It is rare that the most important piece of equipment in your bag is the bag itself, even more rare for that bag to be a black plastic trash sack slung over your shoulder as you walk past pro-government thugs on a bridge over the River Nile. The trash bag’s purpose, of course, is to conceal your large nylon camera bag, which is likely to get you grabbed off the street by the aforementioned thugs.
This containment strategy has worked. By politically encircling the protesters, the regime prevented the conflict from extending beyond its grasp. With the protesters caught between regime-engineered violence and regime-manufactured safety, the cabinet generals remained firmly in control of the situation. The generals that now man the cabinet also sought to wage a war on the non-protesting population, and they did so without firing a single shot. As the state framed the demonstrators as troublemakers, non-protesting Egyptians experienced the uprising’s effects. Banks have been closed since January 27, ATMs have been emptied of their cash, and the prices of food and staples have slowly risen at a time when school is cancelled, offices are closed, and curfews are in effect. Similarly, the Internet and cellular networks were shut off and have been patchy at best since their return. Although some of these citizens may have sympathized with the protesters initially, their mood appears to be shifting. People are tired of being cooped up in their apartments, made anxious as their stockpiles of food and money decrease, and they are ready for a sense of “normalcy” to return. Ironically, the normalcy they pine for resembles the police state so many tried to banish just thirteen days ago. This method of wearing down the non-protesting public seems just as strategic as the violence employed on those airing their grievances in the streets.
We teach these tactics to governments. Is it any surprise that they use them?
To be clear, I don’t believe that Egyptian security forces trained at SOA; instead, we provided them with weapons and money and then asked them to torture people for us.