Egypt, Cont.

by Rich Lowry

The New York Times has a great report here. This is incredible:

Late Saturday, it was still unclear whether the military was defying orders to crack down or simply had not been issued them yet. But at least some troops seemed to be sympathizing with the protesters. In the most striking instance, four armored military vehicles moved at the front of a crowd of thousands of protesters in a pitched battle against Egyptian security police officers defending the Interior Ministry.

Protesters there crouched behind armored trucks as they advanced on the police line surrounding the building, then darted forward to hurl rocks or Molotov cocktails and to set abandoned cars on fire.

But the soldiers refused protesters’ pleas to open fire on the security police. And the police battered the protesters with tear gas, buckshot and rubber bullets. There were pools of blood in the streets, and protesters carried at least a dozen wounded from the front line of fighting.

Everywhere in Cairo, soldiers and protesters hugged or snapped pictures together on top of tanks. With the evident consent of the soldiers, protesters had scrawled graffiti denouncing Mr. Mubarak on many of the tanks in downtown Cairo. “This is the revolution of all the people,” read a common slogan. “No, No, Mubarak” was another. In Alexandria, demonstrators took tea to troops.

This makes the phenomenon Stanley mentioned sound like what would happen almost anywhere during a total breakdown in order:

By midday Saturday, young civilians were trying to fill gaps left by the police, directing traffic and in some cases defending their neighborhoods with clubs and other makeshift weapons…

In the northern port city of Alexandria, witnesses were unnerved by the young men on patrol with sticks, clubs and other weapons.

“We’re Egyptians. We’re real men,” said a shopkeeper, brandishing a machete. “We can protect ourselves.”

Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director of Human Rights Watch, said that he observed a group of soldiers completely surrounded by people asking for help in protecting their neighborhoods. The army told them they would have to take care of their own neighborhoods and that there might be reinforcements Sunday.

And regarding the Brotherhood’s role:

On Friday and Saturday there were many signs of Brotherhood members marching and chanting in the crowds. But the throngs — mostly spontaneous — were so large that the Brotherhood’s presence seemed far from dominant. And questions about the Brotherhood amid protesters often produced passionate debates for and against the group and its potential future influence.