New Egypt chaos: Hosni Mubarak clinically dead, or ... maybe not

Is there any compelling reason to believe this? Granted, the guy’s 84 years old, but apart from a few court appearances the only information the world’s had about him for the past 15 months has come from the deeply corrupt military junta that’s trying to consolidate its power.

Feel like taking their word for it?

Former President Hosni Mubarak, who led Egypt for three decades until he was toppled last year in a popular uprising, was on life support at a military hospital late Tuesday after he was declared “clinically dead” by doctors, according to Egyptian officials and state news media.

After suffering a stroke in prison on Tuesday, Mr. Mubarak, 84, was moved to a military hospital overlooking the Nile in Cairo. Doctors said they were unable to revive him after he went into cardiac arrest, state news media said…

His health deteriorated rapidly when he was flown by helicopter from the courthouse to a hospital ward in a notorious prison where many political prisoners were held during his rule.

That was version one. Version two:

[S]enior officials, including military leaders, have now contradicted that earlier report. Gen. Mamdouh Shahin, a member of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, reportedly told CNN that Mubarak “is not clinically dead as reported, but his health is deteriorating and he is in critical condition.”…

He suffered a stroke on Tuesday, and a defibrillator was used in prison before he was taken to the military hospital, Agence France-Presse reported.

Could be that he really did have a major stroke today and is now at death’s door; in fact, there was a report just eight days ago about how his health was failing. But there’s also a political reason why the junta might want to contrive a story that leaves Mubarak incapacitated. Namely, it’d be vivid evidence that the old regime’s no longer in control at a moment when Egyptians are more convinced than ever — and rightly so — that the old regime’s still in control. I remember reading more than once over the past year, in fact, how some revolutionaries are convinced that Mubarak’s secretly running the show from “captivity” notwithstanding the military’s assurances. Some of that feeling is paranoia borne of living in a police state for 30 years, but it’s not completely nutty: His military cronies are, after all, still in charge, and his judicial cronies conveniently just torpedoed the new parliament. Now that the junta’s issued a decree establishing itself as the country’s supreme authority, go figure that they might be looking for some dramatic gesture to reassure an angry public that this won’t be a re-run of Mubarak’s regime. Telling the world that Mubarak’s now so frail that he’s basically a vegetable qualifies as pretty dramatic.

Or maybe he really is a vegetable. The most dramatic gesture of all, of course, would be to announce that he’s dead (and, if need be, to arrange it) and yet they haven’t done that. Why stop on the one-yard-line by claiming he’s just really, really sick? The simplest explanation is that it’s true. So much for today’s crisis. The next crisis, coming tomorrow: Mubarak’s PM, Ahmed Shafik, is claiming that he won the presidential election, not the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate. Jimmy Carter’s foundation, which monitored the election, is refusing to vouch for the legitimacy of the process, so the stage is set for a little old-fashioned vote-rigging in support of the old regime’s preferred candidate. Official results are coming in the next few days. Stay tuned.

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David Strom 6:01 PM on March 29, 2023