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Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Fake History: In 1967 Colonel Gaddafi inherited one of the poorest nations in Africa

Fake news has been much in the news lately. The goal of fake news, of course, is to obscure real news. So the slogan of the fake news promoters might well be "Make News History!" and speaking of history, I thought I'd start the New Year out by blogging about something that is even older than fake news - fake history.

Take for example the fake Left meme on a work in progress, the Libyan Revolution, tt typically begins with this statement: "In 1967 Colonel Gaddafi inherited one of the poorest nations in Africa." This sentence can be found repeated verbatim thousand of times across the Internet:
With this as its starting point, the counter-revolutionary narrative, popular with both the alt-Right and the fake Left, goes on to tell us how Colonel Gaddafi turned Libya into "Africa’s Wealthiest Democracy" before it was turned into a "Terrorist Haven" by "US Intervention." Of the ~30,000 Libyans that died in the struggle to overthrow his 40 year dictatorship, Muammar Gaddafi is the one most mourned by the Western Left. Other than him and his crew, Libyans play bit parts in the fake Left's narrative on Libya. The National Transitional Council  and the thuwar (revolutionaries) were seen as proxies or pawns of the real bad guys of what they labeled "NATO's War on Libya", Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Libya could be ruled by a colonel who outranked his generals because truth telling was not Gaddafi's style, and yet these "truth seekers" on the fake Left used figures reported by the Colonel's government to prove its people were so well off under his rule they couldn't possibly want to revolt on their own. In their copy-paste telling of Libyan history, Muammar Gaddafi was the great brother-leader who transformed Africa's poorest country into its richest. This is far more dramatic than the truth, which is that Muammar took over the richest country in Africa and he robbed it.

I didn't check all 2,840 of the above search results but I did check quite a few and none that I did check cited a source for the claim that in 1967 Libya was one of the poorest nations in Africa. Not being inclined to accept that claim at face value,  I went looking for verification. How does one search for economic data on Libya in 1967? The first useful thing I found was the United Nation's World Economic Survey 1967.

This survey is focused on development and according to it, far from being one of the poorest countries in Africa, Libya was listed as one of the comers.  For example, in discussing economic growth in the period between 1955 and 1965 it says:
As with every other variable, the average subsumes a considerable range of performance, from declines in such countries as Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Colombia and Singapore, to gains of over 10 per cent a year in China (Taiwan), Iran, Israel, Jordan, Liberia, Libya and the Republic of Korea. 
And a table titled, Table 4. Developing countries: distribution according to average annual rate of growth in real gross domestic product, 1955-1965, puts Libya at the top of the list. It ranked above Israel, Kuwait, Taiwan and Saudi Arabia, which were also in the 6% or over column. The Democratic Republic of Congo was at the very bottom of the list, below Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Tunisia, Nigeria, Ghana, Algeria, Cameroon, Sudan, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. The Congo even ranked below Haiti, so perhaps it deserves the dubious title the fake Left is trying to award to pre-Gaddafi Libya in their efforts to prettify a fascist, (again). Another table Libya tops in this 1967 survey is Table 13. Developing countries: rates of increase in per capita production and in school enrolment ratio. With a per capita 1955-1965 GDP growth of 16.7% before Gaddafi came to power, it beat Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Taiwan which rounded out the top 5, and again, sadly, Congo was at the very bottom of the list with a -2.3% decline.

The UN report gave me a clue, but it dealt only with developing countries and is anything but simple to interpret, still it does makes it look like Libya wasn't really one of the poorest countries in Africa. What I found next was more to the point. Classora is a knowledge based website that allows you to create ranking reports based on big data sets like this Ranking of Countries with Highest Per Capita Income (1967) based on World Bank data:

Since this is a ranking of all countries, it is expected that the United States would be at the top, followed by the usual suspects. What is surprising, if we learn our history from fake Left sources, is that in 1967 Libya ranked 26th, just after Japan and ahead of any other African nation, including South Africa, which came in at 35th in per capita income.

The real history is that after high quality oil was discovered there in the mid-1950's, Libya was on a roll. By 1967, it was producing one third of the oil entering the Western European market and by the time Gaddafi took over it was already the fourth largest oil producer in the world. The Petroleum Law of 1955, passed under King Idris I initially imposed a 50% tax on oil concession profits. This was revised upwards in 1961 and 1965. This law stayed in place until 2007 and insured that the Libyan state would have a very strong revenue stream well before Gaddafi was in a position to plunder it.

Rare footage of Libya before Gaddafi

The UN report cited above also documents improvements in infrastructure and education that showed how these revenues were benefiting the whole nation long before Gaddafi's sons learned how to spend millions on parties in Europe.

