The Misappropriation of Libya(n Intervention)
I wrote this months ago and never bothered to finish it / make it a worthwhile read. I haven’t looked over it since about June (notice I always preface my pieces by abdicating responsibility for them). Not sure why I’m posting it now in its utterly incomplete form…other than that I’m still coming across pieces that are wonderful UNTIl they superficially victimize Libya in support of their argument (which again, I otherwise wholeheartedly agree with). Maybe this well help. ahaha.
I preface this piece by emphasizing that this is not a comprehensive analysis of Libyan intervention (it’s effects, its purpose, it’s legality). Rather, this is a reflection on the (anti)-interventionist discourse that continues to surround the Libyan revolution. I do not intend to persecute anti-interventionists, but to critically evaluate the contradictions that developed as Libya was discussed and appropriated away from its citizens.
The transformation of the oppressed into the oppressor is a phenomena we tend to attribute to hardline conservative warmonger, AIPAC, and other formidable political figures or bodies. But in the past year a half, our former journalistic and academic “hero’s” - George Galloway, Seth Greenwald, Code PINK, and a plethora of others sympathetic to Middle Eastern, Arab, and Muslim issues - proved they can engage in the same sort of ideologically-motivated manipulation. The deliberate, systematic suppression of the Libyan voice throughout the revolution and continuing now- particularly on the subject of intervention - evolved from a blanket opposition to intervention into a dedicated antipathy towards proponents of intervention, including Libyan citizens. The idea that the revolution has been ‘marred,’ rendered impure, and is therefore artificial, laces through contemporary pieces on post-revolutionary Libya.
The conspiracy-oriented denial of the facts which hastened intervention, and which were corroborated by independent media, rights organizations, and citizen journalists, was essential in divorcing Libya’s narrative from the agency of its people. The denial of Gaddafi’s tactics, of his capacity for negotiation, of the victim count, and the revolutionary forces’ composition, frustrated those of us with an ear to the telephone and eyes glued to the images that so bravely tore through the media blackout crafted by Gaddafi.
The marginalization of Libyans victims in the anti-interventionist narrative was not only committed (preformed) by the bankrolled Cynthia McKinney-types, but by a wide range of unsolicited spokespersons of the ‘third-world,’ who often sought to approach Libyan intervention as a repeat of ‘Operation Iraqi Liberation.” The framing of Libyan intervention was not only constructed relative to Iraq, but as exclusive to it, such that opposition went beyond criticisms of oil-interests and long-term intentions, and proceeded to manipulate events on the ground to this resurrected narrative: Was Benghazi really in trouble? Are there really mercenaries? Isn’t this just a Civil War (as opposed to a state terrorizing its citizens)? Aren’t there a lot of people who are really happy with this anti-imperial figure? What if Gaddafi tried to abide by the ceasefire, and NATO-backed rebels broke it - after all, isn’t that what Libyan State TV claims?
The cognitive dissonance of political sociologists and other ambiguous Mideast specialists who were unable to comprehend the conditions which implored “third world” individuals to seek the aid of imperial powers resulted in the ironic censorship of Libyan agency. In place of the Libyan voice – which was quite tangible thanks to the efforts of citizen and independent journalists – pundits presented their own external “knowledge” in defense of their positions and in their predictions for the now-eternally-stained Libya. For example, journalist/academic Nabila Ramdani, along with a score of other individuals with a newly acquired historical knowledge of Libya, prioritized the largely colonial and otherwise foreign writings of Libya over contemporary expressions. Her infamous interview alongside Juma Gumati revealed the mentality of many of her fellow fortunetellers, as she told then Gumati that his understanding of Libya was a fantasy. Of course Libya is a very tribal nation! Of course there is no genuine Libyan identity! Why should we give credence to the expressions and physical manifestations of unity that Libyans demonstrates through their simultaneous uprisings, their collaborations, their posters attesting to the contemporary, if not historical, unity of “one Libya”? Yet, despite the severe lack of scholarship concerning either contemporary or historical Libyan society, Ramdani posited her general “North-African” and “Muslim” expertise as more valuable than the chronicles of Libyan citizens. The subtext of such claims indicated an inability or unwillingness to “trust” Libyans with their own self-determination.
