Mahmoud Jibril, who served as interim prime minister in Libya from March to October 2011 in the Transitional National Council, is firmly believed to have won what is being dubbed as “a landslide victory in the country’s first democratic election”.
In a result that has come as a great surprise to those for whom the Arab Spring was little more than an opening up for Islamists, in particular the Muslim Brotherhood, Jibril has called on the 150 political parties participating in the elections to form a ‘grand coalition’ – furthering his reputation as a political pragmatist.
It is estimated that around 1.8 million of the 2.8 million registered voters cast their ballots, a turnout of around 65 percent.
Another surprise of the election was how organised it was, and how smoothly the process went. As it has been summarised elsewhere “turnout for the national vote was good, violence was scarce, and voters were ebullient.”
As picked up by Juan Cole, there has been plenty of debate about what to do in Tunisia and Egypt about the remnants of the old regime (colloquially called ‘seaweed’ or ‘algae’), and the same is being had in Libya today.
Because of this Jibril has not been entirely free from criticism.
With Jibril being a former head of the National Planning Council of Libya and of the National Economic Development Board of Libya (NEDB) under Gaddafi he has been caught in the crossfire of this debate, though this is mitigated by his high-profile recruitment into the transition council as the country broke out into civil war in 2011.
The important issue for the country is what happens now. Colonel Gaddafi might be gone, though the hard task for future policymakers, set to run a very fractured political ship, is how to replace him.
One particular place where this will be complex is in how to present the old regime in the national curriculum. What is apparent, looking at educational textbooks from the 1970s, is that Gaddafi’s dream of absolute Pan-Arab unity often conflicted with any principles he pretended towards historical accuracy (geography textbooks for example were given to students without borders demarcating different Arab states).
The new Education Ministry has promised to revamp social studies textbooks in time for the 2012-2013 school year and revise history books within the next year or two – though given the extent to which history was distorted under Gaddafi, this looks evermore like an over-optimistic order.
To be sure, no one can judge how committed to historical accuracy and objectivity a new government under Jibril can be, nor can we foresee what kind of political landscape Libya will now bring. Though his reaching out to different political actors in an attempt at some national unity, that reflects the Libyan people’s genuine wishes, should give us hope.
Russia, it was said in a recent New York Times editorial, oppose change in Syria, and tried to block change in Libya, on the grounds that “revolutions have completely destabilized the region and cleared the road to power for the Islamists.”
In other words Putin was, and is, willing to see innocent people die for a series of ill-judged guesses about the political trajectory of countries after the Arab Spring. And this is even before we look at Russia’s weaponry client base.
But in Libya it did not happen this way.
Instead of delivering what everyone expected, the Libyan electorate has given a landslide victory to a moderate, a man who has been described by one voter as someone who “believes in national reconciliation”.
Gaddafi thought he could ignore the wishes of his people and “take the people to paradise in chains.” Unfortunately he kept those people in chains for 42 years, and paradise is the last thing they could expect.
Russia wanted to keep them in chains too, so as to continue selling weapons to Gaddafi – in much demand when he realised the potential of an angry population beneath him.
Times will be tough but Libya has said no to Gaddafi. They’ve ripped off their chains – and they’ve allowed themselves the free right to vote for who they believe will take them through the post-Gaddafi era, and then beyond.
This really couldn’t be kept without sharing
Having obtained your contact from the Internet; I decided to contact you and solicit for your mutual assistance. I am Barr. Dr. Dahmane Ben Abderrahmane, Attorney to the late Libyan Leader, I am writing to solicit for your partnership. On January 6th 2008, Mr. Saif Al Islam Gaddafi, Son of the late Libyan Leader, Muammar Al Gaddafi, made a numbered time (Fixed) Deposit, valued at Thirty-Eight Million Five Hundred Thousand Dollars USD ($38,500,000.00) was deposited in a bank account in Phnom penh Cambodia.
