Tahrir Square: More Than Mere "Clashes"

Nicholas Kristof reports from Cairo:

it is absurd to think of this as simply “clashes” between two rival groups. The pro-democracy protesters are unarmed and have been peaceful at every step. But the pro-Mubarak thugs are arriving in buses and are armed — and they’re using their weapons.

In my area of Tahrir, the thugs were armed with machetes, straight razors, clubs and stones. And they all had the same chants, the same slogans and the same hostility to journalists. They clearly had been organized and briefed. So the idea that this is some spontaneous outpouring of pro-Mubarak supporters, both in Cairo and in Alexandria, who happen to end up clashing with other side — that is preposterous. It’s difficult to know what is happening, and I’m only one observer, but to me these seem to be organized thugs sent in to crack heads, chase out journalists, intimidate the pro-democracy forces and perhaps create a pretext for an even harsher crackdown.

More Egypt links:

• Assholes as a political resource.

• Why Mubarak's Internet shutdown failed.

• Egypt and Washington in the Bush years.

• The Popular Committee for the Protection of Properties and Organization of Traffic.

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  • ||

    ""chase out journalists, intimidate the pro-democracy forces and perhaps create a pretext for an even harsher crackdown.""

    The Muslim Brotherhood?

    I do not think this affair will end well for democracy in the long run.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Uhhhhhh I didn't see anything about the Muslim Brotherhood in that paragraph. Or in TFA.

  • Wind Rider||

    Meh. The MB boogeyman seems to be mostly a western MSM figment - along with the supposed relevance of diplo-toady El Baradai. The mere existence of the MB is probably going to cause the actual power brokers (read: military) to kaibosh 'free expression' and 'participation in the government by opponents' sooner rather than later. This sure as shit isn't a re-run of a 'Prague spring' moment, dispite the superficial similarities. The protest movement in this case certainly doesn't have their shit amalgamated sufficiently into a coherent sock well enough for anything to substantially change in the long run.

  • Mike M.||

    Egypt seems to be split roughly 50-50 between Islamists and people of a more modern bent. It's pretty apparent to me (and a lot of others) that the protest is predominantly an Islamist uprising. That's why the protesters are almost all men, and the very few women you see out there are in Muslim garb.

    It is true that the Islamists to this point have kept their protests peaceful, but I suspect that is mostly because they don't hold the whip hand. They're smart enough to know that if they had initiated the violence it would have given the government all the pretext it needed to respond ruthlessly.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Actually there was a quote in a post earlier today that the pro-Mubarek forces were notable largely because of the lack of women and children relative to the uprising.

  • ||

    I was actually surprised by the amount of women in the protests. And surprised that there were women with western garb on.

    Crowds are generally not a friendly place for women in Cairo.

  • herp||

    derp

  • Wind Rider||

    Gotta disagree on the Islamists, particularly the MB being a driver for the protests - seems like they were caught as flat footed as just about everyone else. Seems to me to be a more 'rage against the machine' sort of phenom, with the MB guys resigned to a "hey, us too!" role in the larger scheme of things. It also seems they've entertained fantasies of relevance by talking to Western Media types while posing as serious actors, sort of like El Baradai and, yes, even Barry O. As for the actual participants in the anti-government protests, it's not hard to get the impression that they're overall plan is barely one step removed fromt he Gnome business mode - 1)steal panties, 2)??????, 3)Profit!

    Although in this case, insert FREEDOM or JUSTICE in place of profit.

  • ||

    I'm not sure if you could have contrived to be MORE wrong about the presence and dress of women in the anti-government movement.

  • ||

    That was addressed to Mike M.

  • MWG||

    "t's pretty apparent to me (and a lot of others) that the protest is predominantly an Islamist uprising."

    That interesting, because I've been watching it quite closely and have gotten the exact opposite impression.

  • Hugh Akston||

    I guess it all depends on what you're looking for. If you see evul mooselimbs lurking under every bed and in every coffee cup waiting to suicide bomb you for your wicked freedoms, then I guess any protest composed of less than 100% women in bikinis and high heels is going to look like the dawn of the new Worldwide Caliphate.

  • Jonas||

    They're brown people in North Africa, MWG! How could it be anything but "Islamist"?!

    It's not like they're real people representing a diversity of opinions, backgrounds, educational attainment, classes, religions, etc.! Islamists, all!

  • MWG||

    Switching from Al Jazeera's live streaming to Fox News last I saw a stark contrast. AJ covered the news straight down the middle basically offering minute by minute coverage of what was happening ("The protesters are yelling this or that"). 90% of FN was speculation about the Muslim Brotherhood and what some member supposedly said earlier in the week (or even years ago) and what kind of government they will establish in Egypt if Obama gives them the chance. I've watched a lot of FN in the past, but last nights coverage was insulting.

  • Suki||

    WR,

    Muslim Brotherhood has their own website. Might want to check the Arabic version to see what they really think, rather than the English version to read what they want you to think.

  • ||

    ""Uhhhhhh I didn't see anything about the Muslim Brotherhood in that paragraph. Or in TFA.""

