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Friday, September 30, 2011

UPDATED: Occupy Los Angeles Starts Tomorrow!

There was a spirited 3 hour meeting Thursday evening in Pershing Square in downtown Los Angeles that was attended by about 200 activist to plan Occupy Los Angeles which will begin 10:00am Saturday morning, October 1st with a peaceful occupation at the Los Angeles City Hall. This was the latest in a series of planning General Assemblies that have been meeting in the park regularly at 7:00PM to plan the Los Angeles movement in solidarity with the Occupy Wall St. action against corporate greed and the many other occupations that are taking place around the world that also include Occupy Boston, Occupy Chicago, Occupy Denver and dozens of others right here in the United States. Minutes for the four previous GAs can be read here. The last pre-occupation General Assembly will take place at Pershing Sq. Friday, September 30th and all who are interested are invited to attend.
Occupy Los Angeles General Assembly 9-29-11

This is the official Occupy Los Angeles website. Look here for all kinds of info about the protest in LA. Staring Saturday morning you will be able to see streaming video of the protest at City Hall here also. You may follow Occupy Los Angeles on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube and Delicious.

Unions Join Wall Street Protests!
As the action nears the start of its third week, unions and community groups are eager to jump on board. They are motivated perhaps by a sense of solidarity and a desire to tap into its growing success, but undoubtedly by something else too-embarrassment that a group of young people using Twitter and Facebook have been able to draw attention to progressive causes in a way they haven't been able to in years. [...]

Some of the biggest players in organized labor are actively involved in planning for Wednesday's demonstration, either directly or through coalitions that they are a part of. The United Federation of Teachers, 32BJ SEIU, 1199 SEIU, Workers United and Transport Workers Union Local 100 are all expected to participate. The Working Families Party is helping to organize the protest and MoveOn.org is expected to mobilize its extensive online regional networks to drum up support for the effort.
"We're getting involved because the crisis was caused by the excesses of Wall Street and the consequences have fallen hardest on workers," a spokesman for TWU Local 100 said.

Community groups like Make the Road New York, the Coalition for the Homeless, the Alliance for Quality Education and Community Voices Heard are also organizing for Wednesday's action, and the labor/community coalitions United New York and Strong Economy For All are pitching in as well.


The Huffington Post also has a good piece on the growing union support for Occupy Wall St.
NYC Transit Union Joins Occupy Wall Street

New York City labor unions are preparing to back the unwieldy grassroots band occupying a park in Lower Manhattan, in a move that could mark a significant shift in the tenor of the anti-corporate Occupy Wall Street protests and send thousands more people into the streets.

The Transit Workers Union Local 100's executive committee, which oversees the organization of subway and bus workers, voted unanimously Wednesday night to support the protesters. The union claims 38,000 members. A union-backed organizing coalition, which orchestrated a large May 12 march on Wall Street before the protests, is planning a rally on Oct. 5 in explicit support. And SEIU 32BJ, which represents doormen, security guards and maintenance workers, is using its Oct. 12 rally to express solidarity with the Zuccotti Park protesters.


UPDATE 2:38PM PST: In the face of the LAPD's apparent refusal to make a legal place for the occupation, a number of people from Occupy Los Angeles have been in contact with members of the city council in an effort to remove barriers to a peaceful protests. It was raised at the city council meeting earlier today and as I write this we are awaiting the outcome of an inter-Departmental meeting between the LAPD, General Services and the City Attorney's office to see what accommodation the City of Los Angeles will make for its citizens.

Much earlier today Sarah Brennan from Councilmember Richard Alarcon's office called me asking how the Councilmember could show his support. I said the best thing he could do now would be to help us secure the legal right to peacefully protest at city hall. I have just received a copy of the letter below which makes me very happy and frankly, it's not often that I am happy with a Los Angeles City Councilmember.

However, we await the outcome of the meeting.

Memo of support for OccupyLA from Los Angeles Councilman Richard Alarcon

Check back for more stuff later.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Occupy Los Angeles on October 1st


Monday I received the following post from Barbara Peck for our venice@LinuxBeach.net community mail list:
I just got out of a meeting with 100 organizers in downtown and we've got a huge action coming up next Saturday, October 1st. In solidarity with the building movement against corporate greed and actions taking place in NY and other cities across the country, we are going to be occupying Los Angeles (at L.A. City Hall). We'll be doing an encampment of the lawn and hits on the financial district.

Please let me know asap if can participate in this.

Also, please help get people out for this - to camp out - and hold our government accountable - this is what we've been working for and it's finally here.

Onward and upward.

OCCUPY LA

Mark Lipman

Obama Protest Rally in West Hollywood 26/09/2011
Like a preview of coming attractions, several hundred people showed up to "welcome" President Obama to Los Angeles on Monday and tell him what we thought. A General Assembly of Occupy LA took place after the rally.


VFP member mike chickey made this video OBAMA VISITS WEST HOLLYWOOD.
LA Activists Protest the Obama fundraisers outside the House of Blues, on the Sunset Strip and the Fig and Olive restaurant near Melrose in West Hollywood / Monday Sept. 26th 2011 Music: Talking Heads "Burning Down the House (Live)" on: iTunes, AmazonMP3
For Your Information: This is the Anonymous Operations website with lots of info and videos from Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Chicago among other things. While Anonymous has come down from cyberspace to lead and support this struggle in the streets, they have continued to promote the struggle on the Internet as well. Yesterday they exposed the identity and history of the cop who sprayed pepper spray into the eyes of four women who were peacefully protesting on Wall Street:
The Anonymous activist collective today released personal information about a New York police officer who is believed to have sprayed pepper spray on women protesters on Wall Street. The group released a phone number, addresses, names of relatives, and other personal data for a New York police officer that numerous Web sites identified as Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna, as well as photos that appear to show him at the protest and a close-up of his badge. Bologna was identified as the officer in a slow-motion video who sprayed pepper spray directly in the faces of a handful of women who had been penned in behind police netting at Wall Street protests on Saturday. The video shows no evidence of provocation on the part of the sequestered protesters.
Anonymous also release a statement about the incident:
"As we watched your officers kettle innocent women, we observed you barbarically pepper spray wildly into the group of kettled women. We were shocked and disgusted by your behavior. You know who the innocent women were, now they will have the chance to know who you are. Before you commit atrocities against innocent people, think twice. WE ARE WATCHING!!! Expect Us!"
This gave the NY Times something to report about Occupy Wall St. On Tuesday, they did more than occupy Wall St, they cracked Wall St. cybersecurity and released personal data on Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein:
The document, posted to the Pastebin Web site, includes the CEO's age, recent addresses, details of litigation he has been involved in, as well as registration information for businesses, but no sensitive information such as financial data.
WLCentral is another website that I write for and it is another important source of breaking news on the 'occupation.' In fact, WLCentral has been building this event since March when it was called US Day of Rage. [USDOR] This is the official Occupy Los Angeles website. Look here for all kinds of info about the protest in LA. Staring Saturday morning you will be able to see streaming video of the protest at City Hall here also. One thing that Occupy Wall St. has already accomplished is showing the bankruptcy of the major media in the United States again. For the first week of the protest they have imposed a virtual news blackout on the protest. The best coverage has come from the foriegn press, like this piece from the Guardian. Keith Olbermann slammed this media blackout on Countdown. The MSM may be ignoring the Wall St. occupation but state security isn't. @anonymousIRC tweets "FBI surveillance of OWS run from 26 Federal Plaza, overseen by courts at 500 Pearl St, with detention cells at 150 Park Row." Glenn Greenwald has a great article in today's Salon:
What's behind the scorn for the Wall Street protests? It's unsurprising that establishment media outlets have been condescending, dismissive and scornful of the ongoing protests on Wall Street. Any entity that declares itself an adversary of prevailing institutional power is going to be viewed with hostility by establishment-serving institutions and their loyalists. That's just the nature of protests that take place outside approved channels, an inevitable by-product of disruptive dissent: those who are most vested in safeguarding and legitimizing establishment prerogatives (which, by definition, includes establishment media outlets) are going to be hostile to those challenges. As the virtually universal disdain in these same circles for WikiLeaks (and, before that, for the Iraq War protests) demonstrated: the more effectively adversarial it is, the more establishment hostility it's going to provoke.
Also today, Politics and Computers reports that journalist John Farley was arrested after trying to interview protesters on Wall St:
The actions of the NYPD in policing the Occupy Wall Street protests have again been called into question, after journalist John Farley claimed he was arrested when he tried to talk to female protesters who had been maced. In a Metro Focus post titled Observations of a jailed journalist, Farley recounts how he was arrested while trying to conduct the interview, despite wearing a ‘WNET – New York Public Media’ badge.
But the #OccupyEveryTownUSA movement is continuing to grow and gain traction in spite of the police repression and media blackout. MikeElk tweets "seems like tide is turning on prog support for #occupywallstreet a lot of progressive starting to speak up in support." and Michael Moore, who visited Occup Wall St. Monday night said:
"This is literally an uprising of people who have had it," Moore says. "It has already started to spread across the country in other cities. It will continue to spread. ... It will be tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands of people ... Their work ahead is not as difficult as other movements in the past ... The majority of Americans are really upset at Wall Street ... So you have already got an army of Americans who are just waiting for somebody to do something, and something has started."
Join us starting Saturday, October 1st @ Los Angeles City Hall. It has a nice lawn and we aim to make use of it!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Kasama Project: Marxists are not cynics!


