Friday, October 21, 2011

Spare us the hypocrisy over Gaddafi

The brutal and sorry end of the Gaddafi era in Libya has brought the expected, sickening outpouring of faked concern in Washington, London and Paris for building democracy in that country and a rewriting of history to suit Nato. Spare us the hypocrisy.

Nato has now bombed the National Transitional Council (NTC) into power. Even yesterday, although Gaddafi was reduced to a handful of supporters in Sirte, French warplanes attacked isolated vehicles trying to flee the area, in clear breach of the UN resolution limited to “protecting civilians”.

The strategic aim was not just access to oil, which Western powers have always had, but to corral the uprising against Gaddafi’s dictatorship and to gain a new foothold in the region in the wake of the Egyptian revolution.

The lynch-mob manner of Gaddafi’s death after his capture, the plans for a secret burial, show that the NTC regime has a great deal to hide, that it scorns any rule of law and has no intentions of ruling in a democratic way.

Gaddafi’s attempt at holding on to power after the uprising began in Benghazi, and the undoubted corruption of his extended family, coupled with authoritarian rule in recent decades, led to his downfall.

But for the West to crow about the end of a dictatorship stretching back to when he came to power in 1969 is nonsense. In the early period, oil revenue was directed towards education, healthcare and housing. Per capita income rose seven fold to one of the highest in Africa.

His regime became a target for the West because of his support for liberation struggles by Palestinians, Irish republicans and Saharan Africans. Tripoli was bombed by the US in 1986, killing one of his children. Gaddafi fought hard to implement the ideals of Pan-Arabism championed by Gamal Abdel Nasser in Egypt.

With his concept of Jamahiriya – “state of the masses” or “republic of the masses”, he sought to foster a direct democracy in which the people would rule through local councils and communes.

Political and economic pressure on Libya increased after the downing of the Pan-Am flight over Lockerbie in December 1988 for which Libya was framed. Libya’s political and economic isolation produced a reactionary political turn.

The 1990s saw increased inequalities and loss of political freedom for ordinary Libyans. A nepotistic dynastic elite grew up in which the rich enjoyed freedoms denied to ordinary Libyans. Rights for opponents became non-existent, with political prisoners being shot down at the Abu Salim jail in 1996.

The sight of Gaddafi making deals over oil and immigration with oil-hungry authoritarians like Blair and Italian leader Berlusconi was particularly shocking. Gaddafi almost certainly became clinically depressed at the failure of his political aims and fell into the arms of world leaders who endorsed him until the uprising earlier this year.

If Gaddafi deserved his summary execution, as some say, where does that leave war criminals like Blair and Bush, whose 2003 invasion of Iraq was unlawful and resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths, and Obama, whose administration uses drones to kill people illegally in Pakistan, and other Nato leaders, including Cameron, who conduct a murderous war in Afghanistan?

TNC leaders are not exactly the rabid pro-Western alliance Nato dreamt would emerge, containing discredited regime defectors, monarchists, militant Islamists and not a few opportunists. That's the new government of Libya. The people are going to have to overthrow them if they are to achieve any benefit from their revolution.

Now the struggle for democratic and human rights in the Middle East and North Africa merges with a global crisis of capitalism. The new Arab revolution has only just started and it will have to go beyond fair and free elections to find solutions to the pressing problems of soaring food prices, mass unemployment, poverty and inequality.

A World to Win editors

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