It is with a mixture of pride, envy and frustration that I have been observing the tumultuous events sweeping across the Arab world for the past five weeks.
There are no words in English or Arabic that could convey my deep, heartfelt admiration for my brothers and sisters in North Africa who have risked, and are risking, life and limb to cleanse our countries from the litter of the dictators and their cronies whose stench has been suffocating us for decades. What I thought would never happen in my lifetime is suddenly unfolding right before my eyes with breathtaking speed.
First in Tunisia and now in Egypt, the people have and are delivering their verdicts on years of dictatorship, corruption, cronyism and treason. And in Yemen, Jordon, Libya, Qatar and Kuwait the dominos are beginning to shake. The barrier of fear has been breached and there is no turning back, no escape for the scoundrels and traitors who have blighted our landscape for so long.
But my pride is also mixed with envy and frustration: envy of those who are making history, those who are accomplishing with their blood what we, the generation before them, have miserably failed to do, and frustration that I am not – indeed, cannot – be there on the frontline with them.
As I write, the battle for freedom in Egypt is unfolding and no one knows which way it will go. However, I am apprehensive at a couple of things.
First, the revolutionaries in Egypt must not lose the momentum. Staging a prolonged sit-in in Tahrir (Liberation) Square in central Cairo will not remove the senile Pharoah, Hosni Mubarak. It will simply buy him time to organize himself and mount a risposte. We've already seen the first signs of this yesterday and overnight, when paid thugs attacked the pro-democracy protesters with rocks, clubs, Molotov cocktails as well as guns. As in a military operation, surprise, speed and momentum are paramount. To succeed, the protesters must now march in great numbers on the presidential palace and the regime's propaganda sewer, state radio and television. This will demand the ultimate sacrifice, but freedom is priceless. It has never come cheap.
The second thing that's worrying me is the rather naive presumption on the part of many of the revolutionaries that the army is on their side. Let's be clear: the army is NOT on their side. It is part and parcel of the regime and, even when Mubarak is finally trashed, it will work towards preserving as much of his system as possible.
Furthermore, the army is fully funded by the United States, taking all but a fraction of the 1.5 billion dollars which the US gives Egypt in aid annually. At the very least, in order to guarantee the continuation of American largesse after Mubarak, the army will seek to preserve Egypt's vassal status vis-a-vis the US and Israel after the senile Pharoah is finally confined to the dustbin of history.
Emotions aside, there is no reason why Egyptians ‑ and I speak as an Egyptian ‑ should be proud of their army. They should not forget that the army delivered a national disgrace in 1967, from which we are all suffering to this day, and followed this up by delivering another disgrace in 1973, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
Please don't let the Egyptian army defeat Egypt a third time.