For someone sitting on the very edge of survival, hope is extremely important. Often it is only hope, sometimes even false hope, that allows him to make it to the next day. That is one of the reasons that religion has always found such a resonance among the lower classes, especially in times of great hardship or struggle. Cynicism is deadly for someone on the edge of survival. Even in the darkest night, he cannot afford to be cynical. That cynicism just might push him over the edge.
Cynicism is a privilege. When practiced by those in a position to do it well, cynicism allows them to criticize the oppressor and sympathize with the oppressed without ever having to move out of their comfort zone. In fact, one of the main objects of this practice of cynicism is to make the cynic more comfortable. He may not, as yet, be wanting for much personally, but he can see the growing misery all around him so he has to think or do something. The cynic solves this dilemma by thinking that nothing can be done!
Hope is entirely a question of subjective attitude. So is cynicism, but cynicism pulls off its master trick by masquerading as objective reality. The cynic always tends to think things really are the way he thinks they are. Time and again you will see him substitute his subjective understanding, even when he knows it is limited(!) for objective reality.
In the United States, this type of cynicism has gained a strong hold on the left in the past decade or more. It has been helped immeasurably by the decline of science and engineering in our culture and a decline in the understanding and practice of dialectical materialism on the left.
Since September 11, 2001, there has also been what I think of as the “Invasion of the Conspiracy Theories“ and all sorts of trash from weird 9/11 theories to chem trails have been given standing. The most significant have been a number of generally related theories that believe a very small clique, often Zionist-related, is “orchestrating” both sides of all wars and just about everything else in the political and economic life of the planet.
If that’s the case, what can you do but gossip about it?
Since the cynic is not looking for ways to attack the problem but for reasons to carry on as usual, it suits this scenario to make the New World Order, the Illuminati, or whoever, virtually all-powerful and quite capable of tricks we aren’t even aware of.
The people, on the other hand, are sheep.
Cynicism springs eternal, so the cynic carries on. He goes to anti-war rallies, he recycles, he does whatever he thinks is the right thing to do, and since he expects things to stay the same or get worst, he doesn’t question whether it is the most effective thing to do.
The Arab Spring
Then along comes the Arab Spring. It blindsided most of the American left. They never saw it coming. It fact, it was already there for about a month before they started to see it at all! But by the middle of February 2011, and the fall of a second dictator, Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, none could miss the fact that a new spirit of hope was sweeping North Africa and the Middle East (MENA).
While the protests in Algeria seemed to just fade away, the ones in Libya only grew more intense with every attack by Ghadafi’s goons. It was getting ugly and beautiful at the same time. Ugly because, in Libya, Ghadafi had created something Ben Ali and Mubarak didn’t have, an army that would massacre its own citizens on his orders. Beautiful because throughout the 10 months of bloody struggle, the optimism of the Libyan people never gave way to cynicism, and against all odds, and at great loss of life, and with a little help from interested parties, they were able to prevail and topple the dictatorship that had ruled them with an iron hand for 42 years.
The struggles that started in North Africa moved up the peninsula into Yemen, Bahrain, and Syria, even Jordan. These interconnected uprisings were becoming wide enough throughout MENA that soon everyone was talking about “the Arab Spring.”
The response of the American left has been mixed. After the newness wore off, many started to express doubts. There were many with questions about the religious overtones these struggle inevitably took and Islamist factions among the regime opponents. Others saw a plot hatched in the west to destabilize the region, protect Israel and get all the oil. They have a Wesley Clark video that they like to burn incense to. The cynics are big on both of these views, and anything else they can think of to shovel doubt on people hoping they can build a better world.
But on the whole, the American left “supported” the regime changes in Tunisia and Egypt, as well as the uprisings in Yemen and Bahrain, because those regimes were aligned with NATO and/or U.S imperialism and their protests stayed mainly peaceful. Mainly. Even if these leftists didn’t think much would come of them, or as with Egypt, no real change had been accomplished, at least they “supported” them.
But when it came to Libya and Syria, things got a little more complicated. They were considered by most on the left to be in the “anti-imperialist” camp, they had a record of opposing U.S. imperialism, supporting the Palestinian cause, and claimed to be some kind of socialist back home. Those uprisings also quickly took a violent turn because in those countries, not just the police, but also the army, open fired on peaceful protesters. In Libya, it took only weeks for the opposition to start arming itself, in Syria it took many months.
Libya and the Split within the Left
Ghadafi, especially, spent a lot of time and money with activists in the U.S. burnishing his image as the Che Guevara of Africa. They took the guided tours and they swallowed his stories about how glorious life was in the Green Jamahiriya.
The truth is that Ghadafi was to Che what the Symbionese Liberation Army was to the Black Panther Party.
When it started to look like a lot of Libyans were rejecting “Brother Leader,” many of these leftists found that unacceptable. Without looking too much into the details, some came to the cynical conclusion that Ghadafi was one of the good guys and this was not a genuine current of the Arab Spring in Libya, but instead, a Western-backed and orchestrated attempt at regime charge under the color of the Arab Spring. Others thought Ghadafi was a bad guy but nonetheless this was not a genuine current of the Arab Spring in Libya, but instead a Western-backed and orchestrated attempt at regime charge under the color of the Arab Spring.
