Egypt: Bits from Behind the Scenes

Two little bits (rumors?) from behind the scenes during Egypt's uprising.

Robert Fisk reported that on January 30th Mubarak ordered the military to attack the demonstrators in Tahrir Square, but the officers refused:

Last night, a military officer guarding the tens of thousands celebrating in Cairo threw down his rifle and joined the demonstrators, yet another sign of the ordinary Egyptian soldier's growing sympathy for the democracy demonstrators. We had witnessed many similar sentiments from the army over the past two weeks. But the critical moment came on the evening of 30 January when, it is now clear, Mubarak ordered the Egyptian Third Army to crush the demonstrators in Tahrir Square with their tanks after flying F-16 fighter bombers at low level over the protesters.

Many of the senior tank commanders could be seen tearing off their headsets – over which they had received the fatal orders – to use their mobile phones. They were, it now transpires, calling their own military families for advice. Fathers who had spent their lives serving the Egyptian army told their sons to disobey, that they must never kill their own people.

Thus when General Hassan al-Rawani told the massive crowds yesterday evening that "everything you want will be realised – all your demands will be met", the people cried back: "The army and the people stand together – the army and the people are united. The army and the people belong to one hand."

While Paul Amar wrote that during the February 4th attacks on democracy demonstrators by pro-Mubarak supporters (likely paid thugs, police in plain clothes, government employees and even convicts freed on the condition that they attack the demonstrators), were not widely prevented by the military because they did not have ammunition:

The army’s role in countering Suleiman’s lust for repression was crucial to saving the momentum of this uprising. On 4 February, the day of the most terrifying police/thug brutality in Tahrir Square, many commentators noted that the military were trying to stop the thug attacks but were not being very forceful or aggressive. Was this a sign that the military really wanted the protesters to be crushed? Since then, we have learned that the military in the square were not provisioned with bullets. The military were trying as best they could to battle the police/thugs, but Suleiman had taken away their bullets for fear the military would side with the protesters and use the ammunition to overthrow him.

That the military was unwilling to attack the demonstrators on January 30th, certainly lends support to the notion that their ammunition was take away from them before February 4th, and highlights the usefulness of nonviolent tactics in undermining the support given to the regime by the military and other groups in and outside of a government.

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