As far as graceful exits go, this one isn''t. Al Arabia reports that deposed Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak fell into a coma shortly after his last speech as president, in which he handed over executive authority to his VP/spy chief Omar Suleiman. According to the report, he is receiving medical treatment at his residence in Sharm el Sheikh.
This follows reports from a week ago in Der Spiegel that the US was helping arrange a "prolonged health check" in a German hospital as a possible exit strategy for Mubarak. Mubarak is 82 and has health issues. It is even rumored that he may have cancer. But it remains difficult to believe his well timed coma.
Mubarak''s resignation was announced one day after he delivered an energetic speech signaling his intent to stay until the September elections. His abrupt departure was a clear sign of an internal military coup, not a coma.
Had Mubarak understood the full extent of the opposition protests and reconciled with the fact that his time to leave had come, he could have still salvaged a decent exit. He could have expressed understanding of the protesters'' wishes (which is what he did), but maintained that Egypt needs an orderly transition, which would be facilitated by his departure in a month''s time followed by military rule until the next elections. He would have bowed out to pressure and given up transitional power to the military before the election, but done so on his own time table, thereby retaining a modicum of dignity. Instead he is fleeing under cover of coma.
Perhaps in response to the brave new world created by Egyptian protests, Mubarak is relying on Aldous Huxley''s formula for a graceful exit. "Ignore death up to the last moment; then, when it can''t be ignored any longer, have yourself squirted full of morphia and shuffle off in a coma. Thoroughly sensible, humane and scientific, eh?" suggests a character in Huxley''s Time Must Have a Stop. In a region that believes shark attacks to be evidence of a Mossad plot, a conveniently timed coma is hardly a stretch. Or perhaps having left an impoverished country with $70 billion to his name (though I doubt this figure is accurate), Mubarak laughed himself into an actual coma.
In any case, Mubarak is out. The people''s voice has been heard. Of course the question remains, now what? Let''s hope that in his supposedly dreamy state, Mubarak won''t have the last laugh.