FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Memories of Libya, 1982

In the early Spring 1982, I accompanied former US Senator Jim Abourezk (D-SD) to Libya. National Geographic had asked him to get Libyan permission to film several sites of Roman ruins.

He met with officials I walked Tripoli’s streets. At a coffee shop near the hotel, a group of young men stopped playing with their worry beads, brought their jumping knees into upright positions, and followed me. Like most of the young men I saw, my followers were well-dressed and looked healthy, maybe a bit OD’d on caffeine.

I tried to ignore them as I wandered into the Suq – the old market – in downtown Tripoli. It was mostly boarded up. President Qaddafi had built new five-story department stores.

Two night later, Abourezk took me to a new store. I saw large bins, typical of the US Dollar stores, but filled with expensive cuisinearts. On another floor, shoeless men in robes tried on designer suits (on racks). The Pierre Cardin suits came in loud pink, orange and purple.  Strange for a city without pimps or visible prostitutes! I watched some of these shoeless try the garments on and actually buy them.

One day, I dropped a post card to my daughter in a street letter-box. My uninvited escorts roared. In English, I demanded: “Why are you laughing?”

“No one pick up letters from that box,” one replied amidst giggles.

“Why are you all following me?”

The same man young man explained. “We members of secret police.”

“Secret?”

“All Libyans are members of Secret Police,” he clarified.

The group invited me for coffee. They had no jobs, and like most Libyans lived on subsidies. Foreigners did most of the non-government work. At the hotel Philippino men served as porters, Egyptians manned the front desk, Nubians waited on us in the coffee shop. After coffee and questions about America, they walked “our brother” back to the hotel.

In my neighborhood walks I noticed day care centers, schools, and hospitals. Qaddafi had indeed distributed oil wealth to the 2+ million Libyans – now 6 million.

Not all Libyans agreed. A waiter in a coffee shop on the road to the Roman ruins at Sabratha hated Qaddafi “a man from a traitorous tribe.” Together with a National Geographic photographer, I explored the remains of Roman streets, and architecture. Awesome! We met no tourists.

In the early 21st Century, Qaddafi shifted his political stance. He had abandoned the terrorist support path and dropped his nuclear weapons program. In response, Western leaders welcomed the Libyan ruler – Berlusconi kissed his hand. Then, in 2011, after the Arab Spring, the elected pinnacles of democracy in NATO  capitols charged him with threatening the lives of his own people – as if that would bother colonial powers who had routinely slaughtered Africans and still back ruthless repressive regimes in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. The NATO elite convinced a bare majority vote of the Arab League, and maneuvered a UN supporting mandate. Then, NATO launched an eight-month blitz on Libya – to protect its people.

With still uncounted thousands dead, NATO leaders beamed: their air power had finally worked – as it had not in Vietnam or Korea — to destroy a “rogue” government. They forgot (?) that the previous years they had feted Qaddafi; and the Libyan strongman had helped them in the war against terror. For abandoning his nuclear option, Qaddafi learned (briefly): no good deed goes unpunished or remembered.

Natoites flew 26,000 sorties, many with bombs and missiles; but only against “military targets” – not the Roman ruins. They issued no reports of Libyan deaths. But news footage showed dead bodies and destroyed homes. NATO’s spin: “Hurrah, the world is rid of the evil Qaddafi.

Anyway, the dead were bad guys; otherwise, good NATO pilots wouldn’t have killed them because their mission was to protect innocent civilians.

In 2010, the NATO government encouraged their arms merchants to supply Qaddafi with “a seemingly limitless supply of weapons.” Indeed, “at an arms fair in Tripoli; only a few days before the NATO operations started, French and Italian companies were busily upgrading Libyan air-force and army equipment.”

NATO and its entourage located and destroyed many of these those European-supplied weapons. When the new government cohered, would the same weapons dealers replace the stock NATO forces had destroyed?

NATO recognized the victorious democratic Libyan rebels. These NATO “democrats” had committed numerous human-rights abuses according to Human Rights Watch monitors. In Sirte, investigators discovered 53 corpses were found in an abandoned hotel – all pro-Qaddafi people.

