Claiming Consensus, Omar Suleiman Promises to Hold Protesters Accountable

The key to understanding Omar Suleiman’s statement claiming there is “consensus” in how to move forward in Egypt is to see how he redefines the crisis from being caused by legitimate grievances voiced by the “youth” involved in protests into a lack of security caused by the protests.

All participants of the dialogue arrived at a consensus to express their appreciation and respect for the 25 January movement and on the need to deal seriously, expeditiously and honestly with the current crisis that the nation is facing, the legitimate demands of the youth of 25 January and society’s political forces, with full consideration and a commitment to constitutional legitimacy in confronting the challenges and dangers faced by Egypt as result of this crisis, including: The lack of security for the populace; disturbances to daily life; the paralysis of by public services; the suspension of education at universities and schools; the logistical delays in the delivery of essential goods to the population; the damages to and losses of the Egyptian economy; the attempts at foreign intervention into purely Egyptian affairs and breaches of security by foreign elements working to undermine stability in implementation of their plots, while recognizing that the 25 January movement is a honorable and patriotic movement. [my emphasis]

This paragraph starts out by hailing the January 25 movement, but then says there is consensus that Egypt must both deal with the “legitimate” demands of the movement and “confront[] the challenges and dangers faced by Egypt as result of this crisis.” Fully half the paragraph lists the perceived threats to security “caused” by the uprising. Predictably, Suleiman doesn’t include police attacks on unarmed citizens among those threats to security.

In other words, Suleiman is saying, “The January 25 movement is honorable, but they have hurt the security of the nation, so the solution largely consists of responding to the threat to security they represent.”

This allows Suleiman to promise that no one will be persecuted for political activities–indeed, “prisoners of conscience” will be released.

2. The Government announces the establishment of a bureau to receive complaints regarding, and commits to immediately release, prisoners of conscience of all persuasions. The Government commits itself to not pursuing them or limiting their ability to engage in political activity.

Which would seem to be an attempt to convince protesters they won’t be prosecuted if they demobilize.

Except that Suleiman makes four different promises to investigate and prosecute those responsible for the alleged breakdown of national security (as defined by Suleiman, not by the protesters):

6. Pursuit of corruption, and an investigation into those behind the breakdown of security in line with the law

7. Restoring the security and stability of the nation, and tasking the police forces to resume their role in serving and protecting the people.


4. Supervisory and judiciary agencies will be tasked with continuing to pursue persons implicated in corruption, as well as pursuing and holding accountable persons responsible for the recent breakdown in security.

5. The state of emergency will be lifted based on the security situation and an end to the threats to the security of society

Along with an implicit promise to use the military to crack down on those who threaten national security.

In addition, all participants in the dialogue saluted the patriotic and loyal role played by our Armed Forces at this sensitive time, and affirmed their aspirations for a continuation of that role to restore of calm, security and stability, and to guarantee the implementation and of the consensus and understandings that result from the meetings of the national dialogue.

The key in all of this is bullet 5 quoted above: the “state of emergency” (and with it the emergency law that limits freedom of assembly and provides alternative legal processes) will only be lifted after “threats to the security of society” have ended. This is contrary to some of the reports that Suleiman had agreed to lift the emergency law that have come out of these meetings. Suleiman has described the protests as being part of the problem, and agreed to lift the emergency only after that problem has been investigated and held accountable. The one exception–his promise to liberalize the media–is limited by his depiction of foreign interference in Egyptian affairs, seeing to suggest foreign media will still be targeted.

In other words, having redefined the protests as the direct cause of the breakdown in security (even quoting Hosni Mubarak’s February 1 speech that did the same), Suleiman has all but promised to use the emergency law to prosecute those who caused that breakdown in security.

I guess that’s just about what we should expect from our torturer.

Update: Mohamed el Baradei has released a statement in response. He is not impressed.

Egyptian opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei slammed fledgling negotiations on Egypt’s future on Sunday and said he was not invited to the talks.

The Nobel Peace laureate said weekend talks with Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman were managed by the same people who had ruled the country for 30 years and lack credibility. He said the negotiations were not a step toward the change protesters have demanded in 12 days of demonstrations calling for the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak.

“The process is opaque. Nobody knows who is talking to whom at this stage,” ElBaradei, the former head of the UN nuclear watchdog, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

  1. Mary says:

    I didn’t see that this was released as a joint statement – did you?

    It doesn’t seem as if the April 6 movement could have been included, since it’s spokesperson is the missing google exec.

    All the corruption references combined with all the “leaks” that the speaker can’t succeed to power bc he is “so corrupt” (although he didn’t really arrange for a man to be tortured into confessing lies so that a whole nation could have the US visit war on it) also opens the door to lots of pressure on the speaker to tuck tail and get out of dodge.

    • emptywheel says:

      No, it was not:

      Following is the text of a statement released Sunday by the office of Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman following meetings with several opposition groups.

      If you’re the torturer king, it’s consensus if you say it is.

      • Mary says:

        That’s what I was wondering. THe Bernstein or some other piece mentioned the US trying to get a meeting scheduled with senior politicians, banksters and young democracy advocates (yeah, guess how that one goes) but no one was mentioning names and organizations, so this looks kind of like a “consensus” of the nameless and unknown.

        Re: emergency powers/laws – Obamaco sat back and did virtually nothing last year when those were being extended in Egypt.

