The Libyan Revolution is Dead: Notes for an Autopsy

The “Arab Spring” was a short one; what follows, another NATO Summer, will last much longer.

If you do not think about it, there is a lot to cheer about the passage of UN Security Council Resolution 1973, against what this time has been a mountain of advice, questions, and critiques from all imaginable political quarters, and not as the warmongering extremists would have it, from “Gaddafi lovers” (George Will? Pat Buchanan? Richard Haass? Gen. Wes Clark? Gaddafi lovers?). In previous articles, I have criticized the flip-side enough, meaning the positions taken by Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez, and Daniel Ortega, without sparing Gaddafi in the least–I do not need to repeat any of it here, because it is entirely irrelevant to the discussion now. Instead, this is an autopsy, identifying the weapons used, and the criminals responsible for killing the Libyan revolution. This is no longer a Libyan story–that chapter is now closed. My autopsy is divided into several broad categories of actors: the humanitarians, the rebels, the international organizations, the mass media, and the Americans. Finally, what we should be watching in the coming days, weeks, months, and years.

The “Humanitarians”

A great mass of humanitarian social media addicts and self-styled cyberactivists in their hundreds of thousands signed petitions to beg the United Nations to authorize the bombing of Libya. Bearers of good intentions, no doubt, but perhaps less skilled as historians. Many will not even Google their way to the nearest Wikipedia entry that might cause them to ask some basic questions. On the other hand, history does not always repeat itself, and I am not one to make solid predictions, so perhaps this is not a useful basis for discussing the role of “humanitarian concern” in this debacle.

Instead, I have questions.

For example, exactly what kind of global human rights agenda is it that requires substantial military spending, private defense contractors, and a robust air force?

“We can’t stand by and do nothing”–and why not, when it is precisely what you are doing every day when it comes to the slaughter of civilians in Afghanistan (courtesy of our own troops), when it comes to the “secret” war in Pakistan, the “secret” war in Yemen, the “secret” war in Somalia, or for that matter, the killing of civilian protesters today in Yemen and Bahrain? How about how we stood by and did nothing, as our allied torture state, Uzbekistan, boiled alive opponents and the detainees sent to them by the CIA? Boiled alive–whisper it, because not even Gaddafi has imagined perpetrating such horrors. Whisper it, so you can forget it again: “Andijan massacre;” “Uzbekistan: Repression Linked to 2005 Massacre Rife;” “500 bodies laid out in Uzbek town;” “‘High death toll’ in Uzbekistan;” “‘700 dead’ in Uzbek violence.” Surely, by now, we have abundant practice in doing nothing at all–we must be a hardened people, with very thick skin, and an ability to ignore the screams coming from the basement whenever we like. So why must Libya be this exception? What made you wake up, and wake up in such a way that you wanted to be the hero of someone else’s story?

“If the world does nothing, the message to dictators will be: ‘Just kill your own people, we will look away’.” They got that message already, and they are still doing just that, thankful that we are all focused on Libya alone. Indeed, some of them even helped to divert our attention toward Libya.

But how about if we just do not finance them, arm them, school them, and otherwise embrace them to begin with? At the very least, wouldn’t that be the cost effective thing to do? And wouldn’t that start the story with us, by placing responsibility on us first, so we don’t have to send planes in to destroy the planes we sold them? I mean, can one be a humanitarian and logical at the same time, or are these now mutually exclusive?

Either way, “the humanitarians” have validated the military-industrial complex: “The military hierarchy, with their budgets threatened by government cuts, surely cannot believe their luck – those who usually oppose wars are openly campaigning for more military involvement” (source).

“I usually don’t support foreign military intervention, but…” is how some lead their apologies. But…you know what? You do favour foreign military intervention, and having done so you automatically disqualify yourself as a hypocrite next time you try to pretend to oppose it.

The Rebels

I have no intention of simply lambasting those who tried to fight for their freedom, and I think that I can understand their cheers in Benghazi more than ours. However, I cannot deny feeling sadness, watching them cheer, as if victorious, when in fact they had just surrendered. Here too questions remain to be raised/addressed.

This is no longer their story. A major break has occurred. Whatever is written now, it will likely include stories of UN meetings, jet fighters, aircraft carriers, bombs, and the tactical cleverness of Hillary Clinton. Libyans have been displaced as authors of their own destiny. Whatever they wrote, has now become a series of paragraphs in yet another chapter of imperial “morality” deployed from overseas.

One opposition leader reportedly said, “We asked for a no-fly zone to be imposed from day one.” From day one? He’s not kidding either. So why were you prepared to hand over the reins of power to foreign actors, so soon, so quickly? You boasted of defections from the military, of vast popular support, of marching on Tripoli–it did not sound like you needed any global cavalry to come in and save your day. Why did you ask, and then demand?

Elements of the rebel leadership have stained their own name, and stained their revolution. That is inescapable now. But what is damaging to all of us is the narrow, self-centered, provincialism of what is clearly a neo-colonial elite of former regime insiders serving as self-appointed “representatives of the Libyan people,” elites who like the neo-colonized, depend on aid from abroad as part of their self-fulfillment. Cheering for what will be a NATO-led operation, is a validation and legitimation of that organization, and in a time when budgets for education, health, public works, and programs for the poor are all being slashed across the West, they help to validate the need for maintaining heavy military spending. Nobody is out in the streets cheering universities and hospitals, but apparently they are out in the street cheering the bomb. Their provincialism was displayed in their lack of solidarity, or even passing concern, with social justice and anti-war activists in the West, in cases berating those of us who felt we should have a voice–these are, after all, our planes, our bombs, and our political leaders–because all we needed to know was that “Libyans” asked for this intervention. If that is a reflection of the kind of political work and solidarity-building they did at home, then no wonder they had to turn to artificial, prosthetic solutions. Not just the anti-war movement, and the anti-secrecy movement, will be damaged here, as the clock is turned back to 2003–it is the very meaning of “revolutionary,” which can now be made to include those who would be clients of imperial patrons.

In the meantime, a theory is circulating–that the West deliberately delayed so that the rebels would be militarily degraded, and more dependent than ever on NATO, which will now have the upper hand in stage managing their revolt. We will have to see if there is any evidence that comes to light to support that.

The International Organizations

If one were to read the speech given by Alain Juppé, the French Foreign Affairs Minister, at the UN Security Council meeting that passed 1973, one should have an awfully difficult time understanding how everything he said could not also be said about the NATO war, his war, against the people of Afghanistan, and the dictator that they prop up there. Yet, this is what sets the code by which to administer Libya. As for the five countries that merely “abstained” from voting (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and Germany)–what portraits of courage. They opted for diplomatic wiggle room and plausible deniability.

The Arab League’s decision to first call for a no fly zone can only invite the most scornful mockery. This is a club of dictators, who found the ideal opportunity to remove a competing dictator that they have long resented and detested. Soon after their vote, Saudi Arabia sent its troops into Bahrain to smash peaceful, unarmed protesters, and the Gulf Cooperation Council agreed to intervene against the fight for democracy there. Human rights have always been the least of the Arab League’s concerns.

