Monday, 28 February 2011

Tripoli Under Gaddafi Crackdown!

News sources, correspondents and bloggers inside Tripoli describe a heavy crackdown by Gaddafi's remaining supporters, militias and mercenaries. It is clear that Tripoli has become a place of fear, and the promised witch-hunt has ensued, with murders, kidnappings and no doubt torture being dealt out to anti-Gaddafi protesters and opposition politicians. Pitiful pleas have emerged on blogs and twitter sites, where the word 'genocide' is used with startling frequency, appealing to the outside world for help. Yet how to help save their lives is not immediately clear. Nobody wants a George Bush styled crusade, yet at the same time Gaddafi's stalinist purge seems to be wracking tripoli so deeply that there is a need to take some kind of action, and soon.  

Gaddafi's forces have mounted attacks on the fallen cities of Misurata and Zuwara, but anti-Gaddafi protesters have persevered and these cities have maintained their newly liberated status. In Misurata, there is still fighting over the airbase, but protesters have captured the majority of the airbase. When I last checked this morning, Zuwara was surrounded by Gaddafi tanks and there were fears of an imminent attack. However, it is not certain whether this has materialised yet. 

As a whole however, it seems that Libya is largely in the hands of anti-Gaddafi protesters, and that the city of Tripoli is being surrounded on all sides by protesters, threatening to eventually take Tripoli into a siege of sorts, or to mount direct attacks on Tripoli. Already, it seems as though protesters outside of Tripoli are trying to figure out ways to break the last lines of resistance posed by Gaddafi loyalists, and apparently, one march on the capital is already underway.

Internationally, support for Gaddafi is rapidly diminishing. The Russian foreign  minister (finally) declared that the use of military force against civilians in Libya is unacceptable. Russia seemed to be toeing the same line as Gaddafi, citing fears over 'fragmentation' and the over-vaunted 'islamist threat'. Now that the UN has come out unequivocally against the Gaddafi regime, and are putting in place measures to prosecute Gaddafi and his supporters in the International Criminal Court, it seems that Russia doesn't want to appear out of step with international opinion. Latin American leaders have also been notably silent on the atrocities - with the exception of Peru - and the presidents of Venezuela, Nicaragua and (ex presidente) Fidel Castro have stated that they believed Gaddafi to be a victim of a conspiracy to obtain access to their oil reserves.

So will Tripoli fall from international intervention or internal mobilisation (i.e. within Libya and Tripoli itself) and what are the most likely routes to liberation for the city of Tripoli, which stands as a significant (even if only symbolic - oil and gas are already under the control of protesters) last domino, standing in the way of national liberation?

It being impossible to use the future as evidence, it might help to look to the history of popular revolutions to figure out what the most likely trajectory is. However, it is also true that while history often repeats itself, we are now living in an era where historical notions of change and revolution might not apply.

A siege of the city might have the effect of eventually turning Gaddafi's closest remaining allies against him, but it may also result in untold levels of repression within the city, increasing the suffering of residents beyond bearable limits. A direct, staged attack on the city from mutiple fronts might prove a more systematic approach, but urban warfare is fraught with atrocity and suffering and the price may be equally heavy in the end. Direct armed international intervention will most likely fail to bring about the liberation Libyans desire, unless international armed forces provide logistical support and training to Libyans who are advancing upon the capital (i.e. act more in a supportive role).

Yet there is another way that the international community can help Libyans win their freedom. By assisting the rest of liberated Libya in setting up strong representative bodies and interim governance at all levels of society, and by recognising a new liberated Libya on the international stage, Libya can effectively be decared liberated, even though Gaddafi might still be holding out in Tripoli.

If Gaddafi forces in Tripoli refuse to abdicate in light of these announcements, the UN should put in motion discussions and negotiations for the residents of Tripoli to have safe passage out of the city. Failing to comply with these requests can then serve as more motivation to put international support and peace-keeping forces on the ground to assist the defected Libyan army in breaking the siege through taking control of critical routes into and out of the city (Libyans don't seem to want forces on the ground, but perhaps peace-keeping forces that are there to supervise civilian safety might be welcomed). If the residents of Tripoli are given safe passage out of the city then Libyan anti-Gaddafi forces can essentially fight it out with him until the city is won. Essentially, Gaddafi would be pretty stupid not to see that the endgame is in sight and to capitulate because either way he would be a legitimate target for both international and internal forces.

If he takes the residents of Tripoli hostage, he becomes a legitimate target for a greater, extended force than if he doesn't as this would essentially constitute a war crime. Either way, his end is certain. The main goal right now should be to find ways to minimize the loss of life and the torture and barbarism in Tripoli, as that is what will be remembered most and is most important right now.

Already, the violence has been vicious and Gaddafi's army is being replaced by militias constituted of civilians and foreign mercenaries. The first priority should be to ease the suffering of those still under the vice of pro-Gaddafi forces. The message that needs to be sent to his supporters is that if they stand by him, they are most certainly going to die with him - his ultimate implosion will be the end of everyone near him. They need to be clear that they will face overwhelming and decisive force both before and after Tripoli is liberated. Standing by Gaddafi needs to become a dying mans wish.

The main challenge now is time. The more time Gaddafi-forces are allowed to run the streets of Tripoli the higher the death toll and suffering will be. If the UN is going to make moves they should make them now, so that the message to Gaddafi is clear i.e. "you have lost legitimacy to rule in Libya, Libyans have moved on and formed their own government, and you are a war criminal awating trial and your only way of arguing against prosecution is to show compassion for the civilians trapped in Tripoli.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

What can be done about Libya?

So the Libyans have spoken out about what kinds of intervention they would be happy to receive from the international community. Yet while protest leaders and commentators don't all agree on the detailed elements of what intervention is necessary, there are some clear trends emerging. Firstly, Libyans are not asking NATO to bomb them and their country to smithereens, leaving them on a ten year recovery path. Instead, they are calling for UN intervention. And it is true that the entire international community is looking to the UN Security Council for intervention. Banki-Moon, to his credit, has called for action to be taken sooner rather than later, yet it is unclear exactly what actions will be taken.

Some actions have already been taken. The Swiss government has frozen Gaddafi and his families assets, and America has announced that it will impose sanctions on Libya and the Gaddafi family. They need to go further and to freeze the assets of anyone who is still standing by Gaddafi, and anybody within and outside of Libya who may be helping him in any way. Anybody who is still associated with him should be aware that they are set to lose everything they ever gained through association with Gaddafi.

The US seems to be biding it's time, waiting for clear international leadership on the unfolding crisis, before it commits to any form of military action. The US has been advised not to put troops on the ground in Libya. Libyans, by and large seem to agree - they do not want an Iraq style rescue operation - so no troops on the ground. However, they seem very willing to accept the imposition of a no-fly zone and perhaps the bombing of Gaddafi's strategic command centres, bases etc. from the air. They also need arms with which to fight Gaddafi, and this call has emerged with frequency. To this end, strategic strikes might be an option, but there is a need for coordinated international action in this regard, and it might be better to bring in the UN as peacekeeping forces. However, in my view, this will only extend Gaddafi's hold on power, and will give him the perfect excuse to consolidate his reign on power in the West, and contrive to create a civil war situation between East and West. If the international community are going to do anything, they should disable his air and sea capability, command centres and his assets. This should be a substantial enough intervention to prevent Gaddafi from extending his grip on power. The issue, quite simply, is that nobody wants to see George Bush styled interventions. There's no room for cowboys in the middle east, and it seems clear that Libyans do not want a full-scale American style invasion involving on-the-ground troop involvement.

