No to Gadhafi! No to imperialist intervention!
Socialist Action Editorial
Socialist Action stands solidly for the victory of the Libyan masses in their fight to overthrow the dictatorial regime of Muammar Gadhafi. But to achieve their goals, and to avoid a derailing of the still-growing revolution in northern Africa and the Middle East, the war of the U.S. and NATO against Libya must be stopped.
This is a position shared by key forces in the antiwar and solidarity movements. The United National Antiwar Committee (UNAC) has taken a clear position against any form of intervention, whether by “no-fly zones,” bombing, troops on the ground, or sanctions.
The U.S. Palestinian Community Network (USPCN) expressed its “unequivocal support for the uprising by the Libyan people,” but added that Libyans do not need the imperialist powers “to intervene on their behalf … we warn against and are opposed to any attempt to misuse the Libyan people’s struggle in order to serve imperial interests. In particular, we note the greed of multinational corporations—particularly the oil industry—and call for the strongest opposition to any attempt to prevent the Libyan people from taking charge of their national wealth instead of Gadhafi and his family.”
UNAC, USPCN, and other critics of intervention are well aware of the circumstances that have led many in Libya to call for “no-fly zones” or even bombing of Gadhafi’s troops. But while understanding their desperation, we do the Libyan masses no favor by being silent on the dangers of reliance on imperialism.
After one day of bombing focused on antiaircraft weapons and control centers, the war predictably turned from “no fly” to “no drive.” Said one rebel fighter, “We have information that Gadhafi’s tanks are ahead and we also have information that [Western forces] will bomb them, so we are waiting for the air strikes before we push forward.” In other words, rebel forces are counting on the United States et al. to win the war for them—a far cry from the scenario in the rest of the Arab revolution.
But as one young activist in Tunis told British Guardian correspondent Jeremy Corbyn, when asked if he wanted Western help: “No, we will do it ourselves; the problem with the West is, it never knows when to leave.”
Other Arab voices against intervention include Mogniss Abdallah, an Egyptian writer and filmmaker, who wrote in International Viewpoint (the Fourth International’s English-language journal) of the hypocrisy of imperialist governments’ attacking Libya while supporting the invasion of Bahrain by the Saudi army and the massacres of protesters there—measures backed by the U.S. Said Abdallah: “I would like to say frankly to sincere Libyan friends … we unconditionally condemn the massacres of the population in Libya by Gadhafi and his regime. But I am outraged by the slogans ‘One, two, three, Viva Sarkozy’ shouted in Benghazi.”
Abdallah also asked progressive Libyans to condemn racism against immigrant workers, and to support those in Bahrain, Yemen, and elsewhere who are “victims of a terrible repression carried out with the direct complicity of those who claim to be coming to your rescue. … International solidarity friends … let us not be afraid of debates between us, including with our Libyan comrades. No to unity on a minimal basis! Let us not be an accessory to the balkanization of Libya and the countries in the area.”
On April 1, Reuters reported a conversation with the Apostolic Vicar of Tripoli, Giovanni Innocenzo Martinelli, who stated that recent NATO raids had killed at least 40 civilians in Tripoli. Yet some insist that the U.S. and NATO are “saving” Libyan lives. We ask: What concern did the U.S. show for the lives of the three children and grandfather in Gaza murdered by the Zionist army on March 22 while playing football? Or for the 1400 massacred in Gaza in 2008-9, or the hundreds murdered by Israeli snipers since then?
The millions dead in Iraq and Afghanistan from decades of sanctions, war, and occupation—added on to the tens of millions murdered by U.S. or U.S.-backed wars and repression around the globe over more than a century—should be more than enough proof that the United States and its Western allies care nothing for Libyan lives.
