[P2P-F] More on the Libyan Revolution: Lessons and False Lessons
amaia.arcos at googlemail.com
Wed Aug 31 14:41:24 CEST 2011
Sorry, 40 minutes. Still, lovely documentary!
On 31 August 2011 14:38, Amaia Arcos <amaia.arcos at googlemail.com> wrote:
> Fair enough but so if you let Bahrainis die, you must also let Libyans do
> the same? (I know you are not saying that, I just mean that one thing does
> really not take from the other). I am heartbroken at what is happening with
> Bahrein, it makes my blood boil. I followed as closely.
> The fighters fighting in the streets are civilians, the "rebels" are mostly
> civilians, armed civilians yes but lawyers, and academics, and students, and
> bakers and unemployed, etc. Unarmed civilians have been staying home,
> shivering in fear and praying that those fighting the army and mercenaries
> will succeed. Women are there, super involved. I've seen videos of
> grandmothers cheering fighters and doing shooting celebratory rounds on
> video. Watch the video I linked to. It is 20 minutes and well done, very
> nice to watch.
> This is my passion and my "expertise" :)
> On 31 August 2011 13:56, Michel Bauwens <michel at p2pfoundation.net> wrote:
>> Dear Amaia,
>> This is really crying for a storify, again, I'm amazed and floored that
>> you have been able to follow all this ...
>> Also, I'm with you on the analysis. I think one's approach really depends
>> on which of two mixed feelings gets the upper hand
>> 1) we care for the people and their evolution
>> 2) we loathe European and U.S. imperialism and hypocrisy
>> In this crisis, the two are really operating at the same time, but many on
>> the left are overwhelmed by feeling #2 and therefore forget about the
>> support for #1. No matter how much we dislike #2, there were, like in
>> Bosnia, not many alternatives for the Lybians except for asking external
>> support, and accepting where it came from.
>> As you do, we can perfectly support one, be critical of two, and be happy
>> that they succeeded in these different circumstances.
>> Now, what you say about the folly of Gadhafi is probably true, and
>> confirmed by recent discoveries in Tripoli, but on the other hand, the
>> repression in Bahrein has been equally atrocious, and it is occupied by a
>> foreign country, and yet, total silence; I think this shows enough the
>> duplicity of our own countries in their selective support; and we must have
>> no illusions on their motivations.
>> I also believe non-violence was a very unrealistic choice in this context.
>> Nevertheless, I'm a bit surprised by the working class uprising and have
>> seen no visual evidence ... the city seemed always empty apart from a few
>> dozen fighters at any given time, and outside of Benghazi, the female
>> element seems completely absent from the public space.
>> On Wed, Aug 31, 2011 at 6:40 PM, Amaia Arcos <amaia.arcos at googlemail.com>wrote:
>>> Kind of good article at times, except:
>>> *It was only when the rebellion took a more violent turn, however, that
>>> the revolution's progress was dramatically reversed and Qaddafi gave his
>>> infamous February 22 speech threatening massacres in rebel strongholds,
>>> which in turn, led to the United States and its NATO allies to enter the
>>> NOT true. People were being shot at in Benghazi by military and yellow
>>> hat wearing mercenaries (there is video evidence and plenty of reports,
>>> which I saw and read the very first days of, indeed, very peaceful
>>> protesting). It was only then the protestors started attacking the military
>>> base, and they succeeded almost "miraculously" after they had the "help" of
>>> a suicide bombing by a normal citizen out of desperation, after a few days
>>> of cruel fighting, and yes, military members defecting the army. Some of
>>> which got burned alive when caught by loyal forces (following orders), there
>>> is also video of that.
>>> And yes, it was after Benghazi "liberated" itself that Gaddafi went on
>>> the surreal air offensive against Benghazi and advances to other towns, who
>>> were happy to join, which is when the "rebels" started to ask for
>>> international support and a no-fly zone. The international community (thanks
>>> France? :S) took WEEKS to respond to, I remember very well crying out of
>>> desperation. It was heartbreaking seeing no response for weeks despite the
>>> videos and the evidence coming out.
