Thursday, February 10, 2011

Egypt: Now I'm beginning to wonder...

Hosni Mubarak thinks that the Egyptian revolt is the work of people working for foreign interests -- which is funny, since Hosni himself got into power because he was the CIA's guy. That said, I'm starting to suspect that the old bastard may be on to something.

In previous posts, we've noted the unnervingly accurate prediction of an Egyptian uprising offered by Elliot Abrams on the Council on Foreign Relations website. Now we see this CNN piece, one of many news stories designed to make Americans and Europeans swoon over Google exec Wael Ghonim. The media has suddenly gone into Ghon-gasm.

Before proceeding, let's review this snippet from a previous post:
If this were a CIA thing, you would already know the name of the designated "man on a white horse" who would lead his country to freedom, yada yada yada. Spooks don't gin up a rebellion unless they already have a guy in the green room, waiting for his cue to walk out on stage.
Is Ghonim that guy? The CNN piece by Ed Husain sure reads like one of those planted articles designed to create an artificial hero.
It is these sentiments and experiences -- the ability to dream and sing in adversity -- that resonate today in Egypt. Ghonim exemplifies an entire generation of patriotic, educated young Egyptians. But for all his strengths, he is not likely to become Egypt's next president, a demand made by his many followers on a 200,000-strong Facebook page.
That was subtle: Husain makes the suggestion, then pooh-poohs it. "Here's the guy! Okay, so he's not really the guy. Still -- here's the guy!"

So who is Ed Husain? Born in 1975 in the U.K., he claims to have spent five years as an Islamic fundamentalist activist. The group he claims to have joined denies that he ever was a member. He then repented and wrote a book exposing the dangers of Islamic extremism. Around that time, he co-founded an alleged think tank called the Quilliam Foundation, which was designed to work with "grassroots" Islamic groups to combat extremism.

The trouble was, the group had no real grassroots support, although it did receive a large amount of funding from the U.K. government. Most of the Muslim community in Britain thought that Quilliam was a front group, and some suspected Husain and/or his partner Maajid Nawaz of being MI5.

Most of the stances espoused on the Quilliam website do not bother me at all. That said, it is true that both Hasain and Nawaz have, in general, sidestepped the key issue of Western meddling in the region. Not so incidentally, young Husain supported the Iraq invasion back in 2003.

Quilliam has recently shut down much of its operation; nobody was buying what they had to sell. At some point, Husain segued into -- wait for it -- the Council on Foreign Relations, the same body that published that uncanny prediction by Elliot Abrams. Not bad for a youngster with a thin CV. Although I'm not one of those right-wing conspiracy cranks who see the CFR as Evil Central, it is hardly controversial to claim that this group has some highly influential members. You know -- guys like Abrams.

What, then, of Wael Ghonim, the object of Husain's affections? His history is a bit mysterious. This Kos poster has made a valiant effort to track the man's internet trail in the days before the Egyptian uprising. There's not much to go on, frankly.
Wael Ghonim went to Cairo University from Sept. 1998 to June 2004 and graduated with a BS in Computer Science. Then he spent two years at the American University in Cairo to get an MBA. He worked while going to school in marketing at from Aug 2002 til Aug 2005. He started his present job with Google in November 2008.
Gawab, based in Egypt, is a free email service that has become very popular in the Middle East. One doesn't need much imagination to guess why foreign agencies (CIA, Mossad, whatever) might want to get a man inside that organization. Similarly, the American University in Cairo is where many Americans in government service go for quick immersion courses in Arabic, and we may posit with confidence that a lot of those students are CIA, FBI and NSA. Ghonim's current gig -- Google marketing exec for the Middle East and North Africa -- would make him an excellent choice for recruitment. Keep in mind that this young "hero" seems to have had no moral qualms about operating out of Dubai, where conditions are even more ghastly than in Egypt. (Slaves built the Burj.)

None of the above comes anywhere close to proving that Ghonim has ties to intelligence or the American government. Yes, he's the kind of fellow that American operatives traditionally try to recruit -- but that does not mean he was recruited.

Various websites have printed pieces arguing that western powers secretly engineered the Egyptian uprising. Until today, the authors offering that scenario struck me as cranks or Mubarak apologists. But now, a genuinely interesting piece demands our attention.

The author, F. William Engdahl of Global Research, writes to a high standard. His reasoning is both cautious and scholarly, and he does not display any hint of a mondo-weirdo reactionary agenda.
To say relations between Obama and Mubarak were ice cold from the outset would be no exaggeration. Mubarak was staunchly opposed to Obama policies on Iran and how to deal with its nuclear program, on Obama policies towards the Persian Gulf states, to Syria and to Lebanon as well as to the Palestinians.[1] He was a formidable thorn in the larger Washington agenda for the entire region, Washington’s Greater Middle East Project, more recently redubbed the milder-sounding "New Middle East."

As real as the factors are that are driving millions into the streets across North Africa and the Middle East, what cannot be ignored is the fact that Washington is deciding the timing and as they see it, trying to shape the ultimate outcome of comprehensive regime change destabilizations across the Islamic world. The day of the remarkably well-coordinated popular demonstrations demanding Mubarak step down, key members of the Egyptian military command including Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Sami Hafez Enan were all in Washington as guests of the Pentagon. That conveniently neutralized the decisive force of the Army to stop the anti-Mubarak protests from growing in the critical early days.
Am I convinced? No. But Engdahl forced me to re-think this thing.

What conclusions can we reach? These three:

1. In the end, Mubarak is a despot and must go. Rebellion -- whether sanctioned or opposed by Western powers -- was the only way to stop him from establishing a dynasty.

2. The Obama administration has sent out very mixed signals about so basic an issue as whether Mubarak should stay or go. The O-Team has not had its act together. This disunified reaction indicates a split opinion within the administration.

3. Obama's right-wing opponents also lack unity. They can't decide whether to hail the Egyptian rebellion as a triumph for the Dubya doctrine or to condemn the revolt as another dastardly Obama plot. Although Elliot Abrams and his CFR confreres seemed to know ahead of time about the rebellion, many conservatives -- and many Israelis -- seem appalled by the uprising. In short: The right also does not have its act together.

I don't think that Ghonim will be Egypt's next leader. He's too young. Of course, Mubarak and Sadat were both young men when they first got the CIA tap on the shoulders.

Perhaps Ghonim has been tapped to head up the next uprising. You know -- just in case the present one comes to an unhappy conclusion.


Mr. Mik said...

Mixed signals?
SOP for Obama.
Remember the run up to Health Care Reform?

Erick L. said...

Thanks for the Engdahl link. I'm not sure which parts of it I agree with or disagree with, but it's one of the few things I've read this past week that hasn't been just rush to an assumed immediate thrilling fall-of-the-Berlin-Wall climax. Even if he's a despot and a dictator and a pharaoh and a patriot, I don't think that Mubarak is reponsible for things like global grain prices. So making him a quick scapegoat for Egypt's food and economic crisis won't do too much to actually fix those global-ish problems.

It will be ironic if Mubarak managed to survive several physical assassination attempts over the past 20 years only to see his career ended by a well coordinated high-tech character assassination effort.

Joseph Cannon said...

Erick, one of the lessons of recent times -- a lesson that has been pretty hard for me to wrap my head around, frankly -- is that even one's enemies may have enemies who are not always your friends.