by Dan Lieberman
Fidel Castro and Muammar Al Gaddafi have distinction of being the two world leaders whose non-royal governments survived the longest. Their continual presence testifies to the inadequacy of United States foreign policy – years of economic sanctions, military attacks, intensive propaganda and threats did not displace the two most outspoken critics of U.S. actions – only Castro’s illness and the effects on Gaddafi by the domino rebellions in North Africa have separated these leaders from their people.
U.S. policies during the years strengthened its antagonists and shaped them into massive figures. By not responding with their own deeds to offset Gaddafi’ promises to help the oppressed and replace the oligarchic Arab regimes, western nations displayed a callousness and hypocrisy that energized his initiatives. More significant than how fast Gaddafi fell from grace is how long he stayed in power. Attacks on Gaddafi and the Libyan people enabled the leader of the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya to rationalize repression and convince his people of threats to their nation’s sovereignty and that only he could protect them.
The Colonel, who never became a General, held a tight grip on his people and a loose grip on the world. After years of confrontations with almost everyone he encountered, Gaddafi relaxed, lost his grips and his usefulness to rebel movements. A tunnel vision and unique belief in his grandiose mission to form a society of oppressed to counter the oppressors disturbed the world and discomforted the Libyan people, who resented use of their oil wealth for their leader’s aggrandizement and its transfer to foreign peoples. As a flamboyant revolutionist, he exhibited meaning and glamour, the characteristics he strived to portray. After retiring from the international scene, Gaddafi’s image faded, and he no longer needed the absolute control he exercised. Recent charges by an official close to him, that he ordered terrorist attacks, adds to his separation from even his previous admirers. The man needs retirement and his people need democracy. But that’s not the entire lesson from the latest Arab march to freedom. There are lessons for the western world – its own hypocrisy, two-faced actions, contradictions, self-righteousness, double standards and dubious representations. Muammar Gaddafi’s failure to move the world’s powers to recognize its misdeeds parallels western nation failures to act against injustice and oppression.
If Muammar Al Gaddafi behaved paranoid, it was for good reason. It wasn’t long after he reached the age of 27 and led a small group of junior military officers in a bloodless coup d'état against Libyan King Idris on September 1, 1969, that threats to his power and life emerged - from monarchists, Israeli Mossad, Palestinian disaffections, Saudi security, the National Front for the Salvation of Libya (NFSL), the National Conference for the Libyan Opposition (NCLO), British intelligence, United States antagonism and, in 1995, the most serious of all, Al Qaeda-like Libyan Islamic fighting group, known as Al-Jama’a al-Islamiyyah al-Muqatilah bi-Libya. The Colonel reacted brutally, by either expelling or killing those he feared were against him. To him, the world was one big conspiracy and he trusted only his persona and his he ability to combat.
Attempts on his life occurred often. U.S. ’surgical strikes’ on Tripoli, in 1986, clearly aimed to kill the Libyan leader. Not well publicized is the alleged assassination attempt by British Intelligence, revealed in an Observer article, by Martin Bright on November 10, 2002.
British intelligence paid large sums of money to an al-Qaeda cell in Libya in a doomed attempt to assassinate Colonel Gaddafi in 1996 and thwarted early attempts to bring Osama bin Laden to justice.
The allegations have emerged in the book Forbidden Truth, published in America by two French intelligence experts who reveal that the first Interpol arrest warrant for bin Laden was issued by Libya in March 1998.
According to journalist Guillaume Dasquié and Jean-Charles Brisard, an adviser to French President Jacques Chirac, British and US intelligence agencies buried the fact that the arrest warrant had come from Libya and played down the threat. Five months after the warrant was issued, al-Qaeda killed more than 200 people in the truck bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
The United States policy to contain Gaddafi, exhibited growl, punishment, and insult.
President Ronald Reagan exemplified a churlish attitude towards the Libyan leader. Note his answer on April 9, 1986 to Helen Thomas’ question: “Mr. President, I know you must have given it a lot of thought, but what do you think is the real reason that Americans are the prime target of terrorism? Could it be our policies?”
Reagan: “Well, we know that this mad dog of the Middle East has a goal of a world revolution. Moslem fundamentalist revolution, which is targeted on many of his own Arab compatriots.”
By seeing himself as the vanguard of the world’s oppressed, Gaddafi inflated his international role. Nevertheless, is it proper for one president to call another leader a “mad dog of the Middle East?” Can a leader of a miniscule nation promote world revolution? Not even the USSR could do that. Was Gaddafi ever a fundamentalist Muslim? His greatest enemies were fundamentalist insurgents and fundamentalist Saudi Arabia.
These words came from the same Ronald Reagan who committed maddening adventures. Reagan sent U.S. forces to Lebanon and these forces shelled the Lebanese Shouf Mountains, killed innocents and caused a reprisal that resulted in the bombing of a marine barracks and assassination of 241 American military. His government promoted the illegal assistance to the Contras in their war against the Sandinista government, and, as president, he would not admit his involvement in the affairs. The tit-for-tat operations with Libya resulted in killings on both sides and led to the 1986 U.S. bombing attacks on Libya, which The United Nations condemned.
“By a vote of 79 in favor to 28 against with 33 abstentions, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution 41/38 which "condemns the (U.S.) military attack perpetrated against the Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya on 15 April 1986, which constitutes a violation of the Charter of the United Nations and of international law.”
