A man holds a portrait of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak reading ‘No You Can’t (copying Barack Obama’s famous ‘Yes We Can’) during a protest against Mubarak’s regime, following Friday prayers at the Beyazit square in Istanbul on February 4
Egyptian anti-government protesters gather at Cairo’s Tahrir Square on February 4 during ‘departure day’ demonstrations to force President Hosni Mubarak to quit
An anti-government protester, near Tahrir Square in Cairo February 4, celebrates after hearing a rumor that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak will resign
Ryan Witt (Examiner): On June 9th 2009 President Obama gave a speech in Cairo calling for, among other things, democratic reforms in the Arab world … no one at the time dreamed that 18 months later the people of Egypt would be demonstrating in the streets of Cairo to demand the end of an autocratic regime.
Below one can see the relevant portion of President Obama’s Cairo speech, which can be read in an entirely different light given the events of the last week. In many ways the Egyptian people seemed to have answered President Obama’s call.
“ … I have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn’t steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere.
…this much is clear: governments that protect these rights are ultimately more stable, successful and secure. Suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away … we will welcome all elected, peaceful governments – provided they govern with respect for all their people.
….no matter where it takes hold, government of the people and by the people sets a single standard for all who hold power: you must maintain your power through consent, not coercion; you must respect the rights of minorities, and participate with a spirit of tolerance and compromise; you must place the interests of your people and the legitimate workings of the political process above your party. Without these ingredients, elections alone do not make true democracy.”
The Cairo Speech (October 2009):
Check BWD’s The Only Adult In The Room, she has a link to a video of Lawrence O’Donnell & Brian Williams discussing this connection: here
The BBC and Salon have useful ‘Questions and Answers’ features on Egypt – worth a look
President Barack Obama is briefed on the events in Egypt during a meeting with his national security team in the Situation Room of the White House, Saturday, Jan. 29, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Marc Lynch (Foreign Policy): After President Obama spoke last night about the situation in Egypt, my Twitter feed and inbox filled up with angry denunciations, with lots of people complaining bitterly that he had endorsed Mubarak’s grim struggle to hold on to power, missed an historic opportunity, and risked sparking a wave of anti-Americanism.
….I think the instant analysis badly misread his comments and the thrust of the administration’s policy. His speech was actually pretty good, as is the rapidly evolving American policy. The administration, it seems to me, is trying hard to protect the protestors from an escalation of violent repression, giving Mubarak just enough rope to hang himself, while carefully preparing to ensure that a transition will go in the direction of a more democratic successor.
….What they do need, if they think about it, is for Obama to help broker an endgame from the top down … and that’s what the administration is doing. The administration’s public statements and private actions have to be understood as not only offering moral and rhetorical support to the protestors, or as throwing bones to the Washington echo chamber, but as working pragmatically to deliver a positive ending to a still extremely tense and fluid situation.
…anything short of Obama gripping the podium and shouting “Down With Mubarak!” probably would have disappointed activists. But that wasn’t going to happen, and shouldn’t have. If Obama had abandoned a major ally of the United States such as Hosni Mubarak without even making a phone call, it would have been irresponsible and would have sent a very dangerous message to every other U.S. ally. That doesn’t mean, as some would have it, that Obama has to stick with Mubarak over the long term – or even the weekend – but he simply had to make a show of trying to give a long-term ally one last chance to change.
Marc Lynch is associate professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University
Robert Fisk (UK Independent): A people defies its dictator, and a nation’s future is in the balance …. It might be the end. It is certainly the beginning of the end. Across Egypt, tens of thousands of Arabs braved tear gas, water cannons, stun grenades and live fire yesterday to demand the removal of Hosni Mubarak after more than 30 years of dictatorship.