First, this from when the protests first broke out in Egypt:
Asked if he would characterize Mubarak as a dictator Biden responded: “Mubarak has been an ally of ours in a number of things. And he’s been very responsible on, relative to geopolitical interest in the region, the Middle East peace efforts; the actions Egypt has taken relative to normalizing relationship with – with Israel. … I would not refer to him as a dictator.”Today:
The Obama administration was continuing its efforts to influence a transition. Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. called Mr. Suleiman on Tuesday to ask him to lift the 30-year emergency law that the government has used to suppress and imprison opposition leaders, to stop imprisoning protesters and journalists, and to invite demonstrators to help develop a specific timetable for opening up the political process. He also asked Mr. Suleiman to open talks on Egypt’s political future to a wider range of opposition members.Hmmm. So first he staunchly refuses to recognize Mubarak as a dictator (for reasons that are instructive). Then, in the face of unremitting struggle from below, he is forced to eat his words and "call on Mr. Suleiman", i.e. Torturer-in-Chief, "to ask him to lift the 30-year emergency law that the government has used to suppress and imprison opposition leaders, to stop imprisoning protesters and journalists, and to invite demonstrators to help develop a specific timetable for opening up the political process". But none of that should be necessary if, as Biden so vehemently maintained a few weeks ago, Mubarak really was not a dictator presiding over an authoritarian regime.
Now, we should be clear that this is basically just a rhetorical about face. I don't think the underlying objectives of Washington have changed one bit. But it's important to note how mass struggle and pressure from social movements can force elites to change, revise and adapt their legitimating narratives. And even more important is the obvious fact that the protesters aren't susceptible to such rhetorical flourishes or subtle revisions in the old legitimating stories. They're fed up with this brand of filth, and they don't want a new narrative from the old leaders. They want the old leaders to be history.
I'm watching very closely the emergence of mass strikes and the direct interventions by the working class in recent days. Washington has recently moved aircraft carriers to Suez ostensibly to "enable the evacuation of US citizens" from the area, but the more likely story is that they're trying to make sure that the canal, which facilitates close to 8% of worldwide trade, remains open.