February 22, 2011


Filed under: Civil Disobedience, Freedom — Tags: — Russ @ 3:24 am


Protest in Libya has reached an awesome new level of resolve. Carrying on the spirit of the Egyptian democracy, the Libyan demonstrators have refused to let even the most brutal extremities of state violence defeat them.
As democratic protests surged in Libya, Qaddafi, evidently trying to learn from the failure of Mubarak, unleashed savage, murderous repression from the beginning. No one knows how many have been killed, but the number is at least in the hundreds. We can see how each successive tyranny will become more rabidly, insanely destructive in order to prop up its wretched power and privilege as the democratic wave engulfs it. The conventional wisdom was always that if the instruments of state violence maintain discipline and are willing to fire on the people, the people have no chance of winning. That’s clearly what the thugs of Bahrain and Libya were thinking. They’ve maintained control over at least some of their instruments, and have been importing vermin mercenaries as well. That’s a lot of willing firepower, and according to received wisdom that must be the end of it.
But in an absolutely thrilling epiphany, first in Bahrain and now even more spectacularly in Libya, the democratic people are so fired with the will to fight and the faith that they must win, that their resolve continues to redouble even in the face of sustained state terrorism. While the ability or inability of the people to prevail over direct, open state violence will still be on a case by case basis, we know that in principle there’s nothing the people can’t overcome if they keep fighting.
So it was in Benghazi, Libya’s second largest city, where protestors have apparently seized control of the city over the fierce opposition of state security forces. The protests continue with great verve in Tripoli and elsewhere. Tribesmen have said they will cut oil and gas pipelines. The regime has responded with unprecendented levels of ferocity, including the use of aircraft to strafe and bomb demonstrators. (I can’t recall any previous examples of this.)
This is causing splits in the government and military. According to reports some military units in Benghazi went over to the side of the protestors. Two Libyan fighters landed in Malta, their pilots requesting asylum after having refused orders to bomb the protests. Libya’s UN ambassador has declared Qaddafi a criminal and pleaded with the UN to impose a no-fly zone over Libya. There are reports of air and naval attacks on military targets, which if true could indicate civil war within the military. Western governments have been scrambling to evacuate their carpetbaggers, while the Obama administration keeps up its by now familiar line of confusion and hesitancy.
In Egypt it seemed like demonstrators and regime were often engaging in brinksmanship. There’s no brink in Libya; facing the rightful demonstration of democracy, Qaddafi immediately chose to unleash the dogs of war upon his own people.
But the people have already given a response for the ages. We’re learning, every day, how this global tyranny is doomed, and perhaps sooner and more directly than most if not all of us expected. Although I always thought revolutionary processes like what we saw in Egypt were possible as soon as someone had the guts to go through with it, I admit that I didn’t think what we’re seeing in Libya could be done. But this opens up a whole new range of possibilities. We now know that there’s nothing the tyrant can do which can forever defeat us, if we only muster the resolve to escalate the fight with his every escalation.
If there’s any decency left in the world, once Qaddafi’s gone and the rest of the thugs can see the ultimate vanity of even the worst violence when you’re trying to beat back the ocean itself, they’ll shrug and decide it’s not worth it. A naive hope, perhaps, but anything’s possible in this war of attrition. Sometimes there’s even an attrition of evil. 


  1. Regarding the possibility of the UN, i.e. the neoliberal system, enforcing a no-fly zone, here’s my initial thought.

    It’s clear that in the long run (and usually much sooner than that) the West brings nothing but exploitation and destruction to the non-West, and as a rule the best thing it can ever do is Get Out and Stay Out.

    But refusing any help at all from the neoliberal structure doesn’t do any good if without it one can’t actually topple the tyrant. So while it would be a big risk to accept such help, I think it might be worth it, if that’s the only way to topple Qaddafi. Just planes enforcing a no-fly zone ought to be a manageable risk. The key would be to reject any Western-endorsed “leaders” afterward. In that case the “helpers” would have nothing to do but leave once their immediate job was done.

    Comment by Russ — February 22, 2011 @ 5:46 am

  2. Thanks Russ, both for your post and comment. Due to time constraints I’m having trouble keeping up with the rapidly changing events in Libya and elsewhere, but I agree with you that the people’s continued resistance in Libya, in the face of extreme state violence and brutality, is both unexpected and very encouraging. Everything depends on the people’s resolve to fight back against this tyranny. Perhaps seeing the people of Libya and their resolve to fight will inspire even more people to fight against oppression, and to do what they previously thought impossible.

    The response from Western leaders continues to be pathetic, as all of them secretly identify with Quaddafi but have to pretend they’re shocked by his brutality, and this is not going unnoticed by people around the world, including working class people in the United States.

    Comment by Frank Lavarre — February 22, 2011 @ 9:22 am

    • I wonder a lot how clearly the people of the world understand how the West and globalization are their great enemy. Usually it sounds like they understand it far better than working people within the West itself.

      Comment by Russ — February 22, 2011 @ 12:15 pm

    • Ghedaffi and his sideshow have been very frequent guests here in Italy (entourage of 300, including his 30 female bodyguards, setting up tents at villa Doria Pamphili. Business is business.

      Here’s a sample of the Italian grotesque sexism panache with which Berlusconi has received the Colonel: hundreds of captivating Italian “hostesses” hired for the event, holding the “Glorious Koran”!


