Mubarak dead. Revolution critical.

Hosni Mubarak was pronounced ‘clinically dead‘ ten minutes ago [see updates below] following a stroke.  Though the recent court decision that condemned him to prison and freed many others was hardly justice, it would have been more unjust if he were to have died never having been found guilty at all.  If this had happened two years ago, I would have speculated about whether the regime would unravel in his absence; now, alas, we know that the regime has shown an ability to endure without its erstwhile strongman to a degree that is truly alarming.

What a week this has been for Egypt: the country voted for its first democratically-elected president, with both men currently claiming  victory; the courts dissolved parliament; and the military launched a quasi-constitutional coup d’etat and instituted martial law.  Now Mubarak exits and Muslim Brotherhood supporters have flooded Tahrir Square in an attempt to forestall any shenanigans that might rob their man, Mohamed Morsy, of the presidency before the final vote count is released later this week.  It is going to be a long few days.

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Update: Interesting: within the hour, Egyptian security officials have come out denying these reports and stating instead that Mubarak is on life support.  Apparently, he is unconscious and on artificial respiration but Reuters quotes an anonymous security source as saying, “It is still early too say that he is clinically dead.”

Besides the natural confusion of any intensive care unit, what this says to me is that at least a few security officials are uncertain of the consequences of this news and are buying time.  I suspect there is no real chance Mubarak will survive.  The way things are going, that might be said of the revolution as well.

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Update, part two: Well, he’s not dead yet and speculation is rife that it was all a gambit to get Mubarak out of prison and into the comparative luxury of the military hospital in Maadi, where he has a suite above the one where the Shah of Iran spent his last days and can be visited by family. Mubarak’s lawyer is now saying that he didn’t have a stroke but rather fell in the prison bathroom and developed a blood clot on his neck, but is now stable and breathing on his own.
Issandr el Amrani, writing in the New York Times blog Latitude rather than his usual Arabist, uses a masterful analogy to describe what is going on now in Egypt:

In the famous thought experiment by the Austrian physicist Erwin Schrodinger, a cat that is placed in a box, alongside a radioactive element whose decay will trigger the release of a deadly poison, is said to be at once alive and dead. According to the laws of quantum physics there is an equal chance that the radioactive element will decay and that it won’t. Thus Schrodinger posited that until the box is opened and the cat’s state observed, the animal is theoretically in a state where both possibilities co-exist.

My analogy, somewhat less sober, is to the classic scene from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” in which Eric Idle in medieval garb is out collecting the dead and John Cleese tries to dispose of a man who keeps shouting plaintively, “I’m not dead yet. I’m getting better” Cleese’s reply: “No you’re not. You’ll be stone dead in a moment.”

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