Gaddafi’s domestic polices can only be evaluated by the Libyan people. Aside from oil, Libya has not much to offer, except desert and scarce arable land. The country is mostly a nation that trades oil for food and some other products. Its $15,000 capita GDP is mostly due to oil production and it is unknown how this superior GDP/capita is distributed throughout the population. Nevertheless, the Socialist word in his country’s name has some significance.
Libya has universal education, a literacy rate of 90%, an infant mortality rate of 18/1000 live births, life expectancy of 77 for women and 72 for men, and 94 telephone subscribers/100 inhabitants(2008), a 100% increase in only three years.
Libyans receive free health care, and, according to a visit by AID workers, “the health status is good compared to other Middle Eastern countries. Childhood immunization is nearly universal, and water and sanitation are improving. Medical and hospital care and medicines are free. Health care is provided by a mixture of public and private services. Most care is available in hospitals and at outpatient or specialized-care facilities or clinics.” World Health organization (WHO) reported in 2000 “71% of Libyans already had good access to clean water” and in 2006, “97% had access to good sanitation.”
Nevertheless, the world leaders judge Gaddafi by his extensive operations on the international stage, which at times were clairvoyant, but perplexed observers. He stirred the pot, rattled nerves, made lots of noise, feigned lots of action, created lots of drama and, in the end, had almost no accomplishments.
Moral and economic assistance to the IRA, to the Palestinians, to Chad rebels and in general to the oppressed neither received recognition nor achieved success. Efforts to unite the Arab world, to overthrow the more fundamentalist and oligarchic regimes, and attempts to unify the African nations met with skepticism. His assumed benefactors interpreted the efforts as a power play to benefit the Libyan leader. As one example, Gaddafi assumed a leading role in enabling present Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to overthrow General Tito Okello after Okello displaced Milton Obote. He supported the Mouseveni led insurrection (NRA) and dropped military supplies to the NRA encampments. Presently, the two leaders are fierce enemies with Wikileaks cables revealing, “President Museveni reported to the US that he feared Col. Gaddafi would eliminate him because he had opposed the Libyan leader’s push for the creation of a United States of Africa.”
The dilemma of the conspiratorial, mercurial, egotistical, patronizing and dictatorial Gaddafi inked headlines, and propelled the U.S. Secretary of State, Ms. Hillary Clinton, to react clearly and strongly at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, February 28: "Gaddafi and those around him must be held accountable for these acts, which violate international legal obligations and common decency. ….We have seen Colonel Gaddafi's security forces open fire on peaceful protesters. They have used heavy weapons on unarmed civilians. Mercenaries and thugs have been turned loose to attack demonstrators."
Firstly, these were not demonstrators. Although they have a just cause, these opponents of the regime seized parts of Libya and provoked a Civil War. However, why is the focus only on Gaddafi?
The Congo war “involved eight African nations, and about 25 armed groups. By 2008 the war and its aftermath had killed 5.4 million people, mostly from disease and starvation Millions more were displaced from their homes or sought asylum in neighboring countries.” The African conflict was multitudes more deadly, more significant and punishing than the present Libyan conflict and generated a host of war crimes. Not many words from the White House.
In the Ivory Coast, assumed President Gbgabo has initiated a conflict by denying the presidential office to Alassane Quattara, the internationally recognized winner of a November election. According to the United Nations, “At least 365 people have been killed in Ivory Coast since the disputed Nov. 28 election.” “Widespread violence against civilians is the most likely scenario in the coming months,” the International Crisis Group reported on March 3. Silence from the U.S. State Department.
Bahrain had its peaceful demonstrators killed by government forces. Not many words from the White House.
On February 25, 2011, in a day of rage, “Iraqi protesters burned or tried to storm government buildings from the southern port of Basra to the northern cities of Mosul and Huwaijah, where at least five were killed." This encounter is only one of daily demonstrations In Iraq, where the demonstrators are punished. Not any words from the White House.
In the West Bank and Gaza, Israeli troops have periodically arrested and killed Palestinians. Human Rights groups have testified to the repressive Israeli actions and used the term ‘war crimes’ several times. No words from the White House.
There are many more criminal actions, too numerous to mention, to which the U.S. government has not responded.
The most serious is that the United States had a president who, with no satisfactory reason, warred against the Iraq people and caused hundreds of thousands of deaths, many more wounded, and the dislocation of 2,000,000 Iraqis. President George H.W. Bush destroyed a nation. The same Bush invaded Afghanistan. His war has continued for ten years with no apparent outcome, except more killing. Plenty of war crimes.
Equally dangerous in this crisis is an attempt by the United States and/or other nations to use their power to determine the outcome of the civil war. Interceding to halt the conflict is first priority and definitely warranted. Interceding to manipulate the conflict will set a precedent, which can then be applied to any crisis. The United States could use this precedence to determine the future of other nations.
Muammar Gaddafi brought a desert nation into the twenty first century. By using his nation's resource for his personal aggrandizement, Gaddafi left a mixed legacy in his own nation, On the world stage, he saw himself as soaring above others, but never actually left his extravagant tent. Examination of counterproductive and destructive foreign policies indicates U.S. leaders see themselves as wandering far, but their minds rarely leave the white columned mansion.
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