IMHO opinion communists have a lot to learn from Anonymous and these other youth groups before they are in a position to provide any badly needed idealogical leadership. I wrote what follows in response to some of the comments posted to Occupy Wall Street! on Sept. 19th. Since it remains unpublished I've decided to run it here. apparently they don't just moderated comments for spam or obscenity but also to avoid criticism. Hardly the intellectual courage that befits Marxists.

I apologize if my tone is a little acid but the attitude and arrogance of some people that call themselves Marxists but have done little or nothing to support the great revolutionary movements taking place in MENA in 2011 is really starting to piss me off.

Marxists are not cynics!

If you people are going to call yourselves "communists", will you please find out something about what you are talking about before you commit thoughts to print because as Lenin once said, nobody can discredit the communists if they don't do it to themselves.

Here we have a group of youth protesting capitalism on Wall St. and described by a Business Insider Board Room commentator as typically "wearing a Che shirt and spouting off Marxist slogan." You might think such a gathering would be welcomed by groups like the little known website Kasama Project that has been described "as a communist project that fights (in theory and practice) for the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions." But judging by the comments here, that is not the case.

Saturday night Adbusters and Anonymous brought out about 5,000 people, according to Forbes and what I see here are the most disparaging remarks and mostly disrespect.

I find statements like:
Anonymous, and their subsequent overall influence, is limited to digital communities occupied mostly by White males.
go uncontradicted.

Well allow me to educate you. Did you know Tunisia had 35% broadband Internet access, an extraordinary level of service, the highest of any North African country? Did you know Anonymous had Tunisian members before the uprising? Did you know that Anonymous initiated OpTunisia on January 2nd? Anonymous played a much bigger role in supporting and promoting the "Arab Spring" than you people know.

Anonymous was already discussing OpLibya in mid-January when Libyan protesters were taking over housing projects, and play a very important role in events in Egypt with their OpEgypt.

There is a relationship between Anonymous, WikiLeaks and things like Google's speech-to-tweet service that was hastily put together for Egypt and then Libya that I don't think you are aware of.

If you don't think these hackers played a critical role in the revolutions that have swept North Africa in 2011, remember that in none of those countries were the regimes ever completely successful in cutting off Internet access. Now think of how things might have worked out differently if they had.

Frankly, there is a lot going on the revolutionary road in the 21st century that you are obviously not aware of so please try to have a little humility. Try to learn more about what you are talking about and try not to give communism a bad name.

Another great video from the Libyan Revolution:

Uploaded by libr817 on Sep 10, 2011 The revolution isn't over, but with the liberation of Tripoli the biggest part of the battle is complete. This is in honor of families who grew up outside of their country. Of fathers and mothers who persevered through difficult times raising their children in a foreign country. For the thuwar who fought and continue to fight until the end. And so importantly, those who gave up their lives for this. Kulhum shaheed inshallah.
 
Fri Jan 20, 2012 at 9:46 AM PT: The charge that I made in the introduction to this dairy that I had been banned from the Kasama Project was wrong. I apologize for the misunderstanding.
On 01/18/2012 12:57 PM, mike ely wrote me:
We never ban anyone for their views.
So I plan to post some stuff there in the future.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Libyan's NTC pledges not to discriminate against black Africans

"We do not make any distinction among people on grounds of colour. And we do not discriminate against our brothers from African countries."


September 19, 2011, From Reuters:
GENEVA (Reuters) - Libya's National Transitional Council (NTC) pledged on Monday to treat foreigners accused of fighting for ousted leader Muammar Gaddafi well, and denied that anti-Gaddafi fighters had committed systematic abuse of Africans.
...
Mohammed al-Alagi, identified as the minister of justice and human rights of the NTC, told the U.N. Human Rights Council that Gaddafi had used mercenaries to kill Libyans, but that any who were captured would be treated fairly.

"The Gaddafi regime declared war on the Libyan people, and used foreign mercenaries," al-Alagi said. "But when captured they will still have the right to an appropriate trial before an ordinary judge and according to international law."

He added: "We do not make any distinction among people on grounds of colour. And we do not discriminate against our brothers from African countries."
...
Al-Alagi said that the NTC would investigate fully any violations of human rights committed by its fighters.

"There have been no war crimes (by anti-Gaddafi forces)," he said. "If anything illegal has happened, it was individual acts by revolutionaries who were not acting under instructions from the NTC. We have called on the revolutionaries to treat prisoners according to Islamic Shariah and international law."

There is something that I have been meaning to point out about the the Qaddafi mercenaries that is important for every one to remember: Most of them are victims too.

I'm not talking here about the black African immigrants that have been mistaken for mercenaries. They are already twice victimized. First as the abused and second as the accused. I'm talking about the one's who really were fighting against the revolution, the one's who took lives and committed atrocities.

While a handful fit the "Soldier of Fortune" image we have been taught to associate with mercenaries, and some fought out of a confused idealogical loyalty to Qaddafi, many became mercenaries pretty much the same way British seamen in a certain period became sailors, in a word, they were Shanghaied.

If you have been following this uprising for the past 8 months you've heard the stories. Africans who were lured by a "free" plane ride to Tripoli, only when they got there they found a gun in their hands and one at their back, marching them off to war. Others were told that they were needed to fight against atrocities committed against innocent people, or to fight al Qaeda and other terrorists. A tale that is also used to lure high school students in the US to their deaths.

Still others, faced with starving children at home and no job prospects, found it impossible to refuse the chance to earn an illusionary $1000/week for doing this good work. The Qaddafi regime has spent more than four decades cultivating it's skills at luring Africans to war. I will post more on that latter.

I hope that all involved will remember this and treat even the genuine mercenaries with compassion and mercy. As criminals they should be tried and punished according to law. As defeated and captured soldiers they should be objects of our pity, not our vengeance.

As one blogger for the African Herald Express wrote about:
how many are conscripted by Gadhafi and forced to defend themselves or die facing Gadhafi’s opponents and defectors. It is a no win situation for these poor Africans that went to Libya for fortune or were working there when civil war broke out.
If the NTC and the Libyan people do this they will stand high among the nations. They will show to an increasingly violent world, that even though a people sometimes must resort to violence to win their freedom, they will not be ruled by it.

This is the next great lesson you need to teach the world.

Mummar Qaddafi has been especially careful to cultivate loyalty among the Tuaregs, a black African tribe spread over southern Libya, Niger and Algeria. Suggested reading for more background on that relationship should probably include this:
GADDAFI AND THE TOUAREG: Love, hate and petro-dollars

Touareg attitudes to Gaddafi vary wildly, depending on country of origin and history (First published by Monocle Magazine - Online only, March 2011)

Here is the story of one of Qaddafi's Tuaregs mercenaries:
Former Qaddafi Mercenaries Describe Fighting in Libyan War

Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of ethnic Tuaregs left Mali to fight for Muammar Qaddafi. Now, some are returning home to tell their story

TIMBUKTU, Mali — Last month at a guesthouse within sight of the rolling dunes of the open Sahara, I sat down to await one of Muammar Qaddafi’s mercenaries. Through an intermediary he agreed to meet and explain why the Tuareg — an ancient Saharan people who inhabit large desert swathes of Libya, Mali, Niger, and Algeria — would help the Libyan leader crush the democracy protests — including unarmed civilians, women, and children — and eventually join in all-out war against the ensuing rebellion

read more here...

See especially,
Racism in Libya
and
Helter Skelter: Qaddafi's African Adventure
for more on this question.
Click here for a list of my other blogs on Libya

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Why is Chris Hedges calling for "boots on the ground" in Libya?

On September 5th, Chris Hedges wrote a very pessimistic article on Truthdig titled Libya: Here We Go Again. His title reflects the very common view among many on the left in the US that whatever happens in Libya, as with the rest of the world, it's all about the United States. This is also the view held by CCDS and numerous other "left" groups that Libya is just like Iraq [from the US POV] and "we've been through this movie before." In other words, same old stuff, nothing new to see here. Nothing to learn. Whatever the Libyans may have accomplished or are trying to accomplish is not nearly so important as what Hedges thinks the US government wants, and therefore will get, out of the Libyan revolution.

