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The Left has lost its way over Libya

William Bowles | 27.07.2011 22:08 | Analysis | Anti-militarism | Terror War | Sheffield | World

In an essentially excellent piece Sarah Flounders ‘Libya: Demonization and Self-determination‘, near the beginning under the sub-hed ‘What should be the response to this terror?’ she writes:

“Unfortunately, a minority of groups or individuals who present themselves as opponents of war spend more time cataloguing Gadhafi’s past real or alleged shortcomings than rallying people to respond to this criminal, all-out U.S. attack. Their influence would be small, except that it coincides with the opinions of the U.S. ruling class. Thus it is important to thoroughly answer their arguments.”

Then she writes:

“The response to this colonial war of aggression should be the same as the response to a racist mobilization, a racist lynch mob or a police attack on an oppressed community: Mobilize all possible forces to stand up to the crime and say “no!” Refuse to take part in the orchestrated campaign of vilification.

“This may not be an easy position to take. But it is essential to reject the racist political onslaught that accompanies the military onslaught.”

I get the impression that Sarah feels caught between a rock and an alleged leftie, else why say ‘This may not be an easy position to take’? Why is it not an easy position to take if it’s so clearly a imperialist and racist attack on a sovereign country? Flounders continues:

“Of course, such misguided groups are a small minority in the progressive movement. But there are those political organizations, which six months ago had not bothered to mention Libya, that now suddenly seek out respectable venues to add their own reasons that the dictator Gadhafi “must go” — an echo of the imperialist demand. Some even insist that in order to be part of the political discourse, every anti-war voice must first join in condemnation of Gadhafi.”

But nowhere do I find Flounders asking the question why? And it’s not merely “misguided groups [who] are a small minority” who fell (again) into the Imperial trap. We saw the same ‘misguided minority’ do it over Yugoslavia and Kosovo. At the the end of the 60s it was Nigeria and the Biafra War (over oil of course with surprise-surprise, Shell, at the centre of it).

But why is the ‘misguided minority’ even regarded as being a part of a (real) left in the West? Or does it reflect a general loss of direction, even motivation for wanting real change within what’s left of the left?

I think it’s time to take a look at the timeline of the latest barbarian attack on the defenceless of the world. I think it reveals far more about how the left in the West operates, what are its motivations, than it does about the aims of the Empire (which should surely by now be apparent even to a reluctant leftie).

First, the ‘Arab Spring’ which was in fact an ‘African Spring’ as it kicked off in Tunisia then spread to Egypt. But this is par for the course. It used to be that all of Africa was actually in Africa but in the 19th century the Western colonialists starting moving things around a bit and all of a sudden, Egypt was an Arab country, as was Algeria, indeed all of the Mahgreb.

We see the same sleight of hand used in the Sudan (now successfully partitioned, eg Balkanized), whereby the country is split between the ‘Arab’ North and the Christian and ‘Black’ South. But they are all Africans in Africa! Most African countries had their current boundaries decided not by them but by their Western colonizers. Most didn’t even exist within their current boundaries before they were colonized and then successfully neo-colonized.

In any case, the popular insurrections in Africa and the Middle East were the setting, the context for what was in Libya, clearly an attempted coup masquerading as a popular insurrection carried along on the wave of the ‘Arab Spring’. This is where it gets interesting.

First, it should have been apparent that unlike the other ‘revolutions’, the Empire was gung ho for the Libyan version, that should have been a warning sign. But for the ‘established’ Western Left Gaddafi is a bit of a Gadfly (in the Western media they can’t even bother to spell his name right, I must have seen at least four varieties and now I’m not sure how it’s spelt either). He didn’t fit the mould of liberation fighter. He was peddling this weird (to lefties) Green Book, neither capitalist nor socialist, floating somewhere inbetween. And he ‘switched’ sides thus he wasn’t to be trusted.

In reality of course the Empire said either you do as we say or we’ll destroy you. So Gaddafi, Khadafi, Ghaddafi or Qhadafi did a deal. It wasn’t the first time and unfortunately it won’t be the last and anyway it didn’t help him, they got his oil, or nearly so.

‘Britain [to Gaddafi]: We’ll let you stay if you step down’ – The Times front page headline, 26 July 2011

Hence the initial response on the left and not just a minority, was to support the ‘rebellion’, after all it appeared to have all the right credentials, unless you looked very closely. For me, as soon as I saw that a main player in the rebel camp was a CIA asset based in Washington DC, that was it for me. Game over.

