Msnbc Live at 6 p.m. ET, Friday, February 11th, 2011
Read the transcript from the Friday 6 p.m. hour
Guests: Richard Engel, Mike Viqueira, William Cohen, Nicholas Burns, John Abell, Nicholas Kristof, Barbara Slavin, Borzou Daragahi
CENK UYGUR, HOST: Tonight, I‘m happy to report the Egyptian people have won, the dictator, Mubarak, has lost. After 18 days in the streets, changes come for the people of Egypt.
Hosni Mubarak‘s regime tried everything to crush the uprising, from curfews to thugs on camels. But today, around 11:00 a.m. Eastern, 6:00 p.m. Cairo time, the Mubarak regime finally went down.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: President Hosni Mubarak is giving up his power. As soon as he spoke, the people started cheering, screaming. You could hear them behind me. This is the statement they have been waiting for.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: The crowd in Tahrir Square went wild, as you saw there, cheering, singing, hugging, setting off fireworks.
At the White House, President Obama watched the scenes of Cairo, along with the rest of the world. Late today, he praised the successful, peaceful revolution.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There are very few moments in our lives where we have the privilege to witness history taking place. And this is one of those moments. This is one of those times.
The people of Egypt have spoken, their voices have been heard, and Egypt will never be the same. By stepping down, President Mubarak responded to the Egyptian people‘s hunger for change.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: He is exactly right.
Now, the celebration has not died down yet. People are still in the square, celebrating right now, even though it‘s 1:00 in the morning in Cairo.
Now, tonight, we‘re going to try to explain exactly why this revolution happened, how it happened, and what will rise up now that the old regime has gone down.
Joining me now from Cairo is NBC‘s chief foreign correspondent, Richard Engel.
Richard, I want to talk to you about the people in the streets. Obviously, I have seen you throughout the day, out with the people that are incredibly happy. I want to know who they are.
Is it mainly the youth? Is it a cross-section, middle class, laborers? Who are they?
ENGEL: Right now, it is everyone who has come out into the streets.
People came out of their homes. And it‘s not just in Cairo.
I suspect tomorrow, people will be bringing in videos from little towns and villages across the country. Some people have already been posting things that they shot on Facebook from some rural communities in this country.
Today, everyone is celebrating. This movement has largely been driven by the young people. That‘s who started it. But it was joined by the Muslim Brotherhood, it was joined by and workers, factory workers. And today, all Egyptians say they‘re united in this change and celebrating together.
UYGUR: So I think a lot of people in America obviously get that they were not happy with Mubarak, to say the least. They thought he was a tyrant, they thought he was a dictator. But can you give us specifics? I mean, what happened to them personally that made them so jubilant to get rid of this regime?
ENGEL: A lot of this attention has been focused on Mubarak himself.
It wasn‘t that they hated Mubarak like the Iraqi people hated Saddam.
Iraqis were terrified of Saddam personally, and his family.
The Egyptians, particularly in the last several years, didn‘t like Mubarak, but they didn‘t like the system. Most of the cheers we‘ve been hearing for the last 18 days have been, “We want to topple the system.” And they felt that the system had become calcified, locked in place by President Mubarak‘s presence, a system of patronage and cronyism that became symbolized by Mubarak.
And they thought if Mubarak himself can go, then the system itself will collapse, a system that keeps people out of work, that doesn‘t respect their wishes, doesn‘t allow them to vote because of the emergency law. Mubarak became the rallying cry as they wanted to bring down the entire system.
UYGUR: So let‘s talk about that system for a second. Again, I want to get into specifics here.
You mentioned cronyism. Is it that people feel that they can‘t get jobs, they can‘t set up businesses without going through the Mubarak government? They can‘t earn a wage for their family?
What is it that‘s driving them, that led them to do this revolution now?
ENGEL: There was a huge bureaucracy in this country and a very entrenched political party, the National Democratic Party, Mubarak‘s party.
Now, Mubarak is so far removed from this. The average person would have absolutely no contact with the president, or even senior leadership in the party. But they would have contact with the factory manager who would have gotten that job because of his loyalty to the party, and then would have gone and used his influence to hire other friends and family members into that factory, into that state industry.
Or a newspaper, if you were a newspaper journalist, and you were out collecting your stories, you would be answerable to someone who is a party official who would effectively be unfireable, untouchable. That was the deep-seated frustrations with the system that they felt.
Why now? Tunisia happened. Inflation has been rising in this country at a rapid rate for years. They have the ability to organize and communicate online with Twitter and SMS messages, overwhelming the system.