This isn’t to suggest that the “Libyan voice” or the “Libyan memory” exists as an apluralisitic or unflucutating reality. But the interpretation of Libyan public opinion regularly shifted almost entirely away from any reasonable basis in reality. Libyan citizens who thanked NATO were either entirely ignored or classified as propaganda. When Libyans could not be sourced to support anti-intervention positions, they were simply bypassed for the expert opinions of foreigners. That kind of foreign interference is acceptable. That kind of foreign interference in the ‘best interests” of indigenous citizens is necessary to save them from the their false consciousness and simplistic comprehension of the world.
These narratives entailed the dehumanization of Libyans in two ways. The first is in the presentation of Libya as a a variable in a theoretical playground, rather than as the collective, sovereign identity of a people: Libya signified x,y,z for the wider Middle East, Libya would justify similar foreign policy action in x,y,z, Libya is an indicator of a historical, philosophical, economic, or political phenomena. The nation was de-personalized such that it significance existed only in relation to the rest of the world - to international policy, to the West’s ego, to the West’s economy, to the Arab or ‘third-world’ consciousness. Rarely was Libya conceived as anything more than a object to be acted upon, as more than an empty, unconscious arena of international agendas. Rarely was Libya as the political manifestation of autonomous Libyan citizens discussed. In much the same way national policies are formed with little regard to humanity, the abstraction of “Libya” allowed for theoretical and philosophical discussions of anti-imperialism and anti-interventionism to outweigh the plain desires of the majority of Libyans.
The human element was largely and ironically forsaken by some ‘anti-war activists’’ to reinforce static conceptions of the world, in which the primary actors are necessarily (1) world powers and (2) enlightened scholars/leftists/pundits who provide the counter-narrative to the intrinsic propaganda of the world powers. Their efforts focused on creating this counter-narrative with an exaggeration of tribal, city, regional differences and Arab-berber differences. In some cases, support for Gaddafi was inflated to craft the appearance of a truly divisive, civil war in which no side was “right.” The only possible, verifiable truth in the entire situation was the autonomy of Gaddafi’sLibya. The autonomy of Libyan citizens could not be established.
The rejection of intervention also periodically gave way into the vilification of Libyan citizens, the second form of systematic dehumanization. The criminalization of defensive violence is (partly) reflected in the phrase “Western-backed rebels,” rhetoric which masked the fact that fighters were ordinary citizens galvanized by the Gaddafi’s sadistic civilian attacks. Though the term “rebel” was ubiquitous in the discourse on Libya, the intonations on phrases such as “Western-backed” equated rebels with collaborators, traitors, and even mercenaries of the grandiose “Western agenda.” (Some) Anti-interventionists came to the rescue of tortured Gaddafi soldiers, or to the Gaddafi children claimed in NATO attacks - claims they were eager to circulate without the same threshold for veracity required to substantiate the crimes which induced Libyans to plead for intervention.
The fixation and exaggeration of crimes committed by ‘rebels’ while Libyan government forces continued to target civilians evidenced endeavors to divert the focus of the Libyan revolution away from the humanitarian justifications for intervention. Certainly, the misconduct and human rights abuses of anti-government forces holds its place in the revolution’s narrative. But to argue that actions conducted largely in reprisal (that is, attempts to seek justice against guilty parties, when no system of justice is readily available), by individuals who had witnessed the gross loss of life at the hands of the former Libyan government, illustrates the ingenuity of the revolution, and consequently evidences the un-authentic motives of the Western-revolutionary relationship deliberately manipulates fact and context for the benefit of stringent ideological positions.
This barbarization of Libyans, and revolutionary fighters in particularly, was especially evident in the aftermath of Gaddafi’s death. Proponents of intervention and Libyans alike expressed their taste with Gaddafi’s death and his posthumous spectacle, but some rigid opponents went on to further depict Gaddafi as a victim - a victim of the West’s self-interest and barbarous Libyan militias who did their bidding; George Galloway depicted Gaddafi as an ‘old, sick man’ in what nearly amounted to a eulogy, while scores of pundits proclaimed Libya’s inability to ever ascent into a just, democratic nation in the aftermath of such a public act of brutality (never-mind the inability or implausibility of the Gaddafi-clan to implement any sort of meaningful reform after the years of much worse, much more public, and much more numerous acts of terror.)
Pundits and talking heads presented their own crafted image of Libyans, rather than the image Libyans presented of themselves through Youtube, twitter, and on-the-ground media. Idealistic visions of Libya may have faded into the reality of post-revolutionary politics, including the defectiveness of the NTC as well as the power-plays made by foreign nations. But the false dichotomy presented by anti-interventionists does not determine Libya’s reality. Libya is not predestined to a fate because of Western intervention because capacity and autonomy/agency determine Libya’s future, not the pseudo-scientific calculations of political theorists and commentators. The moment that Benghazi lit the spark and that every city and every neighborhood rose to pass along the torch, Libyans knowingly accepted the never-ending fight for self-determination - an internationally recognized right that was ironically denied to them by the very same people throughout the revolution.
