In today’s CounterPunch, there’s the typical fulsome encomium to Gaddafi written by one Chris Welzenbach that you used to see all the time in 2011. The author has been involved in the Chicago theater scene for many years. Maybe his work with actors had the unintended result of yielding an article about Libya that is mostly fictional, including this:
Prior to Gaffafi’s [sic] murder, Libya was a stable country if not a traditional nation-state. According to a report titled “Gaddafi’s Libya Was Africa’s Most Prosperous Democracy” by Garikai Chengu that appeared in the January 12, 2013 edition of Countercurrents.org, “. . .
One of the most troublesome legacies of the “anti-imperialist” worship of Gaddafi and Assad is its utter disregard for scholarly standards. I am not talking about getting articles published in a peer-reviewed journals but simply doing the due-diligence to make sure that a citation is based on scrupulous fact-checking.
In the quote above, the author cites a Countercurrents article that in trying to prove that Libya was a “democracy” includes what looks like an impressive finding from the NY Times:
In 2009, Mr. Gaddafi invited the New York Times to Libya to spend two weeks observing the nation’s direct democracy. Even the New York Times, which was always highly critical of Colonel Gaddafi, conceded that in Libya, the intention was that “everyone is involved in every decision…Tens of thousands of people take part in local committee meetings to discuss issues and vote on everything from foreign treaties to building schools.” The purpose of these committee meetings was to build a broad based national consensus.
Wow! This sounds like Gaddafi was the head of a country that was another Rojava (leaving aside the question of whether the anarchist claims were somewhat overblown).
But if you track down the NY Times article, as the author Chris Welzenbach should have done instead of simply accepting the Countercurrents article at face value, it states:
In Libya, the theory goes, everyone is involved in every decision. People meet in committees and vote on everything from foreign treaties to building schools.
Authoritarian leaders all over the world take steps to create a veneer of democracy. In Egypt, for example, there are elections, though there is never any doubt that the governing party will win.
Libya outdoes almost all of them.
Here, tens of thousands of people take part in meetings to discuss issues that are decided by a small group at the top, with all direction coming from the Brother Leader.
“He makes the decisions,” said a high-ranking diplomat in Tripoli, the capital, who is not being identified to avoid compromising his ability to work here. “He is the only one who knows.”
Reporters from The Times watched as committees around Tripoli discussed Colonel Qaddafi’s plan to abolish the government. After the perfunctory poetic genuflecting to the leader, more than half the speakers said they did not want money, they wanted a functioning government. They were angry and heartbroken that such a resource-rich nation, a member of OPEC, could be performing so poorly.
“We don’t need money,” said Nadia Ali, 35, at one of the forums in Tripoli. “We need roads, we need health care, we need education, we need an economy.”
Maybe I am just a stick in the mud but when you cite an article that includes a dishonest citation, maybe you should stop pretending to be an investigative journalist or even a radical. The author should stick to staging Tennessee Williams and leave the political economy to experts.