Featured Post

The white-Left Part 1: The two meanings of white

Monday, March 9, 2015

How Noam Chomsky cleans up Mummar Qaddafi

Recently, the whole world was horrified after witnessing the live burning death of a Jordanian pilot by the terror group ISIS. It was less widely publicized that the late Libyan dictator Mummar Qaddafi also fancied this way of doing away with his enemies. This YouTube video was posted 14 June 2011 with the title "A Libyan Freedom Fighter Burned Alive for Not Saying Gaddafi is King of Kings." Warning, it contains disturbing images. The description reads:
One of Gaddafi's military orders a Libyan freedom fighter to say "al-fateh" (in reference to Gaddafi's 1969 revolution) and say that Gaddafi is the 'King of Kings'. The Libyan freedom fighter refuses and instead repeatedly says "La ilaha illa Allah, Muhammad Ar-Rasool Allah" (There is only one God and Muhammad is His Messenger). Gaddafi's agent then pours gasoline on the freedom fighter and burns him to death.
Qaddafi apologist Steve Walt of Harvard University wasn't telling the truth when he said in Foreign Policy, 4 April 2011, that "Despite ubiquitous cellphone cameras, there are no images of genocidal violence," while implying that claims of atrocity "smacks of rebel propaganda."

Even though many of the YouTube channels that once carried this material have disappeared, there is still plenty of video proof of Mummar Qaddafi's wanton disregard for human life. Consider this brief selection, watch them for an education, but be forewarned, they contain extreme graphic violence:
This last atrocity was also reported by France24. The video carries the description:
Tyrant Gaddafi burnt soldiers in Benghazi, Libya who refused his orders to attack innocent citizens in Libya. About 60 were burnt with a military flame blower. The hysterical crying of men can be heard.
The same day that video was uploaded Qaddafi's forces slaughtered seven hundred peaceful protesters in Green Square. I reported on it in February 21st - Tripoli's Long Night. The burning alive of his own soldiers demonstrates the methods Qaddafi used to get his forces to commit such atrocities. This is how he ruled Libya for 42 years with extreme terror and violence among his many methods.

In February 2011 a widespread revolt against his rule became the Libyan contribution to the Arab Spring. Everywhere it was met by massive state violence. As a result, the fight against the dictatorship soon became an armed struggle. It was strongest in the East where rebels first armed themselves by taking a local military post with home-made weapons. When Qaddafi sent General Abdul Fattah Younis east to put down the revolt and he instead joined it, together with his command of 8,000, including 3,000 Libyan Special Forces, it was "game on."

Very quickly, Qaddafi loyalists where routed from Benghazi and much of eastern Libya. Tobruk, Misrata, Bayda, Zawiya, Zuwara, Sabratha, and Sorman were also freed from Qaddafi rule. He also lost the important harbors at Ra's Lanuf and Brega. Tripoli was six hundred miles away and mercenaries had to be flown in from as far away as Ukraine and Zimbabwe.

Video: Mercenaries from Chad, Niger, Mali & Sudan Captured in Zliten | 9 Aug 2011
Video: Gaddafi's Ukrainian Snipers Caught in Abu-Salim, Tripoli | 25 Aug 2011
Video: Gaddafi's Mercenaries from Chad & Mali in Nafusa Mountain | Jun 2011

It took time to bring up reinforcements. Then came the counter-attack. When it came, it was brutal. This was before NATO got involved.

By 15 March Qaddafi's army had captured Brega and was advancing on Ajdabiya, a city of 76,000 that stood on the strategic roads to Tobruk and Egypt and was the gateway to Benghazi, a city of 670,000. Ajdabiya had been liberated in the first days of the revolution. After pro-Qaddafi snipers killed 10 protesters in anti-government demonstrations, 17 February 2011, protesters burned down the local government building and declared it a "Free City."

Now this city, and its civilian population, were under a merciless assault by the Qaddafi forces. They had been subjected to three days of air strikes and artillery barrages before the ground assault began. The Libyan navy had also been pounding the city from the sea. By the end of that day Qaddafi's tanks had made it to the city center. As night fell, the tanks withdrew to the outskirts of the surrounded city as the artillery barrage was resumed. The Telegraph quoted Sherif Layas, 34, who was a marketing manager before he took up arms and joined Libya's revolution:
"They are bombing everywhere. They are killing people, civilians, whatever"
The next day, 16 March, the fight was back and forth all day as the rebels put up stiff resistance. They managed to open a small corridor between Ajdabiya and Benghazi and bring in some reinforcements but by the morning of the 17th, the city was once again firmly surrounded and more government troops had landed in an amphibious attack from the sea,

Gaddafi Bombing of Ajdabiya Killing Children & The Innocent | 16 March 2011

Inside a hospital in the city of Ajdabiya, Libya, March 16, 2011. Today, Gaddafi's Air Force bombed the city indiscriminately.

After subduing Ajdabiya, Qaddafi's forces set their sights on Benghazi with its much larger population. A movement was building in the United Nations to take concrete steps to avoid this coming massacre. The United Nations Security Council had earlier condemned the use of lethal force by the Libyan government against the protesters with Resolution 1970 on 26 Feb 2011; however, this did nothing to deter Qaddafi. Now they were debating their own use of force to stop him.