If you were just talking on landlines, you can be followed. I remember when I lived in Egypt, I was physically followed by security agents. I had my telephone line, my landline, tapped, and I could hear the people listening to it on the other side.
But if they have millions of people sending these quick, instant messages with symbols that state security apparatus, generally older people who have been employed there for a long time, don‘t know how to read, then they are effectively untraceable.
UYGUR: So we got them because they don‘t know what “LOL” meant?
ENGEL: Part of LOL, and—I remember I was talking to a person who worked in the state security apparatus. And he told me, “Well, don‘t be too afraid of it. Yes, they‘re monitoring your phones, but there‘s so many phones that they‘re monitoring, that they can‘t possibly keep track of it all.”
So think about flooding the system with symbols, and having people who have had this job in the state security service for a decade or more. They couldn‘t keep track of this.
UYGUR: Right. Richard, real quick, last question for you.
Obviously, everybody knows Mubarak is out, but is the system out?
ENGEL: That is what remains to be seen. The military is taking over, and the military has made it clear it will fulfill the legitimate aspirations of the people.
The people want to see the parliament dissolved. They want to see a new political framework where they can form political parties. The military says it will end the emergency law as soon as this, well, now happy pandemonium in the streets is over. And if the emergency law is lifted, then people will be able to organize politically, and that could fundamentally change the system.
UYGUR: Richard Engel in Cairo.
Thank you so much for your appearance tonight. Really appreciate it.
All right. Now joining me is former secretary of defense under President Clinton, William Cohen. He‘s the chairman and CEO of The Cohen Group, a global consulting firm.
Secretary Cohen, how much did the administration have a hand in this final decision of Mubarak to leave?
WILLIAM COHEN, FMR. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: It‘s hard to say. Obviously, there are lots of communications taking place between the military, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Secretary Gates, the national security adviser, lots of individuals who are maintaining contact with their counterparts in Egypt. So hard to say exactly what that influence was.
It was very clear from President Obama that he wanted to see an orderly transition in a very short period of time. On the other hand, he wanted to be careful that if this thing went violent—and it could have done so last night—he didn‘t want to be accused of interfering and producing a chaotic and very destructive result. So I think he handled it just about right in terms of having a pretty steady hand on how we should calibrate our involvement, making sure that this is really the Egyptian people who were speaking and protesting, and without the U.S. intervening in a way that was adverse to their interests.
UYGUR: You were the defense secretary, so you know what levers of power we have with a government like Egypt. What could they have used to pressure Mubarak?
COHEN: Well, obviously, our economic assistance, our military assistance could be used. There were some rumors to the effect that there were others in the region who might replace that economic and military assistance if we withdrew it. But I think we had to be careful.
You can‘t make a threat like that unless you‘re prepared to actually exercise it. And then once you exercise it, you lose all influence. So I think, again, the administration, there was some hesitancy on the part of some. But I think overall, President Obama deserves a lot of credit for handling it pretty steadily.
UYGUR: And Secretary Cohen, you see, President Obama, like you said, was walking that diplomatic fine line, and he kept going back and forth between an orderly transition and a little bit more urgency. Let‘s put it that way. But it seemed that he made a turn last night. He came out with what seemed to be a very stern message for Mubarak.
What is your sense of what he might have said behind the scenes to get Mubarak to finally go, when even yesterday he resisted? Is there a sense of what broke the back there?
COHEN: I‘m not sure any communication took place between President Obama last night and President Mubarak. I think the secretary of defense, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, I think that the entire apparatus communicated to the Egyptians that this was not an acceptable outcome, that we were really—or they were facing a situation where the crowd could turn very aggressive, the military could then have taken counter-aggressive action. It could have turned into a major disaster.
I think that was the fear on the part of President Obama. And I think his message was tailored to say precisely that.
He had a sense of urgency in his voice and a message. And I think that was communicated, obviously, to those in charge. The military persuading President Mubarak, or President Mubarak coming to the conclusion himself that his speech was not going to be sufficient to hold the tide of change coming.
UYGUR: It was interesting though that when President Obama became very clear—and he was definitely very clear last night—we did have the result today. We don‘t know if it‘s as a result of that, but it seems like perhaps it was a factor.
But I do want to go to the other governments in the region. How do the heads of those other governments react to this?
COHEN: Well, it depends which countries we‘re talking about. Each country is somewhat different.
In Saudi Arabia, for example, you have a king who has been in the forefront of trying to really introduce modern changes in his country. He‘s expending large sums of money in order to modernize Saudi Arabia. They don‘t have the same kind of discontent in that country that you would see in Egypt by virtue of the high unemployment, the kind of oppression that‘s taken place.
