BBC: ICC prosecutor seeking warant to arrest Gaddafi, his son, and his Security Minister for Crimes Against Humanity

The International Criminal Court chief prosecutor is seeking the arrest of Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi and two others for crimes against humanity.  Luis Moreno-Ocampo said Col Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam, and intelligence chief Abdullah al-Sanussi bore the greatest responsibility for “widespread and systematic attacks” on civilians.

ICC judges must still decide whether or not to issue warrants for their arrest. The Libyan government has already said it will ignore the announcement.  Deputy Foreign Minister Khalid Kaim said the court was a “baby of the European Union designed for African politicians and leaders” and its practices were “questionable“.  Libya did not recognise its jurisdiction, like a few other African countries and the United States, he added.

‘Inner circle’

Luis Moreno-Ocampo’s call for the arrest of Col Gaddafi on war crimes charges is his second for a sitting head of state. But as with his indictment of Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir, this could be just as hard to enforce. Some fear this will only complicate efforts to bring the violence to an end, making it harder to negotiate a settlement – if potential interlocutors fear they will face future prosecution.

The Libyan authorities have already dismissed the International Criminal court as irrelevant. But the prosecutor’s office says it has been getting calls from some unnamed Libyan officials offering evidence, which if true suggests some at least take the prosecutor’s investigations very seriously. And the Libyan leader, his son and his intelligence chief are now looking even more isolated.

Mr Moreno-Ocampo said that after reviewing more than 1,200 documents and 50 interviews with key insiders and witnesses, his office had evidence showing that Col Gaddafi had “personally ordered attacks on unarmed Libyan civilians”.  “His forces attacked Libyan civilians in their homes and in public spaces, shot demonstrators with live ammunition, used heavy weaponry against participants in funeral processions, and placed snipers to kill those leaving mosques after prayers,” he told a news conference in The Hague.

“The evidence shows that such persecution is still ongoing as I speak today in the areas under Gaddafi control. Gaddafi forces have prepared a list with names of alleged dissidents, and they are being arrested, put into prisons in Tripoli, tortured and made to disappear,” he added. Mr Moreno-Ocampo continued: “His [Col Gaddafi’s] second-oldest son, Saif al-Islam, is the de facto prime minister and Sanussi, Gaddafi’s brother-in-law, is his right-hand man – the executioner, the head of military intelligence. He commanded personally some of the attacks.”

The prosecutor insisted he was “almost ready” for a trial, based on the testimony, particularly of those who had escaped from Libya. Libya’s opposition National Transitional Council praised the ICC move. But its vice-president, Abdel Hafez Ghoga, said: “We would like him [Col Gaddafi] to be tried in Libya first before being put on trial in an international court.

Selective justice?

Earlier, Mr Moreno-Ocampo said the three men were suspected of committing crimes against humanity in two categories – murder and persecution – under the Rome Statute, which established the court.  The charges cover the days following the start of anti-government protests on 15 February. Between 500 and 700 people are believed to have been killed in that month alone.

ICC prosecutors are also studying evidence about the alleged commission of war crimes once the situation developed into an armed conflict.  This includes allegations of rape and attacks against sub-Saharan Africans wrongly perceived to be mercenaries. An inquiry set up by the UN Human Rights Council is expected to submit its report on the alleged war crimes to the UN Security Council on 7 June.

 The charges cover the days following the start of anti-government protests on 15 February. Mr Moreno-Ocampo said he was acting in accordance with UN Security Council resolution 1970, which referred the situation in Libya to the ICC. The Pre-Trial Chamber’s judges may decide to accept the prosecutor’s application, reject it, or ask him for more information.

If a warrant for Col Gaddafi is issued, it would only be the second time the ICC has sought a warrant for a sitting head of state. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has been indicted for genocide in Darfur. Amnesty International said the international community must not allow justice to appear selective, because what was happening in Syria was “equal to if not worse than the situation in Libya”.

Overnight, Libyan state television reported Nato aircraft had bombed an oil terminal in the eastern port of Ras Lanuf. The alleged raid came after insurgents said they had taken full control of the western city of Misrata. The rebels also said they had defeated two brigades of troops loyal to Col Gaddafi in the city of Zintan, south-east of Tripoli, over the weekend.

