Mubarak and the Ghost of Pinochet

Today’s news stories regarding the detention of former Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak should remind readers of a similar event that transpired over a decade ago with regard to another former repressive leader. Then as now, the individual in question had ruled a nation for several decades, had a military background, and ruled with the full support of his nation’s military establishment, and importantly, with the full support and backing of the CIA. Then, as now the individual in question rose to power following an assassination and ruled with absolute power, imposing harsh penalties on his political opponents and being viewed with disdain by many in the international community, despite their having to do business with him due to the natural resources available in his country.

Both leaders would fall from power and be faced with the prospect of inquiries into their term in office. Then, as now, however, such inquiries are unlikely to materialise due to their past connections with the CIA, which will not permit such dealings to face the light of day.

The other leader I am referring, to is General Augusto Pinochet of Chile, whose term in office and fall from grace mirrors that of Hosni Mubarak. So to, it seems, do both leaders apparent collapse in health in the face of judicial investigation (dementia in the case of Pinochet, heart attacks in the case of Mubarak).

With the involvement of the CIA in Chile and Egypt, a pragmatic, realist interpretation suggests that as with Pinochet, Mubarak will never be allowed to see the inside of an Egyptian court for fear of what may be revealed. In the case of Pinochet fears focused on the assassination of Rene Schneider by the forces of the United Sates and CIA support for Pinochet as a bastion of anti-Communism in South American during the Cold War. In Egypt, the fear revolved around support for Mubarak’s regime, its handing of dissidents, allegations of torture and the Egyptian role in the Rendition policies of recent years.

Now, as in the case of Pinochet, it is almost certain that a former client of the CIA will escape ‘justice’ at the hands of his countrymen, predicated on ill-health, and be able to live out the short time he has left in relative isolation. The degree to which this is any sort of justice, I leave to you to decide.

Time to Walk, Like an Egyptian Hosni

To quote the great Scottish International Relations philosopher, Rod Stewart, it would appear that ‘tonight’s the night’ in Cairo. All reports coming out of the Egyptian capital seem to point to an imminent departure from power by President Hosni Mubarak after some 30 years in charge. 

For more than a generation he has been the strong man in the region, ensuring that Egypt holds a pro-western stance in relation to Israel and as a result has ensured that Egypt has continued to receive billions of dollars in aid and in arms from the United States following the Camp David Accords. Regardless of political affiliation, the White House has been a constant ally to Mubarak and as such, U.S. foreign policy in the region is at a potential turning point.  Speaking in Michigan this evening, President Obama was careful to reference the movement for democratic change, whilst moving on quickly to other domestic policies. Behind he scenes, however, the president continues to be kept up to date by his experts at the CIA and the National Security Council.

As the world prepares for a post-Mubarak Egypt, the White House is playing a very careful game; not wishing to be seen to be interfering, but doubtless working furiously behind the scenes with the Egyptian military and intelligence services to ensure a peaceful transfer of power. The question is, to what? Is a military coup underway as some suggest? The irony in such a thought is that Egyptian leaders have traditionally come from the military, so a military coup appears to be  something of a contradiction!

What appears clear is that at 20:00 GMT, Hosni Mubarak will face the world and make an announcement of profound importance. If he announces his departure, a new era can begin. If he delays the inevitable, the possibilities appear to be endless. What is certain is that the risk of violence and potential deadly uprisings will increase the longer Mubarak clings to power and the longer the people continue to clamour for reform. Tonight we will find out if he departs in the manner of Ceauşescu or Gorbachev. The Mubarak regime is over. The only question that remains is over the timing of its demise.