Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

March 13, 2012

What the imperialists really think about Libya’s militias

Filed under: Libya — louisproyect @ 8:15 pm

NY Times March 12, 2012
Libya’s Franchise Fiasco

As long as militias have power, Libya’s economic normalization will be postponed. If groups outside the government can shape the security environment, outside investors, particularly oil companies, will be wary of returning to the country. Without foreign companies, Libyan oil production will not return to preconflict levels and, worse, it risks slipping backward. Revenue could decrease at the very time the government needs it most.

Geoff D. Porter is a risk consultant specializing in North Africa.

full: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/13/opinion/libyas-electoral-law-is-flawed.html

December 27, 2011

The Iraq war in retrospect

Filed under: imperialism/globalization,Iran,Iraq,Libya — louisproyect @ 7:47 pm

The latest issue of Frontline, a leftist Indian newspaper, has an article by Vijay Prashad titled “Exit America” that deals with the question of whether the war in Iraq was “dumb”, an allusion to then State Senator Barack Obama’s comment in 2002:

What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war. What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other armchair, weekend warriors in this administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne.

Forced by circumstances of his elevation to supreme representative of the American ruling class, Obama no longer uses words like “dumb” and tries to put the best possible spin on how things turned out. Vijay writes:

Obama, who had made his own position clear in 2002, could not revisit them in 2011: he is now the Commander in Chief and would find it awkward to belittle the sacrifices of troops who were sent to fight a false war. At most Obama could acknowledge the debate before the war, with the lead-up “a source of great controversy here at home, with patriots on both sides of the debate”. The Iraq war was not perfect, he accepted, but its outcome was good, with the troops leaving behind “a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people”. American liberalism is not capable of any more than that.

Meanwhile, the notion that the troops have left behind a “sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq” has been demolished within hours after Obama uttered these words. The Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, has ordered the arrest of his Sunni vice-president, Tareq al-Hashemi for supporting “terrorist activity”. Al-Hashemi then fled to sanctuary in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region in the north, an act that prompted al-Maliki to brandish threats against the Kurds as well.

As it turns out, al-Maliki’s crackdown was in part a reaction to intelligence he received from an apparently friendly government in the region. Now your first reaction would be to conclude that Iran or Syria furnished this information as part of their membership in the Shia “axis of good” network in the Middle East, the last bastion of resistance to the imperialist/Sunni cabal made up of Qatar, al-Jazeera, Saudi Arabia and the CIA. Well, it turns out that al-Maliki’s informer was none other than Libya, as the NY Times reported: “The Iraqi government said the arrests had been prompted by a tip from Libya’s transitional government that said documents revealed Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi was working with insurgents to stage a coup.”

What the fuck? I thought that the Libyan government was made up of Sunni jihadists. That’s the point made by MRZine when it published a photo showing al-Qaeda flags on a courthouse in Benghazi. Hasn’t Pepe Escobar proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the “revolution” against Qaddafi was a plot hatched by French intelligence and jihadists? All this is beginning to sound murkier than a John le Carré novel, don’t you think? And what the hell was Qaddafi doing, making alliances with Sunni insurgents who he had tortured in Libyan prisons as part of his obligations to the CIA?

Now it can turn out that all that intelligence was nothing but bullshit designed to justify al-Maliki’s crackdown. But it is not bullshit to say that the political elites in Libya are on fairly good terms now with Iraq’s:

Head of the Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC), Mahmoud Jibril, arrived on Thursday to Iraq in a short surprise visit. Jibril met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki, French Foreign Minister Hosheyar Zebari and a number of Iraqi officials. During the meeting, Maliki discussed the reconstruction of Iraq, a source told Alsumaria.

Jibril stated that he agreed with Maliki to exchange ambassadors between both countries as soon as possible and benefit from Iraqi expertise especially in the oil sector.

Of course someone with a proper anti-imperialist training would point out that what Jibril and al-Maliki have in common is that they got where they are courtesy of American military power. What further proof can you have that someone is an agent of imperialism if Cruise missiles were pointed in the direction of their enemies?

Things get a bit more complicated, however, when you consider that al-Maliki has also targeted the MEK camp in Iraq, a presence that the government Iran considers deeply inimical to its own security.  We are obviously compelled to support al-Maliki in this initiative considering what Rostam Pourzal told MRZine readers in 2006:

In Iran, where the militia has been known since its inception in 1965 as Mojahedin, or jihadists, MEK lost all credibility after it became a proxy of Iran’s archenemy, Saddam Hussein, in 1986.  Anne Singleton, a former insider and now an advocate for penitent MEK activists in Europe, has labeled the militia “Saddam’s private army” in her book-length memoirs by the same title.

A day before the Berkeley forum took place, the far-right daily Washington Times was busy promoting MEK’s annual convention in the US capital.  Perhaps you remember a similar cozy relationship the Moonie newspaper had with Nicaragua’s Contra mercenaries and with UNITA, the rebel army that terrorized Namibia on behalf of the Reagan Administration and apartheid South Africa.  A Reagan-era Pentagon official and leading architect of the Iraq invasion, Richard Perle, was the keynote speaker at MEK’s 2004 convention.

And, of course, any anti-imperialist worth his or her salt would have to back al-Maliki’s crackdown on a friend of the Baathist Party in light of the fact that Richard Perle spoke at their convention.  To really succeed in this brand of politics, it is necessary to put a minus where someone like Perle puts a plus. And for those stodgy old Marxists hung-up on dialectical contradictions, the only advice is to wise up and get with the program.

Now it is a possibility that the left makes a mistake by thinking in these terms, I am afraid. I have vivid recollections of those arguments made on behalf of the Sunni guerrillas some years ago, when the slogan “support the resistance” became a kind of litmus test.

In 2005, ISO’er Sharon Smith wrote an article titled “The Right to Resist Occupation” that claimed:

SUPPORT FOR the right of Iraqis to resist occupation must extend beyond an abstract principle for the U.S. antiwar movement.

While recognizing “the right of the Iraqi people to resist as a point of principle,” Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies–in widely circulated notes for a speech to the steering committee of United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ) on December 18–argued, “We should not call for ‘supporting the resistance’ because we don’t know who most of them are and what they really stand for, and because of those we do know, we mostly don’t support their social program beyond opposition to the occupation.”

To be meaningful, however, supporting the “right to resist” must include support for that resistance once it actually emerges.

To be fair to the ISO, they were not half as bad as someone like George Galloway who in his debate with Christopher Hitchens described the Sunni guerrillas as some of the greatest patriots since the days of the heroic NLF.

Unfortunately, nobody on the left could have guessed how willing the Sunni fighters would have been to cut their own deals with imperialism in a pacified Anbar Province:

Much of the local population here has always wanted the US to give them handouts, but it’s different now, American officials say. Over the past few years, the strategy here was to clear an area of danger and then swoop down with reconstruction projects in an attempt to win over the populace. That was because Anbar was still dangerous, still peppered with Al Qaeda and other Sunni extremists. The US would see a project finished, only to be destroyed.

Now, say Marine officials, they’ll only spend money on a project that tribal sheikhs want only if those sheikhs get buy-in from the local and provincial governments that will ultimately own and maintain it.

“We don’t want this to be about us spending American money for the sheikhs,” says Brig. Gen. John Allen, who oversees political and economic reconstruction for Multi-National Forces-West. “We want this to be about American money that makes a difference in bringing government along and making the sheikhs part of the government.”

In other words, the Sunni resistance melted away as soon as the imperialist pocketbook opened up.

