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We weren’t sure we were going to put out a March issue, but we received some very insightful material on Libya and the revolutions in the Arab world that we couldn’t resist helping to get out to a wider readership. We believe our offerings this month help articulate a principled anti-imperialist response to the crisis in North Africa鈥攁 question which has unfortunately occasioned much confusion on the left.

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Issue #173, March 2011

Electronic Journal & Daily Report ANTI-IMPERIALISM AND THE LIBYAN REVOLUTION From Latin America to the Arab World by Santiago Alba Rico & Alma Allende, Rebeli贸n INTERNATIONALISM, LIBYA AND THE ARAB REVOLTS by Pierre Beaudet, Viento Sur LIBYA: THE WASHINGTON-LONDON DILEMMA… Read moreIssue #173, March 2011


by Michael I. Niman, ArtVoice, Buffalo, NY

For the past three weeks our screens have been awash with images of indignant Egyptians defying their brutal government with a loud, unprecedented, unified call for democracy. Our radios hummed with an accented song of rage, indignation, hope, and, finally, triumph and jubilation. The script for this drama moved fast, as if made for generations weaned on the ADHD world of TV. It was three weeks from the first public signs of discontent to the fall of Egypt’s president, Hosni Mubarak. The whole scenario has played out with almost no bloodshed so far.

Prior to this month, Egypt had been a dictatorship of one sort or another for 6,000 years.

Like a House Party, But Bigger
The genesis for this revolution, upending one of the most firmly entrenched status quos in history, took form last month as Facebook chatter. Like American college students planning a 40s-and-blunts party, Egypt’s soon-to-be revolutionaries posted calls for their online community to meet up in public squares and peaceably call for an overthrow of their ancient dictatorship. And, like the invite for the house party that drew a thousand guests, the Egyptian Facebook call for revolution went viral.

The infovirus that took down the Egyptian government had vectors stemming out of Tunisia, whose dictatorship collapsed a month earlier, similarly after a short but massive outburst of peaceful street protests and strikes. The first skirmishes of what the international media calls the “Jasmine Revolution” also played out on Facebook, when the Tunisian government’s infowarriors attempted to hack their population’s Facebook access to oblivion鈥攖his in response to a rapid, almost exponential increase in Tunisian Facebook accounts at the start of the year.

The government’s hack offensive ultimately failed, as Tunisians went on to use the social network to share logistic information about the anti-government protests and the government’s response. Twenty-nine days after protests began, dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali’s 23-year reign abruptly ended with the collapse of his regime. In the wake of his fall, the term “social media revolution” started to take on new meaning, especially in Egypt, where tech-savvy youth had been following the Tunisian drama.

Weaponized Facebook
And the virus keeps spreading. Inspired by the Egyptian revolution, activists in the Persian Gulf island monarchy of Bahrain, home to the US Fifth Naval Fleet, issued a statement calling on “all Bahraini people鈥攎en, woman, boys and girls鈥攖o share in our rallies in a peaceful and civilized way to guarantee a stable and promising future for ourselves and our children.” And hence the Bahraini revolution began, with riot police attacking demonstrators with rubber bullets, tear gas, and concussion grenades. The kingdom of Jordan has also caught the bug, with Twitter- and Facebook-inspired democracy protests coalescing this week.

Meanwhile, in Yemen, on January 28, as the Egyptian revolution was gaining steam, 24-year-old al-Razaq al-Azazi started a Facebook group called “Let’s change the president,” which he later renamed “Revolution against ignorance,” in preparation for pro-democracy demonstrations. More than 1,200 people defied the government and accepted the site鈥檚 invitation to a February 3 “Yemeni People Uprising,” challenging the three-decade-long reign of their government. This past weekend, during four days of protest, police attacked demonstrators with US-made Taser weapons while pro-government goons descended on the crowd swinging bottles, sticks, and other crude weapons. The Yemeni government, like Egypt and Bahrain, is a strong ally in the US “War on Terror.”

Across the Sahara from Egypt, Algerian Facebook and Twitter accounts have been buzzing with democratic revolution, too. Early street demonstrations there are successfully pressuring the government to end its 19-year-old, civil-rights-restricting “state of emergency.” However in mid-February, Algerian security forces, in an effort to contain the growing democracy movement, arrested approximately 400 demonstrators.

It’s not just US client states that have caught the Egyptian bug. In Iran, demonstrators gathered illegally to celebrate the popular pro-democracy uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, sparking Iran’s Twitter-inspired Green Revolution back to life. Democracy protesters are battling to occupy Azadi Square in Tehran as I sit here and write. On the cyber front, activists appear to be posting what some journalists believe are doctored videos showing mass protest footage from over a year ago with more timely chants celebrating the democracy movement’s victory in Egypt dubbed in. The apparent aim here would be creation of a perception that the protests are once again massive, which in turn, would likely result in them once again becoming massive.

The spark has also spread to Syria, where Facebook, though officially banned, is available via proxy servers around the globe. Using both Facebook and Twitter, thousands of people called for a “Day of Rage” in mid-February. In response, the Syrian government sentenced a high school blogger to five years in prison for anti-government posts, as young Syrians gear up for the next round of their nascent revolution.