2:04 am • 7 October 2012 • 3 notes
It’ll likely take me until the election to read this. Whether I’ll ever understand it is a whole other issue (Arabic dictionaries are SUCH a pain).
on Scribd 01.1 Libyan Elections Law
8:32 pm • 1 January 2012 • 4 notes
This is the ONLY worthwhile read on Libya. I PROMISE.
(And every Libya “specialist” seems to have bypassed its 700+ pages. Why shoot for historical accuracy when you can just make shit up? I mean, with a dictator in power, it’s not like anyone’s really gonna be able to check up on…oh)
And Tasbeeh is a beautiful, wonderful person for making it available to all of you. <3
Libyan Independence and the United Nations: The Case for Decolonization
Written after the Libyan liberation from Italian colonization by UN commissioner Adriaan Pelt (pictured above, left, with King Idris I), this book is now not only out-of-print but copies of it are almost impossible to find outside of a library. I emailed the Yale University Press for more info and they said it wasn’t even in their system anymore. SC had a copy on hand so I spent a few good hours in the library scanning it up — it’s definitely one of those must-reads on Libya. I uploaded the PDF to dropbox in two parts:
Part One (.ZIP)
Part Two (.ZIP)
3:42 am • 12 November 2011 • 9 notes
At this point, do I even need the “I don’t like to proofread,”/”Sorry if this makes no sense, ranting just feels awesome,” disclaimer?
What does justice for a dictator mean? For a man single-handily responsible for the deaths of thousands over 42 years of unyielding, unmerciful repression?
Is justice not inevitably contingent upon the crimes one commits? What is the purpose of a trial but to give the accused the opportunity to defend himself, for his victims to present evidence against him, for him to be tried by his peers? Is this process - the pursuit of a ‘just’ end to an unjust man - not equivalent to the eight month spectacle this lunatic entertainer has paraded before the entire world? Did he not continue to testify before an international audience until moments before his cathartic demise, suffocating the sieged city of Sirte with his propaganda as he secretly, cowardly shuffled from house to house?
Why is it that the death of a dictator is the death of a revolution? Has Gaddafi succeeded in convincing the casual observer as well as the ‘intellectual’ that he defines Libya? Why, even in his death, do the journalists, the pundits, and most shamefully, the Arab diaspora and the self-proclaimed Arab/Muslim intelligentsia, prioritize Gaddafi over any other person or any other event in Libya? Why should Gaddafi, in death, embody Libya’s future? Was not the purpose of the revolution to liberate Libya’s future from Gaddafi’s hold? So who truly failed this revolution - the thuwarr, who put an end to the psychological and physical misery of a nation, or the Arab/Muslim intellectuals, whose moralistic outrage at Gaddafi’s death shadowed any contempt for the dictator’s own crimes? Where is the outcry for “justice” against the ex-Gaddafi regime officials living freely in Jordan and Qatar? Why aren’t their victims worth the admittedly shitty carbon-copy articles pumped out in response to Gaddafi’s death?
Is this oversight - this hypocrisy - per chance connected to the general leftist-disaporic Arab opposition to the intervention in Libya? Let’s be real. “They” didn’t curse the revolution when Gaddafi died. They decried the revolution when Libyans dared call upon ‘Western forces’ for aid - the only forces willing and able to protect civilians, no matter their intentions - when they dared take responsibility for their fate and accept the consequences that foreign intervention inevitably carries with it. How dare they think themselves capable enough to ward off the opportunists? The ‘neocolonialists’? Ah is it because, before the revolution, Libyans never possessed the ability to defend themselves against foreign interests? Ah Ah Ah but now that Libyans have wrenched power from their own government, such self-determination does enter the realm of possibility!
Oh but if self-interest, determination, and true agency means intervention…oh damn reality and the limitations it sets on my wholly theoretical, divorced-from-the-realities-of-war world view and the predictably ambiguous commentary it produces!