In any case, this ‘assessing’ by the Western Left generally of all those actually engaged in struggle, as to whether or not it’s ‘supportable’ reflects the arrogance of Empire. Who are we to judge? What business is it of ours anyway? This is especially galling when we can’t get our own act together and are still conducting a never-ending fraticidal struggle with each other over who has the ‘real’ socialist vision, let alone who or what to support.

Then came UN Resolution 1973 and the ‘no-fly zone’, itself a clear act of war, period. This got some on the left thinking a little more clearly, but not all. Some actually felt it might compel Gaddafi, Khadafi, Ghaddafi or Qhadafi to go, leave town, disappear. Outrageous but true as it’s predicated on the idea that we have the right to decide whether Gaddafi, Khadafi, Ghaddafi or Qhadafi should live or die.

The setting for this was the propaganda war launched by the West with allegations of ‘African mercenaries’ (note not Arab mercenaries), then mass rapes and slaughter from the air. You know the thing, none of it true and simply airbrushed out of the equation. It had had the intended effect and thus could be conveniently ditched. ‘Black ops’ that many on the Left swallowed hook, line and sinker.

Even Flounders falls into the trap of making apologies for Gaddafi, Khadafi, Ghaddafi or Qhadafi when she writes:

“Whatever mistakes made by the leaders of a small, underdeveloped country facing U.S. sanctions, sabotage and assassination attempts, they are not the reason the U.S. is hell-bent on destroying Libya today.’

Whatever ‘mistakes’ Gaddafi, Khadafi, Ghaddafi or Qhadafi has made are to be deplored, no doubt, but unless you want to invade and overthrow him, there is little that can be done about it except by the Libyans themselves and right now they come out in marches a million strong in support of the guy, and apparently they are all armed. But what if they didn’t? What then?

We all live in a world dominated by Capital as for example Venezuela, the first post-Soviet country to attempt to embark on some kind of quasi-socialist road but it does it in a world dominated in every sense of the word, by its northern neighbour. Building a genuinely socialist economy in Venezuela is all but impossible, there are simply too many obstacles placed in the path of the Bolivarian revolution. Chavez treads a narrow line, able to initiate genuine reforms in some areas but limited by all manner of factors in others. Some because of ‘internal’ contradictions and others from the outside (which in any case feed back on to internal events).

Thus whatever even vaguely anti-imperialist countries do to resist the predations of the Empire should be supported, even Iran, a capitalist country run by the Mullahs. Let the Iranians sort out their own government, a task made all the easier if we do our job and change our governments whose attacks directly drive internal repression in Iran, in part it’s their function.

Should we not support Russia when it objects to NATO expansion right up to its borders? It doesn’t mean we support Russian capitalism or its own lack of human rights or whatever, so why is it so difficult to apply the same reasoning to Libya or Iran? Surely it should be a reflex by now?

If you cast your mind back to the post-war period with its multitude of liberation movements, especially in Africa, virtually all the successful ones were led by Marxists of one flavour or another and even those that weren’t adopted central planning and state intervention in the economy. Many called themselves socialist or ‘African socialist’ and thus most were locked out of the global economy and doomed to fail. Did we in the West not support them even if we didn’t like what they were doing? Did we stop supporting the ANC when it embarked on an armed struggle and in the process killed civilians?

When I worked with and later for the ANC, I was under no illusions about it not having a socialist vision or indeed socialist platform but that didn’t stop me working for the ANC to win power. After that it’s up to South Africans to sort it out one way or the other.

Either way, we have to make the decision about which side we are on. If you think it’s our business to decide what kind of government a country should have then you must surely support armed intervention by the Empire. If you don’t then it’s incumbent on you to try get your government not to do it. All else is merely opinion.

William Bowles
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Hide the following 12 comments

I'm against Gaddifi

27.07.2011 22:50

His human rights record isn't great, he supported the IRA in killing people and lets not forget the lockerbie bombing. Good ridiance to him

This is somewhat a dilemma, a bit like if to support Islam or not given the way that they treat woman and their human rights history, I find it hard to support them



28.07.2011 06:44

isnt this like saying you support Hitler and the death camps because he was at war with the nasty yanks and british empire...

Hes a psycopath dictator, hes pissed of the world, funded terrorist movenets with both money and guns, his people have decided that 40 years is enough (dont give a shit whos behind it, the results matter) and the western world has decided to dish out some khama.

