[Marxism] A disservice to the antiwar movement
proletariandan at gmail.com
Tue Jul 12 09:07:45 MDT 2011
A great response to the nonsense about why we can't support uprisings
against 'lesser-evil, anti-imperialist' dictators like Qaddafi and
Michael Fiorentino and Jeremy Tully argue that the group ANSWER is wrong to
tie the anti-imperialist struggle to the defense of a tyrant like Mummar
July 12, 2011
THE U.S.-led NATO bombing of Libya must end--and Libya's dictator Muammar
el-Qaddafi must be supported as a progressive and an anti-imperialist. These
were the twin messages of mid-June "Eyewitness Libya" speaking tour
sponsored by the antiwar group ANSWER and featuring former U.S. Rep. Cynthia
McKinney was joined on the tour by the Nation of Islam's Akbar Muhammad and
various ANSWER activists, as well as former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey
Clark at some stops. But all of the speakers voiced the same point at the
meetings--that in order to oppose the NATO bombing of Libya, antiwar and
anti-imperialist activists need to accept that Qaddafi and his regime are
ANSWER, a leading organization involved in the U.S. antiwar movement,
promoted its tour as revealing the truth about NATO's bombing of Libya. But
when we attended the San Francisco stop, the presentations were at least as
much about supporting Qaddafi as opposing the bombing.
This message does a disserve to the antiwar movement by associating
opponents of the U.S. war machine with a regime that, while it is under
attack by the West today, was a valued ally in the "war on terror" only a
few months ago, and that has a terrible record of political repression and
human rights abuses.
Not only does ANSWER wrongly claim that opposition to NATO and U.S. bombing
must entail support for Qaddafi, but it has shown a disregard for democratic
discussion, which needs to be at the center of any effort to rebuild the
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AT THE San Francisco stop on the "Eyewitness Libya" tour, we heard
McKinney--who had just returned from a "fact-finding mission" that took her
only to Qaddafi-controlled areas of Libya--make a number of bizarre
statements about the Libyan government, including that Libyans enjoy a
"Libyans govern themselves by The Green Book, a form of direct democracy
based on the African constitution concept that the people are the first and
final source of all power."
McKinney left no doubt about her backing of Libya's leader of 42 years,
going so far as to connect his rule with support for the Black liberation
struggle in the U.S.: "There are many people who criticize the support that
we give not just for the Libyan people but for Muammar Qaddafi. But as an
African American, what I can say to you is that when Black people were
fighting oppression and apartheid conditions in this country, it was Libyan
people and Muammar Qaddafi who helped them."
The other speakers were equally clear in their pro-Qaddafi message. The
Nation of Islam's Akbar Muhammad claimed that Libyan rebels carried out a
lynching campaign against Black Libyans, an allegation that has been
challenged by left-wing
He repeatedly referred to Libya's dictator as "Brother Qaddafi."
ANSWER representative Omar Ali bragged that the rebels--whom McKinney,
taking a cue from Qaddafi himself, described as both allies of the U.S. and
tied to al-Qaeda--were on the verge of being "crushed" in the eastern city
of Benghazi before NATO's military intervention. He insisted that it was
wrong to "lump the Libyan uprising in with Egypt and Tunisia."
After the presentations, the audience was subjected to a 30-minute video
produced by the Qaddafi regime. The video showed the corpses of dead Libyan
soldiers surrounded by rebel fighters against the backdrop of ominous music,
with a narrative about how the rebels were Western operatives attempting to
foment a civil war. There wasn't a single dead rebel fighter nor innocent
civilian killed by the regime's forces among the pictures of the war dead.
Throughout the evening, Qaddafi was described as a pan-African nationalist
and anti-imperialist. But the record of his 40-plus years in power shows a
For example, Qaddafi has hardly been the equitable distributor of wealth
that the tour's speakers made him out to be--30 percent of Libya's
population lives in poverty (a fact not mentioned from the stage), and much
of the country's wealth remains in the hands of a small elite.
Qaddafi's anti-imperialism has also been much exaggerated. He was, indeed,
demonized as a madman by the U.S. in the 1980s--the Reagan administration
launched an air strike aimed at killing him that instead killed his
2-year-old adoptive daughter.
But Qaddafi consciously set out to overcome this pariah status. By the turn
of the new century, he was considered an ally of the U.S. Qaddafi supported
the U.S.-backed "war on terror" and the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Moreover, he
has developed a cozy relationship with Italy's right-wing Berlusconi
government and opened up Libya's oil resources to significant foreign
In the early days of the rebellion, Qaddafi used the ideological framework
of the "war on terror" to discredit those who were rising up against his
rule, claiming absurdly that al-Qaeda had slipped hallucinogenic drugs into
young Libyans' coffee, thereby disorienting them enough to revolt.
