I wrote yesterday that, given the situation he’s in, Obama’s utterances on Egypt have struck a predictable balance between support for reform and caution with a longtime US ally in a precarious situation. The Egyptian military remains a strong and uncertain presence on the streets, and Congress controls the foreign aid that has kept Mubarak’s regime in power. But Obama warned Mubarak not to use violence against the protesters. Today, using agents provocateurs in Cairo (some riding horses and camels, wielding batons), Mubarak has done just that. Obama’s old opponent John McCain became the first senior member of the foreign-policy apparatus to call for Mubarak’s immediate abdication. Gary Ackerman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee is ready to suspend payments to Egypt until the transition is underway. The ground is shifting in Washington, and it needs to shift faster.
Those of us in the US who stand in solidarity with the protesters in Egypt, and their stalwart demand that Mubarak step down immediately, need to make our voices heard. We should ourselves demand that the government do all it can to make Mubarak leave as soon as possible, in order to avoid any further loss of life. Mubarak seems determined to hold on to power at any cost, and the cost is already high enough.
There are solidarity protests around the country—consider joining one. Or at least sign a petition. Sojourners has started one here, asking Obama to put the pressure on Mubarak; FireDogLake has a more secular one asking Congress to withdraw military aid to Egypt. And you can even join a virtual march on Facebook.
Right now, by allowing Mubarak to remain in power, we’re caught on the wrong side of history. McCain actually said it quite nicely: “We’ve got to be on the right side of history. If you’re on the right side of history, everything will turn out OK.”