>>> When I saw this video http://vimeo.com/22197304 I loved it because it
>>> reported exactly like I had understood it from following closely in social
>>> media those very first few days and weeks.
>>> Nobody in Tripoli was brave enough, understandably, right until the very
>>> end because they were terrified, the article greatly exaggerates the
>>> conquests of peaceful protesting the very first weeks. Some tried and got
>>> brutally repressed. That the will was there all over the country was
>>> obvious, which is why I never bought academic commentary trying to be clever
>>> and argue that the Senussi
>>> http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/libya/senussi.htm were
>>> starting a civil war (because of the reclaiming the old flag). The people in
>>> Benghazi were clearly not thinking along tribal lines and most of the rest
>>> of the country shared their aims.
>>> The brutality of the Libyan regime and the brutality against peaceful
>>> protestors made it very obvious to anyone that the man is absolutely insane,
>>> how this article claims that it could have been dealt with differently
>>> amazes me. The only way would have been to allow to be crushed and have
>>> public executions of anyone who had even looked in the direction of anyone
>>> who must have shown any subtle disagreement with the regime. So, no:
>>> *However, insisting that the Libyan opposition "tried nonviolence and it
>>> didn't work" because peaceful protesters were killed and it did not succeed
>>> in toppling the regime after a few days of public demonstrations makes
>>> little sense, particularly since the armed struggle took more than six
>>> Lofty, lofty. I say if it took 6 months, and the man is still deludedly
>>> thinking he will get out of it somehow, imagine the level of insanity being
>>> dealt with here. He was using masses of mercenaries from different African
>>> countries and Serbia and even Algeria so no allegiance to the people, like
>>> the military might end up feeling if things get very crazy. Youngsters who
>>> managed to escape from Gaddafi's army spoke of being shot at when trying to
>>> escape. It would have been the biggest massacre in every sense.
>>> That France went in because of commercial reasons in the end, that NATO
>>> and any western country (or not western for that reason) only use the
>>> humanitarian excuse to pursue their interests is not a secret to anyone, not
>>> even Libyans. They were very aware they would have to do deals, fine if it
>>> means freedom. And they are not uneducated fools who will get cheated like
>>> so many presume.
>>> The article also, sadly, has completely ignored the Transitional National
>>> Council and its members. Had it monitored its formation, their press
>>> releases, the way it reached consensus with all tribal leaders that were
>>> against Gaddafi right from the beginning in order to have legitimacy, how
>>> well they have coordinated and "sold" their managing of the situation is
>>> impressive to say the least. That they have managed to sell oil during the
>>> war and secure armament and funds from several countries is impressive. Have
>>> a look at the members profiles
>>> http://www.ntclibya.org/english/council-members/, and have a look at all
>>> their pledges. I am not glorifying anyone here, they are human and we will
>>> see, either way, pretty impressive under the circumstances they have
>>> operated in my opinion. To come up with patronising, old-school
>>> fear-mongering about the propensity for dictatorship and undemocratic
>>> behaviour is a bit unreal, especially with all the evidence to the contrary
>>> having been published online all along.
>>> On 31 August 2011 12:40, Michel Bauwens <michel at p2pfoundation.net>
>>> > ---------- Forwarded message ----------
>>> > From: Tikkun/NSP (NETWORK OF SPIRITUAL PROGRESSIVES) <
>>> info at spiritualprogressives.org>
>>> > Date: Wed, Aug 31, 2011 at 7:49 AM
>>> > Subject: More on the Libyan Revolution: Lessons and False Lessons
>>> > To: Michelsub2004 at gmail.com
>>> > Lessons and False Lessons From Libya
>>> > Tuesday 30 August 2011
>>> > by: Stephen Zunes, Truthout | News Analysis
>>> > Rebels celebrate outside Col. Moammar Qaddafi's Bab al-Aziziya compound
>>> in Tripoli, Libya, August 29, 2011. Residents returning to their homes have
>>> found that many have been heavily damaged by gunfire after they were used as
>>> fighting positions during the rebellion. (Photo: Tyler Hicks/The New York
>>> > IF YOU PREFER TO READ THIS ON-LINE, please go to
>>> > The downfall of Muammar Qaddafi's regime is very good news,
>>> particularly for the people of Libya. However, it is critically important
>>> that the world not learn the wrong lessons from the dictator's overthrow.