On the other hand, anyone in the region has to be concerned that this now—this information age that we‘re living in can spread so quickly could, in fact, produce similar outcomes. So I think everybody is on the alert.
They‘ve got to make changes. They‘ve got to open up their society. They‘ve got to give more political opportunity to people who now understand that freedom is something that‘s universal and not simply for those in the West. It‘s a universal cry for freedom, and I think everyone has to be concerned and taken into account.
If you go to UAE, a very progressive country in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, other areas, they‘re looking—they‘re employing people, they‘re building things. They have a culture which is really very much on the rise, and trying to reconcile the Arab culture and its history with modernity.
So it depends upon where they are at this point, but I think everyone is nervous, especially the Israelis. And the Israelis are looking around and saying they hope that the new Egypt will be a democratic Egypt that lives in peace with them. Otherwise, it‘s a potential for great conflict again, and no one wants that. No one should want that.
UYGUR: Right. No question, exciting times. Jordan, of course, the king of Jordan, wound up firing his government. And then, in Yemen, we had a dictator saying basically, I will step down in a coup of years.
And now possibly protests in Algeria, Libya, et cetera, so --
COHEN: Iran would be a great case for the people there to say look what happened in Egypt, we need the same thing. And so the Iranian dictators as such should be very, very concerned about this.
UYGUR: Let me follow up on that, because I know that we had a former CIA director come out and say, hey, you know, I think we‘re busy getting the infrastructure over to Iran to help people who might want to organize.
Is that true? Do we have programs where, you know, we help, for example, the Iranians be able to get on Facebook, stay on Facebook, Twitter, et cetera? Is that underfoot?
COHEN: I suspect that there are efforts under way to help the Iranians, the Iranian people, to rise up against what is clearly a dictatorial regime. They have snatched the elections away from the Iranian people.
We have in the past been very tentative about this. We have to be fair now.
We‘ve been very tentative because it was so clear—so easy for those in charge, Ahmadinejad and others who are in charge, to label this a U.S. effort to destabilize Iran. Now I think the Iranian people can see, this is not something generated by the United States. This came from within Egypt and the people of Egypt wanting freedom.
And the same cry for freedom can be heard now in Iran without it being labeled an American conspiracy to cut down the Iranian people. So I think they have to be concerned.
UYGUR: That‘s certainly true, but ideologically speaking, what‘s the difference between the dictators in Iran and the dictators in Saudi Arabia?
COHEN: Well, you have a different situation. You have a history of monarchy in Saudi Arabia. You have a king who is, while aging, nonetheless, is very modern in terms of what his views are about building universities, educating the population, really giving more and more freedom, understanding that the culture that has been in the past cannot persist in the future. So he‘s trying to reconcile that in an orderly fashion.
And this, I think, is something you have to keep in mind. The people of Egypt now are jubilant, and they have every right to be. The tough part is coming. And that is, how do you build these institutions? How do you set up a separate independent judiciary, election commission, form political parties, make sure that the foundations for democracy are really set in concrete so that you can have a real functioning democracy and not simply a one man, one vote, one time.
And that‘s what you had in Iran, and you‘ve had that now with the elections in Gaza with Hamas. That‘s something that has to be avoided, and I think the Egyptian people are willing to take that challenge on.
UYGUR: All right. Former defense secretary William Cohen, thank you so much.
COHEN: Great to be with you.
UYGUR: And great to have you here.
I should just note that Saudi Arabia is also not very modern in a lot of ways.
So, now, it‘s a great day to celebrate in Egypt, but much remains uncertain in that country and in the Middle East. Former ambassador Nicholas Burns is next.
That, and call to social revolution, how Facebook and social networking sparked this uprising.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Today belongs to the people of the Egypt. “Tahrir” means “liberation.” It is a word that speaks to that something in our souls that cries out for freedom. And forevermore, it will remind us of the Egyptian people and what they did, of the things that they stood for, and how they changed their country and, in doing so, changed the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Joining me now from the White House is NBC‘s Mike Viqueira.
Mike, obviously the president being very clear there. He was also very clear last night and seemed to have a stern message for Mubarak, saying, hey, listen, I didn‘t stutter, you need to go now, is what I got out of that message.
So are they satisfied today with what transpired?
MIKE VIQUEIRA, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: I would say so, very much so. You know, it was an incredibly frustrating experience, from what we can gather, in the West Wing last night, when, like much of the world, they anticipated that President Mubarak, when he made that late-night appearance on Egyptian television, was in fact going to step aside.
