Friday, 21 October 2011

End of Gaddafi

For someone who styled himself as the king of kings and called his opponents rats, this was hardly a fitting end: being flushed out of  a drain and dying in doubtful circumstances in captivity.

What troubles me about Gaddafi's death is that it is not the form of "justice" one should seek in democratic society. Whether he was deliberately killed or died in cross fire as claimed by the provisional government we may never know. He should have been put on trial, and been made to answer for his actions, convenient though it may be for some to get him out of the way so expeditiously.

His death also leaves many questions unanswered. Many in the West will want to know more about his role in the Lockerbie bombing and in supporting causes like the IRA.

His apologists on the other hand will be as happy as governments of the US and UK that he is not around to interrogate about his questionable role in the "war on terror", including "rendition" of suspects to countries like Libya, where torture was legal.

Why has there been so much hypocrisy around Gaddafi and his Libya?

From the West, there's been an ambivalence between the "mad dog" appellation offered up by Reagan, and the desire to have bought dictators in resource-intensive parts of the world. When Gaddafi seemed to be out of control and willing to bankroll any anti-Western interest including the IRA, the "mad dog" label and isolation were relatively cheap options. While he controlled a fair amount of oil, Libya is not one of the biggest oil producers (about 2% of world output), and his output still reached world markets.

On the other hand, liberation movements failed to understand that he was just a military dictator who wrapped himself in leftist rhetoric. To some extent the infatuation of the South African ruling ANC with him is understandable if showing lack of judgement, because he was one of few world leaders who backed their struggle when it started in the 1960s, at a time when the West was cosy with apartheid. A similar misplaced affection for Robert Mugabe applies; the ANC on the whole appears to have forgotten that its liberation struggle specifically attacked the notion that human rights was purely an internal affair. More broadly, those on the left who continued to back him conveniently forgot his role in the "war on terror", and his equally convenient reversion to anti-Western rhetoric when NATO backed the opposition.

Libya has a tough battle ahead to establish a civil society on top of a state where previously only one person had any say. All those who backed Gaddafi in any form are equally guilty of perpetuating this sorry situation. NATO at least has helped effect change. Those on the left who supported Gaddafi on the basis of the enemy of my enemy is my friend need to sit back and think hard about what they really stand for. This man ran a vicious police state that tortured on a mass scale, killed many opponents and was a stooge of the West when it suited him.

What happens now should be up to the Libyan people -- as indeed should have been what happened before.


John Ostrowick said...

good article.

Krisno P said...

Strange Phil. In my research I'm finding quite a few links that present quite a different narrative. People enjoyed a high standard of living and it turns out the stories of 'massacres' was fabricated.

Media Lens is a good start for a more humane view.

I'm horrified at the in-humanity prevalent in the West ... I once believe it prided itself in it's capacity for and compassion through a democratic political process. Pshaw!

The peoples of the West and their leaders are every bit as evil if not more so because they cloak their rhetoric ... the American Indian had a phrase for it ... white man speaks with forked tongue.

Mad dog indeed ... look in the mirror.

Anonymous said...

In a sane and civilized world you wouldn't expect anybody to die like a dog. But, he did and it was the world that he created. What goes round comes round. There are many people in this world who deserved sympathy, perhaps our efforts should be towards them? By all means question, but isn't it nice to be able to do so?

Philip Machanick said...

Krisno P: I've seen some of this, and I am suspicious that this position is driven by ideology rather than reality.

I followed the story closely on Al Jazeera's web site from the start, as well as looking for twitter conversations and the like, and the alternative narrative has no support in these media. Had that narrative been factually supportable, there would have been a fair number of people countering the story as presented on Al Jazeera (who do not in my experience have a pro-western bias). The benefit of unfiltered media like twitter is that anyone can post articles and if Libya wasn't the locked-down police state it's commonly presented at, there would have been a diversity of views.

We should not mistake distaste for the hypocrisy of the West, which I share, with analysis. Gaddafi played both sides. During the "war on terror" he took part in CIA/MI5 "rendition". That is hardly something you would expect of a staunch anti-imperialist.

How good the new government will be remains to be seen. As the Egyptian military is finding, putting the genie back in the bottle is not so easy, though street protests do not deliver a coherent alternative no matter how corrupt and reprehensible the regime they overthrow,