        After years of the government’s promising to end Egypt’s state of emergency, Parliament on Tuesday approved a government request to extend for two years its right to arrest people without charge, detain prisoners indefinitely, limit freedom of expression and assembly, and maintain a special security court.

        As a matter of fact, this is what Obama, Kagan, with assists from people like Goldsmith and Yoo, have been promoting for the US.

        • emptywheel says:

          Yeah, given that we tested out our torture program in Egypt, it sort of makes you wonder how much of post-9/11 infrastructure wasn’t modeled on Egypt?

          As for the secret consultations, one of the things that stuck out at me having read all the WL cables released on Egypt is how much we own the democracy-supporting NGOs. We’ve been paying them for years.

          So it’s very easy for us to point to their involvement as legitimizing, not least bc we know we own them like we own the Egyptian military.

          And that was part of the cognitive problem that made State so unprepared for this movement. We have convinced ourselves the NGOs we’ve picked are the legitimate ones to represent the “cause” of democracy.

          Though, I guess that’s the way DC works, too.

          • wendydavis says:

            Marcy, can you say a bit more about the Wiki-cables showing how much we own the NGOs? Do you mean the ones we have supported within Egypt as promoting democracy? I’d read that ironically, again, Obama had cut the grants to those organizations in half from what they were under Bush.

            I wonder if any of the global organizations that teach democracy have been contacted to help a fledgling interim or even long-term government put down roots.

  2. greenwarrior says:

    Yes, statements by Suleiman make it clear that he will cause (and has been causing) grievous damage to the protestors. It’s absolutely ominous that journalists are still being rounded up and their equipment confiscated. The protestors seem to be very aware that Suleiman’s statements are not to be trusted.

    In the same kind of way that I feel Obama is more dangerous than Bush because his demeanor is more benign, I feel that Suleiman instead of Mubarek would be many steps backwards for the Egyptian people.

  3. Mary says:

    Good for elbaradei – thanks for putting that up.

    You have to wonder, for example, what Suleiman’s plans are for the people who

    stormed the [Wadi Natroun prison], overcame the guards and freed the prisoners during protests which spilled out of control across the country


  4. powwow says:

    I guess that’s just about what we should expect from our torturer.

    As one of the pre-existing victims of Omar Suleiman’s power-behind-the-throne partnership with “state secrets”-shielded American Presidents would no doubt testify, could he be heard:

    Ahmed Agiza

    On December 18, 2001, Swedish authorities seized Plaintiff Ahmed Agiza, a 48-year-old Egyptian father of five seeking asylum in Sweden, and drove him to an airport, where they handed him to agents of the U.S. and Egyptian governments. Mr. Agiza’s clothes were sliced from his body and a suppository was forced into his anus. He was then dressed in a diaper and overalls and dragged – barefooted, blindfolded, and shackled – to an awaiting aircraft, where he was strapped to a mattress on the floor. The flight planning and logistical support for this aircraft – a Gulfstream V jet, registered with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as N379P – were organized by Jeppesen. First Amended Compl. ¶¶ 133-38, 243-45; ER 786-87, 816.1

    Mr. Agiza was flown to Egypt and transferred to authorities there.
    For five weeks, he was held incommunicado in a squalid, windowless, and frigid cell approximately two square meters in size. Id. ¶¶ 140-42; ER 787-88. During this period, Mr. Agiza was routinely beaten by interrogators, and he was often strapped to a wet mattress and subjected to electric shock through electrodes attached to his ear lobes, nipples, and genitals. Id. ¶¶ 143-45; ER 788-89. After two and a half years in detention, Mr. Agiza was given a six-hour show trial before a military court. He was convicted of membership in a banned Islamic organization and is presently serving a 15-year sentence in an Egyptian prison. Id. ¶ 148; ER 789.

    Virtually every aspect of Mr. Agiza’s rendition, including the torture he suffered in Egypt, has been publicly acknowledged by the Swedish government.


    The Political Director at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs at the time of Mr. Agiza’s rendition, Mr. Sven-Olof Petersson, advised the Standing Committee of the Constitution of the involvement of the U.S. government in initially providing information about Mr. Agiza and in convincing Egypt to accept his return. Wigenmark Decl. ¶ 20; ER 498.

    The fact of Mr. Agiza’s abuse and the negotiation between Sweden and Egypt of “diplomatic assurances” for his well-being following his removal to Egypt were reviewed by the United Nations Committee Against Torture. That Committee, which based its conclusions in part on documents obtained from the Swedish government, found that Sweden had violated its obligations under international human rights law. Wigenmark Decl. ¶ 6; ER 492-93


    Third, the information in the Luftfartsverket invoice is corroborated by a record from the Swedish Civil Aviation Administration, which also notes that the aircraft landed at Bromma airport at 19:54 and departed for Cairo at 20:49 on December 18, 2001 with nine passengers on board. Id.

    From the PETITION FOR A WRIT OF CERTIORARI, filed December 7, 2010, in BINYAM MOHAMED, ET AL v. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and JEPPESEN DATAPLAN, INC. [No. 10-778], which our Supreme Court, busy tending to the pressing needs of Global Corporate, may or may not deign to review. See also the impressive and important Amicus Curaie brief filed in this case last month by The Constitution Project.