They both united in the view that what was going on in Libya, at least as far as they were concerned, was essentially no different from what the U.S. had done in Afghanistan, Iraq or Vietnam for that matter.
According to them, as soon as the Libyan opposition started demanding protection for the people from the heavy weapons and warplanes sold to Ghadafi by United Nations Security Council members, the one united demand of these anti-war activists was that it not be given to them.
Throughout most of the Libyan Revolution, their main demand was that NATO stop bombing Libya, which, as a practical matter, meant that they were demanding that NATO stop taking out the tanks, artillery, rocket launchers, and aircraft Ghaddafi was using to slaughter civilians. If these people were at the scene when one of these mad killers with assault rifles and hand grenades was doing his thing, they would probably ask the police sharpshooters to stand down because “it would only add to the violence.”
Since there is more than ample evidence to show that the U.S. has been on the wrong side of every war since World War Two, they saw no need to examine the details of this conflict. They could determine which was the wrong side simply by seeing which side the United States and it allies were on, and with that judgment the people’s uprising in Libya was also judged to be of little or no merit, or worst a band of mercenaries and traitors with a healthy dose of al-Qaeda mixed in for seasoning.
There were others on the left, and even more significantly, activists not normally associated with the left, like the hacker group Anonymous, that took a different tack. They saw the uprisings in Libya and Syria as well as those of all the other MENA countries as genuine popular movements for freedom and democracy. They did not tailor their support according to whether the struggle was against a dictator with closer ties to NATO or Russia, and in time they came to focus on the struggle in Libya because it was in Libya that the Arab Spring first turned into an armed struggle.
Now we have an even more violent and brutal struggle that has grown out of the Arab Spring going on in Syria, going on for 18 months now, and the differences that first emerged in the left around Libya have only deepened and widened around Syria.
Evaluating the Libyan Experience
I cry for the Syrians when I’m not fighting for them.
Fortunately for the Libyans, they were able to successfully win their civil war about 10 months ago and move forward with building their country. Fortunately for us, a little time has passed and we are now in a position to examine the outcome to this point and also measure the accuracy of various people and groups on the left as to their expectations going in.
I now wish to examine one article in some detail published on a prominent left Web site and written by someone who opposed the NATO intervention, supported Ghadafi, and thinks the revolution a sham. I want to show the kind of logic that the anti-interventions use to maintain their utterly bankrupt positions. This recent assessment of the Libyan situation was written by Thomas C. Mountain and published on Counterpunch.
(Let me apologize at the outset if this seems to go a little long, but rhetorical questions are a lot easier to ask than to answer with substance.)
Clan Warfare Over the Spoils of Power
Is Libya the Next Somalia?
by THOMAS C. MOUNTAIN
July 25, 2012
Libya seems well on its way to becoming the next Somalia, with much of the country already ruled by tribal/clan based armed militias. As was the case in Somalia, Libya is in the process of separation, with the eastern, oil rich, Cyrenica region having issued a de facto declaration of independence.
This is wishful thinking on Mountain’s part. As a long-time supporter of Colonel Ghadafi, Mountain wishes only bad things for the Libyan people that overthrew him. As we will see as we go through this, his latest piece on Libya in is based not on an examination of the reality in Libya now but on an extrapolation of what he believes must be the case based on his long-held misconceptions about the country and Ghadafi’s rule.
The revolutionary brigades that Mountain calls “armed militias” are not tribal clan-based so much as they are organic forms of organized armed struggle that grew up in the fight to overthrow Ghadafi. Their core is made up of working-class Libyans.
If one is familiar with the Occupy movement in the U.S. and elsewhere, they may have a clue as to how this revolution has been organized.
In fact, Occupy Wall Street (OWS) was started largely by activists, such as the hacker group Anonymous, as their participation in the Libyan revolution was winding down. The Anonymous “OpLibya” was started in January 2011. OWS was based partly on what was learned in that struggle, and in the same way that each of the local occupy groups are autonomous and yet united by a common cause and communications network, so it is with various revolutionary brigades in Libya.
They can be thought of as armed occupations.
It is true that there are important regional differences in Libya, and like most countries in the world, it has been cobbled together from different people by the events of history. It is also true that under Ghaddafi, the eastern region, known as Cyrenaica, or Barqa to the Arabs, got the short end of the stick.So as soon as they had the freedom to do so, most Libyans in the region, which is centered on Benghazi, have been keen on seeing that this state of affairs does not continue in the new Libya, and a minority wanted more federation, as in the United States, or for a very small handful, complete separation, but there was no “de facto declaration of independence” and Libya is not headed for the 20 years of civil war Mountain is trying to project onto it.
In March 2012 there was a conference in Benghazi of 3,000 delegates calling for greater autonomy and they set up what they called the Cyrenaica National Congress and they named Ahmed al-Senussi, a relative of Libya’s former king and a political prisoner under Ghadafi, as leader of the self-declared Cyrenaica Transitional Council. What they demanded for eastern Libya was greater autonomy, not separation, but it never carried the weight of law and it never really went anywhere.