Back in the 1960s, the SWP resisted every effort made by SDS or independent leftists to make slogans like “Support the NLF” part of a mass mobilization. Primarily, the thinking was that anything that kept Americans from participating on the basis, for example, that the NLF was trying to kill their draftee son, was objectively against the interests of the NLF. A demonstration of 200,000 under the banner of “Out Now” was far more effective than one of 20,000 around the slogan “Victory to the NLF”. When you stop and think about it, such a slogan made little sense since it was not directed against the American government. It functioned more as an emotional expression of how you felt about imperialism—clearly understandable given the tenor of the times. Surely we should be capable of more nuanced thinking nowadays.

Returning to the original question posed by Vijay, maybe the best way to look at things is not from the perspective of “dumb” or “intelligent”. Looking at how things turned out in retrospect, they certainly seem dumb. Iraq appears destined to be as close to Iran as the U.S. is with Britain. A war against Iran likely will spark economic and military retaliation by the Shia states.

If you think, however, in terms of how Wall Street operates, the foreign policy calculations of Washington make a little bit more sense. Did Jon Corzine make a dumb decision when he bet that the EU would be forced to back up the government bonds of a Greece or a Spain? If he were correct, then MF Global would have been catapulted to the ranks of a junior Goldman-Sachs. If he weren’t, then the worst outcome would have been MF Global coming to an ignominious end. That would have not gotten in the way, however, of Corzine getting his golden parachute worth $12 million (even though he would have been last on line getting paid by the defunct hedge fund.)

Imperialist foreign policy is the same kind of high stakes casino as well but one that allows you to hedge your bets. You seed the Egyptian army with billions of dollars while simultaneously funding some of the activists who organized the Tahrir Square protests through the NED and Soro-type NGO’s. You back Qaddafi until the signs become abundantly clear that the movement against him has achieved the critical mass necessary to topple him, just as the case with al-Assad.

The only way to throw a monkey wrench in this kind of operation is to build our own movement globally that seeks to promote working class and revolutionary oppositions that cannot be so easily bought off. That requires breaking with bourgeois oppositions to imperialism, even as we organize to defend their countries from imperialist attack. As daunting a task as this might seem today, it is the only intelligent course of action open to those who want to live in a world of peace and plenty, namely the 99 percent globally.

September 16, 2011

Lifestyles of the rich and infamous

Filed under: capitalist pig,Libya — louisproyect @ 1:55 pm

Pythons, parties and offshore accounts: Life among Libya’s elite

Hannibal Gaddafi’s abandoned laptop contains snapshots of the dictator’s playboy son and his entourage

By Kim Sengupta

The Independent, Friday, 16 September 2011

Libya’s rebels were yet to make the military breakthrough which would see his father swept from power but Hannibal al-Gaddafi was taking the precaution of reviewing his finances. There was a bank transfer for $14,999,920.82 (about £9.5m), another of $6,439,201.76, and a third, more modest one of $3,233,434.10. He was, one could assume, reassured about having enough put away for rainy days ahead.

The documents, with details of accounts in Paris, Panama and Tunis, were found by The Independent on a laptop belonging to the fourth son of Muammar Gaddafi, abandoned as he fled with his family from his mansion in Tripoli. The papers show the sheer extent of wealth Hannibal Gaddafi had accrued while working as a “consultant” to Libya’s national shipping corporation. Many of the transactions involve Amen Bank and the North African International Bank, both based in the Tunisian capital, and the company Indotex SA based in Panama. Others go through a myriad of institutions before ending up at accounts at tax havens.

Hannibal Gaddafi, his wife Aline Skaf, a former model from Lebanon, and their two children have sought refuge in neighbouring Algeria along with other members of the Gaddafi family. The new Libyan government has demanded that Algiers send them back to face charges, including theft of state assets.

Hannibal’s opulent home was among those raided by local people and revolutionaries after the fall of Tripoli. Young fighters wandered around the villa or lounged on the Italian sofas. Empty bottles of Dom Perignon and Johnny Walker Black Label whiskey lay scattered on cracked glass tabletops.

The photographs detail Hannibal Gaddafi’s lavish lifestyle, sailing on one of his yachts and getting ready for flights on a private Gulfstream jet, and the phalanx of staff to look after the family, including one of Shweyga Mullah, an Ethiopian nanny who has later discovered severely burned, the result, she said, of having boiling water poured over her by Aline Skaf for failing to keep the children quiet.

This was just one of several occasions that Hannibal Gaddafi and his wife had been accused of assaulting those who worked for them. In 2008 they were arrested in Geneva on charges of “bodily harm, threatening behaviour and coercion” against two members of staff. Gaddafi’s regime retaliated by imprisoning two Swiss businessmen and cancelling contracts with Swiss firms.

The following year police in London were called to Claridge’s Hotel in the early hours of Christmas morning after the management were alarmed at the sound of a woman screaming. Aline Skaf was discovered bleeding heavily and taken by ambulance to hospital where she was treated for facial injuries. Soon afterwards Hannibal Gaddafi threw a party for his wife in New York where the cabaret was provided by Beyoncé.

Some of the pictures on the laptop were taken at another party, in Cairo, with belly dancers and a well known Egyptian singer providing the entertainment. Aline Skaf sits arms entwined with her husband, with a bruise on her face.

September 3, 2011

CIA had close ties to Qaddafi

Filed under: Libya — louisproyect @ 2:23 am

New York Times, September 2, 2011

Files Note Close C.I.A. Ties to Qaddafi Spy Unit


TRIPOLI, Libya — Documents found at the abandoned office of Libya’s former spymaster appear to provide new details of the close relations the Central Intelligence Agency shared with the Libyan intelligence service — most notably suggesting that the Americans sent terrorism suspects at least eight times for questioning in Libya despite that country’s reputation for torture.

Although it has been known that Western intelligence services began cooperating with Libya after it abandoned its program to build unconventional weapons in 2004, the files left behind as Tripoli fell to rebels show that the cooperation was much more extensive than generally known with both the C.I.A. and its British equivalent, MI-6.

Some documents indicate that the British agency was even willing to trace phone numbers for the Libyans, and another appears to be a proposed speech written by the Americans for Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi about renouncing unconventional weapons.

The documents were discovered Friday by journalists and Human Rights Watch. There were at least three binders of English-language documents, one marked C.I.A. and the other two marked MI-6, among a larger stash of documents in Arabic.

It was impossible to verify their authenticity, and none of them were written on letterhead. But the binders included some documents that made specific reference to the C.I.A., and their details seem consistent with what is known about the transfer of terrorism suspects abroad for interrogation and with other agency practices.

And although the scope of prisoner transfers to Libya has not been made public, news media reports have sometimes mentioned it as one country that the United States used as part of its much criticized rendition program for terrorism suspects.

A C.I.A. spokeswoman, Jennifer Youngblood, declined to comment on Friday on the documents. But she added: “It can’t come as a surprise that the Central Intelligence Agency works with foreign governments to help protect our country from terrorism and other deadly threats.”

The British Foreign Office said, “It is the longstanding policy of the government not to comment on intelligence matters.”

While most of the renditions referred to in the documents appear to have been C.I.A. operations, at least one was claimed to have been carried out by MI-6.

“The rendition program was all about handing over these significant figures related to Al Qaeda so they could torture them and get the information they wanted,” said Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director of Human Rights Watch, who studied the documents in the intelligence headquarters in downtown Tripoli.

The documents cover 2002 to 2007, with many of them concentrated in late 2003 and 2004, when Moussa Koussa was head of the External Security Organization. (Mr. Koussa was most recently Libya’s foreign minister.)