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi with Carmen Electra at the Opera Ball in Vienna in 2006
This was the Libya that Muammar Gaddafi conquered in 1969, far from "one of the poorest nations in Africa."  This is generally the starting point for the fake Left's defense of Gaddafi and it is a lie. It is inevitably followed by more lies about how great life was under Gaddafi. Mohammed A. Soussi, who now lives in Benghazi, wrote this in response to a the Quora question "What was life like in Libya under Muammar al-Gaddafi?"
Since I was fortunate enough to escape the wrath and misery of the former Libyan leader's regime, I was unqualified to answer the question about life under that dictatorship. However, with the scant response, it occurred to me that I could offer the following approximate translation of a Facebook post published on November 30th by a fellow Libyan who had endured Mr. Gaddafi's rule, and who clearly didn't enjoy it:

The translated post of Mr. S.S., who was opposed to Mr. Gaddafi's regime that lasted for 42 years from 1969 to 2011- in response to some published regrets for the "good old days:"

"While it's true that our current situation [in Libya] doesn't appeal to anyone, but please don't let us feel like we used to be blessed and living in comfort, as well as enjoying the good life for 42 years [under the late Mr. Gaddafi], and in which 42 years we had to do:

- without any good infrastructure, that with the slightest rain resulted in street flooding; without even a decent airport; when a Libyan falls sick, he [or she] would travel abroad for treatment; with neither good healthcare, nor respectable education; when overnight private property is outlawed and people snatching the properties of others, creating social unrest [and friction]; with 30 y.o. Libyan single men, and older, are unable to afford marriage; with youth unemployment rate only knowable to God; with Mr. Gaddafi financing the majority of the world's terrorist groups at our expense; seeking self-glory in Africa, while his people are downtrodden; speaking of bread, only God knew Libya's poverty rate, with many unable to afford their daily bread; with Gaddafi destroying the Army and creating instead militias to protect him and his sons, and those were who supported him, whereas the honorable soldiers abandoned him [during the revolution of February 17th 2011]; without the establishment of any state institutions; a rich country with a small population, and yet they didn't see any progress [or benefits, relative to the country's revenue from oil exports]; no one knows about us [the Libyan people], but the whole world knows about him from his foolishness and criminality; Gaddafi was oppressing his people and caused them a multitude of tragedies (like the children AIDS crisis; the embassy incident; the doomed Flight 92; the international sanctions and travel bans for several years; street hangings; etc...); He continued to lie to us for 42 years; He could have made us the best nation in the world; He would suddenly declare that we should only eat fava beans, because meats are only fit for animals; I'm sure that I have forgotten other issues that afflicted us for 42 years.

Like I had said at the outset, the current situation [in post-Gaddafi Libya] is frustrating and hurtful, and this is not what the revolution was all about, but don't make it sound like in his days we had it good, and all life's niceties were in abundance; or to deny that we were hurting in his regime, and we couldn't even blur one letter of protest, since you well know what would happen to anyone who did speak out. In summary, for 42 years, Gaddafi had allowed us to enjoy a splendid and dignified life, without any needs, and we just self-destructed and decided to deprive ourselves of those bountiful goods and blessings that engulfed us????"
On this same forum others repeated the fake Left boilerplate on Libya's Gaddafi until  one anonymous writer posted this very insightful explanation about why answers to the question differed so greatly.
It depends on who you ask. There’s three types who always answer:
  1. The person outside Libya but benefited from Gadaffi. Gadaffi supported poor Muslims around the world by building mosques and schools where other nations like Saudi Arabia ignored them. There are schools and mosques in Sri Lanka and the Philippines built by him. Others like people in Sub Saharan Africa and other fractions around the world got direct funds from him and/or military training in Libya. This was heavily criticized because the groups he supported were known to be criminal gangs and warlords in their respective countries. Anyway, these people will say he was a saviour, a god, a great man who came to deliver them from western oppression. These usually go on the internet with copy and paste articles of all the false propaganda about Gadaffi.

  2. As in any country in the world there will always be people who directly benefit from whichever government is in power. This is a universal thing. These Libyans miss the good old days of being under the rule of Gadaffi and supported him. If your life was nice of course you’re going to miss it and support whoever made your life good.

  3. The third is the ordinary Libyan citizen. Libya was a hell hole under Gadaffi. People weren’t free, they couldn’t object to anything Gadaffi did otherwise they would have been killed. While he did develop the country, King Idres was really the one who started to build Libya from barren Desert. Gadaffi was insane; he had a personality cult like that of North Korea. His green book was full of nonsense. Those copy and paste articles about free education, healthcare etc are all false. If Gadaffi was such a great leader why would his people rebel against him? Libya wasn’t this great paradise people made it out to be. Simple food and goods was hard to get. Only Palestinians got government grants and that wasn’t much hence not many Palestinians migrated to Libya. Health care might be free but it was horrible; lack of doctors, equipment etc Libyans had to go to secretly go to other countries to get treatment. Education was free but it was really awful. The amount of money Libya had it didn’t reach down to the average person. Gadaffi lived a grandeur life; all his kids were spoil rich brats. He even paid Juventus millions to allow his son to play on their team but then was kicked out cause he was such an awful player.
The only place he belonged was a mental institution.
Just for reference, these were the poorest nations in Africa in 1967, countries like Rwanda, that had a per capita GDP in 1967 that was 1/23rd what it was in Libya that year:

Brain Fart!! I've been so focused on overturning the notion that the Libya Gaddafi took over was broke down and poor, that I have completely ignored the ugly assumption made by these friends of Gaddafi [meaning all 2,840 cut & pasters] by their choice of the word "inherited" to describe Gaddafi's takeover of the Libyan state. Not only does it imply that he had a certain entitlement to dictatorship, it justifies it with a practise that raises serious social justice concerns even in the sphere in which it's generally applied.

and BTW   -     HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Libya

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

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