While all of these revolutionary movements have been kindled by social media sparks, it’s important to note that they all have deep-seated roots that predate the recent uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. However, these two revolutions demonstrated that removing a Middle Eastern dictator is indeed possible, thus raising the stakes and bringing people back out in the streets throughout the region. The new social media platforms allowed people to celebrate collectively both the victories in Tunisia and Egypt and the fantasy that maybe they could be replicated at home.

Moreover, the new communication technology brought home the reality that revolutions don’t have to be violent, as tweets and posts affirmed collective commitments to nonviolence in advance of protests. Once social media effectively spread the word that protests would be nonviolent, they became acceptable to wider swaths of the population, ultimately emerging as genuinely popular uprisings.

Victory, If But for a Moment
Social media brings a new aspect to communication. Where TV is inherently anti-democratic, with one voice talking to the masses who can’t talk back, social media opens up a two-way discourse, allowing for organic, leaderless movements to reset national zeitgeists. The staying power of these leaderless revolutions remains to be seen. To date, they haven’t really fully liberated any territory鈥攋ust moments of time where crowds won the space to cheer in public squares. The Egyptian revolution created what anarchist theorist Hakim Bey terms a temporary autonomous zone, or TAZ. For a moment, Egyptians from a host of diverse backgrounds put their differences aside and fought for a simple common goal: ridding the nation of its dictator. And they were rewarded by the triumphant moment that is inspiring oppressed people around the world.

At this moment, and only at this moment, we can imagine the Egyptian revolution, like a lover we haven’t yet met, to be anything we want it to be.

The reality on the ground is that while Egyptians defeated their dictator, his military is now running the country, essentially coming to power in a coup at the height of the demonstrations. So far the protestors who brought the dictator down don’t have a seat at the table as the ruling military leaders re-engineer the Egyptian political landscape.

Of course, their revolution, like our own 1776 revolution, will never be over, and they know it. Hence, Egyptians in the street keep reassuring international journalists that they are wary, but not fearful, of the military. Their reasoning is that their passion for democracy has been unleashed and is unstoppable. Time will tell how temporary or permanent the Egyptian moment proves to be.

It’s also important to note that these social media revolutions aren’t grassroots movements, as the grassroots don’t have internet access. For that matter, the grassroots often are not literate. In Yemen, for example, only one half of one percent of the population has access to the Internet, and hence to social media. And only 50 percent of the population can read.

What makes these revolutions possible, however, is who this wired minority is. The new breed of Facebook and Twitter warriors aren’t the landless peasants we normally associate with revolutions, and ultimately with massacres at the hands of the government. Instead, they’re the relatively affluent and hence powerful middle class. As such, their class status provides them with just enough invincibility to get away with expressing discontent.

Put simply, there’s a greater chance of an inquiry when you arrest, beat, or murder a child of the educated bourgeoisie.

Where social media gets its real power is that once these folks open the door for revolution, everyone else can more easily jump on board. Then traditional social media鈥攚ord of mouth, graffiti, and so on鈥攃an take over, and you have revolution.

But You Better Hurry
It’s also important to understand that the moment for Facebook and Twitter revolutions is about to pass, so you better have your social media revolution quickly. While the still developing global Internet provides an anarchistic communications platform, the more developed Internet that we are beginning to see reins in this democratic chaos. While the Internet allows users in the developing world to incite revolutions (which still must play out in the street), developed police states see the Internet with an opposite potential鈥攁llowing them to spy on activists and track incubating political movements. In a technologically savvy police state, both you and your tweet may never see the light of day.

So don’t drink the “social media revolution” Kool-Aid. And don’t throw away your spray paint.


Dr. Michael I. Niman is a professor of Journalism and Media Studies at Buffalo State College. His previous columns are at, archived at, and available globally through syndication. This column first ran Feb. 17 in Buffalo’s alternative weekly ArtVoice.

From our Daily Report:

Protests hit Saudi Arabia; “Bloody Friday” in Yemen; riots in Alexandria
World War 4 Report, March 5, 2011

Reprinted by World War 4 Report, March 6, 2011
Reprinting permissible with attribution



by Paul Rogers, OpenDemocracy

The emerging pattern of resistance and repression in Libya following the outbreak of protest in the eastern city of Benghazi on February 15 is very different from that in other parts of the Arab world. In part this reflects the distinctive nature of the country, and of the regime of Moammar Qaddafi which has ruled Libya for 42 years.

The military-political standoff there, and the degree of violence the regime is using (and seems prepared to use) to maintain and restore its control, raises the acute question of what and how much the international community can do to support Libyans’ rights and security.

The question has been forcefully raised in the United States and Britain in the first week of March 2011, where domestic pressures from senior members of the media and the foreign-policy community have combined to press the respective governments to take a firm stand.

The hardening rhetoric has included talk (especially from Britain’s prime minister, David Cameron) of some form of military action against Libya, including the imposition of a “no-fly zone”; though states such as Russia and Turkey instantly discounted this suggestion, and the US defense secretary Robert M. Gates鈥攚ith a reference to “loose talk” that represents a coded rebuke of Cameron鈥攊s notably cautious about the logistics of enforcing such a zone.