But Washington, skillful and cynical, pressed the Arab League to speak first in favour of a no-fly zone, so it could then use that thin pretense of “answering” the calls of authentic Arabs. Never mind that the U.S. would need their overflight “permission” anyway, for sorties to be flown from U.S. airfields in Iraq, against Libya.

The Mass Media

Here I will focus on one of the other great disappointments in this story: Al Jazeera (with whom I have terminated my relationship). Al Jazeera’s coverage has been heavily slanted, in terms of amount of coverage, to the story of Libya, rather than other cases where tyrants were beating and killing peaceful and unarmed protesters at the very same time: Yemen and Bahrain, to name just two. Today, while they wait for NATO bombs to drop, they have turned a little to Yemen, which has turned much uglier–but is an ally of the U.S. in the “war on terror,” and no UN meetings have been called. When the UN passed the latest resolution against Libya, the Al Jazeera correspondent in Benghazi, Tony Birtley, engaged in obscene and undignified cheering and gloating. Utterly delirious. Never, he said, had he been hugged so much since the birth of his daughter. Rich symbolism. The liberating angel embraced. Had this been Fox News, we would all be slamming it as propaganda. It is. And it covers for the Emir of Qatar, Al Jazeera’s paramount if not exclusive financial sponsor, who by all means has topped anything Rupert Murdoch could ever dream of being powerful enough to do: the Emir is an interventionist in his own right, supporting the Saudi invasion of Bahrain, the crushing of peaceful protest, to which he may add more Qatari forces, while also promising support for the implementation of the no fly zone against Libya. If Murdoch had done just half of that, American protesters would likely reduce Fox News studios to rubble. Al Jazeera is not the voice of the Arab Spring after all, as some of us thought.

The Americans

Good morning America! It’s a great day to be an American again! Finally, a bad guy, who isn’t American. Finally, a good guy, who is American. Once again, another crazy murderous Arab, easy to mock and hold up as the target of mass orchestrated contempt. The kids got all busy making viral “zenga zenga” videos, and the media proudly featured them, enjoying the fruit of their own labour in shaping young minds. Hey and guess what? This evil Arab tyrant might also have some WMDs! Every night I watched CNN’s Anderson Cooper, hot, breathless, turgid, anally righteous, spewing venom against the dictator–much of it deserved, some of it resting on ignorance and fabrication–the dictator’s “lies,” “keeping them honest,” all principles never directed back at CNN. Expect to see pictures of Gaddafi’s dead sons happily featured on evening broadcasts. The blood thirsty ghouls are back.

What a perfect war this will be. No troops on the ground. Do you hear that, suicide bombers? No troops on the ground. No roadside bombs. This will be clean and surgical, the way spectators imagine high-tech war to be. Death from above, baby. War will be spectacularized once again, with an appropriate focus on ordnance, impressive gadgets, mellow-voiced professional pilots, and a wonderful assortment of planes. Already, talk that this will be a cakewalk. Cakewalk, baby.

America is on top again. Iraq? Afghanistan? Fuck you! If anyone in the world for a moment thought these did any damage to the American soul, or to the fact that America remains “the indispensable nation,” then someone missed the fact that Americans have finally been cheered as liberators, in Benghazi. Iraq syndrome? As if! Humanitarian imperialism is back, NATO is cool, America thank you, cakewalk.

Who imagined that this, political satire with puppets, would rise to the status of a documentary? Who expected this to become the liberation charter, the theme song, for both desperate, groping Libyan opportunists and Americans thirsting for patriotic self-validation? The world policeman…is back, baby.

What to Watch For

These are just some of the things we will want to watch for over the coming hours, and years:

  1. Which nation’s planes will be the first to bomb? After that, in the overall number of sorties, how many will have been flown by U.S. pilots? This will be important to see how the U.S. ensures that, in terms of image management, an illusion that the U.S. is not in the lead is created.
  2. When civilians are killed from aerial bombardment, who will get the blame?
  3. Gaddafi is a dead man–and he knows it. Will he just resign to the fact stoically? Last night he said: “If the world is crazy, we will be crazy, too.” Will Gaddafi outlive the coming air war? How will he be removed from power?
  4. Will hostilities on the ground be escalated? Will there be larger numbers of refugees?
  5. Fracturing of the opposition. Will the “Interim Transitional National Council” become truly national, or remain a creature of Benghazi? Will it seek to become somewhat less “interim,” and somewhat more secure in its hold on power?
  6. Opportunistic infiltration, by that other group also desperate for renewed validation: Al Qaeda. Yes, indeed, Gaddafi hurled all sorts of “crazy” allegations that the opposition comprised Al Qaeda terrorists. Interestingly, however, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton partly backed him up (not that many bothered to comment on this): “many of the Al-Qaeda activists in Afghanistan and later in Iraq came from Libya and came from eastern Libya which is now the so-called free area of Libya.” Clinton also noted: “It’s important to recognize that there is a great deal of uncertainty about the motives, the opportunism, if you will of people who are claiming to be leaders right now.” This also means that the U.S. reserves for itself the right to decide who will be treated as legitimate, and who will be treated as the enemy.
  7. How will the U.S. exercise leverage over the opposition/government in waiting? Will it be slow to lift sanctions in order to obtain concessions?
  8. American media coverage: how much time will be spent describing the hardware? How lovingly will fighter pilots and their machines be portrayed? How many times will you hear American voices, compared to Libyan voices?
  9. The bases used for operations: there has been no buildup of U.S. aircraft carriers in the region. Expect flights from land bases nearby. Will this be used to legitimate the American need to hold on to those bases?
  10. Will there be continued subdivision of the left in the West? Are we seeing the emergence of a rift between the Arab left and the Latin American left, whose leaders have been resolutely anti-intervention and in some cases pro-Gaddafi? What about divisions within the left inside the West, and with regard particularly to the anti-war movement?
  11. Will there be diminished cuts to military spending, or no cuts at all in coming years?
  12. How will the U.S. manage yet another war added to its roster, which includes: the lingering occupation of Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, the “secret” wars in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia…and now Libya? How much of this weight will have to be shouldered by NATO partners, and their tax payers?
  13. Will dissent and critique of this war be silenced, marginalized, and virtually criminalized as it has in all of the other recent Western wars? Which politicians’ fortunes will be made on the basis of this war, and who will be made to suffer for not supporting it?
  14. If this ends up being a fiasco, or with the need for foreign troops on the ground, will it be the final act that breaks the back of empire?
  15. Which questions would you add here?

54 thoughts on “The Libyan Revolution is Dead: Notes for an Autopsy

  1. Pingback: Father Dave speaks in support of BDS at Marrickville Council « KADAITCHA

  2. Jinjirrie

    Terrific summation, Max. Crafty Gaddafi has now faked a cease fire and from latest info continues to attacks rebel positions. Gaddafi is past master at playing cat and mouse games with empire along with retaining dominance in his own backyard for 41 years in no small part due to his swaggering anti-colonial stance. To hold onto power, Gaddafi may engineer a negotiations dance with foreign powers who he’ll have estimated are reluctant to escalate (considering the effect this would have in Bahrain and Yemen and elsewhere) while continuing to attempt to retake territory. This first cease fire will serve to calibrate his next move.

