‘Rumors of my death are greatly exaggerated,’ Mark Twain said, and of no one is that more true than of Hosni Mubarak. From a ‘clinically dead’ diagnosis on Tuesday, he seems to have made a miraculous recovery in the Maadi military hospital.
Ironically, it was the looming prospect of his death that provided the underlying catalyst of the Revolution of January 25th, and the reason it initially succeeded. Egyptians were, by and large, prepared to wait for the perennially imminent eventuality of Mubarak’s death of natural causes; it was the prospect of inheriting his son Gamal as his successor, and a perpetuation of Mubarak rule for another thirty years, that finally proved intolerable to the people of
Most crucially, it proved inacceptable to the Generals. Gamal Mubarak and his elite coterie of civilian businessmen threatened the deeply entrenched powers, privileges, and economic interests of the Armed Forces, which controlled some forty percent of the economy of the country. Initially, when the revolution erupted, the military stood on the side lines, but in the end the Generals confronted Mubarak with an ultimatum: leave or be deposed. Had the military chosen to intervene against the demonstrators, the course of the revolution would have been very different.
The passing away of Hosni Mubarak just after the Generals staged a bloodless coup d’état would have been a curiously tactful bit of timing on his part, taking the potentially explosive issue of his controversial sentence off the table. Before the revolution, the hoariest joke about Mubarak went this way: Mubarak is on his death bed, and the people come to pay their last respects. His Generals come to him and say: “Mr. President, the people have come to say goodbye.” Mubarak replies: “Why, where are the people going?”
Apparently, it is not yet time for Mubarak to go. Except, perhaps, abroad for ‘treatment’ somewhere where he can live out his life in luxurious exile; this is the cynical rumor that is currently circulating in
Egypt. For most of the eighteen
days of the Egyptian revolution of January 2011, all the people in Tahrir asked
of the Mubaraks was for them to go. “Leave, leave,” they chanted. The Mubaraks chose to stay, perhaps believing in a come-back. Today, given the mood of the country, after
disillusionment and counter-revolution, violence and contested elections, exile may be more than Mubarak can hope to be granted.