Published by group: Freedom Press
If the period we are living in now is going to be marked by anything at all in history, it will be the so-called Arab Spring. The Spring rose in Tunisia, escalated in Egypt, but it is Libya that will define it – at least for us outsiders. But western involvement in Libya has once again poisoned the chalice. This article is meant to put the whole thing in a larger perspective, to the extent that I understand it.
The haphazardly cobbled together rebel army, made up of ordinary people, managed to free Misurata on May 11, 2011. Tripoli is still the stronghold of Qaddafi and is holding out, although NATO forces have now stepped up the bombing campaign. In two days of heavy shelling of the capital 19 people (don’t know who they are) have reportedly been killed. The war has turned out to be a stalemate.
Meanwhile, Benghazi (where it all began) has become a thriving hub of revolutionary activities – and the seat of the Transitional National Council (TNC). The TNC is an unelected, ad hoc body of ‘leaders’ who came together when it all kicked off. Some of them are defectors from the regime, including the head of the Council, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, ex Justice Minister. Others are Libyan academics who taught abroad until the uprising, such as Ali Tarhouni, TNC’s Finance Minister, who had been a lecturer of Economics at the University of Washington at Seattle.
A genuine people’s revolution
Whatever the trajectory of the political development (which I shall get to in the next section), there can be no doubt about the popular character of this revolution, and how ordinary people have taken charge at the grassroots level. According to Portia Walker of Foreign policy, “[Volunteers] sweep the streets, search for mines and make food for rebel fighters. They have set up newspapers, radio stations, and television channels to fill the void left by decades of stultifying state-run media.” A documentary film produced by the Benghazi rebel media centre (brought here by comrades who travelled to Libya) shows how the rebel army is made up mostly of students, doctors, professors, artists etc, and women of all ages shouting that they themselves are willing to fight and die on the frontline.
And what about money? How are the rebels funding this war? If there are spurious sponsors, we don’t know about them yet. Initially, Libyans under the ‘direction’ of Tarhouni robbed (appropriated) the 505 million dollars stashed at the Benghazi branch of the Central Bank of Libya (as reported by The Washington Post 24/05/2011). Apparently, the bank managers themselves helped carry out the heist. The TNC’s head, Jalil, is currently on a world tour to gather funds, which are mostly Libyan assets held in various countries. According to TWP, “Tarhouni estimates that the assets could be worth as much as 165 billion dollars.”
Oops, enter the West
Continuing the theme of money, $32 billion of those frozen assets are in the US alone, and the TNC has already requested $3 billion, which the US seems to be reluctant to release as of now. However, the US has already given $53.5 million in aid and $25 million in ‘non-lethal military supply’. The TNC’s idea is to ‘borrow’ this money (Libyans’ own to begin with) against a loan (which will tie the country’s economy to their western benefactors, and which will have to be paid off through noxious ‘free trade’ means).
Also, the TNC, however necessary it is deemed to be, is not an elected body, but has already been officially recognized by a few countries such as France, Italy and Qatar. Those that haven’t done so officially, such as the US, UK, Turkey etc, have established de facto diplomatic relations with the TNC. It is entirely plausible that even if elections are held soon after the conflict is over, most of its ‘leaders’ (who are already entangled with the western powers) will end up in power with strings attached to them.