Since the end of February, a rebellion battle has been fought in Libya against the regime with its symbolic head of state Moammar Kadaffi. Discussion of this battle has been minimal on The Konformist, in no small part because I felt it deserved a special note from me.
As it turns out, it perhaps was a good idea to withhold coverage until now, because the battle in Libya has looked like a tennis match, albeit a tennis match with dead bodies. At first, it looked like Mo's Libya, like Tunisia and Egypt before it, was fated to overthrow by the revolution. Then it appeared the crafty and often ruthless Kadaffi would survive the war of his nation. Now, with bombings of Libya being led by the US and NATO, it looks like... well, nobody is quite sure how this will end.
The background to this battle is (as always) the political and economic interests, interests which frame the reporting of events. But I felt before I could comment on the interests behind the mainstream coverage, I had to disclose my own previous dealings with Libya so readers could judge accordingly.
Back in 2002, I had an article for the Disinformation book collection You Are Being Lied To, titled "Viva Kadaffi!" The article, conceived of before 9/11 and written before and after the event, argued that the mainstream view of nearly all Third World leaders had less to do with noble ideas such as "democracy" and "human rights" and more to do with natural resources, most notably oil. Maybe it wasn't the most original theory, but it sure has become more blatantly obvious in the near decade since. The article focused heavily on the propaganda campaign against Kadaffi (hence the title) and indeed I was planning to contact the Libyan embassy in New York with questions to help the writing of the article. Of course, the day I was planning to call them was September 11, 2001 (seriously, this isn't a sick joke) and I shelved that plan, deciding it wouldn't be the best time to speak to the Libyan embassy in New York.
Later on, in 2002-3, I did contact the Libyan embassy for another reason: for funding for either Konformist.com or another magazine. This is not a secret, as I mentioned the plan to friends and some fellow writers, most I'm sure were laughing inside about the idea as a decidedly crazy one. They would've been right, but as physicist Richard Feynman once said, "Your theory is crazy... but it's not crazy enough to be true." And sadly the idea wasn't crazy enough. I believe I sent them two letters, and my guess is they just filed them away without any serious consideration. (This is perhaps a good thing now, as I'm not sure how any gold strings between me an Mo would've changed or constrained my opinions on the current situation.)
While I never hid this, and had I ever been asked, I wouldn't have denied it, I have never directly written about this in The Konformist, the reason being I never felt any need to. I never felt it was relevant to anything about Libya in The Konformist, and in fact if anything I feel I've probably included more negative coverage of Libya since contacting them for funding, on principal that if ever I was to do business with them I would want to be harder on them specifically because I was receiving money.
Because the current crisis in Libya, however, I feel I need to announce with full disclosure what happened so people can be aware of it in anything I write about the situation, and thus judge my opinions or coverage accordingly. If people want to dismiss it because of this history, fair enough. And to be honest, I'm glad that I am not in a position where my paycheck is tied to Libya right now.
(Having said, it should be pointed out that I did send letters to other about funding, including one to Roger Ailes, head of Fox News. So if people want to view me biased because I am one of those writers who needs funding, Libya was hardly the beginning or ending of my crazy ideas.)
This disclosure done, Libya, like Tunisia and Egypt before it, is unique among the revolts since the year 2000, in that it looks like it is, at least partly, a real revolt rather than a manufactured event among competing imperial powers. Indeed, since the political overthrow of Joseph Estrada in the Philippines in 2001, it seems that pretty much every world political crisis had the IMF's fingerprints all over the place. Not that there aren't geopolitical or strategic interests at work in the recent events in the Middle East, but they aren't as clear and as one-sided as they were in, say, Haiti, or Venezuela, or even in Iran. It is this conflict of agenda that has colored the news coverage of these revolts in the Middle East, including Libya.
The conflict in power politics explains why Libya has actually received fairer coverage than should be expected for a country that was once Public Enemy number one. Indeed, it's hard to imagine that Libya would get this good of a shake in 1986 in the face of current events. The World Socialist Web Site ( WSWS.org ) has, to its credit, ironically been far harsher of Libya and Kadaffi in its coverage than most of the mainstream press, and noted offhandedly the reason why: "Over the past decade Gaddafi has been embraced by Washington as a force for stability—and a guarantor of profits—in the region. Significantly, the uprising against him is the first of the spreading revolutionary developments in the Middle East to trigger a sell-off on Wall Street."
Whatever the merits of Kadaffi's Libya, when you've been in power for over 40 years, there are more than enough legitimate grievances that a government can earn from the public at large. The charge of massacres in towns has been stunningly underreported, and even if some of the reports are propaganda, this is definitely a case of where there's smoke, there's fire. Furthermore, part of the problem in evaluating the accuracy of the news reports is Libya's own doing, as a clamp-down on press coverage and the Internet has been instituted. For my part, I have no stomach for defending a regime that is crushing political opponents in such a bloody fashion.
On the other hand...
Showing the somewhat upside down power politics involved here, while WSWS has been anti-Kadaffi in its coverage, PrisonPlanet.com (which is usually termed a conservative Website) has taken the opposite tack. Whatever the flaws of Kadaffi and the Libyan government, they have argued, is in the face of a movement that looks to be a covert neocon operation. Whether it started as a neocon plot or not, it certainly has been promoted by neocon propagandists.
One article on PrisonPlanet, by Sara Flounders of GlobalResearch.ca, lays out the other side of the debate:
Imperialism’s interest in Libya is not hard to find. Bloomberg.com wrote on Feb. 22 that while Libya is Africa’s third-largest producer of oil, it has the continent’s largest proven reserves – 44.3 billion barrels. It is a country with a relatively small population but the potential to produce huge profits for the giant oil companies. That’s how the super-rich look at it, and that’s what underlies their professed concern for the people’s democratic rights in Libya.
Getting concessions out of Gadhafi is not enough for the imperialist oil barons. They want a government that they can own outright, lock, stock and barrel. They have never forgiven Gadhafi for overthrowing the monarchy and nationalizing the oil.
BlackAgendaReport.com also notes the following:
One of Muammar Qaddafi's most controversial and difficult moves in the eyes of many Libyans was his championing of Africa and his determined drive to unite Africa with one currency, one army and a shared vision regarding the true independence and liberation of the entire continent. He has contributed large amounts of his time and energy and large sums of money to this project...
It's hard to ignore what Kadaffi has done for Africa over the last decade: providing loans and funding for projects that normally would have huge strings attached if done by the IMF, strings such as privatizing natural resources. Bono's got nothing on Mo.
So my advice to those trying to figure out what's going on in Libya is checking the agenda of the opposition. If and when there is regime change, if the new leadership moves to "privatize" the oil fields or increase the oil companies' cut of profits (currently the Libyan government gets 50 percent plus one of all profits) or cuts the funding for the African Union, then you will know the whole thing has turned into a fraud.
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Libya and Imperialism
February 24, 2011
Libya, Getting it Right: A Revolutionary Pan-African Perspective
Gerald A. Perreira
Libya and the bankruptcy of Arab nationalism
Bill Van Auken
23 February 2011