by Rick Moran
Soldiers are chasing civilians and beating them when they catch up with them. This is not an effort to keep order, it is message sending by the military government.
Egypt's military rulers escalated a bloody crackdown on street protesters on Saturday, chasing down and beating unarmed civilians, even while the prime minister was denying in a televised news conference that security forces were using any force. In one of the most incendiary developments, video cameras captured soldiers stripping the clothes off women they were beating on the pavement of Tahrir Square.
The contradiction in the military-led government's statements and actions appeared to represent a shift in strategy by the military council. After trying for months to preserve some credibility and collaboration with the Egyptian political elite, the ruling generals on Saturday scarcely acknowledged the demands made by their newly appointed civilian advisory council the night before that the military cease its violence and apologize to demonstrators.
Instead, as the crackdown entered its second day, the military council appeared to be playing to those Egyptians impatient with the continuing protests and eager for a return to stability. Crowds of supporters turned out downtown on Saturday morning to cheer on the military police, hand them drinks of water and help them close off Tahrir Square from demonstrators massing to get in.
With the economy close to collapse and shop shelves virtually empty, it's no wonder that ordinary people in Egypt prefer stability to political change. And this crackdown raises questions about the military's intent next year when they are scheduled to hand over power to the Muslim Brotherhood. The military is not enamored of the idea of handing power over to the Islamists. And they certainly aren't enthusiastic about giving power to anyone who won't guarantee the military's continued independence.
The government is losing patience with the protestors. And with the Muslim Brotherhood maintaining a silence about the crackdown, it appears that the military will have won this round.Rick Moran
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