The speech that appears to have been drafted for Colonel Qaddafi was found in the C.I.A. folder and appears to have been sent just before Christmas in 2003. The one-page speech seems intended to depict the Libyan dictator in a positive light. It concluded, using the revolutionary name for the Libyan government: “At a time when the world is celebrating the birth of Jesus, and as a token of our contributions towards a world full of peace, security, stability and compassion, the Great Jamhariya presents its honest call for a W.M.D.-free zone in the Middle East,” referring to weapons of mass destruction.

The flurry of communications about renditions are dated after Libya’s renouncement of its weapons program. In several of the cases, the documents explicitly talked about having a friendly country arrest a suspect, and then suggested aircraft would be sent to pick the suspect up and deliver him to the Libyans for questioning. One document included a list of 89 questions for the Libyans to ask a suspect.

While some of the documents warned Libyan authorities to respect such detainees’ human rights, the C.I.A. nonetheless turned them over for interrogation to a Libyan service with a well-known history of brutality.

One document in the C.I.A. binder said operatives were “in a position to deliver Shaykh Musa to your physical custody, similar to what we have done with other senior L.I.F.G. members in the recent past.” The reference was to the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, which was dedicated to the overthrow of Colonel Qaddafi, and which American officials believed had ties to Al Qaeda.

When Libyans asked to be sent Abu Abdullah al-Sadiq, another member of the group, a case officer wrote back on March 4, 2004, that “we are committed to developing this relationship for the benefit of both our services,” and promised to do their best to locate him.

Two days later, an officer faxed the Libyans to say that Mr. Sadiq and his pregnant wife were planning to fly into Malaysia, and the authorities there agreed to put them on a British Airways flight to London that would stop in Bangkok. “We are planning to take control of the pair in Bangkok and place them on our aircraft for a flight to your country,” the case officer wrote.

Mr. Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch said he had learned from the documents that Sadiq was a nom de guerre for Abdel Hakim Belhaj, who is now a military leader for the rebels.

In an interview on Wednesday, Mr. Belhaj gave a detailed description of his incarceration that matched many of those in the documents. He also said that when he was held in Bangkok he was tortured by two people from the C.I.A.

On one occasion, the Libyans tried to send their own plane to extradite a member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, Abu Munthir, and his wife and children, who were being held in Hong Kong because of passport irregularities.

The Libyan aircraft, however, was turned back, apparently because Hong Kong authorities were reluctant to let Libyan planes land. In a document labeled “Secret/ U.S. Only/ Except Libya,” the Libyans were advised to charter an aircraft from a third country. “If payment of a charter aircraft is an issue, our service would be willing to assist financially,” the document said.

While questioning alleged terror group members who plainly had value to Western intelligence, the cooperation went beyond that. In one case, for example, the Libyans asked operatives to trace a phone number for them, and a document that was in the MI-6 binder replied that it belonged to the Arab News Network in London. It is unclear why the Libyans sought who the phone number belonged to.

The document also suggested signs of agency rivalries for the Libyans’ affections. In the MI-6 binder, a document boasted of having turned over someone named Abu Abd Alla to the Libyans. “This was the least we could do for you to demonstrate the remarkable relationship we have built over recent years,” an unsigned fax in 2004 said. “Amusingly, we got a request from the Americans to channel requests for information from Abu Abd through the Americans. I have no intention of doing any such thing.”

Scott Shane contributed reporting from Washington.

September 2, 2011

William Blum’s follies

Filed under: Libya — louisproyect @ 5:45 pm

William Blum

As they resemble in many ways most of the people who supported Obama against McCain in 2008, today’s defenders of Qaddafi seem well-meaning if ill-advised. I can understand why they would consider him a lesser evil when matched against what they see as a diabolical cabal consisting of Al-Qaida operatives backed by NATO who are interested in nothing except surrendering Libya’s oil to foreign multinationals. Whether or not this is exactly what Libya is facing is not so important. Once you enter into “lesser evil” territory, there is a driving necessity to make the “greater evil” look as bad as possible as anybody who watches MSNBC from 6 to 11 each evening can attest.

And just like Obama was turned into something he really wasn’t in 2008—a knight in shining armor—there is the same compulsion to depict Qaddafi as a heroic anti-imperialist in the style of Castro at the Bay of Pigs. To do this successfully, you need to cherry-pick your facts. I first heard the term cherry-picking in the run-up to the war in Iraq and always get a chuckle out of it.

My father had a fruit store when I was growing up and I would often see old Jewish men and women standing at the cherry bin spending sometimes up to five minutes picking out the “good” cherries. My father would always glare at them but never said a word. Too bad Harvey Pekar wasn’t around to open up his mouth.

Thinking about it a bit more, I would have to say that more than cherry-picking was involved. Since it was so difficult to find “anti-imperialist” credentials for a dictator who in recent years was pals with Berlusconi and kept a photo album of Condoleezza Rice in his bedroom that might remind you of the kind that a thirteen year girl kept of Justin Bieber, you sort of had to—how should I put this—make things up.

When the person making things up is William Blum, you really get a sense of regret. Here is someone whose reputation rests on a couple of excellent books on American foreign policy that match up well to anything that Chomsky ever wrote.Why he would jettison his journalistic standards to make Qaddafi something that he wasn’t is a mystery to me except that I understand how the herd mentality operates. As a member of the SWP for 11 years, I have seen peer pressure in action. Challenging the myth of Qaddafi as anti-imperialist is likely to earn you the reputation of NATO supporter, as I have learned. In my case, however, I could give less of shit what other people think of me. After 11 years of currying favor with the leadership of a sect, I am much more inclined to let the chips fall where they may nowadays.

Yesterday I got Blum’s latest Anti-Empire Report that can be read here. It contains an article titled “Libya and the world we live in” that makes some useful points about imperialist perfidy, but careens off the tracks in a series of bullet points that seek to turn Qaddafi into Washington’s worst nightmare. This version of Qaddafi can only be drawn by ignoring 5 years of newspaper reports that any serious journalist had to come to terms with. As I have told Blum in private email, you cannot take the notion of Qaddafi as anti-imperialist figure seriously when there are literally dozens of articles like this:

The Washington Post
January 3, 2008 Thursday

Libya Officially Welcomed Back To the U.S. Fold;

Foreign Minister to Meet Rice Today

By Robin Wright; Washington Post Staff Writer

Abdel-Rahman Shalqam and his wife received a personal tour of the White House, an official escort on Capitol Hill and a luncheon with executives from Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Occidental Petroleum and Raytheon, as well as the U.S. trade representative’s office.

So began the official redemption of Libya yesterday, as the foreign minister of a country once equated with “barbarism” became that nation’s highest ranking official to visit Washington in 35 years.

Shalqam continues meetings today with the secretaries of state, homeland security and energy, as well as the deputy secretary of defense, about ways to deepen ties between Washington and Tripoli, according to both U.S. and Libyan officials. At lunch yesterday, he virtually gushed about the importance of Libyan students getting an American education and U.S. companies doing business in Libya.

Instead of accepting this version of Qaddafi, Blum prefers to invent a version based on half-truths and—more depressingly—falsification. Let me take up his points one by one.

1. Gaddafi’s plans to conduct Libya’s trading in Africa in raw materials and oil in a new currency — the gold African dinar, a change that could have delivered a serious blow to the US’s dominant position in the world economy. (In 2000, Saddam Hussein announced Iraqi oil would be traded in euros, not dollars; sanctions and an invasion followed.) For further discussion see here.