To understand why Hedges is promoting such a pessimistic outlook on the future of Libya, we must, for the moment, skip over the garbage that constitutes the body of his article and "cut to the chase" in the last paragraph where he calls for foreign "boots on the ground", which we will review in full:
The vendettas in Libya have already begun. Government buildings in Tripoli have been looted, although not on the scale seen in Baghdad.
And we might add to that, not even on the scale recently seen in London. As @libya20 tweeted on August 26, "Looting in #Tripoli was much less than that in #London despite there is no police in Tripoli and a lot of them in London" While Qaddafi's luxury villa may have been ransacked and looted and the western media has been throwing up a scare about suspected looting of arms depots, there has been almost no looting of the type that is common in western cities as soon as law and order breaks down. Did Hedges call for a UN "peacekeeping" force to be dispatched to London?
Poor black sub-Saharan African immigrant workers have been beaten and killed.
Although there have been exaggerations in the pro-Qaddafi press, this has been a real problem which the NTC is starting to deal with but as I noted in Racism in Libya, it's not exactly a problem that is new in Libya. Did Hedges call for a UN "peacekeeping" force when 150 black Africans were slaughtered in Tripoli in 2001 and hundreds of thousands were interned in Qaddafi's desert detention camps?
Suspected Gadhafi loyalists or spies have been tortured and assassinated. These eye-for-an-eye killings will, I fear, get worse.
While excesses and atrocities can be found on every side in every war, there is no widespread evidence of "torture and assassination" among those captured by the revolutionary forces. Al Jazeera reported on the same day Hedges published his piece:
In recent days, fighters said they had conducted sweeps through the capital and acted on informants' tips to carry out the targeted arrests of ex-regime members.


The arrests of confirmed Gaddafi loyalists, however, have been limited. Some former high-ranking officials claimed they turned themselves in, including Abdelati Obeidi, former foreign minister, and Jibril Kadiki, former deputy commander of Gaddafi's air defence forces.
Imagine that! Qaddafi loyalists turning themselves in to be "tortured and assassinated." Too bad they didn't check with Truthdig before they made that fatal error. I'm surprised Obeidi is still among the living.

As to Chris Hedges' "fear," I will address that shortly and show that it has absolutely nothing to do with the current situation in Libya.
The National Transitional Council has announced that it opposes the presence in Libya of U.N. military observers and police, despite widespread atrocities committed by Gadhafi loyalists.
Yes, the NTC has very wisely refused any UN or NATO "boots on the ground" and with a little help from NATO and Qatari air power, they have in six months reduced the area in which Qaddafi loyalists are free to commit atrocities to three small and surrounded areas, and there is no reason to believe they can't now finish the job in a month or so without foreign "boots on the ground."
The observers and police have been offered to help quell the chaos,
      September 17th started another school year in Libya..

Children starting school today in LibyaThe chaos which seems to exist only in the minds of those that need it as an excuse for sending in the marines. Imagine the courage of the stream of international heads of state and other dignitaries who have braved the "chaos" to visit Libya's liberated capital, not to mention the courage of ordinary Tripolians who are starting to get back to their normal lives. Yesterday September 17th, was the first day of the school year in Libya and at least some schools started on schedule.
train new security forces and provide independent verification of what is happening inside Libya.
Because now that Qaddafi is gone, Libyans obviously can't be trusted to run their own country. Clearly from this we can see that Hedges doesn't think the Libyan forces that won the civil war can secure the peace but by what logic does the "socialist" and "anti-imperialist" Hedges conclude that a UN force would be "independent?" Independent, perhaps, of the will of the Libyan people, but certainly not independent of the machinations of the NATO imperialists.
But just as Gadhafi preferred to do dirty work in secret, so will the new regime.
What exactly is the basic of this charge? Is the Internet still being blocked? Have there been any restrictions to freedom of the press in liberated Libya? By most accounts the people of Libya and the press have been enjoying a freedom there that they have not known for 42 years. If anything, I think they need to tighten up on the "freedom of the press" a little because while I was very pleased to see the work product of the Qaddafi-era documents that an Al Jazeera reporter smuggled out of the state security building showing the close relationship between the Dennis Kucinich and the Qaddafi regime, I thought it bad that they had been left unguarded and available for the taking. Perhaps that is the 'looting of government buildings' to which Hedges is referring?

He ends his piece with a final shot of cynicism, indicating that he, with his infinite experience in world affairs, doesn't think anything will change or can change.
It is an old truism, one I witnessed repeatedly in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and the Balkans, that yesterday's victims rapidly become today's victimizers.
Well Chris, you have never witnessed a revolution like this before!

So the bottomline is that Chris Hedges is pushing for UN forces on the ground in Libya. He must now be a little embarrassed that a week after he called for them in Libya, UN "peacekeepers" have been charged with rape in Haiti. He should also know, given his extensive experience in the 3rd world, that a UN "peacekeeping" force will in reality do little to keep the peace. Witness the bang up job they did in the Cote d'Ivoire. What they really represent is an opportunity for the great powers, which control the UN and will determine the composition and real agenda of any UN mission to get imperialist "boots on the ground" because as has been point out by a US defense analysts "it may be difficult to cement any victory in Libya without ground troops."

I will not critique the body of his article in the same way. You see how tedious it has been to set right just this last paragraph. However, I will run through a few of the main points so you will understand that I am not being mean when I call it garbage.

If Hedges knew as much about Libya as he claimed, he wouldn't be "waiting for a trucked-in crowd to rejoice." On February 20th Libyan's went to what is now known as Martyrs Square to protest the Qaddafi regime peacefully and in large numbers, about 800 of them were murdered. The people rejoicing there as Hedges penned that line represented the freed people of Tripoli in their tens of thousands and they didn't have to be "trucked in." There is no "occupation" of Tripoli. The uprising from within the city led its liberation on August 20th.

He thinks he knows Libya, but he has only known Libya under the dictatorship Mummar Qaddafi, a man that even Hedges calls "insane" so he has no sound basis for now predicting "chaos and bloodletting." He supported "stopping Gadhafi forces from entering Benghazi." but apparent thinks nothing should have been done to stop him from entering Misrata. He is clearly opposed to NATO having any role in protecting civilians in Sirte now, where Qaddafi may be holding as many and 60,000 people as human shields. Because of that, NATO really can't do much, which why it is turning into a house-to-house slug feast.

He claims the NTC has put the number of Libyan's killed in the civil war at 50,000 whereas their official number is 30,000 according to the interim health minister. The 50,000 figure was given by a colonel according to PressTV.

For a guy that came from Harvard and use to work for the NY Times, to produce work of that quality is to produce garbage. Besides which, it is this last paragraph that contains what we call in filmmaking "the money shot", or in comedy "the punchline", or more appropriately in this case, what we call in business "the bottomline."

And the bottomline is that the "socialist" and "anti-imperialist" Chris Hedges is joining the chorus of voices led by NATO, that now include Russia and China, that are demanding UN intervention, not in the war in Libya but in the peace. Every paragraph that proceeds this is just more garbage heaped on top of garbage in the hopes that by the time you reach what we call in the protest movement "the demand", you won't notice that what he is demanding is the capitulation of the revolution to imperialism.

Beside which, the thinking behind Hedges' dismal outlook for the Libyan revolution really has nothing to do with Libya or the facts on the ground there. If we want to understand what is going on in Chris Hedges' head, rather than spending more time on this piece he recently wrote about Libya, we would be better served by looking at a piece he wrote almost a year before the February 17th uprising. That piece is Zero Point of Systemic Collapse, and although it doesn't even mention Libya, I think we will find a better explanation for his views on Libya there than anything in the more recent piece that we have been examining. Here he sums up his worldview:
We stand on the cusp of one of the bleakest periods in human history when the bright lights of a civilization blink out and we will descend for decades, if not centuries, into barbarity. The elites have successfully convinced us that we no longer have the capacity to understand the revealed truths presented before us or to fight back against the chaos caused by economic and environmental catastrophe. As long as the mass of bewildered and frightened people, fed images that permit them to perpetually hallucinate, exist in this state of barbarism, they may periodically strike out with a blind fury against increased state repression, widespread poverty and food shortages. But they will lack the ability and self-confidence to challenge in big and small ways the structures of control. The fantasy of widespread popular revolts and mass movements breaking the hegemony of the corporate state is just that a fantasy.
So even before it happens, the possibility that the Arab Spring, or any other mass movement could result in any revolutionary, or even long lasting progressive change, is completely denied. Believing this, how could he possibly see a way the Libyan revolution could succeed? More gems from this piece include:
We have undergone, as John Ralston Saul writes, a coup d'etat in slow motion. And the coup is over. They won. We lost.

and

We will begin a period in human history when there will be only masters and serfs.
So you see that the possibility that the Libyan uprising could create anything substantially better that Libya under Qaddafi is completely denied before it even begins. He doesn't need to call on his vast experience in the 3rd world or Libya at all to reach his conclusion, that's just to convince you he knows what he is talking about. And his conclusion is that the Libyan revolutionaries, if there really are any, were beaten before they begin and just don't know it yet.

In other words, Resistance is Futile. Not that Hedges thinks that we should stop resisting:
The increasingly overt uses of force by the elites to maintain control should not end acts of resistance. Acts of resistance are moral acts. They begin because people of conscience understand the moral imperative to challenge systems of abuse and despotism. They should be carried out not because they are effective but because they are right. Those who begin these acts are always few in number and dismissed by those who hide their cowardice behind their cynicism.
If resistance is purely a moral act, with no practical possibility of success, then any compromise to enhance that success can also be denied.
We must continue to resist, but do so now with the discomforting realization that significant change will probably never occur in our lifetime.
This is not a theory for building a popular revolutionary movement.

