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LIBYA: Distortions, omissions and lies

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by Curtis M. King Fri, Sept 16. 2011

I was motivated to write these articles after hearing many media personalities parroting the distortions and lies of the traditional Western Media houses. These commentators are silent on the impressive progress made by Libya under Muamar al- Gadafy, NATO’s true role in Libya, and the human rights abuses of the REBEL forces. My intention is to present a more informed opinion on the Libyan situation.{{more}}

I propose to do this in three short articles. The first will give a snapshot of Libya’s (20th Century) history. The second will focus on Libya’s stormy relationship with the West, and the final will examine NATO’S reasons for intervention, their role in the collapse of the Gadafy-led revolution and their general hypocrisy in their relationship with developing countries.

Libya is a huge but sparsely populated North African Country that is populated by about six and a half million people. These people are divided into many tribal units and live in three major regions, Tripolitania, Cyrenaica and Fezzan. Tripolitania (64%) and Cyrenaica (29%) account for most of the population of Libya. There have always been great rivalry and sensitivities between the two regions and their respective capitals/ cities, Tripoli and Benghazi. More than ninety per cent of the country’s populations are followers of Islam (Muslims).

Libya for most of its history has fallen under foreign control. The last three countries to rule Libya; Italy, Britain and France are all members of NATO, which is today conducting military operations in Libya. The Italian invasion started in 1911. They brutally put down the Libyan resistance to their illegal occupation, leaving a trail of destruction in their path. According to the historian Kevin Shillington, by 1931, an estimated 100,000 civilians died in Italian concentration camps. Of course, there were no interventions to protect civilians during this period.

The Italians were only driven out as a result of World War II when the British and French forces, as part of their war effort to control the strategically located North Africa, secured victory over the fascist Italian and German Forces operating in Libya. Britain and France then administered Libya until 1951 when it was granted independence. Veteran anti-Italian fighter Idris al-Sanusi (from Cyrenaica) was made King of the United Kingdom of Libya. At that time, Libya was one of the poorest countries in the world. This poverty and lack of unity among the three regions and the difficulty of establishing a national government led to the reference to the country as the ‘Libyan problem’. This, however, did not prevent Britain and the United States from establishing and maintaining military bases in Libya.

The discovery of oil in 1959 commenced the transformation of Libya into one of the world’s leading oil producers. This brought great wealth to the country. Unfortunately, this wealth was concentrated in the hands of the foreign (Western) owners of the oil companies and local elites. The mass of the people remained poor and discontented. Many blamed King Idris claiming that he was a puppet of Western interest. He was overthrown in December 1969 in a bloodless coup led by Col. Muamar al-Gadafy. The new leader moved the seat of power to Tripoli.

A Revolutionary Command Council (RCC) was set up and immediately adopted a radical anti-western stance, nationalized the oil companies that were owned by Western Interest, eliminated the foreign bases and introduced strict Islamic principles. Gadafy also proclaimed a Jihad (Holy war) against Israel. His initial hostility towards communist Soviet Union was abandoned in the mid 1970’s after a failed coup attempt against him. He then disbanded the RCC and proclaimed a socialist Islamic state (or what he called the Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya state of the masses). Final authority, however, remained in his hands. Gadafy was an autocrat who ruled with a tight fist. This fact led to resentment from the traditional opposition to his rule, the elites, especially those in Benghazi.

Despite his proclamation in 1969 of a foreign policy based on neutrality, Libya has led an active and engaging foreign policy. Some historians (Afigbo, Ayandele, Garvin, Omer-Cooper and Palmer) have described Gadafy as a pain in the neck of his neighbors-he supported some rebel forces against some African governments- and an irritant to a super power like the USA.

Yet, others have praised him for his generous support to African and other developing countries, including South Africa, Liberia, Madagascar , the Sahel, and the countries of central Africa. An article produced by Tactical Knowledge for Strategic Development (see tacstrat.com) outlined how Libya has played a key role in the development of the African Continent and advocated for its independence of the West. One major project, from which the entire continent has benefited, is worthy of note. Gadafy (with US$300 m) financed the first African Communication Satellite. This ‘veritable technological revolution’ has facilitated the establishment of telephone links, transmission of radio and television stations. It has enabled the introduction of telemedicine (remote diagnosis), distance learning and education. Prior to this Satellite launched in December 2007, African countries depended on and paid huge amounts to Europe for the use of their satellites.

On the home front, his record is even more impressive. The revolution has miraculously transformed what was a desert wasteland into a modern and the most prosperous state in Africa. Afigbo et al claimed that from the beginning, Gadafy spread the abundant oil wealth among the Libyan people. He greatly increased educational, health, social facilities, including housing, at a rate that stupefied outside observers. The US State Department, for instance in a Background Note on Libya (July 2007), listed a number of large-scale infrastructure projects undertaken by Gadafy’s government. The list includes highways, air and seaports, telecommunications, waterworks, public housing, medical centers, shopping centers and hotels. His most celebrated project, however, is the Great Man Made River. This project takes water from under the Sahara Desert in the South of Libya and distributes it to coastal cities in the North, a great engineering feat by all account.

So how is it that we are now hearing that Gadafy squandered and stole Libya’s wealth and did nothing for his people? Why the distortion, lies and omissions when there is unmistakable evidence that Libya under Gadafy moved from being one of the poorest to one of the wealthiest states in Africa? Next week we explore Libya’s stormy relation with the West: Its transgression and atonement.

curtismking@hotmail.com

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