    This, of course, is the pivotal “state secrets” case, regarding rendition to torture, which a 6-5 Ninth Circuit majority last fall refused to be allowed to be heard in an American courtroom, based on the majority’s sweeping, Constitution-and-liberty-hostile interpretation of a limited, 1953 judicially-created secrecy privilege for Executive Branch evidence.

    Two of the five torture victims involved – who have now been trying for years, with the help of the ACLU, to have this lawsuit heard by an American court – are still imprisoned today – one in Egypt, as indicated above, and one (Italian citizen Abou Elkassim Britel) in Casablanca, Morocco.

  5. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Unsurprisingly, given who his outside advisers may be, Suleiman has performed a perfect Kissinger twist; one wonders whether he will soon contort himself into the physical impossibility that remains one of Dick Cheney’s favorite phrases.

    In the quoted statements, Suleiman pairs opposites as if they were not mutually contradictory. He invites his opponents to envision him pursuing corruption without attacking those who peacefully call attention to it. His history, however, suggests he will do neither. His priorities and his backers’ – at home and abroad – suggest that he will have his black-clad employees make midnight calls on thousands of innocents.

    Suleiman could not have had his career and his success if he were able to distinguish “threats to state security” from threats to his personal wealth and prospects. As EW articulates, this speech gives him license to impose retribution on peaceful protesters because their protests attack not the security of Egypt, but the legitimacy of his rule and that of his patrons.

  6. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Suleiman’s doublespeak echoes here at home, doesn’t it, when we hear constitutional lawyer presidents arrogate to themselves the right to detain indefinitely without charges and to murder without judicial process those whom his staff consider enemies of the state. Lord Acton’s pithy description of a curse as old as Adam was never more accurate: power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely, no matter who imagines they can wear the ring without harm.

  7. lsls says:

    Sounds like promises to me…promises to crackdown. The Egyptian people have spoken, and this prick reads it as “demonstrating” that more security is needed.

    Also, this…”;the attempts at foreign intervention into purely Egyptian affairs and breaches of security by foreign elements working to undermine stability in implementation of their plots, while recognizing that the 25 January movement is a honorable and patriotic movement.”

    Hey Barrytonco…he’s looking at you…he’s not your friend.

  8. dabear says:

    Though I doubt it will show up, I posted this at the Dipnote blog at the State Department. I figure that even if they let a few critical posts though that at least a few around the world will see them. Anyway regardless of whether they post our comments, some moderator is reading them. “Supposedly” that is why they created their quest for “transparency” blog, for “the people”.

    Sec. Clinton and Mr. Crowley, I just cannot reconcile this statement from Omar Suleiman. Can you please make a statement about it or perhaps link to one?

    His statement in no way sounds like a “transitional” leader that the pro-democracy movement can trust. He praises them in one voice and sounds to blame them for “the crisis” in another.

    He but sounds like the typical politician, though with great powers of “security” matters, that I, for one, cannot see how he can really lead in a transition to an election of a government that the pro-democracy protesters have worked so hard for.

    Statement please? It is starting to concern me greatly that the US government seems set on Suleiman leading the transition. Guess that I will just have to trust the protesters that they know a two-faced statement as well. I really don’t see them returning to their houses with this kind of statement:

    “l participants of the dialogue arrived at a consensus to express their appreciation and respect for the 25 January movement and on the need to deal seriously, expeditiously and honestly with the current crisis that the nation is facing, the legitimate demands of the youth of 25 January and society’s political forces, with full consideration and a commitment to constitutional legitimacy in confronting the challenges and dangers faced by Egypt as result of this crisis, including: The lack of security for the populace; disturbances to daily life; the paralysis of by public services; the suspension of education at universities and schools; the logistical delays in the delivery of essential goods to the population; the damages to and losses of the Egyptian economy; the attempts at foreign intervention into purely Egyptian affairs and breaches of security by foreign elements working to undermine stability in implementation of their plots, while recognizing that the 25 January movement is a honorable and patriotic movement.”

    • greenwarrior says:

      One possibility would be if the people in the streets prevail in implementing democracy. Another would be the Europeans pursuing legal means like they have with Bush. A third would be a successful assassination attempt. The possibilities are endless. The probabilities not so much.

    • mzchief says:

      For the record (my emphasis in bold) …

      January 31, 2011:

      The State Department is rushing extra teams of consular personnel to the Cairo embassy as well as to the cities of Athens, Istanbul, and Nicosia, where U.S. consular officials will help travelers move on to their next destinations. Travelers don’t have to pay for a ticket out of Cairo, but the U.S. government will expect them to pay back the money later, and Uncle Sam won’t pay for any tickets home to the United States.

      The safe haven cities could change, a State Department advisory warned, and travelers can’t choose which city they will be flown to. U.S. citizen children can be accompanied by one non-citizen parent. And sorry, no pets allowed.

      (excerpt from “State Department evacuating American citizens from Egypt,” ForeignPolicy.Com, Posted By Josh Rogin Monday, January 31, 2011 – 10:57 AM)

      February 4, 2011:

      The Pentagon is moving U.S. warships and other military assets to make sure it is prepared in case evacuation of U.S. citizens from Egypt becomes necessary, officials said Friday.

      The Kearsarge, an amphibious assault ship carrying 700 to 800 troops from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, and the Ponce have arrived in the Red Sea, putting them off Egypt’s shores in case the situation worsens.

