Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is clearly not going down without a fight. With last night's late speech, in which he refused to leave office immediately and vowed to spend the rest of his life in Egypt, Mubarak embarrassed his American patrons and made it clear that he just won't take a hint and just leave the party. So what happens next?
Mallat, a Beirut attorney and one-time candidate for president of Lebanon, points to the failure of Lebanon's own nonviolent resistance to the Syrian puppet Emile Lahoud, during the battle over Lahoud's illegal term extension. In March 2005 and February 2006, vast numbers of demonstrators in Beirut (more numerous as a percentage of Lebanon's population than the Cairo demonstrators have been as a percentage of Egypt's) tried to force Lahoud out, and the resistance overcame a very high body count that included former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, the journalists Gebran Tueni and Samir Kassir, the politician Pierre Gemayel, and many others. But in the end, as Mallat notes, "we failed to unseat Lahoud, and so lost our ways in the Byzantine alleys of Lebanese politics." In an article for the Beirut Daily Star [pdf] he cautions Egyptians against missing the momentum this time:
So the Cedar Revolution's message to the brave, nonviolent colleagues under the whips of the Mubarak Cossacks is that their anger, which the world of decent peoples share, must be directed more purposefully: Mubarak will deceive, waver, even grovel as he did by suggesting he is too old to flee, and will exhaust all possible tricks, which he actually used in March 2005. One episode deserves to be recalled. Our colleagues of the Kefaya movement were demonstrating in Cairo's Tahrir square because they were galvanized by our much larger demonstrations in Beirut's Hurriyya square. Then, Mubarak offered to open up presidential elections under the pressure of our combined marches. We know what happened: the only candidate allowed to stand, Ayman Nour, ended up in prison.
Mubarak is at it again, and believes that time is on his side, hiding behind the presidential elections planned for September, and on obscure articles of the Egyptian Constitution that would not allow him to leave and pass on the torch "peacefully." His bluff needs to be called, and the message against his stubbornness in the midst of the chaos and violence is one to be anchored in the thread of repression associated with his presidency: from the thousands of people tortured and humiliated, to turning a blind eye to the massacres in prison and the release of common criminals in large numbers last week, to last week's unleashed and unpunished Cossacks. This calls for judicial accountability.
So the lesson of our failed experience in Lebanon is dual: No longer "Down with Mubarak," but a call for his trial in Egypt by the distinguished judges who stood up against him time and again over the past three decades. No longer "Mubarak out": demonstrations must not be circumscribed to Tahrir. Next week, demonstrators all over Egypt must converge on his palace in Cairo, officially "the people's palace,"which they must reclaim as theirs. A similar move tipped the Revolution in France in October 1789, when the King was brought in from Versailles by the revolutionaries. Conversely, our failure to march on the Lahoud palace in Baabda allowed him and the Syrian ruler to defeat the Cedar Revolution.
So it is time for the Nile Revolution to be dynamic where the Cedar Revolution wasn't. We failed to march on Baabda [Lebanon's presidential palace], the Nile Revolution must peacefully march on Mubarak's palace. And it is time to call for his trial under international standards for the crime against humanity that his reign has meant, and continues to mean for Egyptians, including the Cossacks episode, and the 300 people, at least, who were killed in just one week.
I don't know that I'd namecheck the French Revolution in a call for nonviolent change of government, but Mallat is committed to bringing legal remedies to the Middle East's many criminal governments. And Mubarak hasn't left the opposition with any choices.