Clueless in Cairo

By NICHOLAS KRISTOF*
(Wartawan New York Times)
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So President Hosni Mubarak has announced that he won’t run for office again in the September elections. That would have been a historic decision if he had made it two weeks ago, and it might have avoided the present mess. But today, it’s too little, too late. And if the White House has devoted its political capital to getting Mubarak to agree to such a half-measure, then I fear that there’s a measure of cluelessness on both sides.

Now it’s true Mubarak did talk about moving up elections. If he had announced a specific date, that might have helped. But there is no trust for Mubarak, and a vague promise to step down at the end of his term, or possibly after early elections — will not placate the public. Moreover, there was a pugnaciousness to his speech that may inflame many people. He said that protesters had been exploited by those who sought to loot and disrupt Egypt, and he said that some factions were refusing his offer of dialogue. He pledged that he would die in Egypt, rather than seek exile.

I’m afraid that too many Egyptian and American officials have been spending their time talking to each other, and not enough time talking to grassroots Egyptians in Tahrir Square and elsewhere. Everybody I’ve interviewed in Tahrir has said that as a starting point, Mubarak has to resign. Now! People aren’t going to be placated by him saying that he won’t run again – especially since it was never clear that he planned to do so anyway.

Fundamentally, what Egyptians want is not just a change in the individual at the top – although they want that – but also a change in the system. They want a democracy. They want a voice. They want an end to corruption. And now that they’ve found their voices, I don’t think they’re going to be easily silenced.

I’m also struck that the anger at Mubarak is growing. At first, the demands were simply that he leave office. But today on Tahrir, I heard people say and saw signs saying that he should be exiled, put on trial, or even executed. One dramatic sign showed Mubarak in a hangman’s noose.

The point is that there is zero confidence in Mubarak. So the idea that Egyptians would trust him to rule for months more, and possibly engineer a succession to a Mubarak clone, is preposterous.

I also fear that this choreography – sending former diplomat Frank Wisner (whom I admire) to get Mubarak to say he won’t run for reelection — will further harm America’s image. This will come across in Egypt as collusion between Obama and Mubarak to distract the public with a half step; it will be interpreted as dissing the democracy movement once again. This will feed the narrative that it’s the United States that calls the shots in the Mubarak regime, and that it’s the United States that is trying to outmaneuver the democracy movement. In effect, we have confirmed to a suspicious Egyptian public that we are in bed with Mubarak and trying to perpetuate his regime (even without him at the top) in defiance of a popular democratic movement.

I’m sure that the National Security Council and intelligence agencies are worried about the Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwanul Muslimin-ed) filling a vacuum and taking power. But we bolster the Muslim Brotherhood when we allow it to have firmer democratic credentials than the United States; when we’re perceived as stymieing the democracy movement.

On Tahrir Square today, I met a dentist, Wael Hassan, who said that President Obama is refusing to declare himself, while quietly supporting Mubarak – a very widespread view on the Square. “They are asking Mubarak to ‘reform,’” he said. “It’s like they’re playing chess. But we don’t want games any more.”

So in Washington and Cairo, I’d say: back to the drawing board. Events here in Cairo are incredibly hard to predict, but I don’t think this will be enough.

*Salahsatu wartawan barat yg meliput DEMO MESIR adl NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
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*sumber: http://kristof.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/01/clueless-in-cairo/
*posted by: pkspiyungan.blogspot.com