Libya is not in the process of separation. In spite of the calls by these federalists to boycott the national election, participation in Benghazi and the east generally was higher than in the country as a whole and after seeing what the will of the people was, the leaders of this federalist movement said they were abandoning that cause, with one of their founders, Abu Bakr saying “the people have spoken.” On their facebbook page, two days after the election, they declared “Federal leaders declare their defeat … No voice louder than the voice of the people.”
Since the election, the 200-member General National Council (GNC) elected on that day have taken over from the National Transition Council (NTC) and elected a representative from Benghazi as their president.
This, by the way, is how democracy is supposed to work.
There is strong evidence that remnants of the Qaddafi regime were financing this movement. It is also true that some of the more extreme members of this movement, seeing that they lacked a real popular base, have turned to “excitive terror” to further their cause, as so many waning movements have done in the past. According the France24, the movement that Mountain seems to favor was little more than a bourgeois attempt to grab power for themselves: “Some Libyans have dismissed the moves for autonomy in eastern Libya as a ploy by a coterie of wealthy families who had prospered under the old monarchy.” They also continued to prosper under Ghadafi, had close ties to his regime, and they have been attempting to use the question of the unequal treatment of the east under that regime to create a counter-revolutionary movement but they are failing badly.
Tripoli, the capital of Libya, seems to be headed in the direction of where Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia was 20 years ago, with various well armed militias from outside the city taking up residence and clashing over territory and the spoils of power.
Juan Cole, target of a Bush administration-directed CIA personal assassination campaign, describes what he saw on a recent visit to Libya after hearing what he called the “black legend” about Libya being:
…promoted in part by remnants of the Ghadafi regime and his admirers in the West, in part by overly anxious middle-class Libyans navigating an admittedly difficult transition, in part by media editors looking for a dramatic story.
So imagine my surprise on visits to Benghazi, Misrata and Tripoli, to find that there were no militiamen to be seen, that most things were functioning normally, that there were police at traffic intersections, that there were children’s carnivals open till late, families out, that jewelry shops were open till 8 p.m., that Arabs and Africans were working side by side, and that people were proud in Benghazi of having demonstrated against calls for decentralizing the country.
Since the defeat of Ghadafi, the one constant refrain we’ve heard from the leaders of the great powers – both east and west, elements within the Libyan bourgeoisie, human rights organizations, and the anti-interventionist left has been that the greatest danger to Libya’s future is what they insist on calling “armed militias.” Immediately upon the military defeat of the Ghadafi forces, the united call went out for the revolutionary brigades to be disarmed and disbanded. After that, every instance of post-revolution violence, and there really weren’t that many, was played up all out of proportion. Even simple bank robberies were reported as “political violence.”
The NATO powers, Russia, and China, hoped the violence and chaos in Libya would rise to the level that they could justify sending in a U.N. peacekeeping force, just as they are talking about now for a post-Assad Syria. The “great” powers may squabble over who has the greatest sway in a post-Ghadafi Libya or a post-Assad Syria but they all agree that those countries should not be allowed to get off the reservation. They can always struggle over the composition and leadership of the peacekeeping force but at least everybody has a way to get their people in. Without “boots on the ground” they can only have a very limited effect on post-regime developments.
The Libyan thuwar made a very smart deal with NATO when they allowed for air support only. There is a whole history of struggle between the NTC and NATO over this question of NATO boots on the ground that still needs to be written as far as I’m concerned, but the thuwar never buckled. Maybe NATO was allowed a handful of forward air controllers. I was never sure how they solved the “friendly fire” problems they had in the beginning, but they never allowed NATO a substantial foothold Libya, and that was a very wise move on their part!
For all the hype from everybody from the New York Times to Counterpunch about the “out-of-control armed militias” and “no functioning government,” things never got anywhere near the point that they could justify any kind of peacekeeping mission.
With no foreign military on their soil, the Libyans actually have a decent shot at shaping their own future.
The Revolutionary Brigades
These revolutionary brigades are the armed working class organizations that grew up to beat the Qaddafi forces and they did.
To do that, they had to develop a culture of cooperation and co–ordination between them. That still exists today. Even Amnesty International had to note that in a report named, unsurprisingly, Militias Threaten Hopes for New Libya:
Hundreds of armed militia groups, established at local levels during the fighting, continue to operate largely independently of the central authorities, often effectively controlling specific areas or neighborhoods. Some militia members have a military background but most were civilians. Militias have established sometimes fluid networks of co-operation.
I added the emphasis to the last sentence. “[F]luid networks of co-operation” sounds like the relationship between Occupy Los Angeles, Occupy the Hood, Occupy Venice, and so on. No central authority and still we manage to work together, sometimes rather well.
These “fluid networks of co-operation” between the revolutionary brigades explains why there was no violence and no disruption of the voting on the day of the national elections (July 7), a day when such violence would be most likely to occur in either Tripoli and Misrata, and only a few incidents in the east owing to the activities of a handful of federation extremists. And when they did attack a polling station in Benghazi, the people came out into the streets to protest, the revolutionary brigades saddled up and started patrolling the city in their technical vehicles and there was no more disruption.
For their part, the mechanics and bakers-turned-revolutionary warriors have said they were not interested in disarming and were not going to disarm until they were sure that they are getting the government they fought for. Its true that the NTC has not had a monopoly of violence in the new Libya. Its merely a question of whether you think that is a good or bad thing.