I find such explanations far-fetched and have to cringe at Blum’s link to back up this claim. It leads you to Final Call, the Nation of Islam’s newspaper. In case you weren’t aware of it, Qaddafi loaned the Nation $3 million in 1971. He tried to bribe African strong men over four decades, so this sop to the Black Muslims is par for the course.

The Final Call article states that the switch to the dinar would “finally swing the global economic pendulum” and break Western domination over Africa. The source of this quote is Gerald Perreira, who was interviewed in BayView, a Black newspaper based in San Francisco.  The BayView described him as having served in “the Green March, an international battalion for the defense of the Libyan revolution” and as an executive member of the World Mathaba based in Tripoli. An unimpeachably objective source, to be sure.

2. A host-country site for Africom, the US Africa Command, one of six regional commands the Pentagon has divided the world into. Many African countries approached to be the host have declined, at times in relatively strong terms. Africom at present is headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany. According to a State Department official: “We’ve got a big image problem down there. … Public opinion is really against getting into bed with the US. They just don’t trust the US.”5

Even after tipping Blum off that the business about AFRICOM was nonsense, he continues to stand by it. My article detailing AFRICOM’s chummy relationship with the Libyan military brass is here.

3. An American military base to replace the one closed down by Gaddafi after he took power in 1969. There’s only one such base in Africa, in Djibouti. Watch for one in Libya sometime after the dust has settled. It’ll perhaps be situated close to the American oil wells. Or perhaps the people of Libya will be given a choice — an American base or a NATO base. Another example of NATO desperate to find a raison d’être for its existence since the end of the Cold War and the Warsaw Pact.

Blum doesn’t even bother to mention the fact that the TNC, whatever its other faults, has rejected such bases.

4. Gaddafi’s role in creating the African Union. The corporate bosses never like it when their wage slaves set up a union. The Libyan leader has also supported a United States of Africa for he knows that an Africa of 54 independent states will continue to be picked off one by one and abused and exploited by the members of the Triumvirate. Gaddafi has moreover demanded greater power for smaller countries in the United Nations.

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry over this one. African Union troops have turned one country or another into a living hell since its inception. The Party of Liberation and Socialism, whose views on Libya are as diametrically opposed to mine as is imaginable, described the role of AU troops (AMISOM) in Somalia:

After duly plunging the country back into war, the United States and European Union have gone to great lengths to support increases in AMISOM forces and provide money, weapons and training to TFG troops. A recent report by The Nation details substantial CIA operations in Somalia, where it runs a secret prison and trains a secret police.

In fact, if Blum did a little bit of digging, he would still have discovered that AFRICOM, his bogeyman, and AMISOM worked closely together:

U.S.-European imperialists initiate joint military exercises

November 4, 2010

By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
Published Nov 3, 2010

A 10-day joint military exercise involving the European Union, the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) and the African Union headquarters based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, was recently uncovered in a series of press releases from the Pentagon and other sources. Labeled “Amani Africa,” the operation brought together the combined forces of the EU, the Pentagon and 120 African military components.

Ostensibly designed to enhance the military and security capacity of the 53-member African Union states, the fact that both the EU and the Pentagon were heavily involved in this process raises questions about the role of the leading imperialist states in usurping and misdirecting African political and military policy on the continent. The joint exercises culminated on Oct. 29 with a VIP ceremony in the U.S.-backed state of Ethiopia.

According to African Union Commission Chair Jean Ping of Gabon, “The command post exercise is the culmination of two years of engagement and partnership throughout the Amani Africa cycle of preparations and activities, designed to both contribute toward and validate the operational readiness of the African Standby Force. The ASF therefore lies at the very core of the efforts of the African Union to take ownership of and lead in matters related to peace, security and development in Africa.” (U.S. AFRICOM Public Affairs, Oct. 27)

5. The claim by Gaddafi’s son, Saif el Islam, that Libya had helped to fund Nicolas Sarkozy’s election campaign6 could have humiliated the French president and explain his obsessiveness and haste in wanting to be seen as playing the major role in implementing the “no fly zone” and other measures against Gaddafi.

This is too silly to bother refuting.

6. Gaddafi has been an outstanding supporter of the Palestinian cause and critic of Israeli policies; and on occasion has taken other African and Arab countries, as well as the West, to task for their not matching his policies or rhetoric; one more reason for his lack of popularity amongst world leaders of all stripes.

I really have to wonder about Blum’s state of mind on this one. Either he is not aware that Qaddafi tried to expel all Palestinians from Libya or is aware of it and decided that it didn’t matter. For those of you who are not aware of this blemish on Qaddafi’s reputation—one among millions—read this.

7. In January, 2009, Gaddafi made known that he was considering nationalizing the foreign oil companies in Libya.7

I dealt with Qaddafi’s “resource nationalism” here.

8. The American Empire is troubled by any threat to its hegemony. In the present historical period the empire is concerned mainly with Russia and China. China has extensive energy investments and construction investments in Libya and elsewhere in Africa.

Unlike the other points above, this one at least has a whiff of plausibility. I would say that the imperialists are concerned about China (Russia less so in my opinion) but as is typically the case it will find a way to adjust to new realities:

China has been slowly reaching out to Libya’s TNC. In June, it signaled its willingness to engage both sides when Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi met the TNC leader Mahmoud Jibril. At the same time, China hosted Gadhafi’s foreign minister in Beijing.

On Wednesday, China’s Foreign Ministry gave its clearest show of support yet when it issued a statement saying it respects the choice of the Libyan people and hopes for a stable transition of power.

One day later, French President Nicolas Sarkozy made a stopover in Beijing and met with Chinese President Hu Jintao. Libya was one of several key topics the two discussed.

China’s Foreign Ministry also has urged Libya to protect its oil interests there. China is the world’s second biggest consumer of oil. Last year, three percent of its oil imports came from Libya.

As Kissinger once said, “America has no permanent friends or enemies, only interests.” The Chinese must have figured this out from his visit to their country–what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

August 31, 2011

A nightmare on the brains of the living

Filed under: Libya — louisproyect @ 7:09 pm

Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living.

–Karl Marx, “The Eighteenth Brumaire”

By now it has become clear that there are four different perspectives on the left about Libya:

1. Qaddafi as heroic anti-imperialist: Found at Counterpunch, MRZine, and Global Research, this perspective relies heavily on falsification such as the claim that NATO invaded because Qaddafi opposed AFRICOM. My emphasis has been to debunk these claims even though this led to me being accused of supporting NATO. One supposes the only way to avoid such false accusations is to follow the bullshit party line of the brain-dead “anti-imperialist” left. No thanks.

2. The rebels were good guys until NATO got involved: This is the analysis put forward by the ISO in the USA and the SWP in Britain. I was sympathetic to this analysis but came to reject it during the Berber offensive in Western Libya. As someone who despises the oppression of national minorities, I began to realize that there was more to the revolt than puppets whose strings were being pulled by NATO.

3. My own analysis: this should be obvious from the comment above.

4. Gilbert Achcar: Achcar defended NATO’s no-fly zone. As a long-time opponent of imperialist interventions, I could not abide by this although I found much of Achcar’s analysis on the money. Despite his being vilified by members of the Counterpunch tendency, I don’t regard him in the same light as the Paul Bermans and Kenan Makiyas of the world. I would tend to regard his position as falling into the category of a legitimate mistake made by revolutionary in much the same way I regarded some comrades’ support for the KLA.

