THE PEACE DEAL DILEMMA IN LIBYA!

I have just finished reading a very prolific  article on the Financial Times COMPROMISE MUST BE REACHED TO END LIBYA CONFLICT and it is clear that we really still have some of the issues I raised in the last post. The problem of selective analysis and reporting of events. I would expect academics to be more objective if the mainstream media is failing. Unfortunately what I noticed from this article is way away from being objective.

While the article makes a graphic and realistic presentation of the facts facing the Libyan people and concludes that a compromise at this stage happens to be the best option, it fails in that it still at this stage draws its premises from the same false reasons that were given for the intervention in the first place.

There is no denying that there is a  good conclusion to this article, and the most reasonable one at this point in the saga, but unfortunately some facts need to be straightened. First I want to disagree that because Gaddafi used force to get and maintain power meant that he was going to kill 700,000 people in Benghazi. To call what is happening in Libya now, a lending of credence to Gaddafi’s propaganda is to ignore the bitter truth. If I remember correctly, when Gaddafi’s son addressed the people after the first day of protests, he pointed out just these terrible realities of civil war that this article highlights. But what happened? All the major media outlets interpreted it to mean he was threatening the people.

In any country – even the UK or the US – the military is there to protect the sovereignty of the State, which was clearly threatened when the first sights we saw of rebellion in Libya was of those carrying arms. If the Libyan army (so often wrongly called ‘forces loyal to colonel Gaddafi or Gaddafi forces’) was marching towards Benghazi, it was not because there were civilians on the street as was the case in Egypt and Tunisia but because men had carried arms against the State. We are yet to see footage of crowds of mass protesters in Libya as we saw in Tunisia and Egypt and as we have been seeing in Syria. The reason is simple. The Libyans had little to spur them to such action and the few who did come out (apart from the armed rebels who have a clearly different agenda), were deceived by the false impression that they could get a better country if Gaddafi was forcefully removed. Surely he did not stay in power for over four decades without getting tap roots into the ground.

A controversial no-fly zone was immediately sought from the same Security Council that Gaddafi had in 2009 criticized at the General Assembly for being undemocratic and perpetrators of disorder rather than order, (enough reason why the members of that council will want to see him out), and France and Britain with a reluctant USA started what has been the most ‘admirable’ ‘protection of civilians’ in human history. We are all witnesses of how Libyans have been protected. The logic used was humanitarianism but this in itself was greatly questioned by Stratfor at the time.

The NTC has been recognised by the powers bombing the country and what is the next move – they have started signing agreements that will see the release of money belonging to the Libyan people. If Gaddafi’s regime kept any money in Banks in the UK and US, how legitimate is it to hand it over to a group of rebels who may not even know how much it was? Why has the requests by Gaddafi for elections been turned down? How do we justify the fact that a country that had a welfare system, access to education and health that even the UK and US will envy, highest number of women entering universities – comparetively speaking, should now become a failed state because the UN has no sense of diplomacy? After listening again to the speech Gaddafi made at the UN, I now saw sense in most of what that man – a dictator as he may be – was making. The UN has been totally useless as far as maintaining peace in the world is concerned. I am sure ECOMOG has more to its credit than the UN has. If really the objective was to stop the killing of people in Benghazi, why did the bombing extend to Tripoli and to Gaddafi’s compound and civilian areas?

If at all there was any popular uprising in Libya, I am sorry to say that it was high-jacked by the very action of the UN security council which it now claims to have been the best option at the time. The United States had its war of independence and succeeded. The UK had its Glorious revolution and succeeded to come up with her current parliamentary system. Other countries had their protests like Egypt and Tunisia and succeeded (if we can call what is going on now success). Why were the Libyans not allowed to carry theirs to its logical conclusion? Why was there no similar response in Bahrain, Yemen and Syria in which the government has already massacred thousands?

What Ann-Marie Slaughter’s  article fails to point out is that most of the Libyans who have lost the wonderful lifestyle they had under Gaddafi, will not only say that a ‘devil they know is better than one they do not know’, but hey will also hate the invaders.This was manifested in the mass protests they held, expressing support for Gaddafi and  showing defiance for the invasion of their country. Owing to this crisis and given that the country is gradually being destroyed, most of them will seek asylum and be granted, but they will be foreigners with venom on their minds. If in 20 years we have Libyans bombing in the US or UK, it will not be a great surprise – that is if we have not forgotten then that we created the terrorists.