The president—it was still afternoon here—returning from a domestic trip to Michigan. He came right off Marine One on the south lawn of the White House here, marched right into the Oval Office, and had a meeting with his national security team. Shortly thereafter, that statement that you referred to came out.
The president seeking clarification—hey, just exactly what does that mean? How is this transition going to go, President Mubarak?
But to the end, it should be noted that the president—from the president on down, White House officials, State Department officials never overtly and publicly called for Mubarak to step down. To the end, they were sort of hedging, walking that tight diplomatic line, the diplomatic language, the shadow boxing, those oblique references. It was fairly clear probably to Mubarak himself what the desires of the American administration were going to be.
One of the lessons, I guess, Cenk, you could say coming out of all of this are two adages are proven. Information is power, and information wants to be free.
I know you were talking about Facebook and Twitter and the rote that they played. And as if to point that out, I mean, to a large extent, as the secretary of state herself put it last weekend, “The United States is on the outside looking in.”
This was being driven by the people in that square. And you have to ask yourself, if they had left that square some days ago, what would be the position of the United States? Still pushing for the transition, but Mubarak would likely still be in place.
And so the White House obviously very jubilant at the events that went on today, especially given the frustration over the last 24 hours. You heard the president have soaring rhetoric as befitted an historic occasion, the jubilation that we saw there. He compared it himself to the fall of the Berlin Wall, to Gandhi, to insurrections and revolutions in Indonesia.
And then he also lauded the Egyptian military, very key comments there. Again, Cenk, talking about their vital role in the transition to come.
And that is another concern of U.S. policymakers. After 30 years of suppression and repression, there is no real viable opposition in Egypt. So the military is going to have to keep order and keep the pace, and keep moving towards those free and fair elections that the president and others have talked about.
And one last note. You have already heard the vice president and Robert Gibbs behind me earlier today at the podium talking about Iran. Some very sharp words, not really mincing words about Iran.
The vice president saying, “I say to my Iranian friends, let your people march, let your people speak, release you‘re people from jail, let them have a voice,” seeking to capitalize on the momentum and the historic nature of the events that we‘ve seen transpire in Egypt today—Cenk.
UYGUR: Mike, you made one of the best points I‘ve seen on television, because if those protesters had gone home, we would not have had those statements from the White House. I think that is absolutely critical.
Just one quick question for you. Was there a sense when there was a breaking point at the White House? Because you‘re right, there was a lot of back and forth. Was there a point where they said that‘s it, we can‘t stand behind Mubarak anymore, and we think the people have won?
VIQUEIRA: Well, you know, I think that point came earlier last week, or earlier this week. I‘ve sort of lost track of time during the course of this crisis, things have unfolded so quickly, which points up another fact.
The administration has struggled to sort of catch up with these unfolding events. It was two weeks ago today that Vice President Biden gave an interview on PBS where he said Mubarak was not a dictator and it was not time for him to go.
Gradually, recalibrating that, getting tougher and tougher with each successive statement over the course of the last 18 days, until it was very clear, if you read between the lines—again, they never publicly called for Mubarak to go, but it was very clear that was their preferred option. But to the extent that they had an option, to the extent that they had influence, to the extent that they could call the shots, the military-to-military contacts between the American military, the Pentagon and Egyptian military remain very strong. And as Secretary Cohen pointed out, that probably played a key role.
UYGUR: Mike, thank you so much. We appreciate it.
UYGUR: White House correspondent for us, of course.
Now joining me is former ambassador Nicholas Burns, veteran U.S. diplomat and professor at Harvard‘s Kennedy School of Government.
Ambassador Burns, obvious segue here to, how did the Obama administration do diplomatically? Did they strike just the right tone? Were they a little late to the party? Or, in the end, were they critical in toppling Mubarak?
NICHOLAS BURNS, FMR. AMBASSADOR: Oh, I think the strategy of the Obama administration was vindicated today by this result.
I mean, President Obama from the start had to do two things well. And I think he did them well.
First, he had to identify with the people protesting peacefully and support them. And beginning on January 28th, two weeks ago tonight, he did that.
Secondly, he had to use the considerable influence of the United States behind the scenes with the military, with Mubarak, with Omar Suleiman, to encourage them to move forward and eventually for Mubarak to move out. That was a juggling act that you saw the president engaged in.
It was the right use of American power. It was classic diplomacy, public statements, behind the scenes. I think the president did very well, and I never agreed throughout this crisis with the criticism—he was being too soft on Mubarak, he should call for his ouster, he‘s being too tough on Mubarak, he should protect the regime.