Most commentators agree that very little substantial action has been taken to stop the killings and intimidation on the ground, and the death toll seems to be skyrocketing out of control. With two-thirds of the country under opposition control (and Eastern Libya completely ceded), there are no humanitarian (or other) functional institutions on the ground that can account for events that are unfolding. It is widely accepted that Gaddafi is using mercenaries to retain control, with allegations that Serbian pilots are being used to conduct air-borne attacks on protesters. There is no telling what untold horrors aren't reaching the outside world as the Libyan army is confiscating cell phones from departees to cover up evidence of atrocities.

Most of the Libyan government and army has resigned or defected, so there is great potential to launch coordinated action against Gaddafi using a mixture of army and civilian troops, but the cost in lives might be higher than currently imagineable. Civil wars destroy entire countries, leaving behind damage to infrastructure and institutions that sometimes takes decades to restore, if ever. Overall, it's not a good option for any country, but there seems little choice.

It is clear that Gaddafi does intend to fight to the death, and to conduct house-by-house purges wherever his supporters still retain some level of control. Coming out in the streets in great numbers and conducting peaceful protests may be admirable, but the danger of being met with deathly force is extremely high. Libyans in Gaddafi controlled areas need to be strategic about how they go about confronting his militant supporters and paid-up mercenaries, focussing on siezing and taking control of critical infrastructure. In other words, attack the body and the head will fall.

At the same time, political action is required. Libyans need to put together some kind of interim representative committee that can make its case to the world, and ensure that Gaddafi becomes wholly marginalised inside and outside of Libya. It is necessary to have a broad and diverse set of representatives who can go out and consolidate the appeal to end Gaddafi's legitimacy in all forums. They need to target sections of the international community (such as those in Latin America) who have refused to denounce Gaddafi, bringing pressure on them through working with civil society groups in Latin American countries to shame their leaders.

Lastly, there needs to be a clear and unequivocal stance taken on the issue of mercenaries that are in Libya. They must all face severe charges in the International Criminal Court, wherever they escape to after Gaddafi is deposed. There needs to be clear extradition legislature and implementation bodies that will track down and ensure that everyone who played a part in this awful crime against humanity will be appropriately punished. The precedent needs to be set soon, so that other despots who seek the services of mercenaries in order to retain control will think twice about going this route. Additionally, mercenaries should have their assets frozen and/or confiscated, and should be assured that they will be tracked down no matter how long it takes - they should be treated like Nazi war criminals and brought to book. They have no business getting involved in illegal wars and that's that. They're no better than hired killers and the sentences should be so severe that they don't even contemplate acting as paid killers, for whatever regime. Here, the international community can play a big role - firstly, by warning the mercenaries that are already in Libya, and taking concrete actions to set up the committees and task groups that will be hunting them down.

Disabling Gaddafi's capacity to act through multi-faceted actions at all levels of operation is now necessary. An interim Libyan leadership can go a long way towards delegitimizing the Gaddafi regime, and ensuring that international actions do not constitute a violation of sovereignty in Libya, but set a precedent for the international community in as far as acting against dictators goes.

Ten Signs That You May Be A Dictator!

Ten signs that you may be a dictator:
  1. You only refer to yourself in the third person, and you refer to all opposition as 'infidel dogs'.
  2. You have a thing for Rembrandt sized portraits of yourself.
  3. You need an umbrella and a hat even when you're sitting in a bulletproof car.
  4. You have a network of tunnels and bunkers beneath every one of your many residences.
  5. All your children have swiss bank accounts.
  6. You quote compulsively from your own book (university professors take note).
  7. You can't resist pulling the "I am your father!" line from Star Wars.
  8. You blame the revolution in your country on playstation and the American imperialists who work at Google.
  9. Kim Jong Ill is your child's godfather.
  10. You are a person of vision - where others see mushrooms, you see mushroom clouds.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Latin America's Sickening Support for Gaddafi!

So to recap, Al Qaeda, ecstacy consuming youth (and others whose milk and coffee is drugged), America, Egyptians and Tunisians are behind the unrest in Libya - that is; according to the one and only great Colonel Gaddafi, who, having only the day before threatened to show no mercy (and threatend to mete out the death penalty to protesters), now says he is just a 'symbolic leader', like Queen Elizabeth. Indeed, I am convinced - I've always wondered what Gaddafi's drag queen act was all about. Now I get it. Him and Queen Liz are kindred spirits apparently. The only problem is that I can't remember the last time Queen Liz threatened her subjects with the penalty of death, but I bet they can both ride the hell out of a horse.

Yet Latin America's leaders, the president of Venezuela (Nicolas Maduro), Argentina (Hugo Chavez), and ex-leader of Cuba, Fidel Castro, have stood by Muammar Gaddafi's version of events ... that Western interests are formenting dissent in order to get their hands on Libya's oil. This would be believable if the situation were different, if traditional cold-war means of destabilisation were at work in Libya. But this clearly is not the case, and these prominent Latin American leaders, are revealing their own inability to grasp the changes that have gripped the middle east. Are they implying that the Libyan people can't possibly be behind this effort to secure their freedom from 42 year of rule? Are they implying that a man who cannot even put forward a believable explanation of what conspiracy is operating against him is fit to govern a people that he is massacring with weapons designed for conventional warfare.

I haven't yet seen a Libyan on tv who supports Gaddafi, apart from his sons - is this what our great Latin American 'leaders of the people' are suggesting that we, the youth of this world, deserve? Do we deserve dictatorships that operate in the 'name of the people' but which suck the lifeblood out of people, denying them any freedom to live as decent human beings within family run kleptocracies where leader's entire families have Swiss bank accounts, yet their people have no decent healthcare? Is this what Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro would prefer us to live under?

I am ashamed that I ever supported these leaders, and saw them as leaders who sought to represent the needs of their people before themselves. And yes, they themselves have been the subjects of conspiracy - there is no doubt about that - but when you stand by a leader who represents the worst of human qualities, whose delusions of grandeur are matched only by the blood that is being shed, you will eventually have to face responsibility for the stance you adopt. America itself stood by brutal dictators who brought about nothing but suffering and instability, and now we have seen Russia (both Putin and the toothless prime minister), and their ideologial counterparts in Latin America being called to account. Yet they act the same, sticking to their erstwhile power allegiances despite the facts.

And the facts are that the Libyan leadership has largely abandoned Gaddafi. Colonels, generals, ambassadors, aides to Gaddafi and his son, have all left in droves - how can the Latin American leaders pronounce solidarity under these circumstances? They should be ashamed of their inability to stand up for what is just - and if they aren't ashamed now, history will surely shame them. And just like Libyan troops once marched over the American Flag, the Libyan people will march over your flags, as in their darkest moment, you abandoned people for ideology (and not a very clear ideology at that) - you put the power of leaders over the power of the people. You chose to remain blind to those that are disappearing inside Libya, being gunned down in the streets, executed and bodies dumped at the side of the road, fired on by helicopter gunships and warplanes - this is what you will be remembered for; that you do not value human lives as you do the long winded words that come out of your mouths.

And when all of this is over you will be called to answer for your lack of courage to stand up against a deluded and dangerous leader who was massacring his people with abandon, with the sole reason of maintaining power for him and his family. How sick can you be?

There was always an ideological solidarity between the people of the global south that went beyond our national interests, to service the fundamental belief in the most admirable aspects of humanity. Indeed, when Cuba sent troops into Angola and drove South African troops out it effectively sounded the end of the Apartheid regime, and showed the world what true solidarity means - wars for humanity, not resources. Hugo Chavez, a celebrated man of the people, democratically elected to be the voice of the underclasses and the marginalised. Why are your voices so strangled now? Why do you support a farcical act, instead of the people?

You would prefer a dictator and his family to be in power? After all the speeches you have given, after all the objections you have made about the US propping up dictators, when faced with the same choice you act no differently. Power turns people to liars very quickly, for who can challenge a powerful liar? Are people in the middle east not human? Do they not deserve freedom from dictatorship and family rule? Which planet are you living on?