However, if  truly the UN and the rebels are sincere that they want the welfare of the people of Libya and they want to be champions of democracy – making unreasonable demands of Gaddafi is itself not democratic. The only democratic solution to this problem is that the Libyan people decide in a free and fair elections who they want their leader to be. Gaddafi should not stand the elections but there is no reason why any other person should not stand. To simply ask Gaddafi to leave and then hand power to the rebels to me is nothing more than a military coup – and we are all agreed that military coups have never been acceptable by the UN.

The situation has however taken the most unexpected twist now that the leader of rebels has been reported to have been killed. The next few weeks will hold a lot of surprises not only for Libyans, the Rebels but also for NATO.

INDIA’S JOURNEY TO THE “TOP” – THE MISSING LINK!

It is Santayana who rightly pointed out that those who forget their history are bound to repeat it. Despite all the negative aspersions that have been cast on history over time, especially given the biases that accompany some historical works, history as a record of a people’s past is something that cannot be taken lightly.

AAttending an event last week at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (where Prof. Sugata Bose launched his book His Majesty’s Opponent: Subhas Chandra Bose and India’s Struggle against Empire) happens to have been my waking call from a dogmatic slumber. The panel discussions, questions and contributions from the audience left a sour taste in my mouth. I used to be confident that I knew much about India’s pre and post colonial history from what I learned at school and could use these to analyse what is going on in their current political scene. I have never been more wrong. I realised how little I knew and how much was being left out. All through the discussions I could not help but remember Chimamanda in the Danger of a single story who points out that

“… There is a word, an Igbo word, that I think about whenever I think about the power structures of the world, and it is “nkali.” It’s a noun that loosely translates to “to be greater than another.” Like our economic and political worlds, stories too are defined by the principle of nkali. How they are told, who tells them, when they’re told, how many stories are told, are really dependent on power.”

She goes on to state that “Power is the ability not just to tell the story of another person, but to make it the definitive story of that person. The Palestinian poet Mourid Barghouti writes that if you want to dispossess a people, the simplest way to do it is to tell their story, and to start with, “secondly.”” It will be difficult to refute the fact that there exist just this power, one that will be a bit elusive to situate, that has directed the telling of the Indian story. Begin the Indian story with independence, the break-off of Pakistan and we have a different story with Nehru and Gandhi at the foreground of events. However, begin this story by integrating the great role that Netaji Bose played in the fight for decolonisation and the role his ideas would have played had he been alive at the moment of independence and the story takes a completely new dimension.

It will be difficult to say how events would have played out had Bose lived on to independence. That however, is not an area for my speculation. What I cannot seem to get over is how a man who was in the picture till 1946 and who won an election in 1939 against Gandhi’s candidate, Pattabhi Sitaramayya, should be so obscure. I was really nonplussed when I realised that many of my Indian friends also did not know of this great icon? I was the one telling them! What else did they not know? I began to ponder. This was the biggest problem about a story being told from one perspective – it “…creates stereotypes. And the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”

Some persons who know of Chandra Bose were bold in asserting that the man has been receiving recognition and that there are now monuments built in his honour and many people now bear his name. These are great ways of immortalizing a great man no doubt, but the million rupees question that ought to be asked is if Bose fought and died for India just so that he could be honoured. I certainly do not think so, as in his lifetime he did not seek personal agrandisment but sought the welfare of the Indian people. If there is one thing that should live on, it should not be simply the memory of a man, but the ideas that he sought to impart. Gandhi himself described Bose as a man whose ‘self sacrifice and suffering, drive, integrity and commitment to the national cause and the capacity to bind all Indians into one people were unsurpassed.” Strangely enough, it would seem that these wonderful qualities died with the man. We can all agree that many a great man has lived and died but their ideas are immortal. It is believed that Bose last words to his colleague, Habib-ur Rehman. were: ”I don’t think I will recover. So when you go back to India, do tell our countrymen that I tried my best to wrest freedom but they should continue their struggle until they succeed.”Another many-layered-hydraic question that needs answering is how ‘free’ India has become since gaining political ‘independence’.

If Keynes view that “Ideas shape the course of history” is anything to go by, then the question needs be asked as to What the implication is of the fact that India rode to independence on the tripod of three great ideological spheres but dropped one immediately on independence. What impact can it have on India as a rising power on the international scene? The answer to these questions inevitably will lay bare the fact that there is a logical jump from India’s pre-colonial history to her projections for future prowess.

Subhash Chandra Bose and Gandhi have been widely presented as having divergent views. While the two undoubtedly held different visions of how independence should look like, the common ground was that they were both great Indian Patriots who wanted the best for the Nation.  Bose who was influenced by the success of the five-year plans in the Soviet Union, advocated for a socialist nation with an industrialized economy. Gandhi was opposed to the very concept of industrialization. What independent india needed to have adopted is therefore a synthesis of all ideas so as to come out with a new thesis that will be peculiar to India, Bose had earlier made a solid argument that  “… common traits will form the basis of the new synthesis. That synthesis is called… “Samyavada” — an Indian word, which means literally “the doctrine of synthesis or equality.” It will be India’s task to work out this synthesis.” What I see today is clearly a failure by India to arrive at this synthesis and hence what I can conclude  is a failure at attaining independence. There seemed to have been only a transfer of power from the British to the Indians but the very structures which oppressed the Indian people under colonialism and which these great men fought to overcome seem to have been adopted if not fortified. It is my humble opinion then that if current trends persist, it will not be long before the ordinary Indians begin another struggle for ‘independence’ – albeit not from foreign oppressors but from internal structures that oppress them.

India, is undoubtedly one of the fastest growing economies in the world today, second only to China. Growing at a rate which economies like that of the UK can never reach again even if they are recovering from a recession, this is India’s opportunity to make sure that she handles her internal issues else they will continue to serve as distractions from her accessing opportunities abroad. China has already realised this and has been focusing great energy in the mitigation of inequalities that exist within her borders. India has got great potential, but unless she comes to her own and adopt the non-voilence of Gandhi in home affairs but the ‘radical’ ideas of Netaji to thread the paths of   international politics, she risks becoming a power that will contain within herself the seeds of her destruction.  Long gone are the days when military might was the criteria for being a global power but even at that, economic might without a viable political strategy will be only a short term project.

As an emerging power, India therefore needs to be more assertive in her role as a Nation that understands the language of strive. She cannot do this by taking a neutral stance in happenings around the world. It was the South African, Desmond Tutu who pointed out that “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.” As a future super power, India will need countries like Chile, Nepal, Afghanistan, Ivory Coast and even Libya and the time that she can get the support of such Nations is now, especially in the wake of several cases of gross violations of the right of sovereign States by the current world powers who have adopted the name “international community”. One lesson that can be drawn from the cold war is that no super power wants a rival. And will stop at nothing to stop any threats to the privileges of being a hegemon. For India therefore, to hinge the prospects of her becoming a superpower or getting a permanent seat in the UN security Council, (which she rightfully deserves)  to winning the favour of the US or Britain is to have lost it.

“I Fear the Newspapers…” Anything to Fear in Today’s Media?

It is not uncommon to hear people remark after a phenomenal achievement, that a person did what Napoleon left undone. It is borne out of the greatness of this man who conquered Europe with military might. One would think that people like Napoleon would have nothing to be afraid of. This is not the case as he confessed that he feared “… the newspapers more than a hundred thousand bayonets”. Napoleon’s fears were legitimate given that Akbar Ahmed points out that the American media has been able to achieve world domination – a feat which the American political might could not. William Hearst also corroborates by stating that journalism could crush any man.

Not surprisingly, many people would be asking themselves the same question I have asked – what actually makes the media so powerful? Is it simply their ability to tell that story which everyone else would not tell, or is it the manner in which they tell the ordinary story. One anonymous author pointed out that “If you don’t read the newspaper, you are uninformed.  If you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed.” Could it then be that these great men feared the media not because it could tell a story but because of the power it had in misrepresenting the facts? Whatever the case, it is a truism that the media has power – whether for good or for evil.

It is however, my subjective view that whatever power the media had, has been on a steady decline and before long they will have just as much power to impact on society as reading “Strange Tales from the Arabian Nights” has.

This view is reminiscent of one made several hundred years ago by Thomas Jefferson that “ The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers” and Chesterton that “Journalism largely consists in saying “Lord Jones is dead” to people who never knew Lord Jones was alive.”  This has not been far from the perception I have had in the past few years since I developed the thirst for knowledge. I could not help having a feeling of disgust that the screaming headlines are always of the most negative things about society. The best place to begin a career in crime fiction would be a newspaper. Hence over time, I was not surprised as I gradually developed the attitude of always reading the newspaper from the rear – the sports section. This section happens to be the one that a person can go to and be sure to get positive stories of achievements of individuals and teams of people who earn a living by entertaining others while keeping fit and a section that will be most objective as the case maybe.

In the light of this, I am apt to question if the media as it is can hurt even a fly. The answer is an emphatic yes! It still has the power to hurt but this time not those in high places who should be afraid of  newspapers but rather it is the ordinary man whose everyday life is woe enough and so horrible that  it will make good headlines. After all, in most places, even where there is the chimera of press freedom, those with money can buy super injunctions to prevent stories being reported. This brings up a dilemma raised by the Houghton Line in 1965 that we are caught between deciding whether the world is growing worse or whether reporters are just not working harder.  While I cannot emphatically say that creativity and innovation is ebbing out of modern-day news reporting, I can say with every confidence that the world is not getting better.

The news around the world this Sunday the 10th of July 2011 was about The News of the World, a newspaper that carried above its editorial, the difficult-to-miss-words “world’s greatest newspaper, 1843-2011.” Whatever happened to that greatness that the New York Times on this day should have as it headlines “Emphatic Farewell for British Paper Caught Up in Hacking Scandal”; is an enigma that still beats my wildest imagination. Had the allegations about hacking the voicemail of celebrities and politicians in search of stories, been the only issues, I may have found it easier to understand – desperation can manifest in several forms. But when the scandal involves the fact that in 2002 the paper had listened to the voicemail of Milly Dowler, a missing schoolgirl who was later found murdered, and even deleted some of her messages to make way for more; with the list of their victims including Britain’s war dead and the families of those killed in the 2005 London transport bombings, my stomach churns with revulsion at the imagination of where the other news items I have read in the past years could have come from. I am not referring here only to The News of the World newspaper, I am thinking of the news the world gets from all newspapers and media sources.

The most dangerous and nerve wrecking thing about this whole saga is that it’s not a problem limited to the print media. Malcolm X had earlier warned that if we are not careful, the newspapers will have us hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing. When my mind goes down memory lane to the early years of the last decade, I recall with disdain how the top news media houses around the world made us believe that the only way to the security of the world was to attack the Taliban in Afghanistan and get Saddam out of Iraq.  I recall vividly as a student pointing out to my peers that this war was going to be a nightmare. If the media in the US and the UK had been objective enough – as we expect them to be –  and looked at the facts and presented them objectively, popular opinion would have prevailed on Bush and Blair to think twice before plunging the world into the security risk it now is. Ten years on and reporting of the issues are still from vantage perspectives.

If one were to think that the case of Iraq and the stories of Weapons of Mass destruction was one case in the past with lessons learnt, that person was in for a shocker. The reporting on the recent invasion of Libya has not been much different. It made me clearly agree with Robert Brault that “You don’t realize how little accuracy there is in network TV reporting until they cover a story in your hometown.” I realized from flirting across Aljazeera, CNN, BBC, RT, SkyNews, Vox Africa, that the same story was told so differently that if I had no idea of what was going on, I would never realize they were all reporting the same story. Each media house had a single story of the situation and each was a Gospel according to X. The only way the whole story could come out in its objective form could be like the case of the Bible when the different gospels are put together. This of course will be the work of historians, who will write volumes years later – and will they then tell the story as it happened? Even at that, in the final analysis, I am compelled to conclude that the situation of the world today is one that in reality, what we know about any one event is as much as journalists and historians make it appear.

The media today is therefore no more concerned about telling the exact story in a creative way but rather creativity has to do with their ability to distort the facts to suit a particular situation. There is therefore no need to fear the media – as long as you are not a rape victim, or a family member of yours is murdered, or you belong to a country that has something others want, and can only get, by using tax-payers money to wage war – because it is not concerned with what happened but about how people will react to what happened and how much money can be made from people’s reaction. What happened to the News of the World Newspaper has just been an opportunity for the world to have fresh news. The paper will come back by next week with another name and the cycle will continue.