I thought he was—played it right down the middle between those two poles. And frankly, you know, I know there was criticism that the administration had to try to keep up with events. We all did.
Those of us who teach at universities, the press, we were all keeping up with rapidly changing events. And I give the administration very high marks for representing our country, I think, very effectively.
UYGUR: Ambassador Burns, you know, the criticism on keeping up I always found to be absurd. Like you said, we‘re all trying to keep up here.
But I‘ve got to admit, I was one of the critics who said he was moving too slowly. But what matters is the conclusion.
And in the conclusion, at the end, he seemed to have not only come to the right place, but again, just looking at it from the outside—and you tell me if it‘s any different—it looked like after he came out really strong last night, boom, we finally have results tonight. I‘m just trying to determine how much of a difference that made.
BURNS: Well, you know, I think that the president also said something very important at the beginning of the crisis. My words, not his, because I can‘t remember exactly what he said.
But, it‘s not about us. This is an Egyptian drama. They will be the authors of this. He said this repeatedly.
And so he recognized that despite the real influence of the United States in Egypt—and we‘re by far the most influential foreign country—we weren‘t going to be the authors of this result. It was going to be the Egyptian people, the people power of those hundreds of thousands of young people in the streets of Cairo and Alexandria and Suez over the last 18 days. It was inspiring.
And I think by identifying with them, we‘ve set ourselves up, hopefully, to help in this transition. But by using our influence with the military, and with Mubarak and Suleiman, we practiced the kind of diplomacy that is most often effective.
You know, if the president had come out at the very beginning of the crisis, and if he had publicly called for Mubarak‘s ouster, and given all sorts of directions as to what should happen, I think that would have backfired. I think that a lot of Egyptians would have been upset with that kind of blatant interference in their political process.
I do think the balance was met by the president. But I also think that now it gets really difficult, because the transition begins tomorrow, and it‘s likely to be very complex and turbulent.
UYGUR: Yes, absolutely.
Now, Ambassador Burns, I want to ask you one other thing related to other presidents and other factors in the world. Does this peaceful revolution basically prove al Qaeda and George W. Bush wrong? And here‘s what I mean by that.
Al Qaeda calls for an Islamic revolution through violence. Here, we have a secular revolution through nonviolence. So al Qaeda seems to be on the out. They didn‘t like the result here.
George W. Bush called for Western invasions. You know, you talk about, how much do you get involved here? Here, we didn‘t get involved. There was certainly no invasion. It was a local uprising.
And I don‘t mean to compare the two. I‘m just saying, are they separately both wrong then based on what happened here?
BURNS: Well, you know, I think that al Qaeda is always wrong.
UYGUR: Well, that‘s definitely true.
BURNS: And I think that al Qaeda is on the ropes. And here you have millions of Arabs of every age and from every class of society, from Tunisia to Egypt to Yemen, saying we want peaceful change, we want democracy. That is a repudiation of al Qaeda.
But let me just defend President George W. Bush for a moment. I think the situations in Iraq in 2003 and Egypt in 2011 were vastly different.
President Bush, to his credit, and Secretary Condi Rice did stand up for democracy and reform throughout the Arab world. So I think we can be proud of what the United States has stood for, but I think we should assess President Obama to have done very well in upholding American interests here.
UYGUR: Right. And look, I obviously disagreed with how we went about so-called democracy in Iraq. But yes, you‘re right.
And through WikiLeaks, we see there were diplomatic cables, the Bush administration pushing towards more democratic reforms. So that was real.
And I want to thank you for bringing your expertise to us tonight. We really appreciate it, Ambassador Burns.
BURNS: Thank you.
UYGUR: All right, now, up next. The revolution will be Facebook. The internet is a powerful force for regime change. Sixty percent Egypt‘s population is under 30. They got online and got organized. How long before other young people in the region follow suit? We‘re going to talk about that, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: This is ours today. This is our country. This is my Egypt. This is a revolution. Revolution. It‘s ours. Ours. Facebook. We are the revolution.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: This is our revolution, our Facebook. Wow, that is amazing.
Joining me now is John Abell, he‘s the New York bureau chief for Wired.com who‘s written extensively about social networking in the protests in Egypt. John, it also says, you know, in the title that you direct business and disruptive media coverage for wired. This appears to be disruptive media.
JOHN ABELL, WIRED.COM, NEW YORK BUREAU CHIEF: It‘s extremely disruptive, but it‘s a good kind of disruption, isn‘t it?
ABELL: I mean, the people are using these tools in exactly the way they‘re meant to be used, the way they are organically being adopted, in order to communicate, in order to organize, in order to get other people interested in stuff. That‘s exactly what they‘re for.