    Yet Obama could well use this conflagration as his very own proving ground, his blooding, playing to the near-campaign electorate much of which is tired, as you say, of being the bad guys. I don’t buy that the empire is stretched militarily. Expenditure on US defence as a proportion of GDP is at low levels – around 5% as I recall. Maybe behind the veil, despite the dangers of imperial over-extension, the MIC would enjoy the buoying of its fortunes and image from the unpopularity of Iraqi and Afpak adventurism.

    I’m also not impressed by this conflict serving as a wedge within the left – additionally is the anti-war movement on overload after the parade of Wikileaks, then MENA revolutions rolling back to back? how many of these folks can even place the countries on a map? and then the revolutionary message has been subverted and diluted further by the major news info output – as you point out with AlJaz and the de-emphasising of protest in Bahrain and Yemen.

    Is a regrouping of the left possible? I enjoyed your ascerbic post very much :)

    1. Maximilian Forte

      Thanks very much Jinjirrie. There is a lot in your post here, I am not sure that I can address all of it. I just want to say that military spending should be judged as a percentage of federal revenue, as part of the national budget, which is not the same as GDP. U.S. military spending consumes about 19% of the United States federal expenditures and 28% of estimated tax revenues. When you factor in related expenditures, not directly channeled toward the Pentagon, defense spending is approximately 28–38% of budgeted expenditures and 42–57% of estimated tax revenues. Overall, defense spending has grown 9% annually on average from fiscal year 2000 to 2009. So there is a significant military drain on what is available for government to spend. The average American taxpayer is spending about 36% of his or her taxes on military expenditures.

      How many of these folks can place these countries on a map? You are tempting me here. I wonder how many of the “humanitarian” youths ever heard of Kosovo–and if it wasn’t used in a sentence, would they even know that it was a place name?

      Either a regrouping, or further clarification of differences will occur. I cannot speak for others, but as someone who values a critical, independent stance–a poor leader, and a worse follower–there are some with which I do not want to be grouped, period.

      It will be very interesting to watch what happens with this ceasefire–excellent point you made: “Gaddafi is past master at playing cat and mouse games with empire along with retaining dominance in his own backyard for 41 years”–let’s see what kind of game he fashions.

      Many thanks again.

  3. John Allison

    Again, Mex, Very good coverage of present and probable future of the Libyan opportunity to get all the bad guys and move the center of gravity of the Libyan people to support the select Transitional Council; make it look like it really was the Libyan People who pulled this off; even if, in fact, most of them supported Gadaffi. You and I will never know the truth of it.

    1. Maximilian Forte

      I am a bit wary…and by a bit, I mean a lot…of suggestions that Gaddafi is a popular figure because of all that he has accomplished for improving the material quality of life of most Libyans during his reign. One can do that, and still be brutal. It is also true that every dictator, even the very worst, retains a core of support, sometimes for long after they are gone, even long after they have died. Al Jazeera’s Marwan Bishara did a massive disservice to viewers last night when he crudely dismissed those publicly showing support for Gaddafi as “lackeys.” The commentary on AJE has been getting sloppier and more amateurish by the minute. At the very beginning of the Libyan protests in February, one of their very first guests was some young Libyan-American girl, who needed to have her sentences completed by her interviewer…kind of lost, reading from notes, and lots of “so yeah” as an attempt at explanation. I was wondering if I was the only one cringing when watching.

      I do agree, there is so much we do not know about what is presently happening, and that we will likely not know for many, many years, if ever. Most of us, unless we are planning careers as Libya experts, will have moved on.

  4. ishtar

    Hi Max,

    Happy to hear about terminating your connection with al Jazeera. I felt upset when I had noticed previously your zeal at appearing on al Jazeera. I had done a piece of research on it and had written five articles about my findings including its unpleasant connections with Haeem Saban of Saban Center for Middle East Policy – Brookings Institution, and other suspicious matters concerning reasons of its launch, and the role it plays in disseminating US propaganda.

    Having said that, let me talk about Arab revolutions.

    The speedy victories of the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions have made the Arab youths think that they can copy these revolutions: it will only take hundreds of people to demonstrate down town for few days, all they have to do is insisting on their demands, bear the antics of the riot police , and the president will leave before you know it.

    Well, things are not so easy, and revolutions can not be copied.

    I have classified the Arab regimes into 4 categories:

    1- US-backed republics, like Tunis and Egypt. The armies in such regimes are US-financed, trained and armed, and eventually advised. When the people in such regimes revolt, because of the corruption, the hunger, the poverty, the unemployment etc. USA hurries to side with the people, lest things become out of control, and with the help of the army disposes of the president and his cronies. Usually, a better US-backed leader is chosen to replace the former. This is what has happened in these two countries. This is what seemed an “easy” revolution.

    2- Nationalist republics, like Syria, Libya, Sudan, and Yemen. The leaders cooperate with the West “USA” in one way or another but they are independent, and usually the presidents are remnants of the era of Nationalist leaders: Tito, Jamal Abdul Nasser, Nehru, Castro etc. They were Arab People’s idols before 30-40 years, but now are oppressing dictators. These leaders will not give in easily, because they think that their nations can not survive without them. They and the Nation are one: they are ready to fight for the last person. Such regimes will not surrender, and the revolution will not succeed, not until the country is occupied by regional or global powers. This is happening in Libya now.

    3- US-backed kingdoms and shiekdoms, like Jordan, Morocco, Gulf states including Saudi Arabia. They sit on Energy resources, or/and have US military bases. They do not have significant armies. They have geopolitical importance to USA which will not tolerate change of regimes, so if people revolt, there will be a US-backed palace coup, or the king will just change the cabinet and introduce some reforms.

    4- Already occupied countries like Iraq, where there are still occupation army, thousands of mercenaries, and special forces etc. non-violent demonstrations will not lead to a revolution and change of regime. Nothing less than a guerrilla war will do.

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  6. Dena

    I somewhat agree with Ishtar’s assessment, especially when it comes to what she referred to as Nationalist Republics. Being Sudanese, I think the effects of this intervention will extend beyond Libya and may have a catastrophic effect on Sudan. The country is going through serious political and social unrest with protests taking place all over the country (although unreported by the media), the conflicts in Darfur and Abiye intensifying, the presence of many armed factions who have always been supported by the West, and the large presence of African and UN troops all make the possibility of a similar intervention in Sudan very likely. Except in this case an intervention will probably be much faster and easier to implement because there is already a large base especially in Western countries that have been supporting a military action against Sudan for some time.

