Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

August 25, 2011

Love is a many-splendored thing

Filed under: Libya — louisproyect @ 1:07 pm

In the ruins of Gadhafi’s lair, rebels find album filled with photos of his ‘darling’ Condoleezza Rice

David R Arnott writes

The ransacking of Moammar Gadhafi’s compound is turning up some bizarre loot. Following on from the Libyan leader’s eccentric fashion accessories and his daughter’s golden mermaid couch, the latest discovery is a photo album filled with page after page of pictures of Condoleezza Rice.

Ammar Abd Rabbo / Abaca

Rebels examine a photo album of former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, which was found in Moammar Gadhafi’s Bab al-Aziziya compound in Tripoli, Libya, on August 24.

The former U.S. Secretary of State paid a visit to Tripoli in 2008 during a brief interlude that saw Gadhafi begin to be welcomed back into the international fold. As Jason Ukman of the Washington Post wrote on Wednesday, “it was only three short years ago that Rice shared a late-night dinner with Gaddafi to break the Ramadan fast, three short years ago that the United States and Libya were celebrating what was to be a new chapter in their relations.”

In a 2007 interview with al-Jazeera television, Gadhafi spoke of Rice in glowing terms. “I support my darling black African woman,” he said. “I admire and am very proud of the way she leans back and gives orders to the Arab leaders … Leezza, Leezza, Leezza. … I love her very much. I admire her and I’m proud of her because she’s a black woman of African origin.”

Mahmud Turkia / AFP-Getty Images, file

Moammar Gadhafi poses with Condoleezza Rice prior to a meeting in Tripoli on September 5, 2008. Rice’s was the first such visit in more than half a century, marking a new chapter in Washington’s reconciliation with the former enemy state.

AP photographer Sergey Ponomarev was with the rebels as they flicked through the album in the Bab al-Aziziya complex on Wednesday. “There were lots of rebels celebrating their victory,” Ponomarev said. “It was still unsafe – loyalists were shelling the compound from time to time – but rebels were celebrating the seizure of the Gadhafi compound. They believe the victory is in their hands. Some of them even brought their children to the scene.”

Sergey Ponomarev / AP

Rebel fighters look through a photo album they found inside Moammar Gadhafi’s compound on August 24.

See more pictures in our slideshows:

Conflict in Libya

Moammar Gadhafi through the years

August 24, 2011

Wikileaks cable on McCain-Lieberman meeting with Qaddafi

Filed under: Libya — louisproyect @ 7:13 pm




DE RUEHTRO #0677/01 2311536


P R 191536Z AUG 09
















E.O. 12958: DECL:  8/19/2019




REF: A. TRIPOLI 662; B. TRIPOLI 674; C. STATE 43049; D. TRIPOLI 648 TRIPOLI 00000677 001.2 OF 002 CLASSIFIED BY: Joan Polaschik, Charge d’Affaires, U.S. Embassy Tripoli, Department of State. REASON: 1.4 (b), (d)

1.(C) CODEL McCain discussed security, counterterrorism, and civil-nuclear cooperation during August 14 meetings with Libyan leader Muammar al-Qadhafi and his son, National Security Advisor Muatassim al-Qadhafi, stressing the need for Libya to fulfill its WMD-related commitments and to approve a Section 505 end-user agreement in order to move forward on bilateral military and civil-nuclear engagement. While Muatassim al-Qadhafi reiterated long-standing Libyan requests for security assurances from the United States and emphasized Libya’s interest in the purchase of U.S. lethal and non-lethal military equipment, Muammar al-Qadhafi was notably silent on these subjects. The elder Qadhafi made a point of expressing his satisfaction with the improved U.S relationship and his hope that the relationship would continue to flourish. CODEL McCain’s discussion of the Megrahi case was reported ref A. End summary.


2.(SBU) CODEL McCain (R-Az), including Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Senator Susan Collins (R-SC) and Senate Armed Services Committee Staffer Richard Fontaine held back-to-back meetings August 14 with Libyan National Security Advisor Muatassim al-Qadhafi and Libyan leader Muammar Al-Qadhafi. Libyan officials NSC Director Dr. Hend Siala, MFA Department of Americas Secretary Ahmed Fituri and MFA Office of Americas Director Mohamed Matari also attended the meetings, as did Charge and Pol/Econ Chief (notetaker).


3.(C) Characterizing the overall pace of the bilateral relationship as excellent, CODEL McCain opened its August 14 meeting with National Security Advisor Muatassim al-Qadhafi by noting the drastic change that the relationship had undergone over the last five years. “We never would have guessed ten years ago that we would be sitting in Tripoli, being welcomed by a son of Muammar al-Qadhafi,” remarked Senator Lieberman. He stated that the situation demonstrated that change is possible and expressed appreciation that Libya had kept its promises to give up its WMD program and renounce terrorism. Lieberman called Libya an important ally in the war on terrorism, noting that common enemies sometimes make better friends. The Senators recognized Libya’s cooperation on counterterrorism and conveyed that it was in the interest of both countries to make the relationship stronger. They encouraged Libya to sign the Highly Enriched Uranium transfer agreement by August 15 in order to fulfill its obligation to transfer its nuclear spent fuel to Russia for treatment and disposal. [Note: The Libyan Government subsequently informed us of its intent to sign the agreement on August 17 and has begun taking good-faith steps to do so (ref B). End note.]