There may be elements of diplomatic bluff in the efforts of Washington and London in particular to exert pressure on the Qaddafi regime. But words have consequences, and the effect of the rhetoric is also to create expectations (including among Libyans) that action will be taken to resolve the crisis in a positive way. The relatively tough resolution passed on February 26 by the United Nations Security Council, and the International Criminal Court’s declaration on March 3 that it would investigate leading figures of the Qaddafi regime for possible crimes against humanity, contribute to the sense of momentum here.

Yet the international community and its leading states still face broader problems over whether and how to intervene in relation to Libya. They involve calculations over how the complex and fluid conflict inside Libya will unfold, assessments of the capacity and impact of the instruments at their disposal, and issues relating to the legitimacy and inheritance of earlier interventions in the wider region鈥攅specially those led by the United States and Britain in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Libyan Prospect
The immediate problem is the uncertain course and outcome of the crisis within Libya. The regime appears to be maintaining reasonably firm control of the greater Tripoli district; this contains nearly a third of Libya’s population of 6.1 million, including many of those with direct or indirect links to the regime (including key army units).

It is just possible that Moammar Qaddafi and his key allies (including his immediate family) will seek to consolidate this area and refrain from serious attempts to regain control of the whole country鈥攊n turn providing a degree of space for some new form of governance to be introduced.

The assaults on Libyan oil-terminal towns such as Brega towards the east on March 2-3 make this option look even less likely, however. Against it, the evident determination and effectiveness of those resisting his rule may succeed in eroding the confidence of some of his forces and create a tipping-point of change towards a different order.

But perhaps a more feasible development (and in many ways the worst-case one) is that the regime deploys extensive force against lightly-armed protesters, inflicting many casualties and much destruction. The regime has greatly superior military resources at its disposal: strike-aircraft, helicopter-gunships, and elite forces, such as the 32nd Brigade and paramilitary units attached to the security and intelligence organizations.

The Military Response
The problem of what the international community should do is highlighted by the rapid switch in David Cameron’s position towards greater denunciation of Qaddafi, which followed stinging criticism of the delays and inefficiency of his government’s response to the crisis (especially in evacuating British civilians from Libya).

The new approach soon proved equally vulnerable, as it coincided with the revelation of weaknesses in national defense鈥攐ver the Eurofighter project (now costing around 拢100 million per plane), the announcement of cuts of 11,000 in armed-forces personnel (including soldiers returned from Afghanistan), and a report from a parliamentary foreign-affairs committee critical of the military-political strategy in Afghanistan.

The Barack Obama administration too has been obliged to take account of a wider climate of opinion. This is composed of both belligerent Republicans who see in every foreign-policy crisis a military solution, and policy experts concerned that the US develop a more coherent policy towards the Arab uprisings (and, in the case of Libya, explore ways of implementing the “responsibility to protect”鈥攖hat is, the obligation of United Nations member-states to act together to protect people’s lives and safety when these are under attack, including from their own government).

The administration’s response has centered on the redeployment of the US Navy’s sixth fleet. The fleet is headquartered near Naples; its carrier battle-group (headed by the USS Enterprise), recently on anti-piracy patrol off Somalia, transited the Suez Canal into the eastern Mediterranean on March 2. This powerful amphibious-assault capability includes the USS Kearsarge and the USS Ponce. The Kearsarge alone is a 41,000-ton Wasp-class ship twice the size of Britain’s recently decommissioned aircraft-carrier, HMS Ark Royal; it is normally deployed with 1,850 marines, forty-two CH46 transport helicopters and five AVH-8B jump-jets.

This build-up, together with that of other naval and US aerial forces in the region, is significant. But in itself it does not offer a solution to the interventionist dilemma.

The Interventionist Dilemma
The combination of events on the ground, public pressure and limited military re-deployments (as well as the humanitarian crisis resulting from the large-scale flow of displaced workers of many nationalities inside Libya) is difficult enough for Western governments to handle. It would become even more so if a war of attrition develops further in Libya, with greater suffering and increased calls (including by Libyans at the sharp end of conflict) for direct foreign military intervention.

The broad-based appeals for international action from within the region include one from a coalition of over 200 Arab non-government organizations drawn from eight countries, including Egypt, Morocco, Qatar, Syria and Saudi Arabia (see Thalif Deen, “Arab Civil Society Calls for No-Fly Zone over Libya,” TerraViva/IPS, March 1).

Even the proposal of a no-fly zone over the Tripoli area would be a huge operation that would require several carrier battle-groups and aircraft with permission to operate out of neighboring countries. The effort to stop Libyan strike-aircraft from flying would (as the US defense secretary outlined before a congressional panel on March 2) require the suppression of air-defense missile systems, associated radar stations and command-and-control centers; after all this, even more difficult would be preventing the use of helicopters (an issue whose omission from the ceasefire agreement that concluded the war over Kuwait in 1991 allowed Saddam Hussein to crush the Shi’a uprising in southern Iraq with extreme violence).

Moreover, there remains a possibility that鈥攅ven were a no-fly zone to be established and succeed in controlling aircraft movements鈥攖he regime might still be able to maintain control via the intensive use of ground forces. In that event, the coalition enforcing the zone would be required either to acknowledge failure or escalate.

The Political Dilemma
The current scenario plans of leading states must take such concerns into urgent account. But there is a further problem over military intervention (as opposed to other forms), which is at heart political.

