Who do Egyptians trust to bring them democracy?

Not the West, says Robert Fisk.

The Palestinians would certainly agree:

AMY GOODMAN: Well, what about the U.S. relationship with the military? I was talking to someone in a government agency in Washington, and they were deeply concerned, saying, “How do we counter the image that we’ve actually been supporting this despot for 30 years?” And someone else replied, “We can’t, because we have been supporting him.”

ROBERT FISK: Yeah, and I think, in a way, you see, what happens is it becomes a sort of osmotic relationship. First of all, the Egyptians are wooed from the Soviet side under Sadat, who basically left the Soviet Union to the American side. Then the Americans arm them, feed them, clothe them, uniform them, after which, however independent they want to be, in order to feed, they’ve got to go to Washington.

It was interesting that when Tantawi, the commander-in-chief of the army, was coping with this crisis here, the Pentagon snapped its fingers, and he flew straight away to Washington for the serious consultations at the Pentagon—in other words, to get his instructions. I mean, he wouldn’t say that. It’ll be “advise,” “Where are things going, General? You know, fill this out here. Give us a briefing,” etc. But at the end of the day, he’d be left in no doubt that if he wanted to get more Abrams tanks and extra missiles, he’s got to do what America wants, which primarily now is get rid of Mubarak, but don’t make it look as if it’s our fault.

One of the interesting things is that the one group of people you do not see on the streets of Cairo are American diplomats. Presumably they get their information from Egyptians who come and tell them what’s going on.

I mean, another example is when the first M1 Abrams tanks came into the square on the Friday. I’m talking about when they were ordered to attack the crowds. I noticed that the coding on the front of the vehicle—it had Egyptian codings for the brigades and parachute units on the side, in Arabic and Arabic numerals. But on the front of the vehicle was a coding, which began MFR and then a series of numbers of each vehicle. And I actually took it down, and a parachute officer started shouting at me and told two soldiers to arrest me. And I actually ran away into the crowd to get away from them. And they chased me and then stopped, and obviously, confronted by about 10,000 demonstrators, decided better of it. And it seems that MFR stands for Mobile Force Reserve. And these are American-owned vehicles. These are American tactical deployment matériel, which is stored in Egypt, as it is also stored of course in Kuwait and now in Iraq for use in emergencies in the Gulf. Now, these vehicles, these tanks, which were threatening at that point the demonstrators, appear to have been vehicles that actually belong to the American military, not to the Egyptian military, but which were obviously used by the Egyptians in this instance. The Egyptians do make the Abrams tank and also have some of their own, but these vehicles appear to be vehicles that effectively belong to you or the Pentagon or whatever. The question is, did the Americans know they were being taken? Did they give permission for this?

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