Chris Hedges thinks that the best thing progressives can do is find a quiet, secure place, perhaps in Canada, to weather the coming storm. I think that is exactly what he should do, or maybe he should go back to the NY Times, if they will have him. That is his proper place. The bourgeois press is already home for many petty-bourgeois cynics.  But he should stop spreading his cynicism and pessimism and he should stop calling himself a progressive. Progressive are people with an optimistic outlook and great faith in what humanity can accomplish and he should certainly stop calling himself a socialist because socialists are revolutionaries that not only wish for a better world and are willing to fight for it, but also have a clear and confident vision of how it can be achieved.

In short, he should get out of the way, go write a long novel or something.

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Worm Has Turned: Good Film on Libyan Revolution from PressTV

This is one of the best films on the Libyan Revolution I have seen anywhere. It starts with the great legacy of Omar Mukhtar. It goes through the 1969 Qaddafi coup, has a good segment on the 1996 prison massacre and shows how that lead to the uprising in February. It shows how the peaceful protesters in Benghazi were attacked by Qaddafi's mercenaries and shows graphically they why they were forced to go over to armed struggle and ends with the story of Mehdi Ziu who gave his life to blast a hole in the Qaddafi fort that helped the people of Benghazi to take it and create the first liberated area in eastern Libya. I highly recommended this 23 minute documentary as a basic introduction to the Libyan revolution.

The film is by British documentary filmmaker Hassan Alkatib. What is most interesting is that it is brought to us by PressTV.

If you don't know who Omar Mukhtar, Hassan Alkatib and Mehdi Ziu are, you need to watch this short film.
Benghazi: The Uprising


Thursday, September 15, 2011

BREAKING NEWS: NATO shouldn't be trusted by Libyans!


Today British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy were in Tripoli to bask in the glory of a successful campaign to remove the murderous dictator Mummar Qaddafi from power.

For once, they did a good deed in stopping Qaddafi from using his air force, navy and heavy weapons to massacre the people of Benghazi, Misrata and Tripoli and they claim that their actions were motivated only by humanitarian concerns. This is certainly not the case.

The US, UK and EU countries made peace with Qaddafi some time ago and had already brought him fully into the imperialist fold before the uprising. He had joined the IMF, established military-to-military relations with the pentagon and, we now know from documents found in Tripoli since it's liberation, the CIA was even using his torture dungeons for "special renditions."

They were happy to keep paying him for Libya's oil no matter how many people he slaughtered to maintain his dictatorship. That is why they made no substantive moves to stay his murderous suppression of the uprising until it had survived it's first month, gone over to armed struggle, and was starting to show that it had staying power.

Today when Sarkozy said "This was a just cause," he told the truth, but when he said there was "no hidden agenda," he lied.

While they were already getting Libya's oil, due to the current world economic crisis, it was critical for them to maintain that supply, and once civil war was looking like it might be settling in for a very long and bloody fight, it was critical that they act to minimize the disruption to "their" oil supply.

In this regards, the world economic crisis served the Libyan revolution in two ways. First NATO countries, unlike with Iraq, which happened at another time under different economic circumstance, couldn't afford years of sanctions against Qaddafi either before or after a massacre and were forced to support the Thuwwar so as to shorten the war and the disruption of the oil supply. Second, they couldn't afford to use the war to create lucrative rebuilding contracts by devastating Libya's infrastructure like they did in Iraq.

The short story is that the capitalist crisis has so weakened the imperialist powers that their options in dealing with the Libyan situation were somewhat limited. This is why the NTC could cut a deal for air support without also accepting NATO boots on the ground. Some, including the NATO leaders themselves, will argue that they are fresh out of boots anyway, but that hardly undercuts my argument that the Libyan revolutionaries benefited from a weaken NATO.

So while today's speeches were full of flowery words about "democracy" and "freedom", what they really want is at least as much influence over Libya as they had under Qaddafi, if not more.

So when Cameron said:
"Let us be clear: This is not finished, this is not done, this is not over."
He no doubt had in mind more than catching Qaddafi and clearing out the remaining pockets of resistance, which the NTC now believes will take another two weeks of siege because their strategy is to avoid bloodshed as much as possible and Qaddafi is holding civilians hostage and using them as human shields in the few areas he still controls.

We are given a clue as to what else NATO may have in mind to complete their mission by a piece that came out in the Christian Science Monitor today:
some US defense analysts warn that it may be difficult to cement any victory in Libya without ground troops.
According to Dr. Nora Bensahel, senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security:
“Without some sort of troops on the ground, the risks go up that this will not be a quick or easy transition.”
The Thuwwar have come this far without NATO boots on the ground and the remaining Qaddafi loyalist seem relatively well contained. I'm sure Qaddafi would have loved nothing better than to pop Cameron and Sarkozy in Tripoli so I'm sure they felt it was well secured before their visit.

Civil society is returning to Tripoli at lightening speed and has been up and running in Benghazi for months. Hell, this evening I'm even seeing tweets that say they have already restored water and electricity to the parts Bani Walid they have just liberated and even Qaddafi's birthplace in Sirte has fallen.

Given all this, it would seem to be a strange time to be talking about boots on the ground but not only NATO but now the Russians and the Chinese have been calling for some sort of international "peace keeping force" now that the war has ended. Everybody wants an opportunity to get their spooks on the ground so that they can "influence" Libya's future.

IMHO, Libya's answer should be "thanks, but no thanks," Libya is for the Libyans now and so is their oil.

In a related story, documents captured in Tripoli and revealed yesterday, show just how close NATO was to Qaddafi before the uprising began. Britain was posed to upgrade the T-72 tanks of the feared and hated Khamis Brigade just before the Libya uprising started according to Public Service Europe:
Documents captured in Tripoli show just how close Britain came to enhancing the capabilities of Gaddafi's elite forces

Just days before the Libyan revolution commenced, General Dynamics UK - a subsidiary of General Dynamics US - was poised to commence with an £85m contract to upgrade Colonel Gaddafi's military. This deal was signed three years ago with the then Labour Government's blessing. After former Prime Minister Tony Blair brought Gaddafi back in from the cold, British defence manufacturers were given free rein to offer Libya their products.

In total, Blair helped secure some £350m worth of defence contracts. As well as the General Dynamics UK agreement, this also included an MBDA deal for £147million - for the supply of anti-tank missiles and £112m for a communications system. Other deals for air-to-air missiles and patrol vessels worth a further £600m never came to fruition. General Dynamics UK supplies the Bowman tactical communications and data system to the British Army, and has exported it to the Netherlands and Romania.
...
Documents unearthed in the barracks of Gaddafi's elite Khamis Brigade show that the Libyans were preparing to have 22 vehicles, including T-72 tanks and other armoured vehicles upgraded with new communications equipment on the eve of the uprising.
Note that the company doing the upgrade, General Dynamics, is one of the biggest defense contractors in the US, but this deal was done by it's UK subsidiarity to skirt the US prohibition on selling weapons to Qaddafi.

It is quite likely that the tanks to be upgrade were among those used against Libyan civilians and subsequently destroyed by NATO air strikes.

Since it is unlikely that NATO countries were upgrading Qaddafi's tanks so that he could use them against Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, and certainly not Israel, it would seem that they should have foreseen that they most likely would be used against the Libyan people. Especially since he had done it before.
ATTENTION CYNTHIA MCKINNEY: Did you know that your "Brother Qaddafi" was friends with, and financially supported a white supremacist group in Canada?
Click here for a list of my other blogs on Libya

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Why NATO's mission in Libya isn't over yet


The pro-Qaddafi activists that claim NATO has long ago overstepped it's stated mission of protecting civilians and have really been engaged in "regime change" have one big problem, Qaddafi, from before UN resolution 1973 was passed until even today, has never stopped endangering and wantonly killing civilians.

Not for one day! Not for one hour in the past 7 months. To wit, we have this report from McClatchy:
BENGHAZI, Libya — Libyan rebels have broken off their assault on a key city south of Tripoli after discovering that forces loyal to ousted dictator Moammar Gadhafi there had placed Russian-made Grad rockets and mortars on the roofs of houses filled with civilians, the rebels' military spokesman said Sunday.

Col. Ahmed Omar Bani said the decision to halt the rebel offensive on Bani Walid, where Gadhafi's son Saif al Islam is believed to be hiding, made it unlikely the rebels would have full control of the country before the end of September.

Bani said the rebels would maintain their siege of Bani Walid, a town of 70,000 about 100 miles south of Tripoli, while waiting for supporters inside the city to mount operations that would change the situation.

"NATO can do nothing," Bani said of the North Atlantic alliance's airpower, which has proved decisive in the rebels' advances since they began their revolution Feb. 17.