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Don Tapscott: The world’s unemployed youth: revolution in the air? (The Guardian)

youth unemployment rally
A common thread to the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt and protests elsewhere in the Middle East and north Africa is the soul-crushing high rate of youth unemployment. Twenty-four percent of young people in the region cannot find jobs. To be sure, protesters were also agitating for democracy, but nonexistent employment opportunities were the powerful catalyst.

Youth unemployment is similarly dire in other parts of the world. In the UK, young people aged 16 to 24 account for about 40% of all unemployed, which means almost 1 million young adults are jobless. In Spain more than 40% of young people are unemployed. In France the rate is more than 20%, and in the US it’s 21%. In country after country, many young people have given up looking for work. A recent survey in the UK revealed that more than half of the 18- to 25-year-olds questioned said they were thinking of emigrating because of the lack of job prospects.

Unemployed young people comprised a large portion of the crowd that marched in London on March 26 to protest against the economic policies of the government. Fortunately, the protest was largely peaceful. But youth unemployment will continue to stay high, and the coalition’s austerity measures are not going to help. We’re deluding ourselves if we believe the young will simply continue to be stoical and deferential to authority.

Today’s society is failing to deliver on its promise to young people. We said that if they worked hard, stayed out of trouble, and attended school, they would have a prosperous and fulfilling life. It turns out we were inaccurate, if not dishonest. And then we rub salt in the wound by saying we’re in a “jobless recovery” – an oxymoron to tens of millions of young people who are having their hopes dashed.

Widespread youth unemployment is one facet of a deeper failure. The society we are passing to today’s young people is seriously damaged. Most of the institutions that have served us well for decades – even centuries – seem frozen and unable to move forward. The global economy, our financial services industry, governments, healthcare, the media and our institutions for solving global problems like the UN are all struggling. I’m convinced that the industrial age and its institutions are finally running out of gas. It is young people who are bearing the brunt of our failures.

Full of zeal and relatively free of responsibilities, youth are traditionally the generation most inclined to question the status quo and authority. Fifty years ago, babyboomers had access to information through the new marvel of television, and as they became university-age and delayed having families, many had time to challenge government policies and social norms. Youth radicalisation swept the world, culminating in explosive protests, violence and government crackdowns across Europe, Asia and North America.

In Paris in May 1968, protests that began as student sit-ins challenging the Charles de Gaulle government and the capitalist system culminated in a two-week general strike involving more than 11 million workers. Youth played a key role in the so-called Prague Spring in Czechoslovakia that same year. In West Germany, the student movement gained momentum in the late 60s. In the US, youth radicalisation began with the civil rights movement and extended into movements for women’s rights and other issues, and culminated in the Vietnam war protests.

Young people today have a demographic clout similar to that of their once-rebellious parents. In North America, the baby boom echo is larger than the boom itself. In South America the demographic bulge is huge and even bigger in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. A majority of people in the world are under the age of 30 and a whopping 27% under the age of 15.

The 60s baby boomer radicalisation was based on youthful hope and ideology. Protesters championed the opposition to war, a celebration of youth culture, and the possibilities for a new kind of social order. Today’s simmering youth radicalisation is much different. It is rooted not only in unemployment, but personal broken hopes, mistreatment, and injustice. Young people are alienated; witness the dropping young voter turnout for elections. They are turning their backs on the system.

Most worryingly, today’s youth have at their fingertips the internet, the most powerful tool ever for finding out what’s going on, informing others and organising collective responses. Internet-based digital tools such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube were instrumental to the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions.

We need to make the creation of new jobs a top priority. We need to reinvent our institutions, everything from the financial industry to our models of education and science to kickstart a new global economy. We need to engage today’s young people, not jack up tuition fees and cut back on retraining. We need to nurture their drive, passion and expertise. We need to help them take advantage of new web-based tools and become involved in making the world more prosperous, just and sustainable.

If we don’t take such measures, we run the risk of a generational conflict that could make the radicalisation of youth in Europe and North America in the 1960s pale in comparison.

