Last night, a military officer guarding the tens of thousands celebrating in Cairo threw down his rifle and joined the demonstrators, yet another sign of the ordinary Egyptian soldier's growing sympathy for the democracy demonstrators. We had witnessed many similar sentiments from the army over the past two weeks. But the critical moment came on the evening of 30 January when, it is now clear, Mubarak ordered the Egyptian Third Army to crush the demonstrators in Tahrir Square with their tanks after flying F-16 fighter bombers at low level over the protesters.I said it before. I'll say it again. These men were and are heroes. It was their decision to act like human beings, instead of deadly automatons, that prevented another Tiananmen Square from happening. That this is almost certainly common knowledge in Egypt might help explain why the people are rallying around the Army, instead of rallying against it.
Many of the senior tank commanders could be seen tearing off their headsets – over which they had received the fatal orders – to use their mobile phones. They were, it now transpires, calling their own military families for advice. Fathers who had spent their lives serving the Egyptian army told their sons to disobey, that they must never kill their own people.
Fisk's right about the West's issue, too:
The events of the past 12 hours have not, alas, been a victory for the West. American and European leaders who rejoiced at the fall of communist dictatorships have sat glumly regarding the extraordinary and wildly hopeful events in Cairo – a victory of morality over corruption and cruelty – with the same enthusiasm as many East European dictators watched the fall of their Warsaw Pact nations. Calls for stability and an "orderly" transition of power were, in fact, appeals for Mubarak to stay in power – as he is still trying to do – rather than a ringing endorsement of the demands of the overwhelming pro-democracy movement that should have struck him down.The people of Egypt will, I suspect, remember quite well who their friends were in this struggle. They'll also never forget who hemmed and hawed due to their preference for tractable, predictable tyrants in the developing world. Nor should they.