4.(C) Muatassim welcomed the high-level visit, describing it as a good sign for the relationship – a relationship that Libya wants to develop. He explained to the Senators the recent requests that the National Security Council had made to procure defense equipment. He stated that there were three categories of requests: one which was approved by the USG, another which awaited congressional approval, and a third which waited USG agreement. He reiterated the refrain he conveyed to Secretary Clinton during his April visit (ref C) — Libya has not been adequately rewarded for its decision to give up WMD and needed some sort of security assurance from the United States. He emphasized the need for Libya to purchase U.S. non-lethal equipment in order to enhance its defense posture. Muatassim requested the “highest level of help possible” to obtain military supplies, including mobile hospitals and uniforms. He also requested assistance with upgrading Libya’s equipment, including helicopters. “We can get [equipment] from Russia or China, but we want to get it from you as a symbol of faith from the United States,” he said. He described the security threats that Libya could possibly face as a result of its geography – “There are 60 million Algerians to the West, 80 million Egyptians to the East, we have Europe in front of us, and we face Sub-Saharan Africa with its problems to the South.” Muatassim stressed that Libya wanted security assurances from the United States as a sign that the United States was still committed to Libya. He pledged to work with the MFA on approval of the Section 505 end user agreement, as well as the signing of the nuclear spent fuel (highly enriched uranium-low enriched uranium) transfer agreement.

5.(C) Senator McCain assured Muatassim that the United States wanted to provide Libya with the equipment it needs for its TRIPOLI 00000677 002.2 OF 002 security. He stated that he understood Libya’s requests regarding the rehabilitation of its eight C130s (ref D) and pledged to see what he could do to move things forward in Congress. He encouraged Muatassim to keep in mind the long-term perspective of bilateral security engagement and to remember that small obstacles will emerge from time to time that can be overcome. He described the bilateral military relationship as strong and pointed to Libyan officer training at U.S. Command, Staff, and War colleges as some of the best programs for Libyan military participation.


6.(C) Libyan leader Muammar al-Qadhafi, who joined the group in the same tent in which Muatassim had met the CODEL, likewise highlighted the strength of the U.S.-Libya relationship. Qadhafi commented that friendship was better for the people of both countries and expressed his desire to see the relationship flourish. He thanked the Senators for their visit and described America as a race rather than a nationality, explaining that many Libyans are dual citizens because they were born in the United States. Senators McCain and Graham conveyed the U.S. interest in continuing the progress of the bilateral relationship and pledged to try to resolve the C130 issue with Congress and Defense Secretary Gates. The Senators expressed appreciation for Libya’s counterterrorism cooperation in the region. They urged Libya to fulfill the remainder of its WMD commitments. Senator Graham reiterated the need for improved U.S. Embassy security and urged Qadhafi to approve the site for a New Embassy Compound (NEC) as a way to fortify the relationship. Qadhafi remained quiet throughout the discussion and did not respond specifically to any of the issues with the exception of Megrahi (ref A). He indicated that the National Security Council would be charged with addressing the security-related issues. COMMENT

7.(C) CODEL McCain’s meetings with Muammar and Muatassim al-Qadhafi were positive, highlighting the progress that has been made in the bilateral relationship. The meetings also reiterated Libya’s desire for enhanced security cooperation, increased assistance in the procurement of defense equipment, and resolution to the C130s issue. Although Muatassim al-Qadhafi repeated Libya’s familiar complaint that it has not received enough recognition and support in exchange for its decision to abandon its WMD programs, Muammar al-Qadhafi was notably silent on this issue. Qadhafi’s silence on these issues may have been part of his reaction to the CODEL’s discussion of the pending release of convicted Pan Am 103 bomber Abdel Basset al-Megrahi (ref A), an issue that reportedly is of great personal concern to Qadhafi.


8.(C) Senior Libyan officials confided that the CODEL’s meeting with Qadhafi took place so late in the evening (nearly 11 pm) because the Leader had been fasting and usually takes a nap after breaking his fast. The Libyan officials told us that Qadhafi often fasts on Mondays and Thursdays and is doing so now, in the run up to the holy month of Ramadan. Qadhafi appeared as if he had been roused from a deep slumber for the meeting. He showed up with rumpled hair and puffy eyes, and was casually dressed in a short-sleeved shirt patterned with the continent of Africa, wrinkled pants and slip-on shoes. In spite of his appearance, Qadhafi was lucid and engaged throughout the meeting. Muatassim al-Qadhafi, on the other hand, revealed his lack of strategic depth throughout the meeting, referring to “the 52 countries of America — or is that Africa?” and asking MFA officials to clarlify Libya’s role in the upcoming UN General Assembly.

9.(C) Muatassim conducted his meeting in English, while his father used an interpreter for his meeting. The elder Qadhafi appeared to understand some of the CODEL’s English-language remarks and offered a few comments in English.

10.(U) CODEL McCain did not have the opportunity to clear this message prior to departure. POLASCHIK


John Reed’s reputation remains intact

Filed under: Libya — louisproyect @ 7:06 pm

From Counterpunch’s Franklin Lamb:

August 24:

The inside of the hotel is sweltering having had no A/C for more than 48 hours. Wanting some fresh air, I prop open a door to the former Japanese Sushi Bar on the outside patio, but Miss Lorraine, the hotel manager, scolds me. “You bloody American”, she seethed at me yesterday. “First your bloody government brings NATO to bomb us to pieces and now you fill my hotel with birds! Damn all of you!”