Any successful campaign to protect Libyans from the Qaddafi regime by military means would need to be organized by the United States, and be aided by supportive countries such as Britain. The reputation of these states across the region remains in key respects very negative, however, after what is perceived as their history of self-interested and illegitimate intervention (most of which had minimal United Nations approval).

Thus, the imposition of a no-fly zone (and its accompanying attacks) would be portrayed by the Qaddafi regime as part of a campaign to colonize Libya and grab its oil鈥攁 narrative that would almost certainly resonate even among many of the Libyans who had called for such a policy (and many other people in the region).

The immediate transformation from an internal war to one of “external aggression” would also have many implications beyond Libya, including in the Arab countries whose citizens have been mobilizing in support of freedom and democracy. It would not take many air-strike targeting disasters of the kind that have become so common in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Somalia for ambivalence at western action to revert to deep hostility.

All this emphasizes the position of the United Nations in relation to the debate over intervention, and in particular the doctrine of the international “responsibility to protect” (R2P) developed in the late 1990s following the disastrous failures to prevent genocide in Bosnia and Rwanda. The work of putting this doctrine into practice at the highest level then collided with rival geopolitical agendas, especially following 9-11 and the George W. Bush administration’s declaration of the “war on terror.”

The UN was from the start central to the discussions over R2P, many of which led to a recommendation that a UN standing force supported by a full logistics capability was essential to put the idea into effective practice. In the event, this proposal has so far come to nothing, leaving a handful of individual states with any kind of rapid-intervention capability: Britain and France (on a small scale), India (in theory, and close to its borders), and the United States (the only state with a global reach).

The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have had appalling human consequences. But their damage goes far wider, for they have made genuine international cooperation in pursuit of shared human interests鈥攊ncluding the “responsibility to protect”鈥攎uch more difficult. In the absence of a sudden capitulation by Libya’s regime, the costs of this damage may continue to be demonstrated in the coming days and weeks.


This story first ran March 3 on Open Democracy.

See related story, this issue:

by Rene Wadlow, Toward Freedom
World War 4 Report, March 2011

Reprinted by World War 4 Report, March 6, 2011
Reprinting permissible with attribution



by Rene Wadlow, Toward Freedom

While the People’s Revolution in Tunisia and Egypt was largely non-violent, the revolution in Libya may turn still more violent as the last of the palace guard circle around Colonel Qaddafi, his family and a small number of people with tribal ties to him.

Somewhat too late in the day, the UN Security Council demanded an embargo on arms sales to Libya. However, the country has more arms than it can use. The Security Council also requested the International Criminal Court to investigate if there have been war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Libya as well as freezing the foreign bank holdings of the Qaddafi family.

The UN Human Rights Council, like the Commission on Human Rights, had been silent on human rights violations in Libya for years. In fact, the then Libyan Ambassador, Najat al-Hajjaji, a former wife of one of the Qaddafi sons, had chaired the Commission on Human Rights in 2003. There is now discussion of expelling Libya from the Human Rights Council; however, the Libyan representatives in both New York and Geneva have resigned in order to join the opposition. At this stage, Colonel Qaddafi is not interested in diplomatic symbols.

The representatives of the European Union are worried, especially of a possible migration of Africans through Libya towards Europe. Colonel Qaddafi had signed an agreement that he would try to control migration through Libya toward Europe, and he had been given speed boats from Europe to help him in his task. The Europeans are also worried about energy supplies from Libya, although Libya represents a very small鈥攕ome 2 percent鈥攐f energy to Europe, easily replaced from other sources. However, revolution in Libya and unrest in other parts of the Arab world has moved oil prices upward, and they are not likely to go down soon. NATO planners are meeting, reflecting the same worries as those of the EU officials.

The EU and US officials remind one of the aristocrats watching the French Revolution from safety in London or Belgium. They had not seen that the people were getting tired of the contempt in which they were held, nor that there was a rise of an educated middle class that could take care of itself without the nobles and the clergy. Likewise many in the Arab world can do without the kings and tribal chiefs, without the higher military officers who played a role of nobles and without the preaching of the Islamic clergy.

Today’s People鈥檚 Revolution, like that of France in 1789, is the victory of an educated middle class bringing along with it in its current a mass of the unemployed, small merchants, regular soldiers often from the rural farming milieu which has little prospered from modernization.

The question now is how will the young and educated middle class in the Arab world be able to structure a new society based on relative equality and justice. In each country, there are remains of the old society with some power, some skills, and a continuing sense of their own importance. We have seen in Tunisia how some of the old structure wanted to continue in power though this was met with continuing street protests.

Creation of new structures in a society is never easy. Both Tunisia and Egypt face an influx of workers fleeing Libya. Just as the French Revolution did not have only friends abroad, the People’s Revolution of the Arab world has more sceptical observers saying “what next?” than friends.

The governments, such as those of Algeria, Morocco and Jordan where only the first shocks have been felt, are promising “reforms” or “bread and circuses” but probably too little and too late.

The People’s Revolution is just that, the rise of a new people, not yet structured into a real social class. It has some leaders but rarely on a national level, and interest groups are only partly structured. This is not chaos except in the sense described by the classical Greek thinker Hesiod who saw chaos, creativity, and transformation working together. For Hesiod, chaos was not confusion but a richly creative space which flowed from the dual cosmic forces of heaven and earth or as in Chinese philosophy, from Yin and Yang. From this chaos comes new and more mature organization, one with more complexity and greater adequacy for dealing with the challenges of life.