In a radio interview provocatively timed just before the UNSC vote, 17 March, Qaddafi told the people of Benghazi:
"We will come zenga, zenga [neighborhood by neighborhood], House by house, room by room." ... "We are coming tonight," ... "there won't be any mercy" and "We will find you in your closets."
The Libyan air force had already carried out three air raids over Benghazi when he said this.

In spite of these words, backed by indiscriminate bombing, Steve Walt thought "the threat of a bloodbath ...slight," and while he admits that Qaddafi threatened "no mercy," he apologetically adds "but Gadhafi directed this threat only at rebels," as if the new "Left" position was to support the right of a fascist dictator to threaten massacres as long as "his violent threats to wreak vengeance on Benghazi were directed at those who continued to resist his rule, not at innocent bystanders."

At the Doha conference on Libya, April 2011, Qatar's Sheik Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani cut through this sort of "Left" nonsense that distinguishes between "rebels" and "innocent bystanders" in the fight against fascism when he said "And what are the rebels except civilians who have taken up arms to defend themselves in a difficult situation and an uneven battle?"

The question of how seriously to take Qaddafi's threat might be an academic one at Harvard and MIT, but in Benghazi, at the time, it was no joke. They knew what Qaddafi was capable of. They had just seen what he had done to Ajdabiya. They were hearing first hand from the Ajdabiya refugees that where pouring into Benghazi, and now the promise was that Benghazi would be next!

Extremely Graphic Video: Gaddafi's War Crimes in Ajdabiya | 26 Mar 2011

In Tripoli, Qaddafi's son, Saif el-Islam, spoke defiantly about the upcoming UN vote on French TV:
“Military operations are over. Within 48 hours everything will be finished. Our forces are almost in Benghazi. Whatever the decision, it will be too late.”
The Qaddafis were crowing because their heavy weapons were already on the road from Ajdabiya to Benghazi and the almost a million people in that area were going to be their next targets.

17 March 2011, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1973 which demanded the establishment of a ceasefire and an end to all attacks on civilians. It also imposed a no-fly zone over Libya and authorized all necessary means to protect civilians and civilian-populated areas except for a "foreign occupation force." Wikipedia reports Qaddafi's response to the ceasefire demand:
On 18 March, Muammar Gaddafi's government announced that they would comply with the resolution and implement a ceasefire.[11] However, it quickly became clear that no ceasefire had in fact been implemented.[12]
NBC News reported:
Earlier Saturday in Libya, Gadhafi's troops pushed into the outskirts of Benghazi after a unilateral cease-fire declared by his government failed to materialize, prompting western leaders meeting in Paris to announce the start of military intervention.
Gaddafi's Forces Advance to Benghazi Before They Got Bombed | 19 Mar 2011

Uploaded on Mar 24, 2011
This video was taken as Gaddafi's forces were advancing to take the city of Benghazi (Libya) on March 19, 2011. The convoy is shown in the area between Gmenis and Tika. The video was confiscated from a captured soldier who was with Gaddafi's military convoy. Later that evening, the French air force bombed Gaddafi's troops and saved the city from a total annihilation.

Video: Brave Libyans Face Gaddafi's Tank in Benghazi | 19 Mar 2011

The UNSC ended the meeting that passed Resolution 1973 authorizing military action at 23:20 GMT on the 17th. Qaddafi's tanks were already in the outskirts of Benghazi when French war planes first struck Qaddafi's advancing column less than 42 hours later at 16:45 GMT on the 19th. Shortly after that US and British submarines hit air defense targets in Libya with cruise missiles.

Video: Precision Bombing by French Air Force of Gaddafi's Military Convoy, Gymenis | 19 Mar 2011
Video: Gaddafi's Military Convoy After the French Attack Near Benghazi | 20 Mar 2011

There should be no serious doubt that these French air strikes and the air campaign that followed saved many lives in Benghazi. Tom Malinowski, Washington director of Human Rights Watch, spoke truth a week later when he said, 27 March 2011:
[W]e should acknowledge what could be happening in eastern Libya right now had Qaddafi’s forces continued their march. The dozens of burned out tanks, rocket launchers, and missiles bombed at the eleventh hour on the road to Benghazi would have devastated the rebel stronghold if Qaddafi’s forces had been able to unleash them indiscriminately, as they did in other, smaller rebel-held towns, like Zawiyah, Misrata, and Adjabiya. Qaddafi’s long track-record of arresting, torturing, disappearing, and killing his political opponents to maintain control suggests that had he recaptured the east, a similar fate would have awaited those who supported the opposition there. Over a hundred thousand Libyans already fled to Egypt fearing Qaddafi’s assault; hundreds of thousands more could have followed if the east had fallen. The remaining population, and those living in refugee camps abroad, would have felt betrayed by the West, which groups like Al Qaeda would undoubtedly have tried to exploit.
Although they followed very different dress codes, Mummar Qaddafi and Bashar al-Assad were "brothers-in-arms" among Arab dictators. Assad fully supported Qaddafi's methods, and if there was ever any question of what would have happened to Benghazi and the rest of Libya if the non-interventionist line had held sway, as it has on Syria, and Qaddafi had been allowed to lay siege to Benghazi with his air force, tanks and long range artillery, the answer to that question has been written with the blood of over 200,000 Syrians by Assad in Aleppo, Homs, Idlib, East Ghouta, and elsewhere. In doing so, he has created the greatest refugee crisis of this century and the rise of ISIS from the festering wound of Syria proves that last bit in Malinowski's prediction about how a failure to intervene in Libya would have been a boon to Islamic extremists. ISIS may now have its fans in Libya but that is not the conflict that gave birth to it, the one in Syria is.