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Gaddafi Claims Osama is the Father of the Trance Bunnies!

It is clear that Muammar Gaddafi's end to power, and perhaps to life, is approaching us. Perhaps the greatest loser though, will be his son, recently awarded a PhD from the London School of Economics in 2008, he must have harboured high hopes for himself as a leader and reformer of Libya. But as tragedies go, the best intentions become the worst realities, and this seems to be the case when it comes to Saif El Islam, who at a remarkably young age, is presiding over the complete and utter collapse, of not just a country, but the human values that bind all human beings to each other. Perhaps, as an economist, his decision-making is heavily influenced by the need to preserve his own self interest - but the cost at which that has come has rendered him monstrous in the extreme - dangerous actually, and without the ability to retain perspective.

So according to Muammar Gaddafi, his father, there are hallucinogenic drug manufacturing factories in Misurata, under the command of Osama Bin Laden, that are poisoning the milk and coffee of people in the country, leading them to go out into the streets and protest.



Can dialogue be held with people who are so far away from reality? Can dialogue be had with Gaddafi or his son? It is futile to talk at this stage. It is futile to negotiate. It is a waste of breath. If anyone has the responsiblity to end this, and has the power to end this, it is Saif El Islam. Standing by his father through all of this is the worst decision he has ever made, and even if he lives through this it will be in utter obscurity. If he decides to seek exile in South Africa he'd better beware, because if I see him sauntering around the V&A waterfront I will personally arrest him and hold him to account. The world has no place for this rubbish!

Really? Drugs??? Gaddafi sounds like a bloody maniac, and yet his son doesn't have the common sense (or courage) to stand up to him. For all his macho talk of 'fighting to the last bullet' he has not an iota of courage, not a jot of what makes up a human being that knows the difference between speech and action. He, and his father, are showmen, who are still performing even though the stage has collapsed. 'The show must go on!' and it is, and Libyans and foreigners are being massacred in response, by an illegitimate regime. And what is left to piece together of the Gaddafi delusion; that Bin Laden, the US, Egyptians and Tunisians are all conspiring to drug the youth of Libya and ruin his legacy at the same time - of course, all of this is about a personal attack on Gaddafi's legacy.

So in his last speech he spoke like the great liberator of Africa, and now he tells us he is only a 'symbolic leader' in Libya. Then why not step aside? Isn't that the simplest way to end all of this? And all this utter rubbish about Al Qaeda being behind this? Really? You might as well claim that Walt Disney is behind the Libyan revolts. So pigs can fly - because Gaddafi and his son say so!

Muammar Gaddafi makes Hosni Mubarak looks like a reasonable person by comparison. He is mad! Is the world so impotent that it cannot act in support of a people who are being killed in the streets, begging for intervention in desperation. They are alone, with nothing but each other to see this through - and the longer those with the power to intervene prevaricate, the more bloody this revolution will be in the end. There are a million Egyptians in Libya. They are already under blanket accusation of attempting to create instability in Libya, and are already facing reprisals. Gaddafi's supporters, security forces and mercenaries have been moving house to house in some areas, and it isn't dificult to see that a bloody and cruel purge has ensued across Libya.

People who have lived under illegitimate regimes know how they function. Media restrictions and blackouts are the life-blood of despots - purely to ensure that they have deniability and can play the role of sole chaperones of the 'truth'. They live and survive off isolation. The more isolated Libya is, the worse will be the suffering of its people. The Libyan regime is counting on theatrics and intrigue to manipulate the people within Libya. They don't care a jot what the rest of the world thinks - they've got used to playing the emotions of the Libyan people like harp. And they are relying on fragmenting the Libyan people enought to hold on to whatever pieces of power are still within their hands.

And the spin is so ridiculous and outrageous that some might actually believe it. I know people often say the truth is stranger than fiction, but by all accounts, I cannot see Osama Bin Laden DJ'ing at the next Vortex trance party, sniffing poppers and downing red-bulls. I cannot see psychotropic drug culture mixing with extremist orthodox islam, American interests and Egyptian and Tunisian conspirators lurking behind the scenes, fostering revolution together. I am sure Osama is pretty confused right now, wondering what he'll be accused of next - a fake moon landing perhaps?

But hey, maybe I just don't know how things work around here anymore! Next time I need a reality check I'll give Muammar or Saif a call to find out what's really going on behind the scenes. I'm sure they'll have plenty of time to fill me in while awaiting trial in the Hague.

So how long will it take to put an end to the fraudsters who have paraded and foisted their ridiculous versions of who we are, upon us? Are we to accept a farcical world where we lap up the lies they feed us, and play along like puppets on a string, happy to dance to his masters voice. Ultimately, the farce of patriarchy is confronting us all through these revolutions - of a generation of leaders who no longer have a clue what kind of world they are living in. The 'wise elders' don't have long left on this planet, but they can do immense damage that will resonate in the lives of our children and theirs. It's time to call their bluff, and to subject them to the same scrutiny that we do each other. There can be no more 'fathers of the nation', no more 'great leaders' and no more 'hero-leaders' that are beyond rebuke. That world must end in my lifetime, or else! 

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Libyan Authorities Deny Everything!

The Libyan authorities held a press conference last night, where they attempted to downplay the recent events in their country, casting doubt on reports in the international media's claims that heavy weapons are being used against protestors, and claiming that Qatar is behind the press led attack on the Libyan government. Apparently, everything in Libya is just dandy. What we are seeing on tv is all the result of co-conspiring amongst ecstacy consuming youth, Egyptians, Tunisians, the US, the islamists and Qatar. Well that explains everything ... just a few misguided youth running the streets because they've been 'manipulated' by foreign interests.  42 years of dicatorship has nothing to do with the unrest in the streets of Benghazi and Tripoli - it's all a conspiracy. Next they'll label it a zionist plot! Why not, everyone's in the mix already.

That this line, adopted by the regime, is an utter farce, is reflected in the numbers of high profile resignations that the Libyan diplomacy and military have recently undergone - defection being the operative word in all cases, as they have stood by the Libyan people and their demands. Only Nicaragua have expressed solidarity with Gaddafi, and Russia have also made statements to the effect that they expect dangerous 'fragmentation' in the Middle East, echoing Gaddafi's paranoic sentiments, which were also expressed by his son in a recent address to the nation in which he warned of civil war in Libya. Gaddafi has offered to instantiate reforms, but they are so pitifully inadequate that he cannot possibly hope to win over the protestors with his offers of setting up committees and the like. The Libyan people want their freedom. The fact that their leaders think that they aren't ready for democratic rule is more of an indictment on how out of touch their leadership is, than a judgement on the Libyan people themselves, who have taken the ultimate steps towards democratic action, that is; sacrificing their lives for each other's freedom.

It is deeply shocking to see what it transpiring in Libya, and even though the media cannot operate freely in Libya, footage has been getting out of Libya that give an indication of how far gone down the road to absolute collapse the country is. Yet the Libyan authorities have responded rather late ... why did they wait so long? Were they trying to garner support internally to turn against the protesters? Were they busy shipping in mercenaries to assist them in suppressing the uprising? Were they preparing themselves for response? Or were they caught off guard and the speed of events overtook them, until they realised that their silence was a key indicator of the power vacuum that exists in Libya right now and decided that they had to show their faces.

Yet if they're still in charge, why have they shut down the internet and telephone communications in Libya? If everything is under control, and can be so easily explained, then why not let the international press and community judge for themselves? Why not open Libya up so the world can know, from the mouths of its own people, what they have experienced and how they feel about it? Oh, I forgot - it's all a conspiracy! Nobody can be trusted. Everybody's out to get you when you're at the top. It's a hard life up there, being a hero, issuing threats to underlings and carrying the weight of legacy on your shoulders. "Let them eat falafel!" one can almost hear the regime collectively sound out, "we're in charge here!".

