Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Three weeks in Egypt show the power of brutality – and its limits

As he leaves Cairo, our writer reflects on the lessons of an extraordinary uprising for protesters and police alike

Robert Fisk

"After three weeks of watching the greatest Arab nation hurling a preposterous old man from power, I'm struck by something very odd. We have been informing the world that the infection of Tunisia's revolution spread to Egypt – and that near-identical democracy protests have broken out in Yemen, Bahrain and in Algeria – but we've all missed the most salient contamination of all: that the state security police who prop up the power of the Arab world's autocrats have used the same hopeless tactics of savagery to crush demonstrators in Sanaa, Bahrain and Algiers as the Tunisian and Egyptian dictators tried so vainly to employ against their own pro-democracy protestors.

Just as the non-violent millions in Cairo learnt from Al-Jazeera and from their opposite numbers in Tunis – even down to the emails from Tunisia urging Egyptians to cut lemons in half and eat them to avoid the effects of tear-gas – so the state security thugs in Egypt, presumably watching the same programmes, have used precisely the same brutality against the crowds as their colleagues in Tunis. Incredible, when you come to think about it. The cops in Cairo saw the cops in Tunis bludgeoning government opponents to a bloody mess and – totally ignoring the fact that this led to Ben Ali's downfall – went into copy-cat mode.....

.....Mubarak really thought on Thursday night that the people would suffer another five months of his rule. Ben Ali apparently thought much the same.

What all this proves is that the dictators of the Middle East are infinitely more stupid, more vicious, more vain, more arrogant, more ridiculous than even their own people realised. Ghengis Khan and Lord Blair of Isfahan rolled into one."

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