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Egypt Analysis: Who is Doing the Looting and Why?

More than 100 people dead, more than 1000 injured, and countless arrested. Egypt is in revolt against its ruler, and the scenes have been beautiful and ugly at the same time.

Beautiful because you can see that a population long enslaved has finally decided to take its destiny in its own hands. They do not want any pharaohs, emperors, kings or dictators. They want the right to vote and they want that vote to be counted. And yet many in the world prefer to see stability in Egypt –-- even if it comes at the expense of fairness and justice to the Egyptian people.

It is that stability that President Hosni Mubarak wants to present to the world –-- at the expense of chaos for the Egyptian people.

First, he tried to quell the protesters using riot police. When this failed, he used regular police. When that failed –-- after leaving scores dead, buildings on fire, and Egypt effectively cut off from the rest of the world –-- he tried to get the Army to do his bidding. But for better or for worse, the Army decided not to use its guns to annihilate the protesters.

Now what do you do if you are Mubarak? You cannot use your lesser forces to wipe away dissent and clear the streets. You cannot use your major force to do that either. For a man who has clung to power for three decades and who spent another decade under the shadow of his predecessor, Anwar Sadat, it isn’t hard to figure out what to do.

When the police failed to stop the protesters, they disappeared. Then, the traffic police disappeared. There’s the Army on the streets and then there’s the protesters. And now everyone’s commenting about how thugs are roaming the streets and causing mayhem. The government is beating the drum of how there is violence and that it needs to act and use the Army to remove the thugs from the streets. 

So where did these thugs come from? Are they protesters? If they’re protesters, then why didn’t they try to loot and cause mayhem before? The police were preoccupied with protesters who were trying to run over government buildings. There was ample time for looting, yet no one did it.

Some of the protesters who make it to Al Jazeera are telling a different but still scary story. They are claiming the thugs are actually policemen. AThe thugs are giving the Government an excuse to use force and to persuade the Army --- the one institution in the country that the proud Egyptians admire –-- to remove protesters from the streets.

This is why the government removed the police from the streets. Not only are some of them being used to terrorise the population, but their absence also gives the government the argument to justify deploying the army. All this gives weight to the claims by Egyptians on TV and social media that the thugs are indeed the police. And that the government is using all its resources smartly.

The world wants stability. The police/thugs are destabilizing the country. Mubarak will use the Army to bring the stability back. Of course no one would remember how he slaughtered Egyptians and quelled a popular uprising because all of that does not matter when stability is concerned. Mubarak will imprison thousands and kill hundreds. Then you can say good-bye to another revolution in Egypt.

The question that will decide the fate of this uprising is: Will the protesters buy the narrative that they need protection from the ‘thugs’ and should go home and let the army deal with them or will they will see through the lies and keep asking for Mubarak’s departure? 

But one thing's for sure. In the next few days, expect to see protesters getting arrested and then being passed off as looters and thugs. 

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