International politics and history. Not my strong suit. I don’t know much about history (in fact, I am in awe of people who can remember historical facts, figures, names, important events, etc.). There were plenty of people in my circle of friends who knew all kinds of things about military uprisings, civil wars, injustice, and human rights abuses, and I’d read about them and try to understand, but in fact, the chain of events that led to things was always a bit muddy. I just don’t think well in straight lines.
But, and I’ll apologise now for not getting the in-depth understanding you deserve, let’s try this on for size:
In the late 1960s, Libya was ruled by a monarchy. It had a king. There was a strip of land in its north end (the one that borders Chad) that was disputed. Muammar al-Qaddafi led what has been described as a “bloodless coup d’état” against this king and deposed him. The British government and the American government supported this coup d’état, at least in theory, and the Americans at the time felt that al-Qaddafi was a relatively good ‘risk’ to put in charge of the uprising, as he was, apparently, not opposed to democracy. I think Wikipedia describes this in the following terms: “sufficiently anti-Marxist to be worth protecting”. Qaddafi then began to create a new Libyan state.
As its de facto leader, he for a while called himself the Prime Minister, but that changed in the 70s to a long-winded honorific that can be shortened to ‘despot’ fairly easily. His claims that Libya is a socialist state is somewhat laughable; although it has one of the highest literacy rates in north Africa (over 80%) and its population is wealthy (except for the poor; Libya hasn’t much of a middle class), its citizens have no direct control over the government (even though it’s called a “government by the masses” – Qaddafi himself calls it a form of “islamic socialism”). Qaddafi pads the governing councils and bodies with his own relatives, in a rather impressive display of nepotism. He’s reported to be a brilliant strategist as well, from favouring different children at different times and for different reasons to lessen the chance any one of them will become too powerful, to deposing officials when their viewpoints become dangerous.
With the protests that have been occurring in the area (most publicised would be the uprisings in Egypt), political and social pundits have been suggesting that Libya wouldn’t be far behind. And it hasn’t been. However, the information to be got on the whole situation is a little sketchy. I don’t really understand why the coverage of what was happening in Egypt was all over the papers, but nobody’s paying any attention to Libya. Maybe Libya isn’t sexy anymore. Maybe Qaddafi’s violent reaction to opposition in the 80s has already given him his “fifteen minutes of fame”. Maybe because his regime has been touted as a low-level threat in some way for more than twenty years and this has resulted in a kind of ‘cry wolf’ situation in the media. I really don’t know. Maybe it’s just getting rolling.
For roughly the past week, there have been protests and uprisings in Libya, and Qaddafi (also: Gadafi or Gaddafi or Ghaddafi) has broadcast long, rambling, usually shouty rants in which he threatens every single one of his opponents with painful and fiery deaths. And he’s delivering. Although, so are the protestors. In some cases, neighbouring army units are joining with protestors in an attempt to rid Libya of its current “government”.
The protests, it now seems, have escalated to a civil war, and the death toll continues to rise. Countries all over the world are evacuating their citizens from the area. The American president is reportedly calling for Qaddafi’s assets to be frozen (although I’m unclear how a foreign national can do that, but like I said, I don’t know a whole lot about international politics and economics). Hundreds of countries are condemning human rights atrocities like the Libyan military’s bombing of civilian populations.
International condemnation, people, isn’t going to change what’s happening. International condemnation won’t help the protestors being killed by the Libyan military. Pushing a button from your military compound to take out the Libyan missiles isn’t going to change what’s happening. What’s going to change what’s happening?
Fucked if I know.
I mean, could you not see that if there’s someone willing to work with a bunch of mercenaries to take over political control, *it might go badly in the future*? But back-looking won’t do anything either. The Americans might throw some soldiers in there. Canadians and Brits might join them. The French, traditionally, backed Chad, and eastern bloc countries, traditionally, supported Libya. People might get angry and indignant. They might call for Qaddafi’s “immediate removal as Libyan dictator”. They’ll point fingers and gesticulate and postulate and all kinds of other ‘ates’, but they won’t be able to change it.
People get all up in my grille about the horrible things the Canadian police did at the G20, and I think, “I don’t think those folks know the first thing about being persecuted for their beliefs”. Sure, it wasn’t *nice* to have been manhandled and arrested and assaulted, but the RCMP didn’t open bloody fire. They didn’t BOMB people.
Check out sites like Avaaz.org. Maybe there is something we can do.