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The War Nerd / February 2, 2011
By Gary Brecher

Egypt Battle

While we wait for Egypt to finish cooking, there’s some great footage to watch. It may not be warfare as practiced by Lee and Grant, but it’s weirdly close to what urban combat must have been like before firearms. If you watch this clip from Al Jazeera—and let me say now, thank God, Allah or Odin, whoever, for Al Jazeera. Best network around, actual reporters on the ground in places other networks are too cheap or chicken to go.

What you’ll see in this clip is the quick transition from “peaceful demonstration” to urban warfare in Tahrir Square, the big zocalo in Cairo. Of course these transitions from “peaceful” to violence aren’t all that clear down at street level. Even before rocks start flying, you’ve got a huge crowd of young males screaming as loud as they can, pushing each other to do something. And in a place like Egypt, just standing out in the street facing the cops is doing something in a big way. You can die that way, like one demonstrator did in another video from Egypt. It’s a classic video. What it shows you is the answer to the question, “Who’d be the first to die of all the guys you know?” And the answer, unfortunately, is, “The bravest one, the one who really believes in what he’s doing.” That’s what you see here: this guy doesn’t notice that all his friends have slunk off, and he keeps flinging rocks at the cops. Then there’s one shot. He falls down with a bullet in his head. It’s funny, you know: you could make an argument against war from that, you could say that the first thing war does is weed all the bravest guys out of the gene pool. It would explain a lot, actually, like what happened to the Italians. Maybe the Romans just used up the brave ones.

You can’t help thinking of Ancient Rome when you watch this riot video from Cairo. What you see is humans re-learning the lessons of ancient warfare. And they do it in a matter of minutes! I swear, this video had me more upbeat about the species than I’ve been for a long time. It’s not that we’ve lost our edge, we’re just rusty.

We still know how to do it. First rule: mass wins. You get your side together and stay together. Second: deploy skirmishers. Those are the hotheads throwing rocks about 30 feet ahead of the main mob. They’re to provoke the enemy, absorb the enemy’s first counterstrike. It’s a suicide job, so it’s a favorite in the male age 12-20 demographic.

A tight mob standing in the street is just dead bodies walking, of course, if you’re using 21st-century weapons. But the Egyptian Army has bowed out of this one. In fact, you’ll see the head of the Army making a very, veeeeeeeeery careful speech midway in this clip. He actually says to the demonstrators, “We [the Army] are with you, of you, by you and under you” or whatever, then adds, “We will be there no matter what changes occur….” Man, if I was Mubarak I would not be Mubarak (happy) hearing that line from my enforcers. But if I was a rioter it’d cheer me up no end, because it would mean I wouldn’t have to worry about automatic rifles, APC cannon, anything at army level.

Instead, the best Mubarak’s remaining goons can do is organize a cavalry charge. I kid you not. About ten seconds into the video you’ll see a real live cavalry charge by a dozen riders, some on horses, some on camels. This is Mubarak’s response: amateurs on livestock. Sad.

I can guess exactly how it happened, though. Mubarak’s having a scotch in his office, scowling at the local news show, when an Army liaison officer hunches in, all greasy smiles and apologies. Mubarak starts screaming:  “Where’s my army? Where’s the security police? What do I pay you guys for?” And this sweaty officer, who got this job because the other colonels hate him or because he drew the short straw, breaks the bad news as politely as he can (after all, you never know; Mubarak might survive after all, best to be polite): “Your excellency, we, ah…feel that the honor of the armed services should not be…ah…stained, yes, stained with the blood of our fellow citizens.” That must’ve made Mubarak’s jaw sag for a second. As if the Egyptian security service from Ramses II’s palace guards to the GDSSI ever had a problem spilling the blood of their fellow fucking citizens! Mubarak’s not dumb, though, he knows what it means: “You’re on your own here, your former excellency.” Mubarak gulps another mouthful of Glenlivet and says, “Fine then, I don’ need you fucks anyway…get outta my office.” And the little uniformed rat scuttles out of the big air-conditioned office. This is when guys like Mubarak start thanking God for that account in the Cayman Islands and get on the private cell to tell the pilots to get that Learjet warmed up.

But he’s not giving up just yet. He can still call on the whole network of locals who owe their fat bank accounts to his dynasty. He gets the phones working and a few minutes later gets a call: “Uh-huh…Yeah…Camels??? That’s the best you can do, Camels? Are you fucking kidding me, you idiot?…What do you mean, ‘there are some horses too’? Horses and camels? I want F-16s with napalm and you give me camels, you dog!”

But even camels and horses are intimidating at first, if you’re on foot at street level.  So when the Mubarak Loyalist Petting-Zoo Squadron comes clopping down the cobblestones, the mob/infantry falls back and this tiny cavalry force charges down the pavement. But these guys are untrained in cavalry charges. They do what every incompetent cavalry force in history does: they lose cohesion and get overwhelmed by infantry. The camels and horses charge at different speeds, so they get separated. And they have no commander, no clear objective. They’re armed only with whips, a very short-range non-lethal weapon. And these horses are not battle-conditioned, so when they see a wall of humans ahead of them, screaming and throwing shit at them, they stop. That’s what happens when you use a nag that’s been dragging tourists to the smoggy sights of Cairo for years gets call on to do a charger’s job.