It’s true that Lorraine sometimes gets a little upset when a bomb goes off and some of the birds from the hotel garden fly into the hotel’s two level grand lobby complete with lots of plants and palm trees where the poor frightened birds seek safety. They seem to like it inside our hotel.

Concerning the outdoor hotel garden, for some reason the garden lights are always on (last night the only ones in all of north Tripoli that I could see) and the garden fountains continue pumping which of course uses up quite valuable generator fuel oil. Lorraine laments: “As you know Mr. Lamb, the staff has abandoned me and I don’t know where the switch is—I would be ever so grateful if you could find it. I think it’s out there in the garden somewhere, and turn it off. Really I would!”  Well, I did find the switch, turned off the fountains and the garden lights and Lorraine suddenly likes me again. Would that all women were so easy to please.

Yesterday one of the few staff people around here offered me the leaders framed picture (way too big to transport!) and a green flag that had been removed from outside the hotel’s main entrance. Miss Lorraine became distressed because she thought if I was caught with a green flag I could be in trouble. So as not to cause her more stress I declined with the knowledge that I already have a few packed away as gifts for friends.

The green flags and the gold frame picture of Gaddafi that were removed two nights ago suddenly returned overnight. There had been a heated discussion by remaining senior hotel management staff— numbering two it appears– about the wisdom of removing them. For now they are back where they were.

 * * * *

August 22:

Yesterday morning, as I embarked on a bike tour of Tripoli, there were signs that something incongruous was happening. Security guards, normally about 20 outside the hotel were nowhere to be seen. Also, no staff came to work.  Ismail and the IT guy slept at the hotel—and the British lady “Miss Lorraine” who is in charge of hotel Hospitality lives at the hotel and was understandably and visibly upset.

As I left the hotel close to 7:30 a.m. by bicycle yesterday morning I was surprised to see one woman standing alone on the street in front of the hotel. I more surprised when she lite up with a broad smile as chimed “Hello Mr. Lamb!”

She is Marianne, who works with Lorraine somewhere in the bowels of this claimed “7 Star Hotel” I had spoken with her on the phone but we never met personally.  When I asked her why she was standing in the empty street,  she replied, “I need to find a ride to the port!”  That seemed odd, given what is happening here, so I asked her why.  “My two week vacation starts today and I need to get a boat to Malta”.  I was shocked, “Sweetheart, please, for sure there is no boat to Malta now and it’s dangerous for you to go to the Port.”  “But, my boyfriend is waiting for me in Malta” she wailed.  “Ok, but if you find a ride call my room and I will pay half and come with you to the Port”. Marianne agreed. I never saw her again.

There has been no sign of Colonel Gaddafi. A strange calm has spread over Tripoli.

A telling quote

Filed under: Libya — louisproyect @ 4:57 pm

Rebel leaders acknowledged Tuesday that their forces in Tripoli are not under any unified command. Some are simply Tripoli residents who have taken up guns, and have little or no military experience. And rebels from the western mountains fight in independent brigades from each town or tribe, spraying its name — “Zintan” or “Nalut” — as they go.

This is from the lead article in the NYT today. What I think those in the anti-anti-Qaddafi left should begin considering is the possibility that their model of a transmission belt between Langley, Virginia, the TNC in Benghazi, and the men who spray paint “Zintan” or “Nalut” on the walls of Tripoli might be deeply flawed.

Birds of a feather

Filed under: Libya — louisproyect @ 2:07 pm

The Libyan Revolution and the Opium of the Intellectuals

Filed under: Libya — louisproyect @ 12:54 pm

(Got this on my Columbia email out of the blue and damned glad that I did. Garcia was a physicist at Livermore Labs who has debunked 9/11 on Counterpunch and written as well about other matters there requiring a knowledge of science. After reading this article, you will understand why he didn’t bother submitting it to Counterpunch. Or maybe he did and it went into the vertical file.)

The Libyan Revolution and the Opium of the Intellectuals

Manuel Garcia, Jr.
22 August 2011

“You can’t separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.” — Malcolm X

The Libyan revolution is victorious. The Libyan people are having their days of jubilation. Yet, the hard work and conflicts of the “post war” period are starting even now. No doubt, there will be some negative events and rough spots in Libyan society as it arranges itself in its “Second Republic.” And, no doubt there will be some friction with some foreign constituencies and their public voices (i.e., the blabocrats). I think Juan Cole summarizes this point in Libyan history (and Libya’s relations with Europe and the U.S.) very well in his column of August 22, cited below. I am happy for Libya today; this was what I hoped for when I wrote my own articles (in February and March of 2011, but I couldn’t get them accepted for internet publication till April and May, and then only grudgingly).

Like any other person, I am sometimes right and often wrong in my estimations of situations, especially political situations. This time I was right. I rarely make such a statement (it can rub the wrong way, to no advantage), but I choose to make it in this case because I received a lot of guff (illogical and/or insulting) over of my estimation about the Libyan situation, in early 2011. Some “left wing” “activists” even booted me out of their (virtual) networks, for blasphemy basically.