In reality, the rebellion in Libya was inspired by the mass democratic
revolutions in its two neighbors along the Mediterranean coast, Tunisia and
Egypt. In Libya, people fed up with the lack of democracy and profound
inequality took to the streets to show their opposition to the status
quo--first in the eastern part of the country near the Egyptian border, then
spreading toward the capital of Tripoli, before Qaddafi rallied the regime's
forces for a counter-offensive.
The reason the uprising in Libya shared so many features of the uprisings in
Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere is because they were all driven by the same
underlying conditions of poverty, oppression and political repression.
But to ANSWER, the Libyan rebels were all CIA stooges, motivated not by a
desire for freedom and democracy, but to do the bidding of the U.S. and
other Western governments.
Of course, there *are* anti-Qaddafi figures and organizations in Libya with
longstanding connections to the U.S., and a number of them are now
represented on the Transitional National Council, which has claimed to speak
for the whole opposition in Libya. But there are at least as many stories
and examples from early on in the rebellion to show the opposite--for
example, when rebels promptly evicted British MI6 agents they discovered
One of the primary aims of the Western intervention has been to shift the
balance within the opposition to those who can be relied on to protect U.S.
and European interests. U.S. officials have actively promoted not only those
who were on the CIA payroll for years, but military officials who until just
months ago were part of Qaddafi's regime.
The West wants a regime to replace Qaddafi that will be amenable to striking
deals with Washington--as well as a reliably pro-U.S. government as a
beachhead in the midst of the upheavals in the Arab world. Diplomatic and
political attempts to shape the anti-Qaddafi opposition are every bit as
important to this goal as the NATO bombing campaign. Opponents of the U.S.
war machine must oppose every aspect of Western intervention.
But to claim that the rebellion against Qaddafi was driven by Western
influence in the first place is to turn the real history of the uprising
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THE "EYEWITNESS Libya" tour illustrates a further issue--the question of
building a democratic movement that welcomes all opponents of U.S. power and
supporters of the Arab revolutions.
In February, ANSWER members in San Francisco--who had supported earlier
protests in solidarity with the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia--gave the
cold shoulder to Libyan activists organizing a February 26 demonstration in
solidarity with the rebellion in their country. Organizers agreed beforehand
on a message of opposing Western intervention. Thus, ANSWER's refusal to
support the demonstration can only be explained as the result of its backing
of Qaddafi. Through its actions, ANSWER has tried to create a wedge between
Libyan solidarity activists and the antiwar movement.
During the "Eyewitness Libya" tour, Libyans were barred from the Los Angeles
"Not only did ANSWER tell them that they would not be allowed to pay their
$10 and attend the event, a line of ANSWER people formed a human wall to
divide the sidewalk between and us and them," wrote author Clay Carson on
the Daily Kos website.
In San Francisco, Libyan opponents of Qaddafi were allowed into the event,
but were treated with hostility. Nevertheless, during the discussion, a
Black Libyan who said he had endured torture at the hands of the Qaddafi
regime called out ANSWER for its allegations that the rebels were racist.
A Libyan activist Hoda Emneina, who supports the intervention, spoke next,
saying: "There is a difference between being against intervention and
standing with a murderer. I can respect if you are anti-intervention, but
what I cannot respect is that you spread Qaddafi's lies, saying he is for
the Libyan people. He is not for the Libyan people!"
ANSWER has played an important role in the antiwar movement, and all those
who oppose war and imperialism need to work together to build opposition to
the U.S. empire. But if ANSWER wishes to tie the antiwar movement to a
defense of tyrants like Qaddafi, that position needs to be challenged.
Linking antiwar politics to support for Qaddafi or any other dictator is
destructive to a movement that stands for peace and justice.
As for Cynthia McKinney, we agree with the Palestinian authors of a recent
her to rethink her pro-Qaddafi position:
The Palestinian and Libyan peoples are connected, both struggling against
state-sponsored brutality and political repression. Palestinians stand in
solidarity with our Libyan brothers and sisters in their revolution against
Qaddafi, as well as others rising up against oppressive dictatorships in
Syria, Yemen and Bahrain. The Palestinian movement for human rights, civil
rights and equality has been invigorated and inspired by these
We need an antiwar movement that can continue to protest U.S. wars and
occupations in the Middle East--and that embraces all those inspired by the
spread of the Arab revolutions across North Africa and the Middle East. Such
a movement will only be weakened by associating our struggle with regimes,
whether allied to the U.S. or not, that crush political dissent and uphold
an unjust system.
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