If you live in a world where everything the government does is wrong then you are at risk of being the puppet of far worse, all I hear from activists is how wrong the bombing is, all I hear from Libyans is how glad they are that we are doing it, because they would have lost,died, disapeared and so would thier families.

But then pol pot was just a working class hero wasnt he, all those dead people were planted by the CIA


support the struggle not nato

28.07.2011 08:51

the start of this uprising happened in 96 when gaddafi massacred 1200 political prisoners in abu saleem prison. this year the familys of those killed tried to take him to court/get information on their dead relatives and he responded by kidnapping the lawyer who was handelling the case. when that happened the familys he represented went to where he was being held and were met with bullets. from there 400 people died over 5 days of protest armed only with rocks and pertol bombs managed to take down the army base in benghazi. this is only one of his many crimes.
i dont like the way that the west has been involved but if they would not have brought in the no fly zone benghazi would not be there now.
i dont support imperialism however i do support the llibyan people in their struggle to remove a tyrant.
i think it is you who is small minded in taking the line of any intervention is bad and not supporting a genuine revolution and the people who have suffered under forty years of oppression.


Allow me to retort

28.07.2011 08:58

"isnt this like saying you support Hitler and the death camps because he was at war with the nasty yanks and british empire"

No. Your being prosaic. I can't speak for others, but the issue for most activists, I'm assuming, is the hypocrisy being demonstrated by the aggressor nations. This whole episode has nothing to to with freedom, democracy and human rights. A cursory glance at the history of, say, the two aforementioned nations, will demonstrate this point quite clearly. From Iran, El salvador, Guetamala, Indonesia, Panama etc, western interventions are usually driven by economic and geostrategic motivations, and, occasionally, political ones too i.e. Clintons cruise missile attacks on aspirin factories.

"Hes a psycopath dictator"

Is your definition of psychopath exclusive only to those enemies designated by Washington and London? I think you'll find many a psychopath in the corridors of power in those two cities, and, for that matter, in many a corporate setting.

As for funding terrorists, yes, you're right, he has, probably. Not that I've seen the documented evidence, however I'm confident it's true. Libya's not the only country to do so, of course. Take the US definition of terrorism. I'm sure it can be applied to the "freedom fighters" Reagan unleashed on the defenceless Nicaragua. This being but one example of course.

"all I hear from activists is how wrong the bombing is, all I hear from Libyans is how glad they are that we are doing it"

may I suggest you broaden your horizons and look beyond your preconceptions and the redtops. I know Libyans over here. They have mixed feelings over the whole episode. Most of them would prefer to see intervention by the Ummah, rather than interference by the kufr (my expression, not theirs)

"But then pol pot was just a working class hero wasnt he, all those dead people were planted by the CIA".

That's a rather puerile statement to type. Speaks for itself.

2 hobnobs and a comfy chair

Common Sense

28.07.2011 09:38

Just because the US oppose him doesn't make Gaddafi any less of a dictator, mass murderer, criminal psychopath


Common Sense redux

28.07.2011 10:18

"Just because the US oppose him doesn't make Gaddafi any less of a dictator, mass murderer, criminal psychopath"

Presumably anarchists haven't got time for any leader, and see political power as inevitably leading to abuse of power.

Common sense tells us that the West has no problem with cosying up to brutal dictators who are prepared to do the West's bidding. Common sense also tells us that when the West is spouting on about defending ordinary people from political tyrants, it is merely manipulating us in order to undermine resistance to their wars. Common sense also tells us that it is the ordinary people of Libya who are feeling the brunt of the West's bombing campaigns.

We need not support Gadaffi or the war.


@William Bowles

28.07.2011 11:55

You identify two perceptions/interpretations of the uprisings in Libya:

1. Coup: “clearly an attempted coup masquerading as a popular insurrection carried along on the wave of the ‘Arab Spring’.”

2. Rebellion: “the initial response on the left and not just a minority, was to support the ‘rebellion’, after all it appeared to have all the right credentials, unless you looked very closely.

Your own mind was made up in the following way:

"For me, as soon as I saw that a main player in the rebel camp was a CIA asset based in Washington DC, that was it for me. Game over.”

A lot of the rest of the article is referring to Libya through the lens of the British?/European?/Western? "left". It gives historical, regional, continental and global context to the NATO attack and an argument of a Western political strategy into which this fits.