    Who said it was? I'm simply pondering a question about who would benefit.

  • Warty||

    Remember, only the police and military should have guns.

  • BakedPenguin||

    True; the pro-government mobs can be armed with clubs, machetes, and 13-inch dildos.

  • Chuck Schumer||

    I think there ought to be strict limits on dildo length. There's absolutely no reason why any private individual would need a 13-inch extended dildo.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Considering how Chuck equates talk radio and porn, the above isn't really a spoof post.

  • Chuck Schumer||

    In fact, experts have informed me that 4" is plenty and that it is "the perfect size"

  • Anomalous||

    I'm sure the "experts" were just sparing your feelings, Chuck.

  • Wind Rider||

    "Experts' obviously not including Snooki, who totally ignored the camera whore at Reagan National the other day. Which was sort of funny, since he tried to glom onto the papparazzi buzzing around her.

  • Captain Awesome||

    We have to keep these dangerous assault dildos out of the hands of criminals.

  • Knoss||

    One of the problems in for Mubarak has been inactivity by Egypt's conscript army.

  • spur||

    I'm all 2nd Amendment and stuff but rather glad guns have been kept to a minimum in Egypt the past week...

  • Warty||

    Oh yes, it's fantastic when people are at the mercy of the thugs beating the shit out of them. We wouldn't want instability, now would we?

  • spur||

    I'm thinking more Algeria in the 90s during similar events where there were lots of gun and about 100,000 ended up dead - if this gets to the gun level we are talking civil war, and I would rather prefer it perhaps not reach that, perhaps...

  • ||

    So, you're not actually all 2nd Amendment and stuff, really. Got it.

  • ||

    He is all for the 2nd A, but provided it is only the army police and a few politically connected hunters that have the right.

  • Mo||

    There are people with guns around. They're just part of the local community policing efforts. The protesters went to Tahrir Square without weapons to have a peaceful protest*. With things getting as bad as they are, it's even less likely that the guys with guns will leave their neighborhoods and stop protecting their family.

    This is only further evidence of Chris Rock's advice to never go to a party with a metal detector.

    * REmember the article long ago (yesterday) about the patting down people coming into the square.

  • police and military||

    it's for the children

  • Wind Rider||

    Alternate headline: NYT's Kristoff has Blind Squirrel/Acorn moment; Sulzberger still not excused for likes of Friedman, Dowd, and Krugman on staff.

  • Mango Punch||

    Despite the terribleness of the situation, the idea of a cammel charge is somewhat amusing.

  • Mike M.||

    I recommend using Pikemen on defense.

  • Montani Semper Liberi||

    First thing I thought of:

    Take no prisoners!

  • Montani Semper Liberi||

    And now a working link:

    Take no prisoners!

  • =||

    Link fail.

  • Warty||

  • ||

    I'm pretty sure those camels were CGI'd into the scene. The monkeys riding elephants were real however.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Somewhere, Janet Napolitano is furiously scribbling "what to do in case of domestic insurgency" crib notes.

    Make that "updating existing 'what to do in case of'".

  • Tim||

    WHere are we going to find enough camels?
    FEDERAL CAMEL SUBSIDIES!

  • Mr. FIFY||

    A camel gap?

  • db||

    Feral llamas.

  • Brett L||

    The reason we don't have camel brigades in the US is that they are mortally terrified by badgers. Look it up on Wikipedia. The South tried mounting camel brigades in the Civil War only to be broken in a key battle by 3 pet badgers from the 2nd Michigan.

  • ||

    Are we at Peak Horse or something?

  • Sudden||

    Is anyone surprised? The efforts of people trying to hold onto power are always more violent than the efforts of those trying to take power away from someone.

  • Warty||

    To govern is to do violence, and it's never more evident when the people in government feel threatened.

  • sevo||

    "Is anyone surprised?"
    Maybe a bit. When communism fell in East Europe, none of the thugs did the full Tienanmen on their populations.
    I had some hopes here, but.......

  • ||

    So if Mubarak puts down the uprising with guns, does he get a state dinner for his troubles? Or do we have to wait for a jailed Egyptian to get the Nobel prize first?

  • Vermont Gun Owner||

    Well if he sends in 30,000 troops he can probably get the Nobel himself.

  • Frayed Knot||

    Seems they are taking a page from the Iranian reaction to popular protests - which seemed to work out quite swimmingly for the Mullahcracy.

  • Tim||

    I figure the CHinese are taking notes too. Google won't be able to pull any of that "work around" shit with you-know-Hu.

  • ||

    Man this is killing me. I know too many people in Egypt.

    I really think Obama's people need to get tougher. Mubarak has to go, as much as this guy has done our and Israel's bidding, he has proven himself to be a thug. And now him being our ally will harm us more than help us.
    He is an enemy to his own people now.

    I have to say, the Camel charge was interesting though.
    I have some strange mixed emotions over that one. On the one hand was awe, and on the other hand I want peace to come to Egypt. There are 20 million men women and children in Cairo.

  • ||

    Man this is killing me. I know too many people in Egypt.