>>> > It is certainly true that NATO played a critical role in disrupting the
>>> heavy weapons capability of the repressive Libyan regime and blocking its
>>> fuel and ammunition supplies through massive airstrikes and providing
>>> armaments and logistical support for the rebels. However, both the
>>> militaristic triumphalism of the pro-intervention hawks and the more cynical
>>> conspiracy mongering of some on the left ignore that this was indeed a
>>> popular revolution, which may have been able to succeed without NATO,
>>> particularly if the opposition had not focused primarily on the military
>>> strategy. Engaging in an armed struggle against the heavily armed despot
>>> essentially took on Qaddafi where he was strongest rather than taking
>>> greater advantage of where he was weakest - his lack of popular support.
>>> > There has been little attention paid to the fact that the reason the
>>> anti-Qaddafi rebels were able to unexpectedly march into Tripoli last
>>> weekend with so little resistance appears to have been a result of a massive
>>> and largely unarmed, civil insurrection which had erupted in neighborhoods
>>> throughout the city. Indeed, much of the city had already been liberated by
>>> the time the rebel columns entered and began mopping up the remaining
>>> pockets of pro-regime forces.
>>> > As Juan Cole noted in an August 22 interview on Democracy Now!, "the
>>> city had already overthrown the regime" by the time the rebels arrived. The
>>> University of Michigan professor observed how, "Beginning Saturday night,
>>> working-class districts rose up, in the hundreds of thousands and just threw
>>> off the regime." Similarly, Khaled Darwish's August 24 article in The New
>>> York Times describes how unarmed Tripolitanians rushed into the streets
>>> prior to the rebels entering the capital, blocked suspected snipers from
>>> apartment rooftops and sang and chanted over loudspeakers to mobilize the
>>> population against Qaddafi's regime
>>> > Though NATO helped direct the final pincer movement of the rebels as
>>> they approached the Libyan capital and continued to bomb government targets,
>>> Qaddafi's final collapse appears to have more closely resembled that of
>>> Hosni Mubarak and Zine El Abidine Ben Ali than that of Saddam Hussein.
>>> > It should also be noted that the initial uprising against Qaddafi in
>>> February was overwhelmingly nonviolent. In less than a week, this unarmed
>>> insurrection had resulted in pro-democracy forces taking over most of the
>>> cities in the eastern part of the country, a number of key cities in the
>>> west and even some neighborhoods in Tripoli. It was also during this period
>>> when most of the resignations of cabinet members and other important aides
>>> of Qaddafi, Libyan ambassadors in foreign capitals and top military officers
>>> took place. Thousands of soldiers defected or refused to fire on crowds,
>>> despite threats of execution. It was only when the rebellion took a more
>>> violent turn, however, that the revolution's progress was dramatically
>>> reversed and Qaddafi gave his infamous February 22 speech threatening
>>> massacres in rebel strongholds, which in turn, led to the United States and
>>> its NATO allies to enter the war.
>>> > Indeed, it was only a week or so before Qaddafi's collapse that the
>>> armed rebels had succeeded in recapturing most of the territory that had
>>> originally been liberated by their unarmed counterparts six months earlier.