And indeed, the Libyan regime decides who lives and dies in Libya, and continues to do so. The resignations are flowing thick. The interior minister, praised in Gaddafi's speech yesterday, promptly resigned after the speech. The aide to Gaddafi's son just resigned from his post. Indeed, surely it is better to die in service of a people, than to die in service of a regime, and those who have stepped down from the regime are putting their lives at risk in order to show solidarity with their people, who are dying in their homes and on the streets. 

It is a battle between farce and reality that is playing out in Libya, and perhaps most of the Middle East. The farcical systems of governance that have been in place for so long are finally meeting a reality that they cannot avoid; that the world has changed, and while leaders in the Middle East have clung to old outdated notions of nationhood in the region, their people have moved on, and have become citizens of a different world - one in which they are radically changing and reformulating their ideas of what society and governance should constitute in their region. It is not for governments to lead their people. It is for people to lead their governments. That, in short, is the new order of things.

It is interesting to see the Libyan authorities draw on the fear of tribal fragmentation and breakdown, islamic radicalism, and the like, in order to justify their draconian actions. They sit in judgement of the readiness of their people for 'higher concepts' such as democratic rule, and deem them unworthy - not sophisticated enough to handle pluralism and democracy. Yet this ignores the fact that communities on the ground have integrated and have lived with each other and their differences for many years before their great leaders appeared on the scene. In some sense, through the tribal and religious fragmentation argument, the Libyan authorities are reinforcing an outdated colonial, post-colonial and cold war discourse that in reality negates the need and justification for a nation state itself. One has to wonder, who is really doing hallucinogenic drugs in Libya? By all accounts it appears as though it is the tiny power elite that maintain close ties with Gaddafi that are showing signs of delusion in their thoughts and actions, that have rung out a shock wave across the world, dropping the jaws of decent people everywhere.

To be clear, farce is when Gaddafi holds up 'the green book' in his right hand, liberally quoting the number of ways in which the death sentence can be dealt out, while the constitution has in fact been suspended for decades. Farce is when the Libyan government presents 'facts' to the people on state run and censored television, the propaganda arm of the government, while the rest of the world's journalists and foreign citizens are placed under the threat of death should they attempt to undermine the regime. Farce is when a leader's son, who has no official appointment in government, addresses the nation at a time of great crisis and collapse, threatening to take the country into civil war. Farce is relying on a pack of lies to justify the unjustifiable. It is wearing a jokers mask at a funeral. It is disrespectful, disingenous and dangerous, and makes a game of real life situations. It is a theatre act, where actors play out roles hoping to convince the audience of their ability to project an image, rather than deal with the truth.

Yet farce is also fundamentally a selfish act that denies those subjected to it their voice and their ability to participate. It constructs a strict metanarrative, frought with conflicting positions, that nobody knows where they stand in. It is a way of creating confusion, misdirection and a way of dividing and conquering. It is a sad act, and like Saddam, Gaddafi and his sons might soon be no more, and all the farcical words and romantic gestures of yesteryear - of an outdated, even romantic patriarchy - will drain away down the gutter of history to mingle with the filth upon which the Libyan people tread as they move into a new future. It will happen with or without the support of the regime, as farce has played it's last card. From this point on, only violence and crackdown will be the reality of Libyans living through this nightmare, and they will have to be strong and fight hard in order to break the back of their oppressors. 

Libyan Government Has Collapsed: World Seems Oblivious!

The world seems to be playing ostrich to the emerging crisis in Libya, which is many degrees more severe and turbulent than the Egyptian revolution proved to be in the end. What is disturbing about the reactions from international heavyweights is the lack of any clear direction on how this expanding humanitarian crisis can be brought to a quick end.

Generals, colonels, ambassadors and the interior minister have already resigned. A hopping mad Gaddafi appeared on TV, and preached fire and brimstone for the Libyan people. The government cannot be reached by it's own representatives and administrators. Every time the government of Libya appears we see a different face, and it's becoming hard to tell what is really going on. The Libyan state is obviously in collapse, yet global powers are prevaricating about, waiting for things to descend into total and absolute chaos before they even make a clear statement about what they intend to do.

Yet these nations claim they are waiting on the UN for guidance. In this respect, the UN cannot continue to be a decorative but toothless dragon. It needs a platform that enables it to take action quickly and expediently in the various circumstances it encounters in the world, especially where crises are concerned. It cannot continue to be an organisation with a response time that takes months and years. It needs to be able to act quickly and effectively while an emerging crisis is taking place and not after it has passed. After all, it is not intended to be a commemorative organisation, but is expected to play a critical role in mediating global crises, conflicts, challenges, disasters, criminality, genocide, crimes against humanity and so forth. It's intention is to serve as a humanitarian organisation for the greater good of the globe. As such, it needs to be able to engage in humanitarian crises directly and not serve as memorial afterthought. It needs to have teeth. Gaddafi can import mercenaries in a flash of an eye, while the UN will take forever to mobilise peacekeeping forces.

But how should the teeth be constructed, and to what end? Perhaps the biggest failure of the UN unfolded in Bosnia, where peacekeepers were powerless to intervene and act in an environment of widespread ethnic cleansing aka genocide. They were there to keep the peace, but how to enforce the peace was lucidly defined, and restricted by mountains of regulations. Rwanda also received the 'wait and see' attitude. It is time to question whether these international organs are actually able to act upon crises when they are needed, or whether they only act when the coast is clear. It is hardly encouraging to people with democratic aspirations everywhere to see people be indiscriminately killed purely for exercising their legitimate human rights to voice their political opinion and to take political action, while the international organisations that are charged with upholding basic minimum rights stands by and watches them perish, issuing strong warnings and weak actions.

The Libyan crisis is a minute-by-minute crisis of unfolding events of very little clarity. It seems that all semblance of stability has disappeared, and now the new spokespeople for the Libyan government claim that Al Jazeera has been paid by the government of Qatar to spread lies about the Libyan government. It seems that the Libyan government is trying to create an enemy in Qatar, making motions towards war. This is a typical response - by deflecting the country towards a threat, and by making war, they hope to create a decoy with which to scare their citizens back into line.

It is an alternate reality that the Libyan government is trying to create, and it is the responsibility of all those watching to bring the Libyan government into the reality of accountability and judgement. 

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Thought Factory: Are US Citizens Being Held Hostage in Libya?

Thought Factory: Are US Citizens Being Held Hostage in Libya?: "From the careful dance that PJ Crowley just waltzed out at the media conference on Libya it is clear that the US is seriously concerned with..."

Are US Citizens Being Held Hostage in Libya?

From the careful dance that PJ Crowley just waltzed out at the media conference on Libya it is clear that the US is seriously concerned with getting their citizens out of Libya. One reported asked if US citizens had gone to the airport, and been turned back, alluding to the fact that there may be some uncertainty around events, fishing perhaps, to get an indication of the reason why people who were under the impression they were leaving Libya were turned back at the airport. Are they being used as diplomatic hostages? After all, Gaddafi did threaten to impose the death sentence on anyone from any country that was fostering dissent in Libya, and it is clear that Americans, Egyptians and Tunisians are all under suspicion, along with islamists and drug taking teenagers, ... an unlikely mix in reality. I don't think that an islamic state goes hand in hand with thousands of ecstacy consuming young protesters, or with Jerry Springer for that matter. But was he sending a dangerous message to the US, that their citizens in Libya might be put in harm's way should the US decide to take action.

I am sure that when the paranoid Gaddafi heard that Obama had said that he was "keeping all options open" in respect of Libya, Gaddafi must have recognised that old US tone ... that intervention by force wasn't out of the question! By all calculations, he and his PhD bearing son must have calculated, it would be the Americans who led the international attack - they always do!