  7. Stacie Gilmore

    I get the feeling that many Americans are angry at the high gas prices… looking for something/someone to attack so that the little numbers on the signs will drop back down again. Over 50% of the time when I hear someone talking about Libya, and even Japan now, oil and gas prices are a big part of the discussion. Obviously people are also glued to mass media news shows for several hours a day like it’s a hopsital IV feeding them their daily gossip and outrage, like an international Jerry Springer.

    But I wonder how much ordinary Americans are even guiding this (besides petitions, themselves based on limited and unreliable forms of information), versus the news media outlets that are pumping up the story in whatever ways they can to get a reaction, and boost ratings.

    (In theory) they’re the ones who are supposed to give us “accurate” information about what’s going on in the rest of the world, in our economy built around division of labor. And they’re shitting people over, making ordinary people, who have no idea what’s going on because they have other jobs to do, sound like total idiots, all for the bottom line profits and personal prestige of the news network and journalists.

  8. politishq


    I share your sentiments on almost everything written here, but I cannot wrap my mind around the section titled “the Rebels”.

    What would you have them do when the murderous Gaddafi was gaining on them? What alternative did they have?

    You know that the rebels couldn’t possibly be concerned about social sector spending cuts and increasing military budgets, before calling for help? Should the “anti-war movement, and the anti-secrecy movement” in the West be placed before survival?

    I’m certain you have an explanation or a different interpretation. If yes, I would like to hear it..

    1. Maximilian Forte


      What do the rebels do in Afghanistan as they face the military presence of 42+ nations, including NATO, and especially the U.S., and have no air force, and yet continue to make massive gains?

      What did the rebels do in Iraq as they fought the U.S., then Shia forces, and then also Al Qaeda?

      Going back further, what did the rebels in El Salvador and Nicaragua do when they faced much better armed national militaries, again without any air power or tanks of their own?

      So I do not understand this: I will just rebel, let’s see how it goes, and if it all falls apart I will call specifically on Western military intervention? Who does this? What kind of plan is that? Would there be any actual rebels anywhere else who would support their logic and strategy?

      1. Maximilian Forte

        Of course, I neglected to add that the call for foreign military intervention came well before any prospect for a final military defeat for the rebels–it came on “day one” according to the opposition leader cited above, even before anyone in Libya was being called a “rebel” by the international media.

        Those who are interested should examine how the guerrilla revolutions in El Salvador and Nicaragua proceeded. In El Salvador, the first weapons were sling shots. In Nicaragua, there were massive defeats and setbacks, going underground, rebuilding, regrouping, and coming back even stronger.

        Nothing says that a revolution is supposed to proceed in a linear fashion, and succeed in a matter of days. People who assume that, are not doing politics, and therefore cannot be trusted to establish a new democratic order. They certainly raise doubts about their capacity for self-governance, which also serves as an open invitation to prolonged Western intervention.

      2. Karem Said

        Dear Maximilian,
        Would you explain a little more about how the Libyan example is comparable to rebel movements in El Salvador and Nicaragua? I find the comparison difficult to make given the kinds and degree of force Gaddafi has been willing to use against his own people from the outset of the revolution, dropping bombs since Feb. 21. I cannot defend the opposition leader who apparently called for intervention on day one — certainly many others have been opposed from day one — but I believe widespread support throughout the Middle East for some kind of intervention is due to common knowledge that Gaddafi is psychotic and to his demonstrated willingness to kill anyone, bombing civilians and pulling patients out of hospitals and people out of homes to kill them. Beyond the question of Libyan extermination, which needs to be considered, what chance does any popular revolutionary movement have when a military force such as Gaddafi’s makes use of its every resource to quash it? I ask these questions sincerely, as I can definitely relate to your position insofar as I am opposed to military and economic imperialism. I am, nonetheless, having trouble with the idea that the situation in Libya is not extraordinary. I say this while remaining unsure what kind of response this would warrant and while being opposed to the US-French-British ground attacks since Saturday. What I think needs to be questioned and discussed is the idea that a multi-lateral intervention need necessarily lead to a relationship of domination and dependence. Is there a way to do this without ensnarling a country in the machinations of US empire or other obligatory political economic relationships?

      3. Maximilian Forte

        Great questions Karem,

        Clearly your intentions are not in any way sinister or malignant, you have serious concerns about the welfare of Libyan civilians, and you feel that what Gaddafi has done is quite exceptional. In addition, from what little I know about Arab public opinion, and from speaking with Arab colleagues here in Montreal, your views are much in line with what many others in the region feel–that Western intervention might be an “evil,” but this is an evil that is needed to get rid of an evil, or else Gaddafi and his band might remain in power for many more years to come, with terrible consequences. I have zero sympathy for Gaddafi, and would agree that there is abundant evidence that he is psychotic and cruel.

        My mention of cases such as El Salvador, which in its history of dictatorships saw thens of thousands killed, rivers flowing with the bodies of murdered peasants, in a region which has suffered from U.S.-trained militaries that have truly engaged in genocidal warfare, scorched earth campaigns, with U.S. trained and aided death squads and torture, on a scale that is unimaginable–and we could mention more recent uprisings and rebellions that have been put down mercilessly, with tens of thousands murdered, i.e., at least 40,000 Kurds murdered by Turkey during its anti-rebel campaigns in the 1990s, which went largely without remark because it is a member of NATO–as a way of saying the degree of violence we see in Libya is by no means exceptional, and not especially alarming when compared to multiple other cases where there was no foreign intervention to aid the oppressed, and where they fought back, and in some cases won.

        This is a long way of asking: why are we being prompted to get involved in Libya, in such a rush, knowing so little about Libya, and with little understanding of the likely aftermath, which could be devastatingly violent even after the removal of Gaddafi?

        In other words, there are many other questions and problems that go beyond stopping Gaddafi’s violence alone.

        You ask: “Is there a way to do this without ensnarling a country in the machinations of US empire or other obligatory political economic relationships?” having said, “What I think needs to be questioned and discussed is the idea that a multi-lateral intervention need necessarily lead to a relationship of domination and dependence.” I agree, this needs to be questioned and discussed. Members of NATO and the EU are now making a costly “investment” in Libya’s future. Is there anything about those nations, their leaders, and the political economy they lead, that can satisfy anyone that there is altruism here? Is the rapid “slide” from protecting civilians, to aiding the rebels, to now the apparent effort at regime change–the slide from an operation promised to last “days and not weeks” as Obama reportedly said last week, to one which Admiral Mullen yesterday said would be “driven by the force of circumstances” (i.e., an open ended mission)–is anything but an intervention that entertains wider ambitions? Having involved themselves, does one not expect them to begin taking responsibility for shaping the outcome of what comes after? Why would they stop, in fact, having signaled just how incredibly important Libya supposedly is for U.S. “national security and foreign policy”?

        Analytically, how does one separate the splinter from the tree, and argue that this is not the same wood as the tree?

