Manchester, xenophobia and the left’s complicity

The horrific Manchester suicide bombing of May 22 is said to have been carried out by a son of Libyan refugees, and speculation is rife that he was linked to militant networks rather than being a lone wolf. The UK's right-wing tabs are responding predictably. The Daily Star screams that Libya has become an "ISIS breeding ground where THOUSANDS of terrorists are created." We are told that the attacker's older brother "was recently arrested in the Middle Eastern country after intelligence suggested he was about to commit an attack there." After thusly revealing that they don't know where Libya is (it's in North Africa, not the Middle East), the Star goes on to sensationalize about the jihadist threat there. Embarrassingly, it cites a UN report from November 2015 (yes, more than a year and a half ago) that warned, "ISIS has clearly demonstrated its intention to control additional territory in Libya."

Whatever ISIS aspired to in November 2015, it hasn't worked out. Sensationalism aside, ISIS controls but a small sliver of Libyan territory outside the city of Sirte, from which it is rapidly being routed by local militia forces. It has steadily been losing territory since 2015. The Star acknowledges that ISIS was driven from Sirte last year, but states (with weasily use of the passive voice): "In January it was revealed up to 3,000 fighters remained dispersed in the country following the fall of Sirte." Revealed by whom? This contention is contradicted by the Pentagon's own estimate of 200 ISIS fighters left in Libya.

Shamefully, this kind of exploitative reaction to the Manchester terror is also heard from the "left" (as it continues to be called, with ever less reason). One Caleb Maupin (a partisan of the Stalinoid Workers World Party, Wikipedia informs us) responds with a YouTube video that starts out by openly shilling for the Qaddafi dictatorship, crowing about the relative prosperity there before his overthrow. But then it was all spoiled when the US and NATO "funded terrorists and extremists to topple the government." The parents of the suspected Manchester perp "opposed Qaddafi" and "got asylum in UK." For Maupin, this is a bad thing. He sees a pattern: the disaffected from dictatorships in the Muslim world "get visas, then their kids come here and they kill people."

Isn't that cute? Stalinists and the right-wing yellow press, united at last. If anything, the prior category are actually even worse. With the usual imperial narcissism, Maupin is incapable of even acknowledging that there was a revolution in Libya. He can only see imperial "regime change" conspiracies, as if the Libyans were all perfectly happy under a megalomaniacal autocrat-for-life, and the country would be a socialist utopia today if those insidious imperialists hadn't gone in and upset the apple-cart. What a profound insult to the Libyans from this self-professed "radical journalist."

However, the rank xenophobia and Islamophobia is common to both Maupin and the reactionary tabs. The Independent informs us that the suspect's father "fled Tripoli in 1993 after Muammar Gaddafi's security authorities issued an arrest warrant and eventually sought political asylum in Britain." This is what pseudo-leftist Maupin opposes—in common with the Daily Star, the Brexiteers, and Donald Trump. How dare anyone in the Arab world oppose dictatorships or escape persecution by seeking asylum in the West! Better that the family had faced Qaddafi's torture chambers than contaminate British shores with their presence. Of course, Maupin's same Workers World party opportunistically professes solidarity with immigrants. Truly stratospheric levels of cynicism.

Tellingly, one Daniel McAdams has a nearly identical rant on the right-wing Ron Paul Institute website, preaching that the Manchester attack "was the product of the US and UK overthrow of Gaddafi in Libya and 'regime change' policy in Syria." The perp "was a radicalized Libyan whose family fled Gaddafi's secular Libya, and later he trained to be an armed 'rebel' in Syria, fighting for the US and UK 'regime change' policy toward the secular Assad government."

Right, the Assad regime, which is carrying out a bloody campaign of sectarian cleansing, is praised as "secular." And the instability in Libya is blamed on Western "regime change" plots rather than dictator Qaddafi completely supressing civil society for the 40-plus years of his autocratic rule.

Yet another example of the current left-right convergence around a program of enthusiasm for dictators, hatred of revolution, and demonization of immigrants and refugees. This Red-Brown politics must be vigorously and vocally rejected.

  1. Max Blumenthal joins Libya-bashing bandwagon

    The ever-problematic Max Blumenthal has a piece in (increasingly problematic) AlterNet with the depressingly predictable title: "The Manchester Bombing Is Blowback from the West's Disastrous Interventions and Covert Proxy Wars." Citing The Guardian, Blumenthal tells us the presumed Manchester perp's father returned to Libya with the 2011 rebellion to join the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. Writes Blumenthal: "He was part of the rat line operated by MI5, which hustled anti-Qaddafi Libyan exiles to the front lines of the war."

    First of all, it would be MI6, not MI5—that is, the UK's foreign intelligence branch, not its domestic one. Second, calling the Libyan volunteers "rats" is beneath contempt. The "rat line" is the name for the CIA-greased operation to allow Nazis to escape Europe for South America after World War II, where many of them wound up in the service of military dictatorships, like Klaus Barbie. These Libyan volunteers were returning to their home country to help overthrow a dictatorship! Hello? And if the volunteer in question, Ramadan Abedi, was part of an operation overseen by Western intelligence, curious that he was with the LIFG, an outfit that was officially designated a "terrorist organization" by the US State Department in 2004 (a fact The Guardian mentions but Blumenthal doesn't).

    This is all factually garbled, illogical, and grossly oversimplified, portraying an evil imperialist conspiracy against a happy and stable dictatorship in Libya. Most of all, it is deeply insulting to the Libyans and their revolution—which has been messy and complicated, as revolutions almost always are, but still an authentic revolution. Not a "covert proxy war."