Nighttime in Egypt and everyone is wondering what comes next. The people are still out in Tahrir Square in Cairo but Mubarak still sits … well, somewhere hidden away trying to figure out his next move. Obama and Clinton and the rest of the Washington crew must be trying to figure out the same.

Watching sources like CNN, you see some clarity, mostly from reporters on the ground, and unimaginable idiocy of which, for me, the best example was hearing Don Lemon of CNN say, over scenes of a Cairo neighborhood, that you see “young men carrying sticks and Samurai Swords.” That’s a sadly perfect example of how little we understand about Egypt and the Middle East.

And of course, the continuing reports of looting and similar chaos help build a case for an imposed “solution” – whether it’s Mubarak slaughtering the people or some US backed “compromise” rather than a government chosen by the people.

As we discussed earlier, those “thugs” are reported by quite reliable Egyptian sources to be Mubarak paid thugs:

Thugs looting residential neighborhoods and intimidating civilians are government-hires, say eyewitnesses.

In Nasr City, an Eastern Cairo neighborhood, residents attempting to restore security told Al-Masry Al-Youm that looters were caught yesterday.

“They were sent by the government. The government got them out of prison and told them to rob us,” says Nameer Nashaat, a resident working alongside other youths to preserve order in the district. “When we caught them, they said that the Ministry of Interior has sent them.”

In Masr al-Qadeema, another district, scrap metal dealer Khaled Barouma, confirmed the same account. “The government let loose convicts. They let them out of prisons. We all know them in this neighborhood,” he said, adding that the neighborhood’s youth is trying to put the place in order by patrolling its streets with batons.

“The government wants people to believe that this is an uprising of convicts, which is not the case. The government is the one that is a criminal,” Khalil Fathy, a local journalist covering the events closely, said.
… Meanwhile, protestors caught two police informants attempting to rob a bank in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria.

Ayman Nour, opposition leader and head of the Ghad Party, told Al-Masry Al-Youm that his fellow party members have caught several thugs who work for the Interior Ministry. After capturing them in downtown Cairo and Heliopolis, Nour’s followers found ministry of interior IDs on them, Nour said.

“The regime is trying to project the worst image possible to make it clear to people that they have only one of two alternatives: either the existing order or chaos,” he said.

This is the same sort of choice Mubarak has used in the past when he presented his regime as the only safe preventative to an Islamic takeover of Egypt. While fear of the Muslim Brotherhood may sell to American pundits, it’s not working on the streets of Cairo. Whether stirring up thuggery will cause the military to step in on the government’s side if the chaos increases is an open question particularly since Mubarak has picked two new figureheads with close ties to the military in Suleiman and Shifik. As I write, CNN has Wolf Blitzer interviewing the Egyptian Ambassador to the US and they are singing the praises of these appointments with Wolf reminding us that these are reliable men with good ties to the U.S and to Israel.

Today also saw major demonstrations worldwide in support of the Egyptian people. Here in Chicago, several hundred people gathered on Michigan Avenue in front of the Egyptian Consulate to voice their opposition to Mubarak and calls for Obama to cut Mubarak loose – but even stronger was the clear message of support for the people in the streets and the love of their homeland, Egypt. While I was there, amidst rousing Arabic chants, the crowd sang the Egyptian national anthem and many wept – hoping that these days are the beginning of a new future.