  9. Pingback: The “Arab Spring” was a short one; what follows, another NATO Summer, will last much longer | empirestrikesblack

  10. John Burns


    While I essentially agree with your position regarding imperialism, etc., my intuition tells me that this situation is different. I have trouble finding one military action after July 1945 that seems either wise or in any way useful. However, there is no reason why one could not be. Unfortunately sooner action would have meant fewer casualties and a better outcome. In order to avoid becoming cynical one has to view this world as a vast school in which some have as their home work starting a war, other learning the art of torture and other psychotic behaviors. Destroying the environment is clearly another big project given out to lots of students. But then there are those who are to lead peace rallies, to practice non-violence and compassion. These various types of students have to learn their lessons somewhere and destroying their opportunities would simply mean leaving them stuck at some point in their development. Perhaps there is even the big project of making the earth uninhabitable by humans. This point of view makes much that would otherwise seem unintelligible intelligible and is based on some very ancient realizations. Whether I have a real intuition or am merely entertaining some wishful thinking time will tell. Intuition does not contradict reason but it may be quite some time before it is verified. I enjoy your web site. Good luck.

  11. ratatat1000

    Thank you Max for an excellent article which I agree with 100%. As far as America’s ability to pay for more armed conflicts goes, the US military rakes in much, much more money than it gets from just the country’s taxpayers and it’s allotted share of the budget.
    I wish I had his book here to quote from but instead you will just have to take my word for it (that is until you search out his book, The Complex) that Nick Turse has done his research well and can tell how, day in day out, it is impossible for any of us to avoid donating to it’s finances and how it uses our entertainment systems to brainwash vulnerable, especially young, minds to believe it’s propaganda.To read it will be a revelation to anyone, no matter how much they think they already know.

  12. Adham

    Interesting read and well written, if it weren’t for the fact that you sound like you’re in utter shock because you just discovered politics and the fact that everyone has an agenda.

    I am Egyptian, and I was in favor of foreign intervention. Yes, I know all those intervening intend to profit from it in some way and may even have manipulated things leading up to being given the mandate by the UN. I know also that things are not the same everywhere, and that poor Bahrainis will receive no such support. I am also completely aware of American dealings with some seriously deranged leaders, as you point out.

    None of this however, prepared me to just sit there and watch what remained of the Libyan rebellion get crushed and suffer atrocities. It just wasn’t possible. I have friends who went to (and still are in) Benghazi. Some in Tripoli too (who were there before this started.) There comes a moment when all the theories of who is good and who is bad and who is manipulating what and what the CIA is up to just go flying out of the window and basic human feelings take over. You watch what is happening and you just think “I don’t want these people to die.” To come to any other conclusion under the circumstances, it feels like I’d have to abandon some part of my humanity, which I just can’t bring myself to do.

    Also, your mockery notwithstanding, I have rarely been in favor of military intervention in the past, though I must admit to an exception with Kosovo, which similarly involved large amounts of people being subjected to extreme violence against which they had no recourse.

    In case the distinction needs spelling out: when people are being subjected to atrocities and they request help to make it stop, I am in favor of them receiving this help. Any motive short of this does not justify military intervention.

    I expect that you will not understand, or you will offer some theory or the other which is supposed to replace such feelings. That’s alright. Just thought I’d comment on the off chance it would offer some insight on why others think the things they do. Something a little deeper than what essentially amounts to “Oh they wanted intervention, they must be retarded!”

    So I have to say, I don’t agree. I will retweet though, because it is an interesting read and others should decide for themselves.

    1. Maximilian Forte

      Interesting…how we all stood by and watched the Tamil rebellion in Sri Lanka get pulverized in its last days, with massive atrocities, and we had none of these discussions or feelings. Your case is a bit different, as you mention your personal connection to the events in Libya. The rest of us need to ask ourselves how we have had these priorities established for us.

  13. peterb1953

    I have no doubt that this latest “humanitarian intervention” by imperialism is meant to help kill off the wave of Arab uprisings. I only hope that this won’t prove to be so easy.

  14. Pingback: The “Arab Spring” was a short one; what follows, another NATO Summer, will last much longer « archers of okcular

  15. Pingback: The Libyan Revolution is Dead: Notes for an Autopsy « ZERO ANTHROPOLOGY « Yahyasheikho786's Blog

  16. Fouad Halbouni

    Dear Max,

    Concerning your excerpt: “Elements of the [Libyan] rebel leadership have stained their own name, and stained their revolution. That is inescapable now. But what is damaging to all of us is the narrow, self-centered, provincialism of what is clearly a neo-colonial elite of former regime insiders serving as self-appointed “representatives of the Libyan people,” elites who like the neo-colonized, depend on aid from abroad as part of their self-fulfillment”. Well, sir I could always say the same slogan about self-righteous, God-appointed, American and Canadian Leftist professors in North America. Such ‘radical’ professors always find it extremely self-congratulatory to speak from within their comfort zones, which are the heart of colonial academic centers, without noting the positions and spaces from which they are conducting their fiery speeches and ‘radical’ teach-ins. Such professors never find it equally atrocious when a large part of the Libyan rebel fighters do not rise to their ‘revolutionary’ expectations (‘my informant has betrayed my zero anthropology… oh my Gawd’). What do you expect? a burley, sun-tanned sheikh a la ‘Omar al Mukhtar’ to fight righteously until he dies righteously. How dare you seriously to label the rebel fighters as a ‘neo-colonial’ elite? What is your role then, all tucked well in a room in an academic center in the West, showing such moral transcendence?

    Allow some space for self-questioning and note that the distance between Halifax and Benghazi is not only about thousands of kilometers but eternities. I sincerely believe that North American ‘radical’ leftists are mirror images of liberal education and other respective ideological state apparatuses, and the more they produce ‘radical’ speeches and articles (always bombastic, self-centered, fakely ‘Zola-esque), the more the liberal watermark on their skin grows. You are exactly an inverted mirror image of your American television viewers who were quite afraid of the Egyptian rebellion because they could only see fearful veiled women demanding freedom as it reminded them of Iran. In your case, the informant couldn’t live up to your expectations: he was neither noble nor fully bloody to rise up to your revolutionary aesthetics.

    At the very end, you are correct when you say that the international community chooses to intervene selectively. I am an Egyptian academic and I regret that the public in Egypt has also perhaps chosen to give a blind eye to the Bahrain massacre (since perhaps the element of ‘Shii’te rebellion in a Sunni-dominated state makes them more suspicious.. which I personally regret). Are they imperialists as well? products of imperialism? it is extremely easy for me to condemn them and distance myself from them but it is that easy…dismissal is not enough.

    At the very end, when you are on the ground, being attacked by a militant regime such as Mubarak or Ghaddafi,: such regimes allows you no space to negotiate, to think, to morally transcend your attackers. At the very end, you are cuaght in the very heart of imperial strategies, one created Ghaddafi whereas the other is foreign intervention (let us say that the rebel is caught between two imperial moments). At least he is at the heart of the battle, his choice is the choice between two fires… but what about prof. Fortes, are you fully conscious of your own moral positions or contradictions? I fully doubt it.

    1. Maximilian Forte

      Funny, how you use the tropes of anti-imperialism and anti-liberalism, to back a liberal imperialist position and then defend dependence on imperialism as the only way out of defeat. Then you ask me if I am fully conscious of my own moral positions and contradictions.