With the horses stopped dead, the cavalry is doomed. And what happens next is beautiful to watch. It restored my faith in humanity: even after centuries, these brave Cairo guys know exactly what to do against cavalry. We still got it! They let the riders pass through, then, when one of the horses rears and pivots around, disorienting his rider, the rioters converge on the horse from behind, from the sides. They pull the rider down and start kicking him to death. Play this video a few times and you’ll see that one man in the crowd, a big guy it looks like, is a natural warrior. He just seems to know instinctively how to deal with a mounted enemy: he bounces like a guard on defense, waiting for the horse to make its move, then grabs for the bridle from the side. That kills all movement and gives his friends the guts to attack, pulling the rider down to the pavement. That’s a great, also kind of a horrible moment, when the rider gets pulled down. Reminded me of that great scene in Dawn of the Dead when those arrogant bikers try to ride through the mob of zombies and get their intestines eaten tartare style. You can’t overestimate the power of cavalry, especially if it’s not ruthless enough to ride through, not at, not towards, the crowd.  It’s a scene that’s happened so many times over the centuries: the peasants take their revenge on the cavaliers, the horse riders. Cavalry that’s stopped is dead cavalry. That’s what happened to the Bradleys in the slums of Baghdad, and it happens much, much faster when all you’re riding is a little horse. (Notice, by the way, how the camel, much higher and harder to reach, survives much better than these little cart horses.)


It’s amazing how the idea of the cavalry charge keeps coming back as the preferred tactic for breaking up crowds when the state just doesn’t have the balls to machine-gun them. I saw the same thing during the demonstrations after that rigged election in Iran, only the Iranian state has more real bedrock support than Mubarak, among the silent fascist Iranian majority from the slums and villages. So instead of a dozen sad sacks on farm animals, the Iranian riot police sent amateur thugs on motorbikes, with clubs. It didn’t go much better, though: the bikers lost momentum and were overwhelmed, pulled off their bikes from behind. And then they cringed on the ground while the infantry tried a little soccer practice on their heads. Unfortunately, the problem with the Iranian protestors is that they’re mostly the educated nice types, so they dragged away the few sensible people who were trying to do the logical thing: kicking the bike guys to death. No way to win a war, you poor Tehran yuppies. We’re just primates here, and the best thing you could do is bash your enemies’ head in while you got the chance. Ah well, too late now.

From what I saw of the Cairo cavalry charge, it didn’t look like the Cairo protestors were as squeamish as those overcivilized Tehranites. They were giving them a good fatal-looking beating when the cameras, clearly manned by wimps, veered away at about the 28-second point. I guess the violence-level was approaching PG level, or maybe a mob beating just doesn’t film well, too many people in the way.

As the camera moves away it finds something else for carnivores to enjoy: a few stragglers on foot being mobbed. This is another ancient, actually timeless, strategy: find a small group of the enemy separated from the main force and annihilate them. Around the 50-second point you see these few Mubarak supporters getting a serious beating from the crowd outside a mosque, while the muzzein’s mic keeps insisting, “Alllahu Akbar!” I mean, why not? It’s one point everybody on both sides can agree on, probably, unless some Copt was dumb enough to get involved in the goyim’s arguments. Allah may be akbar, but that won’t help you when it’s 30 to one. Reminds me of an old Oi song I used to love—used top be a big Oi fan—about the joy of being a soccer hooligan:

We have ourselves a smashing time

We really have some fun

Especially when the odds are ours

25 to one, to one!

Precious mem’ries, how they linger. I kind of outgrew the whole Oideology behind all that, but at least those lyrics teach you a good lesson about mob war: never, never get separated from the main group. There are no Chuck Norrises in a mob fight, there’s just the weight of numbers and who’s got their crazy on.

A little past the 1:00 mark, the scene shifts to another ancient warfare scene: light skirmishing with missile weapons—rocks, in this case. Two groups are standing about 40 feet apart throwing rocks at each other. The range suggests they don’t have much respect for the general level of throwing in Cairo. No MLB arms in this crowd. Both main bodies are hanging back, letting the skirmishers show off, waiting to see which side will break. That’s always been one function of light infantry, like the Greek slingers, the peltasts, the original rock-throwers, or the Roman velites: testing the enemy’s nerve and cohesion, seeing if they break. A mob will break either by charging or by running, and either way is a bad idea. If the velites provoked a German or Celtic mob/army to attack, the Romans were delighted, because it’s much easier to destroy. If they ran, you unleash the cavalry.

Unfortunately we don’t get to see the end of this skirmish. But you can pretty well guess who’s going to win. If you watch carefully you’ll see that the mob on the right side of the screen, I’m guessing the pro-Mubarakers, are cringing, walking backwards, beginning to break.

Then at about 1:20 we break for a commercial, meaning a spokes-officer for the Army makes a little speech about let’s all be nice, you’ve made your point, we all love our dear Egypt. It’s so lame I doubt it was even designed to calm down the rioters. What it does seem designed to do is make it clear to every dog in the streets of Cairo that the Army isn’t taking sides on this one. The officer says, “We [the Army] will be there, whatever the changes.” The message is, “Hey, if you guys can take down Mubarak, then we’re going to be just delighted to work with you…as long as the paychecks come on time.”