>>> > It can certainly be argued that, once the revolutionaries shifted to
>>> armed struggle, NATO air support proved critical in severely weakening
>>> Qaddafi's ability to counterattack and that Western arms and advisers were
>>> important in enabling rebel forces to make crucial gains in the northwestern
>>> part of the country prior to the final assault on Tripoli. At the same time,
>>> there is little question that foreign intervention in a country with a
>>> history of brutal foreign conquest, domination and subversion was
>>> successfully manipulated by Qaddafi to rally far more support to his side in
>>> his final months than would have been the case had he been faced with a
>>> largely nonviolent indigenous, civil insurrection. It isn't certain that the
>>> destruction of his military capabilities by the NATO strikes was more
>>> significant than the ways in which such Western intervention in the civil
>>> war enabled the besieged dictator to shore up what had been rapidly
>>> deteriorating support in Tripoli and other areas under government control.
>>> > I could achieve an outcome I desired in an interpersonal dispute by
>>> punching someone in the nose, but that doesn't mean that it, therefore,
>>> proved that my action was the only way to accomplish my goal. It's no secret
>>> that overbearing military force can eventually wear down an autocratic
>>> militarized regime, but - as the ouster of oppressive regimes in Egypt,
>>> Tunisia, the Philippines, Poland, Chile, Serbia, and scores of other
>>> countries through mass nonviolent action in recent years has indicated -
>>> there are ways of undermining a regime's pillars of support to the extent
>>> that it collapses under its own weight. Ultimately, a despot's power comes
>>> not from the armed forces under his command, but the willingness of a people
>>> to recognize his authority and obey his orders.
>>> > This is not to say that the largely nonviolent struggle launched in
>>> February would have achieved a quick and easy victory had they not turned to
>>> armed struggle with foreign support. The weakness of Libyan civil society,
>>> combined with the movement's questionable tactical decision to engage
>>> primarily in demonstrations rather than diversifying their methods of civil
>>> resistance, made them particularly vulnerable to the brutality of Qaddafi's
>>> foreign mercenaries and other forces. In addition, unlike the
>>> well-coordinated nonviolent anti-Mubarak campaign in Egypt, the Libyan
>>> opposition's campaign was largely spontaneous. However, insisting that the
>>> Libyan opposition "tried nonviolence and it didn't work" because peaceful
>>> protesters were killed and it did not succeed in toppling the regime after a
>>> few days of public demonstrations makes little sense, particularly since the
>>> armed struggle took more than six months. And it does not mean there were no
>>> other alternatives but to launch a civil war.
>>> > The estimated 13,000 additional deaths since the launching of the armed
>>> struggle and the widespread destruction of key segments of the country's
>>> infrastructure are not the only problems related to resorting to military
>>> means to oust Qaddafi.
>>> > One problem with an armed overthrow of a dictator, as opposed to a
>>> largely nonviolent overthrow of a dictator, is that you have lots of armed
>>> individuals who are now convinced that power comes from guns. The martial
>>> values and the strict military hierarchy inherent in armed struggle can
>>> become accepted as the norm, particularly if the military leaders of the
>>> rebellion become the political leaders of the nation, as is usually the
>>> case. Indeed, history has shown that countries in which dictatorships are
>>> overthrown by force of arms are far more likely to suffer from instability
>>> and/or slide into another dictatorship. By contrast, dictatorships
>>> overthrown in largely nonviolent insurrections almost always evolve into
>>> democracies within a few years.
>>> > Despite the large-scale NATO intervention in support of the
>>> anti-Qaddafi uprising, this has been a widely supported popular revolution
>>> from a broad cross section of society. Qaddafi's brutal and arbitrary
>>> 42-year rule had alienated the overwhelming majority of the Libyan people
>>> and his overthrow is understandably a cause of celebration throughout the
>>> country. Though the breadth of the opposition makes a democratic transition
>>> more likely than in some violent overthrows of other dictatorships, the risk
>>> that an undemocratic faction may force its way into power is still a real
>>> possibility. And given that the United States, France and Britain have
>>> proved themselves quite willing to continue supporting dictatorships
>>> elsewhere in the Arab world, there is no guarantee that the NATO powers
>>> would find such a scenario objectionable as long as a new dictatorship was
>>> seen as friendly to the West.
