Friday, February 18, 2011

Revolution 2

President Hosni Mubarak

Air Force Lieutenant

Mubarak as Vice President with
Anwar Sadat

Barack & Hosni

I'd love to change the world
But I don't know what to do
So I'll leave it up to you

Alvin Lee

Muhammad Hosni Sayyid Mubarak was a pilot. Immediately after graduating high school he entered the Egyptian Military Academy, where he received a Bachelor's degree in Military Sciences in 1949, after which he joined the Air Force Academy, gaining his commission as a pilot officer the next year. He was 22 years old at the time, a young man who clearly knew what he wanted in life.
Unlike myself. I entered the navy when I was 22. But instead of becoming an officer, or a pilot, I flunked out of Electronics School, and became a Boatswain's Mate on the U.S.S. Mt. Vernon, LSD 39, and was sequestered in the paint locker.
I feel so inadequate. Please excuse me a moment while I down a Zoloft.
Okay now, Mubarak married around this time to a lady named Suzanne, with whom they had two sons, Alaa and Gamal (much later the idea of Gamal Mubarak succeeding his father as President of Egypt, was one of the considerations that led to the forthcoming events).
Mubarak continued his education and service in the Egyptian Air Force, both in Egypt and the Soviet Union, step by step, promotion by promotion, until in 1967, 17 years after he was commissioned, he became the Commander of the Air Force Academy, two years later Chief of Staff for the Egyptian Air Force, Commander of the Air Force and Egyptian Deputy Minister of Defense in 1972, and the next year he was promoted to Air Chief Marshal in recognition of service during the October War with Israel of 1973. Clearly an overachiever.
Anwar Sadat, himself a former Lieutenant Colonel in the Army, and one of the founding members of the Free Officers Movement which wrestled control of Egypt from the monarchy of Farouk I during a military coup d'├ętat in the Egyptian Revolution of 1952, was President of the country when Mubarak headed the Air Force. In 1975 he made Mubarak his Vice President, after which Mubarak faithfully carried out Sadat's policies until Sadat was assassinated in 1981 by fundamentalist members of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad who strongly objected to Sadat's policy of coexisting peacefully with Israel. Mubarak was present during the attack and was himself wounded in the hand by gunfire.
He assumed the Presidency. Eight years later Egypt was re-admitted into the Arab League (a coalition of Arab states that had removed Egypt after the peace treaty with Isreal was signed). Under Mubarak Egypt was part of the allied forces that fought Iraq in the 1991 Gulf War (the first "war" America waged over oil. I use quotation marks because this military action can hardly be called a war as the Iraqi forces stood no chance whatsoever against the allied forces, especially the United States). Hosni made out like a bandit after the war, getting America, the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, and Europe to forgive Egypt around $14 billion of debt. Not bad for a couple of months work (not by Mubarak of course, but by the Egyptian Armed Forces). He was against the 2003 invasion of Iraq, but after the deed was done he opposed the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops.
In the next few years Egypt's economy suffered. Rampant unemployment persisted and Mubarak came under criticism for favoring big business and privatization as opposed to workers' rights.
Since 1967, during President Nasser's reign, Egypt was considered a semi-presidential republic ruled under emergency law (the emergency was imposed during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, and reimposed following Sadat's assassination), as are many of the Arab nations in the middle east and north Africa, which allows the president to effectively rule with the totalitarian powers of a dictator. This is what Wikipedia says about the details of the law:
"Under the law, police powers are extended, constitutional rights suspended and censorship is legalized. The law sharply circumscribes any non-governmental political activity, and street demonstrations, non-approved political organizations, and unregistered financial donations are formally banned. Some 17,000 people are detained under the law, and estimates of political prisoners run as high as 30,000.
Under state of emergency, the government has the right to imprison individuals for any period of time, and for virtually no reason, thus keeping them in prisons without trials for any period. The government continues the claim that opposition groups like the Muslim Brotherhood could come into power in Egypt if the current government did not forgo parliamentary elections, confiscate the group's main financiers' possessions, and detain group figureheads, actions which are virtually impossible without emergency law and judicial-system independence prevention. Pro-democracy advocates in Egypt argue that this goes against the principles of democracy, which include a citizen's right to a fair trial and their right to vote for whichever candidate and/or party they deem fit to run their country."
Pretty cute idea, to rule continuously through emergency law, basically allowing the ruling class to do anything they want to, to anybody they want without explanation or retribution. Essentially a semi-presidential republic ruled under emergency law is nothing but a autocratic dictatorship. Considering all of the presidents of Egypt (Mubarak being the fourth) had deep ties with the countries military, and it was a military coup that allowed them to gain power in the first place, Egypt was a Praetorian state, a government controlled by the military (although interestingly enough, the army was very popular with the Egyptian people. Their hatred was directed rather toward the police who were accused of maintaining order through intimidation and widespread use of torture).
While his people languished, estimates of Mubarak and his family's personal wealth range from 4 billion to as much as $70 billion, founded on military contracts made during his time as an air force officer, corruption, kickbacks, and legitimate business activities. The money was said to be spread out in various bank accounts at home and abroad, including Switzerland and Britain, and also invested in foreign property. This information may be antiquated but if the later amount is anywhere near true it would make him the richest man on the planet.
This situation coupled with high amounts of unemployment and corruption in Egypt, indifference to maintaining infrastructure, and gross destitution in a country where 40 percent lived under the poverty level, paralleled the situation in Tunisia... in other words a powderkeg waiting for that spark to explode. That spark was the Jasmine Revolution itself.

To be continued:

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