      (excerpt “EGYPT: Pentagon moving warships, preparing for possible evacuations,” February 4, 2011, 5:55 PM)

    • dabear says:

      The unit left Connecticut Jan. 15 for Fort Benning, Ga., for further training and validation. The unit operates C-23C Sherpa aircraft and has deployed three times in the last seven years in support of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

      Good find. I was wondering what Gates was doing behind the scenes. At least it is joining Multi-National forces. I would suspect some of the same forces that directly asked MB to step down. If this would have come out on the 15th, the left here would have pitched a holy fit, but then some on the left have been asking why we did not do it when the security forces were beating the protesters. They are releasing another trial balloon, but this one with some meat behind it, if they have actually sent the ships. I do believe we want MB out. They obviously want Suleiman in: Our soldiers might be going to just help pack his luggage and move his furniture into the Presidential palace.

    • bmaz says:

      The whole post is about Connecticut troops that were headed there before the protests and evacuation contingencies. Ginning up some inference it is all a surreptitious attack plan is bullshit by whoever wrote that.

      • sybille says:

        FWIW, that Washington’s Blog post I linked earlier does include a something of a disclaimer:

        Therefore, I see no clear indication that the U.S. government has affirmatively decided to directly involve our military in Egypt. However, it is obvious that the government is at least planning for the possibility.

        But then there’s this update, from “Business Insider,” which may or may not be a useful source for this kind of thing:

        Update: Business Insider notes:

        A “very senior” member of the US Marine corps is telling people “multiple platoons” are deploying to Egypt, a source tells us.

        There is a system within the US Marines that alerts the immediate families of high-ranking marines when their marine will soon be deployed to an emergency situation where they will not be able to talk to their spouses or families.

        That alert just went out, says our source.

        This senior Marine told our source that the Pentagon will deploy “multiple platoons” to Egypt over the next few days and that the official reason will be ‘to assist in the evacuation of US citizens.”

        Our source was told that “the chances they were going over there went from 70% yesterday to 100% today.”

        I can’t tell if those are the same troops that were already scheduled to leave on the 15th or if they are additions.

    • Mary says:

      I’m not sure on that one. I can see it in some ways being a good thing, if they got some Israeli “back off” promises in exchange for moving the ship in to help them feel more secure about their border agreements in the peace treaty. OTOH – if they’re heading there with the equivalent of a Admiral Boykin and Cap’n Jack, not such a great thing. Other other hand, US citizen should be able to expect some gov support if things do get bad and evacuations are needed. I don’t see that one as black and white.

      @30 – One thing the Marines and evacuating citizens can share – the knowlege that “Uncle Sam” won’t pay for any tickets home.

      @35 – that’s how I have hammered away at the al-Libi situation, as torture laundered through Powell to the UN. It seems that several items I’ve read recently have been making that same point and although you in some ways think “everyone” knows that already, so many don’t and are surprised.

      @42 – lots of meat there, thanks. I prefer to call it kidnapping too. You have a judicial warrant, you have judicially recognized exigent non-warrant grounds that still leave the detained in a judicial system, and you have kidnapping. I do think, though, that google is a force in and of itself ;) I don’t think Obama and Clinton were responsible for any effective pressure when it comes to the crackdwons on journos; I just think they were good at saying “you stupid idiots – cameras are freakin everywhere whether you like it or not & when you rough up Anderson Cooper and disappear Google execs it’s like invading a whole separate nation-state; you’re on your own there buddy.”

      Can you expand on how he works for Sawiris, though? I konw Sawiris has a station of his own, but I thought Ghonim worked for Google as a sales or marketing director for ME and NorthAfrica? Is Sawiris at all affiliated with the April 6 group?

      BTW – even though I’m usually pretty cautious on something like that clip Siun had, I FBd it. And it is a remarkable bit of timing.

  9. canadianbeaver says:

    If Suleiman is doing any talking/dealmaking, it’s kind of shows how trivial the entire fiasco truly is. As VP, he doesn’t really have any power to do anything under the Egyptian Constitution, does he not? If Mubarak is indeed only there as a figurehead until an election, and is really not governing, then next in line according to Egyptian Constitution is NOT the VP at all.

      • greenwarrior says:

        Thanks. I wasn’t aware of that. That would explain it. Otherwise, it clearly didn’t add up to be sending troops Jan 15th when nothing would happen until Jan 25.

        • bmaz says:

          Not saying I think we need to warehouse troops all over the globe as we do, but there has long been a contingent there as part of the Multi-National force.

  10. Knut says:

    At this point the question is whether the demonstrators can hold out another ten days or so. If they can, Suleiman will be shelved. From what happened last week, it is hard to see the army going along with him if he tries to get rough. El Baradei is the key actor here. If he can persuade the US that he is `safe`, they will back him and drop Suleiman. Suleiman has to strike hard and immediately. The next couple of days will be crucial. Can he arrest enough of the leaders to stop the movement?

  11. mzchief says:

    Why would authorities in a European county like Switzerland entertain the idea of trying George W. Bush for torture if he came to give a talk in that country;

    But, European countries are supporting Omar Suleiman for interim president of Egypt, even though he was the one who undertook the torture for Bush? Suleiman tossed some 30,000 suspected Muslim fundamentalists in prison, and accepted from the US CIA kidnapped suspected militants, whom he had tortured. Some were innocent. One, Sheikh Libi, was tortured into falsely confessing that Saddam Hussein was training al-Qaeda operatives, an allegation that straight into Colin Powell’s speech to the UN justifying the Iraq War.