Now that they have had free and fair elections and elected a 200-member congress, and now that that congress has replaced the NTC and elected a president, we will see how the future goes for the brigades. Personally, I’ve never been too worried about these armed working-class organizations and have noted that very few lives have been lost in clashes between them to date. Even when the Zintan Brigade controlled Tripoli Airport, International flights came and went as usual and there was no extortion.
Of course the detractor of the Libyan revolution are fond of conflating clashes between “out-of-control armed militias” with tribal violence in the south when they report the numbers. These tribal clashes have a long history, predate the revolutionary brigades by decades, and are related to the border trade. Ghadafi use to send in the helicopter gunships to sort things out.
They don’t do that anymore.
In point of fact there was a hell of a lot more violence going on in Ghadafi’s Libya than was ever reported, inside or outside of the country. One victory of the revolution that its detractors have been able to use very effectively to attack the revolution is Libya’s new free press. With hundreds of new websites and publications popping up since Ghadafi went down, everything, and I mean everything gets reported and the old news slogan “if it bleeds, it leads” is as true in Libya as anywhere else, so every little incident has been available to feed the counter-revolutionary propaganda mill.
I will skip over this history with its platitudes like “it wasn’t like the people of either country created what they found themselves in.” What countries or people isn’t this true for? Maybe some people like Mountain can have that kind of identification with those who created the country they “found themselves in”, but I’m a black American so I don’t have the privilege of such illusions. My African ancestors were brought here in chains and my Irish ones were forced here by famine.
NATO’s “War on Libya”
In 2011 Libya was destroyed by an almost unprecedented aerial bombardment, over 10,000 bombing runs with some 40,000 pieces of high explosive ordinance dropped on the country over a period of 8 months or so. 40,000 bombs, killing two people per bomb and you are talking about 80,000 Libyans killed by NATO in 2011? And all of this on a very small population of 6 million?
In fact, very little bomb damage was done to Libya outside of Ghadafi’s military installations. As the New York Times reported in their post-conflict study of the NATO bombing:
There are indications that the alliance took many steps to avoid harming civilians, and often did not damage civilian infrastructure useful to Colonel Qaddafi’s military. Elements of two American-led air campaigns in Iraq, in 1991 and 2003, appear to have been avoided, including attacks on electrical grids. Such steps spared civilians certain hardships and risks that accompanied previous Western air-to-ground operations. NATO also said that allied forces did not use cluster munitions or ordnance containing depleted uranium, both of which pose health and environmental risks, in Libya at any time.
Which explains why the only cluster bombs being cleaned up now were spread by Ghadafi and why there is no depleted uraniam clean up. There is none to clean up! That whole depleted uranium charge was just more of Ghadafi’s misinformation spread generously by the anti-interventionist left.
The only thing unprecedented about the NATO air war on the Ghadafi regime is the incredibility low number of civilians killed. All the post-war studies confirm this.
The Times report continues:
The alliance’s fixed-wing aircraft dropped only laser- or satellite-guided weapons, said Col. Gregory Julian, a NATO spokesman; no so-called dumb bombs were used. While the overwhelming preponderance of strikes seemed to have hit their targets without killing noncombatants, many factors contributed to a run of fatal mistakes. These included a technically faulty bomb, poor or dated intelligence and the near absence of experienced military personnel on the ground who could help direct air strikes. The alliance’s apparent presumption that residences thought to harbor pro-Qaddafi forces were not occupied by civilians repeatedly proved mistaken, the evidence suggests, posing a reminder to advocates of air power that no war is cost- or error-free.
This NY Times piece, by C. J. Chivers and Eric Schmitt, published on December 17, 2012 was one of the first examinations of this question on the ground in Libya after the bombing had stopped and it came to the conclusion that between 40 and 70 civilian had been killed by NATO bombs. On March 2, 2012 the U.N. International Commission of Inquiry on Libya Report found that NATO had killed 60 civilians and finally on May 14, 2012, Human Rights Watch published an exhaustive 76-page study they had made of this question and concluded that at least 72 civilian had been killed in NATO air strikes, including 20 women and 24 children.
But Mountain sees no need to examine, much less debunk, these authoritative on-the-ground studies because he has his own method. You come up with some figure on the number of bombs dropped, you decide how many people you imagine each bomb would have killed, and “do the math.”
Boy, think of all the time and money these organizations could have saved if they had used the Mountain method!
I’ll even wager that Mountain or someone like him would even rather brand all these organization as “instruments of NATO propaganda” rather than adjust their perceptions to reality. This is another way they strengthen imperialism, by giving it credit for power and reach it doesn’t have.
But Mountain has his own methodology to build up his mole hill, and without having examined one bomb site or see one dead body, he comes up with a figure of 80,000 killed by NATO in 2011, in a war with a total death toll of about 30,000.
What is really going on here is that Mountain is making up facts and an alternate reality in a striving to make the situation in Libya today match what he knew it must be based on his “analysis” a year ago.