    I really think Obama's people need to get tougher. Mubarak has to go, as much as this guy has done our and Israel's bidding, he has proven himself to be a thug. And now him being our ally will harm us more than help us.
    He is an enemy to his own people now.

    I have to say, the Camel charge was interesting though.
    I have some strange mixed emotions over that one. On the one hand was awe, and on the other hand I want peace to come to Egypt. There are 20 million men women and children in Cairo.

  • ||

    Also did y'all say the protesters taking down the dudes on the horses? It was kind of like when the zombies did it in 'Walking Dead'.

  • ||

    One of the scariest moments in the season.

  • ||

    That was zombie art right there.

    "Oh shit he's dead. Oh he's definitely dead. Oh there's no way he's getting out of that. Oh shit, he made it!"

  • Fiscal Meth||

    The worst part is that we gave Mubarak so much money and support that staying out of it is, prctically, a bias against the protesters. I've got a fucking idea!! Don't take my income and use it to support dictators IN THE FIRST PLACE!!!!

  • jtuf||

    I'm in favor of eliminating all USA foreign aid.

  • Anomalous||

    I'm sure they were just sparing your feelings, Chuck.

  • Anomalous||

    Obviously, I meant this to appear in a different thread.

  • ||

    It is only obvious after you mentioned it. Before that I was trying to figure out who you were call "Chuck".

  • ||

    Does anyone really believe that there's anyone advocating anything we'd think of as democracy over there?

    It's just like Iran--where quasi socialists allied with islamists to get rid of the Shah.

    And the outcome will be the same.

  • ||

    Yep. I don't think Israel would be better off with this particular flavor of democracy.

  • herp||

    derp!

  • ||

    Well if it doesn't matter, we might as well cut off all aid to Mubarak.

  • jtuf||

    I got an offline message from one of my friends in Egypt today. He is fine and the internet is back on.

  • jtuf||

    My other Egyptian friends are online again. I hope tomorrow is peaceful.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    I hope Anderson Cooper's albino prettyboy ass gets killed by a camel toe.

  • Abdul||

    That seems probable. Unlike most men, Anderson Cooper would never be looking out for a camel toe.

  • jacob||

    Not that I like or dislike the guy, but it looks like your wish has been granted.

    http://globalgrind.com/channel.....ic-photos/

  • Colonel_Angus||

    No, I know he was "attacked". Hes just not nearly dead enough.

  • Wind Rider||

    I think that Greenberg got a lot of it in his Forbes article, but he barely mentions the effectiveness the Mullahs in Iran achieved against their opposition Greens (Iranian Greens, not the enviro-monkey variety). Which leads me to think that the Egyptians were both not as firmly in cyber control/aware as the Iranians, and/or is another indicator of how flat footed and by surprise the whole development of events caught them. In the case of Iran, however, the Mullahs did have the advantage that their very highly selective and targetted 'outage' strategy effectively hit opposition protest organizers at very specific critical junctures, and inluded not simply internet, but telecom services as well, thus shutting down critical key communications and organizing avenues at the most effective times. It was also an organized information warfare action, not a panicky reaction to a situation they weren't aware of and had no idea how to effectively deal with. Because they (the Mullahs) did so with apparent precision strokes.

    The Egyptians? Not so much. The only thing that saved their repressive butts at all was the underlying lack of organization, overall wider goals, and next-step intentions of the opposition. It was all so haphazard that even the 'official' opposition (the MB) was caught with the mouths idly flapping.

  • ||

    If I were a conspiracy theorists, I would think the MSM's sugar-coating of the "pro government protesters" behavior is intended to make it less politically damaging for Obama to endorse the continuation of the Mubarak regime.

  • Number 2||

    Why do we assume that the anti-Mubarak protesters are a "pro-democracy" movement, as opposed to simply being anti-Mubarak, anti-high food prices, anti-unemployment, etc.? This is not to say that Mubarak does not deserve to be booted out. But what it our basis for claiming that the thousands of protestors truly are all seeking "democracy," as opposed to simply demanding a more efficient despot?

  • Wind Rider||

    Because a lot of the Western taking heads are trapped into a meme narrative where "pissed-offedness MUST equal desire for democracy!"

    Odd thing is, if you check some of the background of the situation, a lot of the pissed offedness seems to come from some of the liberalization efforts over the last few years, with the concurrent decrease in state sponsored socialism nannying the Egyptians have been provided/subjected to.

    Seems to me that it's the changes themselves that have a lot to do why their knickers are in a knot. Because change itself pisses a lot of folks off, no matter who they are or where they live, even if the change is from sucktitude to marginally less sucktitude. To them it's just 'different'.

  • sevo||

    "a lot of the pissed offedness seems to come from some of the liberalization efforts over the last few years, with the concurrent decrease in state sponsored socialism nannying the Egyptians have been provided/subjected to."

    See: Poland, 1987. And thereafter. Seems "Democracy" is often a telegenic rallying code for "we want our stuff cheap!"
    Dunno if it's true of Egypt, but if you look at Eastern Europe there's plenty of folks who yearn for the time when everyone was poor, disregarding some of them got shot.

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