    (excerpt from “Egypt: I ask Myself Why,” by Juan Cole, Posted on 02/06/2011)

  12. seaglass says:

    Omar met with himself while taking a dump and came to consensus that he doesn’t really give a shit what the demonstrators want and then he wrapped this consensus ( turd) in a fluffy taco and served it up as the reality the Egyptian people are going to be “forced” to swallow.

  13. nextstopchicago says:

    Without making excuses for Suleiman, a man I despise – I think all the things mentioned here bear close watch – it’s worth pointing out that the references to “the breakdown of security” and similar phrases could be interpreted as referring to the paramilitary attacks on Wednesday. Note that the former Interior Minister and several of his allies were arrested Friday. My sense is that this is an effort to make him a scapegoat, but nonetheless, it’s not clear that these provisions are aimed at saying the protesters were in the wrong.

    2nd, al Jazeera named the groups participating in talks today, including Muslim Brethren, Wafd, Tagammu, and “members of a committee picked by the pro-democracy youth groups which launched the mass protests”. AJ also reported that “Naguib Sawiris and a representative of opposition figure elBaradei.” This gets at Mary’s point (comment #1) about “the missing google exec”. Wael Ghonim actually works for Sawiris, and he has been pressing for Ghonim’s release. Today AJ reports that its known where Ghonim is. I wish they’d release him, but if the report is true, it’s comforting that they’ve found him. I had mentioned yesterday in a comment at Enduring America’s live-blog that the video of Ghonim’s state-sponsored kidnapping (I prefer to use that term, since I feel that “arrests” can only be made by a legitimate government) was a powerful weapon. Interesting that after losing him for several days, the government suddenly found him once the video was released. (Note to activists everywhere – keep your cell-cameras on and filming whenever possible, and then send footage to friends out of the country quickly.) Either the senior officials didn’t know which security group had picked him up, or more likely, they did, but felt comfortable claiming ignorance and having a hostage, but once it was clear exactly who had done the kidnapping, it became difficult to sustain that pose.

    Anyway, a number of these things, all found in the Al Jazeera live-blog, suggest, not quite negotiation in good faith, but at minimum, negotiation with a respect on the part of Suleiman for the cards the opposition holds, and that can only be good. Some of this has happened because of pressure by Obama and Clinton – which is not a reason to trust their motives … but it is a reason to keep pushing them, because they have an enormous impact on Suleiman, and every new line they draw for him is more power to the protesters. This is not all or nothing – it’s a situation where each phone call to your Senator may be the thing that pushes it just far enough that the opposition can hold a little more ground.

  14. nextstopchicago says:

    Long post. I might summarize that I believe what comes next depends not so much on Suleiman’s word, which I don’t trust, as on the actual balance of forces. So the key is not necessarily parsing his words, but remembering that the heroes of Tahrir have real power in Egypt, based in overwhelming popular support, and also on certain guarantees that our leaders here in America felt it necessary to enforce on our Egyptian clients. We (and I mean we readers of EW and any Americans who sympathize) have a role to play, because anything Obama does guarantee partly depends on his fear of our ability to tell large numbers of people he’s full of shit if he doesn’t do these things.

    And this is why it’s a good thing Obama is in office. Bush would lose relatively few votes on the left if he offered nothing but whitewash. (Cheney himself is PRAISING Mubarak today.) Obama has more to lose, which gives us a little foothold to do our work. I hope you’ll call and e-mail. I’ve done so several times – 202 456-1111.

    Bring this shit up at your Super Bowl parties (or maybe you mostly socialize with people who already think the way we do – my friends are liberal but not very aware.) Every little bit helps, and there are few opportunities we’ll have in the next several years to deal quite such a body-blow to the security regime as creating even a fragile semi-democracy in Egypt. Rendition and torture WILL end there if the government is forced to endure any accountability at all.

    (All right, so I’m a little excitable. I’ll shut up now.)

    • Mary says:

      I don’t think Obama feels he has much to lose. He hasn’t seemed at all interested in losing support on “teh left” which is apparently where anti-war, anti-torture leaves you, no matter how conservative you might be otherwise.

      Here’s a part of what I think you may not be putting into the equation on the US front. It’s actually just as important, personally, to some very powerful Democratic political figure that Suleiman have some kind of head of state power (and protection) as it is ideologically or politically to them for there to be a peaceful succession in Egypt. Suleiman wasn’t just Bush’s go-to for rendition and torture – he was President Clinton’s as well. Clinton was at the center of the kidnaps to torture/execution of the Albanian Returnees, which were a bit of a cause celebre in Egypt. The kidnap from Albania and torture of several of the suspects was also claimed by Zawahiri (not that he has any credibility and I’m sure he’d kill anyone, anywhere, without a reason) as a reason for the African Embassies bombings.

      Bush and the al-Libi situation is horrible and the fact is that the intel committees – including people like DiFi – were briefed on how al-Libi’s confessions about training camps were generated and on his recant and that he was back in CIA/US custody. And what did any of them do with that info? Well, DiFi made sure Obama kept Kappes on and al-Libi disappeared and upon Reprieve tracking him down there was that tragic suicide in Libya (ok, not all necessarily in that order, but close).