Bani accused the loyalists of shooting Bani Walid residents who try to escape. "Instead of killing 70,000 in Bani Walid, we prefer...to surround the town," he said.
...
Rebel spokesmen also have accused Gadhafi loyalists of using prisoners as human shields in Sirte.
Mummar Qaddafi is a mass murderer and serial killer that won't stop until he is dead or in prison.

Since Qaddafi has chosen that road, since he has persisted in killing civilians to the very end, he has made NATO's legal mission of protecting civilians synonymous with ending his regime.

Had he at any time targeted his fire only at the freedom fighters these Qaddafi supporters may have been able to argue NATO was overstepping it's bounds and just backing one side in a civil war. But he has not, even in his last days, he has given NATO only two choices, either abandon their mission of protecting civilians or prosecute the war until Qaddafi is put out of their misery.

NATO's mission isn't over until Qaddafi is dead or in prison.
But while the final battle has been delayed, the reconstitution of civil society is moving full speed ahead:
LIBYA: Civil society breaks through
BENGHAZI, 16 August 2011 (IRIN) - Sidelined under Muammar Gaddafi, Libyan civil society organizations are beginning to assume an important role in helping the most vulnerable in “liberated” areas.

"After 42 years of doing the wrong things, people are now doing the right things,” said Khaled Ben-Ali, head of the Libyan Committee for Humanitarian Aid & Relief (LibyanAid).

Speaking from Benghazi Ben-Ali said he had been overwhelmed by ordinary Libyans’ ability to mobilize and organize, starting new organizations from scratch.

International NGOs, too, speak with admiration of the “volunteering spirit” shown in Benghazi and other areas administered by the rebel Transitional Council. “I have seen this in other conflicts, but never with this kind of dimension,” a senior health official who preferred anonymity told IRIN.

“Even if we wanted to put on a children’s fair, we had to associate it with something political, related to one of Gaddafi’s claimed achievements,” said Amina Megheirbi, looking back at the attempts by fledgling Libyan civil society organizations to get their own activities off the ground prior to the events of 2011.

After an academic career in the USA and United Arab Emirates (UAE), Megheirbi now works as an English lecturer at Benghazi’s Garyounis University. But she has long combined academic duties with community work, trying to identify needs and provide assistance to the more vulnerable members of society.

Trying to operate independently under Gaddafi meant dealing with a heavily centralized system, in which Gaddafi’s own famous Green Book was meant to be a sacred text and principal point of reference.

Even the Scouts, active in Libya since the 1950s, had to tread carefully, said scouting veteran Tarek Alzletny, noting that it was Gaddafi’s own organizations that had the state’s support.

Megheirbi and others endured lengthy battles to get registered by the authorities, and a climate of suspicion where individuals were constantly being vetted and quizzed on their intentions. Why did they want to help impoverished communities in a society “where there were officially no poor people”? A low profile was often essential. There was constant pressure on new groups to work under the umbrella of organizations created by the state or members of the ruling family, notably the Waatasemu Charity Association established by Gaddafi’s daughter, Ayesha.

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Libya

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Libya's Freedom Fighters: How They Won

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Now that Tripoli is more or less secure, more stories are coming out that help us understand how the Libyan freedom fighters were able to achieve such a rapid victory over Mummar Qaddafi in his capital of 42 years. I want to use today's diary to share with you some of the more enlightening material I have found.

Nicolas Pelham has a very good piece in the New York Review of Books, August 29 2011, that gives us a good overview of the planning and perpetration that went into the assault:
Hatched in capitals across Europe and the Arab world, as well as in rebel operation rooms secretly organized in Libya itself, the military campaign took four months of planning. In May, exiled opposition leaders abandoned their jobs as lecturers in American colleges and established an intelligence-gathering bureau on Djerba, the Tunisian island across the border from Libya. Led by Abdel Majid Biuk, an urbane mathematics teacher from Tampa, Florida, the team interviewed four hundred Qaddafi security officers who defected following the loyalist defeat in Misrata; using Google Earth, they analyzed the colonel’s defenses. “We went through the whole city building by building to ascertain its fortifications,” Biuk told me on his arrival in Tripoli.

He passed the data on to a military operations room elsewhere on Djerba whose staff included representatives of NATO and Gulf allies as well as Libyan army veterans who had defected to the US and formed the National Front for the Salvation of Libya (NFSL), an opposition group that led a series of aborted coups in the 1980s and 1990s, before branching into website campaigns. Under the eyes of Tunisian customs officials, they smuggled satellite phones, which are banned in Tunisia, in ambulances across the border into Libya, and set about supplying the rebels. Chevrons were daubed on a straight stretch of road at Rahebat in the Nafusa Mountains, turning it into a landing strip. Military supplies began arriving by the planeload, including 23-caliber tank-piercing bullets.

Tunisia provided a conduit for fighters as well as arms. With Qaddafi’s continued control of the center of the country blocking access over land, Benghazi volunteers took a circuitous route, flying from Egypt to Tunis, before crossing the border at the Tunisian town of Dehiba into the Nafusa Mountains. By mid-August they had established five brigades each with its own mountain training base, and together formed a two-thousand-man battalion under Hisham Buhajiar’s command as well as that of Abdel Karim Bel Haj, a Libyan veteran of the Afghan jihad. Trainers included NFSL veterans. Younger Libyans raised in the US, including the son of a Muslim Brotherhood activist from a US-based company, provided close protection. As they prepared the final stages of their assault, a host of Berber irregulars drawn from towns across the mountains jumped on board. Meanwhile, a collection of local traders, engineers, students, and the jobless from Misrata, battle-hardened by their seventy-day defense of their city, reassembled their brigades and prepared to join the attack on Tripoli from the east, by both road and sea.

Finally, the planners on Djerba divided Tripoli into thirty-seven sectors, and appointed local security coordinators to recruit, train, and arm local cells, using Muslim Brotherhood leaders to bless an armed uprising. “Our first slogan was ‘no’ to the militarization of the intifada,” says Ali al-Salabi, a Muslim Brotherhood politician in exile who worked with the planners, and who was among the first to arrive in Tripoli after Qaddafi’s inner sanctum fell. “But after protesters were gunned down, we realized armed revolution was the only way.”

Among the gunrunners was Salima Abu Zuada, a twenty-six-year-old legal adviser at Qaddafi’s Transport Ministry, who had learned to drive tanks as part of her high school military training. After fleeing to Tunisia in April, she made eight trips by road and tugboat, smuggling hundreds of guns and rocket-propelled grenades back to Tripoli. “Qaddafi didn’t suspect us,” she says. “He thought all women loved him.” Qaddafi’s intelligence chief, Abdullah Senussi, was more wary, however. On two occasions his spooks in Tunisia, she says, tried to run her off the road.

On Saturday, August 20, as dusk descended and the mosques sounded the prayer call for breakfast, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, Qaddafi’s meek-seeming former justice minister who now heads the NTC, went on television to deliver an address. Before he had finished, the rebel flag was flying over Suq al-Juma and other Tripoli neighborhoods. Meanwhile, NATO forces intensified their bombardment of loyalist positions on the western outskirts of Tripoli, stretching to its limits their UN mandate to protect civilians. As the colonel’s forces abandoned their bases, they found themselves sandwiched between rebels sweeping in from the mountains and Tripolitans carving out their own enclaves. Challenged on multiple fronts, Qaddafi’s forces melted away.

The speed of the conquest may yet contain the seeds of its disintegration. Without a common enemy, the diverse opposition could quickly unravel once its composite parts start jostling over the spoils. Already each of the participating groups is leveraging the instrumental role it played in the victory to promote its own interests. Despite earlier protestations that they had no troops on the ground, NATO officials have begun leaking laudatory details of the part played by their special forces in supporting the rebel army. So too have Arab states such as Qatar; and not to be outdone, Turkey has released details of its hundreds of millions in cash handouts to the rebels in the hope that the NTC might both honor the huge contracts Qaddafi gave Turkish construction companies and include Turkey in postwar reconstruction.

While Nicolas Pelham gives us the big picture Al Jazeera's Evan Hill gave us a window into one Tripoli families experiences:
On the night of August 20, after six months of bloody revolution, the rebels were tightening their grip on Tripoli. Fighters allied with the NTC had seized Zawiya, 50km to the west, and were pushing closer to Gaddafi's last stronghold.

In central Tripoli, the Shtawi family watched the news on television. Mustafa Abdul Jalil, chairman of the NTC, appeared on TV late in the evening.

"We have always called Tripoli the capital of a free Libya … [and] we are depending on you to protect your wealth, your ports and your national institutions," said Jalil. "We have contacts with people from the inner circle of Gaddafi. All evidence [shows] that the end is very near, with God's grace."

Jalil's remarks echoed through Tripoli homes like a battle cry.

"That was zero hour," said Nuri Shtawi, business development manager for the Sahara Petroleum Services Company and one of the Tripoli uprising's many informal organisers.