Foreign Policy: The Hard Part of Libya’s Revolution


You may recall the last time the United States and its allies used military force to overthrow a hated Arab dictator. The resulting vacuum was quickly filled by anarchic looting, murderous rivalries and, ultimately, civil war. The blitheness of President George W. Bush’s administration towards post-war Iraq was quite possibly the most inexcusable blunder in the history of American foreign policy. It’s a mistake we wouldn’t want to make again.

That’s why Lisa Anderson, one of the very few American scholarly experts on modern Libya and president of American University in Cairo, recently wrote that “Any military and diplomatic intervention that will bring an end to the Qaddafi regime should be accompanied, from the beginning, by mobilization of the resources for political reconstruction.”

That does sound like a good idea. But it’s not happening. A senior official in President Barack Obama’s administration says that the situation in Libya is “much too fluid,” and the identity of the rebel leadership much too uncertain, to permit serious planning about a post-Muammar al-Qaddafi world, should the rebels actually seize power. The White House is, to be fair, a bit preoccupied, what with organizing the no-fly zone, trying to stave off chaos in Yemen and Bahrain, and attempting to assist a soft landing in Egypt and Tunisia. Most of those countries, as this official says, are of greater strategic significance to the United States than Libya is. And there is, of course, the all too real possibility that the military intervention will produce a stalemate rather than a decisive rebel victory, in which case any such planning would be moot.

The good news is that Libya is not Iraq. The country’s tribal divisions should not prove as insuperable an obstacle to national unity as Iraq’s Shia-Sunni-Kurd divide. And should the rebels somehow overthrow Qaddafi, they will have the legitimacy which comes of winning an insurgency, as the Iraqis placed on the throne by U.S. power did not.

But one of the fundamental lessons of Iraq is that things will be worse than you think. Not only does war unleash all manner of latent enmity and violence, but decades of abusive treatment by a ruthless dictators fuels pathologies that only fully manifest themselves when the lid of control pops off. Pro- and anti-Qaddafi tribes could square off against one another; Qaddafi could unleash the jihadists he once trained to wreak violence both at home and abroad. So you wouldn’t want to bet on a happy outcome in Libya — you’d want to do whatever you could to help deliver one. And it behooves those of us who have argued for the intervention now under way to give serious thought to what form that help should take.

The United States will not be the occupying power in Libya as it was in Iraq, and thus will have far less leverage, and far less responsibility. The Libyans will be calling the shots. But thanks to Qaddafi’s malevolently whimsical vision of a nation without a state or state institutions, whoever inherits the country will need an enormous amount of outside help.

Larry Diamond, a Stanford scholar who served with the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq and was a leading advocate for intervention in Libya, says that the most directly relevant lesson of Iraq — and of Afghanistan, for that matter — is “security trumps everything.” People won’t accept a new political order if they may pay with their lives for doing so. It’s impossible to know right now where those threats may come from. But since Libya will have no foreign troops to stop looting or score-settling, the United States or others will have to train Libyan forces in what Diamond calls “democratic policing.”

Encouraging local capacity is thus more important than devising and importing elaborate solutions. The key lesson, Bodine concludes, is, “Wherever possible, work through existing institutions.” Unfortunately, Libya has very few institutions at all. Outsiders might have to let the new rulers work out their own political problems in their own way, but nevertheless provide enormous amounts of technocratic help.

But who should those outsiders be? The United States has learned painful lessons about the limits of its credibility in the Arab and Muslim world, which is one reason why Obama has kept the American footprint as small as possible. Why, then, contemplate an American-led effort to rebuild Libya, especially one that U.S. taxpayers are not about to fund? When Libya was freed from colonial rule in 1951, it fell under the tutelage of the United Nations, which helped organize a provincial assembly and draft a constitution. Perhaps the U.N. needs to return to Libya and play something of the administrative role it did in post-conflict states such as Kosovo and East Timor. James Dobbins, a former senior American diplomat now at the RAND Corp., has argued that U.N.-led state-building efforts have generally proved far more cost-effective than American ones.

Libyans, who preserve a national memory of the hated colonial experience under Italy, however, may view even the U.N. as a neo-colonial force. Lisa Anderson suggests drawing on the resources of the global South, on states such as South Africa and Chile that have made the transition from dictatorship to democracy. One possible source of institutional — but non-state — support, she notes, would be the Club of Madrid, a group of former heads of state of democratic countries. That would be, she says, a “twenty-first century solution” to the problem of state-building.