The experience forced me to think more carefully about my political writing: was it doing anybody any good?, why bother? I’ve learned what to say — and what not to say — in order for my articles to have a good chance of being published: every publisher promotes a “party line.” This is why there are 126 million blogs on the internet, and even in science thousands of publications in any single field of research. Too many simple-minded leftists simply don’t think, they parrot received orthodoxy, or worse yet babble conspiracy fantasies. There seems to be very little taste or courage for actual discussion and debate. I always tried to think out my written arguments, present them as clearly as possible (and with some effort to engage, even entertain), and to be open to discussion and criticism by authors writing articles in response, or readers conveying e-mail comments. But, I find this is a lot of wasted effort, when faced with omniscient or closed-minded audiences.

So, I have retreated to a more relaxed life of just not writing. I already know what I think, I don’t need to write to find that out. And I don’t really feel like fitting in tightly into a party line, just to be published in the blabocracy. Those commentators who are capable of looking back on past “bad guesses” of theirs, and being forthright about their misjudgments, win my respect and faith in their future judgements, because they show themselves capable of learning (of thinking) — of adjusting their ideas to fit new facts. I am not swayed by those who hold a fixed ideology, which they try to bend reality around, but by those of unswerving principles, which motivate their efforts to inform and improve society, and who acknowledge facts instead of combatting them.

As I mentioned in my articles on Libya, the first priority was gaining the political freedom of the Libyan people, and preventing them from being massacred by their vengeful dictator. The blunt and inelegant instrument of a NATO intervention was the only means at hand capable of preventing a detestable outcome; capable of saving the lives of people who did not deserve to die. Whether or not the European and American governments, and corporations, were gaining economic and political advantages (the “humanitarian intervention” complex of modern left orthodoxy, for example this article only recently, http://www.counterpunch.org/bricmont08162011.html) were unimportant considerations in comparison. Now that Libya is entering its liberated postwar period of political reconstruction, these consideration can be addressed, and by those who would be most affected by them, the Libyans themselves. It is so sad that so many leftists are so wrapped up in their politicized heads that they could obsess about “saving Libya from its Western saviors” to the complete disregard of the life-and-death struggle for political freedom by the Libyan people, the defeat of dictatorship. These political theorists must be relieved that the Syrian government has been untrammeled by Western interference in its rejection of its people’s rejection.

What I learned from all my readings of Carl G. Jung was that no configuration of ideas, however well thought out, however politically correct or historically necessary, should ever be taken as an abstraction that overrides the living and breathing reality of any individual. I and the other are one in humanity, I want for him (or her) what I would want were I in his place. After these basics are met, then we can refine our preferences for each other’s politics and national societies. When one is a member of the comfortable classes in the developed nations, basically a spoiled brat in comparison to the world average, it can be easy to forget this most basic connection — and obligation — to the rest of humanity. I am a member of a comfortable class in the United States, not one of the highly comfortable classes, but better than most, and I know it. I have always known it, and I realized it first most vividly when, as a child of 8, I was confronted by poverty in Cuba during the last year of the Batista regime. I do not pretend to be “a man of the people,” but I never forget that “the people” exist, that many work excruciatingly hard for meager rewards, and too many are vulnerable to cruel forces and circumstances.

During this quiet time in my amateur writing career, I have been reading books by very keen political-philosophical and artistic-literary intellectuals. I have found Raymond Aron, a French liberal anti-communist intellectual, and J. P. Sartre’s sharpest critic, to be very educational about concepts such as “the left,” “the proletariate,” “revolt,” and “the revolution.” Aron was one of the great thinkers of the postwar (post WW2) European scene, he was a social democrat, that is to say in favor of the social programs that flourished in postwar Europe (both east and west) from after 1945 till the 1980s, when they began to decline (Thatcherism); and against the obviously undemocratic regimes of eastern Europe and their imperial overseer, the USSR; this opposition to the lack of popular political freedom being labelled “anti-communism” at that time. Aron was a prolific writer and journalist, two works I am finding rich in political-sociological insights are “Politics and History” (a 1978 collection of essays) and his famous 1955 polemic “The Opium of the Intellectuals.” I quoted from this latter book in my last and best article on Libya. Aron’s place in the history of political thought is nicely described in Tony Judt’s majestic book “Postwar,” a history of Europe (and the idea of Europe) from 1945 to essentially the end of the 20th century. After reading Judt’s history (including the stories of the fall of communism in eastern Europe) it is much easier to see why Aron, a French Jew who was a young socialist and sociology scholar in Germany in the 1930s, thought as he did about politics.

Because Aron was critical of the western European intellectuals who claimed a preference for Moscow over “Atlanticism” (American involvement in Europe), critical of the lack of political freedom in the communist bloc (“behind the iron curtain”), and critical of destructive (unstructured, undirected revolts) “revolutionary” mass movements (e.g., France 1968), he was often cast as a “conservative,” which he was not. He had seen undisciplined destructive mass movements spinning out of control in Germany in the 1930s, and he feared for any possible repetition of the prior catastrophe after 1945, such as in 1968. He advocated real (versus show) and inclusive (versus racist or oligarchic) parliamentary democratic political structures that allowed its society to progress steadily through its desired (consensus) evolution: “In politics, the choice is never between good and evil, but between the preferable and the detestable.”

