Judgment in Libya

Who Is Muammar Gaddafi?

There is a price to be paid for being too quick to make judgments about who or what is good/bad or right/wrong. Passions are stirred by such judgments but they too often close down inquiry into a fuller understanding of diverse perspectives. Libya is a case in point.

According to the corporate media, Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi fits the mold of corrupt dictators under siege from long-suffering populations yearning for democracy—going so far as to judge him as a monster for massacring his own people and delusional in his accusations against those who oppose his rule. Yet there are many circumstances particular to Libya that should be taken into account before such a rush to judgment. According to a report written for West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center by Joseph Felter and Brian Fishman, entitled “Al-Qaeda’s Foreign Fighters in Iraq,” [slow-loading PDF: ] northeastern Libya is a major source of Jihadists activity, instigating turmoil in Iraq. This region, which includes Darnah and Benghazi, has a long history of Islamic militancy that dates back to the original mujahedeen effort against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, supported by the Pakistanian ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) and the CIA, which gave rise to al-Qaeda. Likewise Gaddafi has a long-standing conflict with the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamic groups seeking a greater role for Islam in the cultural, social, and political affairs of State.

Gaddafi views himself as the revolutionary leader with a Pan-African vision that puts him at odds with many leaders of the Arab world who have cast their lot with the West (US and Europe). His ambitions have clearly made some very powerful enemies. He has already ruthlessly repressed a revolt during the mid-‘90s while the world’s (Germany’s and the US’s) attention was focused on dismantling Yugoslavia during another “humanitarian intervention.” The intelligence services of England have in the past gone so far as to “recruit” elements of al-Qaeda to assassinate the Libyan leader.

So when Gaddafi rants that there is an al-Qaeda influence among those determined to bring him down he may not be as crazy as the corporate media depict him. Libya is not like Tunisia or Egypt. Gaddafi has used a portion of his country’s oil wealth to benefit a growing middle class (at least that part that supports his revolution) by subsidizing housing and providing free healthcare. Without a proper understanding of the motivations of the Libyan leader, US foreign policy will continue to yield unintended consequences.

The important lesson here is that as humanity confronts the remarkable challenges it faces as it transitions from a divide-and-conquer power-based perspective to a more ethical and compassionate one, true understanding will depend upon an awareness of a full range of choices—choices that may be foreclosed by a rush to judgment.

Guy McCullough lives in Lompoc.

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