UYGUR: I mean, they used to refer to internet revolution as, you know, as a business term. It turns out it‘s real. Internet revolution. I mean, look at this.
ABELL: It‘s literal this week.
UYGUR: Yes. Absolutely little Wael Ghonim works for Google.
UYGUR: He starts a Facebook page that certainly partly begins this process. Now, he had two posts I want to run by, he said, “if you want to have free country, give them the internet.” And he said, this revolution started on Facebook. How true is that?
ABELL: Maybe slightly hyperbolic although you have to give the man his dude. He was on Egyptian prison for 10 days. And actually did have a page which had a lot to do with the origins of the public uprising. My view of these things are that the social networks, the internet in general television, all of these things are sort of accelerants. The ability to share this information, to be seen by the world, especially to get the western media‘s attention is very, very important for any kind of thing. This is why you don‘t see anything happening in North Korea, for example, but you do see it in place where is Al Jazeera English can operate. In where unless they turn off the electricity, people can use the internet. So, these are very, very important things and he‘s probably closer to right than he is exaggerating.
UYGUR: So, I read earlier today that basically as you said Facebook is an accelerant and that they used it internally in Egypt. But that Twitter and YouTube, they used to stoke interest in the revolution throughout the world. Does it break down like that?
ABELL: Sort of. I mean, Facebook is kind of a closed network. You have your friends and friends of friends and thing like that. Twitter is inherently open. So, if I say something on Twitter like the building is burning down here and this is my location, it‘s seen by anybody who happens to be watching or looking at the hash tags that I‘m using not just your friends or friends. So, in a sense Facebook can be used especially well to organize and to put up fan pages and get people interested, but then when you‘re shouting or whispering and want to get attention, again, to get the western media‘s attention, because this does drive the news cycle, Twitter is the place to go.
UYGUR: Right. And I heard young protesters got together with Mohamed ElBaradei and they said, look, here‘s what the Facebook says we‘re going to have, and it‘s not Facebook saying obviously, it‘s them saying it on Facebook, but that goes my point, I really—I‘m not convince they could done it without those outlets. Because, you know, for the first time, they‘re able to show, you know, obviously in the case of let‘s say, the pictures, they pass it online and tell the people. Like the people in Egypt knew there was torture, but they didn‘t see it.
UYGUR: That had to have made a difference.
ABELL: It made it easier, but we have to remember, but there are other tools that have been around a long time, they worked really good too. Like smart phones and being able to broadcast from, you know, anywhere with your iPhone or android device and the ability to share in that way. So these networks are very important. And they add a sort of a luster and efficiency to things. But if you have a telephone, if you have a smart phone, if you have an internet connection, you can do a lot of things without social networks per se.
UYGUR: You know, we turned about al-Qaeda in the last segment. When you—now when you have a young revolutionary and he wants to be free of tyranny or whatever it is that he‘s crusading against could be in any country. And al-Qaeda comes and says, you can grab a bomb and then others come and say grab Facebook, it seems like Facebook is the better alternative, doesn‘t it?
ABELL: Well, I don‘t know. I mean, it‘s, Egypt is an interesting place. Iran, you were talking to about it previously. Interesting place, you have a very educated, large group of young people who aspire to things. They aspire to make their county greater. Their generations removed from the elders that are running the place and you have an entrenched there. So these are not necessarily the best fodder for here‘s a bomb because holding a bomb and letting go of will make your life better. These are people that are actually way ahead of that curve.
UYGUR: Right. It‘s great point John, and I really appreciate you joining us tonight.
ABELL: My pleasure.
UYGUR: All right. We‘ll be right back.
UYGUR: Joining me now is “New York Times” columnist Nicholas Kristof. He‘s been covering this brilliantly. I want to start with this issue first with you. The unemployed and the young. We have 60 percent of the population under 30 in Egypt, which is a stunning number, huge number. Ninety percent of Egypt‘s unemployed are under 30. Then we‘ve got 50 percent of the men are unemployed. Which is again, a stunning number, but if think that‘s bad, 90 percent of women two years out of college are unemployed. Is that what led to this revolution in? That if you don‘t share the wealth and you have this rulings class that hoards all the money that eventually and actually causes people say, well, I don‘t have a job, what am I going to do? I need to get out on the street.