The army commercial lasts to about the 2:10 point, when we get back to the real stuff. I swear to God, every damn second of this footage is great. First you see a charge by one side, showing the other side has broken. Then another standoff, with a skirmisher in a white shirt throwing rocks 25 feet ahead of his mob, daring the other side to hit him. While he’s at it, look at the awning to the left and you’ll see something you find in every riot shot ever taken: a bunch of guys just standing around. These guys at least have the sense to stand in a doorway, protected from rocks, but I’ve seen many riot or urban-warfare shots where some goon is just standing still with a grocery bag in his hand, looking the wrong way while the wrath of Khan is breaking loose two doors down. I don’t know why. Deaf? More likely dumb.

Then around 2:20, we are privileged to see a great event: the revival of the testudo. I mean that: it’s an honor to see brave, smart humans re-learning all this so quickly. The Testudo (tortoise), like most of you war buffs know already, was a Roman formation for advancing under missile fire, using each soldier’s shield to form a shape sort of like a turtle’s shell. Well, here come a bunch of rioters in Cairo, early 21st century, and to respond to the sort of situation the legions would have faced advancing on a fortress or massed archers, they come up with something pretty damn close to the testudo: big squares of sheet metal. The front rank carries these upright and the smarter rioters wedge in close behind them. Survival in a battle like this…well, “survival” might mean staying home if you had sense and watching it on tv…but I mean, if you’re going to join the dance, then survival means noticing second by second what will keep you alive. And my point is that at this second, what would work would be staying as close as possible to that front rank, because the rocks are going to fall on the people a few yards back, unprotected by the sheet-metal.

The goal of a Testudo advance would be getting close enough to use your gladii, the long knives the Romans relied on for serious slaughter. I wish we could see the moment when these guys struck the enemy formation and dropped their sheet-metal shields for close combat—if they did. Just as likely they faded under rock bombardment.

We’ll never know, unfortunately, because the producers at Al J decided to waste my time by cutting to Ban ki Moon, the Korean who fronts for the UN these days and the man whose bland flat face could put a weasel on speed to sleep. He comes on to say he’s “deeply concerned” about the rioting. Yeah, me too: deeply concerned your little sermon is keeping me from seeing how the Testudo turns out. What’s the point of these sermonettes anyway? Did anybody expent Ban to say, “I rove dese liots! Anybody give me five to one on Mubalak?” We all know it’s his job to tsk-tsk, we get it, why waste riot time on it?

He’s not even any good at acting concerned. He looks bored, which is how he always looks. You want to see a concerned Korean, try  coming up two cents short at your local AM/PM minimart. Ban’s cousin looking at me like I’m a fattened-up Antichrist.

The only interesting thing about Ban-ky’s speech is the way he tilts it toward the demonstrators: “Any attacks on peaceful demonstrators is unacceptable.” Now that was interesting. I love the guys rioting in Cairo, don’t get me wrong, but I’ve seen the UN get the vapors over much smaller and milder riots than these. Why are they so worried about the demonstrators this time around?

Put that together with the Egyptian Army guy’s try at schmoozing the demonstrators and you get a pretty clear picture of the Vegas odds on this one: Mubarak off the boards, no more bets. I’m not saying the UN and the Army are right; bigwigs guess wrong all the time, and the Army guy’s speech left a back door open in case Mubarak pulls out of this dive. I’m just saying it’s clear the smart money (which isn’t always smart) says he’s gone.

Well, if he’s outta there, I say we still let him buy a condo in Florida. We’ve done it for creepier clients than him, God knows. And besides, he gave us the best footage of ancient combat ever filmed.

Would you like to know more? Gary Brecher is the author of the War Nerd. Send your comments to Read Gary Brecher’s first ever War Nerd column by clicking here.

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Add your own

  • 1. matt  |  February 2nd, 2011 at 7:27 pm

    “I say we still let him buy a condo in Florida. We’ve done it for creepier clients than him, God knows. And besides, he gave us the best footage of ancient combat ever filmed.”

    considering the outright terrorists we have in Florida, you are probably right.

  • 2. vortexgods  |  February 2nd, 2011 at 7:39 pm

    If you bought Mubarak a condo in Florida, he’d be forced to live under the regime of governor Rick Scott.

    Death would be preferable.

  • 3. Adam  |  February 2nd, 2011 at 7:51 pm

    Another classic war nerd article.

  • 4. Chris  |  February 2nd, 2011 at 8:23 pm

    Thank Crom!

  • 5. Soj  |  February 2nd, 2011 at 8:38 pm

    One thing’s for sure – no way in hell would any “Western” TV station broadcast the raw footage that Al-J has been doing.

    Even if you complain about their cutting away to Moon and all the rest, they’re still outpacing the timid, censored crap that western media would’ve been showing if it were up to them to broadcast this revolt.

    Kind of hilarious that for decades the west has been bemoaning these “ignorant Arabs” who “crave a strong ruling hand” and all that other bullshit and here’s an Arab TV station showing the world how journalism is done!!

  • 6. Eric  |  February 2nd, 2011 at 8:43 pm

    Makes me wonder how much more things have to deteriorate here before this show gets repeated here, live in Times Square.I wonder if we could get Ollie North and Bas Rutten to do the play-by-play?

  • 7. RanDomino  |  February 2nd, 2011 at 9:27 pm

    From what I can tell, the “Testudo” turned into a sheet-metal barricade.

  • 8. gc  |  February 2nd, 2011 at 10:31 pm

    Okay, enough with the jokes about the Italians being cowards.

