Clearing up myths and
misconceptions about Gaddafi and the Libyan uprising
By Muhammad Al-Arabi
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, March 21, 2011
Muhammad al-Arabi views some of the myths and misconceptions
that are used by Libyan dictator Mu'ammar Gaddafi’s backers to justify
supporting his murderous regime. He argues that, far from being a
progressive anti-imperialist, Gaddafi has not only played a destructive role
among national liberation movements, but has also stolen Libya’s wealth and
impoverished its people.
Despite all the reports of mass murder
and destruction wreaked on innocent civilians in Libya by dictator Mu’ammar
Gaddafi’s home-grown thugs and foreign mercenaries, one cannot but be
shocked by the fact that this criminal and thief still manages to delude
some people who are fooled by his cheap tricks.
When you think of clever public relations and subtle propaganda, probably
the last people who would come to mind are Gaddafi and his offspring. Thus,
the fact that some people continue to be deluded by him and his supporters
worldwide is certainly perplexing to Libyans and other Arabs who have lived
Among Gaddafi’s praise-singers are “people who live
outside Libya and have never witnessed at first hand how he
has destroyed his country and stole its national wealth,
murdered and incarcerated his people and betrayed those
whose causes he supposedly espouses.”
Those who have lived in or are familiar with Libya will know that Gaddafi
and his sons have no support among Libyans. But outside Libya, it would seem
the the dictator is not short of supporters.
Hirelings and naives
By and large, the people who sing Gaddafi’s praises fall into two
categories. First, there are those who have been paid by his regime, or else
are recipients of his patronage. I won’t say anything about these: they are
hirelings who would sell their souls to the highest bidder.
A second category of Gaddafi praise-singers comprises people who live
outside Libya and have never witnessed at first hand how he has destroyed
his country and stole its national wealth, murdered and incarcerated his
people and betrayed those whose causes he supposedly espouses.
The image of Gaddafi in these people’s minds is that of the progressive,
anti-imperialist who supports national liberation movements and who has
brought health, education and economic wellbeing to his country.
But this image is utterly devoid of substance.
Friend of Israel, partner in “extraordinary rendition”
“...why, if Gaddafi were a progressive and
anti-imperialist, did he partake in George W. Bush's
extraordinary rendition programme, which turned Libya into
one of the USA's torture sub-contractors in Africa”?
To begin with, Gaddafi’s “progressive anti-imperialist”
phase lasted only five years after he came to power, from 1969 to 1974.
After 1974, his relationship with national liberation movements became
conditional and his support contingent upon these movements doing his dirty
work, such as killing liberation movement leaders who would not subordinate
themselves to him or murdering Libyan opponents abroad. Consequently, most
genuine liberation movements shunned him.
The important thing to remember is that at no time
since 1969 did Gaddafi’s support for progressive forces ever match his
rhetoric. Those who still believe in this rhetoric would do well to ask
themselves what kind of a progressive leader would appoint an heir apparent,
as Gaddafi has done with his son Saif al-Islam, let alone an heir apparent
who is best mates with Israel’s far, far-right settler foreign minister, the
fascist Avigdor Lieberman, and was (and perhaps still is) “romantically
involved” with an Israeli actress, Orly Weinerman. And they
should ask themselves why if Gaddafi were a progressive and
anti-imperialist did he partake in George W. Bush's extraordinary rendition
programme, which turned Libya into one of the USA's torture sub-contractors
As for the country’s
social and economic progress under Gaddafi’s rule, yes, Libya has made great
strides socially and economically thanks to its huge oil wealth. But this is
only a fraction of what it could have achieved had Gaddafi and his demented
playboy sons not
squandered the country’s wealth for their own benefit.
Remember, we are talking about a country with a
population of 6.5 million and oil revenues of nearly 45 billion US dollars.
We are also talking about a country which, despite its massive oil wealth
and small population, has 30 per cent unemployment.
But what of the opposition? Are they any better? And should the outside
world support them?
“Support for and opposition to the Gaddafi regime ...
crosses tribal boundaries, with the overwhelming majority of
Libyans of all tribes actually against the regime, as
evidenced by the fact that hundreds of thousands of people
have braved the myriad of regime thugs, goons and killers to
express their support for the uprising.”
It is easy to forget amid the black cloud of civil war that is hovering
over Libya that the current uprising began in mid-February as a series of
peaceful protests by ordinary people demanding their civil and political
rights. They were met with lethal violence by the regime, which used heavy
weapons, helicopters as well as hired hands, and from there on the civil
rights protests escalated to armed conflict, with the protestors arming
themselves with weapons seized from arms dumps and secret police compounds.
The second point to remember is that
this is not a war between competing tribes, as some ill-informed
observers claim. Support for and opposition to the Gaddafi regime in fact
crosses tribal boundaries, with the overwhelming majority of Libyans of all
tribes actually against the regime, as evidenced by the fact that hundreds
of thousands of people have braved the myriad of regime thugs, goons and
killers to express their support for the uprising.
“freedom and democracy” come from shoulder-held, short-range surface-to-air
missiles, light guided anti-tank missiles, jamming of Gaddafi's military
communications and surgical air strikes against his command and
communications centres, as I advocated in a
The answer is that, under the circumstances where
the regime has not hesitated from using battlefield weapons against innocent
civilians and peaceful protestors, yes, the world has an obligation to arm
those who have risen up against the tyrant and who would else be sitting
ducks for his goons.
A defeat for freedom [in Libya]
will radiate out into the rest of North Africa and the Middle East and
beyond. There are a lot of rightly nervous dictators in the world at the
moment: tyrants who fear copycat democratic revolutions. These dictators
have a trilemma: do they reform, do they quit or do they attempt to
crush their people's aspirations for freedom? If Gaddafi prevails, his
fellow dictators will have a template for what they should do when faced
with revolt: kill the opposition without mercy in the confidence that
the preachers of democracy in the West will do nothing more than wring
their pathetic hands.
Muhammad al-Arabi is a social and political blogger
based in London, UK, who has spent many years in Libya. A version of
this article originally appeared on his blog,
expressed in various sections are the sole responsibility of their authors
and they may not represent Al-Jazeerah & ccun.org.