But we will add to this the recent record of “humanitarian intervention” in Haiti. Here too, many claimed that without U.S. or UN troops, huge numbers would be massacred by Duvalierist forces. The result of the invasion by U.S. and UN troops was cold-blooded murder by those forces, death from cholera or starvation, blocking of humanitarian relief supplies after the 2010 earthquake—and the kidnapping and exile by the U.S. of the country’s elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
The UN resolution authorizing the “no-fly zone” says force may only be used to protect Libyan civilians, but heads of state in the U.S., Britain, and France, and their top diplomats and military chiefs, have all repeatedly said that “Gadhafi must go.” The goal of regime change has been made clear by the character of the U.S./NATO war—the bombing of all possible Libyan targets regardless of their position, direction, or activity.
Socialist Action categorically rejects all forms of imperialist intervention in Libya, “no-fly zones” included. We lend no credence to the language employed by the UN/NATO and U.S. imperial wordsmiths, who are skilled at justifying the use of deadly force in all its manifestations behind the cover of resolutions that broadcast fake “humanitarian” intentions.
Recent days have seen a repeating pattern as imperialist air strikes force a retreat by Gadhafi’s forces—which then counterattack against under-armed and poorly coordinated rebels and retake the lost ground. This pattern almost guarantees escalation of the war, i.e., the introduction of new types of weaponry, perhaps ground troops, and increased civilian casualties.
It has also provoked a debate within U.S. government circles about whether to arm the rebels—a debate centering on whether Washington can continue to control a well-armed Libyan force. Obama, Clinton, and military chiefs have all said they are open to supplying weapons and training. The media has speculated, however, that for diplomatic purposes it might be left to France, or even the Egyptian military, to funnel arms into Libya.
Reasons for imperialist intervention
Gadhafi was never a genuine anti-imperialist, much less a socialist, but rather one of a long list of bourgeois populists who kept tight control over the masses while doling out rivulets of revenue from the country’s sale of its resources, served up with meaningless bombast against imperialism.
But despite Gadhafi’s open turn to the West in recent years, he is still a wild card for imperialism, unpredictable and difficult to control, along the lines of Manuel Noriega and Saddam Hussein. So why not kill two birds with one stone, and launch a war to put in place a more reliable flunky while showing the world once again who calls the shots? And by trying to derail the Arab revolution, Washington’s war in Libya also aids its junior partner, Israel, thrown into a panic by the rolling Arab uprising.
For the U.S. government, “humanitarian” intervention in Libya has the added benefit of deflecting antiwar sentiment at home. The U.S. triumph in the first Gulf War helped to end the “Vietnam syndrome”—i.e., the abhorrence of people in the United States for the government’s near-genocidal wars. But now that the U.S. is bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan, Washington hopes that its fake “humanitarian” escapade in Libya will end the “Iraq syndrome.”
In Time magazine, Massimo Calabresi wrote: “President Barack Obama says he’s intervening to prevent atrocities in Libya. But details of behind-the-scenes debates at the White House show he’s going to war in part to rehabilitate an idea. Administration and human rights organizations admit that reports of potential war crimes [by Gadhafi] remain unconfirmed. Instead, interviews with senior administration officials show that the rehabilitators convinced Obama to go to war … to bolster America’s ability to intervene elsewhere in the future.
“The president and some of his advisers are so eager to rehabilitate the idea of preventive intervention that they’re exaggerating the violence they say they are intervening to prevent in Libya. ‘The effort to shoe-horn this into an imminent genocide model is strained,’ says one senior administration official.”
Of course, the Libya war is likewise a boon for the arms industry—costing $550 million as of March 29, the majority of which has gone to the manufacturers of Tomahawk missiles. A cartoon in the Hartford Courant depicted teachers watching a cruise missile flying toward Libya and one saying, “There goes 20 years of paychecks.”
Instead of ending the “Iraq syndrome,” what Washington has likely created is yet another quagmire, in which soldiers on all sides and Libyan civilians will face years of death and suffering. A post-Gadhafi, pro-U.S. regime is guaranteed to repress any movements seeking to take control of the country’s revenues for use of its people.
On March 29 the rebels’ Interim National Council issued its eight-point plan for the country. It included promises to use the nation’s economy “for the benefit of the Libyan people”—a claim put in doubt by the same document’s tribute to a “free private sector.” The British Guardian observed that the statement wording indicated crafting by imperialist advisors. And it was issued as Western officials such as Hilary Clinton and UK Prime Minister David Cameron were meeting with Council leaders, as well as conferring amongst themselves to plot the next stages of the war.