Aron’s work, translated to English (perhaps by him as he was a polyglot), is being reprinted by the press of Rutgers University (the university of the state of New Jersey). Unfortunately, from my perspective, the Aron publications are being fronted by right-wing editors and intellectuals, who are drawn to Aron’s erudite high academic style of exposition, and his withering logical positivist criticisms of “communism” (Stalinism and 1950s Eastern Bloc communism) and the strident communisant (“fellow traveller”) stance of French anti-Atlanticists, whose most prominent representative was Jean Paul Sartre. I say unfortunate because prospective American readers might imagine that Aron is some earlier avatar of the current “neo-con” brand of American “conservatism” (the corporatist neo-liberalism of today’s America). Aron was a classical socially conscious liberal, I think of his socialist inclinations as being “mature” rather than “childish.” He preferred to give society political and economic freedom (hence, traditional capitalism would occur, a typical bourgeoisie would exist), but to regulate the economics democratically, and implement socialized programs to ameliorate inequities (i.e., for health, education). He feared violent political radicalism, both because of its many consequent personal tragedies, and because it could take decades for a society to return to a reasonable state of peace and prosperity.

I recommend anyone interested in politics read Aron, but skip the forwards, introductions, and afterwards by the modern American “conservatives,” or read them only after first reading Aron’s text, so you are instructed by Aron’s insight in deconstructing the agenda of these commentators, rather than being primed by them to interpret Aron as they might wish. Where Aron exposes a weakness in the left canon, as you understood it, take it as an opportunity to refine your political views and make them more realistic — more effective. Our aim should be to gain clearer insight, not to defend a received doctrine against inconvenient facts. I am sure Aron’s aim was not to “destroy the left” (which can be that of the commentators now encrusted onto his books in English), but to improve people’s understanding of their society so they can improve it consensually through their shared democratic institutions.

So today for the Libyans: liberation and joy, a dictator is overthrown; for us comfortable spoiled brats of the world: live and learn, an chance to recast our political ideas more humanely and realistically.

Manuel Garcia, Jr., a resident of Planet Earth, too old to be productive, but still learning.

Here is Juan Cole’s commentary for August 22, 2011 on the Libyan Revolution, from his web site,


Mike Ely (Kasama Project) comments on Libya

Filed under: liberalism — louisproyect @ 12:30 pm

His comment appeared under my article “Notes on Libya” that he crossposted: http://kasamaproject.org/2011/08/22/33228/

Andrei writes:

“The fall of Qaddafi is not just a defeat for people’s Libya, but a defeat for Africa and the Arab people.”

My geography is a bit spotty. Where exactly is this Peoples’ Libya you speak of?

Do such things emerge without socialist revolution? Is there some other process by which “peoples governments” emerge?

The defacto invention of a socialist Libya is a pure fantasy — where materialism is precisely the issue. Libya is a capitalist oil state, ruled by a corrupt (and highly eccentric) family of bureaucrat capitalism. It is fully integrated into world capitalism, and actively invests capital in world finance (mega-bucks, big-time).

Most oil economies find ways to establish political stability by creating welfare and educational programs (Iran does it, Saudi Arabia does it, Iraq did it….) And often that stability helps very brutal (or reactionary) governments weather discontent (the Saudi monarchy just wrote a check to its own people).

But a certain kind of socialist sees education and health care as socialist — so when Libya has education and health care it is seen as (somehow) socialist. Is Saudi Arabia also socialist? Or western Europe?

The basic assumption is that “if the U.S. attacks them, they must be progressive.” This argument is only effective if our discussion is devoid of history. In fact, the U.S. attacks all kinds of reactionaries (and that attack doesn’t make the U.S. progressive, and it doesn’t make those local oppressors progressive.)

For example, the U.S. overthrow Noriega and Diem (and even invaded panama to do it).

And of course the U.S. also has war-contradictions with big oppressors too: with Nazi Germany, or Tojo’s militarized Japan, or Breschnev’s Soviet Union.

And those powers were quite capable of using “anti-imperialist” rhetoric. Japanese imperialism presented itself as the “non-European power” (protecting Asian people from the western imperialists). They called their new empire “the Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere.”

Bresnev’s USSR even used “socialist” rhetoric. So when Breznev invented his “Breznev doctrine” (a mirror image of the Bush doctrine) and declared that the Soviet Union had a right to invade and carry out regime change in its neighbors and allies — all this was justified in terms of “socialist internaitonalism” etc. (i.e. no sovereignty rights among the allies of this nominally “socialist” war bloc).

And (it needs to be said) in many wars, neither side is progressive. Breznev invaded Czechoslovakia and removed the Dubcek regime. It was an act of imperialism, and an unjust violation of sovereignty…. but no one thinks that Dubceck was “more socialist” than the Soviet imperialists.

Some people tried to say that the U.S. and its allies attacked Serbia because it was somehow socialist or an obstacle to capitalism. In fact, Yugoslavia was the worlds first example of a capitalist state with a nominally communist superstructure (and had never been socialist). The Serbian leadership the U.S/Nato deposed were ugly chauvinists who came to power with a hysterical campaign against the fairly vulnerable Kosovo albanian (and the Bosnian muslims) — nothing progressive there.

And of course, we opposed the US/NATO attacks on Yugoslavia/Serbia, just as we should (with energy) expose and oppose the U.S./NATO crimes in Libya (and their future moves to modify their domination).

But why do we need a fantasy politics that assumes:
a) various bureaucrat capitalist states in the third world are somehow progressive (or even socialist).
b) that anything the U.S. attacks must be (somehow) progressive (as if the world and its politics is binary, and as if the U.S. only attacks progressive things… so we can use their policies as a litmus test replacement for our own class analysis).