      Suleiman is also, obviously, at the center of a lot of Egyptian disappearnaces and abuses that are probably much more prominent in those citizens minds, but the truth of the matter is – – he becomes either a man in leadership in the successor government OR he will likely become a man under investigation in a successor government. The chief of the intel services who has been carrying out all the “emergency powers” directives goes one way or the other.

      If he ends up under investigation, the things that will come out about not only Bush, but Clinton – and about prominent members of Congress and their knowledge – – none of that is something that Obama wants. So Obama and H. Clinton aren’t not pressuring Suleiman to now be a great guy bc they understand the reprucussions of 30 years of torture policies – they are both spinning desparately to keep him in some position of power to protect the associations that at least Clitnon and Bush (and likely Obama by now as well) have had with him.

      jmo, fwiw (don’t go silent – you have great points)

      • waynec says:

        “f he ends up under investigation, the things that will come out about not only Bush, but Clinton – and about prominent members of Congress and their knowledge – – none of that is something that Obama wants. So Obama and H. Clinton aren’t not pressuring Suleiman to now be a great guy bc they understand the reprucussions of 30 years of torture policies – they are both spinning desparately to keep him in some position of power to protect the associations that at least Clitnon and Bush (and likely Obama by now as well) have had with him.”

        Suleiman is probably blackmailing the Obama administration into supporting him so he doesn’t contact Wikileaks with what he knows.

    • emptywheel says:

      CHeney is saying mubarak should be able to leave w/dignity–I almost guarantee you O is saying the same thing.

      But he is also suggesting it may be time for him to go.

      Liz Cheney was pressing Mubarak (unsuccessfully) to have election monitors in 2005. The (too gentle) pressure on Mubarak is bipartisan.

      • nextstopchicago says:

        Cheney said today, “He’s been a good man, a good friend and ally to the United States,” Cheney said. “We need to remember that.”

        That has not been Obama’s way of framing this publicly. Obama has been very carefully neutral (not vis-a-vis Tahrir and its opponents, but neutral as opposed to saying anything positive about Mubarak): “This is Mubarak’s chance to show Egyptians who he really is.” That’s very different from “we know who he is – a good man for all that military assistance he’s given us.” I don’t think Obama has said a thing in praise of Mubarak, and that is important.

        There is a big difference between an administration that would have validated Mubarak at this stage and one that is unwilling to do that. Cheney is attempting to do exactly what the Bush administration would have done – prepping Americans for the idea of keeping Mubarak, telling Americans that Mubarak is better than dealing with the ‘hippies, locos and Islamic radicals in the square’.

        Can anyone really imagine Bush/Cheney telling the world as Clinton has that the Muslim Brothers are a legitimate part of the range of opinion in Egypt and deserve to be listened to?

        Don’t get me wrong, I’m still angry as piss that we haven’t embraced Tahrir. Obama has been neutral between the devil we do know and the decent people we didn’t bother to get to know. A real heir to the virtues we claim are American would embrace Tahrir. But neutrality is a huge gain over what we would’ve seen with Bush.

        • greenwarrior says:

          It’s almost like a good copy bad cop scenario. Cheney says Mubarak’s the greatest. Obama says no and that Suleiman will be a reasonable choice for a caretaker government. I’m sorry, but this looks extremely dangerous to me. Entrusting Suleiman with creating democracy in Egypt sounds like a prescription for the protests to be waylaid and the people active in them to be disappeared, tortured and abused. I really can’t consider this him any kind of improvement over Mubarak.

          I said it on another thread, but I’ll repeat it here in this context. I consider Suleiman more dangerous than Mubarak in the same way that I consider Obama more dangerous than Bush. Suleiman and Obama seem more palatable and can therefore get away with more.

        • Mary says:

          Keep in mind that the Muslim Brotherhood made big electoral gains with Bush in office, once Obama came in, they were shut out. IMO, the main reason Obama isn’t saying much has nothing to do with convictions and a lot to do with aides telling him how much America isn’t popular at this moment and how much Egyptians want us to butt out. He’s trying for the pretense that we aren’t putting on all kinds of direct pressure to shape this outcome the way we want it bc he’s aware of how that gets backs up. I recall Bush being bummed about the gains by the MB, but not advocating to disenfranchise their vote. @64 – I actually could see Bush going on NPR (not Olberman though – but then again, with Obama in office there is no Olberman anymore) and saying something similar. Bush would have been shameless about taking to the airwaves to say things as if he believed in them even knowing that Cheney’s minions were setting it all up to be under US control. I think Obama can be shameless in a similar way as well. To go on Fox helps sell the lie that he’s supporting free elections and distracts from what he is ACTUALLY doing – which is putting the US torturer, Suleiman, in power.

          @67 0 one group they haven’t been reappearing are the ones they disappeared FOR the US. ;)

          @57 – well, the extent that al-Libi himself was evidence, he’s already been permanently disappeared. All crotch scratches and giggles for people like Mukasey and Goldsmith and Yoo – but it was a very ugly and immoral anc criminal stain. I think deciding what evidence is where and how it gets destroyed is a big part of what has been going on over the last few days.

          @63 – A fount (as in it gushes and gushes and doesn’t stop) but not always of information. ;)

          @70 – Really??