      At some point, you, and others who take your same approach, will realize one very important principle: none of us are required–in advance, without thought, reflection, and critical questions–to support any cause, giving it a blank cheque, expecting no answers, acting as bundle of reactive emotional complexes. The fact that you would diminish anyone who is a free thinker, with a series of essentially ad hominem arguments, really shows the value of your stance, and why you invite even more rejection.

      Again, this is not how you build solidarity, and not how you do politics.

    2. Jeremy

      Dear Fouad Halbouni,

      Then if a military attack from abroad is the right way to go in Lybia (which I am convinced it is not) wouldn’t Egypt’ armed forces be a better pick than France’s and the UK’s ? Just asking.

      Why should “the West” have the role of the heavily armed “savior” once more ?

      Why should north africa revolutionaries necessarily “need” the armed forces of the USA, France and England against Gaddafi’s forces rather than Egypt’s forces ?

      Aren’t Egypt’s numerous F16 and Mirage and Rodong-1 as humanitarian and democratic as France’s Mirage and USA’s Tomahawks ?

  17. CM

    Hi, Max. The events of the last few days have been just too depressing for words, for mine, anyway. From what looked like a sensible and reasoned assessment of the situation, with the Arab League and the UN’s Security Council cohort holding fire, literally, while they assessed the situation, the announcement that they would begin an air war made my heart sink – even when I thought it couldn’t sink any lower. The UN resolution seems to be high on flowery phrases and low on how-to’s. What exactly is the bombing of Libya supposed to accomplish? I haven’t a clue but it seems to be the only answer many western governments have for anything these days.

    I think you’re right. After two disastrous wars of recent memory, plus all the other secret wars, another war for a “noble” purpose seems just the think to polish up their reputations – until it all goes horribly wrong again.

    The Guardian had a piece yesterday that had Gaddafi’s son saying that Libya funded a big portion of Sarkozy’s election campaign. No wonder the French were the first in, by one report, to start the bombing.

    And it makes little sense. Gaddafi was the strange but tolerated dictator until a couple of weeks ago when he suddenly became Target #1 for the “outraged” western nations. Meanwhile, the King of Bahrain gets an invite to the Royal Wedding. (Some headline recently described the wedding as the event of the millenium. What? But I digress…)

    And, even with all the similarities to Iraq, the press and the war cheerleaders were out in force again when the announcement was made. Lack of long-term memory or brain damage? I simply don’t know.

    The only correspondent I’ve seen recently with severe reservations is CBC’s Nahlah Ayed. She’s covered a lot of wars. She was hopeful when the talking was going on. She looked really distraught when the bombing was announced. She’s seen it all before, and it ain’t pretty.

  18. Pingback: Libya- For Your Consideration » Ten Percent

  19. Pingback: [Arabrev] Aktuelle Links & News zu Libyen vom 14.-20.3.2011 « ECOlogIST

  20. Ahmed Bouzid

    The Arab revolution LIVES, my friend, in spite of your “sophisticated” analysis. Maybe your reaction is precisely what Western powers along with the trembeling Arab regimes wanted. It sounds like some people would rather watch a massacre unfold rather than have their simplistic worldview challenged. This while the courageous people of Bahrain continue to battle and die for freedom.

    Who know who is dead? The Western Left! Their impotance all their years to prevent massive wars and endless corporate global expansion stand a testament to their uelessness and bankruptcy. And now they wag a finger…. Go in peace and let those who are fighting with and for their lives struggle for their freedom. You and your NGOs are not needed.

    1. Maximilian Forte

      Whatever the Arab revolution was and could have been, it has been hijacked by Western powers who will seek to manage change in ways that are favourable to them.

      Again, the same problem: you denounce the West, and Westerners, when convenient, then demand their intervention. Well, now WE are a part of the story, and you seem to resent that we may also have an opinion on our intervention, which is also slaughtering people (who never attacked us). So what you will need to do is to quickly grow up, and actually come up with answers to certain key questions, rather than dismiss them all in such a facile manner.

      Don’t try to fool anyone here–this site tends to get some very intelligent, wise, and critical readers. All of us know that this action has little or nothing to do with “preventing” a massacre or “protecting” civilians. Let it go, it doesn’t work. Try drafting and improvising some alternate rationalizations that might make some sense.

      For the rest, please note the continued inability of proponents for this (rush to) war to come up with any plausible, sensible reply to why this upheaval matters more than others, why these rebels should require our intervention, and why these civilians should concern us more than any others, and how military intervention will solve these problems and not make matters worse. In fact, there does not seem to be one solid justification that survives any of the many critical questions that continue to be produced and directed against this war.

      And it was certainly a rush to war: Within days of the first protests in Libya, Obama declared that Libya was now a U.S. “national emergency.” He then produced an Executive Order and letter to Congress where he stated that Libya was “an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.” (If you click that link, you can get the links to the original documents.) Libyan opposition leaders claim that from “day one” they demanded a no fly zone, and it was repeated by the press a mere three days after the first protests. Now, we see evidence that Western powers are there to deliberately advance the rebels militarily, and engage in regime change, well beyond what was authorized by UNSC 1973. See the notes at the bottom of this video. Anne Marie Slaughter complained that the debate “raged” for “one week,” and that all the debating that needed to be done, had been done. Apparently not. All of this combines to produce a very suspicious set of circumstances and convergences that leads one to believe that Fidel Castro, an expert in international affairs and at the centre of numerous international conflicts for nearly two generations, may be on the right track.

      By the way…about Bahrain…yes, we are indeed sitting and watching a massacre unfold (sort of, because Al Jazeera won’t cover it). How is that an argument for Western military intervention in Libya? Is the question too “sophisticated”?

  21. adrian

    great piece…

    Of course, who in the US or Europe gives a shit about critical thinking and truths when we have another bloody spectacle in front of us to distract us from the dose of governmental and corporate lies and abuse we are subjected on a daily basis?

    There is this fight against an evil Arab going on! What better thing to round up the wagons, just when the pilgrims were starting to get a little restless!

    What just happened at the UN and in the media, makes the propaganda prelude to the Iraq war seem like child’s play…

  22. Pingback: Libya is not Iraq | Antoun Issa

  23. Fouad Halbouni

    Dear Max,

    i never mentioned that i was in favor of foreign intervention or even insinuated this, please do not turn this into Angels and demons for the sake of your argument. I am against the grouping of rebels with the other lot of people you mentioned and my disgust of your entire take on the issue which is just a superficial reversal of colonial logic. Instead of amrchair anthropology in the nineteenth century, the radical anthropologist still claims a space of moral transcendence that allows better analysis of the international situation.

    For several weeks in Cairo, people in Tahrir square contemplated going to Benghazi to fight amongst the rebels (some actually did join the Libyan revolution). I was in favor of either 1. the arming and funding of rebels by Arab states 2. the intervention of the Egyptian army under a clear mandate and limited time span of intervention. However, imperial powers could not withstand both options. I am also wary of the fact that foreign intervention will polarise the democratic forces in Egypt again over the issue of foreign intervention (which some Egyptian liberals will welcome stupidly and give justifications for the intervention).