Thus we need to find ways to support the People’s Revolution, to keep an eye open for counter-revolutionary activities and to watch closely as the next structures are put into place.


Rene Wadlow is a representative to the United Nations, Geneva, for the Association of World Citizens. This story first ran March 3 in Toward Freedom.

See related story, this issue:

by Pierre Beaudet, Viento Sur
World War 4 Report, March 2011

Reprinted by World War 4 Report, March 6, 2011
Reprinting permissible with attribution



by Pierre Beaudet, Viento Sur

The right-wing press in Venezuela and throughout the world is raving against the government of Hugo Ch谩vez for its expressed support for the regime of Qaddafi. The Venezuelan exterior minister, Nicol谩s Maduro, has declared that the repression in Libya was necessary in the name “of peace and national unity.” The same Venezuelan right recalls that Ch谩vez has visited Libya frequently since 2001, most recently in October 2010, with the aim of signing various accords relating to oil, agriculture, communications and higher education. In his turn, Fidel Castro emphasizes that the destabilization of Qaddafi’s regime forms part of a NATO strategy to invade Libya, implying that we consequently must support the regime.

This is all amazing, and brings back bad memories. For several years, Hugo Ch谩vez has been seeking to reinforce his cooperation with states whose principal characteristic, from his point of view, is opposition to United States hegemony (Iran, Belarus, Zimbabwe, etc.). In Iran, the reactionary regime of Ahmadinejad vaingloriously boasts the good relations maintained with his Venezuelan “brother.” Certainly Fidel Castro has a point in at least one aspect: US imperialism is ready to intervene to “save”” Libya as in its day “save” Iraq and Afghanistan. For the anti-imperialist and other-worldist movements of the world, the dilemma is not trivial.

It is impossible to defend these reactionary regimes on the pretext that they oppose the United States. There is no room for doubt that Libya or Iran are ruled by autocratic and predatory regimes that beat back popular aspirations. The repression in the form of massacres of innocent civilians or the denial of fundamental rights (arbitrary detentions, torture, etc.) have nothing to do with the vulgar “anti-Americanism” of Qaddafi and Ahmadinejad, but reflects a pathological obsession with maintaining power. Even so, the fact is certain that the current crisis opens the door for imperialist intervention that will hoist, as in Iraq and Afghanistan, the “humanitarian” flag.

It is already known that the “humanitarian aid” operations on the part of US imperialism only generate still more repression, still more massacres. After the programmatic destruction of these states and their peoples by US occupiers, Saddam Hussein and Mullah Omar seem retrospectively to be mere heads of criminal bands.

The Double Standard
Likewise, it is not necessary to emphasize the absolute hypocrisy of the Western powers that are “scandalized” by the repression in Libya as they “ignore” that carried out by their Israeli, Saudi or Colombian allies. Said powers not only support these dictatorships, but they maintain commercial and military links with “strong” states whose merit is to maintain “stability.” Do we recall that Qaddafi himself, today condemned by Washington and its allies, was just recently a “partner” in oil exploitation, and was welcomed in the “endless war” of the United States against “international terrorism”?

Where does this leave us? Should we support the enemy of our enemy at the expense of the truth and struggle for justice?

In a time not long distant, this Manichean logic acquired caricatured forms. Movements of the left across the world declaimed their support for the Soviet Union, for China (or Albania!). They said, “the world is divided in two and we have to choose sides, like it or not.” We had to swallow a lot of toads [accept the unacceptable鈥攅d.] in regard to the brutal Soviet invasions of Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan. There were parties of the extreme brain-damaged left that defended the same Chinese government that supported repression in Chile and Sudan, or that invaded Vietnam under the pretext of opposing “Soviet hegemony.”

This antique political culture that has done so much damage to the left vanished after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the monstrosity that called itself the “international communist movement.” Later, unprecedented mobilizations and movements surged in many parts of the world, and especially in Latin America, finally liberated of this sickly vision: it was no longer necessary to support the Soviet “Big Brother,” which in any case had ceased to exist. It was no longer necessary to be afraid to solidarize with the Chinese people in Tiananmen Square. There was no longer doubt in condemning dictatorships such as those of Khomeini in Iran or Saddam Hussein in Iraq, because failing to do so would be playing the game of the United States’ “humanitarian” imperialism. In this way, the social movement reinforced its legitimacy, reaffirming untouchable principles, beginning to support all people who struggle against oppressors, no matter who they are.

New Threats
Today, things have become a little complicated. US imperialism is retreating, yet at the same time on the offensive. It has been exposed as incapable of winning the “endless war” in pursuit of the foolish dream of “re-ordering the world.” Nonetheless, it has not suffered a strategic defeat, and maintains under Obama the same strategy, even if many of the tactics have changed. In the center of this effort is the will of the US, together with its subalterns in the European Union, Japan and Canada, to establish absolute supremacy in the world. The real adversaries in this project are above all China and Russia, in a competitive logic that is the soul of capitalism and imperialism. But given that these states are powerful, it is not possible to attack them head-on; therefore the tactic consists of waging conflicts on “secondary” fronts鈥攚eak or fragile states that refuse to submit to the Empire. This was the case with Saddam and today it is the case with Ahmadinejad.

