Pro-democracy protester in Tahrir Square, February 3, 2011 returns from surviving an attack by pro-Mubarak thugs. (from a photo by Al Jazeera English on Flickr)

With Thursday’s news that the Egyptian military has said that it will support the anti-Mubarak protesters and the movement of the military to stand between the anti-Mubarak protesters and the pro-Mubarak thugs who attacked them on Wednesday, we see once again what the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. described as the “powerful moral force” of nonviolence in achieving social and political change, in direct contrast to the neocons’ blather that democracy could be imposed from outside a society at the end of a gun.

CNN describes the movement of the military to separate the pro-Mubarak thugs from the protesters:

Meanwhile, the military — which had largely remained still in the area of Tahrir Square during violent clashes between supporters and foes of President Hosni Mubarak — took position between the clashing groups Thursday. Rocks flew back and forth in an empty construction area in front of a metal barricade that anti-Mubarak protesters set up overnight.

The military has even gone so far as to announce that they now support the anti-Mubarak protesters, as reported by BBC:

The BBC’s Jon Leyne in Cairo cites a retired general who has been speaking to tank crews on the square as saying the army is losing patience, and if firing continues from pro-government supporters, it is willing to fire on them.

Those attacking them appear to be either police who have taken off their uniforms or plain-clothes “thugs”, our correspondent says.

But appended to the very top of that story is this snippet, which appears to be an update:

The BBC’s Jon Leyne: “The army is now willing to support the anti-Mubarak protesters”

In just a few days, massive nonviolent protests by Egyptian citizens have led to President Hosni Mubarak announcing that he will not stand for re-election in September. Further, with the strong condemnation heaped on Mubarak and his supporters for Wednesday’s violence unleashed on the anti-government protesters, we now have Mubarak asking his Prime Minister to investigate who is behind the attacks (from the CNN article cited above):

Egypt’s prime minister apologized Thursday for the violent attacks on protesters yesterday and said the country’s president has asked him to investigate the security chaos.

“This is a fatal error, and when investigations reveal who is behind this crime and who allowed it to happen, I promise they will be held accountable and will be punished for what they did,” Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq said on state-owned TV.

These huge advances by Egyptian citizens standing up peacefully to ask for basic freedoms provide confirmation of the moving words spoken by Martin Luther King, Jr. in his 1964 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech:

After contemplation, I conclude that this award which I receive on behalf of that movement is a profound recognition that nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral question of our time – the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to violence and oppression. Civilization and violence are antithetical concepts. Negroes of the United States, following the people of India, have demonstrated that nonviolence is not sterile passivity, but a powerful moral force which makes for social transformation. Sooner or later all the people of the world will have to discover a way to live together in peace, and thereby transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. If this is to be achieved, man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.

The way in which the peaceful assembly in Tahrir Square has inspired love and brotherhood has been manifested in many unexpected ways. One of the most striking to me came in the coverage by Al Jazeera English on Wednesday. In the midst of the extensive coverage of events in the square as they happened, the calm, professional delivery of information was interrupted only rarely, but at one point, an anchor interrupted a reporter to note that each individual gunshot heard in the background was potentially fatal. Despite a responsibility to deliver news in a detached manner, the anchor clearly was experiencing the brotherhood which Dr. King was setting as a primary goal of civilization, and paused to reflect on the humanity of each potential victim.

What more refutation do we need for those who would achieve “democracy” at the end of a gun? Why distort Dr. King’s message in an obscene attempt to say he would approve of the atrocities the US has committed in Iraq? Why dishonor the nonviolent action of the Tahrir Square protesters by saying that it has anything at all to do with the neocons’ war-mongering lust for “democracy” through war in the Middle East?

Just as the peaceful fall of governments in the old Soviet bloc, also achieved through nonviolent actions by the citizens, was a refutation of the weapons-based Cold War mentality, the developing pan-Arab uprising will be achieved through nonviolent citizen action rather than outside intervention with weapons. The natural rights of citizens are stronger than any weapon. And that is why doctors among the anti-Mubarak protesters came to the aid of pro-Mubarak protesters. The caption Al Jazeera English provided in their Flickr upload of the photo below reads “A protester (R) who was working as a doctor inside the square attends to a pro-Mubarak prisoner who had fainted inside the makeshift Sadat metro prison.”