CAIRO — I met two generals today.
Both were exceedingly polite, welcoming me to Egypt and stressing their concern for my safety. The first, the top Army general at a Defense Ministry office in Mohandiseen, a middle-class neighborhood in Giza, across the Nile River from Tahrir Square, offered me tea and cookies. He told me how he "liked America very much," where he attended training as a special forces officer "many times."
The second, a senior general at the sprawling military police headquarters way across town -- not far from the parade ground where Anwar Sadat was assassinated in 1981 -- spoke fondly of his training in England. As seemingly staged "man-on-street" interviews played on state television, he insisted we have a friendly chat.
"It's one thing for people to demand their rights, OK," the first general said. "But not like this."
"The educated young people with Facebook and all that are one thing," the second general chimed in. "But the Muslim Brotherhood is another subject."
I asked them whether they thought the situation would end. "One or two days, maximum," the first general averred. "They will get tired -- sleeping in the dirt like that -- and go home."
And what about the police? He laughed. "They're on vacation. Their day off."
"The police are bad," the second general offered. The unspoken implication: but we, in the Army, are professionals.
I wasn't exactly their invited guest, however. Two hours earlier, I had been heading home to my hotel after a long day of reporting, when I was stopped at one of the hundreds of informal checkpoints that have sprung up across the city as the police have disappeared. The teenagers who stopped me in Mohandiseen were apologetic as they ejected me from my taxi and turned me over to the Army; it was just "normal procedure, yanni." I had foolishly stayed out past the 5 p.m. curfew, and orders were orders.