But it seems that if we take our pre-coneived assumptions about the world as fact, and then use them to try to understand geopolitical events - we have the ability to read just about anything into current events.
The truth is, I have my own theories. They're no more distant from my own pre-concieved assumptions. But at least I'll own the fact that I really don't know what happened. None of us do. And perhaps we never will. But in the event that actual information becomes available about the behind-the-scenes machinations that led to Mubarak's ouster, I thought I'd put mine to pen and we'll see how they pan out.
Much of the confusion about these events stems from what people see as a complete about-face from Mubarak and his spokesman Sulieman from Thursday night to Friday morning. What caused Mubarak to change his mind so quickly?
I think that the basis for all of that comes from the question of what/who would replace Mubarak after he stepped down. It rests on an assumption that sometime last week, the fact that he would step down became clear and the question of "what next" came to the fore. And many, including the Obama administration, were supporting a solution that would fit within the context of the current Egyptian constitution.
And article by two Egyptian civil rights activists in the Washington post last week titled What Mubarak must do before he resigns explains that dilemma.
Egypt's constitution stipulates that if the president resigns or his office becomes permanently "vacant," he must be replaced by the speaker of parliament or, in the absence of parliament, the chief justice of the Supreme Constitutional Court. In the event of the president's temporary inability to exercise his prerogatives, the vice president is to take over as the interim head of state. In both cases a new president must be elected within 60 days. Significantly, the constitution prohibits the interim president from introducing constitutional amendments, dissolving parliament or dismissing the cabinet.
So constitutionally, there were two options:
1. Mubarak resigns and is replaced by the speaker of parliament (something no one wanted to consider)
2. Mubarak says he's unable to exercise his position and is replaced by the vice president (the option most were working towards)
But the second preferred option came with its own set of problems as are outlined in that last sentence...it would basically leave the current governance system in place with no means of amending it. Here's how the authors described what needed to be done.
Since neither Suleiman nor Surur [speaker of parliament] would be able to amend the constitution during the interim tenure, the next presidential election would be conducted under the notoriously restrictive election rules Mubarak introduced in 2007. That would effectively guarantee that no credible candidate would be able to run against the interim president.
So before Mubarak resigns he must sign a presidential decree delegating all of his authorities to his vice president until their current terms end in September... In addition, Mubarak must issue decrees lifting the "state of emergency" that has allowed him to suppress Egyptians' civil liberties since 1981 and ordering the release or trial of those held in administrative detention without charge - estimated to be in the thousands.
Also before Mubarak resigns, an independent commission of respected judges, constitutional law experts, civil society representatives and all political movements should draft language to amend the constitution to ensure that presidential elections are open to all credible candidates; that Egyptians abroad are allowed - for the first time - to vote; that any elected president is allowed to serve only two terms; and that the elections are supervised by judicial and civil monitors.
When we heard Obama and members of his administration talk about an orderly transition, I believe that this is what they were referring to.
I also believe that the statement by Mubarak Thursday night was meant to indicate movement in this direction. It was either inartfully said or purposely distorted. We might never know. But in any case, it was clearly viewed by the Egyptian people as not enough.
At that point, the only option was to completely scrap the Egyptian constitution and start from scratch. That's when the Egyptian military stepped in. Reports I heard yesterday are that at that point, military leaders went to Mubarak and told him to either step down or they would take off their uniforms and join the protesters.
The fact that they would do that probably has multiple strands at its source. We all watched when the military was deployed and wondered whether the Mubarak regime was about to use them to suppress the protesters. The fascinating thing we saw unfold was that they didn't. And it actually appeared as though they might be there to protect protesters against any further violence from Mubarak's security police and supporters.
Some people have suggested that perhaps this reaction by the military was a response to pressure from Obama and his administration - especially US military leaders like Gates and Mullen. There might be some truth to that. But it also behooves us to remember that the Egyptian people have a very different relationship with the military than we in the progressive West have had with ours. Al Giordano tells a story to demonstrate that reality.
A year ago this week, Egyptian journalist and blogger Noha Atef, then 25, was in Mexico explaining the situation in her country to 70 journalists from 40 countries at the 2010 School of Authentic Journalism. She told of her five-year struggle exposing the repressive state police of her country and the tortures they have inflicted. She shared deeply personal history of how her family had been targeted and harassed by those police, and of her father’s death in the midst of those tensions. If there was a dry eye in the house, I did not see it.
A couple of North American participants in that gathering raised what they thought was the “most important issue” for Egyptians: “What about the Army? It helped the CIA imprison and torture people after 9/11.”... Noha, as I’ve learned is her nature, responded soft-spokenly to the question about the Egyptian Army. She said, “In Egypt the police are our repressors, but the Army is of the people and is the people’s friend.” That was in February of 2010, and her statement left a number of our participants from the Western Hemisphere – where Armed Forces have historically been the worst repressors against popular movements – scratching their heads, unable to comprehend such a statement.
This is where we in the West need to be careful to view events through Egyptian eyes rather than our own.
I am sure that the road ahead will be difficult as the people of Egypt continue to work through this revolution. As we all know, it is often easier to tear down what is wrong than it is to build the alternative. The later is where the Egyptian people are now and the choices aren't always the greatest. They seem to have taken the best option available in the interim to work towards their vision of democracy. From what I've seen, they've demonstrated amazing staying power and I hope they can keep that up in the days ahead. I know I'll be rooting for them!