Clearly, this offensive against “rogue states” thusly defined by Washington forms part of a long-term strategy to shore up its supremacy and prevent real or potential adversaries from expanding their influence. Evidently, to not let these “competitors” reinforce themselves, capitalist and imperialist practices are consolidated on the backs of the world’s peoples.

Epicenter of the Crisis
In the current phase, the epicenter of the crisis is in that vast arc that crosses Asia and Africa through the Middle East, where the main energy resources are located, and where persists a culture of anti-imperialist resistance that has caused hard reverses for United States hegemony on several occasions鈥攁nd where the present rebellions have surged. There is no doubt that for the US and its strategic partner Israel, the prisons, the tortures and massacres are acceptable when the dictatorships demonstrate their “effectiveness.” But now they have ceased to be so.

Nonetheless, the battle has not ended. Washington is seeking to stabilize the situation and assure an orderly “transition,” which implies maintaining essentially the same politics as before. They need to support the repressive apparatuses, modernizing them and maintaining them under the authority of US military mechanisms. They also seek to seduce part of the so-called “middle class” which has acquired privileges, but which also seeks to loosen archaic and antiquated autocracies, installing “liberal democracies” whose mission consists of maintaining neoliberal policies and controlling the region to the benefit of the US and at the expense of its multiple enemies. The operation is risky, but has at times been obtainable, as occurred in Indonesia, the Philippines and other countries. In this “crisis management,” it can also be very tempting to totally or partially occupy select countries, as much to install in them new centers of military command as to eliminate “free radicals” or uncontrollable elements in the mode of Qaddafi (or Saddam Hussein in his moment).

This could also come to pass in Yemen, in Sudan, in other places where repressive regimes persist that have occasionally confronted the US and which now “dissimulate” in order to gain a place in the sun under the “Pax Americana.” If this project materializes, the consequences will be disastrous for the peoples of these countries. In any case, Libya in the hands of the imperialists will be a real threat for the emancipation struggles throughout the region.

History Continues
Meanwhile, on the ground, the popular revolt continues. In Egypt and in Tunisia, the popular classes begin to enjoy their freedom and (self-)organization. Every day, new popular organizations appear in the factories and barrios. The people continue occupying the streets and reminding the “renovated” dictatorships that they will not accept subterfuges.

The task of this new popular movement is enormous, especially considering that during the years of the dictatorships, with the aid of their Western mentors, they repressed everything that moved. Thousands of activists were assassinated, imprisoned, exiled. All opposition movements were crushed or鈥攚hen they played by the “rules of the game,” as the Islamist movement did in Egypt鈥攃o-opted, content to occupy a subaltern space and collaborate with the regime. It is understood, therefore, that now the proletarian masses seek new instruments, new identities. This cannot be constructed from one day to the next.

It is correct and justified to expose Western hypocrisy鈥攂ut not to portray the “anti-imperialist” dictators as allies of the “cause.” In this sense, the policy of the Hugo Ch谩vez government is not acceptable. Worse still, it threatens to delegitimize that state which has had the courage to impose new priorities in response to the popular expectations in Venezuela. It is necessary to find the way to say this in a way that will not be exploited by the discourse of “humanitarian” imperialism.

But in the end, this is not the highest priority. That must be to support, seriously and systematically, our true allies in the womb of the popular movements. In the first place, they lack everything, including the indispensable resources which are now monopolized by the middle classes, little prone to facilitate the organization of the masses. It is in this point that internationalist mobilizations can intercede. We maintain our course towards Helwan and Gafsa [working class cities in Egypt and Tunisia, respectively] and the various places of popular mobilization by those little spoken of, and see what we can do to assist them in a concrete and immediate manner.

In the second place, it is mandated to incorporate and involve these sectors in the construction of the world social movement, where they can and wish to contribute much, and also where they can fertilize the popular dynamic of all the world. In this sense, the World Social Forum must redefine its priorities for 2011 and 2012, and concentrate is forces in North Africa and the Middle East.


Pierre Beaudet is a professor at the University of Ottawa, an editor of the French-language Journal des Alternatives, and an organizer of this year’s World Social Forum, to be held in Dakar. This story first ran March 4 in the Spanish-language publication Viento Sur, which translated it from the French. It was in turn translated into English by World War 4 Report.

From our Daily Report:

Libya: rebels retake oil port, US sends warships
World War 4 Report, March 3, 2011

Libya: rebels tighten circle around Tripoli; Western intervention next?
World War 4 Report, Feb. 25, 2011

See related story, this issue:

What鈥檚 going on in Libya?
by Santiago Alba Rico & Alma Allende, Rebeli贸n
World War 4 Report, March 2011

Reprinted by World War 4 Report, March 6, 2011
Reprinting permissible with attribution



What’s going on in Libya?

by Santiago Alba Rico & Alma Allende, Rebeli贸n

We have the impression that a great worldwide liberation process may be aborted by the unappeasable ferocity of Qaddafi, US interventionism, and a lack of foresight in Latin America.