    However, this does not clear Max’s position on the issue, which remains severely blind, misinformed and severely ego-centric. I am also extremely critical of the fact that the American Left believes that Ghaddafi is ‘not’ an imperial product. Do you actually believe that he is an anti-imperialist force as his propaganda or cult of personality suggests..

    I still repeat the same message which you have vaguely chose to ignore: that the situation in which the Libyan rebel is in remains difficult, he is somehow caught in that deadly duality: either a blood-thirst, war-mongering dictatorship (a product of imperialism despite its ‘anti-imperialist’ propaganda) and foreign intervention (reductive and destructive of all his liberatory potential). Some caution and self-respect is needed when we discuss his choices…

    1. Maximilian Forte

      Well, the main point of this article is an anti-interventionist one–which you deliberately sidestep, preferring to erect all sorts of other smokescreens. So while you now seem to want to concede the issue–“i never mentioned that i was in favor of foreign intervention or even insinuated this” no you merely lambasted those who oppose foreign intervention with silly ad hominem gestures–you nevertheless want to stress that it is ego-centric, armchair anthropology, which are the silliest of all possible arguments, as an attempt to dismiss what is in fact a collection of perspectives that is widely shared by the majority of public opinion, across all sorts of ideological divides. The anti-interventionist argument is neither just leftist, nor just a perspective of elites, nor a perspective confined to anthropologists. Your attempt to reduce, limit, and narrow the discussion, steering it in the direction of pointless ad hominem positions, becomes transparent. You lose credibility now.

      So what are the options that you discredit? Presumably colonialism (but maybe not), if “reverse coloniality” bothers you so much–so both pro- and anti-intervention: both are wrong. How about transcendence: also wrong. Let me suggest that you don’t actually know what to think, that you emote and personalize, and wish the rest of us would join you in that gutter so that you feel personally validated. The problem is that the story is not about you, or me, and you fail to understand that in this lame obfuscation that equates messenger with message.

      Your position is one that tries to personalize and localize–a totally blind analysis that ignores a conflict that transcends Gaddafi and Libya because it is now an international conflict that draws on all sorts of legal regimes and military consortia. You are stuck on February 17, and events have moved well beyond that. You have a global Gaddafi rushing in to replace a local Gaddafi. If you wish to whitewash imperialism in Iraq and Afghanistan, and elsewhere, as any less anti-democratic, any less brutal, and less deadly to civilians, then you not only miss the point, you exhibit the very ego-centric tendencies that you obviously do not understand and misperceive, and which you falsely assign to others. Shame on you, yours is an incredibly poor analysis.

      Let me suggest that it is not just “the rebel”–whoever you imagine this figure to be–who is in a difficult position here, and certainly not the only actor entitled to respect, and not one who is automatically entitled to respect. My point is that as outsiders we know little or nothing about these rebels, and what we do know, from those who have been publicized and promoted, should raise all sorts of flags for any serious observer. In fact, that position is shared by a wide variety of perspectives, not just Canadian, not just leftist, or any of the other little pettinesses you prefer.

      Then you make the absolutely phony charge that “the Left”, and thus myself included presumably, that we are somehow pro-Gaddafi. This is just idiotic, and you don’t deserve any more attention after that. I should have known you would favour personalized, right wing idiocy when you first began with your misplaced and ignorant rant about “Canadian Leftist professor”. Really, if you despise the “reverse coloniality” of North American academic institutions, then you should seriously consider not being a hypocrite, and leaving your neo-con home at Johns Hopkins, and setting up tent in Tahrir Square, like the good little activist revolutionary you are. Better yet, put your money where your mouth is, and go fight in Libya, if you believe even a fraction of the nonsense you spew here.

      The fact remains evident, for anyone who is lucid, that the story is no longer one that is just about Libya, just about Libyans, about rebels and Gaddafi–that has all been displaced by UN resolutions, Sarkozy’s electoral campaign, Cameron’s desperation, R2P, Western humanitarianism, militarism, Arab League hypocrisy, the nature of weapons used, the role of the foreign media, the U.S. constitution, and public opinion in the West, etc. They all matter now, because they are all writing Libyan history. Really, I didn’t create that situation, I am just commenting on it. Too bad you feel so aggrieved by dissent, clearly at least a nerve has been struck.

  24. Mohamad S.


    This is just descending into farce now.Follow the law of diminishing returns and close comments. Fouad is stuck in his own trap as he tries to convert this as you rightly suggest into a clash of personalities, and only his mythological rebel escapes with glory preserved. And those who identify with them. Talk about egocentric! His argument is now that intervention is good if it’s done by an Egyptian military that was built by the West, so military intervention by regional partners. so what he’s really saying now is you were right, that your points are valid, but that no, none of the points which you attacked which he does not defend means you are off the hook. You are wrong even when you are right. This is childish. Shut it down this does nobody any good.Thanks by the way for a great article.

    1. Maximilian Forte

      Thanks for the comment, and for a few moments I took your advice, forgetting that comments close automatically anyway after X number of days…and besides, I might as well write here, as I have little time or interest to write anything new.

      What I wanted to say is while I obviously agree with your message, in a sense the story itself began as a “farce,” and I chose to write about not as a formal academic analysis, but as a satirical comment on Western humanitarianism and a rejection of Western militarism.

      This is the point which Fouad is either missing, does not understand, or tries to counter by shifting the subject to focus solely and exclusively on the armed rebels. That is entirely a mistake, a grand missing of the point. The very point about the article is that the rebels are no longer the point of the story.

      Out of sheer frustration, he slanders critics with outright falsehoods–we all support Gaddafi. What?! The exact opposite is true in most cases, outside of Cuba and Venezuela. So as to deflect from his own weak arguments, Fouad tries to ensure agreement in advance, because if you don’t agree it means “you do not understand.” That is dishonest writing, it shows a weak intellect that needs to “win” by cheating.

      So initially I was baffled at why every time an anthropologist writes something about current events, that someone does not like, there has to be this immediate reach for the “armchair anthropology” label. The only way it makes sense is if he thinks that this should be an ethnographic focus on the rebels, which in any case would always be a focus just on a few, in some places and not others. It is also entirely irrelevant to what I was writing about, which again, in case anyone keeps missing the basic message here, is not a story about the rebels. Libyan authorship over events ended on 17 March.

      As I have said elsewhere, don’t be naive and expect sudden altruism from Western military powers here. There is nothing to excuse or justify such hopes. As I have said elsewhere, the rebels have gone into debt with Western military powers–in debt precisely with those that always collect on debts. This is not a “no interest” loan, a gift. There will always be strings attached, if anything because certain outcomes are mandated to satisfy domestic publics in the West and to challenge political criticism and opposition at home.