I am unconvinced by this method of determining the argument, or even the clear cases of Western war propaganda deceptions.

There needs to be clearer evidence about the make up of the rebellion which seems to be varied and widespread, and conclusive evidence that it was not in fact a popular uprising in the areas where it occurred. Gaddafi is as much of a dynastic, nepotistic ruler as Mubarak and Ben Ali, maybe more so as he's been in longer. On kleptocratic probably less so.

As a leftist I know I would be sick of living for 40 years with his personalty cult, the appearance of sons etc into political life, Saadi al-Gaddafi poncing round the Mediterranean trying to buy his way into an Italian football career. I don't like Abramovich, Glazer, Sheikh Mansoor, Fayed, Sir John Hall etc either btw.

But as a leftist the last thing I would want to do would be to facilitate NATO's entry into proceedings and the inevitable pounds of flesh (or oil) that they would be waiting to extract.


Libyan dilemma

Lies of the Libyan War

28.07.2011 12:46

The lies used to justify the NATO war against Libya have surpassed those created to justify the invasion of Iraq. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch both had honest observers on the ground for months following the rebellion in eastern Libya and both have repudiated every major charge used to justify the NATO war on Libya.

According to the Amnesty observer, who is fluent in Arabic, there is not one confirmed instance of rape by the pro-Gadaffi fighters, not even a doctor who knew of one. All the Viagra mass rape stories were fabrications.

Amnesty could not verify a single "African mercenary" fighting for Gaddafi story, and the highly charged international satellite television accounts of African mercenaries raping women that were used to panic much of the eastern Libyan population into fleeing their homes were fabrications.

There were no confirmed accounts of helicopter gun ships attacking civilians and no jet fighters bombing people which completely invalidates any justification for the No-Fly Zone inSecurity Council resolution used as an excuse for NATO to launch its attacks on Libya.

After three months on the ground in rebel controlled territory, the Amnesty investigator could only confirm 110 deaths in Benghazi which included Gadaffi supporters.
Only 110 dead in Benghazi? Wait a minute, we were told thousands had died there, ten thousand even. No, only 110 lost their lives including pro-government people.

No rapes, no African mercenaries, no helicopter gun ships or bombers, and only 110 ten deaths prior to the launch of the NATO bombing campaign, every reason was based on a lie.

Today according to the Libyan Red Crescent Society, over 1,100 civilians have been killed by NATO bombs including over 400 women and children. Over 6,000 Libyan civilians have been injured or wounded by the bombing, many very seriously.

Compared to the war on Iraq, these numbers are tiny, but the reasons for the Libyan war have no merit in any form.
Saddam Hussein was evil, he invaded his neighbors in wars that killed up to a million. He used Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD's) in the form of poison gas on both his neighbors and his own people, killing tens of thousands. He was brutal and corrupt and when American tanks rolled into Iraq the Iraqi people refused to fight for him, simply put their weapons down and went home.

Libya under Col. Gadaffi hasn't invaded their neighbors. Gadaffi never used WMD's on anyone, let alone his own people. As for Gadaffi being brutal, in Libya's neighbor Algeria, the Algerian military fought a counterinsurgency for a decade in the 1990's that witnessed the deaths of some 200,000 Algerians. Now that is brutal and nothing anywhere near this has happened in Libya.

In Egypt and Tunisia, western puppets like Mubarak and Ben Ali had almost no support amongst their people with few if anyone willing to fight and die to defend them.

The majority of the Libyan people are rallying behind the Libyan government and "the leader", Muammar Gadaffi, with over one million people demonstrating in support on July 1 in Tripoli, the capital of Libya. Thousands of Libyan youth are on the front lines fighting the rebels and despite thousands of NATO air strikes authentic journalists on the ground in western Libya report their morale remains high.

In Egypt the popular explosion that resulted in the Army seizing power from Mubarak began in the very poorest neighborhoods in Cairo and other Egyptian cities where the price of basic food items like bread, sugar and cooking oil had skyrocketed and lead to widespread hunger. In many parts of Egypt's poor neighborhoods gasoline/benzene is easier to find then clean drinking water. Medical care and education is only for those with the money to pay for it. Life for the people of Tunisia is not that much better.