>>> > Another problem with the way Qaddafi was overthrown is the way in which
>>> NATO so blatantly went beyond the mandate provided by the United Nations
>>> Security Council to simply protect the civilian population through the
>>> establishment of a no-fly zone. Instead, NATO became an active participant
>>> in a civil war, providing arms, intelligence, advisers and conducting over
>>> 7,500 air and missile strikes against military and government facilities.
>>> Such abuse of the UN system will create even more skepticism regarding the
>>> implementation of the responsibility to protect should there really be an
>>> incipient genocide somewhere where foreign intervention may indeed be the
>>> only realistic option.
>>> > Furthermore, while it is certainly possible that Qaddafi would have
>>> continued to refuse to step down in any case, the NATO intervention
>>> emboldened the rebels to refuse offers by the regime for a provisional
>>> cease-fire and direct negotiations, thereby eliminating even the possibility
>>> of ending the bloodshed months earlier.
>>> > Indeed, there is good reason to question whether NATO's role in
>>> Qaddafi's removal was motivated by humanitarian concerns in the first place.
>>> For example, NATO intervention was initiated during the height of the savage
>>> repression of the nonviolent pro-democracy struggle in the Western-backed
>>> kingdom of Bahrain, yet US and British support for that autocratic Arab
>>> monarchy has continued as the hope for bringing freedom to that island
>>> nation was brutally crushed. And given the overwhelming bipartisan support
>>> in the United States for Israeli military campaigns in 2006 and 2008-09
>>> which, while only lasting a few weeks, succeeded in slaughtering more than
>>> 1,500 Lebanese and Palestinian civilians, Washington's humanitarian claims
>>> for the Libyan intervention ring particularly hollow.
>>> > It's true that some of the leftist critiques of the NATO campaign were
>>> rather specious. For example, this was not simply a war for oil. Qaddafi had
>>> long ago opened his oil fields to the West, with Occidental, BP and ENI
>>> among the biggest beneficiaries. Relations between Big Oil and the Libyan
>>> regime were doing just fine and the NATO-backed war was highly disruptive to
>>> their interests.
>>> > Similarly, Libya under Qaddafi was hardly a progressive alternative to
>>> the right-wing Arab rulers favored by the West. Despite some impressive
>>> socialist initiatives early in Qaddafi's reign, which led Libya to
>>> impressive gains in health care, education, housing, and other needs, the
>>> past two decades had witnessed increased corruption, regional and tribal
>>> favoritism, capricious investment policies, an increasingly predatory
>>> bureaucracy and a degree of poverty and inadequate infrastructure
>>> inexcusable for a country of such vast potential wealth.
>>> > However, given the strong role of NATO in the uprising and the close
>>> ties developed with the military leaders of the revolution, it would be
>>> naïve to assume that the United States and other countries in the coalition
>>> won't try to assert their influence in the direction of post-Qaddafi Libya.
>>> One of the problems of armed revolutionary struggle compared to unarmed
>>> revolutionary struggle is the dependence upon foreign supporters, which can
>>> then be leveraged after victory. Given the debt and ongoing dependency some
>>> of the rebel leaders have developed with NATO countries in recent months, it
>>> would similarly be naïve to think that some of them wouldn't be willing to
>>> let this happen.
>>> > In summary, while Qaddafi's ouster is cause for celebration, it is
>>> critical that it not be interpreted as a vindication of Western military
>>> interventionism. Not only will the military side of the victory likely leave
>>> a problematic legacy, we should not deny agency to the many thousands of
>>> Libyans across regions, tribes and ideologies, who ultimately made victory
>>> possible through their refusal to continue their cooperation with an
>>> oppressive and illegitimate regime. It is ultimately a victory of the Libyan
>>> people. And they alone should determine their country's future.
>>> > Stephen Zunes is a contributing editor to Tikkun Magazine and professor
>>> of political science at University of San Francisco.
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> “We would think and live better and be closer to our purpose as humans if
> we moved continuously on foot across the surface of the earth” Bruce Chatwin
“We would think and live better and be closer to our purpose as humans if we
moved continuously on foot across the surface of the earth” Bruce Chatwin
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