Written by PROF. BÜLENT GÖKAY
Friday, 28 October 2011 18:36
The killing of Muammar Kaddafi on 20 October 2011 by an armed lynch mob and the victory of the rebel forces have been quickly celebrated by the US President Obama and other leaders of the NATO countries, whose warplanes massively bombed the cities of Libya over the past eight months under the guise of “protecting civilians”. The manner in which Colonel Kaddafi was killed has, however, been considered by many in Africa as a return to what they called the dark days of colonialism and slavery where captured victims were treated with disrespect and in a dehumanising manner. A video circulating widely across the Internet shows a bloodied and somewhat disoriented Kaddafi being pulled and pushed about by a large and cacophonous rebel contingency, and a still image from the disorderly scene, captures the grimace on Kaddafi’s face and the handgun that would put a bullet through his temple. Despite the erupting euphoria and self-congratulation in the West, the anarchic bloodshed that followed the toppling of Saddam Hussein in Iraq left many fearing for what happens next.
Most of the mainstream corporate media in the West provided voluminous coverage to the savage murder of former Libyan leader, presenting this gruesome incident as a big victory for Libyan people and the triumph of democracy over tyranny. The brutal killing of Kaddafi is the culmination of a criminal military campaign which caused the death of untold numbers of Libyans and the destruction of the country’s infrastructure. The war against Kaddafi also led to the spread of economic suffering throughout the region as hundreds of thousands of immigrant workers were forced to flee to neighbouring countries.
Former Libyan leader Muammar Kaddafi was long demonised and isolated by the Western leaders and media. He was presented as the evil monster that everyone should run away from. Some of the criticisms against him are not without merit, especially those from the Libyan people who endured his leadership for the past 42 years: having the same leader in power for such a long time is a legitimate source of some internal opposition, and therefore there are legitimate activists and revolutionaries in the country who wanted major changes in their country and felt strongly that the removal of Kaddafi was necessary for this.
He had come to power as the last revolutionary leader of the pan-Arab nationalist Nasser generation. For most part of his 42 year rule, Kaddafi remained a very conventional ruler of a developing African country. His absolute power rested on a predictable mixture of totalitarian control and tribal loyalty.
Few leaders in the world have the complex personality of Muammar Kaddafi. Robert Fisk, one of the few Western journalists with the integrity to report the truth impartially captured the approach of the western world in the aftermath of the killing of Kaddafi, “We loved him. We hated him. Then we loved him again. Blair slobbered over him. Then we hated him again. Then La Clinton slobbered over her BlackBerry and we really hated him even more again.” (The Independent, 21 October 2011)
There are a number of significant positive aspects of Kaddafi regime both for Libyan people and the rest of Africa. He took extensive measures to ensure that Libya’s oil wealth was used for the benefit of the Libyan people, and created a genuine welfare state with state-of the-art medical facilities and education system accessible to all Libyans. Under Kaddafi’s rule, Libyan people’s standards of living were by far the highest in Africa and far surpassed most people from the developed West. No Libyan has paid for electricity charges– there is no electricity bill in Libya as it was declared a free commodity by Kaddafi. There is no interest on loans – banks in Libya are state-owned and loans are given to all its citizens at 0% interest by law. Housing is considered a human right to every Libyan and Kaddafi vowed that his own parents would not get a house until everyone in Libya had a home, and it is said that his own father died while the Kaddafi and his wife were still living in a tent. In Libya under Kaddafi, all newly-weds received US$ 50,000 from the government to buy their first apartment to start up the family. Also every woman who gives birth is provided by the state US$ 5,000. All education and medical treatment were free under Kaddafi. Should Libyans want to take up farming the state would provide them farming land, a house, all necessary equipment, seed and livestock, all free. The price of petrol was 14 cents per litre while 40 loaves of bread went for 15 cents. Other benefits were also introduced in the areas of university education, and according to an oil-profit sharing scheme every Libyan got US$500 in their account every year from the national income. The late former Libyan leader also carried out, among others, the world’s largest irrigation project known as the great man-made river project to make water available throughout its desert country.
Being a product of post-Second World War and post- independent Africa, Kaddafi’s Libya assisted freedom movements in other countries of Africa. Many countries like South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Angola greatly benefited Kaddafi’s moral and financial support during their long campaigns for their independence. His economic support for countries like Niger, Chad and Burkina Faso has long been acknowledged by many in Africa and in the rest of the world as a great contribution in easing the suffering of their people. When Bill Clinton visited newly independent South Africa and criticized Libya under Kaddafi, Nelson Mandela rebuked him saying that “we cannot join you in criticizing the people who helped us in our darkest hour.”
Kaddafi believed that the Arabs were the descendants of Black Africans and always spoke to his people that they owed special respect to black Africans. During his 42 years as the leader of Libya, non-Libyan black Africans flocked to Libya to seek employment in large numbers. He put in place a policy where black Africans were welcomed into Libya as employees and even members of the Libyan army. Black Libyans, together with the more than 2 million black African migrant workers, made up roughly a third of the Libyan population under Kaddafi.
Throughout last 42 years, the US carried out many assassination and coup attempts against Kaddafi’s Libya. The US intelligence services financed and trained a number of armed opposition groups. National Front for the Salvation of Libya (NFSL), with a military force called the Libyan National Army, was set up in Egypt in 1981 by direct CIA involvement. It has been reported in the international media that the NFSL involved in the recent conflict in Libya as the leading part within the so-called rebel forces.
Kaddafi is gone for now, but there are complex and haunting questions that will stay with us for a long time. During the last 8 months, more people have already died in the US/NATO campaign against Kaddafi than were ever killed by Kaddafi’s regime itself over the last 42 years. In the 1980s, the US President Ronald Reagan labeled the Libyan leader as the “mad dog of the Middle East”. If there are any mad dogs in Libya now, it is the US/ NATO –supported “rebel force”, who brutally assaulted and tortured, and murdered Kaddafi with two bullets to the head and one to the chest, and after that splayed his body on the hood of a car, pulling his hair and banging his head before dragging his body into the street and kicking it like a football, and displaying it in a shopping centre meat locker. This is the indelible image of the so-called new “free” Libya under the control of US/NATO-sponsored rebel forces. It is hardly an image of democracy and the Rule of Law the leaders of the US and NATO countries claimed to be intervening in Libya for.
Published at Global Faultlines.