      Most ironic of all, and this is my last point: foreign military intervention will harm the rebels more in the long term, than not, discrediting them, boosting Gaddafi as some sort of nationalist and anti-imperialist, while still incurring the deaths of many civilians. Respecting human rights, and “protecting civilians,” should include those civilians who continue to support the regime, and there is no point denying the fact that they exist in significant numbers. At one point, dissatisfaction with the regime was represented by the opposition in the numbers of defections from the military–clearly that number has been overblown, as the regime continues to retain superior military strength, which in turn is based on continuing loyalty, even now when Western powers are bombing them.

      As for protecting civilians, read what one rebel told a British reporter in the last 24 hours:

      Another man, who asked not to be identified because his brother and father were in the town, said the coalition must bomb the town even if it meant civilian casualties. “They have destroyed a mosque. We have heard there are bodies in the street and no one has moved them. This is what Gaddafi does,” he said. Razing the town, he added, was the best way to free the country of Gaddafi resistance. “Even if they blow up Ajdabiya we don’t care – to get rid of them is crucial.”

  25. Pingback: Libya roundup. Turkey does not like French zeal for intervention… | Erkan's Field Diary

  26. Mohamad S.


    the irony of the complaints makes your argument for you though. Think, some here complain about the foreigner barging in and butchering understanding about Libya. If that really bothers them then think how the nato intervention is like that, to the 1000th power. Both involve outsiders getting involved with limited knowledge.Except you only have an armchair to do your so called ‘damage’,not the seat in a cockpit. Not that I think you are doing any damage:you just don’t buy into the hero romance being spun around the insurgents, which is very well advised.I take your point too, your article is about how the West took the so called ‘revolution’ and turns it into its own project. Again, thanks:as the bombing started this was the only article anywhere in English that made these critical arguments, I see why it got so much attention. Great work!

  27. sam


    Well Max while you make the obvious statement that the Western powers are not helping Libya for human rights or all that talk, it is no justification that they should not help if they are asked by the revolutionaries in Libya. You make it sounds like the Revolutionaries are completely unaware of any imperial agenda behind the strikes. But Like Dr. Azmi Bishara stated “the people should and would continue going in the street and battle it out and if intervention is needed it will happen. He also added that in a stand of solidarity the Libyans can dictate the future relationship with the western world. If people have a will and a desire to overthrow a tyrant they can have the will to draw the line when they have a functioning state about what any external elements can or cannot do. So please do not taint the sons of Omar Mukhtar in that short insight.

    1. Maximilian Forte

      Look more closely at which persons constitute the “revolutionary” leadership that is being thrust in front of us, as the “legitimate” representatives of the people of Libya, specifically this “Interim Transitional National Council”. I am also not saying that they are unaware of the imperial agenda–I am saying that at least some of them are firmly part of it, not in a narrow and conspiratorial sense (although, who knows), but in a broader ideological and political-economic sense.

      The sons of Omar Mukhtar? Some of these sons call on European–including Italian–forces to drop bombs on other Libyans. I am no expert on Mukhtar, and I did not write this article with any pretense of being in a position to lecture on Libyan history–but even to me, this sounds like a strange reinvention. How would you defend it?

      These are some of the recent, interesting, items I have been reading about the opposition:

      A Libyan Fight for Democracy, or a Civil War? in which we read the following:

      “Like the Qaddafi government, the operation around the rebel council is rife with family ties. And like the chiefs of the Libyan state news media, the rebels feel no loyalty to the truth in shaping their propaganda, claiming nonexistent battlefield victories, asserting they were still fighting in a key city days after it fell to Qaddafi forces, and making vastly inflated claims of his barbaric behavior.”

      Libyan rebels appear to take leaf from Kadafi’s playbook

      Journalists visit prisoners held by rebels in Libya

      US-trained economist, Libyan rebels’ new finance minister, admits mistakes, pledges to fix

      ‘Post-Qaddafi Libya’: on the Globalist Road

      I am conscious of the fact that I am falling into a trap here, which is to make the “rebels” the centre of this story…when they are no longer that. I recommend,

      The five principles driving war propaganda are in play in Libya

  28. Pingback: How we missed you, Humanitarian Intervention | SHOAH

  29. sam

    Hello Max,

    Well yes they are not the centre of the story right now because of the Intervention. Im also aware that some might be benefiting from the strikes for a latter to be elite dictatorial position after Libya depose of Gaddafi. Im simply stating another logical opinion presented by Dr. Bishara that argues that Libyans Rebels or the vast of them and the people of Libya in General can dictate the level of further western probing in their country if they remain united. While some elite rebel heads have other means or are “selling the cause” that does not stop the assumption that some are continuing to fight. The point about Mokhtar was regarding how a Quran teacher with his comradres (albeit some triators, yes i’ve also seen Lion of the Desert) stood in the face of one of the most powerful armies in the day and he can be of a positive example of Libyans in the street today.

    1. Maximilian Forte

      I didn’t address Bishara’s point. I think he is sounding strangely optimistic. Plenty countries have not been able to stand up to further Western probing, and that is when they try. I do not see the rebels courting friends outside of the halls of state and corporate circles, on tours organized by Bernard-Henri Levy. The opposition itself underscores the vast asymmetry in power by going to Western powers to begin with, which they need. You say, if they remain united…but in the face of overwhelming Western opposition, “they” have never remained united, anywhere.

      I still do not understand the example of Mukhtar, sorry–“[he] stood in the face of one of the most powerful armies in the day”…ok, did he do that with the assistance of which foreign military axis?

      1. martin

        on a similar note: “The forces of the Libyan rebellion are totally beholden to the West, with no sign of any real anti-imperialist forces in the rebellion. Rather it is clear that all the forces so far have been fully supported by the West today and historically, with Western special forces openly going into Libya to train and arm the rebels. Hilary Clinton, who seems single-minded in her crusade to slap down the Arabs and kill them with her version of kindness, was trooping around Egypt and Tunisia immediately before the UNSC resolution on Libya, showing how the USA and the West in general want to colonise the Arab uprisings, maintain and deepen the US hegemonic position in the region, squeeze out rivals such as the Chinese and Russians, and re-focus the uprisings against those regimes which are obstacles to their rule in the region: Iran, Syria, Libya, Sudan and Algeria. It is no coincidence that Clinton was in Egypt the day before the UNSC resolution, and then after the resolution is passed, news emerges that Egypt is arming the Libyan rebels: a clear strategy to get the Arab people to sabotage their uprisings through divide and rule. ”

        i am not sure about all the smaller and larger specific claims in the article (as I know next to nothing about Zimbabwe, Iranian newspapers reporting on “the Arab Spring” or whether oil is the predominant reason behind this mutation of neo-colonialism), but otherwise it makes perfect sense to me.

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  31. sam

    well but we dont know if they are not united, we are not on the ground. In Mukhtar time who was there to support him but his followers. And it remains if some have coward out it doe not take from the steadfastness of the rebels who are still resisting in the streets. Libya might just be the first country to significantly reduce western probing when the smoke is clear. Bishara’s point of more than optimism it is a strategic and a long term solution for other countries.

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