According to NATO’s final statistics for Operation UNIFIED PROTECTOR, NATO flew 9,700 strike sorties, but notes that not all strike sorties dropped bombs. They explain “strike sorties are intended to identify and engage appropriate targets, but do not necessarily deploy munitions each time.” This explanation of what a strike sortie is is always left out of the anti-interventionist description of the term. In point of fact, less than half of NATO strike sorties actually dropped ordinances. NATO claims to have destroyed over 5,900 military targets, including over 400 artillery or rocket launchers and over 600 tanks or armored vehicles.
Far from leading the pack, the U.S. hung back, conducting 1,210 strike sorties, but deploying munitions only 262 times. Norway dropped more than twice that number of bombs (600) and Italy almost three times as many (715).
Since Mountain calls this “an almost unprecedented aerial bombardment,” let’s see how it stacks up against Afghanistan, Iraq, and Vietnam.
Between 2005-2007, as part of “Operation Enduring Freedom” over Afghanistan, NATO flew 24,569 strike sorties.
By the end of the Vietnam War, about 7 million tons of bombs were dropped on Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. If we assumed that they all were the common 500-lb. bombs, that would have been 28 million bombs.
So you see, Mountain’s “almost unprecedented aerial bombardment” is hyperbole of the first order, designed to make reality fit with his perceptions.
Today Libya exports over 90% of its prewar oil and gas production, almost 2 million barrels a day of some of the best oil found on the planet.
Not bad for a country that was just “destroyed by an almost unprecedented aerial bombardment.”
Oil and the Libyan Economy
Where the almost $200 million a day, $6 billion a month, over $70 billion by the end of 2012 is going still remains mostly a mystery.
A mystery to who? Western leftists have a tendency to confuse their ignorance for that of people that really matter in the situation. For example, a common refrain among the anti-intervention left during the revolutionary war was “we don’t even know who these people are.” But with all the Feb17 websites, Facebook pages, and YouTube videos they put out, we have had greater access to a foreign revolutionary movement than at any time in history.
The question then was: Do the Libyan people know who the thuwar are? And the question now is: Does the NTC and GNC know where the money is going?
Lets see what we do know:
Its a mystery to Mountain because he hasn’t bothered to Google one thing about the current Libyan budget. The question is a rhetorical one. He hasn’t tried to research the question he is raising because he is not engaged in a facts-based analysis. If he had looked into it, he might have found this:
March 13, 2012. The Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC) approved yesterday a $52.4 billion budget for 2012. This year’s budget is the largest in the history in the country and the first following the toppling and death of Muammar Gaddafi last year. The Council announced that strict auditing measures have been attached to the newly approved budget in order to put an end to the country’s long history of corruption. They will announce the details regarding expenditure procedures and auditing standards soon, according to the NTC spokesman. Officials in the Ministry of Finance expect that Libya’s sovereign revenues will depend this year on oil revenues, which the National Oil Company predicts will reach $50 billion, rather than on taxes on the private sector. This is because most private companies failed to achieve positive revenues in 2011 due to the revolution. The budget includes $20 billion to pay government employees and $12 billion to support food and energy prices. The rest will cover Libya’s most urgent priorities, particularly the establishment of state institutions for security, defense, justice, etc.
The NTC paid $800 million for the medical care of those wounded during the revolution, mostly to facilities in Tunisia and Jordan and some as far away as Belgium, where injured thuwar were sent for specialized treatment. The government also paid out LD 600 million to revolutionary fighters in March of this year, with LD 4,000 being paid to married fighters and LD 2,400 for unmarried ones.
Soldiers are generally paid; only in a revolution do they have to win first and then wait.
Did Mountain and Counterpunch ever raise this same question when the Ghadafi clan was living like a kings? For example, his son Saadi is said to have spent £170 million a year on private jets, five-star hotels, supercars, lap-dancers, jewels, and designer clothes. Once he spent £500,000 to have the Pussycat Dolls, his girlfriend’s favorite group, play at her birthday party in Cannes in the South of France.
The Economist had this to say about the Libyan economy under Ghadafi:
Libya is earning over $10 billion a year from its 1.4m barrels of oil a day. But Libyans see little of it. This year’s budget amounts to far less than its oil receipts; the colonel threw away an earlier budget, prepared by the General People’s Congress, saying oil should not be used for ordinary expenses, like salaries. In this hyper-rich state, a teacher’s salary is about $1,200 a year. Libyans have to go to Tunisia for health care. “Wealth, weapons and power lie with the people,” says the Green Book, the colonel’s revelation to the world. But one man decides which people.
The Islamist Threat
Mountain’s Counterpunch piece goes on:
The Al-Qaeda Godfather of the Libyan rebels who did the mopping up after the NATO bombardment is the infamous Belhaj, former Al Queda in Iraq commander and a capo in Al Queda in North Africa. Today he runs the biggest, most militarily proficient militia in Tripoli. Behind him are tribal militias of various size and abilities and include the Zintan militias presently holding Saif al Islam Gaddafi captive.
So it would appear that Tripoli’s warring militias have some unity and cohesion after all!
Who is this “Al Qaeda Godfather” that Mountain so deeply disparages? He was the revolution’s military commander for Tripoli until he quit his military post to get into politics where his al-Watan Party was beaten badly in the elections in Tripoli.