We might describe the situation like this: in a part of the world linked once again to strong internal solidarities and from which only lethargy or fanaticism was expected, a wave of popular uprisings have arisen which have threatened to topple the allies of Western powers in the region, one after the other. Independent of local differences, these uprisings have something in common that radically distinguishes them from the orange- and rose-colored “revolutions” promoted by capitalism in the former Soviet bloc: they demand democracy, certainly, but far from being fascinated by Europe and the United States, they are the holders of a long, entrenched, radical anti-imperialist tradition forged around Palestine and Iraq. There’s not even a hint of socialism in the popular Arab uprisings, but neither is there one of Islamism, nor鈥攎ost importantly鈥攐f Euro-centric seduction: it is simultaneously a matter of economic upheaval and democratic, nationalistic and anti-colonial revolution, something that, 40 years after their defeat, suddenly opens an unexpected opportunity for the region’s socialist and pan-Arabist left.

Progressive Latin America, whose pioneering liberation processes constitute hope for world-wide anti-imperialism, ought to support the Arab world right now without reservation, moving beyond the strategy of the Western powers overtaken by events, as well as those who are providing an opportunity for Qaddafi’s return鈥攑erhaps militarily, but above all, propagandistically鈥攁s a champion of human rights and democracy. That discourse is hardly credible in this part of the world, where Fidel and Ch谩vez enjoy enormous popular credit; but if Latin America aligns itself, actively or passively, with the tyrant, the contagious popular advances that are already extending toward Europe, and have gone as far as Wisconsin, will not only see themselves irreparably halted but will also produce a new fracture in the anti-imperialist camp, so that the world’s ever-vigilant timekeeper, the United States of America, can seize advantage in order to recover lost ground. Something like this may already be occurring as a result of a combination of ignorance with schematic and summary anti-imperialism. The Arab people, who are returning to history’s stage, need the support of their Latin American brothers and sisters. But above all, it is the relationship between world powers that cannot allow for vacillation by Cuba and Venezuela without having Cuba and Venezuela also suffer the consequences, with Latin America and the hopes for transformation at a global level suffering along with them.

We might say that we know very little of what it happening in Libya and are suspicious about the condemnations coming from the Western media and institutional powers in recent days. We might leave it at that. The imperialists are more intelligent. With many specific interests in the area, they have defended their dictators to the bitter end, but when they have understood that those dictators were unsustainable, they have let them fall and chosen another strategy: that of supporting controlled democratic processes, choosing and deploying post-modern minorities as a driving force for limited change, a new rainbow of democratic rhetoric, in the sure knowledge that memory is short and leftist reflexes quite immediate. Any kind of Western interference must be opposed, but we don’t believe, truly, that NATO is going to invade Libya; it seems to us that this threat, just barely hinted at, has the effect of entangling and blurring the anti-imperialist camp, even to the point of making us forget something that we ought to know: who Qaddafi is. Forgetting this produces three terrible effects in the end: breaking the ties with the popular Arab movements, giving legitimacy to the accusations against Venezuela and Cuba, and granting new prestige to the very damaged imperialist discourse on democracy. All without a doubt, a triumph for imperialist interests in the region.

Over the past ten years, Qaddafi has been a great friend to the European Union and the United States, and its dictator allies in the region. We need only recall the inflammatory statements of support from the Libyan Caligula for the deposed Ben Ali [of Tunisia], to whose militias he quite probably provided weapons and money in the days following January 14. It’s sufficient as well to recall Qaddafi’s docile collaboration with the US in the framework of the so-called “war on terrorism.” The political collaboration has been accompanied by close economic ties with the EU, including Spain: the sale of oil to Germany, Italy, France and the United States has paralleled the entry into Libya by the large Western oil companies (the Spanish Repsol, the British BP, the French Total, the Italian ENI and the Austrian OM), not to mention the juicy contracts for European and Spanish construction firms in Tripoli. Moreover, France and the US have continued providing the weapons that are now killing Libyans from the air, following imperial Italy’s example from 1911 [the year Italy took Libya from the Ottoman Empire]. In 2008, the former US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice made it quite clear: “Libya and the United States share permanent interests: cooperation in the fight against terrorism, trade, nuclear proliferation, Africa, human rights and democracy.”

When Qaddafi visited France in December of 2007, [French-based commentator] Ayman El-Kayman summarized the situation in the following paragraph: “Almost ten years ago, as far as the democratic West was concerned, Qaddafi was no long a reprehensible individual: in order to get off the US terrorist list, he took responsibility for the bombing over Lockerbie; in order to normalize his relations with the United Kingdom, he turned over the names of all the Irish Republicans who’d trained in Libya; for normalization with the United States, he turned over all the information he had about Libyans suspected of participating in jihad along with bin Laden, and renounced his ‘weapons of mass destruction,’ as well as calling on Syria to do the same; in order to normalize relations with the European Union, he became the guardian of concentration camps where thousands of Africans headed for Europe are held; in order to normalize his relations with his sinister neighbor Ben Ali, he turned over the opponents of the Tunisian regime who had been living as refugees in Libya.”

