In Mubarak’s Defense

Last week I participated in a rally organized by students at ASU in solidarity with the Egyptian people. As I stood in the intersection of Mill and University, holding a sign that read, “Stop supporting dictators with my tax dollars,” and shouting, “Hey Obama, don’t you know Mubarak has got to go?” I realized how wrong I was.

I realized how I, and some 200 other participants in the rally, had unthankfully demanded Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s resignation. I thought to myself that Mubarak had done a lot for the Egyptian people and it was unethical of me to demand his speedy resignation — after all, being a dictator is no easy job.

I realized that the claim that Mubarak had done nothing good for his people was somewhat misguided. During the 30 years of nominating himself for presidency, altering election results and continuously winning the presidency, Mubarak had done a great service for Egypt.

He effectively managed to overshadow the 5,000-year-old Egyptian history of progress and ingenuity with authoritarianism, corruption and oppression. Egyptians should not overlook this progress since in that geographic region there’s stiff competition among various nations to see who plunders their history and their people best.

Iraq — once the center of scientific and literary progress — has been treated similarly by Saddam Hussein, and look how unappreciative we were in cheering his ouster.

Iran — once the center of the massive Persian Empire — was also given this alteration of history treatment by the current theocracy.

A lot of people, including myself, unthankful of the genuine hard work the Mullahs in Iran had done, wished for their disappearance and for some breathing room for the Iranian people.

I also realized that all of my friends and I who shouted, “Liberty for the Egyptian people,” didn’t know how to do basic math. Too drawn in our utopian notions of democracy, freedom of speech and assembly, we had overlooked how little the more than $1 billion in annual U.S. aid to Egypt actually is.

We didn’t comprehend the fact that this aid isn’t enough for infrastructure development and the economic prosperity of the Egyptian people. It can only be enough for construction of lavish homes for Mubarak’s family and empowerment of his tortures apparatus.

We didn’t consider the fact that in order to be an effective dictator, it is vital to live a lavish lifestyle and own a brutal apparatus.

In that blink of a moment, I wanted to connect with all Egyptians who were risking their lives in Tahrir Square, and all their supporters on Mill Avenue and elsewhere in the world, and tell them to back off Mubarak.

I wanted to tell them that we were too narrow-minded in our demands of liberty, prosperity, education, democracy and economic progress.

We were too naive in not realizing what an important calling it is to take over a nation with such rich history and ruin it by becoming a world-class dictator.

At the very least, we should have recognized that in the competitive world of one-man theocracies and dictatorships, Mubarak has always been a shining star.

Reach Sohail at sbayot@asu.edu