We should oppose U.S. imperialism. That is our responsibility. We should to it systematically and with great clarity. And we have a great deal of work to do because, even among radical people in the U.S., there is often a strong current that the U.S. could do good, and it could have a democratic, pro-people foreign policy. Such illusions are closely tied to the illusions that led to supporting Obama.

But opposing U.S. imperialism does not require prettifying reactionary states. Nor does it change the fact that revolution means that people must overthrow their governments. A revolutinary movement in Syria, or Iran, or Libya, or [fill in the blank] directly faces their governments (not just a distant disembodied imperialism) — and their governments and ruling classes are (today) deeply entwined with imperialism.

Final point:

When did imperialism become the only enemy of the people of the world?

Mao (for example) talked about three mountains on the back of the Chinese people: Feudalism, bureaucrat capitalism (i.e. the central govt of GMD) and imperialism.

Feudalism is far weaker today in the world and rarely holds major state power.

But certainly people in many places face both bureaucrat capitalism and imperialism (look at Mexico!). And there are often feudal remnants that deeply affect hte nature of the class struggle.

This is not a colonialist world. This is not 1950. The local rulers of states like China, Iran, South Korea, India, Turkey, Brazil, Mexico, are quite formidible and oppressive in their own right — and they are targets of revolution (together with foreign imperialists).

The view that imperialism alone is the people’s oppressors (and, beyond that, even that U.S. imperialism alone is the world target) is actually not a revolutionary view.

And it quickly leads to arguments that people should rally around all kinds of ugly and brutal and reactionary local oppressors. And it is a politics of endless resistance without plans for actual revolution (i.e. overthrow the fucking government). And suddenly local governments (even of quite major oppressors in their own right) supposedly become “allies” in resistance and not targets of revolution.

There is a long history of this in some (rightist!) currents of the communist movement. But it was never a good politics, and certainly isn’t today.

August 23, 2011

Opposing imperialist military expansionism

Filed under: Libya — louisproyect @ 9:04 pm


Despite the unfinished character of the Libyan Revolution, it is clear that the days of Muammar Qaddafi are numbered. How has this news been received in the rest of the world? There is a lot of hope for Libya as an independent country, yet one friendly with neighbors and new allies. Even those lukewarm about the NATO intervention are now accepting reality. But the new Libya itself is eager to dispel any illusion that it might like a Western military base on its soil.

The Arab League says that it will take up the matter of giving the Transitional National Council Libya’s seat in the organization at its next meeting. The Arab League kicked off the outside intervention by asking the UN Security Council for a resolution authorizing other countries to protect Libya’s protest movement.

Abdel Moneim al-Huweini, the TNC delegate from Libya to the Arab League in Cairo reaffirmed Libya’s commitment to the League, saying,

“Libya is an Arab and Islamic nation before NATO and after NATO . . . the Libyans revolted from the 1970s against Western bases and there will be no non-Libyan bases.” He said the revolutionary government is grateful to NATO for minimizing the death toll in Libya through its air strikes [on attacking Qaddafi forces].

(Huweini was referring to the US Wheelus Air Force base in post- WW II Libya, which the Qaddafi government closed in 1970).


September 28, 2009, AFRICOM press release:

Sep 28, 2009 — A delegation of three senior Libyan military officers visited U.S. Africa Command headquarters as part of an orientation program to explain the command’s mission, Sept. 21-24, 2009, as the two countries continue to build their military relationship.

The officers held meetings with senior staff members to discuss the command’s programs and activities, met General William E. ward and his two deputies, and traveled to Ramstein Air Base to meet Major General Ron Ladnier, the U.S. Air Force Africa commander, and his staff.

The command hosts African military delegations frequently, but “certainly with regard to Libya, it is quite historic,” said Kenneth Fidler, Africa Command Public Affairs Office, which hosted the Libyan team.

Two of the officers in the delegation write for the official magazine of the Libyan armed forces, called Al-Musallh. Colonel Mohamed Algale is the chief editor, and Colonel Abdelgane Mohamed is the space and aviation editor. The third member of the party, Colonel Mustafa Washahi, represented the Libyan Ministry of Defense.

The officers also toured AFN-Europe studios in Mannheim, Germany, and met with editors of the European Stars and Stripes in Kaiserslautern, Germany.

“They (Africa Command officials) clarified everything,” Abdelgane said in an interview with AFN-Europe. “And they are making our mission easier … to rise up the level of understanding between the militaries … and to move for further cooperation to the benefit of both countries.”

In January 2009, Libya and the United States signed a defense cooperation memorandum of understanding, which provides the framework for a military-to-military relationship and cooperation on programs of mutual interest.

After the signing of the MOU, a forum called the Council of Colonels met for the fourth time since 2007. These meetings set the tone for Libya-U.S. military relations and is the primary venue for discussing potential security cooperation opportunities, such as ship visits and information exchange programs.

August 22, 2011

Three great blind jazz pianists

Filed under: music — louisproyect @ 6:57 pm

Notes on Libya

Filed under: Alexander Cockburn,Libya — louisproyect @ 4:54 pm

Well, I erred back in February when I predicted that there would be no imperialist intervention in Libya. If there’s anything we’ve learned about Libya, it is that crystal ball gazing, even if informed by a Marxist perspective, is prone to error.

