As Colonel Muammar Gaddafi desperately clung to power and the people of Libya faced the most brutal battle yet in the wave of uprisings spreading through the Arab world, there were suddenly calls from the West for some form of intervention to “protect” the Libyan people – who had already demonstrated their ability to protect themselves.
The uprising began in the east of Libya, in the city of Benghazi, where there are reports of more than 200 people being slaughtered by Gaddafi’s forces. Nevertheless, the city was liberated, an ad hoc government and committees to organise public safety, food distribution and other basic needs being established.
Some reports say that up to 1000 people had been killed across the country, and thousands of people have fled to neighbouring Tunisia and Egypt.
As Gaddafi’s isolation increased, there were more and more resignations from his government, including the interior (i.e. police) minister. Diplomats posted throughout the world also resigned in protest against the murderous repression. There were large defections from the military and police.
Significant parts of Gaddafi’s terror force were foreign mercenaries who were indiscriminate and devastating in their brutality. Reports and footage from the capital, Tripoli, tell of mercenaries and military loyal to Gaddafi enforcing a curfew with lethal force. Gaddafi and his son, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, made several statements threatening to fight the uprising “to the last drop of blood”.
As in Egypt, where Mubarak’s repressive forces failed to stop the uprising, the Libyan people stood defiant, continuing to protest in large numbers despite their losses. As more and more parts of the country were liberated, Gaddafi’s forces were increasingly isolated to Tripoli, the last real foothold of the regime.
In his speech on February 21, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi stated: “Libya is not Egypt, it is not Tunisia” – a phrase all the remaining dictators of the region repeat like a magic formula, which they hope will exempt them from the growing Arab revolt. The history of each country is of course different; Gaddafi has not always been a puppet of imperialism, as Mubarak was. There is much debate about the nature of the regime throughout its 42 year history, but there is no questioning the fact that since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Gaddafi has made his peace with imperialism. He was an outspoken supporter of the “war on terror”, expelled Palestinian migrant workers in the 1990s and signed an agreement in 2008 with the Italian government to assist in stopping African immigrants entering Italy.
As with the Egyptian uprising, the US and other imperialist governments demonstrated their vile hypocrisy by condemning the violence and mouthing support for the popular uprising. Given the history of the US government’s support for dictatorships and its own history of brutal repression and occupation in the region (and throughout the world), this hypocrisy is not just sickening but is also dangerous.
The US is scrambling to maintain control in the Arab world. Washington was caught off guard by the scale and depth of the uprisings. There is a threat that it will try to use the sympathy for the Libyan people to justify a military intervention.
But the people of the Arab world know too well what such an intervention would mean: the subjugation of the will of the people to the interests of US imperialism. If Gaddafi is a brutal dictator, then one runs out of words to describe the reality of US imperialism in the region and the death, murder, rape and destruction that its occupations have wreaked on the people of the region over the years, exemplified by Iraq and Afghanistan in the last decade. The current occupation of Iraq has already cost the lives of 1.3 million Iraqi people. That fact alone testifies to the Orwellian nature of US “support” for the will of the Arab people.
The people of Libya are sorting out their dictator. They are organising and fighting for their own liberation. And just as the Egyptian and Tunisian people achieved “the impossible”, so too will the Libyan people.
The imperialists care nothing for the will of the Libyan people. They care only about the fact that the Arab uprisings will ultimately challenge their interests. That is why they are threatening to intervene: to re-impose their own will on the people of Libya and gain a stronger foothold to counter other uprisings throughout the region.
This is why we must fight against any imperialist intervention in Libya, whether it is carried out by US forces or their proxies in NATO or the UN. We must stand firmly on the side of the Libyan people and their fight against dictatorship and for self-determination.