I’m not quite convinced that a country that missed out on 20th century state-formation is ready for 21st century solutions. Still, all these issues are worth debating. What is not worth debating is whether, having decided to intervene in Libya, the international community has both an obligation to prepare for the post-conflict situation and the capacity to do something about it. The fiasco in Iraq does not demonstrate that outsiders are helpless to shape such chaotic settings, but rather that you need to pay close attention to their very complicated realities, and approach them with due humility. If they ever do reach Tripoli, the Libyans whose heroic resistance to Qaddafi we are now apostrophizing are going to turn around and say, “Help us.” And it will not be enough to give Donald Rumsfeld’s cynical shrug and say, “Democracy is messy.”

The Guardian: British Protestors plan to turn Trafalger Square into Tahrir Square


Campaigners against public service cuts are calling for a 24-hour occupation of Trafalgar Square – drawing inspiration from revolts in the Middle East – to coincide with Saturday’s trade union protest in London.
Student activists who organised last year’s demonstrations say there will be a rolling programme of sit-ins and protests on the day and have called on people to occupy the central London square turning “Trafalgar into Tahrir” – a reference to the gathering point in Cairo that was at the heart of the revolution in Egypt earlier this year.

“We want Trafalgar Square to become a focal point for the ongoing occupations, marches and sit-ins that will carry on throughout the weekend,” said Michael Chessum from the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts. “There are a lot of smaller scale demonstrations and actions planned and, just as we have seen in recent protests in the Middle East and north Africa, we want to create an ongoing organising hub.”

Saturday’s main demonstration has been organised by the TUC and is expected to see more than 200,000 people – including public sector workers, families and first-time protesters – take to the capital’s streets to oppose government cuts. This month the TUC general secretary, Brendan Barber, promised a barrage of protests against the cuts, ranging from industrial strikes and “peaceful civil disobedience” to petitions by Tory voters in the shires.

The plan to occupy Trafalgar Square is the latest in a wave of proposed sit-ins, occupations and “people’s assemblies” that activists have branded a “carnival of civil disobedience”.  “We have seen time and again that marches from A to B do not achieve their objectives,” said Chessum. “This is about creating an ongoing movement that will put pressure on the government. This is the start of what is going to be a hot summer of protest against the ideological nature of what this government is doing.”

The call for an occupation of the London landmark is backed by student groups, activists and two Labour MPs – John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn. In a joint statement they have called on people to “stay in Trafalgar Square for 24 hours to discuss how we can beat this government and to send a message across the globe that we stand with the people of Egypt, Libya, Wisconsin and with all those fighting for equality, freedom and justice.

“We want to turn Trafalgar Square into a place of people’s power where we assert our alternative to cuts and austerity and make it a day that this government won’t forget.” Alongside the main march, which will set off from the Embankment before making its way to Hyde Park for a rally, anti-cuts campaigners say they plan to occupy some of the capital’s “great buildings”, close down scores of high street stores and occupy Hyde Park.

UK Uncut, a peaceful direct action group set up five months ago to oppose government cuts and protest against corporate tax avoidance, is planning to occupy and force the temporary closure of scores of shops on Oxford Street on Saturday afternoon. Meanwhile, student groups will meet at the University of London student union building in Bloomsbury at 10am. Some are then expected to make their way to the main assembly point in a “feeder march”; others will peel off to take part in various “direct actions” .

“Since Christmas the movement has become much more autonomous,” one veteran of last year’s protests told the Guardian last week. “There are smaller, semi-independent groups planning small-scale direct action against a range of targets. It will be a bit of a disappointment if we get to the end of the day and one of London’s great buildings is not occupied. We have to make an impact.”

Online, other groups are calling for more widespread direct action on Saturday. An organisation calling itself Resist 26 claims it will stage a number of “people’s assemblies” along the route of the march. Under the banner “Battle of Britain” it is calling for a 24-hour occupation of Hyde Park and “after parties” at famous London landmarks including Piccadilly Circus and Buckingham Palace.