    If you want some examples of truly insane physical courage, read up on the Siege of Florence.

    The problem with the Italians isn’t that they can’t fight; it’s that it’s impossible to get them excited about fighting for anything bigger than their home town.

    (Honorable exception: Giuseppe Garibaldi.)

  • 9. Zadig  |  February 2nd, 2011 at 10:46 pm

    Couldn’t have happened to a better country: If you were a lucky, urbanite Cairene, you got to look forward to a life of unemployment, eating that kushry crap that turns your guts into mush, living in a grey concrete block somewhere in Medinat Nasr, and giving Khalid a reach around behind the “mobile” store while you fantasize about having enough money to marry some fat Egyptian woman and watch soap operas until you die. If you’re lucky, you get run over by a bus in Tahrir and that’s the end of that joke.

    The sexual tension and emasculation reached such a point that the whole country blew up in an orgy of violence. Allah bless them.

  • 10. Allah  |  February 2nd, 2011 at 10:58 pm

    In that lead photo, the camel is being gang-raped. I, Allah, nominate the camel for a new 2011 AVN Award.

    (Readers to supply the name of the award.)

    Allah here . . . OH-YU-TEE.

  • 11. Snob Megalove  |  February 2nd, 2011 at 11:06 pm

    This is great, as usual. Cheers, Mr. Brecher. I hope you’re here to stay and keep explaining what war really is to us media-blindfolded dumbfucks.

  • 12. BlottoBonVismarck  |  February 3rd, 2011 at 12:14 am

    > “I saw the same thing during the demonstrations after that rigged election in Iran, only the Iranian state has more real bedrock support than Mubarak, among the silent fascist Iranian majority from the slums and villages.”

    WTF ??? The War Nerd goes Freedom House neo-fascist. Nooooooooo !!!

  • 13. Eddie  |  February 3rd, 2011 at 2:48 am

    This awesome action sets a very important precedent for populations around the world facing a marginalized life in order to preserve the exorbitant privileges of the few.

    It shows that we too have our modern sensibilities. We are no longer able or willing to organize ourselves around the concepts of state or religion or even ideology. But if you take away our unemployment checks or mess with our belief in future; We will FUCK YOU UP. Regardless how many riot police with cavalry attachments there is in the budget.

    I’m guessing a lot of politicians, wall street honchos and military contractors are going to keep an extra eyes on this one.

  • 14. Eddie  |  February 3rd, 2011 at 4:13 am

    Here is a much better shot of the cavalry charge.

    There is a guy in a red shirt at 1:10 that executes a perfect football tackle on a horse. The stunned animal is toppled and then is swept away by the crowd.

    Pure ballet!

  • 15. Admo  |  February 3rd, 2011 at 4:45 am

    Did not expect to see The Last Resort referenced in a War Nerd article.

  • 16. fajensen  |  February 3rd, 2011 at 4:47 am

    Mubarak has talked to Obummah, Obummah then talks to Wall Street about how they want the chips to fall – they prefer “stability”, aka Mubarak keep paying the loans.

    So Mubarak sends the goons to stir up the shit, get some looting an’ burning going so the army can move in, do its thing and crush the protesters “sadly with an entirely unforeseen and regrettably loss of life and property”.

    The western politicians will then utter some noises of concern and that will be that.

  • 17. Viktor87  |  February 3rd, 2011 at 5:06 am

    Here is something related to the article:

    Who wants to bet on the next piece of medieval hardware the Egyptians will reinvent?

  • 18. DERDER  |  February 3rd, 2011 at 6:46 am

    Superb read thanks Mr. Brecher.

  • 19. Mike  |  February 3rd, 2011 at 8:15 am

    The demonstrators at the 2001 Summit of the Americas in Quebec City used a trebuchet to fling teddy bears over the magic summit fence.

    Mubarak’s Tea Party/loyalist CIA advisers obviously never played the first Age of Empires or they’d have know that you can’t group your camel and horse cavalry together.

  • 20. Yam Digger  |  February 3rd, 2011 at 10:04 am

    Now, if I were Mubarak, I would get into my Lear jet…or climb onto the fastest camel in the stable, and get the Royal Fuck out of Egypt in a hurry!!!

    For Mubarak to try and stay and hang on to power when even Ben-Ali fled Tunisia with less coaxing shows that he is one seriously dumb-fuck dude!!!

  • 21. pat b  |  February 3rd, 2011 at 12:08 pm


    Why don’t you think the Crowds have switched to say early 20th century technology
    even if they can’t get tanks, they could use Scout Vehicles and Technicals?

    Camels? Horses? Man if I wanted to get all hardcore on a crowd, i’d take 2 Toyota 1 ton pickups (T1000) or better, weld a gooseneck trailer hitch into the bed, and string a 1000 lb chain between them. Then get up to flank speed and start mowing down protesters.

    Have a couple hard core bully boys in the back with baseball bats and let Newton do the dirty work.

    It’s not as effective as Mohammed Farah Aideeds 50 Cal mounted technicals, but, for a fast response team, it would work.

  • 22. Eddie  |  February 3rd, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    Seems the police learned some lessons from the failed cavalry charge. Namely that horses and camels require coordination and iron dicipline to be of any use.

    Here is an example of them employing some more modern high octane cavalry.