Shtawi's nephew, Anis, a 21-year-old economics major at Tripoli University, took up an AK-47 he had kept hidden. Months earlier, he and his brother, Esam, had been taken to a farm outside Tripoli where a family friend who once served as a military bodyguard for a regime official taught the brothers how to shoot.

"Just pray for me, that I die as a martyr," Anis told his father, Mohammed, a legal adviser for the Libya African Investment Company and another organiser.

Then he left, heading several kilometres east through the winding, darkened streets of the city centre, to a prearranged point near the al-Mahary Radisson Hotel. He would meet dozens of other armed men, most of them dressed in black.

Outside, the city's mosques sang "God is great, God is great". Amina, one of Mohammed's daughters, described this as the night's "beautiful moment". Tripoli's underground organisers, spread across neighbourhoods and connected in a web of ad-hoc committees, had asked the mosques to do so.
The family recounted February 21st - Tripoli's Long Night
The fight for Tripoli began in February, when thousands of residents took to the streets in solidarity with Benghazi, the eastern center of resistance. Protesters there had overthrown the city's military garrison and won the defection of Jalil, Gaddafi's former justice minister, and Abdul Fattah Younis, former interior minister. In Tripoli, things would not go so quickly.

Esam, a 21-year-old dental school, went to the central Green Square on February 20. The plaza, traditionally a rallying site for Gaddafi and supportive crowds, was for a brief moment flooded with shocked protesters.

"People went because they thought Gaddafi was gone," he said. "We heard that he went to Venezuela. We were so happy."

But as Esam looked on, Gaddafi's security forces entered the square. They brought anti-aircraft guns and turned them on the unarmed protesters.

"There was a big stage, and there were lots of people on [it]. The brigades came from the side streets and started shooting people. All the people on the stage were killed," he said.
There is evidence to suggest that the rumor that Qaddafi had fled to Venezuela was actually state sponsored and a setup designed to flush out the activists in Tripoli and set them up to be murdered en mass.

Some people had an response to NATO bombing that Cynthia McKinney never mentioned.
Beginning in March, when NATO air strikes began targeting regime bunkers, offices and military camps in and around the capital, the family rejoiced. Neighbourhood boys could be heard whistling, a way of cheering the jets, and some families wrote "Thank you, NATO" on their rooftops.

The family believed intervention was necessary and did not fear the disastrous invasion that Saif al-Islam and other regime officials had warned would follow.

"If NATO didn't come, Benghazi, Misrata, Zawiya, even some places here in Tripoli were going to be destroyed," Nada said. "We were very worried. Misrata people had suffered through so much, and Brega was hard to get because it was important."
Mohammed tells of the months of preparation.
Mohammed propped a scrapbook on his knees that contained dozens of stiff red pages; a piece of white paper had been carefully clipped to each one. The pages bore the eagle stamp of the Gaddafi regime, and those that Mohammed showed bore marks indicating they had come from the Internal Security agency.

Each one was a transcript of a recorded phone conversation, Mohammed said. Most of the conversations took place during the past six months of fighting. They had been leaked to Tripoli's rebel organisers by friends inside the regime. Mohammed declined to allow the transcripts to be photographed or copied, but he read out the contents of some.

In one conversation, two men named Abdelfattah and Abdelbaset, speak by phone about "small ships coming by sea".

"How are the sheep?" Abdelbaset asked.

"They're fine, thanks be to God," Abdelfattah responded. "But listen: One of the female sheep has a toothache."

The sheep referred to weapons, Mohammed said, and the toothache indicated the men believed they had a spy in their ranks.

In another conversation, dated July 17, a man phoned his friend to say he had spotted 70 cars with mounted Grad rockets and 106mm recoilless rifles leaving the southern town of Gatroun on the way to a place called Om al-Aranub.

"We have 600 cars," the man said, suggesting he is a rebel field commander. "We're a big force, but the men are not well trained. We need help from NATO."

The regime convoy came from the direction of al-Wigh, a nearby town with an airbase, he said. "If you need the coordinates, I'll send them to you in a message."

Nuri and Mohammed said rebel organisers in Tripoli had hundreds of contacts in various offices within the regime willing to help. The evidence of leaked files, access to weapons and the speed and scope of the uprising in the capital suggest they told the truth.

Many of the insiders wanted to abandon the government but were convinced to stay, Nuri said. Those who remained with Gaddafi proved invaluable, tipping off organisers when they heard of plans to arrest a member of the opposition leadership.

Nuri and Mohammed stayed out of military affairs. Instead, they spread news to Libyans and foreign media, sent money to Misrata and medical camps in Tunisia, and prepared their neighourhoods.

They produced pamphlets, handed out in secret, that gave instructions on how women might combat rape attempts. One pamphlet advised, "Tell him, 'Imagine this is your sister, or your mother.' Look him in the face".

They argued with friends and neighbours to convince them that NATO's intervention was good.

"We wanted people to be patient, pray. [We told] them why we want to get rid of Gaddafi, not get him necessarily, but his philosophy," Nuri said.

Victory at last

As the mosques chanted "God is great" on August 20, Anis and his companions fired their guns in the air to draw out Gaddafi's forces. In the streets, alleys and midans of a seaside neighbourhood called Zawiyat al-Dahmani, they waited.

Soon, four cars bearing anti-aircraft guns and around 25 men came down Anis's street. His men opened fire with their assault rifles, and the heavy regime weapons blasted back. From cover, some of the young fighters hurled petrol bombs and joulateen, cans packed with TNT that traditionally have been used for fishing.

Some of the regime troops went down, and two fighters with Anis were injured. The retreating loyalist forces left the bodies of their fighters behind and fired a rocket-propelled grenade in an attempt to destroy a remaining anti-aircraft gun the rebels were trying to seize.

The fighting lasted from sunset until the next morning. Eventually, the rebels surrounded the remaining government troops. They took 11 prisoners, including two women.

At 1 pm, they lifted the rebel flag over the Supreme Court building.

France24 Reporter Mathieu Mabin went into Tripoli on August 20th with the Tripoli brigade and provides this excellent 35 minute report in two parts that gets you close up and personal in this fight as few others have done. In the interview at the end of part 2, he says that he saw no British SAS or other nation's special forces on the ground for the assault on Tripoli and he is certain that the Tripoli brigade wasn't being ordered about or trained by any. Of course, you are invited to watch his report, judge his creditability, and look for them yourselves.

FRANCE 24 Reporters: The Tripoli Brigade (part 1)
FRANCE 24 Reporters: The Tripoli Brigade (part 2)
Click here for a list of my other dairies on Libya

Monday, September 12, 2011

Racism in Libya

Twitter Summary: Some see in Libyan racism an opportunity to attack the revolution. Others see in the revolution an opportunity to attack racism.


Arab prejudice against blacks has a long and ignoble history. Racism against Africans has been a problem of long standing in Libya. Whereas progressives see the current revolutionary situation in Libya as an opportunity to combat this disease and built a new unity between Africans and Arabs free at last from Qaddafi's meddling, some pro-Qaddafi "left" groups are attempting to use Libyan racism, both real and exaggerated, to attack the revolution. They do this by denying that racism was ever a problem under Qaddafi and "discovering" it among those they still insist on calling the "rebels."

To hear them tell it, you'd think the Klu Klux Klan just took over in Libya. This alarmist piece from the Party for Socialism and Liberation is typical of this line. FYI, PSL is the leading member of the ANSWER Coalition:
NATO’s rebels are lynching black people in Libya [30/08/2011]

It is now beyond doubt, and being reported widely: While NATO has been pounding Libyan cities and massacring civilians with thousands of air strikes, the NATO-led “rebels” have been rounding up, targeting, beating and lynching darker skinned Libyans and immigrant workers from other African countries.

No one should be surprised. Imperialism, racism and attacks on immigrant workers go hand in hand.

In the battle for the working-class neighborhood of Abu Salim in Tripoli, where resistance to NATO was strong, NATO warplanes bombed indiscriminately and the “rebels” swept through the wreckage, kicking down doors and slaughtering civilians, many of whom were trapped in the neighborhood precisely because of the saturation bombing.
This is a very warped view of reality. Take, for example, the claim of "saturation bombing." Does PSL even have a clue what they are talking about? Operation Rolling Thunder in Vietnam was an example of saturation bombing. It involved 306,183 strike sorties that dropped 864,000 tons of bombs and probably killed over a million Vietnamese. Nothing like that has happened in Libya.

While the PSL says "NATO warplanes bombed indiscriminately and the “rebels” swept through the wreckage," Reuters tells it somewhat differently,
Libyan rebels stormed Tripoli's Abu Salim district, one of the main holdouts of forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi in the capital, on Thursday after a NATO airstrike on a building in the area, a Reuters correspondent said.

Rebel fighters were sweeping through houses to flush out snipers and were emerging with dozens of prisoners, the correspondent said, adding that gunfights were ongoing.
So "saturation bombing" turns out to be "a NATO airstrike on a building." NATO hit a grand total of 3 targets in Tripoli on the day Abu Salim fell in some of the hardest fighting of the whole Tripoli campaign. They hit that building in Abu Salim and, for their own safety, two surface-to-air missile launchers somewhere around the city. A lot of brave freedom fighters gave their lives to liberate Abu Salim that day but these "anti-imperialists" will give all the credit for the victory to NATO and it's 3 strike "saturation bombing."