Radical Squatters: Libyan and English Protestors take over Gaddafi’s London Home

Saif Gaddafi's house in Hamsptead seized by protesters

What does a dictator’s house look like? In a leafy Hampstead cul-de-sac, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi owns a £10m mansion. The London base of the Libyan dictator’s son is held by a company based in the British Virgin Islands for tax reasons, and boasts a swimming pool, a private cinema – and, now, a dozen activists squatting in the living room.

Yesterday, with more reports coming in of government thugs spilling rebel blood on the streets of Zawiya, a group of young people entered the empty mansion. They secured the entrances, taped up a notice stating their right to hold the property under British common law, and moved in. They flung banners from the windows reading “solidarity” in English and Arabic.

“We’re opening this space as an embassy for the Benghazi government, and as a place to house refugees fleeing the tyranny,” one activist told me. “How long are we going to be here?”, said another young man in the darkened front room. “As long as it takes.”

The occupation of space has gone way beyond a student prank, although there is an element of mischief to it. The young people who have taken Gaddafi’s gaff are a loosely affiliated group of radicals calling themselves Topple the Tyrants. They include student protesters, Libyan citizens and members of UK Uncut. “We are not here to cause any damage,” said a Libyan occupier. “Why would we? It’s our house! It belongs to the Libyan people. We’re here to make sure it isn’t sold to finance more killing.”

For months, activists across Britain have been reclaiming the dead investment space of the wealthy, setting up refuges, community centres and free schools in empty properties including a London mansion belonging to film director Guy Ritchie. Starting with the university occupations in November, the political appropriation of space has become a great deal more serious, from temporary symbolic occupations of town halls and bank branches across the country by local people protesting against public service cuts, to longer term projects.

Organising online, these activists are gaining skills and building networks at great speed. With ruling elites across the world ensuring there is no room for the young, the poor and the unemployed in their own cities, the drive to reclaim space has now become a global movement. A number of Libyans are now living in Gaddafi’s mansion, along with British students and workers.

Many of these radical squatters see themselves as offering a moral and practical response to a government that consistently values private property before people. Much of the media has portrayed them as spoiled kids, selfishly inconveniencing hardworking home owners with their high jinks. That argument becomes harder to make, however, when the homeowner in question has financed his property empires by exploiting a population which is now being slaughtered with British-made weapons. Now, more than ever, it is clear that not every property tycoon deserves his bounty.

Squatting empty buildings is legal, although the government is keen to criminalise it. It is also a reasonable course of action in a country where almost a million properties are empty, and a million citizens are homeless or precariously housed. Until now, the police have largely refused to see it that way, and thrown their weight behind evictions of the new occupation movement.

This time the police have given the squatters little trouble, writing off the matter as a civil issue. If the dictator’s son wants his house cleared, he will need a court order. Meanwhile, inside the mansion, dissidents from the Libyan international solidarity campaign are calling their families in Tripoli in gleeful tears, telling them that activists across the world are on their side, and this occupation proves it.

 It is hard to imagine who would tell bailiffs to drag Libyan citizens out of the private property of the Gaddafi regime – particularly at a time when our government is kicking sand over its catalogue of fawning support for the dictatorship. The occupation of private property is one of the proudest traditions of resistance in Britain.

In 1649, the Diggers occupied St George’s Hill in Surrey, declaring that they would no longer allow landowners to fleece the poor. “By theft and murder they took the land,” sang the Diggers. Watching protest banners flapping from the window of the Libyan dictator’s occupied mansion, those words echoed in my mind.

Out of Libya, out of London!” screams one banner, weighted down with coat hangers that clatter in the wind. For men like Gaddafi and his supporters in the British government, the hoarding of profit and property is a global business. Now, solidarity and resistance have also gone global.

Time Magazine: Europe Hails Arab Protests but fears Arab Immigration

Although initially wrong-footed by the uprisings across the Arab world, European nations eventually collected themselves, welcomed the new eras in Tunisia and Egypt, and blessed the yearning for democracy that is spreading across the region. But the European Union’s delicate diplomatic dance has been tainted by a conflicting message of hostility: while throwing their support behind the Arab protests, officials are simultaneously shrieking at the prospect of Arab migrants seeking refuge in Europe.