As is apparent, Qaddafi is neither a revolutionary nor an ally, not even a tactical one, of the world’s revolutionaries. In 2008 Fidel and Ch谩vez (along with Mercosur) rightly denounced what was known as the “shameful directive” from Europe that reinforced an already very severe persecution in Europe of defenseless immigrants who’d been stripped of everything. Of all Qaddafi’s crimes, perhaps the most serious and least known is his complicity in the EU鈥檚 immigration policy, particularly that of Italy, as the executioner of African migrants. Anyone seeking a wealth of information on the subject can read Il Mare di Mezzo, by the courageous journalist Gabriele del Grande, or consult his website, Fortresseurope, where there is a collection of horrifying documents. By 2006 Human Rights Watch and AFVIC [Association des amis et familles des victimes de l鈥檌mmigration clandestine] denounced the arbitrary arrests and tortures taking place in Libyan detention centers financed by Italy. The Berlusconi-Qaddafi agreement of 2003 can be read in its entirety at Gabriele del Grande’s site, and its consequences summarized succinctly and painfully in the cry of Farah Anam, the Somali fugitive from Libyan death camps: “I’d prefer to die at sea than return to Libya.” Despite the denunciations of the real extermination practices taking place鈥攐r precisely because of them, proof of Qaddafi’s efficiency as Europe’s guardian鈥攖he European Commission signed a “cooperative agenda” [with Tripoli] in order to “direct migration flows” and “control borders,” valid until 2013 and accompanied by the delivery of 50 million Euros to Libya.

Europe’s relationship with Qaddafi has been a submissive one. Berlusconi, Sarkozy, Zapatero and Blair received him with open arms in 2007 and Zapatero himself visited him in Tripoli in 2010. Even the Spanish king, Juan Carlos, was dispatched to Tripoli in January of 2009 in order to promote Spanish business. On the other hand, the EU didn’t hesitate to humiliate itself and make a public apology on March 27, 2010, through the Spanish foreign minister at the time, Miguel 脕ngel Moratinos, for having prohibited 188 Libyan citizens entry into Europe due to the conflict between Switzerland and Libya over the arrest of one of Qaddafi’s sons in Geneva where he was accused of assaulting his maids. More than that: the EU didn’t issue the slightest protest when Qaddafi imposed economic, trade and human reprisals against Switzerland, nor when he effectively called for a holy war against that country and made a public statement about his wish that it be wiped from the map.

And so now when Qaddafi’s imperialist friends鈥攚ho’ve seen how the Arab world revolted without their intervention鈥攃ondemn the Libyan dictatorship and talk about democracy, we vacillate. We apply the universal template of the anti-imperialist struggle, with its conspiracy theories and its paradoxical distrust of the people, and ask for time so that the clouds of dust thrown up by the bombs dropped from the air might clear鈥攖o be sure that there are no CIA cadavers underneath. That is, when we don’t offer direct support, as the Nicaraguan government did, to a criminal with whom the slightest contact can only stain forever anyone who claims to be leftist or progressive. It’s not NATO who’s bombing the Libyans, but Qaddafi. “Rifle against rifle” is how the revolutionary song goes; “Missiles against civilians” is something that we cannot accept and that, without even asking ourselves, we ought to condemn with all our might and indignation. But let’s ask ourselves the questions as well. Because if we ask ourselves, the answers that we have鈥攆ew as they might be鈥攑rovide further proof of which side the revolutionaries of the world should be on right now. With any luck, Qaddafi will fall鈥攂etter today than tomorrow鈥攁nd Latin America will understand that what is happening right now in the Arab world has to do, not with the Machiavellian plans of the EU and the US (which without a doubt are maneuvering in the shadows), but with the open processes of Our America, that America which belongs to everyone, that of ALBA and dignity, since the beginning of the 1990s, following in the wake of the Cuba of 1958.

The opportunity is great, and possibly the last for a definitive reversal in the balance of forces, and for isolating the imperialist powers within a new global framework. We ought not to fall into such a simple trap. We ought not to underestimate the Arabs. No, they aren’t socialists, but in the last two months, in an unexpected way, they have stripped away the hypocrisy from the EU and the United States, have expressed their desire for authentic democracy, far removed from any colonial tutelage, and have opened a space for the left to thwart capitalism’s attempts to recover lost ground. It’s the Latin America of ALBA, of Che, and Playa Gir贸n [Bay of Pigs], whose prestige in this area remained intact until yesterday, that must support the process before the world’s timekeeper manages to turn the hands back and to its favor. The capitalist countries have “interests,” the socialist ones only “limits.” Many of these “interests” were with Qaddafi, but none of these “limits” have anything to do with him. He is a criminal and moreover, a hindrance. Please, revolutionary comrades of Latin America, the revolutionary comrades of the Arab world are asking that you not support him.


This story first ran in Spanish Feb. 24 on the Mexico-based website Rebeli贸n. This translation by Machetera, of the multi-cultural translators’ network Tlaxcala, first appeared March 3 on VenezuelAnalysis. It has been slightly edited by World War 4 Report.

From our Daily Report:

Libya: battle for Tripoli begins; more massacres reported
World War 4 Report, March 6, 2011

Hugo Ch谩vez to mediate in Libya crisis?
World War 4 Report, March 3, 2011

Latin leftist leaders in love-in with Libyan lunatic
World War 4 Report, Feb. 26, 2011

See related stories, this issue:

by Pierre Beaudet, Viento Sur
World War 4 Report, March 2011

How Will the Empire React?
by Paul Rogers, OpenDemocracy
World War 4 Report, March 2011

Reprinted by World War 4 Report, March 6, 2011
Reprinting permissible with attribution