  • 23. Perfect Tommy  |  February 3rd, 2011 at 1:57 pm

    Outstanding play by play and color commentary by the War Nerd. His fame grows anew.

    The revolt needs to secure their victory by taking down the presidential palace. When that’s imminent and discussions start on field punishment (concrete shoes/Mediterranean?), Mubarak and his investment banker son will fuck off to Gstaad or Monaco or wherever.

  • 24. nick  |  February 3rd, 2011 at 2:44 pm

    “…Ban ki Moon, the Korean who fronts for the UN these days and the man whose bland flat face could put a weasel on speed to sleep”

    FUCKING AWESOME WRITING – THANK YOU WAR NERD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • 25. John Drinkwater  |  February 3rd, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    “What’s the point of these sermonettes anyway? Did anybody expent (sic) Ban to say, “I rove dese liots! Anybody give me five to one on Mubalak?” We all know it’s his job to tsk-tsk, we get it, why waste riot time on it?”

    Holy shit, that’s fucking funny. I noticed also how the sermons were choreographed to repeat almost the same exact, dull, meaningless message. Obama, Cameron, Ban: “I just want to stress restraint…uh…all parties use restraint.”

  • 26. Dr. Luny  |  February 3rd, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    Is it wrong that there’s something really appealing about this kind of warfare? No wonder we have so many pacifists these days. Modern war is just boring, uncomfortable, and dangerous. Ever since the invention of heavy artillery and machine guns war has been reduced to the art of cowering in the face of random, anonymous death. If war was like this I might be inclined to enjoy it.

  • 27. ray  |  February 3rd, 2011 at 3:27 pm

    The relative ineffectiveness of molotovs surprised me. One watched them raining down on the ranks and the men just seemed to jump out of the way of the burning petroleum splashed over the street on impact. I suppose they are easy to spot coming at you and fairly slow moving objects so dodging poses no problem.

  • 28. pMX?  |  February 3rd, 2011 at 4:14 pm

    There´s just something beautiful about riots.

  • 29. CAW  |  February 3rd, 2011 at 4:16 pm

    Boss! Fucking boss, Brecher! You rule, man!

    Pull ’em off they horses!

  • 30. b5t6yr  |  February 3rd, 2011 at 4:26 pm

    So War Nerd, how do you convince a dozen guys that mounting horses and charging through 100,000 people is a good idea? That’s leadership my man!

  • 31. gc  |  February 3rd, 2011 at 5:48 pm

    I’ve already commented once, but that was a nitpick, and this article deserves better.

    So I’ll say that it’s a tremendous pleasure to see the War Nerd so cheerful and hopeful about a current event.

  • 32. Ivan  |  February 3rd, 2011 at 6:49 pm

    “Sons of bitches”, “Mubarak shut up/die”.

    These Egyptians have put us to shame. We live and die, like the miserable cowards we are, under our equally corrupt European governments, without ever raising a finger in protest. And we swallow the lie that we can ever change anything with that ballot paper every five years.

  • 33. Grimgrin  |  February 3rd, 2011 at 7:01 pm


    Apparently the pro-Mubarak types come in one of three flavors: ruling party hacks, security goons in plain clothes or people paid between $10 – 100 per head per day to join in.

    The low level goons never do well when there’s a regime change, and neither do the low level apparatchicks. Easy enough to convince them that breaking up that mob is the key to their continued future.

    The problem really, is that if you’re an Egyptian against Mubarak, you’ve made your peace with the idea of taking a beating, if your a security creep… well you signed on so that you wouldn’t be the one getting your ass kicked. The pro-Mubarak forces therefore have something of a morale problem.

  • 34. Gustavo Arellano  |  February 3rd, 2011 at 7:05 pm

    Your slam at the modern-day Italians was CLASSIC.

  • 35. Jay  |  February 3rd, 2011 at 7:31 pm

    Good article, as usual.

    This afternoon I read an interesting take on the riots at a blog called D-squared Digest. It talks about reactionary militias as a counter-revolution tool, and the strategic utility of big, dumb, angry working men.

  • 36. Zhu Bajie  |  February 3rd, 2011 at 7:42 pm

    Mubarak is not taking Cavafy’s advice 🙁

    The God Abandons Antony

    At midnight, when suddenly you hear
    an invisible procession going by
    with exquisite music, voices,
    don’t mourn your luck that’s failing now,
    work gone wrong, your plans
    all proving deceptive – don’t mourn them uselessly:
    as one long prepared, and full of courage,
    say goodbye to her, to Alexandria who is leaving.
    Above all, don’t fool yourself, don’t say
    it was a dream, your ears deceived you:
    don’t degrade yourself with empty hopes like these.
    As one long prepared, and full of courage,
    as is right for you who were given this kind of city,
    go firmly to the window
    and listen with deep emotion,
    but not with the whining, the pleas of a coward;
    listen – your final pleasure – to the voices,
    to the exquisite music of that strange procession,
    and say goodbye to her, to the Alexandria you are losing.

    Constantine P. Cavafy

  • 37. JoJoJo  |  February 3rd, 2011 at 7:59 pm

    I know people were looking forward to a new War Nerd on this but as the article shows everything is pretty straightforward here and doesn’t really warrant the Brecher analysis. Personally I want the lowdown on Nkunda that he hinted about but never elaborated on.