Abdel Hakim Belhadj was run out of Libya at age 22 for his anti-Ghadafi politics and ended up in Afghanistan via Saudi Arabia fighting with the Mujahideen against the Soviet occupation. After the Mujahideen took Kabul, he traveled across the Middle East and Eastern Europe before returning to Libya in 1992 with the intention of overthrowing Ghadafi.
There, he and others formed the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG). The LIFG ran a low-level insurgency tried, three times, to assassinate Ghaddafi before the group was crushed in 1998. Belhadj ran back to Afghanistan and joined the Taliban. After the U.S. invaded Afghanistan, he fled across the border to Pakistan and is said to have traveled widely to Sudan, Syria, Iran, Turkey, Denmark, and Britain.
In 2002, Ghadafi issued an arrest warrant for Belhadj that accused him of being, wait for the magic word now, “al-Qaeda.” The Bush administration and the Ghadafi regime were courting each other by then, five years later they would be enjoying military-to-military relations, but Ghadafi was already playing an expanding role in Bush’s “Global War on Terror.”
Belhadj was picked up with his pregnant wife by the CIA in Malaysia, and with the help of Britain’s CIA, MI6, was sent back to Libya in March 2004. Britain’s Foreign Minister Jack Straw personally signed off on the transfer orders and they both were given a CIA special rendition plane ride straight back to Ghadafi were he ended up spending seven years in the infamous Abu Salim prison before being one of 170 Islamists freed as part of Saif al-Islam Qaddafi’s “de-radicalization” drive in March 2010.
Belhadj was tortured in Ghadafi’s “anti-imperialist” prison with CIA officers present.
When the Libyan revolution broke out Belhadj was right there. Eventually, he became the commander of the renown Tripoli Brigade that played such a key role in liberating the city. As to these pro-Ghadafi charges that he is an “al Qaeda Godfather,” the NTC addressed that directly, as BBC News reported:
The NTC has dismissed any suggestions that Abdel Hakim Belhadj is a former al-Qaeda sympathiser, following reports in the international media as well as statements attributed to Saif al-Islam Gaddafi himself. “NTC members have stated time and again that the revolution has no links to al-Qaeda,” said NTC spokesman Al-Amin Belhadj told al-Jazeera Television last year.
“Everyone knows who Abdel Hakim Belhadj is. He is a Libyan rebel and a moderate person who commands wide respect. Unfortunately, some circles in the West repeat these claims,” he added.
Mountain, I think they are talking to you.
As to Belhadi’s well-known religious beliefs, I would say that oppressed people, and their leaders, often frame their struggles in a religious context. May I remind you that Malcolm X also did good work in the name of Allah, while the more “acceptable” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. framed his leadership with the words of Christian theology.
Elections run by a “government” installed by NATO can only be a charade designed to provide a cover of legitimacy to the continuation of the present regime which is in charge of collecting Libya’s share of the $70 billion a year in oil revenue as well as the over $100 billion of Libyan sovereign wealth deposited in western banks.
Organizing a national election only nine months after the end of a very bloody civil war is no mean feat, but on July 7, more than 1,700,000 Libyans went to the polls and voted in a 200-member General National Congress that has now replaced the NTC.
62% of those eligible to vote did so at 1,542 polling centers nationwide. Only 24 polling centers were unable to open that day because of a variety of problems and there were no complaints of voter fraud of malpractice by election officials anywhere with over 27,000 international and local observers. Women were 46% of registered voters and so were more than 600 of the 2,563 candidates running for the congress (although only 29 women won).
Voter registration didn’t kick off until May Day and was extended an extra week following a call for a boycott by the Council of Cyrenaica. Roughly 89%, or 2.9 million, of all Libyans eligible to registered did so. 374 political entities also registered and campaigning was hot and heavy until just before election day, which had to be put off once from its original date of June 19. Of the parties, the secular National Forces Alliance did the best, winning 39 seats, but only 80 seats were allocated to parties; 120 were allocated to independents.
All in all, it was an amazing accomplishment so soon after a civil war and in a country where the last national elections took place almost 60 years ago!
But the Mountain method means you don’t need to know any of this. You already know that “elections run by a ‘government’ installed by NATO can only be a charade” so there is no need for an investigation of the facts. You can just imagine what kind of election could they possibly have had after a NATO-orchestrated “regime change” and write that down instead.
One might think that concerned leftists who honestly felt that the Libyan uprising had been hijacked might be interested in the practical question of what they could do to get it back. This would then involve the tactical and historically specific question of what use could be made of a national election, even one being staged by a puppet regime, in the furtherance of that goal.
But not this crowd, not Mountain. Those people turned on the beloved Brother Leader so fuck ‘em. They can do no good no more. We are just leaving them to their fate which is to be robbed by the banksters.
See how easy it is to dismiss the election? No need to find fraud or vote tampering, no need to show that people were coerced or had their choices limited. No need to look at the concrete facts of Libya in 2012 at all. Everything flows from conclusions made at the beginning of this conflict that it wasn’t a real people’s movement at all. It was the U.S. leading the “rats” over the cliff.
