Libya: Bewitched, bothered and bewildered By William Bowles

7 March 2011

“Despite the situation in Libya remaining unresolved, one thing is now certain: the president of the United States is now in control of the money, and this gives him a powerful tool … ‘Most countries consider the freezing of their assets an act of economic warfare'” — ‘Money as a weapon in West’s war on Libya‘, RT, 7 March 2011

In the West, revolution is something we are not very familiar with although it’s something the Left talk about an awful lot, other peoples’ revolutions that is.

But exactly what is a revolution and would we know one if it ran over us? Judging by the reactions to events in the Middle East / North Africa, the answer has to be a resounding no.

For confirmation of this view we need only look at the various stories coming from the ‘left’ especially those on Libya, urging revolution and the removal of Ghadafi.

Ghadafi is a product of the post-war anti-colonial movements that swept Africa during the 1960s and firmly in the Nasser ‘mould’; nationalist, anti-colonial but also anti-communist, preferring instead his so-called Third Way, what he finally referred to as ‘popular capitalism’, whatever that is.[1]

Be that as it may, until 9/11 Ghadafi supported what he regarded as anti-colonial movements in Northern Ireland and elsewhere, though one has to ask the question: what was the rationale behind Ghadafi’s involvement in struggles so far removed from his own? But as they say, ‘talk is cheap’ and undoubtedly Ghadafi was targeting a specific faction of the Western Left for support (at one point in the late 1980s even I got invited to Libya on a ‘fact-finding’ mission, an invitation I declined).

The uprising / coup in Libya is being embraced by the Left, viewing it as a continuation of the struggles elsewhere in the Middle East and North Africa. But from its inception it was obvious that it didn’t follow the pattern established elsewhere, not that this makes it any the less legitimate but it does mean that very different forces were and undoubtedly still are at work in Libya.

In reality therefore and unlike Egypt for example, we are clueless about the nature of the opposition. Who are they? What do they want (aside from removing Ghadafi)?

“[D]espite various defections — including those by ministers, diplomats, military officers, and air force pilots — we have yet to see the collective decision on the part of the Libyan armed forces to champion the demands of protesters. In fact, there is little indication of whether the Libyan armed forces have the institutional capacity for disciplined collective action. . . .” — ‘International Intervention in Libya: A Documentary Remix‘ By VJ Um Amel, MRZine, 7 March 2011

In the beginning of the Libyan uprising the headlines on the Left were full of praise and support for the insurrectionaries, after all wasn’t Ghadafi an autocratic and corrupt leader who had finally gotten his marching orders from the masses?

But these are forces about which we know almost nothing, made all the more complicated by the fact that there appears to be more than one group claiming leadership of the insurrection (at least three at the last count, or are they factions? Who knows? All the more reason to stay out of it). And unlike Egypt this is an insurrection that may well have been sparked by the youth and the poor but it is led by the intelligentsia, academics and businessmen. And these are the same people who are calling for airstrikes and a ‘no-fly zone’. Not exactly what I’d call a revolutionary act. To be accurate, there is also another group of insurrectionaries who most definitely oppose any kind of foreign intervention but what is the relationship between all these groups? Are they in competition for power? For leadership? Who knows…?

It’s obvious that the Empire has designs on Libya and its vast oil reserves (aside from the possibility of establishing a NATO / AFRICOM bridgehead in North Africa), this explains their rush to deliver ‘humanitarian assistance’ and talk of Ghadafi’s ‘genocide’. Unlike Egypt or Tunisia, where there were no calls for intervention, sanctions or ‘no-fly zones’ from the West, from day one of the Libyan ‘revolution’ the West went on the offensive against Ghadafi, freezing Libyan assets and using the International Criminal Court to investigate the allegations of war crimes committed by Ghadafi, followed by overt threats of invasion unless Ghadafi stepped down.

And today we learn that the US has asked Saudi Arabia to supply the rebels with weapons including antitank rockets and anti-aircraft missiles which if it comes to pass, serves only to escalate and prolong the struggle. And once more it will be the people who pay the price for Western interference. In addition the UK government aside from its incompetent and botched SAS incursion now informs us that it has the Black Watch army group on standby to intervene. Will these fools never learn, especially the tin-pot British variety which is clearly well past its sell-by date?[2]

The Left and Libya

The very real possibility of direct (or even indirect) Western intervention presented the Western Left with a very real conundrum: How is it possible to support the insurrection whilst at the same time opposing Western intervention, especially when at least one faction (or the leaders) of the rebels is calling for the West to intervene?