This split personality was on display at a meeting of E.U. foreign ministers in Brussels on Feb. 20-21. The ministers promised a “new partnership” with Egypt and Tunisia, offering to help rebuild civil institutions and boost economic ties. In a joint statement, they backed “the peoples of the South Mediterranean and their legitimate hopes and aspirations for democratic change, social justice and economic development.” And with an eye on Libya’s escalating unrest, the ministers said the E.U. “sternly condemns the ongoing repression against demonstrators.” (See pictures of protesters in Tunisia.)

But the meeting was dominated by fears about Europe being on the receiving end of an influx of migrants. Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini warned that the crisis in Libya could set off an “unimaginable” flow of migrants into his country. He pointed to the recent surge of around 6,000 Tunisians landing on the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa, just 150 miles off Sicily, and said this could be a harbinger of an immigration flood. “Those who spoke of hundreds of thousands” of people crossing into Europe “are not exaggerating,” Frattini said.

Italy’s anxiety has been heightened by Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s threat to scrap recent deals aimed at curbing illegal migration from his country to Europe if the E.U. continues to back pro-democracy protests. “This is totally out of order,” German Europe minister Werner Hoyer said on Feb. 21. “The European Union must not let itself be blackmailed.” (See a brief history of people power.)

Lampedusa is closer to Tunisia than it is to Italy, and until 2007 it was seen as a gateway to Europe for migrants from across Africa. But a 2009 bilateral agreement between Italy and Libya — like more recent deals between Spain and Senegal, and Greece and Turkey — saw the number of migrants heading north drop dramatically as controls on those fleeing were tightened. Now, with North African regimes in flux, their desperate citizens are once again crossing the Mediterranean in rickety boats.

While many assumed that Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution would trigger emotional homecomings for refugees, the landings in Lampedusa have shown that a mere change of government has not made Tunisia’s economic problems go away. Migrants are undeterred by reports of Europe’s high unemployment, with 24 million out of work and joblessness amongst the young reaching 43% in Spain and 25% in Italy. “Many Tunisians see their best chance for a better life in Europe rather than at home,” says Eric Goldstein, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. And Jorgen Carling, a migration specialist at the Peace Research Institute Oslo, says the Arab revolutions could threaten Europe’s collaboration with North African authorities on the issue of stemming illegal immigration. “If the Arab uprisings produce staunchly anti-western governments, they could use the emigration pressure for leverage in relations with Europe,” he says. (See pictures on Lampedusa.)

The alarm about immigration masks the fact that many European countries have serious workforce deficits in sectors such as health, technology and farming — and these will spread as the continent ages. The E.U.’s active population will start falling as early as 2014, and projections suggest the E.U. workforce will shrink by 50 million over the next 50 years. These trends suggest a rethink is needed when it comes to immigration, not least because an ageing Europe will in future need more foreign workers. “Ideally, you need more fresh blood, particularly in the south, in Spain, Italy and Greece,” says Christian Joppke, professor of political science at the American University of Paris. “But politically, this sort of talk is suicidal. There is a fear of the populist right that paralyzes the debate on immigration.”

Indeed, Europe’s pledges to help the transition to democracy in North Africa can be seen as part of its border policy: by promoting a ring of well-governed, economically sound countries around its southern rim, Europe hopes to head off a potential flood of illegal migrants. E.U. foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton has already asked E.U. governments for an additional $1.4 billion loan for North African countries to help small- and medium-sized businesses and to boost transport infrastructure. Ashton, who on Feb. 22 became the most senior foreign diplomat to visit Egypt since President Hosni Mubarak’s resignation, also hosted a high-level international conference in Brussels on Wednesday aiming to craft a global response to the Arab revolution. (Read “Why France Is Staying Silent on Tunisia Turmoil.”)

If Europe’s governments and businesses come through with their offers to help rebuild the region, that should help the Arab world’s transition to full democracy, stability and prosperity. However, if the motive is to curb immigration, it is hardly the most noble, inspiring or even consistent message to send the millions marching for freedom across North Africa and the Middle East.

Zlavoj Zizek- Why Fear The Arab Revolutionary Spirit?

Published in The Guardian.