  • 38. DEmoss  |  February 3rd, 2011 at 8:13 pm

    Watch the guy in the red sweater he nails a horse and a camel rider straight to the ground. Balls of steel.

  • 39. George H  |  February 3rd, 2011 at 9:47 pm

    It’s been estimated that the Mubarak family’s net worth is between $40 and $70 billion, money stolen from the Egyptian people, while 40 percent of Egyptians earn less than $2 dollars a day.

    Americans have had hundreds of billions (and some estimate it could be as high as $14 trillion) looted from our country by Wall Street banksters. And the looting continues.

    Like the Egyptian government, America is nothing but a kleptocracy pretending to be a democracy. The difference is that the Egyptians, unlike the Americans, have finally said enough is enough, and are taking matters into their own hands.

    How much longer are we going to allow the bastards on Wall St and Washington to keep robbing us blind before we follow the example set by the Egyptian people? How much longer before we take matters into our own hands to stop these criminals?

  • 40. captian america  |  February 3rd, 2011 at 10:47 pm

    rotfl@”the Mubarak Loyalist Petting-Zoo Squadron”

  • 41. gary  |  February 4th, 2011 at 12:37 am

    now we will see what kid of dictator mubarak is,,,will he chicken out with the treasury like baby doc in haiti or will he go down fighting like trujillo in the dominican republic…my guess is he will flee like all chickenshits

  • 42. Jyp  |  February 4th, 2011 at 1:06 am

    A rock fight, by Jesus! I hain’t had a good rock fight in fifty years! By God, I can still remember some glorious battles back in the late fifties, early sixties, generally commencing with a relatively harmless dried mudball fight (painful but not inherently fatal), but quickly escalating upon first blood to genuine hard rocks, particularly rough nasty ones with sharp edges, twirling when you huck the bastards at the enemies head. Hee yaw!

    Great stuff, Nerd.

  • 43. Steve Dekorte  |  February 4th, 2011 at 2:23 am

    If there was a Nobel War prize, I’d nominate War Nerd.

  • 44. baron ungern von sternberg  |  February 4th, 2011 at 5:45 am

    check out curzio malapartes “technik des staatsstreichs”, the famous 30s book on how to topple governments. coming to new honors again

  • 45. Delta  |  February 4th, 2011 at 9:59 am

    Weirdly, I was just making some of the same points on cavalry on my D&D blog on Monday.

    Including (re: “Who’d be the first to die of all the guys you know?… The bravest one, the one who really believes in what he’s doing.”) a snippet from Shaw’s “Arms and the Man”:

    RAINA: (her eyes dilating as she raises her clasped hands ecstatically) `Yes, first One! -the bravest of the brave!’

    THE MAN: (prosaically) `Hm! you should see the poor devil pulling at his horse.’

    RAINA: `Why should he pull at his horse?’

    THE MAN: (impatient at so stupid a question) `It’s running away with him, of course; do you suppose the fellow wants to get there first and be killed… ?

  • 46. Flaco the bad  |  February 4th, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    Events in Egypt confirm the principle that there are there are More Of Us Than Them.

    The billionaire Pete Peterson should keep this in mind as he tries to eliminate social security benefits to poor people.

    Let’s hope the Egyptians succeed in getting rid of Mubarek, and perhaps this will inspire Americans to finally get rid of our own parasite billionaire gangsters, starting with Pete Peterson, Lloyd Blankfein and Robert Rubin, but please, don’t stop there.

    The only problem is that there aren’t enough lamp posts on Wall Street for all the banksters who deserve to be hanged.

  • 47. Mysterion  |  February 4th, 2011 at 3:30 pm

    I’m going to try to ride on your coattails War Nerd by getting you to click to my site, which is nothing but a cheap shit imitation of yours. Here’s the link in case:


    Welp, I’m pretty fucking pathetic, aren’t I? I can’t think of a single idea on my own. I should kill myself, but I’m too much of a pussy to do that. So instead, I’m going to keep on trying to imitate you. Run me over if you happen to see me. Which you won’t because I’m rarely out of my parent’s basement.

  • 48. Zhu Bajie  |  February 4th, 2011 at 4:45 pm

    It isn’t just the banksters. Think of all the fools who say “the other politicians are all crooks, but my congressman is OK!” It usually turns out that “OK” means he does Mafia-style patronage and favors.

    Then there are the conservafools who think “I’ll be a super-richie, too, some day, so I’ll defend their privileges now!”

  • 49. captain america  |  February 4th, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    all you all fantasizing that americans will somehow take to commotion in egypt as an example and “rise up” are forgetting that the average american lives about 100x more comfortably than the average egyptian. things will have to get a lot worse in the US for anything like this to happen here.

    i’m interested to see what the censors will do with my comment.

  • 50. Guest  |  February 4th, 2011 at 8:09 pm

    diplomatic car runs over protesters. 20-30 people injured.

  • 51. Carney  |  February 4th, 2011 at 8:13 pm

    Dr. Luny @ 26, I think zooming along in a fighter plane, scout bike, or dune buggy, or getting to fire a big gun (tank, battleship, artillery, what have you) and see the boom, has got to be pretty fun.

    And if you want random anonymous death there was plenty of it from slingers, archers, and crossbowmen, not to mention disease.

  • 52. Ed L  |  February 4th, 2011 at 9:25 pm

    Can’t agree there War Nerd.