          • wendydavis says:

            LOL! ‘Fount’ as in ‘well-spring, bubbling out memories of information, slaking the thirst of the forgetful or quasi-ignorant’.

            (That will be $2.99 for excellent PR/sucking up; please pay the cashier at the door.) :o)

        • RIRedinPA says:

          Eh, on NPR this morning someone from State Dept. essentially echoed Cheney’s words. The plutocracy doesn’t like all this rabble in the street stuff, its bad for business. The Davos men have pushed Muburak aside and are now relying on Suleiman to clean it all up.

    • wendydavis says:

      Chicago, your image of ‘a blody blow to the security machine’ (close enough?) has been ringing in my head. I found this piece by Mark Levine, UC Irvine, earlier. He big-pictures it, too:

      For those who don’t understand why President Obama and his European allies are having such a hard time siding with Egypt’s forces of democracy, the reason is that the amalgam of social and political forces behind the revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt today – and who knows where tomorrow – actually constitute a far greater threat to the “global system” al-Qa’eda has pledged to destroy than the jihadis roaming the badlands of Afghanistan, Pakistan, or Yemen.

      Mad as hell

      Whether Islamist or secularist, any government of “of the people” will turn against the neoliberal economic policies that have enriched regional elites while forcing half or more of the population to live below the $2 per day poverty line. They will refuse to follow the US or Europe’s lead in the war on terror if it means the continued large scale presence of foreign troops on the region’s soil. They will no longer turn a blind eye, or even support, Israel’s occupation and siege across the Occupied Palestinian territories. They will most likely shirk from spending a huge percentage of their national income on bloated militaries and weapons systems that serve to enrich western defence companies and prop up autocratic governments, rather than bringing stability and peace to their countries – and the region as a whole.

      They will seek, as China, India and other emerging powers have done, to move the centre of global economic gravity towards their region, whose educated and cheap work forces will further challenge the more expensive but equally stressed workforces of Europe and the United States.

      In short, if the revolutions of 2011 succeed, they will force the creation of a very different regional and world system than the one that has dominated the global political economy for decades, especially since the fall of communism.

      This system could bring the peace and relative equality that has so long been missing globally – but it will do so in good measure by further eroding the position of the United States and other “developed” or “mature” economies. If Obama, Sarkozy, Merkel and their colleagues don’t figure out a way to live with this scenario, while supporting the political and human rights of the peoples of the Middle East and North Africa, they will wind up with an adversary far more cunning and powerful than al-Qa’eda could ever hope to be: more than 300 million newly empowered Arabs who are mad as hell and are not going to take it any more.

  15. nextstopchicago says:

    I read the EA live-blog mentioning some developments in Tunisia, and a few paragraphs later a police attack on a demonstration in Algeria, which horrified me because I momentarily conflated the two countries and thought, “this is a huge step back-wards,” before realizing no, Algeria hasn’t had a revolution yet …

    So I’m reminded of my own ignorance and unfamiliarity, and also of just how hard it will be to keep other Americans, many of whom had never spared a minute for any of these countries before last week, thinking about this. For the moment, a lot of attention is focused there. It’ll be work to maintain that.

  16. Ryan says:

    Sulieman is a thug, we shouldn’t expect anything more from him. That the US is trying to prop this guy up is *almost* as bad as trying to keep Mubarak from falling. Sulieman’s got to go if the people want a fair chance at Democracy, too. They need a committee of caretakers to watch over the government until elections can be held, not Sulieman or any of the other top NDP lackeys with close connections to Mubarak.

    Here’s hoping the people continue to hold onto Tahrir. So long as they do that, they have all the leverage in Egypt to keep this moving — no matter how hard the old guard tries to dig its heels in. There’s only so long until Egypt’s wealthy elites (which includes the top members of the military) decide they can no longer afford to wait on giving the rest of their people their full rights — because even they’ll start going broke eventually.

  17. -bwg says:

    It’s not surprising that those he invited reached consensus. But those who did not participate included some pretty big players. It sure sounds like Suleiman is threatening the Tahrir Square protesters, the biggest motivator for the need to reach consensus and a group that was not included in reaching the consensus. Sounds like a consensus to maintain the status quo. Or should I say “conspiracy to maintain the status quo”?

  18. nextstopchicago says:

    A very interesting point has been raised today. Part of the backdrop to the protests was the successful defense by Muslim Egyptians acting outside government of Coptic churches that had been under attack in late 2010. Among other things, a national day of protest was called in which Muslims were asked to attend Coptic masses in solidarity and to make sure there were no attacks. Conversely, Copts often linked arms to surround and protect Muslims at prayer time during the protests. Today, Copts celebrated mass in Tahrir.

    Some are starting to notice that these attacks on Coptic churches, which continued through two weeks ago have now stopped. The implication being that the people responsible for them – clandestine elements of the security forces – have been busy attacking and scheming against the heroes of Tahrir and haven’t had time to set up attacks on Coptic churches.

    Given the framing of the Mubarak regime, and indeed of the entire Middle Eastern autarchy we’ve supported – that they’re bulwarks against radical Islamists, it’s interesting to note one definite and one likely action in the last two weeks – the “blame-the-Jews” strategy that Mubarak launched using state TV, and the end of the Coptic attacks, suggesting that security forces are behind them.

