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11 February 2011
CAIRO, Egypt -- As the crisis in Egypt enters its third week (at which point any crisis should stop being called a crisis and start being called a soap opera), the United States remains in firm control of events on the ground.
After the September 11 attacks, the U.S. intelligence agencies were "reinvented" as suggested by a bipartisan Commission. The enhanced data-gathering capabilities allowed CIA Director Leon Panetta to tell Congress on Thursday afternoon, "I think you'll see [President Hosni] Mubarak leave office by tonight at the latest." Imagine his surprise when Number One went on Egyptian television and told the masses he intends to cling to power until the elections next September.
Mr. Mubarak said that he will transfer unspecified authority to Vice President Omar Suleiman, and will appoint a commission to revise the Egyptian constitution so that whatever they wind up doing will be legal. As is customary in such unrest, Mr. Mubarak got the hell out of the capital, and had his sons get his capital out of Egypt.
U.S. President Barack Obama has spoken frequently on the civil disturbances in Cairo. "This is your generation, anxious for change and reform. You need to be listened to," he said, as though someone died and made him king. Presidents of the American republic incessantly tell foreigners how "democracy" is supposed to work, but Egyptians seem to have it right: A million people walk off work and spend all day downtown, chanting, until the government falls.
Mr. Obama has expressed no opinion on what might follow the Mubarak era. However, the only other organized force in the country, the Muslim Brotherhood, was referred to on Thursday by the Director of National Intelligence [sic] as a "diverse, secular" organization. So they're probably okay. And the last time a million men marched on Washington, D.C., mostly Muslims and brothers, nothing really bad happened.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden clapped his hands in joy at the thought of Egypt setting precedent, both for vague power to be transferred to the Vice President and for working backward from government decisions to decide what a constitution should say. Mr. Biden said that there might even be wording that could be put in the U.S. Constitution to make it legal to make Americans buy insurance policies.
Updated, 11 February, 16:35 UTC
Uh! Hosni's out! Screw the constitution. (Except the part about new elections in September. Keep that part.) Mr. Panetta was right all along. Just got the time mixed up. It could happen to anyone.
- Yasser Imam "Egypt's Mubarak in Red Sea resort as protests rage". Associated Press, February 11, 2011