    I thought the crowds were shockingly incompetent. Even back in Scotland before they banned alcohol from football/soccer matches and there were regular drink-fuelled mass brawls, the crowds managed co-ordinated volleys of empty whisky bottles followed by a terrain-seizing charge.

    All I saw in Cairo were some stone-age losers who couldn’t act together. Just individuals flinging rocks, and not acting in any co-ordinated action.

    The type of fuzzy-wuzzy cannon fodder that the Maxim gun was invented for.

    ps in the videos of the skirmishes, the pro-mubarak guys are attacking from the left.

  • 53. Pat Kittle  |  February 4th, 2011 at 9:45 pm

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:

    Human history is little more than a litany of the oppressed heroically freeing themselves, only to become the new oppressors.

    Meanwhile the Malthusian hordes keep multiplying.

    (If by that you think I’m excusing Wall Street banksters, look up “cognitive dissonance.”)

  • 54. Pat Kittle  |  February 4th, 2011 at 9:54 pm

    After posting my previous comment, I see the (temporary) notice above it in italics:

    “Your comment is awaiting moderation.”

    “Moderate”?? War Nerd??


  • 55. jackytar  |  February 5th, 2011 at 2:53 am

    Welcome back, War Nerd! Between the greatest hits reruns and the occasional phoning-it-in columns, I thought you were gradually withdrawing from the field. It’s good to see the bloodlust up, and a clear eyed view of the battle ahead. Without your insight, all I would have seen was a bunch of excitable camel jockys and childish rock throwers.

  • 56. Manni  |  February 5th, 2011 at 5:25 am

    Great article, Gary, Dr John, Eileen or whoever you may be; we are all so glad you are back !

    But how do you rank the Burmese in this context? Buddhist monks [sic!] fighting heavily armed government thugs with sometimes nothing else but their bare hands …

  • 57. AKAGoldfish  |  February 5th, 2011 at 8:23 am

    The Pro-Democracy protesters get an A for tactics, but I’m starting to seriously doubt their strategic thinking.

    On Friday when they had over a million people, they could have easily diverted a couple tens of thousands to head towards the Presidential Palace, while still keeping a substantial force in the square. Instead they all hung out in the square and had what looked like a hippie drum circle. Now Al Jazeera’s talking heads are asking “have the protesters lost the momentum” since they haven’t gained any new ground since they reinforced their position in the square Wednesday night/Thursday morning.

    Unless these guys break out of the Square soon and put the mob on Mubarak’s doorstep, they may snatch defeat from the jaws of victory yet.

  • 58. old exile fan  |  February 5th, 2011 at 8:43 am

    All these hanky-head countries have too many young men. Hopefully they will get their internal wars going on full speed and cull these meaningless herds of young bucks way, way down.

  • 59. Bob  |  February 5th, 2011 at 9:35 am

    Entertaining analysis as always. I saw the irregular light cavalry but not the skirmishers / dedicated missile troops, shield walls / turtles etc. Lol at the improvised catapult, it’s a shame making a proper trebuchet is so much work … would be sweet to see flaming cars cartwheeling through the air.

    Al Jazeera is certainly one of the best news outfits out there; you can thank the BBC for that, since they are pretty much the original BBC Arabic service in all but name. Another I would recommend keeping an eye on is EuroNews’ “No Comment” segment (, which shows usually relatively unedited footage of whatever with no commentary. It’s variable but occasionally they have awesome front-line action.

  • 60. Bob  |  February 5th, 2011 at 9:49 am

    Ed L – you have a point, but the primary aim of the protesters is to hold their ground (especially the square), as opposed to the Scottish mission objective of “kick their fucking heads in then get away”. The hooligans also have the advantage of being a smaller, more cohesive force who are in uniform, have prior battle experience, and have all had opportunity to formally discuss tactics in the pub beforehand. With a huge leaderless grassroots crowd like this, nothing more than a general broadly agreed strategy is going to be possible.

  • 61. Hosni M  |  February 5th, 2011 at 12:10 pm

    The article sucked. Plain sucked. Chancellor Im-hotep and I are going to kick some ass.

  • 62. postman  |  February 5th, 2011 at 3:15 pm

    Dear War Nerd,

    I am seriously disappointed.
    I expected you to point out that, as Wikileaks (which is Mossad 4th, Psy-Warfare Division) leaks incited the “democratic revolution” in Tunisia, and it is copy-catted by the TV-watching Arabic dictatorship peoples, all the way moving towards Syria: this is the same “Crescent of Democracy” plan carried out you were talking about in 2003. That after the toppling of Saddam and starting up Iraqi democracy (with US help), all the different Arabic dictatorships’ people will copy-cat and topple their dictatorships one-by-one and start up “democracy”, all the way to Syria! And it is happening, man, live, the same “Crescent of Democracy-plan”, only they started now in Tunisia because they knew for long there is no way to export iraqi democracy! What is it with you, man, are you getting old?

  • 63. Ed L  |  February 5th, 2011 at 4:07 pm

    @Bob, all fair points but I was looking at it from the point of the attackers . Apart from the Charge of the Light-on-the-loafers Brigade of camels I saw very little attacking elan from the pro-mubaraks. A persistent inability to press any advantage, especially when they lost their advance position of the row of Army trucks.

    I look forward to see if their tactics evolve in Round 2 this week, although frankly I’d be surprised.