Is this what is transpiring under the veil of communication between the United States and Libya? Was Gaddafi's actual aim to inform the diplomatic chessboard what his postion is in relation to them - perhaps even threatening war to his neighbours and taking his international guests hostage? Imagine, I shudder to think, what would happen if Gaddafi decided to invade Egypt should he survive this crisis, or Tunisia? Libya shares borders with both, and by all measures, his recent words can well serve as precursors to war. Is he threatening the region, and the international community of bringing a whole new level of instability by stirring up war? It is not unfeasible - most dictators know that a good way to consolidate and unify one's nation is through war. Perhaps he is raising the ante in order to demonstrate the lengths he is willing to go to, or is he just a paranoid old man lashing out at his various past demons, the collective sum of his scarecrows, hauled out together for once, in his most desperate moments.

It would not be the first time that Muammar Gaddafi has engaged in terrorizing the international community, and unless he is stopped now, it won't be the last. It is no longer a moral question of whether to take action in Libya, it is a question of when and how action should be taken. It is clear that Libya has devolved to a state of lawlessness and leaderlessness that is is dangerous to its citizens and its neighbours, near and far. To prevaricate now, is to lose the opportunity to move with the momentum of protest action in Libya, and later it would seem, that when action is eventually taken, they were actually taken with more impetus to secure oil than to save human lives.

Gaddafi Gone Mad!

So Muammar Gaddafi has finally lost the plot! As the country falls into destruction and ruin, he has the gall to speak about what an inspiration Libya is to the rest of the world. I mean ... really? I have never stopped to ponder the great example that Libya is to the world. What reality is he living in, and how dangerous will it prove to be to the rest of the world? Well, for one, the longer he holds out the more the price of oil will be affected, and more immediately, Italy's supply is already suffering losses.

His speech seems to be situated in the past of his own revolution. It is phrased to implicate current day revolutionaries as 'counter-revolutionaries' to his revolution, which happened 40 odd years ago. It turned into a square rant against America and the rest of the Arab world - one could say he barked out his speech like a rabid dog, still lost in the now faint scent of old victories and survival against cold war enemies, past and present indistinct, blending into one. Most of the demonstrators that are out on the streets of Libya right now weren't even alive, or were barely alive, when Gaddafi came to power.

One thing seems certain. He has shown the same misguided determination that Saddam Hussein and his cronies did when they were invaded, presenting a strong front, smacking of old school Arab patriarchy and condescension, lost in an old world romanticism that no longer exists. He is a fossil bleating out an ancient tune. He is sure to die soon. The only question is, how many others will go to their deaths before he does.

To be sure, the paranoia that he carries around is enough for all those living in hell, and the hell that exists in his mind is now becoming a reality for his countrymen, projected upon all dissension, painting all events with the brush of conspiracy. Yet the truth is that Gaddafi is hardly an important figure in the world, and most Western governments were happy to deal with him in order to obtain oil, but it is highly unlikely that they spend their time conspiring against him in order to get their hands on his oil. The awful truth is that as long as he didn't go too far, they were prepared to deal with him.

It is only with the advent of this humanitarian tragedy within Libya that international organisations are scurrying about trying to formulate a response, and the position that they are forced into now was not of their making. Conspiring to destabilise one's own oil supply in the current economic climate is pure suicide, and it is pure rubbish to claim that a conspiracy of 'agents' has been responsible for the uprisings. His speech, mainly directed against America, was disengenous, calling on cold war rhetoric to save his now almost extinct skin. Referring to the protestors as 'brats', he claimed that they were just imitators of the Egyptian and Tunisian revolution.

His speech made impassioned calls upon the people of the country to come out in support of him and his regime and to go out and 'take the greasy rats off the streets', which is in effect a signal that his security forces are now preparing to go underground and to take to the streets in the guise of civilians to step up the murders and harassment that civilian protesters have been subjected to. It has to be a set-up, a last attempt to create a push against the protesters - as other dictators have done?

He implored civilians to go out and arrest the 'bunch of terrorists' (a remarkable irony in itself) and to secure their neighbourhoods. He is adamant, that the protesters will be prosecuted. Nary has a dream been more viciously deluded. Reading from the green book upheld by his right hand, he has threatened the civilian protesters with death sentences, going further than any of the other dictator regimes have gone in his response to the protests that have overtaken the middle east. As if a book should have power over life and death in these circumstances.

Now the protesters have no choice but to ensure, beyond all reasonable doubt that Gaddafi is either pushed out of Libya forever, or that he is himself killed. He has made his position clear - he is planning to wage all out war on his own people, threatening to exercise the death sentence on any and all opposition. Supposedly that includes his 7 ambassadors, army defectors, airforce defectors, etc. In a remarkable display of denial he asked of the audience, "do you want us to be like Somalia?" failing to acknowledge that the state of Libya is already a failed state.

His speech, vaccillating between different realities, on the one hand accuses American interests, and on the other hand islamists, for being responsible for what is going on in the streets of Libya today. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that either senility or some other kind of mental disorientation is at the root of this vicious, patriarchal tirade against the youth of his country, the future of Libya, who are dying out in the streets, fighting against mercenaries, snipers, aircraft and anti-aircraft guns.

It is clear that Muammar Gaddafi plans to take Libya down a dangerous path, asking his 'subjects' to go out and 'apprehend' the protesters. This is most likely because he has already lost control of the army, and whatever is left of the state. This desperate ploy is a last ditch attempt to call on whatever support he might have left amongst the people. No doubt he is wishing for a great turnaround, a great victory that can restore him to his pedestal - but the truth is that if he cared a jot for anything but his own survival he would step aside and allow for reforms to take place in peace, and let democracy take its course.

This last ditch attempt to create a counter-revolution are the last breaths of a man who has ruled with an iron fist, and no longer has any appreciation of the reality of what is happening to Libya right now. It may take years, even decades for Libya to recover, and they will be forced to sell off their valuable natural resources at cheaper and faster rates in order to recover from this crisis, within an already unfolding global economic crisis. They will be driven into negotiating away their future and the future of their children, all because their leader doesn't know when to quit. His decision-making now, is a clear indication of where this crisis is set to go, if he isn't stopped right now, and finality is brought to his rule so that the Libyan people can continue into a new future of their choosing. He is in a state of deep denial about his role in this revolution, trying to claim it as his own revolution ... "this is our revolution" he claimed, while shaking a book at the television. What we are seeing here is a master manipulator of the past, an old dog trying to turn tricks, who is sure to see his end one way or another. After an hour of listening to him I am no closer to understanding anything except that he and his son share the same condescending, vile manner of address ... shaking their forefingers at the camera, reclining casually in their expensive dress, and threatening all dissent with death. The fact that he is already attempting a purge, should be a clear indication of where this is leading.

Nobody will have the luxury of claiming that they were ignorant of what is unfolding right now in Libya in the future that is emerging in the Middle East. It is pasted all over the satellite television channels, newspapers, internet news sites, facebook, twitter, cellular communications, etc. for all the world to see - except China that is. What excuse will the world have not to act? Act now, set the example, and stabilise what is clearly an unravelling state lost in the throes of it's last dance. As for Libyans, their only choice is to fight, as if they give up they will be hunted down and sentenced to death with impunity.

Perhaps what is most sad about watching Gaddafi make his long speech, his rambling appeal to Libyans where he both chastises and claims their love at the same time, the model of the old school patriarch that has lost all sense of the reality in which he lives. The mere fact that he can come out and make such a long address (indeed, much as his son did) to a suffering and fearful populace, appealing to them to split their ranks and start fighting with each other instead, refusing to even acknowledge that there are fundamental problems in the country that affect the people of Libya, and offering them no real way out of the crisis except death.

The farce of cold war politics, seen in the light of the current, vastly changed political landscape of the globe, is ugly indeed. It is clear that he plans to embark upon a civil war within Libya, and a purge is sure to follow if he isn't forced to step down. All his promises of committees, etc. are pure lies, manufactured to help split the protesters, who are no doubt beginning to wonder if any kind of 'normal' would emerge anytime soon.  