    This is powerful evidence that the radicalization of Islam is largely something triggered and manipulated by the regimes themselves. It’s an argument I would have made in the abstract a month ago, but I would have had little actual evidence. Now, I feel it’s hard to deny.

    This is one reason I’ve been calling Suleiman “the devil we do know.” The argument has been that these regimes were better than the “devil we don’t know”, but Mubarak’s use of hyped-up anti-Semitism and anti-Coptic violence postively identify him as a devil; I think we should make a bigger deal of this.

  19. nextstopchicago says:


    The regime had already disappeared people. American pressure has forced them to make those people reappear. Ghonim is about the only person left on the lists, and he is said to be coming out tomorrow (such rumors thus far in the Egyptian revolution have turned out to be true, though that’ll be small solace if Ghonim becomes the exception.)

    To what do you attribute this, if not administration pressure? It seems a bit much to look at an administration that has forced a client to “reappear” people the regime had already got in its clutches; and say this administration is more likley to disappear people than the Bush administration, which consistently DID disappear many, many people, of its own volition.

    You caution against “trusting what Obama says” I’d retort that I never do. But I measure by actions. The score on disappearances is clear – Bush/Cheney directly authorized hundreds of disappearances and validated thousands or tens of thousands committed by allies. Obama has authorized few if any, validated few if any new disappearances, and required the release of a host of disappeared people in the last week, including some Western reporters who surely would have been released under any president, but also many Egyptians who I feared might not get out.

    Obama hasn’t attacked the idea of disappearance or rendition, and that bugs the crap out of me. I believed when he came to office that he would, and I feel betrayed by that. But measured by concrete actions, I don’t think you can say he has been the same or worse than Bush/Cheney.

    Having written that, I certainly haven’t followed the question of rendition as closely as EW and others here.

  20. Mary says:

    OT – supposedly Pakistan has put three more names on the can’t leave list and they are the Lahore crew who were involved in mowing down the pedestrian and threatening others. With the death of the 18 yo widow of one of the men, all kinds of things are being tossed out now. There is spec that the ISI is pissed over the US court issuing subpeonas to ISI over the Mombai killings and part of the delays here have been payback. OTOH, someone is making much more serious noises about arresting the 3 currently unnamed Lahore consulate guys. And others are issuing the ‘leak’ that the cyclists had ISI intel links. And the US is still pushing the “robbed another motorist” story for the motorcycle guys.

    And IMF has kept the funds slow down on.

    • bmaz says:

      You may find it “stomach turning”, but it is not necessarily incorrect as to several key points on constitutional succession. There may be other, perhaps better, modalities for accomplishing the desired goal as to installing a temporary and then permanent successor government, but the issues raised in that article are mostly legitimate.

    • RIRedinPA says:

      That’s the spin the State Dept rep was putting on NPR this morning. Something about if Muburak resigns the Egyptian constitution requires an election in 60 days or so and there are only one or two opposition parties available that are organized enough to be able to participate, the Muslim Brotherhood being one of them and he angled that in a nefarious sense, though he never came out and said out right they are scary Islamist…they’re setting up to maintain status quo while pulling an Orwellian trick that the status quo has been revoked by the will of the people…in a way this makes me miss the Bushies and their neocon pals. With them the packaging was no where near as slick as Obama’s, they’d just come out and say they wanted the tanks to roll in Cairo and end the nonsense.

      • bmaz says:

        Since it is all just spin and plutocratic BS, how do YOU suggest Egypt negotiate the intricacies of its long established constitution and allow for the procedural mechanisms for competitive and open elections to be put in place? I find several of the key arguments being made by the State Dept to be pretty valid, upon what facts and legal theory do you find them to be so ridiculous? That is not necessarily to say that we have the right answers, that there are not better answers, or even that there ate good answers to all of the issues; but many of them outlined do appear to be quite credible issues.

  21. RIRedinPA says:

    I’m no expert on the Egyptian Constitution but essentially Article 76 refers to Presidential elections and the criteria for being a candidate. Specifically it states that:

    The President shall be elected by direct, public, secret ballot. For an applicant to be accepted as a candidate to presidency, he shall be supported by at least 250 elected members of the People’s Assembly, the Shura Council and local popular councils on governorate level, provided that those shall include at least 65 members of the People’s Assembly, 25 of the Shura Council and ten of every local council in at least 14 governorates.

    The People’s Assembly has 508 seats. In the 2010 election the NDP (Mubrarak’s party, which has had power since 1953) claimed 420 of those seats, up 90 from the previous elections, the Muslim Brotherhood lost all 88 seats it formerly held. Sixty-eight seats are held by independents who are, by and large, former NDP members. Given this, do you honestly expect an election held under the auspices of the current constitution to be free and fair? Without the backing of the NDP you couldn’t even get on the ballot. There are no intricacies to negotiate in their constitution, just closed doors.

    Granted sixty days is too narrow a window to establish everything on the ground needed for an election to be held, 120-180 seems more reasonable. A partial suspension of their constitution would be required as well and I would go with a requirement of a petition with x number of signatures within 45 days in order for someone to run for Presidential office.

    But nothing like this will happen. There is no interest on behalf of the US government in seeing a Egypt that is an unpredictable democracy or worse yet the rise of another theocracy (doubtful given the secularism of the majority of Egyptians). Far better to deal with a predictable autocracy, repugnant as it may be, to further our geopolitical aims and goals. And the Davos men would be most appreciative of this.