UPDATE: I just got email from Achcar complaining that I misrepresented him. Instead of trying to characterize his views, I will simply quote his March 25 Znet article and let my readers draw their own conclusions:

Can anyone claiming to belong to the left just ignore a popular movement’s plea for protection, even by means of imperialist bandit-cops, when the type of protection requested is not one through which control over their country could be exerted? Certainly not, by my understanding of the left. No real progressive could just ignore the uprising’s request for protection — unless, as is too frequent among the Western left, they just ignore the circumstances and the imminent threat of mass slaughter, paying attention to the whole situation only once their own government got involved, thus setting off their (normally healthy, I should add) reflex of opposing the involvement. In every situation when anti-imperialists opposed Western-led military interventions using massacre prevention as their rationale, they pointed to alternatives showing that the Western governments’ choice of resorting to force only stemmed from imperialist designs.

In the absence of any other plausible solution, it was just morally and politically wrong for anyone on the left to oppose the no-fly zone; or in other words, to oppose the uprising’s request for a no-fly zone. And it remains morally and politically wrong to demand the lifting of the no-fly zone — unless Gaddafi is no longer able to use his air force. Short of that, lifting the no-fly zone would mean a victory for Gaddafi, who would then resume using his planes and crush the uprising even more ferociously than what he was prepared to do beforehand. On the other hand, we should definitely demand that bombings stop after Gaddafi’s air means have been neutralized. We should demand clarity on what air potential is left with Gaddafi, and, if any is still at his disposal, what it takes to neutralize it. And we should oppose NATO turning into a full participant of the ground war beyond the initial blows to Gaddafi’s armor needed to halt his troops’ offensive against rebel cities in the Western province — even were the insurgents to invite NATO’s participation or welcome it.

The question of rebel racism tends to reveal how the different perspectives line up against each other. For Counterpunch’s sorry gaggle of Qaddafi apologists, racism only became a problem in February 2011. When Qaddafi’s troops lost control in Benghazi, there was an outbreak of racist pogroms—an unheard of phenomenon in enlightened Libya. For them, it was like Union troops being withdrawn from Dixie at the end of Reconstruction.

The British SWP’s Richard Seymour wrote a piece for the Guardian’s “Comments are Free” calling attention to the rebel attacks on African workers that acknowledged the racism that existed in Libya historically:

How did it come to this? A spectacular revolution, speaking the language of democracy and showing tremendous courage in the face of brutal repression, has been disgraced. Racism did not begin with the rebellion – Gaddafi’s regime exploited 2 million migrant workers while discriminating against them – but it has suffused the rebels’ hatred of the violently authoritarian regime they have just replaced.

This is certainly a step upward from Counterpunch’s coverage of Libya, but then again nearly anything would be.

Despite his impressive Marxist credentials, Richard betrays a certain sense of fatalism in describing all the bad things going on Libya, from racist attacks on Africans to joining hands with NATO:

An explanation for this can be found in the weaknesses of the revolt itself. The upsurge beginning on 17 February hinged on an alliance between middle class human rights activists and the working classes in eastern cities such as Benghazi. Rather than wilting under repression, the rebellion spread to new towns and cities. Elements of the regime, seeing the writing on the wall, began to defect. Military leaders, politicians and sections of business and academia sided with the rebels.

But the trouble was that the movement was almost emerging from nowhere. Unlike in Egypt, where a decade of activism and labour insurgency had cultivated networks of activists and trade unionists capable of outfoxing the dictatorship, Libya was not permitted a minimal space for civil society opposition. As a result, there was no institutional structure able to express this movement, no independent trade union movement, and certainly little in the way of an organised left. Into this space stepped those who had the greatest resources – the former regime notables, businessmen and professionals, as well as exiles. It was they who formed the National Transitional Council (NTC).

When I read this, I can’t help but think of the Faust legend. In exchange for immortality, Faust sells his soul to the devil. At the end of Goethe’s play, the devil comes to collect on his debt and leads Faust down to the fiery pits of hell. For the rebels, another such punishment awaits them but it is not Hades—it is ending up like Iraq and Afghanistan. If they don’t like it, too bad. That’s what happens when you make a pact with the devil.

Some people have trouble with this deterministic scenario. When the ISO published an article following Richard’s analysis (either intentionally or unintentionally), an Arab leftist wrote in:

But that the rebellion benefited from NATO support in its insurgency still doesn’t mean that the rebellion has lost its way or is a stooge of imperialism. The overwhelming thrust of the rebellion has been paid for by a determined struggle of the Libyan people, who sacrificed perhaps as much as tens of thousands of lives for their freedom. The thought that they would allow the fruits of their rebellion to be so easily snapped up by an ex-regime, pro-West alliance, is unlikely, premature and excessively cynical.

Here lies the main fault of the article: The Arab Spring is about human agency and popular will, which cannot so easily be put back in the bottle–and certainly not by an opportunistic section of the opposition in cahoots with the Western governments and Big Oil.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

THOSE WHO will determine the fate of Libya are the people themselves, and particularly the fighting forces on the ground, most of whom have correctly focused on fighting the regime, rather than flirting with Western diplomats. The balance of power between these different elements of the opposition remains to be disclosed, though it is premature to select the winner now.

While this should not be seen as an excuse for rebel racism, there really has to be much more attention paid to the background of such ugliness. To start with, the presence of sub-Saharan workers in Libya has to be understood in the same light as the bracero program in the USA that brought Mexicans in to pick fruits during WWII because of a labor shortage. Qaddafi did exactly the same thing. In 2000, well over 20 percent of the workforce consisted of immigrant labor—mostly from sub-Saharan Africa.

After judging that the supply now exceeded the demand, the Libyan authorities began to crack down on “illegals” just as has been occurring in the USA. They also collaborated closely with Berlusconi who complained of the same problem. From 2003 to 2005 Libya threw 145,000 undocumented workers out of the country, an accomplishment that President Obama would probably envy.

All throughout this period, the Libyan cops were following extrajudicial procedures just like those in Arizona. When human rights groups complained, the Libyan government defended itself by saying that immigrants enjoyed the same rights as its citizens. Wow, that must have come as some relief.

It should be mentioned that Qaddafi launched his bracero program using pan-African rhetoric.

Cheap labor was being imported because he believed in African unity. Anti-foreigner sentiment grew in Libya despite Qaddafi’s lip-service to fraternalism. It should be noted that all of Qaddafi’s fans who point to his racially enlightened views have probably not spent much time looking at his Green Book, the fount of all his wisdom. On page 30 you can read this:

Black people are now in a very backward social situation, but such backwardness works to bring about their numerical superiority because their low standard of living has shielded them from methods of birth control and family planning. Also, their old social traditions place no limit on marriages, leading to their accelerated growth. The population of other races has decreased because of birth control, restrictions on marriage, and constant occupation in work, unlike the Blacks, who tend to be less obsessive about work in a climate which is continuously hot.

Didn’t Jimmy the Greek get fired for saying things like this?

Given the precarious state of immigrant labor in Libya, it should be no surprise that pogroms were unleashed starting in 2000. That year, on September 17, the BBC reported:

The Libyan General People’s Congress has instituted new security measures across the country.

Correspondents say they are believed to be in response to clashes reported to have taken place between Libyans and African expatriates in the town of Zawiya, west of Tripoli.

The Sudanese independent daily newspaper Akhbar al-Yom reported 50 people were killed in clashes between Libyans and nationals of Sudan and Chad.

In a statement the Congress said it had ordered the authorities to stem the hiring of foreigners by the private sector.

Immigrants from neighbouring Arab and African countries have been lured to oil and gas-rich Libya in search of work.