Ah, and God forbid we disrupt our neocolonialist-faux-revolution narrative by acknowledging the greater justice exercised under the banner of the revolution. The care given to prisoners, as video dating back from the first couple months of the thowra demonstrate - yes, before a “national rebel entity” could even be patched together from the imaginations of careless journalists to systematically enforce the humane treatment pro-Gaddafi fighters (the ones that actually were guided by a centralized, sanctioned policies) never practiced in turn - the amnesty, oh and this is the BIG one - the June trial given to Gaddafi in absentia. Still not good enough? Oh wait oh wait oh wait, isn’t the essence your ‘anti-imperial’ agenda that we not cater to the false standards of humanity erected by the amorphous “West,” that we not subject ourselves to the judgement of those damn arrogant foreigners who will colonize your mind even if they can’t colonize your land…?
Steady, now - there’s only so much hypocrisy your blind ethical ramblings can take before they destroy the perfect dichotomy you’ve dreamed up in that cozy cafe far, far away from those icky Libyan barbarians :)
5:17 am • 5 November 2011 • 9 notes
Portrait Of Suad Abdel-Rahim (Leader Of Tunisia’s Islamist Party Al-Nahda) By Marco Salustro, October 2011
Haters say whah?
Perhaps now it’s time to turn this little tumblr into “Things People Say about the Maghreb That Piss Me Off.” ? Maybe if I had more content to work with, I’d blog more frequently? Ahahahaha.
2:48 am • 5 November 2011 • 24 notes
I didn’t realize how in-tuned my flowchart was with this blog until I finished it. Basically sums up everything I ever thought about writing and never did.
1:29 am • 26 October 2011 • 5 notes
“It overestimates the outward-technical progress, machinery; it makes external splendor and power the ruling factor in the judgement of a person or a nation and it despises the inner development,”
— King Idris (Allah yer7ama) pondering the irony of Italian ‘civilizing’ missions while in Egypt, a few years before Libya’s independence.
1:10 am • 15 October 2011
The hypocrisy of belaboring the hypocrisy of the Libyan Revolution (which now isn’t really a revolution because of Western intervention) for requesting international military support is stunning; “How dare you seek the aid of a force that oppresses your brothers and sisters in the Arab world! For attempting to save the lives of hundreds of thousands, we will now suppress your voice. Because that’s what these revolutions should be about - making sure Arabs can overpower other Arabs because they want to instill their own world order, and it is unquestionably better than whatever it was the Libyans had mind — let’s not even bring Libyan citizens to the discussion table.
OH SHIT WAIT…hah wait…that’s kind of what we have right now, right? With, you know, the Arab dictators who think they know what’s best for our countries and play up Western fears/occidentalism as much as Western nations play up Islamic fears in order to secure their own obnoxious visions? Okay, wait. But if the ends justifies the means, then we’re okay. At the end of the day, it’s better to know the future government won’t be a lackey of Western powers than if we saved entire cities from certain death.
Except, well, oh wait. We’re not really in the post-colonial era anymore. I mean, the leaders we’ve had, sure they’ve gotten arm deals & such from Western powers, but you can’t really call them puppet regimes…I mean, look at Gaddafi: he came to power defying Western influences. But he still kind of screwed over the Libyan people & eventually - as they all do - became pretty close with a bunch of Western nations despite his anti-imperialist-greenbook little front. Whereas on the other hand..the mujahadeen in Afghanistan were aided by the United States…and well that didn’t turn out as expected, now did it? Hmmm. So perhaps I am incorrect but VIVA PALESTINE WE DO NOT ACCEPT NATO INTERVENTION BECAUSE THE UNITED STATES SUPPORTS ISRAEL AND REALLY, THAT’S ALL THAT MATTERS.”*
*”Not that I ever really do anything positive to aid the Palestinian effort, it’s the principal that matters.”
10:24 pm • 2 August 2011 • 7 notes
The title’s poor attempt at alliteration is a little distasteful, no?
WARNING: I don’t spell check. Or even re-read late night rants written in frustration. So, yeeah…
Yawn. Six months later and we still care about tribes? It’s cute, I mean, the guy briefly mentions other plausible, more ‘rational,’ reasons for Younes’ death & the mystery that surrounds it, but then spends an entire paragraphic questioning possible (not really) tribal connections?
Is it so difficult to believe that Middle Eastern politics are driven by the same shit that underscores, IDK, the rest of the world? Surely they have greater worries than a system that has lost virtually all political relevance? Orientalist nightmare if there ever was one.
