"From 'The Day of Rage' To 'The Day of Departure'"


by Chris Bodenner

Scott Lucas, a live-blogging force of nature during this revolution, catches you up to speed:

In the space of [the last] seven days, Egypt has entered unthinkable territory --- the prospect of the downfall of President Hosni Mubarak, and those around him, after 30 years in power. But the twists and turns in those seven days, almost as stunning, have complicated even that dramatic storyline. Only 48 hours ago, I was assessing that Mubarak's power and authority was now reduced to the protection of the military.

That was very wrong.

The President and his machine displayed what could still be done through the pro-regime demonstrations and the unleashing of the violence on Tahrir Square on Wednesday. From the easy assessment of "Mubarak goes soon rather than later", the question became one of whether the protest would crack.

Crack, yes. Collapse, no. After the anti-regime demonstrators not only held Tahrir Square but fought back, edging back their foes, Mubarak and his Cabinet had to face again their tenuous political position. The Vice President and Prime Minister offered the superficial concession of an apology for Wednesday's bloodshed and the promise of an investigation. VP Omar Suleiman gave ground on the question of Mubarak's son Gamal standing for the Presidency in September and played up his offer of discussions with the opposition, including the Muslim Brotherhood.

However, on the central and immediate question of Mubarak's depature, they were defiant, even hostile. And then last night Mubarak put out his message through an unusual source: US-based journalist Christiane Amanpour. In a phone call, he wrote another chapter of his sacrifice for his country. He really wanted to leave office, he declared, but for the good of Egypt, he had to remain. Otherwise there would the Muslim Brotherhood brotherhood in power and a nation in chaos. (To which an observer cheekily noted, "Good. Because we haven't seen any chaos in the last two days.")

Why would Mubarak put out his message through a prominent American reporter, even when his followers were beating up and detaining dozens of foreign journalists as the enemy? Because he was not speaking primarily to his people but to an audience in Washington.

For all the significance of the Battle of Tahrir Square and the continuing protests across Egypt, the breaking story last night was this US proposal:

Officials from both governments are continuing talks about a plan in which Mr. Suleiman, backed by Lt. Gen. Sami Enan, chief of the Egyptian armed forces, and Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi, the defense minister, would immediately begin a process of constitutional reform. ...

This was the proposition put to Mubarak by President Obama's envoy Frank Wisner when he arrived in Cairo on Sunday. And it was the plan that Mubarak rudely kicked away with his speech on Tuesday night, symbolically torched when his supporters laid siege to the opposition on Wednesday, and ground into the dust with the pursuit of journalists on Thursday.

(Photo: A man looks down from the window of a derelict house as anti-government protestors man barricades in Tahrir Square on February 3, 2011 in Cairo, Egypt. By Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)