with it.

      The one thing that does concern me is whether the Egyptians will think that this will solve all of their problems. My husband and I were over there last year and discovered just how over-crowded the country is. Seeing as everyone has to live close to water sources such as the Nile, the 80 million are really pushed for space and opportunities. Many of us are aware that over-population brings down living standards and Egyptians will need to have far fewer children to totally realise a better future for the country.

      • keeptonyblairforpm Says:

        @ Krystyna,

        Yes, let’s just hope that what they wish for is what they’ll get in the new Egypt.

        I find it intriguing that you say this:

        I do note that the actions of Tony Blair and George Bush in Iraq are what made all of this possible, despite those anti-war people at work who told me in 2003 that people in these countries did not want democracy and could not cope with it.

        It was exactly my reaction when the demos first started. Of course our biased media never proferred this as any sort of explanation, so no link was made. It was the LAST think they could ever admit, let’s be honest! It would have given the lie to all the “anti” press have been saying since 2003. Can’t have that now, can we? And if one raises it as a possibility they say, “Ahh, but it’s different in Egypt. THEY chose democracy. They didn’t have it imposed upon them”.

        If the Egyptian’s expect democracy, which takes decades to set in place normally, will resolve everything, they’ve obviously never read the British press. Once you have democracy, you then complain that you haven’t got enough of it, or that some politician or other is trying to steal it from you.

        I’m afraid I see a large emigration problem in the next few years from Egypt, which will touch many nations in the region and in Europe. The grass is always greener on the other side, until you get there and find it’s dried up.

    5. Stan Says:

      The main issue for me is this.

      It’s very easy for us to pontificate on what the Egyptians should do. For the Israeli’s this is a life or death matter. In any Egyptian elections, all parties, not just the Muslim Brotherhood, will be competing with each other on who can be nastiest to the Israelis and nicest to “our brothers in Gaza”.

      This is a recipe for a huge escalation in the Palestinian – Israeli dispute, possibly leading to another Arab-Israeli war, this time with nuclear weapons if Israel fears its very existence is at stake. At the very least oil supplies will be threatened, tipping the world into its worst depression ever, with all the knock-on political consequences for individual countries.

      In these circumstances I ask a simple but unpalatable question that no-one dares to ask. If you agree that the scenario I have outlined is a distinct possibility would it not be better to have limitations on democracy in states directly affecting the future of Israel (and our own)?

      • keeptonyblairforpm Says:


        Just like you to think “outside the box” as it were. But to continue a different metaphor there is no putting the genie back into the bottle on this one – democracy – when so many still don’t agree on its practice here. Particularly, and you’ll know what I’m referring to, since some regard as “undemocratic” already, how some of the west’s leaders have led us and/or are leading us. Such people live in cloud cuckoo-land and probably hold the puerile hope that these “new” democracies can actually show US how to do it better.

        Right now I’ve been watching a video by Tony Blair which is well worth watching . Will post on it soon, hopefully!!

        Take a look:

        With all that is happening in Iran he makes a good point – we should say to Iran – “you praised Egypt’s democracy revolution, so you can hardly stamp on your own people for revolting”. I bet they’re excited to hear that!

        Also, I notice earlier that Hillary Clinton praised the people of Iran for getting out on the streets today. So, no hanging back this time as the USA did last time post the Iranian election.

        Our best hope is that Iran falls too. Not likely, I know – they’ll shoot them first – but it would be the answer.

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