NICHOLAS KRISTOF, “NEW YORK TIMES” COLUMNIST: Well, it will be a little simplistic to say this is determined by the large number of unemployed. But we do know that the portion of young people, age 15 to 24 in a population that youth both is one of the factors that correlate most strongly to civil unrest, to terrorism, and to uprising. It seems to be magnified when you have societies that marginalize women, where those young men play kind of a disproportionate role in the society. And that of course presents a huge challenge for the reform movement. If they do get democracy, then how do they indeed get more economic growth? How do they create jobs?
UYGUR: Right. So, let‘s get a little bit behind that then. Let‘s look at the different movements that might have accused this revolution and had some part in it. We had the youth, we had the unemployed as we mention, but we had labor, too. They did strikes. That was absolutely critical. We had a portion of the army, not perhaps the Air Force, but the army. We had some nationalist businessmen and some international reformers. How much of an effect did all those different groups have? Was one group bigger than others? Have more of an affect? What‘s your take on that?
KRISTOF: I would say simply, you know, the youth, when that Tahrir, it was striking. How young it was. And I think that also maybe both the intelligence community and frankly we in the news media really didn‘t adequately convey just how much opposition there was to Mubarak, how angered people were by the corruption, by the sense that they had received an education, they wanted to participate in this society and they were closed out. And that was so prevalent among young people. And then it went viral through the methods of social media.
UYGUR: Well, let‘s talk about that corruption and the effect that it has. Because news reports say that about five to 25 percent commissions went—you know, if you wanted to work in Egypt, you have to funnel it through the Mubarak family. So, five to 20 percent goes to the Mubarak family, that‘s how he winds up becoming a multi-billionaire. What affect does that have on others? And how does that cause people to be so enormously dissatisfied?
KRISTOF: Well, Egypt has always been corrupt. When I live there as an Arabic student, you had to pay off people to get little things done. But ones of things that changed was that Egypt opened up the economy, which was terrific. It was under international pressure, but they did so in ways that really gave the benefit of that to Mubarak‘s son Gamal and to the cronies around him. And that results to a rise of these billionaires who lived very ostentatiously and ways that just left ordinary Egyptians seething. And, you know, partly trough international television, through satellite television, the information monopoly of the government was broken and people became more aware of what was going on and more aggravated, more aware that people felt exactly the way they did.
UYGUR: So your focus is on the young. And that makes perfect sense. We‘re talking about the role the internet in this revolution given those factors and others that we mentioned, which country is a natural candidate to be next?
KRISTOF: Well, it‘s interesting. I asked that on my twitter feed and on Facebook after Tunisia. I said, which country is next, and frankly my Facebook and Twitter followers did a little better than the $80 billion year American intelligence community. A lot of them did predict Egypt. I would say that the country is the people are looking at now include Algeria, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, certainly, Syria. Some people say Jordan. I‘m not sure I would put it quite in that category, simply we say, Bahrain and, you know, even more broadly. China for example has blocked Egypt as a search criteria, in their version at Twitter. And that‘s suggesting their thinking that they might indeed the candidate to be next, too.
UYGUR: These are exciting times. You know, it is unbelievable how quickly this has unfolded. It happened in 18 days. Nicholas Kristof has been covering it. And thank you so much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.
KRISTOF: My pleasure.
UYGUR: All right, now speaking of the topics we were just discussing. Where does the revolution happen next? And how does the tremendous change in Egypt impact American policy? That‘s next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: It‘s freedom. That‘s all you can say. This is freedom.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: With me now is Borzou Daragahi, he is the Middle East correspondent of the “Los Angeles Times.” And Barbara Slavin, she‘s a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and foreign policy contributor. She‘s also the author of the book, “Bitter Friends, Bosom Enemies: Iran, the U.S. and the Twisted Path to Confrontation.”
Barbara, let me start with you in Iran. I hear they‘re trying to twist this as oh, you see that, we got the U.S. Is that really their strategy? And are the people of Iran buying it?
BARBARA SLAVIN, SENIOR FELLOW, “THE ATLANTIC COUNCIL”: Well, I don‘t think the people of Iran are buying it. You know, there‘s this whole dichotomy, is it Iran 1979 or is it Iran 2009? And the government is saying it‘s 1979 when they overthrew the shah. And many of the opposition green movement members are saying it‘s 2009 when Iranians rose up and protested an election result that was frankly rigged. So, you know, both sides are trying to play this. We will see next week whether Iranians come out on the streets and whether they‘re inspired by the Egyptian revolution.
UYGUR: Borzou, I know, you just came back from the Middle East, how scared are the rest of the dictators?