Just one month ago, the leading voices of the anti-anti-Qaddafi left were predicting that the rebels were history, chief among them Alexander Cockburn who wrote on July 15:

Recent pro-government rallies in Tripoli have been vast. Libya has a population of about six million, with four million in Tripoli. Gaddafi barrels around the city in an open jeep. Large amounts of AK-47s have been distributed to civilian defense committees. Were they all compelled to demonstrate by Gaddafi’s enforcers? It seems unlikely.

Franklin Lamb, Counterpunch’s correspondent in Tripoli, agreed with that assessment a little over a month ago but has become disabused of it now:

Reports of Saif and Mohammad Qaddafi’s capture supports the idea that the government here wildly exaggerated its solid support and that the public largely believed them.  Already among the few staff and some kids who come early the jump the hotel fence and use the swimming pool, and their trademark chants of “Allah, Mohammad, Muammar, Libya wa bass” have ended their chants and now support for ousting “the leader” is widespread. Most hotel staff at my hotel appear crestfallen.

The outpouring of support for Qaddafi’s departure by the same crowds who seemed to adore him at Green Square the past five months I have been monitoring them is surprising but perhaps reveal why all powerful despots are often more form than substance and can collapse quickly under certain conditions.

One hopes that the anti-anti-Qaddafi left might ruminate on this collapse. With all their constant reminders of how beloved Qaddafi was for creating such a wealthy country based on oil profits, there might be an imperative to think about the importance of freedom over and above material well-being. This is especially true since each and every one of these anti-imperialists are so protective of their own free speech rights when it comes to the FBI and other American repressive forces. Could you imagine what Alexander Cockburn would do if he was arrested for writing an “anti-American” blog and sent to prison for a year? What difference would it make if someone reminded him that America made it possible for him to afford a fleet of classic cars?

Cockburn, who is probably the highest profile member of the anti-anti-Qaddafi left, was rather churlish toward Juan Cole. After the rebels assassinated one of their top military leaders Abdel Fatah Younis, he said the following on July 29:

This is one of the greatest humiliations of NATO in its history (also, to be petty, a terrific smack in the eye for the analytic and political acumen of a prime propagandist in progressive circles for the rebels, Prof. Juan Cole, whose blogs on Libya have been getting steadily more demented.) Incidentally, they keep calling for Ghadafi to “step down.” In constitutional terms, which is what NATO must keep in mind, I believe he did some time ago.

There are two points that must be made here. Younis was Qaddafi’s right-hand man for forty years before joining up with the rebels. As Minister of the Interior, he was in charge of repressing just the kind of people who were now taking orders from him. He was arrested on July 28 for smuggling arms to Qaddafi loyalists. In retrospect, maybe his assassination was more of a sign of rebel strength than weakness. In terms of “constitutional terms”, the only thing that can be said is this. A constitution is not just about the rules and regulations of the executive branch of a government. It is also about the rights of a citizenry to choose that executive. One understands that such niceties might matter little to Alexander, but they do to people who faced prison terms and torture for exercising such rights.

While I disagreed with Juan Cole’s support for NATO intervention, I think—like Gilbert Achcar—that he has made some interesting points about Libya. In fact, unlike those who backed Bush’s war on Iraq (Hitchens, Berman, Makiya et al), neither Cole nor Achcar have broken with the left. I especially recommend Juan Cole’s latest post on Libya titled Top Ten Myths about the Libya War. It should not come as any surprise that I have debunked the same mythology here frequently, including number ten in Cole’s list:

10. This was a war for Libya’s oil. That is daft. Libya was already integrated into the international oil markets, and had done billions of deals with BP, ENI, etc., etc. None of those companies would have wanted to endanger their contracts by getting rid of the ruler who had signed them. They had often already had the trauma of having to compete for post-war Iraqi contracts, a process in which many did less well than they would have liked. ENI’s profits were hurt by the Libyan revolution, as were those of Total SA. and Repsol. Moreover, taking Libyan oil off the market through a NATO military intervention could have been foreseen to put up oil prices, which no Western elected leader would have wanted to see, especially Barack Obama, with the danger that a spike in energy prices could prolong the economic doldrums. An economic argument for imperialism is fine if it makes sense, but this one does not, and there is no good evidence for it (that Qaddafi was erratic is not enough), and is therefore just a conspiracy theory.

While nobody could possibly deny that NATO intervention made the fall of Qaddafi possible, the tendency to write off the rebel campaign as inconsequential must be scrutinized carefully. History will probably record that the battle for Misrata was as critical to the outcome we see today as the battle of Stalingrad was for Russia. And as Juan Cole points out, “Misrata fought an epic, Stalingrad-style, struggle of self-defense against attacking Qaddafi armor and troops, finally proving victorious with NATO help, and then they gradually fought to the west toward Tripoli.”

I would only question whether NATO’s help was key to the rebel victory, although it was certainly a factor. If you take a close look at news reports from late April and early May, there are constant references to NATO’s ineffectiveness. For example, the Daily Telegraph reported on April 19:

NATO forces have a challenging task ahead of them. Gaddafi is astutely destroying Misrata by avoiding the amassing of his forces in a way that makes them vulnerable to allied air attacks. His long-range weapons, which the rebels do not have, suffice for now: more than 50 civilians are killed every day, and there is no escape for the population since Misrata is surrounded on three sides by Gaddafi’s forces, and the sea.