Due to the recent events and the death of his father in Libya, he instructed me that I should look for a Foreign Partner, who could handle this fund on his behalf. When the crises began I left Libya to United State, where I currently reside. I am contacting you due to the fact that Countries Government have seized various amounts running into Billions of Dollars in the past few months belonging to the family of the late Muammar Al Gaddafi, funds lodged in many foreign bank accounts.America, Canada, Austria and other countries Governments, have seized funds in bank accounts in their countries. Although, in Phnom Penh Cambodia their fund that was lodged in Mr. Saif Al Islam Gaddafi bank account has not been located. This is why we want the ownership of the said fund, to change into a different name and transferred out of the account to a foreign account.
Upon agreement of this proposal, I will like you to send your full Names, Address, Date of Birth, Occupation, Telephone number and Fax Number if any. This would be used to change the ownership and open an account bearing your name in the bank, before the funds could be transferred out, to your bank account in your country. All documents relating to this transaction have been obtained, so you don’t have to worry about any thing at all.
The money will be shared in this ratio:70% of the funds will be invested in your country on behalf of Mr. Saif Al Islam Gaddafi, and the remaining 30% will be for you. Also he would like you, to help him look for investment opportunities, to invest his seventy percent of the fund, into a business in your country. Please be informed that your utmost confidentiality is required. If this interests you, please reply me immediately and include your private phone number for voice communication.
I await your urgent reply.
Barr. Dr. Dahmane Ben Abderrahmane.
Attorney to Gaddafis Family.
The money would be nice, but I think I’ll probably give this a miss.
When one reads about the shootings in Syria, the killings, those who have gone missing at sea, the burning metal plates on which Assad’s lackeys place a victim in order to extract information from them – one cannot help be emotionally torn. Something must be done – and fast! But what?
The Syrian national council (SNC), so far recognised by 6 UN member states as the government-in-exile, is a split body. It has not yet formally accepted foreign intervention as a viable strategy to end the Assad regime, but then has the same teething problems as did the Libyan national council – that is organising amongst a rainbow coalition of varying different political directions, many of which are totally at odds.
An opposition of the size we’re talking about, in Syria, combining Islamists, Communists, liberal secularists and anything in between is always going to have complications operating, but analysis on the Syrian case shows divide is far more intrinsic and unceasing.
Even if consistency on foreign intervention was brought to fruition by the opposition groups, the legal case for western-backed military intervention would be frustrated by Russia and China – nations with too many business and diplomatic interests in Assad’s Syria, whose priorities are not to rock this particular boat (Russia having recently sent a flottila to Syria to symbolise its opposition to regime change).
Furthermore, Assad’s muscle men on the ground have been taking on protesters with bullets, utilising small mob groupings to contain dissent on the ground. Not only would intervention – like the one rumoured for Syria, reported PressTV (often hard to take seriously) – be tricky from western backers, far more so than in Libya where a No Fly Zone (NFZ) had obvious and immediate benefits, there is no safe base for rebels to coordinate resistence from. There is, as yet, no Benghazi of Syria.
As the American commentator David Dietz put it:
The problem isn’t a lack of military might or intelligence capabilities, but rather a lack of political resolve […] there is no clear group to save or a unified opposition to back [and] [t]he protesters are not based in an iconic square or area like they were in Egypt.
All this speaks to the great difficulties that dialogue between concerned nations and the Syrian opposition groups will have. But for some of the less thoughtful critics of military engagement in Syria, one is forgiven for suspecting that how complex intervention would be really doesn’t matter anyway.
Mehdi Hasan, in a piece for the Guardian’s Comment is Free, published in December last year, treads through the same motions as those I’ve explained above.
There is no call for [foreign military intervention] by opposition leaders, a NFZ would be of little value as Assad is operating with use of small clans on the ground, and a carpet bombing campaign would not help the opposition.
All well and good, but his primary belief shows itself right at the end of the piece, in fact the very last line, where he says: “The sad truth is, it is not our job to topple Assad.”