They lack a similar sense of proportion when it comes to their charges of racism among the revolutionary forces. The purpose of these exaggerations is to warn off anyone who might be inclined to rethink their opposition to intervention and support the revolution:
The racist crimes of the rebels, however, should clear up illusions by those in the anti-war movement that the rebels are progressive in any way.
While many of these "anti-interventionists" claim only to be anti-NATO and 'neutral' with regards to Libya's civil war, the truth is that they long ago threw their lot in with Qaddafi. Now that their predictions that NATO boots on the ground would be required to beat Qaddafi have fallen flat, and the popular support they claimed for Qaddafi in Tripoli and western Libya has been shown to be an illusion, and especially now that the truth about the Qaddafi regime's horrific crimes against humanity are coming to light, they have turned to the most cynical forms of demonization of the revolution as their last defense.

After all, if some unknown Arab painted a racist slogan on a wall between Misrata and Tawergha, why not reprinted it a thousand times and condemn the whole movement for it. If some unprofessional citizen soldiers commit errors in the heat of battle, why not use that to smear the whole revolution in a effort to turn the clock back to Qaddafi's systematic and state sponsored racist violence.

So before we can address the real history of racism in Libya or the very real problems of the present, we must deal with these damning charges of "lynching of black people" and "racist demonization campaigns and pogroms."

On September 4th, Human Rights Watch issued a report in which they called on the new Libyan authorities to stop the arbitrary arrest of black Africans, and while they made that critique, and many others with which I agree, they also said:
Human Rights Watch has not found evidence of killings of Africans in Tripoli or systematic abuse of detainees, but the widespread arbitrary arrests and frequent abuse have created a grave sense of fear among the city’s African population.
So no "lynchings," no "pogroms," although there is some evidence for lynchings six months ago in Benghazi the first time protesters seized a fort and captured some snipers.

And the truth is that Africans in Libya have every reason to fear that they are in grave danger. For example, Nubianem wrote of "events [that] occurred a few months ago when thousands of Nigerians, Ghanians and other West Africans were lynched, attacked and killed in the streets of Libya," but he was not talking about Libya after the fall of Qaddafi, he is writing in December 2001 about events that took place under Qaddafi's watch almost ten years ago.

The US state department had a lower body count:
In October Libyan mobs killed an estimated 150 Africans, including a Chadian diplomat, in the worst outbreak of antiforeigner violence since Qadhafi took power in 1969. Government security forces reportedly intervened to stop the violence, but then deported hundreds of thousands of African migrant workers by driving them in convoys to the southern border and leaving them stranded in the desert (see Section 6.e.).
Arab Racism

The core problem here is Arab racism towards black Africans and that wasn't created by the freedom fighters, many of whom are black Libyans, BTW. Some of the army officers that came over to the revolution the earliest were black. And it wasn't even created by the self-styled "King of all African Tribes" Mummar Qaddafi, although he is one of the relative few that has managed to reap a handsome profit from it. It goes back over a thousand years and is closely associated with the slave trade.

Writing about modern day Arab racism in the Nigerian Village Square Moses Ebe Ochonu says in 2005:
The case of the Sudan is perhaps the most vivid, poignant, and irrefutable example of Arab racism against black Africans. Let it be noted that until the Janjaweed and their racist and murderous Sudanese government backers gave a bad name to the art of hating, marginalizing, and murdering blacks, Arabs never quite saw the raiding of black villages for slaves and cattle, especially in Southern and Western Sudan, as a crime. The racism which propels these practices was increasingly authorized (and rationalized) by the discourse of the distinction, within Islam, between dar-al Islam (the abode of Islam) and dar-al-harb (the abode of war and unbelief). For many Arabs, the historical description of blacks as slaves and servile presences in the Arab world is hard to unlearn. Descriptive categories etched in received grand-narratives and myths can only be dismantled through a self-conscious (and self-critical) denunciation of prejudices constructed in a historical time and place as a function of power.

Arabs still generally regard the Darfur genocide as a public relations disaster rather than as a barbaric racist war against black people. We have yet to hear unequivocal condemnation of the Sudanese government's racist practices from Arab states. To do that would be hypocritical because some of these states themselves condone the racist practices of mavericks or practice anti-black racism in their own official policies. For instance, black African immigrants are routinely killed, maimed, and their houses and properties destroyed in Ghadaffi's Libya--- the same Ghadaffi who wants to be the leader of a politically united African super-state. Africans have become jaded about Ghadaffi's feeble condemnations of anti-black riots in his country and the ad-hoc and sterile apologies he offers after each tragic episode.
Arab racism is itself but a poor relative of white racism, which was also developed to justify the very profitable African slavery and from which the Arabs also suffer, so it is at the same time both a tragedy and a comedy that in many Arab countries we see things like this:
Fair & Lovely, a popular whitening cream, advertises itself on Arabic TV when a model is rejected for being too dark, only to be ecstatically accepted after a few weeks of applying the magic cream.
Among the Arabs as among the black Africans, there is a kind of racism within racism that exists in which you are judged by how light your skin is. Meanwhile, all the white people are out buying creams to make their skins darker, but such is the human condition we are dealing with.

Qaddafi's use of racism

Qaddafi's method of rule was classic divide and conquer. First he pitted Arabs against Africans and then within those two large groups, he pitted tribe against tribe. The Berbers he put in a class by themselves. They weren't even allowed to speak their native tongue even though they have inhabited these lands for more than three thousand years.

One method he used was to spend a lot of talk and a little money to insure the support and loyalty of some black Libyans and well as other selected black Africans.

While PSL would have you see Abu Slim as a simple, patriotic working class Libyan neighborhood. Other more detailed descriptions tell us what was unique about it and why the people there fought for Qaddafi like no place else in Tripoli:
The Abu Slim neighborhood near Gaddafi's Bab al-Aziziyah compound has long been a regime stronghold manipulated carefully by the ruling family. "Saif al-Islam used to come here and give kids 200 dinars and a Kalashnikov. Khamis would come too," says Ramadan Ali Osman, whose apartment was destroyed in the recent fighting. A poor neighborhood, populated lightly with regime officials and a large number of African migrants, Abu Slim proved a ripe recruiting ground for cheap government fighters. "They would drive in — the brigades — and recruit kids for their forces," says Osman. Just days before the rebels captured Tripoli, residents say Gaddafi's son Saadi was the last one to make an appeal. "Saadi came here to form a brigade out of the youth," says Adil Masoud Moussa, a resident. "He gave money to a big boss in the neighborhood to give to the youth to fight against anyone who hated his father."
So in a desperate ploy that had no chance of saving the regime, Qaddafi's son was in this poor black Tripoli neighborhood handing out guns and money to African youth and imploring them to fight to the death for Qaddafi, and now certain pro-Qaddafi "leftists" want to lay the resulting deaths at the feet of the revolution with charges of racism. That is how matters really stand.

Writing in the Cedi Post last September, Kwame E. Bidi tells us of another way Qaddafi profited from racism:
Addressing the European Union (EU) in Rome, Gaddafi warned that “Europe runs the risk of turning “black” unless the EU pays Libya at least €5 billion (£4.1 billion) a year to block the arrival of illegal immigrants from Africa”. He continued, “Tomorrow Europe might no longer be European and even black as there are millions (of Africans) who want to come in. He described the migration pattern as something “very dangerous”.

If one analysis Gaddafi’s statements critically, it comes out clear that he is essentially saying, “Europe, you need to protect your prestigious white identity and prevent it from being blackened by the influx of black African people”.

He is actually playing the race card quite subtly, by appealing to the racial prejudice of the European people. Thus, he not only referred to the potential risks posed by illegal immigrants as undesirable consequences, but also that, black faces in Europe, whether legal or otherwise in itself, constitutes a danger to white European identity.

Gaddafi bolstered his dislike for black people and then projected his own racial bias on white European Christians when he further remarked, “We don’t know what will happen, what will be the reaction of the white and Christian Europeans faced with this influx of starving and ignorant Africans”.
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After his speech, one Italian MP, Luigi de Magistris, criticized the Libyan leader of keeping tens of thousands of African migrants in “concentration camps” in the desert, reported Telegraph, UK.

Gaddafi’s blunt disrespect for black people in general, calls to question the intention behind his call for African unity. Many scholars believe Gaddafi has a hidden agenda against black Africans and that the African Union (AU) was simply a means for him to further his religious and political ambitions in sub-Saharan Africa. One such scholars, Prof. Kwesi Kwa Prah, alleged in 2004 that, Gaddafi’s true objective in AU is to create a space for Arabism and Arab expansionism.
My earlier dairy Helter Skelter: Qaddafi's African Adventure has a lot more about his history with the African Union, his interventions in Africa's wars and his African immigrant policy, however it was written before he was forced out.

