The thugs attacking Egyptian pro-democracy protesters and attacking reporters are clearly not mostly spontaneous “pro-Mubarak protesters”, but mostly people paid to demonstrate for him, hired thugs and plain clothes police like those Mubarak used to attack opposition campaigners during the 2005 Presidential election and referendum – which were rigged (1) – (9).
(There may also be some pro-Mubarak demonstrators who simply support him because they have watched Egyptian state TV as their only source of information, or because they work for the government or rely for their jobs in it on the patronage of regime members or relatives in it).
The army were ordered to allow them into Tahrir Square and given no order to stop Mubarak’s brigades attacking (10).
Mubarak hopes this tactic will let him avoid responsibility for the people they injure and kill. He can’t. While the Obama administration continues to provide his government with financial aid they are responsible too. They should cut all aid until he is gone and an all party transitional government is in place.
State Department official P J Crowley said that “We reiterate our call for all sides in Egypt to show restraint and avoid violence.”, as if the attackers (many armed with guns, knives, iron bars and machetes) and those attacked or defending themselves were equally responsible for it. British Prime Minister David Cameron’s statement that “if” the violence was orchestrated by the Mubarak government then it would be “utterly unacceptable” pretended that there was any question about whether Mubarak organised it, even after his use of similar tactics over decades (11) – (12).
These and Obama’s vague statements differ markedly from their straightforward condemnation of the Iranian government when it similarly used Basij plain clothes militia to beat, terrify and kill pro-democracy protesters.
While early statements from the White House suggested financial aid to the Egyptian military might be cut if they harmed protesters - and this has played a very positive role - Secretary of State Clinton later reversed this, saying there were no plans to cut military aid to Egypt. The Obama administration is on the edge of giving Mubarak the impression that he can kill and terrify pro-democracy demonstrators just so long as he doesn't use the army to do it
(1) = Amnesty International 02 Feb 2011 ‘Egyptian army urged to protect protesters’,http://amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/egyptian-army-breaks-promise-protect-protesters-2011-02-02 ; ‘clashes erupted with organized groups of pro-government supporters attacking protesters in Cairo and across Egypt... …An Amnesty International fact-finding team in Egypt reported that the violence appeared to be orchestrated in part by the authorities to suppress continuing protests calling for political reform…In previous election years, Amnesty International documented how hired thugs were used by the Egyptian authorities in order to intimidate voters and to disperse gatherings of their political opponents’
(2) = AP 02 Feb 2011 ‘Mubarak backers attack foes with firebombs, bricks’,http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110202/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_egypt ; ‘The protesters accused Mubarak's regime of unleashing a force of paid thugs and plainclothes police to crush their unprecedented 9-day-old movement… They showed off police ID badges they said were wrested off their attackers.’
(3) = MSNBC 02 Feb 2011 ‘'Total mayhem': Mubarak supporters, protesters clash in Egypt’, http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/41383377/ns/world_news-mideastn_africa/ ; ‘Several protesters claimed the government sent in plainclothes policemen and hired "thugs" to instigate violence….“We caught a lot of people with police IDs on them,” another witness told Al Jazeera…’
(4) = Guardian News Blog 02 Feb 2011 6.04 p.m summary of events ‘Egypt protests - live updates’,http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/blog/2011/feb/02/egypt-protests-live-updates ; The violence of the pro-Mubarak supporters appears to be organised, with policemen and hired thugs seemingly involved. – also see eyewitness accounts from western reporters and Egyptian protesters at 2.29p.m, 2.43 p.m , 4.56 p.m and 5.11 p.m
(5) = AFP 02 Feb 2011 ‘Egypt troops fire warning shots as protesters clash’,http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20110202/wl_africa_afp/egyptpoliticsunrestdemoclash ; ‘A witness said organisers were paying people 100 Egyptian pounds (12 euros, $17) to take part in the pro-Mubarak rally, but this could not be confirmed.’
(6) = Human Rights Watch Sep 2005 ‘From Plebiscite to Contest? Egypt’s Presidential Election’, http://www.hrw.org/legacy/backgrounder/mena/egypt0905/egypt0905.pdf
(7) = Guardian 26 May 2005 ‘Dissent quashed as Egypt votes on reform’,http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2005/may/26/brianwhitaker ; ‘Security forces and violent gangs cracked down on dissenters yesterday as Egyptians voted in a constitutional referendum that opposition parties have denounced as a sham….smaller groups of protesters who ventured on to the streets were set upon by security forces or pro-Mubarak gangs. In one incident, police withdrew to let a gang beat up more than a dozen supporters of the Kifaya ("Enough") movement, which is calling for an end to the president's 24-year rule.
Elsewhere, 150 government supporters attacked Kifaya members with sticks. Police looked on as Mubarak loyalists attacked a woman with batons and tore her clothes.’
(8) = Guardian 27 May 2005 ‘Egypt claims 83% yes vote for change’,http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2005/may/27/brianwhitaker ; In some cities, plainclothes government agents beat protesters and dozens of arrests were made.
(9) = guardian.co.uk 02 Feb 2011 ‘Supporters of Hosni Mubarak attack foreign journalists in Egypt’,http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/feb/02/hosni-mubarak-supporters-attack-foreign-journalists
(10) = guardian.co.uk 02 Feb 2011 ‘Mubarak supporters stage brutal bid to crush Cairo uprising’,http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/feb/02/hosni-mubarak-supporters-violence-cairo ; ‘Yesterday, army and activists staffed checkpoints to prevent violence; today, Egyptian soldiers made no effort to prevent confrontation…..At one stage, they moved out of the way to allow pro-Mubarak demonstrators to reach their opponents….Among those attacking the square were groups of armed men who appeared to be plainclothes police officers. Credible reports spoke of some of those involved in the assault in Tahrir Square having been paid by the regime….On one boulevard leading from the square, a group of men had been deployed with weapons in their hands, clearly under orders.
(11) = BBC News 02 Feb 2011 ‘Egypt unrest: White House condemns Cairo violence’,http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-12349662
(12) = guardian.co.uk 02 Feb 2011 ‘David Cameron condemns 'despicable' violence in Egypt’,http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/feb/02/egypt-transition-of-power-david-cameron