This simply overrides all previous considerations Hasan has made regarding how operationally difficult it would be to engage foreign action – and like the opinion of Alex Callinicos that the West did not have the moral authority to avert humanitarian crisis in Libya on the grounds that western capitalism destroys people at home, therefore opting for nothing to happen, allowing Gaddafi to unleash hell on his own people as revenge for daring to speak out against him, so Hasan believes it is a good and responsible principle that when a people are losing a fight for the freedoms we enjoy, the west should sit on its hands and watch because it is “not our job to topple Assad”. Well how terribly principled and privleged.
And because this seems to be the rule of the day, particularly for the political left, one is forced to seek information elsewhere on how to try and overcome the operational difficulties that engagement of the military would have right now. Seemingly, Michael Weiss has made the best effort to date, in his report Intervention in Syria? An Assessment of Legality, Logistics and Hazards.
In it he exemplifies the attacks that Turkey has experienced upon its embassies in Damascus, which raises questions of self-defense – and if ever there was a more prescient time for Turkey to do something, it is now after more than 10,000 refugees from Jisr al-Shughour fled to Antakya, in mid-June.
Problems here are obvious. Turkey has never conducted a humanitarian intervention on its own and it is unlikely to start now. Therefore a UN security council resolution authorising a NATO-led intervention or an Anglo-French-American-Turkish would assist in the defense of those parts of Turkey under attack – grounding the legal step that would later assist in halting the crimes perpetuated by Assad on his own people, in spite of sanctions and calls from foreign leaders to stand down.
Next for Weiss’ report is to note the Northwest province of Idleb as the best place to build up a “safe zone” (like Benghazi to the Libyan rebels) as anti-Assad sentiment is reasonably high. The Syrian military is already quite weak, numbering 450,000, ground troops at 100,000, reliant on soviet-era weaponry, including Naval facilities, and therefore is unlikely to be able to resist an intervention by a coalition of willing nations under legal writ.
Sanctions have done little to curb Assad’s brutality, and 10 months of peaceful protest by an opposition in Syria has resulted, at least, in 5,000 killed, 50,000 missing, 59,000 declared incarcerated and 16,000 dispossessed. The Arab League is to consider ending its monitoring process in Syria as violence continue, the Free Syrian Army has publicly threatened to escalate attacks against the Assad regime, and French President Sarkozy has said that Assad is committing massacres. Assad is ignoring all diplomatic calls to stop the violence – and when an autocrat breaches this level, history shows there are few peaceful alternatives left in the armory.
As Luke Bozier said recently: “Assad is a stubborn player, and he will have to be forced out.”
On top of all this, chemical weaponry is a real possibility. Syria has amassed a large cache, and is rumoured to have been building up more.
As I began, something must be done – time is running out and people are being slaughtered. The Syrian rebels need to appropriate what worked in Egypt and Libya by occupying a “safe zone”, they need to come together to commit to a working set of principles and arrangements vis-à-vis on agreeing a plan for engaging with foreign military powers. All legal procedures need to be completed, all alternatives need to be exhausted, and proven to be unhelpful (like sanctions – if more proof were needed), and the case for responsibilities beyond our own borders needs to be made once more. It worked in Libya, we should all like to see it work in Syria.
A recent Guardian response on comment is free had it: ‘Libyan intervention was a success, despite the aftermath’s atrocities’. To the unforgiving, this sentiment could appear callous and ignorant of the calibre of struggles to come, but is very much consistent with the altruistic justification for intervention indeed.
Take 1930s Spanish history as a judge. If Franco had lost the civil war, a great power grab would have overcome the coaltion of Trotskyites, Stalinists, moderates and social democrats, anarchists and the small cohort of sympathetic Liberals who composed the republican resistance.
