World View: The great political awakening in North Africa and the Middle East brings change, but some things – torture of suspects among them – remain the same
By Patrick Cockburn
".....The political landscape is changing in North Africa and the Middle East both within states and in their relations with the outside world. In Egypt, any new government is likely to be less close to the US and Israel. In Libya, the opposition is weak militarily, but Gaddafi is likely to go down because of the strength of Nato backing for the rebels. It is dubious if foreign domination of an oil state such as Libya will ebb away after Gaddafi and his family have gone. The strength of the rebels in east Libya is their skill in marrying mass protest to the requirements of the media. Demonstrations in front of the town hall and elsewhere in Benghazi are much better organised than their military manoeuvres. But there is something deeply hypocritical about the concern shown by Nato and the Arab monarchies of the Gulf over the fate of Libyan rebels, when they ignore or promote savage repression in Bahrain. The majority Shia community is being systematically disenfranchised, deprived of jobs, its parties dissolved, and its leaders arrested and tortured. In response, there is hardly a cheep out of the US or Nato whose leaders are so eager to bring democracy to Libyans. It is reasonable to regard cynically the humanitarian pretensions of foreign leaders and the reformist zeal of Egyptian generals, but radical change is already with us because tens of millions of previously apathetic people have been politicised and some of the world's nastiest police states turned out to be more fragile than anybody expected."