Earlier Sudan asked Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi to intervene to try to contain the situation.

The Sudanese Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying Foreign Minister Mustafa Ismail had made telephone calls to a number of Libyan officials.

Considering the social milieu that the rebels came out of, it is no surprise that they did not arise above it. In a parallel universe other Libyans might have eschewed armed resistance and spent months and months building civil society but one cannot be guaranteed that Qaddafi would have not crushed the movement. Unlike Egypt or Syria, the totalitarian grip of the great leader was far more like what was seen in Eastern Europe. He brooked no opposition in the country and efforts to discuss the country’s real problems—including racism—were nipped in the bud.

Given the brutality of the rebels, it is understandable why some would want to wash their hands of them. I can’t blame Richard Seymour for expressing his disgust. Of course, on the other hand, the Counterpunch apologists for Qaddafi deserve a spot in hell alongside Faust’s for their brazen lies about “enlightened” racial policies in the good old days.

I cannot help but think of the Soviet Red Army that saved humanity by pushing Hitler’s army back into Europe and breaking the Nazi war machine once and for all. In his article Trotskyists and the Resistance in World War Two, Ernest Mandel wrote:

…there was a just war of national defence of the Soviet Union, a workers state, against an imperialist power. The fact that the Soviet leadership allied itself not only in a military way – which was absolutely justified – but also politically with the Western imperialists in no way changed the just nature of that war. The war of the Soviet workers and peasants, of the Soviet peoples and the Soviet state, to defend the Soviet Union against German imperialism was a just war from any Marxist-Leninist point of view. In that war we were 100 per cent for the victory of one camp, without any reservations or question marks. We were for absolute victory of the Soviet people against the murderous robbers of German imperialism.

No matter how just that war was, how could any leftist support the troops who were capable of carrying out atrocities that dwarf any occurring in Libya today? In a May 1, 2002 article titled ‘They raped every German female from eight to 80’, Antony Beevor wrote:

“Red Army soldiers don’t believe in ‘individual liaisons’ with German women,” wrote the playwright Zakhar Agranenko in his diary when serving as an officer of marine infantry in East Prussia. “Nine, ten, twelve men at a time – they rape them on a collective basis.”

The Soviet armies advancing into East Prussia in January 1945, in huge, long columns, were an extraordinary mixture of modern and medieval: tank troops in padded black helmets, Cossack cavalrymen on shaggy mounts with loot strapped to the saddle, lend-lease Studebakers and Dodges towing light field guns, and then a second echelon in horse-drawn carts. The variety of character among the soldiers was almost as great as that of their military equipment. There were freebooters who drank and raped quite shamelessly, and there were idealistic, austere communists and members of the intelligentsia appalled by such behaviour.

Beria and Stalin, back in Moscow, knew perfectly well what was going on from a number of detailed reports. One stated that “many Germans declare that all German women in East Prussia who stayed behind were raped by Red Army soldiers”. Numerous examples of gang rape were given – “girls under 18 and old women included”.

Marshal Rokossovsky issued order No 006 in an attempt to direct “the feelings of hatred at fighting the enemy on the battlefield.” It appears to have had little effect. There were also a few arbitrary attempts to exert authority. The commander of one rifle division is said to have “personally shot a lieutenant who was lining up a group of his men before a German woman spreadeagled on the ground”. But either officers were involved themselves, or the lack of discipline made it too dangerous to restore order over drunken soldiers armed with submachine guns.

Calls to avenge the Motherland, violated by the Wehrmacht’s invasion, had given the idea that almost any cruelty would be allowed. Even many young women soldiers and medical staff in the Red Army did not appear to disapprove. “Our soldiers’ behaviour towards Germans, particularly German women, is absolutely correct!” said a 21-year-old from Agranenko’s reconnaissance detachment. A number seemed to find it amusing. Several German women recorded how Soviet servicewomen watched and laughed when they were raped. But some women were deeply shaken by what they witnessed in Germany. Natalya Gesse, a close friend of the scientist Andrei Sakharov, had observed the Red Army in action in 1945 as a Soviet war correspondent. “The Russian soldiers were raping every German female from eight to eighty,” she recounted later. “It was an army of rapists.”

Now of course everybody (except die-hard Stalinists) understand that the Kremlin was socialist in name only at this point and that such cruelty was perhaps to be expected. But does this negate the progressive character of the war against Hitler?

If we measure the rebel conduct in Libya or the Red Army’s in 1945 against those that were found in the Red Army in 1919 or in the Oriente Province in 1959, there is little doubt that they will fall short. But on the other hand, a good case can be made that they were all part of the upward march of humanity against oppression. Sometimes history will throw you a curve ball. It is best to keep your eye on the ball and figure out a way to move from our unhappy status today and toward a better future. In my view, the left in the West has to figure out a way to relate to the rebels in Libya who decided to risk their lives fighting against a torture state that was armed to the teeth by the very imperialists who now decided to change horses in midstream. This is especially true since there are ominous signs that the imperialists have about as much interest in armed militias challenging the prerogatives of the TNC as they would toward any such formation in the Middle East. The agenda of the West is to rapidly disarm the rebels and figure out a way to impose Qaddafi-ism without Qaddafi. This is something that the citizen-soldiers of Libya would resist to the death and we have to figure out a way to offer solidarity, even if we can’t abide by their racist treatment of African workers. This may not seem easy, but we have no other choice.

August 30, 2011

Those independent militias

Filed under: Libya — louisproyect @ 12:47 pm

The Economist

The rebellion’s leaders

Good intentions, fragile legitimacy

The new Libya is in the hands of a largely self-selected bunch of civilians and fighters who have done pretty well so far. What comes next is a lot hazier

Aug 27th 2011 | Benghazi | from the print edition

Those independent militias

The NTC may be less able to restrain its fighters once the threat from Colonel Qaddafi is removed. Much of the rebel manpower is grouped into 40-plus privately organised, privately funded militias known as katibas (brigades). Each katiba is usually drawn from one town, commanded by a respected local military veteran or, in some cases, by the businessman who financed it. They drive privately owned pickups or jeeps with mounted anti-tank or anti-aircraft guns, captured from government arsenals or supplied by foreign benefactors. Members are enthusiastic but usually have only cursory training and very little sense of military discipline, often commuting to the front from their homes. Katiba leaders say that they meet the NTC’s more formalised military wing in an operations room to plan battles, but decisions appear to be arrived at by consensus rather than through any military chain of command.

Relations between the NTC and the katibas were brought to crisis point by the assassination on July 28th of Abdel Fatah Younis, a defecting general who became the NTC’s top military commander and may have wanted to bring the militias under centralised control. The circumstances surrounding the killing have yet to be explained. NTC judges had issued an arrest warrant for General Younis on suspicion that he had made unauthorised contact with Colonel Qaddafi, but the killers themselves are reported to have been rogue katiba fighters with a personal vendetta against the one-time Qaddafi loyalist.

They may have been members of the Abu Ubeidah Ibn al-Jarrah brigade, said to be a force of former political prisoners, some of them radical Islamists. After Younis’s death, the brigade was reportedly dissolved, and the NTC has turned him into a martyr, standing for proper military discipline. Posters of the confident, neatly uniformed general smilingly greet motorists on several of Benghazi’s main streets.

In the aftermath of Younis’s assassination, katiba members swear that they answer to the orders of the NTC. “We all have the same goal. We all want to end this,” says Muftah Barrati, a senior official at the camp of one of Benghazi’s largest katibas, the 17 February Martyrs Brigade. “When this is complete, we all will return to our jobs.” He himself was a financial manager for the computer company of Mustafa Sigizli, a businessman who helped set up the brigade. Rebels, with no former jobs to return to, may be given the option of joining a national army.

