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The Forum > Article Comments > Go to Libya, Mr Pilger > Comments

Go to Libya, Mr Pilger : Comments

By Austin Mackell, published 13/10/2011

John Pilger needs to get out more on Libyan matters.

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‘When I travelled to Benghazi, Ajdabiya and Tobruk briefly this June ... not one of the people I spoke to was opposed to the NATO air campaign in their country.’

Well, now ... that’s like saying: ‘When I attended the last Liberal Party election rally, not one of the people I spoke to said they’d vote Labor.’

Firstly, a pro-Gaddafi comment made in any TNC-held territory today means an instant bullet to the head.

Secondly, the cities of Benghazi, Ajdabiya and Tobruk are the heartland of northern Cyrenaica – the tribal base of King Idris, the Benghazi-based monarch appointed amir by the British and then ruler in 1951, and it was the Cyrene tribes that held all the power in Libya before Gaddafi overthrew the king in a bloodless coup in 1969.

The fact that King Idris was a complete waste of space as a ruler, who drove the country into extreme poverty (as of 1969, 4th poorest in the world) by handing over its immense resources wealth to Shell, BP, the World Bank et al, has never mattered to the Cyrene tribes who have always been committed to re-establishing their pre-Gaddafi power. Their bitterness has been a breeding ground for assassination plotting, coups planning and anti-modernist and Islamic fundamentalism – all of which made it ripe for long-term CIA-NATO destabilisation.

The fact that this intrepid author breezed in and breezed out of anti-Gaddafi heartland for a few quick comments and photo opportunities does not make him an expert on the Libyan people – tens of thousands of whom have since perished under NATO bombs and vicious TNC retribution.

He’d be better advised to read something about the Jamahiriya system of government, established under Gaddafi – which provided free education and health to all, heavily subsidised housing, a nationalised banking system of low-to-no interest loans, a completely debt-free economy, and the highest status for women of any country in Africa and second-highest in the Middle East.

Though far from perfect, Libya under Gaddafi was arguably the most un-neoliberal nation in the world – and that’s why it had to go.
Posted by Killarney, Thursday, 13 October 2011 7:56:09 AM
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That Qaddafi was a brutal dictator that was killing his own people was the reason he had to go.

That he was mates with all the other dictators in Africa made him a hero to a small elite.
Posted by Shadow Minister, Thursday, 13 October 2011 9:26:10 AM
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I agree wholeheartedly with Killarney. The only points I would add are these:
UN Resolution 1973 provided for limited western military intervention. That limitation was exceeded in a very short space of time and Nato's present conduct makes a mockery of the resolution.

Secondly, Mr Gaddafi has from time to time been an ally of the western powers. His overthrow only became compelling to the British, French and Americans when China began to play an important role in Libyan development, not only with oil and gas but the critical water reserves that Israel is desperate to receive.

Thirdly, Gaddafi was talking about replacing the dollar as the currency of trade for Africa and using a local based alternative. Saddam Hussein made the same fatal error when he sought to trade Iraqi oil in Euros rather than dollars.

As Pilger and many others have pointed out, the so-called Transistional Government is an unlikely combination of unrepentant monarchists, American stooges, Islamic radicals and sundry others. whether they can actually run the country and maintain the very high standards of health care, status of women and education that the Gaddafi regime achieved is a moot point.

A more likely scenario is years of civil strife for which Iraq is a striking example. The "solution" imposed by the western imperialist powers is likely to be worse than the problem.
Posted by James O'Neill, Thursday, 13 October 2011 9:29:14 AM
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Is anyone else becoming highly dubious that every time America/NATO attacks or sabotages a country, it just happened to be a utopia with the highest standard of education, medicine, women's rights and balanced socialist economy in the world?

Now I can actually honestly state that without the sanctions, Iraq was actually quite a solid country for a Middle Eastern country. Same deal with Iran and Lebanon.

It also ignores that Gaddafi was extorting the EU for decades to not build nukes, not commit terrorist acts, including not assist illegal immigration into Europe. And lets not forget his antics when his dead-beat son got into trouble in Switzerland (a REAL country that tops living standards- that is also neutral to NATO and the US).
Posted by King Hazza, Thursday, 13 October 2011 10:31:04 AM
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You write: "Of course, it is problematic to lend legitimacy to any Western military intervention, when taken on the whole they have been ghastly."

But your proposed solution is to do just that! "The proper response to this fact, in light of the good done in Libya, is to campaign for fairer and more competent international organisations to oversee such actions (and indeed inter-state relations more generally) ..."

This is dangerously naïve. It presumes we can develop some kind of supra-state regulation of inter-state rivalry. Such a system has never existed, and in fact cannot exist, except insofar as the major military powers allow it to. In this sense Carl Schmitt was correct to argue that the exercise of military power is what shapes international law, not the other way around. Major powers create legal precedent through successful use of force, and by flaunting the text of UN resolution 1973 they have done so again.

So for those of us on the "anti-imperialist Left" you deride, it is not simply a question of whether intervention may have helped oust Gaddafi in Libya, but the effect of successful NATO military action on the wider balance of forces internationally, and how that creates greater legitimacy for more Western violence towards Arab people. We see imperialism as an international hierarchy of power, not just the sum of individual state-state conflicts, some good and some bad.

While I agree the US and its allies were making things up on the fly, this was not an act reflecting "impotence". I think you get close to the mark with the stuff about "being on the right side of history". But you then legitimate the Western argument, as if what the US is doing elsewhere, propping up dictators carrying out brutal repression AT THE SAME TIME, somehow exists in a different universe. The Libya intervention provided cover for Western inaction on / backing of ACTUAL massacres elsewhere in the region. Your argument, while driven by a genuine sense of solidarity for a brave people fighting a vicious dictator, simply provides cover for that.
Posted by Dr_Tad, Thursday, 13 October 2011 11:35:53 AM
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Gosh, Austin, I really don’t see why you should feel awkward about Western involvement in Gaddafi’s downfall. I think it was G. K. Chesterton who observed that ‘Men can always be blind to a thing, so long as it’s big enough.’ That’s your mate John Pilger’s motto, surely. You can ignore Pol Pot’s massacres in Cambodia (1.8 millions, by the UN’s count), Vietnam’s vengeance on Vietnamese and Laotians post-war (1.7 millions), Mao’s Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution (20 millions dead, more or less), Stalin’s Gulag Archipeligo (18 millions killed), North Korea’s self-induced famines (3 millions plus) ... I could fill pages with incidents of carnage you and John are keen to ignore. Surely, you’ve had enough practice dismissing or excusing mass murder. Libya is small potatoes: there are only 6.4 million of ‘em, and the overwhelming majority are still alive. Is it just the way Gaddafi styled himself as ‘Brother Leader and Guide of the Revolution’? Get over it: he was a Capitalist Running Dog in Socialist clothing. Think of him as just one more bourgeois tyrant, and savour the irony: NATO eating its own children. John would love the metaphor, and I hope it’s of some comfort to you in your time of trouble.
Posted by donkeygod, Thursday, 13 October 2011 7:13:55 PM
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