On the other side of both Belhaj and the NTC and its offshoots is what is known as the Green Resistance, what the international media calls “pro Gaddafi loyalists”. They include much of the largest tribe in Libya, the Warfalla, from which Saif al Islam’s mother came from and seem to be slowly but steadily pulling together some sort of self defense forces to protect their communities from the militia based warlords.
Since he knew all along that Ghadafi was really a popular fellow, there must be a “Green Resistance,” so Mountain creates it out of whole cloth. Has he forgotten that it was Warfalla officers that attempted to stage a coup against Qaddafi in 1993 and were executed for their troubles, or that Mahmoud Jibril, the leader of the NTC is from the Warfalla tribe?
Mountain still can’t accept the fact that he was wrong and Ghadafi lost, so he imagines the civil war is still going on underneath it all, and he even still sees a way a Ghadafi can win. He is a bit like James Cannon, the American Socialist Workers Party leader, who declared that World War Two wasn’t over in November 1945 three months after Japan surrendered to the United States:
“Trotsky predicted that the fate of the Soviet Union would be decided in the war. That remains our firm conviction. Only we disagree with some people who carelessly think that the war is over.”
There have been a handful of terrorist attacks and assassinations, like the murder of Brig-Gen. Mohammed Hadiya Al-Fitouri, who had defected from Ghadafi and joined the rebellion, and was cut down in a drive-by shooting as he left a Benghazi mosque on Friday this week, and attacks on the Red Cross offices in Tripoli. These may well be the work of Mountain’s “Green Resistance.” Revenge attacks attempting to create the atmosphere of chaos and violence that Mountain wishes for, but they don’t amount to much, have no popular support, and are being rounded up and captured by the revolutionary brigades he so detests.
Mountain sees no need to exam the attitudes of the Libyans now that they are no longer living in a police state; now that they know a family member won’t be killed because they failed to show up in Green Square for the scheduled pro-Ghadafi rally.
Mountain has even converted the local revolutionary leaders into militia-based warlords by a simple act of rhetoric. See, they even have warlords like Somalia!
Belhaj was once in a Libyan dungeon, tortured under the orders of people who are now NTC capos, thanks to the CIA’s rendition program, and only had his torture and mistreatment ended when Saif al Islam Gaddafi convinced his father to pardon Belhaj and his cohorts in exchange for a quickly broken promise of peaceful coexistence.
“NTC capos” is his slanderous attack on the leaders of the most thoroughgoing revolution to so far come out of the Arab Spring. Abdul Jalil was a judge known for ruling against the regime before he was appointed Qaddafi’s Justice Minister. He quit and joined the revolution in its first week. Omar al-Hariri was a Libyan general jailed by Ghadafi after they had a falling out. Ali Issawi was the Libyan ambassador to India before he joined the NTC. There are others from the old government that have lent a hand building the new government. They have been among the most courageous and patriotic Libyans, and none have been involved in ordering torture and are due a lot more respect than Mountain gives them.
Belhaj could well try to secure a cease fire with the Green Resistance, who would also like to see the end of NATO’s puppet NTC. With the NTC out of the picture, maybe even a peace deal brokered with Belhaj and Saif al Islam to try and bring to an end all the fire and sword laying waste to the land?
Mountain should wake up. The South won’t rise again! There is no “Green Resistance,” none in any position to talk about a ceasefire, in any case. He is really out there in Fantasyland and he still longs, even hopes, for a return of a Ghadafi regime.
This may all be wishful thinking [that is the most truthful statement in the piece. - Claiborne] and is dependent on NATO not intervening militarily on the side of the NTC
Get the Met! The NTC has been replaced by the GNC. The Libyan revolutionaries won. Ghadafi is not on the verge of a comeback, nobody is laying waste to the land. Libya has been rapidly rebuilding from the war damage. The longer range issues have to do with forty years of neglect under the Ghadafi regime.
…when it comes to Libya becoming the next Somalia, history seems to be pointing in that direction.
This too is wishful thinking on his part.
If we look back at some of the earlier work of Mountain, we can get a better idea of where he is coming from. In Bombing Libya, Counterpunch, March 23, 2011, he predicts:
It is now widely recognized, at least in the Arab and African world, that the majority of Libyans support their government lead by Col. Gaddafi and that the rebellion is supported by a minority of Libyans. The end of the rebellion seemed to have become inevitable.
We also learn that he considered Mummar Ghadafi an “Arab socialist” and an old friend. He even slept in Ghadafi’s tent once! Like many other leftist, he was taken in by Ghadafi’s showmanship and his supposed anti-imperialist credentials and he never looked too far from the Rixos Hotel.
Mountain never saw things from a Libyan point of view.
Now that attitude has caused him to oppose the most thoroughgoing revolution of the 21st century and perhaps more importantly, it has caused him to discard the dialectical materialist analysis which must be the basis of any practical understanding of the situation in Libya.
The Arab Spring and the Left going Forward
By the turn of the century, the masses of the Middle East and North Africa put their colonial occupations behind them. Most were modern capitalist states and a few laid claim to some form of “socialism,” but politically they were autocracies and military dictatorships under the rule of one man and his family.
In Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, these dictators lived like kings and looked forward to passing their powers down directly to their sons. In Syria, the Assad dynasty has already accomplished that feat. In many ways, these regimes operated as monarchies, and these societies showed many other feudal traits as well.