However, it would be a rare rebel force that did not derive some sense of entitlement from the sacrifices made during a hard-fought war, and the katibas still brush off requests by NTC officials to place themselves under the authority of a unified command. Based on the barrages of celebratory gunfire in Benghazi that erupt nightly to mark weddings, funerals or good news from the front, katiba members enjoy owning automatic weapons and would be reluctant to give them up.

Council members say that they know they would have more authority were they an elected body. They have thus opted for a fairly swift transitional period. The fall of Tripoli, when it is fully established, will set off an eight-month countdown to provisional elections. Some say this timetable is too short for a country with no experience of even single-party politics, let alone of genuine democracy. A group of protesters holding a sit-in outside NTC headquarters last week said that they suspected senior council leaders of having cut a deal with a handful of Libyan political groups, such as the Muslim Brothers and the National Front for the Salvation of Libya, a long-established exile group. The experienced groups, complained the protesters, had an unfair advantage in knowing how to campaign and win votes.

August 29, 2011

Who really beat Qaddafi?

Filed under: Libya — louisproyect @ 11:05 pm

Sat Aug 27, 2011 at 08:30 AM PDT

Who really beat Qaddafi?

by Clay Claiborne

Follow clayclai on Twitter
Now that it is clear that the 42 year reign of Mummar Qaddafi has come to an end and there is little left to do on the military side beyond putting down a few pockets of pro-Qaddafi resistance, the question of bragging rights to this victory seems to be coming to the fore in certain western circles.

NATO and it’s allies are looking to increase their influence in Libya so they can cash-in on post Qaddafi developments. Although they never managed to get “boots on the ground” during the conflict as NATO would have liked, they still hope to fulfill that dream, via some “peace keeping” or “stabilization” mechanism. Regardless of whether they are successful in that quest, they will be peddling their influence in a hundred other ways.

In preparation for that, they are now trying to take credit for the victory over Qaddafi in subtle ways that will allow them to take ownership of it in the public mind. Typical of the way they do that is the story that has been circulating in the media in the past few days about a group of British SAS on the ground in Libya. An example is this one in the Telegraph 24 Aug 2011:

Libya: SAS leads hunt for Gaddafi

British special forces are on the ground in Libya helping to spearhead the hunt for Col Muammar Gaddafi, The Daily Telegraph can disclose.For the first time, defence sources have confirmed that the SAS has been in Libya for several weeks, and played a key role in coordinating the fall of Tripoli.

With the majority of the capital now in rebel hands, the SAS soldiers, who have been dressed in Arab civilian clothing and carrying the same weapons as the rebels, have been ordered to switch their focus to the search for Gaddafi, who has been on the run since his fortified headquarters was captured on Tuesday.

I don’t want to address the question of whether or not this is true. Even if the SAS were there, they can hardly take credit for this brilliant victory, a “key role” could be anything. That could mean communications and intelligence and it almost certainly meant supporting the sea assault by Thuwwar from Misrata, but trying to imply that a handful western special force Rambo types, who suffered no causalities as far as we know, are the real authors and heroes of this victory is to take credit were it is not due.

The campaign that routed Qaddafi’s Tripoli defenses in a few days was masterful! First there were the coordinated campaigns in the west coming down from the Nafusah Mountains and from in the east, west of Misrata, then the convergence on Tripoli via three major roads, from the west, east and south, together with an amphibious landing of a brigade from Misrata and the uprising by secret forces already in Tripoli. It was a brilliant victory. It showed great unity and coordination by freedom fighters from separate parts of Libya and the leadership of their command staff in spite of the assassination of their chief of staff, most likely by Qaddafi agents, only weeks before. It will go down in military history as a classic victory.

The idea that the authors of this were some westerners who just parachuted in and not the people who lived Qaddafi’s nightmare for 40 years and have been fighting it for the last 6 months is ridiculous. Those most likely to believe it are those that have some misconceptions about the supremacy of western special forces and the inferiority of Arabs.

The Libyans are the ones that have been fighting in these lands since before the Romans. They know the lay of the land and they knew the rising capabilities of their people. The only thing they could never be sure of was NATO, which was MIA for the early parts of the campaigns around both Misrata and the Nafusah Mountains and bombed the wrong armies too many times. Why do the British feel the need to resurrect the “Lawrence of Arabia” mythology to try to snatch credit for this win from the revolutionary Libyan people?

full article: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/08/27/1010769/-Who-really-beat-Qaddafi

Victim of CIA extraordinary rendition is now commander in Tripoli

Filed under: Libya — louisproyect @ 6:55 pm

Abdul Hakim Belhadj: Military Leader in Tripoli and Victim of illegal American Rendition

The military commander who led the revolutionary forces into Tripoli, and took the iconic bab al-azizziya was Abdul Hakim Belhadj (alternatively spelled AbdelHakim Belhaj). He is now the military leader in Tripoli, who on the night of liberation drew parallels between the fight in Tripoli and the conquest of Mecca while surrounded by several others celebrating around him. He has since held more formal press conferences where he outlined the objectives of uniting the military factions in Tripoli under a single command, taking weapons out of the hands of militias, as well as rejecting the existence of any extremists within the ranks of the revolutionary army.

Abdul Hakim Belhadj (also known as Abdullah al-Sadiq) was also previously the leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) which fought against the Gaddafi regime for more than a decade. According to a piece written by Nawaf al-Qudaimi, he had fought in Afghanistan from 1988, but returned to Libya in 1994. After confrontation with the Gaddafi regime which led to the killing of the then leader of the group Abdul Rahman al-Hattab, Belhadj managed to leave Libya and returned to Afghanistan in 1995. Upon his return to Afghanistan he was with the group of Libyan fighters which refused to join with Osama Bin Laden’s al-Qaida movement. This group included several other leading figures from the LIFG, whom subsequently elected Belhadj as the leader of the movement.

As a result of the 9/11 attacks this group left Afghanistan and dispersed amongst several countries, with Belhadj ending up in Malaysia where he was detained and transferred for interrogation* in Thailand by American forces during a period when numerous other personalities were also similarly detained and questioned. Once the Americans realised that the group had no connection to Bin Laden’s al-Qaeda, they were instead rendered to the Libyan regime of Moammar Gaddafi (rather than Guantanamo) in the same year where they ended up in the notorious Abu Salim prison in Tripoli. This is of no surprise since Western intelligence agencies (of the same nations now supporting the revolution) praise the information they received from the Libyan regime regarding Islamic opposition and so were not adverse to delivering them any Libyans they kidnapped from elsewhere.

In 2008 Saif al-Islam initiated and and convened a set of meetings between the Libyan regime and its facilitators including Ali al-Salabi (a leading Islamic scholar in Libya who lent support to the Libyan uprising from the start) and Noman Benotman (a former member of the LIFG who was reportedly expelled from the movement in 2002 due to suspicions of his activities whilst in London and of links with the Libyan regime, and has since become another in a long line of self-styled analysts of Islamic movements that apparently embellish accounts of their past experiences to burnish their credentials)  on the one hand with the leaders of the LIFG on the other. The meetings resulted in the renouncement of certain ideas which were published in a book entitled Corrective Studies on the Doctrine of Jihad, Hesba, and Rulings (available online in Arabic) which sought to dispel amongst other things the notion that the killings of civilians was in any way Islamically permitted. Given that the group’s leaders had previously refused to work with al-Qaeda it appears some of the book was written simply to satisfy the Libyan regimes desire to demonstrate its ability to rehabilitate “terrorists” as part of Saif al-Islam’s charm offensive in the West, and to end the suffering of its members in jail in exchange.

