By all journalistic reports, it was the Egyptian government of President Hosni Mubarak that sent thousands of armed thugs into Tahrir Square and the streets of Cairo yesterday to bring violence to what had been a peaceful and nonviolent protest for democracy. Some think many of those who were attacking the protesters were police in plain clothes. Others are believed to have been hired and bused in to foment violence with machetes, clubs, and razors -- some riding in on horses and camels into the peaceful crowds.
What had been an exemplary nonviolent protest -- with people serving tea to each other and to the young soldiers in the square -- suddenly turned into a bloody conflict. By some accounts, the death of more than 300 Egyptian protesters outnumbers those who died in the Iranian protests of 2009.
But the Egyptian protesters refuse to retreat and vow to continue their democratic crusade, saying they would "die in the streets" if necessary. As I write, the struggle has gone back and forth into the afternoon and evening. Yesterday, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof posted on his Facebook page: "Something incredible is happening at Tahrir Square in Egypt: The pro-Mubarak thugs whom the government sent here with clubs, machetes and straight razors are retreating! The democracy forces seem to be winning this battle. It's a symbol of Mubarak's incompetence that he dispatches armed thugs to engineer a crackdown -- and can't even achieve that."
Mubarak has often used thugs to intimidate the Egyptian people, steal elections, and repress those who dissent from his dictatorial and corrupt regime. And the truth is that President Mubarak is the big thug. It's time for him to immediately resign and leave Egypt, and allow a genuine political process to begin with fair and free elections in a new Egypt.
As the biggest supplier of military aid to Egypt, it is the responsibility of the United States to call for Mubarak's withdrawal. Last night, thousands of people of faith called upon the president to do so. If you have not done so already, click here to send this message to the White House. And if Mubarak doesn't respond to Obama's appeal, the United States government should end its military aid to Egypt.
This is a moral issue, and an urgent one -- and it's time for the faith community to speak and to speak clearly. I believe President Obama is very frustrated and angry over the situation in Egypt, and, while he has called for a "transition" to occur, he now needs to clearly call for Mubarak's resignation and departure from Egypt. Mubarak cannot stay and try to manipulate elections in September, and the necessary preparations for genuine elections simply cannot occur with Mubarak still in power. A strong word of encouragement from thousands in the faith community and beyond could help our president do the right thing -- and do it now. President Obama must call on the dictator to leave now and open the way for democracy in Egypt.
So please send this message and action alert to family, friends, and members of your churches and communities. Spread the urgent call for President Obama to tell Mubarak to go.
Jim Wallis is the author of Rediscovering Values: On Wall Street, Main Street, and Your Street -- A Moral Compass for the New Economy, and CEO of Sojourners. He blogs at www.godspolitics.com. Follow Jim on Twitter @JimWallis.