  • 64. Eddie  |  February 5th, 2011 at 9:46 pm

    @Ed L
    You can make up a lot of ground in the area of incompetence with tenacity and sheer bravery. Remember this is as of this moment strictly a domestic dispute. Ergo the larger the body count the less likely it is for the protesters to give up and the more likely it is for the police force to loose their cohesion.

    At some point they will start to realize that they are going to have to live in the same old neighborhoods and that the neighbors just saw them taking a huge stinky shit. At that point they will start to look for a face saving way out.

    All the protesters have to do is to show an unwillingness or inability to compromise on any and all issues.

    Offing yourself in front of your buddies is then a step in the right direction.

    Check out this dude.

    A couple SUVs of guys with balls like him and this thing is all over.

  • 65. Ed L  |  February 6th, 2011 at 1:34 am


    Amazing video, No doubt a mosque-full of guys like him would be unstoppable.

    Instructive also to see the Oriental vindictiveness of the shooter, combined with the sub-90 IQ of the ballsy protester, assuming he wasn’t drunk. That level of spite almost guarantees that when the protesters get the drop on the police then there will be a bloodbath.

  • 66. Rex  |  February 6th, 2011 at 6:47 am

    It’s clear from this footage that a camel is to be preferred when you have to get out of a mounted charge. The horsemen get pull down, the camel rider gets back to safety.

  • 67. Jack Boot  |  February 7th, 2011 at 12:03 pm

    Who wins? My money’s on the Muslim Brotherhood – Egypt’s Bolsheviks.
    They’re numerically small, but well-organised and determined.

    The February Revolution is underway, with Albaradai playing the role of Kerensky.

    Lenin shall be along shortly – perhaps by October…

  • 68. PKS  |  February 7th, 2011 at 7:45 pm

    I heard a radio doc on CBC radio up here in the Great White North, that suggested that the at least, “frontline”, or maybe, the first ones to get out and set an example, are a group of people who are all fanatical soccer fans, and that they’re in fact, quite experienced in “close-quarters urban combat”.
    Wish I could remember the name, hopefully somebody else knows about this as well and can help me out, but yeah, one way or the other, at least a sorta strong core or backbone of what got this started was a group of people with lots of experience in this kind of combat.

    Really, anybody who’s ever played football, or been on a drill team, will probably take to it like a duck to water.

  • 69. underamattress  |  February 10th, 2011 at 9:17 am

    “all the brave ones”

    that is how we ended up with ronald reagan, cheney, bush 2, biden, john wayne, clinton, all wall st and k st, hollywood, and war nerd + ames. so many slinkers.

  • 70. Ratbert  |  February 10th, 2011 at 12:57 pm

    So how could the enslaved populace of a cult-state like North Korea ever win their freedom, other than all killing themselves at once (probably a great idea)?

  • 71. Adam  |  February 10th, 2011 at 7:08 pm

    From CNN:

    Mubarak “is gambling with his country” in order to stay at the helm, ElBaradei told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.
    He reiterated the message of his Twitter account, which read, “Egypt will explode. Army must save the country now.”

    Oh boy! We all know what that means! Call in the F-16s!

  • 72. F  |  February 11th, 2011 at 3:27 pm

    Mubarak’s reign has ended.

    BTW, there were some more succesfull cavalry charges in the past years(although, these were done by policemen, not irregulars).
    Budapest, 2006
    London, 2010

  • 73. Carpenter  |  February 15th, 2011 at 8:58 am

    “The banksters,” people? If supporting Mubarak was about getting money, then why would the U.S. be GIVING him money every year? That completely contradicts the theory about greed being behind the support for Mubarak.

    Egypt has received more U.S. foreign aid than any other country in the world – except Israel, of course. Why? Israel gets money because of the Israeli lobby and their media allies. Egypt also gets money because of the Israeli lobby and their media allies. Mubarak closed the gates on the Gaza Strip, helped starve the Palestinians. He has used his intelligence service to spy on and rat out al-Qaeda throughout the Middle East – because al-Qaeda supported the Palestinian resistance. He was onboard with invading Iraq, the country that gave financial and diplomatic support to the Palestinian resistance.

    If it had been about oil, bank loans, or whatever, then it would make no sense for the U.S. to support Mubarak. Just do business with whoever is in charge, like China and Russia do. But the Israeli lobby completely calls the shots in U.S. Middle Eastern policy. Listen to the insiders and former insiders who all say the same thing. After 9/11, civilian neocons – Zionists actually – set up desk in the Pentagon, the same desk handling policy toward Iran and Iraq. They were high up in the Security Council, in the State Department, Defense Department, everywhere. These “neocons” had only one agenda, destroy what little pro-Palestinian support there was in the Middle East, and support the Israeli-loyal dictators like Mubarak.

    They gave money to Mubarak. And money to the opposition groups organizing riots in Iran. Why pro-state in one case, and anti-state in the other? The red thread through it all is which side is on Israel’s side.

  • 74. Fred  |  February 15th, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    The song he references is “Violence on our minds” by the Last Resort.

  • 75. fnord  |  March 9th, 2011 at 9:02 am

    Ah Gary, you must come over to Europe and watch the anti-fas vs. the nazis vs. the police sometime. The horse-charge was dead funny, though, some really good tackling. Ive been charged by horses a couple of times, and I always think “Damn, it cant be that hard to break their legs?”

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