Dictators can flip a switch and shut off the Internet. Dictators control television news, indulging the temptation to ignore stories that cast them in a bad light. But Egypt, entering its 30th year of iron-fisted rule by the toad-like dictator Hosni Mubarak, isn’t a dictatorship, according to Vice President Joe Biden. White House press secretaries don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows, so Robert Gibbs, watching the situation in Cairo unravel, is hedging.
With tanks on the streets, curfew invoked (and roundly ignored, as an Al Jazeera live shot demonstrates; with the conscript army shaking hands, as the careerists in the police force crack heads), planes ferrying various regime stooges and, rumor has it, Mubarak family members out of the country, and ruling party headquarters engulfed in flames, it looks as if this revolution will be more 1989 than 1956 or 1968. And like 1989, there have been sporadic spasms of violence in Suez, Alexandria, and Cairo, though the repressive and widely hated police dare not go full Tiananmen.
One thing to note: While nervousness about the Muslim Brotherhood filling the political vacuum is justified (when Iranian state broadcasters are cheering a revolution, it should induce heart palpitations)—I have emails into a few Egyptians friends, based in Cairo, involved in the not-very-influential liberal movement and will publish their observations when the Internet becomes available to them—it seems that the street protests are not being directed or organized by the group. Obviously, this says little about the makeup of a future, Mubarak-free government—the one that tears up what remains of the Camp David accords—but is somewhat heartening.
The latest interesting detail: Egypt’s speaker of the house promises an “important announcement” shortly. Anwar Sadat survived the 1977 “bread riots,” but according to this NBC report, three private jets, under heavy security, just left Cairo, though it could have been Omar Sharif and family.
Also, the inevitable "America is behind the revolution" story from the Daily Telegraph.