In political-historic terms, that meant that the bourgeois-democratic revolution had yet to be completed in those Arab states.
For a variety of reasons that are beyond the scope of this already long article, the tensions surrounding this regional contradiction had developed to a really explosive potential when Mohammed Bouazizi lit himself on fire in Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia on December 17, 2010, and literally and personally sparking a conflagration that is burning still. Just yesterday, over 1,000 people protested in that town where it all started, and in Egypt this week, where the “revolution” seems to have fallen into the stagnation of continued military dictatorship after Mubarak was ousted, we suddenly saw that military leadership “retired” by a democratically elected president.
Mubarak may have ruled Egypt for 30 years, but the military has ruled Egypt for 60 years and now that is starting to change.
Libya was the first country in this series of uprisings that went over to armed struggle to the point of civil war. Syria was the second and has been the most protracted and intense. If the Syrian bloodletting hasn’t already passed that of the Libyan experience, we have every sad expectation that it soon will.
Libya is the country were the Arab Spring has gone the farthest. In Libya, the people not only succeeded in ousting the dictator, they completely wrecked the repressive state apparatus.
The Libyan Revolution is, so far, the most advanced revolution of the Arab spring.
In Libya, they have set about creating a new state system virtually from scratch and that transitional state does not yet have a monopoly of violence. Many arms are still in the hands of the working people that overthrew the old regime and they are still organized in a way that they can use that power independent of what is left of the old state.
This assures that the new state is created under their watchful supervision.
The cartoon above illustrates what many on the international and American left think of the Arab Spring. Here we have the blond-haired American Pied Piper with the Zionists hat, leading the little Arab “rats” over the cliff with Libya in the lead and Egypt right behind.
The implication is that these revolutions were all orchestrated by the Western imperialists and the Arabs who are rising up are to ones who are falling for their tricks. The incipient racism of this view is also well illustrated here; the only human in the picture is the blond imperialist/Zionist.
When tasked with quickly understanding just what was happening in North Africa and beyond last year, a number of forces on the left jumped to faulty conclusions. They relied on a sometimes very shallow knowledge of the region and its past and they looked at it too much from their own point of view.
February 17, 2011 kicked off the uprising in Libya just as March 15, 2011 did in Syria. Libya is not like Syria today largely because NATO came in and wrecked Ghadafi’s war machine from the air and then stopped. Those that opposed any outside intervention in Libya in any possible form failed to get things their way. They hate that! That’s why Mountain’s piece has the “sour grapes” tone it has.
Syria, on the other hand, is the anti-intervention left’s masterpiece.Syria is where they have had it their way right away for 18 months now.
Nobody is intervening to stop Assad’s slaughter of the Syrian people.
When Bashar al-Assad rolled up his tanks and heavy guns to Homs, Hama, and Idlib last year, no French jets swooped out of the sky to save the people from slaughter as they did in March 2011 in Benghazi. By then, the anti-interventionists had convinced the world it was better to just stay out of it. So when Assad brought in the helicopter gunships and the Russians rushed him more, nothing was done to stop him from intensifying the slaughter from the air. As soon as he saw that the helos got a pass, he brought in the jets so that we could kill even quicker while the world watched the Olympic Games in London.
On August 15, 2012 the UN Human Rights Council issued a report in which they found that the Houla massacre and the others were perpetrated by the Syrian state and “that Government forces and Shabbiha fighters had committed the crimes against humanity of murder and torture, war crimes and gross violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, including unlawful killing, indiscriminate attacks against civilian populations and acts of sexual violence.” The report further found these acts “were committed pursuant to State policy pointing to the involvement at the highest levels of the armed and security forces and the Government.”
This is the state that the anti-interventionist left has demanded be left to carry out this grim repression with no meaningful relief to the people of Syria from outside.
This is not the stand that people should be taking.
Standing aside and letting the Assad regime continue its slaughter is not the stand the American left should be taking.
We should be among the first and strongest supporters in the struggle for justice and against tyranny throughout all of the countries of the Middle East and North Africa. We should absolutely and loudly oppose the air war against civilian population centers no matter who is doing the bombing and who is being bombed.
We have much to learn from their struggles, especially the advanced examples in Libya and we should be learning those lessons and passing them on.
Most importantly, we should be building connections and solidarity with the people of the Arab Spring and all those struggling to advance humanity around the world.
Qaddafi lies live on after him
On Libya & Glenn Greenwald: Are the anti-interventionists becoming counter-revolutionaries?
Libya’s Freedom Fighters: How They Won
Racism in Libya
Helter Skelter: Qaddafi’s African Adventure
The Assassination of General Abdul Fattah Younis
Tripoli Green Square Reality Check
Is Libya Next? Anonymous Debates New Operation
These are some of my major writings on Syria:
BREAKING: Syria releases new images of Bashar al- Assad | Are they fakes?
ALEPPO: Step outside the Matrix and witness the Horror
no blood for oil
Does Syria’s Assad have something on Kofi Annan?
When did “Never Again” become “Whenever?” | #Douma
My response to Phyllis Bennis: Where is the non-violent opposition in Syria?
Another “Houla style” massacre in Syria