On Democracy Now last week, we heard how an icon of the Left now discounts these events of four years ago. Aaron Maté was interviewing Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor emeritus Noam Chomsky and the question of Libya came up:
AARON MATÉ: You spoke before about how the U.S. invasion set off the Sunni-Shia conflict in Iraq, and out of that came ISIS. I wonder if you see a parallel in Libya, where the U.S. and NATO had a mandate to stop a potential massacre in Benghazi, but then went much further than a no-fly zone and helped topple Gaddafi. And now, four years later, we have ISIS in Libya, and they’re beheading Coptic Christians, Egypt now bombing. And with the U.S. debating this expansive war measure, Libya could be next on the U.S. target list.

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, that’s a very important analogy. What happened is, as you say, there was a claim that there might be a massacre in Benghazi, and in response to that, there was a U.N. resolution, which had several elements. One, a call for a ceasefire and negotiations, which apparently Gaddafi accepted. Another was a no-fly zone, OK, to stop attacks on Benghazi. The three traditional imperial powers—Britain, France and the United States—immediately violated the resolution. No diplomacy, no ceasefire. They immediately became the air force of the rebel forces. And, in fact, the war itself had plenty of brutality—violent militias, attacks on Africans living in Libya, all sorts of things. The end result is just to tear Libya to shreds. By now, it’s torn between two major warring militias, many other small ones. It’s gotten to the point where they can’t even export their main export, oil. It’s just a disaster, total disaster. That’s what happens when you strike vulnerable systems, as I said, with a sledgehammer. All kind of horrible things can happen.
"Warring militias" sounds more like restless natives than political struggle and class warfare. The struggle against counter-revolution in Libya today is a direct continuation of the revolution against the fascist regime. Sweeping aside evidence that Qaddafi money and influence has played a role in promoting this chaos and the Islamist militias causing it, or that attacks on Africans living in Libya was a biased but inevitable result of Qaddafi's use of African mercenaries to terrorize his people, Noam Chomsky is intend on laying the whole blame for the mess that is Libya today at NATO's doorstep. To accomplish this sleight-of-hand he is forced to revise recent history, write the Libyan people - their suffering and their heroic struggle - out of the story, and prettify Mummar Qaddafi. His strongest condemnation of the Libyan revolution reflects his entirely Western priorities, "It’s gotten to the point where they can’t even export their main export, oil." Chomsky's last three sentences sound like a warning against any revolution, anywhere, ever.


The dishonesty of these voices of the Left in their defense of Qaddafi is amazing. I found this Counterpunch version of these events while researching this blog post. Contradicting all the other reports of Qaddafi's march on Benghazi, Counterpunch says in it's "The Top Ten Myths in the War Against Libya:"
Not only did French jets bomb a retreating column, what we saw was a very short column that included trucks and ambulances, and that clearly could have neither destroyed nor occupied Benghazi.
If we bother to follow the link that has been provided, presumably as a show of support for the "retreating column," we get a very different story:
A French defence ministry official said “a number of tanks and armoured vehicles” were destroyed in the region of Benghazi, with initial action focusing on stopping Gaddafi's forces from advancing on the rebels' eastern stronghold.

Gaddafi's troops pushed into the outskirts of Benghazi on Saturday after a unilateral ceasefire declared by his government failed to materialise, prompting leaders meeting in Paris on Saturday to announce the start of military intervention.
Residents set up make-shift barricades with furniture, benches, road signs and even a barbecue in one case at intervals along main streets. Each barricade was manned by half a dozen rebels, but only about half of those were armed.
Please remember again the Harvard professor's distinction between "rebels" and "innocent bystanders."
Hundreds of cars full of refugees fled Benghazi towards the Egyptian border after the city came under a bombardment overnight. One family of 13 women from a grandmother to small children, rested at a roadside hotel.

“I'm here because when the bombing started last night my children were vomiting from fear,” said one of them, a doctor. “All I want to do is get my family to a safe place and then get back to Benghazi to help. My husband is still there.”

In the besieged western city of Misrata, residents said government forces shelled the rebel town again on Saturday and they were facing a humanitarian crisis as water supplies had been cut off for a third day.
And this is the link Counterpunch provides as support for their myth of Qaddafi in retreat on the eve of UN action. This is simple, banal, intellectual dishonesty that illustrates why you should believe nothing you've read in Counterpunch that you haven't second sourced elsewhere.

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Libya