      Comment by Lidia — February 22, 2011 @ 7:13 pm

      • Vulgarity sure is rampant among these thugs.

        Comment by Russ — February 23, 2011 @ 6:45 am

  3. If Mubarak’s response to the Egyptian protests was merely feckless and out-of-touch, Gaddafi’s response reeks of desperation. I was interested to see that the defecting pilots were flying Dassault Mirages. One might have expected, if the LAF were to be used to control crowds, the use of their Russian Hind helicopters, which would be able to enter dense urban terrain and operate for prolonged periods to intimidate the crowds. The use of the Mirage fighter aircraft suggests that the pilots were simply given a “kill em all” order and literally told to just bomb whatever crowds of civilians they saw. To me, that’s telling- Gaddafi went all in immediately, and it looks like he lost the military’s support while the Libyan people were calling his bluff. I don’t know enough about the situation to be sure, but I doubt Gaddafi will last long at this rate.

    Comment by paper mac — February 22, 2011 @ 1:48 pm

    • I did read of helicopter involvement, but also repeatedly saw the word “bomb”. It really sounds as if Qaddafi ordered full-scale military strikes against his own cities. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of that for protests, not among one’s own people.

      I did read that there might be tribalism involved. In that sense, I guess it could be like Saddam’s attacks on Shiite insurrectionaries in 1991. But that wasn’t in the streets of Baghdad itself.

      It was because he was using attack helicopters (I’m not sure about warplanes) that the UN first imposed the no-fly zone there.

      It sounds horrible.

      Comment by Russ — February 22, 2011 @ 3:43 pm

      • I later saw that helicopters have been employed as well. I’m still shocked that Gaddafi decided to simply massacre civilians in the street by dropping bombs on them. I’m also amazed that the Libyans haven’t stopped the protests. The thought of so much military hardware being directed against unarmed civilians is chilling, stomach-turning. I know I wouldn’t have the guts to stand down helicopters and planes dropping bombs on my street.

        What is the tribal component of the violence supposed to be? My impression is that the cities, like Tripoli, are composed almost entirely of Sunni Berbers and Arabs, and that most of the tensions within them are along class lines rather than ethnic ones, but I’m not that familiar with the political economy of Libya.

        Comment by paper mac — February 22, 2011 @ 6:27 pm

      • On tribes, I found this (I would post text but for formatting issues):

        Comment by Lidia — February 22, 2011 @ 7:24 pm

      • Thanks, Lidia. That’s informative.

        I suppose Qaddaffi’s appeals to tribalism are just as hypocritical as Saddam’s to Islam. (Saddam himself also rose out of clan politics.)

        Once they reach a certain level of power, authoritarian regimes are pretty much the same no matter where they came from, although they’ll still exploit alleged affinities and divisions.

        My own comment was based on Qaddaffi’s claims that the protestors are literally foreigners, IOW he was making a brazen appeal to literal tribalism. He must have wanted to make nominal members of his own “tribe”, however assimilated they really are, think, “the alien tribes are making war on we, the rightful Libyan people”.

        Comment by Russ — February 23, 2011 @ 6:53 am

  4. Russ/All,

    Excerpt from an article on “Libya: The Violence of an Unraveling Regime” by Ziad Abu-Rish, at Zcommunications:

    “Beyond the fact of the unraveling of a 42-year old authoritarian regime at the hands of a popular uprising and the regime’s massacring of the Libyan people, it is difficult to analyze the situation on the ground. However, there should be no lack of clarity as to both the legitimate aspirations and humbling courage of the Libyan people, as well as the blood that is on the hands of the Libyan regime. The complicity–by virtue of silence–of the broader community of state leaders and international
    institutions is equally clear.”


    Comment by Frank Lavarre — February 23, 2011 @ 1:13 am

    • Thanks, Frank. I’ll check it out.

      Comment by Russ — February 23, 2011 @ 6:56 am

  5. Don’t know if you’ve seen this? Off topic but not unrelated.


    No idea whether this is for real or not.

    Comment by doggett — February 23, 2011 @ 3:30 pm

    • I don’t know if it’s real, but I’m sure it’s truthful. That’s already what cops often do.

      Comment by Russ — February 23, 2011 @ 4:05 pm

      • Did you listen to the audio the link relates to? It is?/purports to be? a 20 minute conversation recorded after “Governor Scott Walker [was] called by journalist posing as David Koch”.

        The title in the link given above is very misleading. The whole conversation (if genuine) is much more interesting.

        Comment by doggett — February 23, 2011 @ 4:29 pm

      • Yes, I was referring to how the cops often infiltrate and pose. So to pay regular Mubarak thugs to do it wouldn’t be much different.

        And by now I also saw (at Naked Capitalism) a post quoting a press release from Mubarak’s office trying to explain away the conversation. So apparently it is genuine.

        Comment by Russ — February 23, 2011 @ 6:06 pm

  6. We seem to be completely at cross purposes here, Russ. Almost certainly my fault, so I’ll bow out on this.

    Comment by doggett — February 23, 2011 @ 6:53 pm

    • Isn’t Walker saying he wanted to plant thugs among the protestors? All I said was that would be no different from what the FBI and other cops already do, and that substantively there’s no real difference. How did we end up at cross purposes?

      (Is it my “Mubarak” reference? Walker’s certainly no more legitimate, perhaps less so, and should be dealt with the same way. So I call him Mubarak.)

      Comment by Russ — February 23, 2011 @ 7:07 pm

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