Belhadj and several other members of the LIFG were subsequently released from Abu Salim prison in 2010, and at the beginning of the Libyan uprising he and others from the movement joined the Libyan revolution under the leadership of the National Transitional Council, and has characterised the revolution as a popular uprising involving the whole of Libya.

This explains how Belhadj, a victim of the American rendition program, has ended up as the military commander of Tripoli. While other members of the NTC hold press conferences in Qatar, or give warmly received speeches at the Arab league (a collection of representatives from regimes who lack integrity and which enjoys zero credibility on the Arab, or for that matter, any, street), Belhadj has been leading those alongside him forward to the liberation of Tripoli. Though some of the opposition abroad felt betrayed by the group’s dialogue with the regime which appeared to endorse it, and it remains to be seen how independent figures such as Belhadj will remain given the diplomatic and financial pressures that are being borne down upon the NTC by NATO, it cannot be doubted that they do represent a legitimate voice from within the society.

At this point it is worth reflecting on how this “terrorist” who was illegally detained, interrogated and then rendered to the Libyans (and no doubt subsequently tortured by them) is now considered by some as the hero of the revolution in the context that this uprising has been military backed and now feted by both politicians and media which further highlights what was discussed on these pages recently – that the politics of ‘terrorism’, laws relating to ‘terrorism’ and media coverage on ‘terrorism’ is all based exclusively on the political agenda and one in which Western interests drive the language used.

The reality is that Belhadj is one of the most authentic faces of the Libyan revolution. His opposition to the Gaddafi regime began more than 20 years ago, and unlike several of the NTC members who up until and beyond the start of the uprisings were either members of the regime themselves or living far away in the West, he has been at the forefront of the struggle both literally and figuratively. This is not to dismiss the role of others but rather to emphasis that it will be natural for people to look to those such as Belhadj as their leadership who sacrificed with them against Gaddafi on the front lines. When he states that there is no extremism in the ranks of the revolutionaries – he means those who would sanction the killing of civilians for political goals (something which America and her NATO allies would not be able to honestly claim for themselves), and not the British government definition which labels anyone who believes in the application of Islamic Shari’a law and the establishment of a State to apply them as an extremist. There is little doubt that according to Western understanding Belhadj along with many others in Libya and beyond in both Tunisia and Egypt would be considered extreme, an indictment of the West’s rhetoric and policy towards Islam and Islamic revival.

This further exposes the simplistic narrative regarding Islam, Islamic movements, and so-called “Jihadi” movements. The lack of differentiation between the mostly irredentist groups who sought to overthrow their governments (almost invariably one form or another of unaccountable oppressive police states) whether in Egypt, Libya or elsewhere and al-Qaida, is inaccurate but expected from both the American government and its allies in the Arab world and beyond. Post 9/11 the rhetoric of the “War (of) Terror” has been used to justify all manner of abuses against a spectrum of opposition in order to maintain the status quo which served the US “strategic interests” in the region. This conflation has gone beyond even groups which took up arms against the state, to include any Islamic opposition. Hence support for a roll call of dictators from Karimov, Mubarak, Abdullah, Hussain and Gaddafi was a given up until the beginning of this year when events of the ground have forced the hand of the West to try their best to back the winning horses to maintain some form of control over the forthcoming changes to the political setup. As events develop in Syria and elsewhere, it is questionable how long the ever sliding grip will be able to maintain its grasp.

* UPDATE – According to a Human Rights Watch report, he explicitly claims to have been tortured by the CIA themselves in Thailand

Reza Pankhurst is a regular contributor to New Civilisation. He has a PhD from the London School of Economics Government department, and also blogs at rezapankhurst.net.

Misrata rebels defy “anti-imperialist” analysis

Filed under: Libya — louisproyect @ 2:14 pm

Misrata rebels defy Libya’s new regime

City refuses to accept appointment by National Transitional Council of former Gaddafi ally as Tripoli security chief

Misratans protest

Misratans protest against the National Transition Council decision. The placard reads: ‘Whoever helped kill Libyans will never lead us, even with one word.’
Photograph: Irina Kalashnikova

The first cracks in Libya‘s rebel coalition have opened, with protests erupting in Misrata against the reported decision of the National Transitional Council (NTC) to appoint a former Gaddafi henchman as security boss of Tripoli.

Media reports said the NTC prime minister, Mahmoud Jibril, is poised to appoint Albarrani Shkal, a former army general, as the capital’s head of security.

Protests erupted in the early hours of the morning in Misrata’s Martyr’s Square, with about 500 protesters shouting that the “blood of the martyrs” would be betrayed by the appointment.

Misrata’s ruling council lodged a formal protest with the NTC, saying that if the appointment were confirmed Misratan rebel units deployed on security duties in Tripoli would refuse to follow NTC orders.

Misratans blame Shkal for commanding units that battered their way into this city in the spring, terrorising and murdering civilians.

NTC sources say Shkal, formerly a key confidant of Muammar Gaddafi, turned rebel informer in May, passing valuable information back to the rebel capital, Benghazi.

But Misratans believe that prior to that, he was operations officer for the 32nd brigade, whose overall commander is Gaddafi’s son Khamis.

The brigade took the leading role in a siege that saw tanks and artillery bombard residential areas of the city, murdering several hundred civilians.

Shouting above anti-Jabril chanting and volleys of gunfire being fired into the air, one protester, Mohammed Zubia, said many people were shocked by the news. He said: “Mr Jabril says he wants to include all people who worked for Gaddafi but how can we accept that? We need new blood.”

Mr Jabril, whose NTC executive installed itself in Tripoli over the weekend, says he wants to build an “inclusive” administration. He appears to have the tacit support of London, with the defence secretary, Liam Fox, telling al-Jazeera it was important the NTC avoided excluding members of the former regime.

London is believed to be keen to avoid a rerun of Iraq, where a de-Baathification programme saw the ruling administration removed and chaos follow the US-led invasion in 2003.

But Misratans say allowing Gaddafi regime officials to take key security jobs is not the answer.

“I can’t see any justication for [it] whatsoever,” said Hassan al-Amin, who returned to the town after 28 years’ exile spent in the UK. “We have a big force in Tripoli. They are not going to follow orders from a war criminal.”

The president of Misrata’s council, Sheikh Khalifa Zuwawi, said Misratan rebel troops controlling many strategic points across Tripoli may refuse to obey NTC orders.

“I think all the Libyan thwar [revolutionary fighters] will not obey his [Shkal’s] orders, not just those from Misrata,” Zuwawi told the Guardian. “Shkal is with Gaddafi. Not long ago he was using troops to shell people in Misrata. Mahmoud Jibril cannot do it just by himself: it is against the people.”

Behind the protests is a wider grudge between Misratans and the NTC, which many accuse of representing Benghazi rather than Libyans as a whole. Misrata’s military council continues to refuse to follow orders from NTC army commanders, and some rebels complain that Misrata’s units and those from the Nafua mountains, to the west, have not been recognised as having been the key to the fall of Tripoli.

“We won’t follow his [Shkal’s] orders, no,” said Walid Tenasil, a Misratan fighter returning to garrison duty in Tripoli. “Our message to the NTC is: just remember the blood. That is it.”

Misrata’s protests pose a potential security problem for the NTC because it has come to rely on Misratan rebel units holding strategic points in the capital.

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