In contrast, the Libyan people have the longest life expectancy in the Arab world. The Libyan people have the best, free public health system in the Arab world. The Libyan people have the best, free public education system in the Arab world. Most Libyan families own their own home and most Libyan families own their own automobile. Libya is so much better off then its neighbors every year tens of thousands of Egyptians and Tunisians migrated to Libya to earn money to feed their families, doing the dirty work the Libyan people refused to do.

When it comes to how Gadaffi oversaw a dramatic rise in the standard of living for the Libyan people despite decades of UN inSecurity Council sanctions against the Libyan economy honest observers acknowledge that Gadaffi stands head and shoulders above the kings, sheiks, emirs and various dictators who rule the rest of the Arab world.

So why did NATO launch this war against Libya?

First of all Gadaffi was on the verge of creating a new banking system in Africa that was going to put the IMF, World Bank and assorted other western banksters out of business in Africa. No more predatory western loans used to cripple African economies, instead a $42 billion dollar African Investment Bank would be supplying major loans at little or even zero interest rates.

LIbya has funded major infrastructure projects across Africa that have begun to link up African economies and break the perpetual dependency on the western countries for imports have been taking place. Here in Eritrea the new road connecting Eritrea and Sudan is just one small example.

What seem to have finally tipped the balance in favor of direct western military intervention was the reported demand by Gadaffi that the USA oil companies who have long been major players in the Libyan petroleum industry were going to have to compensate Libya to the tune of tens of billions of dollars for the damage done to the Libyan economy by the USA instigated "Lockerbie Bombing" sanctions imposed by the UN inSecurity Council throughout the 1990's into early 2000's. This is based on the unearthing of evidence that the CIA paid millions of dollars to witnesses in the Lockerbie Bombing trial to change their stories to implicate Libya which was used as the basis for the very damaging UN sanctions against Libya. The government of the USA lied and damaged Libya so the USA oil companies were going to have to pay up to cover the cost of their governments actions. Not hard to see why Gadaffi had to go isn't it?

Add the fact that Gadaffi had signaled clearly that he saw both Libya's and Africa's future economic development linked more to China and Russia rather than the west and it was just a matter of time before the CIA's contingency plan to overthrow the Libyan government was put on the front burner.

NATO's war against Libya has much more in common with NATO's Kosovo war against Serbia. But one still cannot compare Gadaffi to Saddam or even the much smaller time criminals in the Serbian leadership. The Libyan War lies are worse than Iraq.

Thomas C. Mountain is the only independent western journalist in the Horn of Africa, living and reporting from Eritrea since 2006. He was a member of the 1st US Peace Delegation to Libya in 1987. He can be reached at: thomascmountain at yahoo dot com

Thomas C. Mountain
- Homepage:


28.07.2011 15:16

You'll find that the revolutionary communist left and global anti-imperilaist movement will be pro-gaddafi, not necesarily becasue they support all his policies, but mainly see him as the only viable option at the present in defending Libya's independence. The so-called rabble of riff raff rebels, who are criminals anyway, will be supported by the west, as they are the main link to Libya's takeover by imperialism for oil. That not to say Gaddafi didnt burn a few of his own bridges along the way, which ultimately led to the present situation.

Far left

how quickly history forgets

28.07.2011 16:35

> That not to say Gaddafi didnt burn a few of his own bridges along the way, which ultimately led to the present situation.

burn a few bridges?! well thats a PC way of putting it i guess.

i have a substantial mistrust of the left if all they are obsessed about is the us and uk
funding the ira ring any bells? bomb in a wastebin blowing up 2 kids ring a bell?


Global Civilians for Peace site

28.07.2011 20:17

NATO war against Libya. An excellent source of regularly updated news and information on the events leading up to the NATO intervention, ongoing political analysis of the situation and recent videos illustrating the response of the Libyan people.
Highly recommended
Global Civilians for Peace in Libya

Sam Carrington

The British Left are racist

30.07.2011 07:37

The left has shown itself to be naive, stupid, supportive of NATO and racist in this whole Libya debacle. Shame on them.

Libya supported 'terrorists' you say. I don't believe the IRA, SWAPO, ANC or various Palestinian liberation organisations to b terrorists. Libya supported these groups like noone else.

The British left were duped by the propaganda fed to us by the guardian, aljazeera, bbc etc. They wanted to believe that Libyans hated Gaddafi so bad, that they fell for the lies. What has been evident in the last few months is that the Libyan people are by and large behind their leader and resolutely against the NATO aggression. You should all try reading history that isn't written by the racist westerners.


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