United Nations Must Bring Charges Against Libyan Authorities

The UN has a critical role to play in stabilizing the middle east, and it starts with making an example of authoritarian regimes that employ dirty tactics to destabilise democratic protests that are occurring in their countries. When Hitler committed mass genocide, it started with citizens of his own country. The same is true of most genocidal conflicts - they erupt locally, as in Bosnia and Rwanda. Sovereignty is no excuse to stand by and watch a humanitarian disaster unfold while the international community has the power and influence to intervene directly to prevent the gross violations of human rights that are unfolding. Sovereignty belongs to the people of Libya and not it's errant and estranged rulers.

Gaddafi and his retinue must face charges in the international arena, and own up to the disastrous decision-making that has unfolded from the Libyan regime over the past few days. This is desperately needed in order to set an example to other authoritarian regimes that embark upon a path of violence upon their own citizens. This is especially so as political protests spread across the middle east.

It is true that the precedent that intervening may set may in fact prove dangerous for stability in the region, but the cost of not intervening may prove far costlier. The same people who are suffering extreme violence and a sense of isolation, will soon be electing their leaders, reshaping their constitutions and deciding on how their foreign relations should be conducted. It is time for the West to put its money and effort where it's mouth is. A protection force is desperately required in Libya, and by all accounts, the Libyan regime needs to be ended now, whether through internal or external action.

Libya Gone Too Far - Intervention Necessary to End Farce

To remain convinced that the Libyan revolution can be treated in the same 'hands off' manner as the international community adopted towards Egypt might prove a very costly decision in the future, both in terms of human lives, and access to the oil resources of Libya.

In contrast to the Egyptian revolution, the Libyan revolution is currently unfolding violently, in a dramatic and epic pitched battle between protestors in the streets and Libyan security forces and hired mercenaries. And there have been spadefuls of farce to accompany the chaotic and panicked state of decline of the regime. Gaddafi's and his son have appeared on television in different slots, in both cases failing to offer the Libyan people any way out of the crisis - essentially offering them the choice of submission or death. And these threats have been followed through, with the Libyan airforce attacking from the air, and security forces and mercenaries attacking from the ground.

Gadaffi's son rambled incoherently on television, often repeating himself, accusing the millions of protestors of being 'drugged with ecstacy' (I have yet to see a trance party turn into a revolution). He took the opportunity to lash out at everyone in the international community and middle east neighbourhood, and ended his speech with the threat to 'fight to the last bullet'. Gaddafi himself, who hasn't been heard from since the beginning of the protests, made a ridiculously farcical appearance on television, sitting inside a car but holding out an umbrella in a pathetically staged attempt to give the appearance that he hasn't fled Libya (it was raining in Libya). Both father and son made no attempt to deal with the pressing issues of reform and democracy being died for on the streets of their country, with millions of their countrymen sacrificing themselves out of a sense of duty to bring about change.

The international community cannot stand by. A former British prime minister has called for the international community to establish and enforce a no-fly zone in Libya, in order to put an end to the Libyan airforces raids on Libyan cities and citizens. There is more that can be done. The UN can put together a coalition of forces to take and secure critical military bases, airforce bases, airports and ports. They should also disable all Gaddafi's residences, properties and command posts, and drive him further underground, freeze all his and his son's assets, and put special forces into the area to conduct more daring, risky operations to bring the regime to an end. Just parking a NATO aircraft carrier within striking distance should be enough of a threat to the armed forces, who are well aware that they cannot take on the might of the international community.

Seven international Libyan ambassadors have resigned. The Libyan ambassador to the UN has already called for Gaddafi to step down. How much more is necessary for the international community to move its bulky and bureaucratic systems to move towards creating collective momentum and taking action? All the precedents for international action are already there, and while it is often dangerous to act too quickly, in this case, acting too late might prove more dangerous to both the Libyan people and the foreign interests and partners who have lined up for access to Libyan oil. 

Letting a country die in the streets at the hands of its own rulers, while gladly lapping up the country's natural resources with no sense of responsibility to the real owners of those resources is also farce. And currently, farce is meeting farce, and humanity is suffering, and the long term costs of this suffering will come back to reverberate upon all those who stood by and did nothing to help.  

Libyan Army Must Step Down!

It is evident that international opinion is quickly being refocussed on taking appropriate actions in Libya, to prevent widespread civilian massacre by the military. It is clear that there is on going back on the events of the past few days in Libya, that has seen masses of young males in pitched battle with security and army forces, or just generally congregating in large numbers where-ever they can in order to secure the territory of their urban spaces. The Libyan airforce has attacked protesters in green square, even though two pilots defected, flying off course and landing at a nearby airbase in Malta, one hour away. There are many allegations and claims of proof that anti-aircraft weapons have been used against civilian protesters, as well as foreign mercenaries that have been brought in, who act as snipers or patrol in drive-by styled shootings at civilian protesters in 4by4 vehicles, similar or identical to those used by the state security branch in Libya.

Yet there are no tangible plans for reform being announced, discussed or even voiced by the embattled Libyan government, which now seems to be run by the son of Muammar Gadaffi, a PhD graduate of the London School of Economics, and crisis-governance spokesperson of the government, who previously played a strong role in the quest for wider and deeper reform. Something is very deeply amiss with the government of Libya right now; it may be that the entire state has collapsed, and this does indeed seem to be case, and that a precious few are making disastrous decisions at the top. It may be that all semblance of order has disappeared and desperate actions are being taken.

The undeniable fact is that the number of deaths and casualites is probably a lot higher than what is currently being reported. It seems clear that the military has been coerced to move against the general populace - yet surely they must understand that they will be held accountable for their actions at some stage, whether Gadaffi steps down or not. And surely they must understand that the international community, having waited 7 years to intervene in Bosnia-Hercegovina, may now prove more willing to make an early intervention, with the approval of the UN and the Security Council. In fact, it may set a precedent for how to handle rogue states at a global scale, as the rapid pace at which changes are occurring in Libya requires a faster reaction time from the UN and the powerful nations of the Middle East and the West. The Emir of Qatar, when interviewed on Al Jazeera, directly called for the international community to take appropriate action that goes beyond condemnation, and Barack Obama said that he was keeping his options open.

If that doesn't amount to motions towards war I don't know what does. It is clear that there is the contemplation of using a rapid stabilising force intervention in Libya to stabilise the state, and to ensure that Libyan oil continues to flow. Heck, some people might already be calculating their potential profits, given the grand consortium of commercial interests that congregated behind the war on Iraq. It will be of dire consequence if international armed intervention in Libya isn't led by the UN, and Security Council resolutions in favour of action, and that the UN undertakes to ensure that the intervention is undertaken primarily on humanitarian grounds, and not as an oil saving exercise. As important as the price of oil is, the blood that is currently being shed into Libyan oil makes it an unethical investment in any event. BP, to be sure, must be reeling in shock with this disaster coming quick on the heels of the toxic mega-spill in the US.

The Libyan Army are running out of time. Their first charge is the protection of the citizens of Libya, as members of the armed forces. Yet they have seemingly gone on the attack upon their own country, and who is left to secure peace and security that is critical for society to function. The army are the last resort, when every other system of governance fails ... so when they fail a state has failed in total. The question remains, will they Libyan army step down, or will they have to face international forces in battle on one side, while they try to pin down their populace on the other? It seems infinitely logical for the Libyan military to either take a stand, or assume ultimate neutrality, and soon.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Gaddafi's Son Goes Scarface on Libyan TV

Gaddafi's son, Saif El Islam Gaddafi, has just given his last speech to the Libyan people. It is inconceivable that his rambling, incoherent and disconnected speech, in which he accused the protestors in Benghazi of being drug addicts who were busy consuming the drug ecstasy. So what now, from the facebook revolution to the ecstasy revolution? Is that what he'd have the world, and Libyans believe?

