Understanding the Libyan Uprisings: An Alternative Perspective

Troy Nkrumah

Written by Troy Nkrumah (National Hip-Hop Political Convention) – This week we recognize the 8th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, an illegal war of occupation that continues to this day. The grounds on which the Iraq war was based turned out to be a batch of lies coaxed up by top officials in the United States government. The U.S. Secretary of State, General Colon Powell, introduced these lies and manipulations to the United Nations at the request of his boss President George W. Bush. Eight years later and under a new administration, another U.S. Secretary of State makes arguments supporting military action against what would be the fifth country currently under attack by U.S. military forces. Libya can now be added to the exclusive list of nations being bombed by the United States and her allies, which also includes Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and the occasional bombing of Yemen. (This list does not count the dozen or more nations currently being victimized by U.S. covert actions and state sponsored terrorism.)

To better understand the complex and dynamic circumstances involved in the Libya situation requires an understanding and analysis that goes far beyond what is reported in the mainstream media. This article will be one of a three-part series that will attempt to shed some light on the situation and fill in some of the voids that are a result of a well designed misinformation campaign against the Libyan government and perpetuated by U.S. and European intelligence agencies. “Part 1” focuses on who the Libyan “opposition” or “rebel” forces are. “Part 2” talks about some of the confusing and contradicting language that is being used by Western media outlets, Al Jazeera, and even many of the independent progressive media sources here in the United States. “Part 3″ focuses on the question “why Libya?” as opposed to Yemen, Bahrain, and other non-democratic regimes facing domestic opposition in the region. The conclusions I make are not merely speculative. Much of what I will be writing draws on both my personal knowledge on the subject, as well as correspondence with Libyan friends who are currently in Tripoli and Benghazi. My contact in Benghazi is a University Professor who I met while visiting Tripoli a year ago as part of a delegation led by former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney. For safety, I agreed to conceal this person’s identity and will not specify which information came from this source, although in some cases it may be obvious.

 Part 1: The Opposition Forces? As I sit to write this article from the safety of an American café in Anchorage, Alaska, bombs rain down on cities and towns all across the North African nation of Libya. I can hear reports from one of the corporate news stations on the television here. As I look up at the screen I see a close-up of Libyans cheering, while in a small window on the upper right side of the screen there are far off images of bombs and missiles causing explosions on what appear to be Libyan targets. I suppose the message here is similar to the visual messages that we were fed 8 years ago as we saw Iraqi’s cheering their new occupiers driving in on tanks and heavily armored humvees. One of the questions regarding the Libyan unrest that has yet to be answered by any of the news agencies is – who exactly are these Libyan rebels? The western media, with help from Al Jazeera, has done a remarkable job portraying the unrest in Libya as a popular revolt. The anti-government or opposition forces have been referred to by various titles, including “pro-democracy protestors” and “non-violent demonstrators” to sell the image of them as a continuation of the pro-democracy movements that began in Tunisia then spread to Egypt. However these terms, while still being used by some media outlets, fail to correctly identify the extremely complex and diverse makeup of the rebels. While some of the protestors are calling for democracy in Libya, that is not necessarily the consensus among everyone in the opposition.

For instance, we can begin to understand who this opposition group is by first looking at what flag they are flying. It seems as though the flag of the opposition has been widely accepted by the rebels. What is not talked about in the media, and even among progressives, is what this red, black, and green flag with a crescent in the center actually represents. First of all, it is the former flag of Libya that was introduced after independence under the rule of King Idris. Idris ruled the monarchy after independence until 1969 when he was overthrown by the military under the lead of a young Colonel with a Pan-Arab/Nassarite ideology. (A monarchy is far from a democracy and monarchs are still ruling in many parts of the Arab world. Their rule is passed through hereditary and sometimes marital relations.)

Following the overthrow of King Idris in 1969, the flag was changed from the red, black, and green to a red, white, and black flag with no religious symbols. In 1977 the revolutionary council led by Colonel Gaddafi introduced a new flag. The Libyan flag, which still flies today, is a simple green flag. Libya is the only nation represented by a single color flag with no symbols. The issue of what flag the opposition forces are flying is of extreme importance because it says a lot about who they are and what they want. If you recall, during the Tunisian and Egyptian uprising, the protestors flew their national flags, which suggested that although they wanted an end to the dictatorial rule, they still identified with the nation in its modern form. At the beginning of the uprising in Libya, there were green Libyan flags being flown by some of the youth, students and professionals who make up what can be considered the “intelligencia” class. These were the very first protestors who where clearly inspired by the democratic movement that hit North Africa, starting with Tunisia and spreading to Egypt. I remember the first image I saw regarding a demonstration in Libya was online at Al Jazeera English. The demonstrator, a young man who looked like he was in his mid-twenties, was on camera demanding Libya live up to the country’s official name the “Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya.” [The term Jamahiriya is Arabic for “a state of the masses,” which is another term for the governing structure known as a “direct democracy.” A direct democracy refers to a system where the masses of the people are involved in the decision making through a process of councils starting from their local community reaching up to their national government. It differs from a representative democracy where individuals elect candidates to speak for and represent them.] Immediately following the first day of protests in the capital city of Tripoli the government clamped down hard and things seemed quiet for about a week in early February. By the middle of February protests sprung up outside of the capital, primarily in the second largest city of Benghazi, which has since been the focus area of the corporate media. The protests in Benghazi differed from the earlier non-violent protests that occurred in Tripoli. The Benghazi protests included the attacking of government institutions. The burning of government buildings quickly distinguished these protests from what was happening in other parts of North African and the Middle East. The news media continued to call the protestors “non-violent” and “pro-democratic,” even as the protestors themselves acted contrary to those descriptions. The terminology is important, as it is used strategically to form public opinion. In “Part 2″ of this series I will go further into the biased news reports and terminology that was used to shape the discourse and raise sympathy for the opposition forces.

 What should be understood about the opposition forces in Libya is that they are not made up of any one particular group. In actuality, the opposition is made up of a coalition of groups that only really have one political view in common, ending the 40-year rule of Gaddafi. However, the problem facing the opposition forces is that there are differing beliefs on what should come after to replace Gaddafi’s regime. Just because they all want change does not mean that they all agree on what that change should be. For instance, the intelligencia class was demanding democratic reform, not necessarily the overthrow of the government. They advocate living up to the true meaning and mission of a direct democracy. Ironically enough, this was also part of a critique leveled against the Libyan government by Gaddafi himself, in 2008 and again in 2009 when he called for the reforming of the government due to a failed bureaucracy and corruption. (Another issue that will be talked about in the second part of this series is the fact that the media refuses to recognize the actual government of Libya that is and has been in place prior to the unrest. If you only listen to the corporate media they would have you believe this 70 something year old man was running every government entity in the country.) Read the full article at: http://hiphopandpolitics.wordpress.com/2011/03/24/understanding-the-libyan-uprisings-an-alternative-perspective/

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Categories: International News, Military Industrial Complex, Political History

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