Since the liberation of Tripoli, we have also been able to learn more about the plight of immigrants under Qaddafi's rule. For example, there is one group of homeless black African immigrants that have been living under tarps strung between boats in a small Tripoli fishing port. The war has been especially disruptive for them. Time reports:
Since the rebel takeover of Tripoli last week, a few philanthropists have ventured into the camp with gifts of food and water, they say. But for months, men with guns used to come to loot and beat people up, the camp's inhabitants say. "They came in here robbing our gas, stealing our property," says Margaret Asanti, a Nigerian who has been at the camp for almost two months with her two young children. She lived a relatively stable existence in Tripoli for 12 years. But she says, "If you take me to my country, I'd be very happy. I'm tired of being in this place."
Also since the fall of Tripoli, indisputable proof of Qaddafi's use of black African mercenaries in his bloody bid to extend his 42 year dictatorship has been pouring in:
In Tripoli Human Rights Watch has found evidence that the Gaddafi government recruited and used African mercenaries from Chad, Sudan, and other countries. Human Rights Watch researchers located a large base used by hundreds of mercenaries from other African countries since February 2011, who were recruited and commanded by the 32nd Brigade of Khamis Gaddafi.
I would add that there is also ample evidence that Qaddafi has employed mercenaries from other Arab and Europeans countries as well and not all black Africans fighting for Qaddafi were mercenaries or even foreigners. As with the Abu Slim district in Tripoli, Qaddafi had curried favors and built loyalties in certain strategic communities.

The black township of Tawergha outside of Misrata is one such community and for four brutal months Tawergha was the staging area for the siege of of Misrata that took thousands of lives. Needless to say there were some hard feelings expressed. The WSJ reported:
The hatred of Tawergha stems from witnesses who say loyalist soldiers were accompanied by hundreds of volunteer fighters from Tawergha when they ransacked and burned dozens of properties in an assault against Misrata and surrounding areas on March 16 to 18.

There are also accounts of rape, with one rebel commander putting the number at more than 150, but they are harder to prove given the stigma attached to the crime in the conservative Muslim nation and the lack of testimony.

Some of the hatred of Tawergha has racist overtones that were mostly latent before the current conflict. On the road between Misrata and Tawergha, rebel slogans like "the brigade for purging slaves, black skin" have supplanted pro-Gadhafi scrawl.

The racial tensions have been fueled by the regime's alleged use of African mercenaries to violently suppress demonstrators at the start of the Libyan uprising in February, and the sense that the south of the country, which is predominantly black, mainly backs Col. Gadhafi.
That sign, presumably in Arabic, that WSJ reported as "the brigade for purging slaves, black skin" has been so widely quoted to prove "the rebels" aren't "progressive in any way" that I wish I could find a picture or at least the orginal Arabic for a second opinion because translation can be a tricky thing. As Moses Ebe Ochonu pointed out:
Arab racism is so deep it is inscribed in the fundamental semantic structure of the Arabic language. Till this day, the generic word or for a black person is the preface "abd," which translates as "slave," as in "Abd"-allah (slave or servant of God). This linguistic norm, among many other racially-charged ones, is an expressive constant which holds true for the entire Arab-speaking world regardless of dialect and orthography.
So indicting the revolution for this sign may be an indictment based on a bad translation of a language that itself has racist roots. You know, like "angel food cake" and "devil's food cake" or the "darker elements" phrase I use below.

The revolution's shortcomings and its immediate tasks.


In their investigation Human Rights Watch didn't find a systematic racist pogrom organized from the top, as the Qaddafi supporters make out. However they did find that black men were being arbitrarily arrested and they did find discrimination in their treatment. Clearly this is wrong and must change.
The widespread neighborhood arrests seem to be a decentralized process, Human Rights Watch said, with no apparent oversight by the NTC. Two Tripoli members of the NTC defended the arrests, saying they were necessary to ensure security and, in the words of NTC member Abdulrzag Elaradi, to “secure the revolution.” But both said that detainees must be treated humanely and the NTC would not tolerate maltreatment or indefinite detention.

At another facility, the Maftuah prison in the Fernaj neighborhood, Human Rights Watch saw about 300 detainees on September 1, including some who had been wounded in fighting. About 50 of the detainees were Libyan and the rest were sub-Saharan Africans. Most of the Africans whom Human Rights Watch interviewed in groups in their crowded cells said that armed men had picked them up for no reason after NTC forces took control of Tripoli.

The conditions for the Libyan detainees were acceptable, but the sub-Saharan Africans were in overcrowded cells with a putrid stench; one cell had 26 people and six mattresses. The African men Human Rights Watch interviewed complained of inadequate water, poor sanitation, and not being allowed to make phone calls to ask family members to bring their documents.
While the NTC faces the most immediate task of putting down all remaining military resistance and rooting out and killing or capturing the leading elements of the Qaddafi regime still at-large, before the freedom fighters can start laying down their weapons and picking up the tools of their former trade, extraordinary care must be taken that the darker elements of Arab racism don't haunt the revolution.

Certainly mercenaries and Libyans who fought for Qaddafi must be rounded up and accessed. Their weapons must be located and seized. This is a military necessity. Some of them should be held for a while. This is also a military necessity. The worst of them should stand trial and face penalties. This is necessary for justice.

But skin color provides little intelligence as to who should be rounded up. The vast majority of the black Africans in Libya are black Libyans or immigrant laborers and asylum seekers. They number in the millions as compared to a few thousand Qaddafi loyalists and mercenaries.

As Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch put it:
“The NTC has legitimate concerns about unlawful mercenaries and violent activity, but it can’t simply arrest dark-skinned men just in case they think they might be mercenaries,” said Whitson. “African migrants have worked in Libya for many years, often carrying out the most unpleasant jobs, and this is no way to treat those who stayed put during the uprising.”
...
“The NTC should stop arresting African migrants and black Libyans unless it has concrete evidence of criminal activity. It should also take immediate steps to protect them from violence and abuse.”
Not only is using the necessity of capturing a few thousand Qaddafi loyalist as a pretext for "throwing a net" over that much larger community of black men of fighting age wrong on a moral and ethical basis, it is a very dangerous military practice for the revolutionary at this time.

First, because in trying to scoop up so many innocent people, they will inevitably allow many important fish to escape their grasp.

Second, because any error on the part of the revolution that even smells of Arab racism, any impropriety whatsoever, will sow doubts about the revolution in the hearts of the people of southern Libya and sub-Saharan Africa and create fertile ground from which the pro-Qaddafi forces can continue their resistance.

This is exactly why PSL and other Qaddafi supporters are giving this story so much play now, but they will never be able to sell it unless the freedom fighters themselves give it some currency. These are questions of immediate tasks.

Future tasks of the revolution

In the long run, the revolution can only be completely successful when all of the supports that represent the foundation for a totalitarian regime like Qaddafi's have been cut away. As long as they exist, the people can never really be united and the sewers of the soul that allow dictatorship to take root and flourish in Libyan society will continue to exist. One of these is inequality between men and women but that is beyond the scope of this piece.

Another is the division between Arabs and Africans, and it must be said frankly that Arab racism is largely the cause and it has resulted in discriminatory treatment of both black Libyans and African immigrants, both legal and illegal.

Under Qaddafi's 42 year reign, not only was this encouraged, it became a matter of state policy. This is the first thing the NTC and the new Libyan government must do. They must overthrow this state policy and the laws and traditions that go with it. Racial, ethnic and tribal equality must rule the day, and not just in the preaching, we've all heard that before, but most importantly, in the practice.

The NTC views, as expressed in A vision of a democratic Libya, provide a good starting point for racial and ethnic equality and justice in the new Libya:
The state to which we aspire will denounce violence, terrorism, intolerance and cultural isolation; while respecting human rights, rules and principles of citizenship and the rights of minorities and those most vulnerable. Every individual will enjoy the full rights of citizenship, regardless of colour, gender, ethnicity or social status.
...
We recognise without reservation our obligation to:
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8. Build a democratic Libya whose international and regional relationships will be based upon:

a. The embodiment of democratic values and institutions which respects its neighbours, builds partnerships and recognises the independence and sovereignty of other nations. The state will also seek to enhance regional integration and international co-operation through its participation with members of the international community in achieving international peace and security.

b. A state which will uphold the values of international justice, citizenship, the respect of international humanitarian law and human rights declarations, as well as condemning authoritarian and despotic regimes. The interests and rights of foreign nationals and companies will be protected. Immigration, residency and citizenship will be managed by government institutions, respecting the principles and rights of political asylum and public liberties.

c. A state which will join the international community in rejecting and denouncing racism, discrimination and terrorism while strongly supporting peace, democracy and freedom.
But more than that will be needed. Prejudices and attitudes that took centuries to develop won't go away over night but the struggle against Arab racism is one that the Libyan people and their government must undertake robustly now and must sustain until it is no longer a hindrance to the people's development and freedom.

LibyaSteadfast Freedom Fighter paralyzed after surviving torture. Reunites with family & cries for forgiveness from his Mom :)
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