News Release

Behind the Libyan “Success”

VIJAY PRASHAD [email]
Author of Arab Spring, Libyan Winter, Prashad is chair of South Asian history and director of international studies at Trinity College, in Hartford, Connecticut. He just wrote a piece on the attacks in Libya: “This is not the first such protest in Benghazi, the eastern city of Libya. Over the course of this year, tumult has been the order of the day. In January, a crowd stormed the headquarters of the National Transitional Council. In April, a bomb was thrown at a convoy that included the head of the UN Mission to Libya, and another bomb exploded at a courthouse. In May, a rocket was fired at the Red Cross office. A convoy carrying the head of the British consulate was attacked in June, and since then the consulate has been abandoned. In August, a pipe bomb exploded in front of the U.S. consulate building. Frustration with the West is commonplace amongst sections of society, who are not Gaddafi loyalists, but on the contrary, fought valiantly in the 2011 civil war against Gaddafi. The NATO intervention did not mollify a much more fundamental grievance they have against the U.S.-U.K., namely the sense of humiliation of the Arab world against the arrogance of Western domination in cultural and political terms. …

“A comprehensive Human Rights Watch report, ‘Delivered into Enemy Hands: U.S.-Led Abuse and Rendition of Opponents to Gaddafi’s Libya,’ released last week, details the stories of a number of the leading figures who were arrested around the world, tortured in U.S.-run prisons in Afghanistan and elsewhere, and then delivered back to Libya. They were handed over to the Libyan authorities with full awareness that they were going to be tortured or even killed. …

“The elections in July heralded an opening for Libya. The results were celebrated in the West, since it seemed that unlike Tunisia and Egypt, the Islamists had not garnered the fruits of the revolts. The neo-liberal sections, led by Mahmoud Jibril’s National Forces Alliance won a majority. Jibril had been the political face of the Libyan Diaspora. After a career in the Gulf, he returned to Libya in the 2000s at the urging of Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, who wanted to convert his country into a ‘Kuwait on the Mediterranean.’ When things did not work out as planned, Jibril got frustrated. He had no political base. When the rebellion broke out, Jibril threw in his lot with it, and thanks to NATO intervention, was able to use his affinity with the West to put himself into a position of political power. His victory in the polls vindicated NATO, which now felt that it had its man in charge — open to sweetheart deals for Western oil companies and eager to push further the neo-liberal agenda that was constrained five years ago.

“The rules for the July elections provided Jibril’s Alliance with a clear road to victory. Only 80 of the parliament’s 200 seats could be contested by political parties, with the rest to be filled with independents.”