On May 7, 1940, the British Conservative MP, Leo Amery, flung these words at Neville Chamberlain during a House of Commons debate on the British-French expedition in Norway that had ended in failure. Amery repeated Oliver Cromwell's (paraphrased) words on April 20, 1653, to a Parliament attempting to remain after it had voted to dissolve itself: "You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!"
Three days later, on May 10, 1940 -- the day that German armor began its thrust into the Low Countries and France, -- Chamberlain was replaced by the more pugnacious-looking Winston Churchill, who was to prove to be the man of Britain's "finest hour."
In this recession-wracked world, where the extremes of poverty and wealth have grown to a shocking degree over the past 30 years, we learn from the Manchester Guardian (February 4, 2011) that the Mubarak family fortune could reach 70 billion dollars, with much of the wealth in British and Swiss banks or represented in real estate in London, New York, Los Angeles and along with expensive properties around the Sharm-el-Sheikh tourist resort on the Red Sea coast. Besides the father, Hosni, the sons Gamal and Alaa are also billionaires.
How dismaying it must have been to the (mostly young) demonstrators at Tahrir Square and elsewhere in Egypt to see the television clip of Hosni Mubarak on 7 February chairing his first cabinet meeting since the beginning of the uprising -- giving the impression that nothing had happened in the meantime.
Hosni Mubarak has become a liability for stability. Extreme wealth in the midst of extreme poverty is a shame. Now, every day that goes on, the revelations of the Mubarak family's extreme wealth in the Guardian and other media are a constant repudiation of democratic ideals in a country of (mostly poor) 80 million Egyptians. How can Egyptians achieve democracy with this living counter-example sitting before them? In the name of etc., etc.
Charles Cogan was the chief of the Near East South Asia Division in the Directorate of Operations of the CIA from August 1979 to August 1984. He is currently an Associate at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard's Kennedy School.