Initially, no mandate could or would have allowed office to whoever the victor was, but in a revolution, after the battle the war begins. The intervention to level out the disproportionate amount of power enjoyed by a vengeful Gaddafi and his footsoldiers succeeded where it neutrally facilitated what became the victory to the rebels.
One can only hope the transitional council does the right thing and translates a rainbow coalition of resistance into a post-Gaddafi democratic bloom.
One world leader they know they can not turn to for support is Hugo Chavez – but then this was a long time coming.
In Chavez’ Venezuela, the poor and dispossessed felt they had finally found someone in whom their concerns are listened to. Programmes are catered for, staples are subsidised, more people today are covered by state pensions and disused private land is expropriated to pursue a campaign of quality housing for those most in need.
For everything there is to celebrate, there is something to scould Chavez for.
Even on a domestic front, where Chavez’ strengths are, support is relatively drippy. Roland Denis, a grassroots campaigner close to an emerging coalface organisation called the Great Patriotic Pole, in an interview with Venezuela Analysis, spoke of the decreasing enthusiasm among Chavez’ main base.
In the coming elections the PSUV (the United Socialist Party of Venezuela – a fusion of political and social forces grouped together, led by Hugo Chavez) are going to struggle – that is established. Chavez knows this, too. He leads in the poles now, but when the right wing have decided who to back, they will enjoy a very threatening spike in support.
As Denis admits, the problem of decreasing support for the PSUV is the “erosion of the popular movement”.
He continues, however, by stating that “the very dynamic of the state deepens this erosion [of popular movements in Venezuela] by establishing a corporate state practice within these movements”.
Not forgetting the failed, but very concerted, attempt by Chavez to be President for life, the increasing move from community oriented politics, where Chavez began, to a saturation of that model with corporate structures and an all encompassing state control, has been noted.
“By ceasing to be reference points”, Denis laments, “for the struggle, [the PSUV] stop existing for the people [and] Hugo Chavez is the son of this people; he is not the father of this people. We gave birth to Hugo Chavez”.
Elsewhere, a right wing opposition leader by the name of Leopoldo Lopez, is to be barred from ever holding political office by the Supreme Court. By decree he has every right to run for office, only in knowledge that in his preferred circumstances, he would still be officially unable to take office – owing to a court decision attesting to his corruption as a former district mayor in Caracas, a matter on which he notes he was never sentenced for in a court.
According to Lopez, Chavez has been seeking ways in which to block high profile candidates such as himself, and cites the fact that the Supreme Court is disproportionately represented by pro-Chavez supporters. Chavez does not deny this to be true, but does argue that they are autonomous and adhere to the law.
Criticism and opposition towards Chavez at home was once dominated by the right, but suspicions have been raised on both sides of the political fold. This will not bode well for his fight to lead Venezuela again after the next election.
And this is even before we mention Chavez’ standing, and allies, at an international level (Iranian rogue Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has visited Venezuela 3 times since he took office in 2005, a fourth time denied because of Chavez’ ill health).
When alive, Gaddafi named a baseball stadium after Hugo Chavez just outside Benghazi. The transition council should think about removing that name. Perhaps grassroots movements in Venezuela should think about trying to do the same for the PSUV and for Venezuela.
As someone put it in the week Gaddafi is dead, now the hard part starts. Hard, too, for those on the wrong side of history.
While China looks set to change its tune at an hour far too far after the eleventh, going from calling Gaddafi the Libyan “strongman” in the state media to the “madman”, Russia continues to do itself no favours, with Ministers calling the dead despot a “martyr”.
The chances of the oil and railway contracts being dignified by the National Transition Council in Libya seem weak at best.
And rightly so. The NTC have taken it upon themselves to maintain contracts only with those supportive nations, leaving China, Russia and, of course, Brazil out in the cold.
This trade system of vested interests can be more or less modelled on the trade system of vested interests that preceded it. Those countries that abstained in the UN resolution were happy to see the rebels killed for long term oil gain from a crook and killer, now they can shop elsewhere.
Oil will now only be as political as it has always been, but more so.