Solidarity among the Arab people
One way or another, it is the masses of Libya who alone can decide their own fate. Those who claim that they can’t do so without imperialist aid ignore the ability of the masses in Egypt, Tunisia, Syria, Yemen, and elsewhere to face down vicious militaries of their own. They ignore too such examples of decades-long resistance to murderous repression by internal and external foes as the heroic struggle of the Vietnamese people.
The flip side of this is that they ignore the unfortunate truth that even bloodier confrontations are coming in Egypt and the other Arab countries, as none of those revolutions are yet complete—and in those confrontations the West will seek to use its role in Libya to disarm both ideologically and materially those who say the working masses can run their own countries. So regional solidarity is crucial for the fate of each country’s revolutionary process, and of all of them taken as a whole.
There are, however, some heartening examples of the kind of solidarity that can begin to turn back the tide in favor of the region’s masses. Grassroots groups in Tunisia and Egypt, on their own initiative, set up collection points for food and medical supplies for the Libyan people, and arranged their own transport of these supplies into Libya.
Many Egyptians who were working in Libya when the conflict broke out stayed to fight with the rebels. Al Ahram quoted an Egyptian grandmother who, along with her family, is aiding the rebels in various capacities: “I feel so proud to be Egyptian and Arab. Now that the Arab people are defending their lives and freedoms, no one will be able to stand in their way.”
The paper cited an Egyptian supermarket owner in Benghazi who donates goods every day to the rebels; he regrets that he didn’t join the Egyptian revolution and is proud to be part of the Libyan uprising. Said one Libyan: “I didn’t use to like Egyptians; I used to think they only cared about their own interests, but after the revolution, I saw many of them volunteering with us and supporting us in an unprecedented way. I fell in love with Egyptians.”
A medical volunteer spoke of “very poor Egyptian laborers, wearing light clothes in the cold, and coming to donate blood, or even notes of 10 and 15 dinars. I was so touched by their generosity and solidarity,” said the volunteer, “who thinks the revolutions will bring Arab and African peoples together in their struggles against totalitarian regimes.”
The walls of Benghazi also speak to growing international solidarity, with graffiti such as “Thank you Tunisia, thank you Egypt,” “Greetings from the Libyan February 17 to the Egyptian January 25 revolution,” and “Benghazi is freed by Libyan and Arab revolutionaries.”
Rank-and-file Libyans have shown great bravery in confronting the snipers, tanks, and artillery that Gadhafi has thrown against them. But the proceeds of their struggle are being usurped by pro-capitalist figures, such as those in the Interim National Council, who have placed themselves at the forefront of the rebel leadership and are now playing into the hands of imperialist officials.
For their part, the imperialist butchers of the world, now led by the United States, seek to re-establish and expand their domination of their former colonies in African and the Middle East. If the U.S. and NATO are able to gain a foothold in Libya, the type of chaos, misery, terrorist incidents, and repression typical of post-invasion Iraq and Afghanistan is virtually guaranteed.
Only the reassertion of the Libyan masses themselves as leaders of the uprising, aided by workers from around the region, and the removal from the uprising’s leadership of the traitorous collaborators with imperialism, can avoid such outcomes.
Democratic popular councils should be established in the areas held by the rebels, and empowered to take measures that deepen the Libyan revolution and fully address the democratic and economic demands of the masses. Such measures, and the knowledge that the councils will fight for them against both Gadhafi and the quislings, are needed to give the masses inspiration and confidence in completing the uprising they began.
And such measures can also effectively appeal to the interests of those among the oppressed masses—including immigrant workers—who are mistakenly siding with the Gadhafi regime.
Ultimately, to ensure victory for working people and the oppressed in Libya, it will be necessary to construct a revolutionary party, which can lead the struggle forward to socialism.
> This article was originally published in the April 2011 print edition of Socialist Action newspaper.