What cannot but strike the eye in the revolts in Tunisia and Egypt is the conspicuous absence of Muslim fundamentalism. In the best secular democratic tradition, people simply revolted against an oppressive regime, its corruption and poverty, and demanded freedom and economic hope. The cynical wisdom of western liberals, according to which, in Arab countries, genuine democratic sense is limited to narrow liberal elites while the vast majority can only be mobilised through religious fundamentalism or nationalism, has been proven wrong. The big question is what will happen next? Who will emerge as the political winner?

When a new provisional government was nominated in Tunis, it excluded Islamists and the more radical left. The reaction of smug liberals was: good, they are the basically same; two totalitarian extremes – but are things as simple as that? Is the true long-term antagonism not precisely between Islamists and the left? Even if they are momentarily united against the regime, once they approach victory, their unity splits, they engage in a deadly fight, often more cruel than against the shared enemy.

Did we not witness precisely such a fight after the last elections in Iran? What the hundreds of thousands of Mousavi supporters stood for was the popular dream that sustained the Khomeini revolution: freedom and justice. Even if this dream utopian, it did lead to a breathtaking explosion of political and social creativity, organisational experiments and debates among students and ordinary people. This genuine opening that unleashed unheard-of forces for social transformation, a moment in which everything seemed possible, was then gradually stifled through the takeover of political control by the Islamist establishment.

Even in the case of clearly fundamentalist movements, one should be careful not to miss the social component. The Taliban is regularly presented as a fundamentalist Islamist group enforcing its rule with terror. However, when, in the spring of 2009, they took over the Swat valley in Pakistan, The New York Times reported that they engineered “a class revolt that exploits profound fissures between a small group of wealthy landlords and their landless tenants”. If, by “taking advantage” of the farmers’ plight, the Taliban are creating, in the words of the New York Times “alarm about the risks to Pakistan, which remains largely feudal,” what prevented liberal democrats in Pakistan and the US similarly “taking advantage” of this plight and trying to help the landless farmers? Is it that the feudal forces in Pakistan are the natural ally of liberal democracy?

The inevitable conclusion to be drawn is that the rise of radical Islamism was always the other side of the disappearance of the secular left in Muslim countries. When Afghanistan is portrayed as the utmost Islamic fundamentalist country, who still remembers that, 40 years ago, it was a country with a strong secular tradition, including a powerful communist party that took power there independently of the Soviet Union? Where did this secular tradition go?

And it is crucial to read the ongoing events in Tunisia and Egypt (and Yemen and … maybe, hopefully, even Saudi Arabia) against this background. If the situation is eventually stabilised so that the old regime survives but with some liberal cosmetic surgery, this will generate an insurmountable fundamentalist backlash. In order for the key liberal legacy to survive, liberals need the fraternal help of the radical left. Back to Egypt, the most shameful and dangerously opportunistic reaction was that of Tony Blair as reported on CNN: change is necessary, but it should be a stable change. Stable change in Egypt today can mean only a compromise with the Mubarak forces by way of slightly enlarging the ruling circle. This is why to talk about peaceful transition now is an obscenity: by squashing the opposition, Mubarak himself made this impossible. After Mubarak sent the army against the protesters, the choice became clear: either a cosmetic change in which something changes so that everything stays the same, or a true break.

Here, then, is the moment of truth: one cannot claim, as in the case of Algeria a decade ago, that allowing truly free elections equals delivering power to Muslim fundamentalists. Another liberal worry is that there is no organised political power to take over if Mubarak goes. Of course there is not; Mubarak took care of that by reducing all opposition to marginal ornaments, so that the result is like the title of the famous Agatha Christie novel, And Then There Were None. The argument for Mubarak – it’s either him or chaos – is an argument against him.

The hypocrisy of western liberals is breathtaking: they publicly supported democracy, and now, when the people revolt against the tyrants on behalf of secular freedom and justice, not on behalf of religion, they are all deeply concerned. Why concern, why not joy that freedom is given a chance? Today, more than ever, Mao Zedong’s old motto is pertinent: “There is great chaos under heaven – the situation is excellent.”

Where, then, should Mubarak go? Here, the answer is also clear: to the Hague. If there is a leader who deserves to sit there, it is him.