Misrata’s predicament is further complicated by the type of weapons Gaddafi’s forces are deploying. These include Grad surface-to-surface missiles as well as cluster shells which have been banned by most governments. The multiple “bomblets” from these shells are designed to kill and injure groups of massed troops or, in this instance, a highly vulnerable and largely unarmed civilian population.

Despite his superior weaponry and the professionalism of his troops, Qaddafi failed to subdue the rebels who mostly found their own way to victory in Misrata through trial and error as the NY Time’s TJ Chivers reported on his blog.

Those who have spent time among Libya’s rebels will recognize these scenes and the type of young men in them. These men were not professional soldiers when their war began. Rather, they became almost accidental gunmen. They were civilians who, after public demonstrations against Colonel Qaddafi slipped into war, found themselves fighting against their nation’s own army for control of their home city. Sometimes — as here — that fight was carried out house by house.

When such men have put their lives on the line against what they regard as a dictatorship, it might be expected that they would be little inclined to follow orders from a Transitional National Council in Benghazi that was never elected as Alexander Cockburn’s brother Patrick reported on Counterpunch today:

It is an extraordinary situation. The Transitional National Council (TNC) in Benghazi is now recognised by more than 30 foreign governments, including the US and Britain, as the government of Libya. But it is by no means clear that it is recognised as such by the rebel militiamen who are in the process of seizing the capital. The rebel fighters in Misrata, who fought so long to defend their city, say privately that they have no intention of obeying orders from the TNC. Their intransigence may not last but it is one sign that the insurgents are deeply divided.

Well, if the division is between those who are in the overwhelming majority and who have taken risks with their lives on the battlefield and those notables in Benghazi who are on the phone each day with the CIA, it not only seems understandable but one that the left should not have any trouble picking sides on. Yesterday the Guardian reported:

Tensions are inevitable in a revolutionary administration starting from the ground up, but the confusion and bickering in the aftermath of the killing bode ill for the NTC’s claim to be a government of all Libyans.

This claim has already been all but rejected by Misrata, Libya’s third city, whose inhabitants are scathing of Jalil’s rule and of the poor performance of NTC army units. Commanders in Misrata recently underlined to journalists that they do not accept instructions from the NTC.

Jalil’s task of imposing order will suffer further because his forces in the east of the country played no part in the twin rebel offensives now closing on Tripoli.

It is rebels in the west – from the Nafusa mountains and Misrata – that have captured Zawiya, 30 miles west of the capital, Garyan, 40 miles south and Zlitan, 80 miles to the west. Their commanders and politicians will, if they storm the Libyan capital, demand a greater say in what is currently a Benghazi-centred administration.

Speaking of rebels in the west, the full story of Berber fighters has yet to be told but an article in today’s Los Angeles Times marks a significant step in that direction:

The uprising in the Nafusa Mountains was so little noticed early on that the fighting often barely merited mention as the world focused on dramatic events in and around Benghazi and Misurata.

In the end, however, the western rebels’ tenacity and proximity to Tripoli seemed crucial in breaking down what the government had long boasted was a virtually impregnable wall of security around the capital.

As insurgent offensives stalled near Benghazi and Misurata, fighters made up of Arabs and ethnic Berbers, or Amazigh, tenaciously gained ground in the west. There is no indication the western fighters possessed superior firepower or were better trained than their undisciplined comrades in the east. But geography was certainly an ally.

In the east, rebels struggled to move forward in flat desert terrain that proved advantageous for Kadafi’s artillery and rocket launchers, often well concealed from allied aircraft. In contrast, the western fighters engaged in a guerrilla war on turf that was intimately familiar to them. Supplies arrived via a captured post on the Tunisian border.

By June, the mountain fighters had largely gained control of the highlands and were filtering into the plains that led to the coast and the capital, the ultimate prize. Tribal links to lowland populations probably aided their advance. Government officials in Tripoli betrayed no sense of alarm.

And, finally, a July 16 article from the same newspaper explains why they joined the revolution. It speaks volumes about the potential of this movement to transform society:

Kadafi has ruthlessly denied the existence of Libyan Berbers, even insisting on calling them Arabs during a rare June 2008 visit to the mountains and allegedly orchestrating a violent attack on the town of Yafran later that year.

“You can call yourselves whatever you want inside your homes — Berbers, children of Satan, whatever — but you are only Libyans when you leave your homes,” a contact of the U.S. Embassy said Kadafi had privately told the leaders of the community, according to a State Department document published by WikiLeaks.

“Tamazight was forbidden. You might lose your life or freedom if you spoke out for your rights,” said Abdullah Funas, a Libyan Berber who previously served as a diplomat and now is an opposition leader in the mountain town of Jadu. “We spoke it in our homes and that’s it.”

Kadafi and his deputies tried to play the two groups against each other.

“When he’s coming to us, he was saying, ‘Watch out for the Berber; he wants to run you out of the western mountains,'” said Mokhtar Fakhal, a town elder in Zintan. “When he went to the Berbers, he would say, ‘Watch out for the Arab; you were here first.’ That’s why we hated each other.”

Berbers in these mountains said they were inspired to wholeheartedly join the uprising that began in mid-February when they saw the Arabs put aside decades of privileges Kadafi had bestowed upon them and join the rebellion that began in the country’s east.

Zintan and Kikla, another Arab town, “from the very first day decided they would use their weapons against Kadafi,” Bouzakher said.

Now Arabs openly call for Berber language rights. Arabs and Berbers train together on military bases in preparation for battle. They join up on front lines.

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