I was overjoyed by the Arab Spring, especially with the overall lack of violence and speed of the transition to democracy in Egypt. Compare what happened in Egypt with what is still going on in Libya, Syria, and throughout the rest of the Arab world. But prosecuting Hosni Mubarak is a mistake for Egypt and sets a bad precedent. Most of all, he does not deserve the prosecution.
Nelson Mandela was confronted with a similar but more egregious situation. He personally suffered for decades, languishing in prison. His people were oppressed, in every context, for decades. He and all People of Color in South Africa were treated as sub-humans, deprived of educational opportunities, social justice, legal justice, and on and on. The ruling party and race was as guilty of racism, murder, corruption, and crimes far more extensive and institutionalized than ever suffered in Egypt. But Mandela wisely adopted “Amnesty” so that the country could move forward. South Africa did undergo rapid and wonderful peaceful change without the armed, social, and politic upheaval one would have expected, and the entire country of South Africa benefited from his wisdom. No doubt, Mandela’s program of Amnesty saved extensive suffering both of : (1) the previously disenfranchised oppressed minority; and, (2) the minority previously ruling white class. Investors were not scared away. Violence was almost non-existent. People did not flee the country, and people stopped sending their assets abroad.
No group of people had more claim to justice then the Black South Africans. But having a claim does not mean one must enforce it. Nelson Mandela was very wise, and his entire country, and all groups therein, benefited tremendously from his wisdom, guidance, and decision.
Mubarak, compared to white leaders in South Africa and other Arab leaders where social and political change is underway, moved very quickly and without major or prolonged resistance to democratic change. I am not saying that he did this instantaneously, or that there was no resistance Clearly, the current prosecution underway, and some stories of wrongdoing at the hands of a few police man and/or army officials shows that there was some wronging But for each act of wrongdoing, there seem to have been more and overriding orders to protect the demonstrators. When one compares the level of violence with that which occurred over decades in South Africa, or which is occurring daily in Libya, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere, Mubarak is relatively a “good guy.” Clearly, he could have done so very much more to delay, hinder, and inflict pain on the pro-democratic movement.
One must remember that, even in a dictatorship, the dictator has his constituents which help keep him in power, benefit from that power, and can also remove him from power. It not only remains to be seen what Mubarak’s personal involvement was in the crimes he is alleged of committing, but one must question what the consequences to him, to Egypt, and to the revolution had he not acted in the way he did. Had he suddenly announced, “Let’s have a democracy,” he might have been deposed and replaced by a dictator who would have resisted change with more violence and determination than Mubarak. Just look at Gorbachev, and the attempt to depose him, when he went along with the change sweeping over Russia.
Furthermore, what example does the prosecution of Mubarak set for the leaders of other countries who may be tempted to allow democracy ? What will the leaders (including the army officers, police leaders, government leaders) of Syria and Libya do? Clearly, if Mubarak can be prosecuted, these guys have even more reason to resist democracy until the very end, and use whatever means necessary to suppress democracy.
Lastly, Mubarak is an old man, who has done a lot for Egypt. Egyptians respect the Egyptian army and its response to the democracy movement, but they forget that Mubarak came from that same army and remained its leader until he resigned. Mubarak did not give order after order to kill and torture that are being given in Syria and Libya day after day. This is a sad and unnecessary final chapter in the life of Mubarak, and a sad and unnecessary chapter in the history of change in Egypt.