Many people will look at this title and have a heart attack thinking “How could someone not support the Libyan rebels?” The fact is yes there are many people who do not support the rebellion including a sizable part of the Libyan population. I will attempt to make the case against the rebellion and why we, especially socialists and Africans (including those here in America) ought to support the Jamahiriya, the name describing the social order implemented after the fall of the Libyan monarchy. The term itself roughly translates to “the state of the masses” and is the political implementation of the Green Book, a political philosophy written by Libyan revolutionary Muammar Qadaffi. I have moved from calling Qadaffi a violent dictator when the rebellion went down to now writing this piece supporting him and his government. I will outlay my argument not to necessarily try and convert people to my side but to first and foremost encourage critical thinking on the subject which is sorely lacking in the discussion on Libya.
Let’s start by looking at the conditions of Libya and the background behind the rebellion. Many people place the rebellion within the context of the Arab Spring, a series of revolutions and uprisings across the Arab and Muslim world against a series of often American supported dictators, autocrats, and monarchs. In order to make that assertions the same pattern of events would have to happen in order to say Libya and the Arab Spring are related and in the case of Libya it’s not.
Egypt and Tunisia, two of the first places to rise up had crippling poverty (less than $2 a day in some parts of Egypt, rampant corruption, secret police repression, and both nations were ruled by pro-western dictators. We must mention that as background to 2011 radical organizing began in both of these nations as a result of job losses, depressed economies, and most importantly rising food costs. Libya on the other hand has the highest Human development Index in Africa, enough jobs to offer foreign workers who amount to more than 2.5 million persons from neighboring nations meaningful work in Libya, and housing, healthcare, and education guaranteed by the state. With that said why would the people of Libya rise up against their government if they are living much better off than their neighbors and do it much more violently? The only answer left is that the rebellion is political in nature.
Here most people will say “duh, Qadaffi is a dictator” and according to one guy I talked to “he’s worse than Hitler and a threat to the world”. I respond by saying if Qadaffi is a dictator than so in the Queen of England seeing as they occupy the same position in their societies. Qadaffi is not a government official and since there is no constitution he can’t even occupy in a legal sense the same position as the Queen does (a leech). He is known in Libyan media as the “Brother and Leader of the Revolution” yet he at the same time doesn’t control the armed forces nor is he the head of state. Libya is controlled by a combination of the Revolutionary Council, which is made up of the people who participated in the coup that overthrew the Libyan monarch, and there’s the Basic People Congresses which are the equivalent of the local governments in western countries. The BPC’s meet 3 times a year and allowed to vote at the meeting is every man and woman who has reached adulthood. They then elect representatives to go to the General People’s Congress (equivalent of a parliament) which happens every year in December. To say that Qadaffi is a dictator is to not understand how an autocratic system works (read: dictator don’t control nations without the help of other people) and/or not understand how Libyan politics which is very democratic works.
From here most people are lost as to then why anyone would rise up and start a civil war. Now this part as a disclaimer is all opinion but based on facts. The east of Libya has traditionally been the center of opposition politics against the government and that opposition at various times centered on capitalist class interest, pro-monarchical forces, and the radical Islamic right. There’s also a very strong race element involved there with Arabs not being too kindly to their dark skinned neighbors, evident in the protest imagery of the rebellion. Qadaffi himself has spent considerable time courting other African nations and trying to reduce racism in his own nation which is a no-no according to many who oppose him. Regardless everyone who would want to overthrow Qadaffi is basically in the east, although some of the same forces live in the west also. All in all I see this rebellion as an organized opportunistic power play by these forces using the Arab Spring as a cover for it all.
Now I will say about the above that Qadaffi and the government aren’t saints given numerous alleged “incidents” involving abuse and arbitrary applications of power and given they are attempting to build socialism we have to question the position of the revolution today and what needs to happen to make it live up to its ideals. With all that said the rebels haven’t proven to be any better in terms of human rights or the possibility of creating a democratic society if the nation was in their hands. These criticisms can be split into 3 categories consisting of their background and relationship to the west, displays of racism, and general “feel” of the rebellion.
Let’s start with their relationship to the west. First taking a quick skim of Wikipedia we can see a good chunk of the rebel leadership is either longtime opponents of the government,ex generals either from the Chadian war period or current conflict, and people like Khalifa Belqasim Haftar who some say have ties to the CIA. This not like the rebellions in Egypt for instance where the leadership was no-name protesters and students. One has to question further why there are a number of CIA agents running around Libya at the same time. There seems to be a very warm relationship at least from the point of view of the rebels towards the United States and Europe. The other issue I have with the rebellion is the glee we saw from them when NATO decided to intervene. I shouldn’t have to really explain this….but yea your former colonizers who just got done forcing themselves on you 50 years ago wouldn’t be my first call in protecting civilians. What about the African Union, the Arab League, or ~gasp~ the United Nations, I guess their bombs aren’t big enough but as we all know when the West gets to fly their planes anywhere not here things usually doesn’t turn out well. There’s the other minor issue of using the Libyan monarchy flag as protest flag of the rebellion. Let’s just say that using the flag of a monarchy to symbolize your wishes for democracy seems a bit misplaced.
The second and most personal criticism of the Libyan rebellion is their extremely potent racism especially in relation to dark skilled Libyans (and apparently jews as seen in the gallery linked above). First the so called mercenaries that was pushed at the beginning of the rebellion are more like than not just…you know black Libyans who are in the army and live in the south of the nation where they make up a sizable amount of the population. This mercenary business has been used as an excuse to abuse Africans in the rebel held areas and of course because black dead bodies aren’t worth nothing there is little reporting of this massacre in mainstream media. Because of this situation as far as I’m concerned their free Libya apparently doesn’t include us and if I was in Libya i’d have to pick a gun up for the government, at least they don’t want me dead.
The last issue with the rebellion is simply the organization and feeling of it. This is total speculation on my part but just how the rebels act makes me question their actual representation of the people. There’s the fact that Libya hasn’t fallen into their hands yet even with the support of NATO which says to me either they suck at fighting wars or they don’t have as much support as people seem to believe. There’s also the fact that they almost immediately went from peaceful protesters to rebels in such a short time makes me wonder if they already decided before taking up signs that they’re going to war. Even under much more brutal resistance by the Tunisian, Bahrianian, and Egyptian government their people largely stayed peaceful and won so what made the Libyan protesters so different?
These musings coupled with the above material criticism is why I won’t support the rebels in this war and hope that Qadaffi and his supporters win out against these forces, especially NATO. In the end there needs to be change but not like this, not by them. If the Libyan people want to change their society, why would they take the route that opens their nation up to foreign interests, destroys what has become a beautiful desert, and allow the suffering of so many civilians in order to save the people and create a democracy. Many people would say “well if Qadaffi cared about the people why don’t he step down”. I’ll end by saying if the rebels wanted to help their people why not actually negotiate some peace for you people even if it’s not the ideal situation?