On the surface, the answer is obvious: No to intervention – Yes to revolution! And this is pretty much what the progressive media has been saying but it creates a very real dilemma for the left. How can we oppose intervention without supporting, even if reluctantly, Ghadafi, especially now that the West has intervened? And it’s a dilemma that found both Castro and Chavez apparently supporting Ghadafi and for which they got a lot of flack from the Western left (not to mention a lot of confused expressions).

So why did Chavez and Castro (as well as Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua) offer public support to Ghadafi? Well, as things have turned out, it is clear that this is not about Ghadafi but all about imperial ambitions and I hazard the guess that they both knew more about the machinations of the Empire than do an entire Tahrir Square-full of Western lefties.

Stick with what you know

I’m almost clueless about domestic Libyan politics aside from Libya’s role in the global rule of capital but with almost as many ‘guest workers’ as native Libyans, a developed West and an undeveloped East, tribal politics and Islam, it’s definitely a heady mix, best left to the Libyans to sort out for themselves.

(One) of the problems the (Western) left has is that it’s calling for support for the insurrectionaries without a clue as to who they are or what they want. It’s almost a knee-jerk reaction when what was really needed from the very beginning was the call for the Empire to stay the fuck out of it and let the Libyans get on with whatever it is they are trying to do! (Clearly this is a trait (interfering that is) that the Empire and the Western Left share in common).

As with the other insurrections currently underway there are none of the traditional ‘markers’ that would point in the general direction of a genuine revolution led from the Left. It’s not even clear that a Left of some substance exists in Libya let alone an organized working class such as Egypt has and which formed the backbone of the Egyptian insurrection.

Cut adrift from all the traditional hallmarks of class struggle as it was once waged in times gone by, the Western Left is hanging on to events by the skin of its teeth, much in the way the Empire is reacting to these (potentially) momentous events but unlike the Barbarians the Left just can’t make up its mind about which side it’s on.

Judging by the videos I’ve seen and the reports I’ve read, especially in the MSM, it would appear that the entire country hates Ghadafi but clearly this is not true, it’s just not clear how the country is divided and what percentage are prepared to take up arms in order to prevail. All the more reason why any interference by anybody can only result in disaster for the Libyan people.

“For anyone harbouring any doubts, about the inevitable military intervention that shall occur in Libya, the AP news agency, which I consider to be well-informed, headlined a cable printed today which stated: “The NATO countries are drawing up a contingency plan taking as its model the flight exclusion zones established over the Balkans in the 1990s, in the event that the international community decides to impose an air embargo over Libya, diplomats said”.” — ‘NATO’s Inevitable War: The Flood of Lies regarding Libya‘ by Fidel Castro, 4 March 2011, Global Research

But I fear that the damage has already been done, the wolf is at the door and huffing and puffing…

Note

1. See ‘The Libyan labyrinth‘ By Vijay Prashad for an excellent, if abbreviated account of Ghadafi’s ‘Green Revolution’.

2. The MSM’s take on this ludicrous and extremely dangerous and provocative escapade is worth perusing. This from Channel 4 News’ daily email shot:

The shambolic MI6/S[A]S “all because the lady loves milk tray” epic in the Libyan desert (suburbs of Benghazi) has caused a great deal of embarrassment to Foreign Secretary Hague who has just had to put up with a mauling in the Commons over it.
He’s described it as a ‘misunderstanding’ but it’s still very unclear what on earth was going on. Any self respecting FCO Arabist would never have entered a country in this way – black jump suits, weapons, and a helicopter landing at the dead of night. All the signs are that there was something else in play – whether an attempt to rescue somebody or retrieve a piece of real estate, all remains mere speculation. Will we ever know?

Failed SBS op ‘won’t destroy UK relations with rebels’

Postscript to the MI6/SAS debacle: A story in the UK Sun newspaper reveals all ‘Brit held with SAS in Libya was spy‘. Clearly, the Sun is well up on Channel 4.

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