BORZOU DARAGAHI, LA TIMES MIDDLE EAST CORRESPONDENT: I think people are very frightened. I think leaders of these countries specially the ones that have been there for a long time think about it, Muammar Gadhafi has been the president since 1969. You‘ve got Abdullah Saleh in Yemen. He was there even before Saddam took over. See, you‘ve got these people, they‘re living under these—the people of these countries are living under the same exact economic situations as the people in Egypt and Tunisia. The same exact combination of economic and political grievances. And all these countries need at this point is just a fuse to be lit.
UYGUR: So, you know, we were talking with Nicholas Kristof about how this is so driven by the youth. And such a large portion of the country is youth, 60 percent are under 30. Now obviously that‘s true in a lot of other Middle Eastern countries. In Egypt, they happen to be secular. Obviously, every country is different. But overall, what‘s your sense of whether the youth of those countries in the Middle East are secular or not?
DARAGAHI: Well, I think that‘s a very interesting question. I think that their people are religious. People in the Middle East in general right now are pretty religious, but I think that the model of Iran and Hamas and Afghanistan and Sudan where they tried to combine Islam and politics is seen as such a failure that people really look now to Turkey, which is a combination of Islam and democracy that many people in the Middle East now aspire to.
UYGUR: And like Turkey, here, the Egyptian military wind up siding with the people. The Turkish military often did coups in favor of democracy, which seems so strange to the rest of the world. But it happened on a number of occasions. So, that‘s an interesting example. Now, when turn back to Iran, Barbara, obviously, they‘re concern over there. We talked early in the show to Defense Secretary William Cohen, he talked about, well, obviously U.S. government would want to encourage something like this. Mind you, they don‘t want to encourage it in other allies like Saudi Arabia, but that‘s a different point. Anyway, if they are really encouraging it, how are they encouraging it? And any chance that that succeeds?
SLAVIN: Well, I think what‘s been so wonderful about Egypt is that this was indigenous. And it‘s a warning to all of us, that you cannot engineer this kind of regime change. What happened in Iran in 2009 was completely unexpected. If it breaks out again in Iran, I think it will also because of the bravery, the courage of the Iranian people. There‘s not much the U.S. can do. We can make encouraging noises, we can help them get internet access, perhaps and learn some new technologies. But I have a lot of faith in the young people of Iran. If, you know, this can be done there too. And it will happen there, too.
UYGUR: All right. You know, of course, I generally agree with you. It‘s just a matter of time, I think. Borzou, let me ask you about Israel real quick. Because, you know, obviously, they‘re concerned. They‘re worried because they had a stable partner. Now maybe the border gets open up. But on the other hand, didn‘t they want democracy throughout the Middle East?
DARAGAHI: Look, Anwar Sadat made peace with Israel not out of some ideological motive but because it was in Egypt‘s interest to end its wars with Israel and focus on building its economy. If anything, Egypt‘s interests are more in that direction now than in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. They need to create jobs, they need to build up their economy, root out corruption. They don‘t need a war or hostility with a neighbor.
UYGUR: All right, thank you so much, Barbara Slavin and Borzou Daragahi. You guys are great. Thank you. We‘ll be right back.
UYGUR: One final note for you tonight. As you see that history unfold before your very eyes, I want you to keep one thing in mind. I don‘t know if this is a win for the American government. They may have been early or late to the party depending on there you stand. They may have been overly diplomatic or not diplomatic enough depending on where you stand. Our short-term interests might have been furthered or endanger. But that‘s not what I‘m talking about tonight. What happened today was a win for America, the idea of America. The idea that men and women are endowed with certain inalienable rights. That this is not the privilege of one country, race or religion. That the idea of freedom is universal. At our core, we should always be for democracy and the rights of man.
So tonight, it is about Egypt. It is their celebration, but we all rejoice, a simple but courageous idea that men like Jefferson, Madison and Washington started has born fruit in the Middle East, hundreds of years later. Such was the strength of those principles. I am originally from Turkey, but I call myself an American, because these are the ideas I came here for. This is why I chose to be an American. This is why I choose to call men like John Adams and Benjamin Franklin my founding fathers. How proud would Thomas Payne who‘ve built our revolution with his pamphlets have been of the youth of Egypt who organized and spread their ideas online and stood up to tyranny in the streets.
So tonight, I believe our founding fathers are smiling down on the sons of freedom in Egypt on a revolution well done. Now, much more coverage ahead on a live edition of “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews, and that starts right now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
<Copy: Content and programming copyright 2011 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Transcription Copyright 2011 ASC LLC ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is
granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not
reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or
internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall
user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may
infringe upon MSNBC and ASC LLC‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or
interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of
MORE FROM MSNBC
Add msnbc headlines to your news reader: