Assange Is A True Democrat: Chomsky

 

It has been with some degree of fascination that I have followed the unfolding of the Julian Assange saga. While I have been apt to question what all this meant for the so much talk about freedom of speech, Britain’s recent attitude towards it has been nothing but amusing. In all this however, I see Assange being the ultimate winner as it has done nothing but increase his popularity – something he will surely cherish. While Britain has said that it remains committed to reaching a diplomatic solution to the presence of Assage in Ecuador’s London embassy, after both countries took steps to defuse a row over his action in taking refuge, Noam Chomsky has proclaimed Assange a true democrat.

The WikiLeaks founder who has been living in the Ecudaorian  embassy’s quarters for more than two months in an attempt to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over rape and sexual assault allegations received his accolade in a discussion New Matilda had with Chomsky as presented in the following write-up by Tamara Fenjan  of NewMatilda.com,

Noam Chomsky

Last week NM spoke with US intellectual giant Noam Chomsky about Julian Assange, who is now the centre of a diplomatic nightmare in London. Tamara Fenjan reports

Julian Assange has been granted asylum by the Ecuadorian government, creating a diplomatic row between the Latin American nation and the United Kingdom, which remains intent to extradite him to Sweden to face allegations of sexual assault. While voices have been raised in Sweden and the UK, the US has so far declined to “interject” itself into the situation.

However, there is one American who has been loud and clear in his support of Assange — MIT linguistics professor and left-wing intellectual Noam Chomsky.

Last week Chomsky told New Matilda he believes Assange is right to fear extradition to Sweden, where if the USA asks for him to be extradited he would “be on the next flight”.

“If Swedish interrogators want to interrogate him they can do it in London,” Chomsky told NM. “Everyone in their right mind knows that this is a stepping stone to the US.” He draws a parallel with Bradley Manning, the US soldier accused of having leaked thousands of classified documents to Wikileaks, and says that what to happened Manning is a clear indication of how Assange will be treated if he is extradited to the United States.

Manning has been held in a military prison for almost a year and a half without trial — most of that time in solitary confinement.

WikiLeaks Founder – Julian Assange

“There is no doubt that the purpose of all this is to get [Manning] to say something about Assange, who will also be treated the same way if he ever comes to the US. … Therefore, a decent country at this time — if there is one — would grant him political asylum,” Chomsky said.

Chomsky says of the Swedish legal system “that one can not rely on it, which is not so surprising.” Sweden cooperated with the Nazis during World War II and is now working with the Americans, he points out. “Sweden cooperates with whoever is in power … suppose that Syria asks Sweden to extradite somebody to Syria whom they accuse works with the rebels — would Sweden do it? No!”

“By right [Assange] ought to get a medal of honour. He’s performing his responsibilities as a citizen of a democratic society and people ought to know what their representatives are doing ”

The question now is whether UK police will storm the Ecuadorian embassy, located in London’s Knightsbridge. Wikileaks reports via Twitter that this morning “there are still over 35 police surrounding the Ecuadorian embassy”, and has issued a statement condemning “in the strongest possible terms the UK’s resort to intimidation”.

“A threat of this nature is a hostile and extreme act, which is not proportionate to the circumstances, and an unprecedented assault on the rights of asylum seekers worldwide,” the organisation said.

Assange’s fears seem to be corroborated by private confirmation given to Craig Murray, a respected former UK ambassador and human rights activist:

“I returned to the UK today to be astonished by private confirmation from within the [Foreign and Commonwealth Office] that the UK government has indeed decided — after immense pressure from the Obama administration — to enter the Ecuadorean Embassy and seize Julian Assange.

“This will be, beyond any argument, a blatant breach of the Vienna Convention of 1961, to which the UK is one of the original parties and which encodes the centuries — arguably millennia — of practice which have enabled diplomatic relations to function. The Vienna Convention is the most subscribed single international treaty in the world.”

Greens Senator Scott Ludlam spoke this week in support of Assange. Foreign Minister Bob Carr said the Federal Government would not “make representations one way or the other” regarding Assange’s asylum claim.

Source: Chomsky.info

 

Africans and the Olympic Games – What is the Motivation?

What will Africans be Remembered for?

Cameroonians supposedly ‘missing’ during Olympics

Shortly before the beginning of the just concluded Olympic Games, I wrote a piece for FabAfriq Magazine  carrying the same title as this post – Africans and the Olympic Games: What is the motivation? I began by asking a question and logically addressing it:

…what are the Olympic Games all about – what motivates people to come to them?

Of course, Pythagoras, many centuries BC had clearly stated that: “There are three sorts of people that attend the Olympic Games. The lowest class is made up of those who come to buy and sell, the next above them are those who compete. Best of all, however, are those who come simply to look on.”

I went on to conclude after challenging some of Pythagoras’ assumptions especially with reference to Africans and arrived at the conclusion that what motivates them is:

 Love of the games; patriotism – they can come in any order – but no more no less.

When the Olympics kick-off in London, Kenyans will win gold medals in track events, Nigerians will win gold in football (as they did in 1996) or other events, Africans from different nooks and crannies of the continent will prove their worth in gold in several sporting events. One thing that should cross the minds of anyone watching is this – all these people are making it out of nothing. Some will only be recognised if they win something – some have been only because they were able to make it to the very top – on their own.

If one is looking for people who need nothing much in life to succeed than an opportunity – look no further – watch out for Africans during the Olympic Games 2012 in London.

As we throw a glance back on London 2012 Olympics, it will likely be remembered for breathtaking performances,  the plethora of firsts for women, men and their nations, and the spirit of London that reverberated around the globe, from the scintillating and wonderfully executed opening ceremony, through the many performances and culminating in a quintessential British concert that was the closing ceremony.

There is no doubt that the UK will want us to always remember that the did so well both in hosting and coming third – second to the USA and China – Michael Phelps will be remembered for becoming the most decorated Olympian. Usain Bolt solidified his status as the world’s greatest sprinter after doubts were heaped upon him before the Games but it does not end there – his relationship to a ‘White’ lady becomes an issue for massive debate.

Gabby Douglas will be remembered for being one of those to make history for her country by winning one medal individually and helping her team win another – but again – unfortunately, she will be remembered more for being the lady who did not do her hair as many would have wanted.

The link I can make between Bolt and Gabby is their ancestry which is undoubtedly African. At this stage therefore, I am apt to ask another question: What will Africans be remembered for after the Olympics?

The African Mo Farah will be celebrated for making history in the long-distance track event – and his victory is not marred by negative news! Oh! I forgot he is British! So nothing negative trails his victory.

Let me take a look at the general African Olympic standings:

Country Gold Silver Bronze Total
South Africa 3 2 1 6
Ethiopia 3 0 3 6
Kenya 2 4 4 10
Tunisia 1 1 1 3
Uganda 1 0 0 1
Algeria 1 0 0 1
Egypt 0 2 0 2
Botswana 0 1 0 1
Morocco 0 0 1 1

Not too bad but not too wonderful – but going by my initial submission – many of these should be celebrated because many achieved something from nothing – many came from countries with myriads of problems: war-torn countries; countries stricken by famine and drought; countries still struggling to come out of waves of revolutions; countries at logger-heads with their neighbours – just to name a few. But were these modest achievements celebrated? Maybe! But again like everything African, the achievement is immediately clouded by unfavourable news. This time Africa will not be remembered by the medals won but by the news of athletes supposed to have ‘absconded’ or gone missing. The headlines on western media after the Olympics have been screaming like this one on Eurosport

More African athletes go missing in London

From the Telegraph to Reuters, to the Guardian, to BBC to CNN these has been what has been making news. From the initial story that came out about 7 Cameroonians ‘missing’ through to the most recent ones from Guinea, Ivory Coast to the DRC, the foregone conclusion has been that their motives for ‘absconding’ is economic! I will not challenge this conclusion given the situation in the countries all named – but I will like to ask a few questions:

Why is the media so obsessed with negative news about Africa or people of African decent?

Participants at the Olympics have up to November to legally stay in the UK – what then is this talk about people going missing – does their decision to leave their teams or camps automatically translate to a decision to stay after the expiration of their visas?

Would the language have been the same had some Europeans not been found in their hotels or camps during an event in Africa or Asia? I guess not – they would have been branded to have been kidnapped!

With the current situation in Europe, are western media outlets not being hypocritical to make it seem like Europe could be a safe haven for anyone? At least I know many people who are legally living in the continent, well qualified, with the right to work but finding it difficult to get jobs because of the recession – to make it seem as if anyone coming in would have it easy could be misleading to say the least. Casual work in the UK has become a luxury so I wonder how those who ‘abscond’ are going to survive.

What ever the answers to these questions – I guess the news is serving its purpose – making the UK look good and an appealing destination even for Olympians – while making Africa look bad – as usual. Hence, while others are making news for their achievements – Africa is being remembered for what she is – a continent where no one wants to live!

This has brought to life a question that will be asked even as the world looks towards the next Olympics in Brazil – what will be the motivation for African athletes?

From Libya to Nigeria – Is Sharia Really the Problem?

Preamble:

In the early hours of the 2nd May 2011, US President Obama greeted the world with the news of the killing of Osama Bin Laden, the world’s most notorious terrorist leader. One thing that was not lost in the drama that ensued through and after the announcement, ranging from the widespread jubilation; assurance that the war on terrorism was not a war on Islam to the hasty burial that was attributed to be in ‘line with the dictates of Islam’, (Whitaker, 2011) was the undertone that the international political scene in the last ten years has had this shadow of a war cast on it. This is a war that from all intents and purposes began as a form of religious extremism and will not simply go away with the killing of Bin Laden. This therefore is not simply about one man but about religion – either interpreted wrongly or misunderstood. Whatever the reasons, religion is making headlines so much in recent years to go unnoticed. For on New Year’s Day of 2011 there was the case of Egypt where a suicide bombing at a church killed 21 people and wounded 79. The Daily Times quotes Time magazine as having written that “for months, al Qaeda militants in Iraq have called repeatedly for attacks on Christians — in retaliation, they say, for the alleged kidnapping and detention by Egypt’s Coptic church of two Christian women who are believed to have converted to Islam” (Daily Times Editorial, 03/01/2011). Meanwhile, in April, the declaration of Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian from the South of Nigeria as winner of the 16 April presidential elections, against his main opponent Mohammadu Buhari from the Muslim-dominated North, was the only signal that the Northerners needed to go out on the rampage and cause the death of over 500 people (The Guardian, 2011).

But the questions that need answering ab initio is whether when a thing looses its essence it can still be rightly called the same thing. If we are in agreement that it is the essence of a thing that gives it being, we are apt to agree that when that essence is lost, that thing should cease to exist.  Hence this question could be extrapolated to ask whether when a group becomes extreme and commits heinous crimes and terrorist activities like the recent bombings on Christmas Day in Nigeria, it is logical to keep labeling them ‘Islamist’? How logical is it to label Boko Haram as bad because they are asking for an ‘Islāmic’ State according to Sharia Laws when NATO powers effectively installed a government in Libya that declared it was going to be governed according to strict Sharia Laws? If Boko Haram which claims to be adherents of Sharia are extremist, does it follow that the new government of Libya is extremist? Does this have any bearing on the facts being peddled that arms are leaving Libya to Nigeria? Is the problem really a religious one or religion is simply being used as a pawn in a broader political game to create chaos and division, which could be the prelude to another imperialist intervention in Africa?

Before answering these question, I will like to take a look at how religion has been playing out with politics and development, especially in Africa.

Religion, Politics and Development:

Marx, in the Communist Manifesto, suggests that religion, like morality, should be eliminated if the world were to achieve a new political and economic existence. According to him, “Communism abolishes all religion, and all morality, instead of constituting them on new basis” (1968:52) hence, it would seem therefore that Marx did not simply seek to criticise the logic of religion as a set of beliefs but rather, his criticism sprang from the fact that he saw religion as a hindrance to the realisation of an egalitarian society. His argument was therefore that religion reflects society hence any criticism of religion must of necessity be a criticism of society itself.

These sentiments of Marx were also expressed by different writers in different forms but who all arrived at the conclusion that religion was going to wither away (Bruce, (Ed.) 1992; Aldridge, 2000). The prevailing rationale of such discourse has been underpinned by the four major assumptions of the Westphalian synthesis (Philpott, 2002) that: Political sovereignty lay with the state and the states were the key actors in the International Relations system; states would not interfere in the religious affairs of other states; states increasingly refrained from promoting the welfare of the church; as the functions of the modern state increased, the temporal functions of religious bodies also declined.

It is therefore not surprising that one of the foundations of modern sociological theory is the assumption that the modern world is becoming ever more secular and that religion is dying out or becoming irrelevant to modern life. (Berger, 1969) But it is now apparent that the facts do not bear this out. Even in China, as in the rest of the world, especially in the developing world, religion is evolving dynamically and having a great influence on public life and “…refusing to be condemned to the realm of privatize belief, …is once again reappearing in the public sphere, thrusting itself into issues of moral and political contestation” (Haynes, 1998).

Conventionally, development studies and international political economy focused on the causes of poverty, income distribution, disparity in wealth, and some baseless dichotomies between politics and economics while, religion was viewed as detrimental to progress. More recently, however, far from fading from political relevance, religion has assumed a new and more important, mobilising role in many cultures, including those considered fully ‘modernised'(Haynes, 1998). This has led to a breakdown of the negative view about religion, partly due to the widespread failure of secular development programmes to achieve poverty reduction and end inequality and injustice. Religion is now seen as a potentially crucial to the achievement of developmental aims (Haynes, 1998; 2007).

Setting the Records Straight…

While it may not be difficult to see that religion became divided from politics in the Western world with the increasing rise of secularism, this has not been the case with most third world countries (Haynes, 1998). A case in point is that of Nkrumah who, despite his adoption of Marxist materialism, makes it clear that “strictly speaking …Philosophical Consciencism even though deeply rooted in materialism, is not necessarily atheistic.”(1964, p.84) Nkrumah’s intention was to make his ideology an option for the African to rise up from their slumber and assert the dignity of the African personality. It was his conviction that the African personality is not an exclusive personality but must take cognisance of its historical experiences. This is because;

…with true independence gained… A new harmony needs to be forged, a harmony that will allow the combined presence of traditional Africa, Islamic Africa and Euro-Christian African, so that this presence is in tune with the original humanist principle underlying African society. …A new emergent ideology is therefore required, an ideology which can solidify in a philosophical statement, but at the same time and ideology which will not abandon the original humanist principles in Africa. (Nkrumah, 1964, p.70)

Unfortunately, the level of progress anticipated by Nkrumah did not materialise and this can be said to be partly due to the great divide between theories of development and the practical realities in Africa.  It is in the light of this that Haynes (1998) analyses the effects associated with modernisation – socio-economic and political change, involving urbanisation, industrialisation, centralisation of government, and the insertion of national economies of Third World countries into a world political economic system, and comes to the conclusion that the nature of religion is accountable to structural and systematic traits and developments.

It is therefore obvious that the failure of most African nations to be able to forge that harmony that Nkrumah advocated, could be at the base of what is today termed Religious extremism or inter-religious conflict. Let us get back to the case of Nigeria then.

First: Is the Boko Haram a religious group and if so are they Islamic? 

The name Boko Haram in Hausa translates to ‘Western education is sacrilege’ while the Arabic interpretation of the Sects’ name is ‘People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad’. There is therefore no denying that Boko Haram is a religious group. What however is debatable is whether they are Islamic. The natural tendency for most mainstream media has been to take the easy way out – create news that will be popular no matter how cheap. Yes! Cheap because I have rarely seen a media house questioning how a group can be called ‘Islamic’ simply because they claim they are. At the beginning of this discourse, I made the point that if a thing looses its essence, it ceases to be that thing. If a group comes up claiming to be Muslim or Christian but has a unique interpretation of these religions, all what one has to do is go to the foundations of these religions and verify if their claims tie with the essential creeds of the religion – if they do not, the it is logical to look for another name for them rather than simply qualifying them as ‘extremist’ or ‘fundamentalist’. The fact that a person or group of persons claim to be Muslim or Christian does not make them that. A Muslim is one who lives according to the dictates of the Quran and the teachings of the Prophet (and not their  personal interpretation of it) while a Christian will be a person who lives according to Biblical principles and inline with the teachings of Christ Jesus. Anything outside of these as St. Paul rightly captures “Comes from the evil one”.

Does Boko Haram bear any similarities with the New Government of Libya?

The answer is yes. First they both claim they want the institution of Sharia. Secondly, they are all rebel movements. The new government of Libya was a rebel movement that was given legitimacy by NATO and her allies. It therefore means that if Boko Haram is only illegal and bad today because it has not received the blessings of a UN Security Council Resolution and the backing of NATO forces – or have they not, perhaps not yet!

Which brings me to the issue of the recent unprecedented sophistication of  Boko Haram, a group which can effectively be traced back only to 2002. Where were they all the years following Nigeria’s independence? Why did they not surface during the periods Nigeria was going through one military regime to the other? How did they come to realise they had an ideology to propagate only during the so-called period of Nigerian ‘democracy’? How come Obasanjo, a ‘christian’ president could not stop them but Yar ‘Adua a Muslim was able to get them and get their leader killed only for them to wax stronger during Jonathan another ‘Christian’s’ regime?  The answer to these are obvious. During military regimes, it was difficult to simply play a political game hiding under the cloak of religion because  religious leaders such as the Emirs somehow had a voice then, and could easily rally the people to denounce such aberrations to their religion. Meanwhile, while Yar ‘Adua as a Muslim was able to forge the harmony needed for Nigeria to move forward, most of the so-called ‘christian’ leaders are not able to do so.

Malam Garba Sani, a senior official at the Nigerian Muslim Forum on Al Jazeera’s Inside Story points out that  “Boko Haram is not only expanding in terms of its area of operation, but also in terms of targets, in terms of strength, in terms of overall ability to strike. However it is only indicative of the level of strength and ability that Boko Haram has. It hasn’t yet elaborated or disclosed the strength of this organisation yet.” Has anyone paused to question why Goodluck Jonathan was quick to support a no-fly-zone against Libya and one of the first to recognise the National Transition Council? Has anyone questioned why it is that shortly after this recognition, there was a bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Abuja? Has anyone questioned why it is only after the Libyan conflict that Boko Haram has become this sophisticated only in 2011, effectively extending to the capital only in August? Has anyone questioned why it is that Boko Haram until the  July 10, 2011, bombing of the All Christian Fellowship Church in Suleja, Niger State and the recent December, 25th bombings been attacking mainly Muslims and government Institutions?

Patrick Wilmot, a Nigerian writer also on Al Jazeera’s Inside Story provides an insight but when he states that “Boko Haram is trying to create the maximum effect in terms of killing large numbers of people. The political effect is to create tensions within the ruling party itself, the PDP, which is a coalition of people from the north, the south, the east and the west and also Christians and Muslims. In the larger society itself, it aims to create more tension between Muslims and Christians, leading to a greater degree of segregation between the populations“.

This viewpoint shows that the original intention was to create antagonism within the political sphere, effectively destabilising the ability of the ruling party to take effective action as Yar ‘Adua did and crushed the group. When this has been somehow achieved given the willingness of the government to play ball in the Libyan case, with President Jonathan consciously or unconsciously providing the backing by supporting the no-fly-zone and recognising the NTC, the next phase is now in operation. Religious antagonism is therefore the trump card.

Any forewarning…

Gaddafi in one of the messages accredited to him, while denouncing all forms of religious extremism hiding under the cloak of Islam, issued a warning “Do not let them use you. Be united. Build your defences for they are coming if they manage to pass Libya.This warning was not hearkened to and the result is what we witness in Nigeria today – a very sophisticated Boko Haram which is now capable of creating a religious war in Nigeria. Does that ring a bell? Yes it should. Libya was just the first phase of a bigger game and having passed the litmus test, it seems it is time for Africa to await its recolonization – this time it will be under the guise of humanitarian interventions. The arms crossing from Libya into Nigeria is therefore not a coincidence. It is also not coincidental that arms that leave Libya should be able to find Boko Haram when the group has been and still is seemingly faceless with no known central leadership.

Final Words:

This write-up does not claim absolute knowledge of Boko Haram and neither are the assumptions made here considered dogma. What however I can say with certainty is that whatever the political game being played using Boko Haram, it is yielding dividends. The Nigerian government is gradually loosing the monopoly of violence over its territory and Nigerians are gradually getting to the stage where any tiny spark will ignite a horrible clash between Muslims and Christians. Unfortunately, neither the Muslims nor the Christians will be able to find the source of the problem because the ideology called Boko Haram will become faceless as the country disintegrates into a failed state.

THERE IS CLEARLY A MOVEMENT FROM LIBYA TO NIGERIA – A SHARIA STATE OF REBELS NOW RULE LIBYA AND A GROUP OF REBELS HAVE GAINED PROMINENCE IN NIGERIA WITH THE SAME INTENTION OF INSTITUTING SHARIA. THE ARMS THAT CREATED THE LIBYAN ‘STATE’ IS NOW IN NIGERIA WITH THE OBJECTIVE OF CREATING A BOKO HARAM STATE.

The difference however is that while Libya was small and her case could easily be manipulated using the so-called Arab Spring, Nigeria is so large that unless there is sufficient internal chaos it will be difficult for any external intervention to make headway.  Note should be taken then that Boko Haram far from being anything Muslim or Christian is simply a political cancerworm that is being used under the guise of religion.

NIGERIANS BE WISE!

References:

Berger, P.L. (1969). The social reality of religion; London: Faber

Bruce, S. (Ed.) 1992. Religion and Modernisation; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 170-94;

Aldridge, A. (2000). Religion in the Contemporary World. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Haynes, J. (1998). “Religion in Global Politics: Explaining Deprivatization”; A paper For the ‘Religion and Politics’ panel, PSA Conference, Keele University, (April)

Haynes, J. (2007) Religion and Development Conflict or Cooperation? Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan

Marx, K. and Engels, F. 1975. On Religion Moscow: Progress Publishers, Marx, K. and Engels, F. 1968 [1848] , “Manifesto of the Communist Party” in Selected Works Moscow: Progress Publishers, 35-71

Nkrumah, K. (1964) Consciencism, Philosophy and Ideology for Decolonisation with Particular Reference to the African Revolution. London: Heinemann Educational Books Ltd

Petito F. & Hatzopoulos, P. (eds.) (2003) Religion in International Relations: The Return from Exile, New York: Palgrave,

Philpott, D. (2002) The Challenge Of September 11 To Secularism In International Relations World Politics, Volume 55, (1), (October) pp. 66-95

Whitaker,  B. (2011) Bin Laden’s Body Buried At Sea, The Guardian Newspaper, 02/05/2011 Available at http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/may/02/binladen-body-buried-sea

The Truth About the Situation in Libya

By Brian Becker, National Coordinator, ANSWER Coalition 

Aug 13 - Stop Bombing LibyaLibya is a small country of just over 6 million people but it possesses the largest oil reserves in all of Africa. The oil produced there is especially coveted because of its particularly high quality.

The Air Force of the United States along with Britain and France has carried out 7,459 bombing attacks since March 19. Britain, France and the United States sent special operation ground forces and commando units to direct the military operations of the so-called rebel fighters – it is a NATO- led army in the field.

The troops may be disaffected Libyans but the operation is under the control and direction of NATO commanders and western commando units who serve as “advisors.” Their new weapons and billions in funds come from the U.S. and other NATO powers that froze and seized Libya’s assets in Western banks. Their only military successes outside of Benghazi, in the far east of the country, have been exclusively based on the coordinated air and ground operations of the imperialist NATO military forces.

In military terms, Libya’s resistance to NATO is of David and Goliath proportions. U.S. military spending alone is more than ten times greater than Libya’s entire annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) which was $74.2 billion in 2010, according to the CIA’s World Fact Book.

In recent weeks, the NATO military operations used surveillance-collecting drones, satellites, mounting aerial attacks and covert commando units to decapitate Libya’s military and political leadership and its command and control capabilities. Global economic sanctions meant that the country was suddenly deprived of income and secure access to goods and services needed to sustain a civilian economy over a long period.

“The cumulative effect [of NATO’s coordinated air and ground operation] not only destroyed Libya’s military infrastructure but also greatly diminished Colonel Gaddafi’s commanders to control forces, leaving even committed fighting units unable to move, resupply or coordinate operations,“ reports the New York Times in a celebratory article on August 22.

A False Pretext

The United States, United Kingdom, France, and Italy targeted the Libyan government for overthrow or “regime change” not because these governments were worried about protecting civilians or to bring about a more democratic form of governance in Libya.

If that were the real motivation of the NATO powers, they could start the bombing of Saudi Arabia right away. There are no elections in Saudi Arabia. The monarchy does not even allow women to drive cars. By law, women must be fully covered in public or they will go to prison. Protests are rare in Saudi Arabia because any dissent is met with imprisonment, torture and execution.

The Saudi monarchy is protected by U.S. imperialism because it is part of an undeclared but real U.S. sphere of influence and it is the largest producer of oil in the world. The U.S. attitude toward the Saudi monarchy was put succinctly by Ronald Reagan in 1981, when he said that the U.S. government “will not permit” revolution in Saudi Arabia such as the 1979 Iranian revolution that removed the U.S. client regime of the Shah. Reagan’s message was clear: the Pentagon and CIA’s military forces would be used decisively to destroy any democratic movement against the rule of the Saudi royal family.

Reagan’s explicit statement in 1981 has in fact been the policy of every successive U.S. administration, including the current one.

Libya and Imperialism

Libya, unlike Saudi Arabia, did have a revolution against its monarchy. As a result of the 1969 revolution led by Muammar Gaddafi, Libya was no longer in the sphere of influence of any imperialist country.

Libya had once been an impoverished colony of Italy living under the boot heel of the fascist Mussolini. After the Allied victory in World War II, control of the country was formally transferred to the United Nations and Libya became independent in 1951 with authority vested in the monarch King Idris.

But in actuality, Libya was controlled by the United States and Britain until the 1969 revolution.

One of the first acts of the 1969 revolution was to eliminate the vestiges of colonialism and foreign control. Not only were oil fields nationalized but Gaddafi eliminated foreign military bases inside the country.

In March of 1970, the Gaddafi government shut down two important British military bases in Tobruk and El Adem. He then became the Pentagon’s enemy when he evicted the U.S. Wheelus Air Force Base near Tripoli that had been operated by the United States since 1945. Before the British military took control in 1943, the facility was a base operated by the Italians under Mussolini.

Wheelus had been an important Strategic Air Command (SAC) base during the Cold War, housing B-52 bombers and other front-line Pentagon aircrafts that targeted the Soviet Union.

Once under Libyan control, the Gaddafi government allowed Soviet military planes to access the airfield.

In 1986, the Pentagon heavily bombed the base at the same time it bombed downtown Tripoli in an effort to assassinate Gaddafi. That effort failed but his 2-year-old daughter died along with scores of other civilians.

The Character of the Gaddafi Regime

The political, social and class orientation of the Libyan regime has gone through several stages in the last four decades. The government and ruling establishment reflected contradictory class, social, religious and regional antagonisms. The fact that the leadership of the NATO-led National Transition Council is comprised of top officials of the Gaddafi government, who broke with the regime and allied themselves with NATO, is emblematic of the decades-long instability within the Libyan establishment.

These inherent contradictions were exacerbated by pressures applied to Libya from the outside. The U.S. imposed far-reaching economic sanctions on Libya in the 1980s. The largest western corporations were barred from doing business with Libya and the country was denied access to credit from western banks.

In its foreign policy, Libya gave significant financial and military support to national liberation struggles, including in Palestine, Southern Africa, Ireland and elsewhere.

Because of Libya’s economic policies, living standards for the population had jumped dramatically after 1969. Having a small population and substantial income from its oil production, augmented with the Gaddafi regime’s far-reaching policy of social benefits, created a huge advance in the social and economic status for the population. Libya was still a class society with rich and poor, and gaps between urban and rural living standards, but illiteracy was basically wiped out, while education and health care were free and extensively accessible. By 2010, the per capita income in Libya was near the highest in Africa at $14,000 and life expectancy rose to over 77 years, according to the CIA’s World Fact Book.

Gaddafi’s political orientation explicitly rejected communism and capitalism. He created an ideology called the “Third International Theory,” which was an eclectic mix of Islamic, Arab nationalist and socialist ideas and programs. In 1977, Libya was renamed the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. A great deal of industry, including oil, was nationalized and the government provided an expansive social insurance program or what is called a welfare state policy akin to some features prevalent in the Soviet Union and some West European capitalist countries.

But Libya was not a workers’ state or a “socialist government” to use the popular if not scientific use of the term “socialist.” The revolution was not a workers and peasant rebellion against the capitalist class per se. Libya remained a class society although class differentiation may have been somewhat obscured beneath the existence of revolutionary committees and the radical, populist rhetoric that emanated from the regime.

As in many developing, formerly colonized countries, state ownership of property was not “socialist” but rather a necessary fortification of an under-developed capitalist class. State property in Iraq, Libya and other such post-colonial regimes was designed to facilitate the social and economic growth of a new capitalist ruling class that was initially too weak, too deprived of capital and too cut off from international credit to compete on its own terms with the dominant sectors of world monopoly capitalism. The nascent capitalist classes in such developing economies promoted state-owned property, under their control, in order to intersect with Western banks and transnational corporations and create more favorable terms for global trade and investment.

The collapse of the Soviet Union and the “socialist bloc” governments of central and Eastern Europe in 1989-91 deprived Libya of an economic and military counter-weight to the United States, and the Libyan government’s domestic economic and foreign policy shifted towards accommodation with the West.

In the 1990s some sectors of the Libyan economic establishment and the Gaddafi-led government favored privatization, cutting back on social programs and subsidies and integration into western European markets.

The earlier populism of the regime incrementally gave way to the adoption of neo-liberal policies. This was, however, a long process.

In 2004, the George W. Bush administration ended sanctions on Libya. Western oil companies and banks and other corporations initiated huge direct investments in Libya and trade with Libyan enterprises.

There was also a growth of unemployment in Libya and in cutbacks in social spending, leading to further inequality between rich and poor and class polarization.

But Gaddafi himself was still considered a thorn in the side of the imperialist powers. They want absolute puppets, not simply partners, in their plans for exploitation. The Wikileaks release of State Department cables between 2007 and 2010 show that the United states and western oil companies were condemning Gaddafi for what they called “resource nationalism.” Gaddafi even threatened to re-nationalize western oil companies’ property unless Libya was granted a larger share of the revenue for their projects.

As an article in today’s New York Times Business section said honestly: “”Colonel Qaddafi proved to be a problematic partner for the international oil companies, frequently raising fees and taxes and making other demands. A new government with close ties to NATO may be an easier partner for Western nations to deal with.”

Even the most recent CIA Fact Book publication on Libya, written before the armed revolt championed by NATO, complained of the measured tempo of pro-market reforms in Libya: “Libya faces a long road ahead in liberalizing the socialist-oriented economy, but initial steps— including applying for WTO membership, reducing some subsidies, and announcing plans for privatization—are laying the groundwork for a transition to a more market-based economy.” (CIA World Fact Book)

The beginning of the armed revolt on February 23 by disaffected members of the Libyan military and political establishment provided the opportunity for the U.S. imperialists, in league with their French and British counterparts, to militarily overthrow the Libyan government and replace it with a client or stooge regime.

Of course, in the revolt were workers and young people who had many legitimate grievances against the Libyan government. But what is critical in an armed struggle for state power is not the composition of the rank-and-file soldiers, but the class character and political orientation of the leadership.

Character of the National Transition Council

The National Transitional Council (NTC) constituted itself as the leadership of the uprising in Benghazi, Libya’s second largest city. The central leader is Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, who was Libya’s Minister of Justice until his defection at the start of the uprising. He was one of a significant number of Western-oriented and neoliberal officials from Libya’s government, diplomatic corps and military ranks who joined the opposition in the days immediately after the start of the revolt.

As soon as it was established, the NTC began issuing calls for imperialist intervention. These appeals became increasing panicky as it became clear that, contrary to early predictions that the Gaddafi-led government would collapse in a matter of days, it was the “rebels” who faced imminent defeat in the civil war. In fact, it was only due to the U.S./NATO bombing campaign, initiated with great hurry on March 19 that the rebellion did not collapse.

The last five months of war have erased any doubt about the pro-imperialist character of the NTC. One striking episode took place on April 22, when Senator John McCain made a “surprise” trip to Benghazi. A huge banner was unveiled to greet him with an American flag printed on it and the words: “United States of America – You have a new ally in North Africa.”

Similar to the military relationship between the NATO and Libyan “rebel” armed forces, the NTC is entirely dependent on and subordinated to the U.S., French, British and Italian imperialist governments.

If the Pentagon, CIA, and Wall Street succeed in installing a client regime in Tripoli it will accelerate and embolden the imperialist threats and intervention against other independent governments such as Syria and Venezuela. In each case we will see a similar process unfold, including the demonization of the leadership of the targeted countries so as to silence or mute a militant anti-war response to the aggression of the war-makers.

We in the ANSWER Coalition invite all those who share this perspective to join with us, to mobilize, and to unmask the colonial agenda that hides under the slogan of “humanitarian intervention.”

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.

“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.