They could shout ONE LIBYA ’till they’re blue in the face (which they do), but these pseudo-sociologists/historians/political analysts/anthropologists masquerading as professional, informed journalists will see only what they want to see - some escapist fantasy of a tribal land regressing into its true, “natural” state as it untangles itself from the all mighty, unifying fist of Gaddafi’s ‘modern’ oil regime. Oooooh let’s watch tribal warfare destroy the struggling nation! Spare. Me. *
I also love the exaggerations. His tribal peeps shot at the hotel with “rifle fire” I am pretty damn sure eye witnesses said TWO people tries to enter the hotel after the press conference and were detained. Also pretty sure they were just family members, but why use such modernist language to describe a clearly backward society?** Let’s not mention his relative’s own quasi-press release today, in which he proclaimed the family’s ongoing commitment to the revolution (he was reading from a letter, planned & all). But of course, why mention something broadcasted on television when you can relay unverified gossip — which BTW Libyans are notorious for (we all know it’s true - ask your mom’s nephew’s wife’s brother.)
The author’s analyses of baseless speculation does, however, make him/her a prime candidate for the Free Libya FB group.
As for the article’s comments…we will add them to the list of reasons to weep for humanity. For shame, compatriots, for shame..
*Seriously, have you ever seen more than two sentences explaining the importance of tribes in Libyan society? About why they will lead to inevitable confrontation in Gaddafi’s aftermath? About how they have somehow managed to remain such a strong, powerful social force despite Gaddafi’s absolutist hold over society? If you have, it’s orientalist, ahistorical bullshit. It’s more likely that you haven’t though, because making up all that shit takes more time than spewing out vague conventional understandings of Libyan society.
**Yes, I speculated to contradict a speculation.The fact that we’re both speculating means the original statement should never have appeared as if it were fact in the article. I get more leeway because I’m the farthest thing from a professional. Also, I’m Libyan, so I mean, obviously I’m more likely to be right. Obviously. (Seriously though, the source was at the hotel. I chose to believe him over this M.S. character & his copy/pasting from initial AP/Reuters reports)
Bad news from Benghazi
Jul 29th 2011, 10:15 by M.S.
THE murder of General Abdel Fatah Younes in still largely unexplained circumstances is the worst possible news for those Western governments, such as Britain’s and America’s, that have just taken the step of recognising the rebel Transitional National Council (TNC) as the sole legitimate representative of the Libyan people. It appears that General Younes, the commander of the rebel forces and a former interior minister in the regime of Muammar Qaddafi who defected in February, was recalled to Benghazi from the eastern front near the oil town of Brega to answer charges of negotiating secretly with Tripoli. Three hours after his supposed arrival in Benghazi, the head of the TNC, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, another former minister, announced his death and that of two other officers at the hands of an armed gang, at least one of whose members had been arrested. As news of the killing spread, forces loyal to General Younes, mainly from his Obeidi tribe, began heading for Benghazi, while other fellow tribesman began spraying the hotel from where Mr Jalil had made the announcement with automatic rifle fire.
General Younes had been from the moment of his defection an ambiguous figure for many in the rebel camp who doubted whether he had really burnt his bridges with his old ministerial chums and the Qaddafi family. In April, the Colonel’s daughter, Aisha, suggested in a television interview that one member of the TNC’s ruling council was still loyal to her father. She refused to rule out speculation that this was General Younes. There was also tension between General Younes and Khalifa Haftar, a former army officer who also claimed to be the leader of the rebel military forces, which had contributed to the dysfunctionality of the military effort in the east.
The death of General Younes raises a number of tricky questions for the TNC and its supporters in the international community. If General Younes was indeed attempting to negotiate a settlement with the regime in Tripoli, was he freelancing or doing it with the blessing of at least some other members of the TNC? Mr Jalil recently raised the possibility that Colonel Qaddafi might be allowed to remain in Libya, though not in power, as part of a peace deal, only to be quickly contradicted by some of his colleagues. To what extent was the murder of General Younes motivated by tribal rivalries? The TNC has determinedly stressed that its goal of a democratic Libya ruled by law transcended tribal bickering. But as the prospect of negotiated settlement looms larger and with it the way in which the country’s resources, especially its oil, may be divvied up, the potential for tribal factionalism to rear its head is there. More immediately, with the onset of Ramadan next week, what does the removal of General Younes from the scene mean for the attempt to break the military stalemate in the east? Should the forces there begin to splinter, the outlook could quickly change for the worse.
So far, there are more questions than answers, but General Younes’s death is an ominous precedent.
4:15 am • 30 July 2011 • 1 note