Regarding Syria, some have taken to repeating Assad’s desperate bluster, but as James Denselow for HuffPo has said, his carrots of reformed media and political party laws (etc.) are somewhat outweighed by his sticks of armed militias flattening dissent.
As Rupert Read in a fantastic essay on Left Foot Forward this morning pointed out, some, including the usually right on MediaLens, are falling for Assad’s carrots, but ignoring his sticks as so much imperialist horseshit.
The fear of change should only deter us from supporting the Arab Spring uprisings if what it was challenging had been proven to be working and successful, and the effort against it seemingly futile. This not the case, not in Syria, not in Yemen and not in Libya.
The death of Gaddafi, if it proves anything, is that the people are rising to destroy dictatorships and taking control of their states of exception (in the sense that Giorgio Agamben uses the term). But they can’t do it alone because of the weapon stockpiles, and military loyalties, of their dictators.
Assad, as Saleh, knows, after watching Gaddafi die, that their options are to forgo power or wage civil war.
The United Nations should know that a civil war in Syria, without their efforts, will be harder to contain later on. They can bypass no fly zones, just arm the people – now, or see advocates of democracy burn.
While a great many of us watched with pleasure the Arab Spring unfolding, and other similar events in and around the region, others – such as arms dealers – looked on in horror.
Nowhere did this happen with such irony than Libya. Earlier this year Sergei V. Chemezov, the director of the Russian state company in charge of weapons exports, told reporters that Russia can expect to lose $4 billion because of the unrest.
This relates to an “historic” trip taken by Putin to Libya in 2008. One journal has it like this:
Russia canceled Libya’s $4.5 billion debt “in exchange for multibillion-dollar contracts for Russian companies.” Dozens of documents were signed, including a Declaration on strengthening friendship and developing cooperation between the two countries, as well as a number of major contracts.
In January 2010, Putin announced that Russia was to supply Libya with “small-arms and other weapons to the value of $1.8bn (£1.1bn, 1.3bn euros)”. Such investment seemed worth making last year – and it didn’t come cheap cancelling all that debt.
Now, as one news source has put it: “$4 bn down the drain”. The rebels are refusing to “buy weapons from Russia because the country will not need them in the future.” Those weapons might have been used to kill them, the rebels, and now they are refusing to buy them – makes sense to me.
…And I laughed until I cried.
Jost, Glaser, Kruglanski, Sulloway (2003):
Persons having low levels of motivation to process information would be more likely to support conservative ideologies because these rely on tradition, are aimed at (societal stability), and imply the avoidance caused by change.
Thórisdóttir, Jost (2011)
High need for cognitive closure represents a desire for “an answer to a question on a given topic, any answer … compared to confusion and ambiguity” and it often leads to black and white thinking
Peter Hitchens (yesterday):
Just because existing regimes are bad, it does not follow that their replacements will be any better. The world has known this since the French Revolution of 1789, when bliss and joy turned to mass murder and dictatorship in a matter of months.
Point of note: the kind of conservative thinking which Hitchens exemplifies only aims at societal stability, does not guarantee for it. Indeed what kind of world would we live in if we allowed and accepted tyranny on the basis that what waits in the wings could be worse.
But what really gets my goat is not that Hitchens is being true to Burke in invoking 1789 and the French Revolution (which the latter disliked not because he feared change and ambiguity necessarily, but because he saw that Robespierre was forming a half-baked, overly and needlessly violent revolution), but because he neglects to mention how different the contexts are: The rebels in France existed to cause terror (quotes from Robespierre include: “To punish the oppressors of humanity is clemency; to forgive them is barbarity”; “slowness of judgments is equal to impunity”; “uncertainty of punishment encourages all the guilty”) whereas the National Transition Council formed to avert terror being done to them, and as a consequence are recognised as the country’s authority by 50 other nations – enjoying the kind of diplomatic relations rebels of many countries can only dream of.