Waving his finger authoritatively at the camera, he proceeded to give the Libyan people a speech that only a Bernie Madoff could pull off. He is adamant that Libya will not be lost to a revolution without widespread bloodshed and massacre, vowing to fight to the end. Yet while he referred to the people of Libya as 'brothers', it was clear from his body language and the comments and questions thrown out with a tilt of a head that he has little regard for the intelligence of the greater majority of his countrymen.

He railed against everyone in the world, west, east and Arab, with little concern for the diplomatic ramifications that this may create. "Do you think that ..." he teased, often and with condescension, that America, the EU and Britain would allow Libya to fall into sectarianism? Do they really believe that they wouldn't be here in two days to take over the country? This is not Egypt or Tunisia, he was at great pains to elaborate, even though the majority of Libyans are pretty clear on where they live.

Yet there was a persistent manipulativeness in his tone, and in the length of his speech. He came across as a schizophrenic good-cop/bad-cop act with a superiority complex to boot, and it is hard to believe that his speech won't effectively pour petroleum, instead of water, on the fires burning throughout the country. By stooping to such low and reprobate standards of communication, the revolution in Libya will probably turn to intense violence before either the army swops allegiance, and takes centre stage as the 'guardian' of the revolution, as in Egypt, or as the protestors have already shown, they will fight in the streets until they win their bloody and irreconciliable victory.

Gaddafi's son was dismissive of the Libyan people in his speech, almost challenging them to go against his 'sterling real-politik' analysis of the crisis facing Libya, where it is clear that people are dying in great numbers, and where this level of self-sacrifice isn't ordinarily driven by pragmatic 'real-politik' considerations, but by deeper considerations that concern the core aspiration of all human beings everywhere, which is simply the desire to be free. And the people in Benghazi have won their freedom, and they will be reluctant to relinquish it.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Let Tahrir Square Be!

The Egyptian army doesn't have a clear strategy for dealing with the still occupied Tahrir square. Why not just let the square act as a space for democratic expression until the elections ... sort of an Egyptian hyde park where issues can be debated, discussed and protested over? It would honour the spirit of the revolution, and act as a seed for germinating democracy in Egypt.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

What Freedom Means

When asked what she thought freedom was, ex-Black Panther - and current day exile in Cuba having escaped from political imprisonment in America,  Assata Shakur - withdraws into surprise for a few seconds before speaking,

"Freedom? You asking me about freedom?" 
"... asking me about freedom!" she whispers, as if stunned by the irony of the question.

"Well I'll be honest with you. I know a whole lot more about what freedom isn't than about what it is ... because I myself have never been free. I can only share my vision with you of what freedom is ... the way I see it, freedom is the right to grow, the right to blossom, freedom is the right to be yourself, to be who you want to be, to be what you want to be ..."

Freedom is an idea or a word at worst, but when you've never had freedom it is like falling in love for the first time. It is pure romance, and this lover takes the shape of all gods, it is elevated above everything and you will die for it, lie for it, and cry for it. You will climb mountains for it ...

But ultimately, freedom is an unfaithful girlfriend ... and remains elusive even at the best of times. It is something that ultimately only we can give ourselves, even when the shackles are gone.  Freedom is hard to live with sometimes, as everything is in your hands and you have nothing and noone to blame when it all goes wrong. Freedom the lover, demands your utmost humility. Ironically, she demands your submission if you are to drink at her cup. 

Freedom is not arrogant or bellicose. Freedom is oblivious at best. But it still has to be fought for, over and over again, and make no mistake, everyone wants to make freedom their sole property and hoard her away for themselves. Some use money, power, difference and status to obtain an unshared freedom. Noone succeeds, but everyone tries. The futility and irony of trying to capture freedom never occurs to those who are desperate for it, and so they yearn for and desire the unattainable through what can be attained, and real freedom remains elusive. 

Real freedom is both personal and shared, it is both sides of a coin, and can only be found when one or all stops running from fear. Freedom is discovered through confronting fear, and living with it long enough to transform it. Freedom cannot be won. Liberation can be won, but not freedom. Too many people are liberated but are everywhere in chains, even without a Mubarak in their lives, and living with freedom necessitates dealing with this paradox. 

So what of freedom in Egypt and the middle east? Egypt has been liberated, but it is not yet free. It is a baby discovering freedom, a one day old child born free, yet everywhere in chains. The Egyptian people need to maintain their momentum through civil mobilisation and action at local level if they want to ensure that this transition leads to a freedom and liberty that is meaningful. 

Friday, 11 February 2011

The 'Father' of the Prodigal Nation

What will it take for those who are responsible for ensuring governance in Egypt to step in and depose Mubarak, who is now courting the Chinese and the Saudi's in a desperate bid to hang on to power? "Who needs America?" one could almost hear him grunt, as he launched into another delusional bout of excessive self-identification with the Egyptian people. He is their 'father' and they'd better do as they're told, or else! 

There were many peaceful avenues available to Mubarak, but he has chosen to embark upon a dangerous trajectory of ostrich-style leadership, in the hope that the demonstrations will fizzle out and revolution will be thwarted, ensuring that his precious 'legacy' is maintained; a legacy that will only be remembered for the past three weeks. That is, tthree weeks that represent the most powerful changes the world has witnessed since the victory of the civil rights movement, the fall of the Berlin wall and the end of socialism in the Soviet Union. The Egyptian people have already moved into a new mode of existence. They have tasted freedom, and while I would not like to appear overly romantic I have experienced the change that occurs when freedom is tasted for the first time - it spreads like contagion, and quickly establishes itself in the minds and hearts of people. It is easy to maintain control over people who have never tasted any freedom, but those who have only recently discovered it, are loathe to lose it, and will die defending it. New freedom is addictive.

Hosni Mubarak and the army have become a diabolical duo, sending out conflicting messages to the Egyptian people, luring them into situations where they can justify using deadly force against them. If the army come down on the side of Hosni Mubarak, and launches a campaign of violence upon peaceful protestors, war and chaos will arrive at Egypts doorstep, and quickly. The populace will become radicalised, and they will choose those who stand with them and die with them in the streets. When they eventually overcome the state there will have to be a widespread purging of the elements that stood by Mubarak. History has shown us how absolute and complete these purges can be ... and if the already terrorised people of Egypt have lost all trust in their institutions (especially the army) then the purge will involve executions of all those who cannot be trusted in the view of the people or their new revolutionary leadership. 

The people and their revolutionary leaders will begin to mimic the very same absolute and resolute attitude that has been used to oppress them. They feel they have to rid their country of a cancer - and this is where the most dangerous agendas can play out with impunity. If the new Egypt arises out of a bloody revolution and post-revolutionary purge with widespread executions, it is uncertain what kind of Egypt will emerge. 

If the army acts internally now they would have the full support of their people and the international community, and the opportunity to establish widespread democracy in the middle east will be siezed. If the international community acts now to impose direct sanctions and withdrawal of aid programs from the Mubarak government, and show their unequivocal solidarity with the Egyptian people then this departure from sitting on the fence will help consolidate the internal movements towards democracy in Egypt, and will speed up the rate of change.     

In everyday life there are many tinpot dictators who rule tiny fiefdoms with all the vigour of a Mubarak or a Mugabe, but they do not hold power over millions of people and their destinies - their territories are small and insignificant in the bigger scheme of things. We have all met people who are incapable of accepting responsiblity of the disasters they bring upon others.  They delude themselves into believing only in the selective truths that are manufactured in their minds.  Nobody can rule for 30 years without becoming a senile despot and it seems that Egypt may be on the sad path towards 'Zimbabwedom', where everything collapses while one man holds an entire nation to ransom and millions of people fall deeper into starvation and ruin.

Nobody wins their freedom alone. They win it in concert with others, and this is perhaps the most severe test of the spirit of the Egyptian people. It will only end when they force him out of the presidential palace, and perhaps burn it to the ground.  Egyptians have discovered a shared dream that far outweighs the reality of daily life under the boot of a dictator and their revolution will be theirs. Whether they die in the streets or the torture chambers and jails of the regime they will win their freedom. If they have to take on the army then they will do that too. The whole world is watching, and should they start firing upon unarmed protestors they will forever be marked with the shame of betrayal. It may even put the soldiers on the ground under so much pressure that they mutiny and revolt against their commanders. Whatever happens, this won't end until the Egyptian people obtain their freedom, and if it requires international intervention then by all calculations it is better to intervene sooner rather than later.

Mubarak had the opportunity to leave peacefully and with dignity, but he was incapable of siezing this opportunity, preferring to stall and frustrate the will of the Egyptian people.  He could have sailed off into the sunset and lived out his days in Egypt immune from prosecution - he had the power to negotiate such a deal but now that time has passed. This is clearly a fight to the death - one man and his army against an entire nation. One man and a small select bunch of cronies are placing the entire transition at risk, and now he will have to face charges for abuse of power after he is deposed. The extent of his negligence as a leader warrants prosecution.

It is understandible that the international community was at a loss when this uprising initially emerged onto the streets of Egypt and the middle east, but we have now reached a point where making a clear stand has never been more necessary. It took years of canvassing international opinion for the ANC to create the international pressure that broke the South African apartheid government, but times have changed; this transition has come upon Egypt and the world with such speed that there isn't time for the diplomatic jostling to unfold behind the scenes. 

What Egypt needs from the international community is not quiet diplomacy but clear leadership and a clear stand on the morality that is at stake here. An entire nation stands pitted against one man and the machinery of the state and they have rejected him at every turn as their leader. He is no longer their leader, he is clearly their oppressor. Yet he stands before them in absolute defiance of their will ... every word that comes out of his mouth robs them of their humanity, humiliates them further and infuriates them at their powerless under him. All this while the international community drifts along, releasing meaningless phrases that help nobody, bringing no real external pressure upon this illegitimate regime. 

The same international community that went to war on Iraq with scant evidence of 'weapons of mass destruction' is unable to act in the name of the millions of ordinary people who have made their voices heard. What more do they need before they stand up to this challenge and show clear leadership that places direct pressure on the Egyptian government and military to act in accordance with the wishes of its people?

The revolution is now in the hands of the army. Should they refuse to take up this responsiblity then it will soon be back in the hands of the people, and who knows where it will go from there. Act now, so Egypt does not become another Zimbabwe, firmly trapped under the boot of a dictator that refuses to go and sees every day of survival as a self-reinforcing victory over the world, growing more powerful because there is no courage left in this world, except amongst people who have no other choice.

The army seems incapable of taking a stand alongside its people, despite the support it has received from the protestors. Mubarak has forced the hand of the people, and that of the army. He is bent on provoking a situation where the only alternative to his rule is total collapse when the people rise up and the army splits into fragments. Egyptian state tv is now completely surrounded by protestors, and nobody can get in or out. This is an important gain in the battle for freedom. The presidential palace is also being surrounded, and the army are doing their best to barricade both locations in from the protestors. Today is going to be the biggest test of Egypt's humanity, and while I would like to see people hoist their flag from the rooftops of the presidential palace, I would be happier to see the army kick Mubarak out and let the anger turn to celebration rather than destruction.

Dead Presidents!

For a moment it looked as though the military had taken their cue from the people of Egypt and stepped in to take control of a country in chaos. As if grandstanding to some degree, the army released a statement that gave the people, and the international community,the impression that it was about to step down. But it soon became clear that Hosni Mubarak and Omar Suleiman are taking the same line that Saddam and his cronies did even as enemy troops were advancing upon their capital. They had become so used to creating reality through their utterances that they actually believed that if they talked as though they were winning they would eventually inspire people to rise up and fight alongside them to expunge the US forces that were advancing upon them ... and all the while the US army advanced closer and closer to Baghdad and the noose tightened and tightened.

What is even more ridiculous about Mubarak and his vice presidents speeches is that they spoke as though they themselves are in favour of the revolution - something they have been dead against from the outset. Mubarak even had the temerity to describe himself as the 'father' to the people in the square. And if Hosni Mubarak is the father of this nation, then the army is its mother ... and both parents were giving conflicting and confusing messages to millions of people who have already been demonstrating for three weeks ... as if to deliberately confuse them and the all attentive press and to rob them of their sense of certainty.  

It is certain, however, that the anger has amplified considerably on the street. Already, people are seething with humiliation, at going unheard and unacknowledged, brushed aside as though they were a bunch of kindergarten children fighting over a soccer game. And there is no doubt that Mubarak enjoyed humiliating them. Suleiman looked less sure of himself as he weighed in after Mubaraks speech to affirm Mubarak's position, revealing, yet again, his utter lack of understanding of what kind of changes were occurring around him. 

At this stage, what viable options do the Egyptian people have? If the military do not step in and remove Mubarak from his pulpit, it will be left to the people on the street to end the struggle they are currently engaged in. The blood that has been, and will be shed in this revolution will lie in the hands of the military and the Mubarak regime. If the military turn on the people, it will be the end of Egypt and the Egyptian army.  The Egyptian people will have nowhere to turn except to pick up arms ... what is the future if this is the trajectory that is forced upon a desperate populace now? Well for one thing, Hamas will be the only force that can readily supply the arms ... and since they themselves have been squeezed into a barely liveable inhuman existence by the Mubarak government why wouldn't they comply?

The people of the country have clearly and resolutely spoken with one voice for the first time since they surrounded Nasser's palace in 1952. Should they find no support internally, or externally, then they will live with their necks trapped under the foot of an illegitimate regime for another fifty nine years, and it is clear that the people are loathe to return to the status quo and are willing to put up a long fight.

So will we have demonstrations every day until September? Is that 'stabilising' the country? The reality is that Mubarak's own party (the NDP) has called for him to step down. Is he really going to run the country in a two-man band partnership between him and Suleiman? Something was really off kilter about Mubarak's recent speech - it is a calculated attempt to create yet more instability. The only problem with the situation now, is that he has put the people, the army and himself in a situation where they have to take a next step in order to advance, or fall into mutually assured destruction.

If there is a peaceful transition now, facilitated by the military, thousands of lives can be saved. But if they're getting out their popcorn again, and settling in to watch their people die in the thousands, then they will be judged. And revolutions judge harshly indeed. People demand heads in revolutions! It is only in peace and reconciliation that chaos is avoided, and everybody walks away. Mubarak's refusal to step down from the throne can surely mean only one thing - he is a dead man walking if the people get to him before the army do. If the only option left is to fight him out of the palace then that may be exactly what he gets. And tomorrow, a sandstorm of people will descend upon the capital, all with one purpose in mind; to depose Mubarak and his illegitimate rule.

I watched the online recordings of Saddam's hanging ... it was a pathetic end; nothing dignified in it at all, despite all the theatrics and dramatics that came before, the end was benign, his death more of a relief than a celebration. Only with his death could everyone breathe again. His unbending resilience, in the end, undid him.  Hosni Mubarak is now living a completely different reality from the people who he prevails over as president of the country, and when these two realities meet there will only be one survivor. Someone who cannot give up his grip on power, even in the face of such overwhelming odds, can only be removed in the most ultimate of ways, lest he creep back in and infect the country with his influence and take it back into a state of fear and oppression. Now I know why people lynch their hated leaders during revolutions ... the problem with dictators is that they just don't know when to quit. What feeds them eventually consumes them ... the people!