In Tawarghaby, victorious insurgents  took brutal reprisals against pro-Gaddafi residents (“Libya militia ‘terrorises’ pro-Gaddafi town of Tawargha,” BBC News, 31 October 2011).

Secretary of State Clinton chortled (“We came, we saw, he died”) while reporters noted some rebel units refused to disarm; others looted and abused their captives. (David D Kirkpatrick, “In Libya, Fighting May Outlast the Revolution– NY Times, November 3, 2011).  Armed fighting between rebels has broken out at several locations.

Deatils! Not important. NATO’s adventure was a successful humanitarian intervention. It saved lives and upheld democracy. NATO withdrew. Who’s next?

P.S. Every day I spent in Libya I saw Qaddafi. At 5 PM the TV screen showed desert, with a small black spot in the middle. A very slow zoom began. By 5:05 a back shape emerged, which, by 5:07 appeared to be a man praying. You guessed it. By 5:10 Qaddafi bent his head to the ground and brought it up again in prayer. I won’t miss him – even on TV. But the postcard I mailed at the supposedly dead letter-box arrived in Washington – nine months later.

Saul Landau’s WILL THE REAL TERRORIST PLEASE STAND UP plays Dec 3 at 5:30 and 7:30 at the Kellen Auditorium, New School for Social Research, 66 Fifth Avenue. His BUSH AND BOTOX WORLD was published by CounterPunch.

More articles by:

SAUL LANDAU’s A BUSH AND BOTOX WORLD was published by CounterPunch / AK Press.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
December 06, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Eat an Impeachment
Matthew Hoh
Authorizations for Madness; The Effects and Consequences of Congress’ Endless Permissions for War
Jefferson Morley
Why the Douma Chemical Attack Wasn’t a ‘Managed Massacre’
Andrew Levine
Whatever Happened to the Obama Coalition?
Paul Street
The Dismal Dollar Dems and the Subversion of Democracy
Dave Lindorff
Conviction and Removal Aren’t the Issue; It’s Impeachment of Trump That is Essential
Ron Jacobs
Law Seminar in the Hearing Room: Impeachment Day Six
Linda Pentz Gunter
Why Do We Punish the Peacemakers?
Louis Proyect
Michael Bloomberg and Me
Robert Hunziker
Permafrost Hits a Grim Threshold
Joseph Natoli
What We Must Do
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Global Poison Spring
Robert Fantina
Is Kashmir India’s Palestine?
Charles McKelvey
A Theory of Truth From the South
Walden Bello
How the Battle of Seattle Made the Truth About Globalization True
Evan Jones
BNP Before a French Court
Norman Solomon
Kerry’s Endorsement of Biden Fits: Two Deceptive Supporters of the Iraq War
Torsten Bewernitz – Gabriel Kuhn
Syndicalism for the Twenty-First Century: From Unionism to Class-Struggle Militancy
Matthew Stevenson
Across the Balkans: From Banja Luka to Sarajevo
Thomas Knapp
NATO is a Brain Dead, Obsolete, Rabid Dog. Euthanize It.
Forrest Hylton
Bolivia’s Coup Government: a Far-Right Horror Show
M. G. Piety
A Lesson From the Danes on Immigration
Ellen Isaacs
The Audacity of Hypocrisy
Monika Zgustova
Chernobyl, Lies and Messianism in Russia
Manuel García, Jr.
From Caesar’s Last Breath to Ours
Binoy Kampmark
Going to the ICJ: Myanmar, Genocide and Aung San Suu Kyi’s Gamble
Jill Richardson
Marijuana and the Myth of the “Gateway Drug”
Muzamil Bhat
Srinagar’s Shikaras: Still Waters Run Deep Losses
Gaither Stewart
War and Betrayal: Change and Transformation
Farzana Versey
What Religion is Your Nationalism?
Clark T. Scott
The Focus on Trump Reveals the Democrat Model
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Do Bernie’s Supporters Know What “Not Me, Us” Means? Does Bernie?
Peter Harley
Aldo Leopold, Revisited
Winslow Myers
A Presidential Speech the World Needs to Hear
Christopher Brauchli
The Chosen One
Jim Britell
Misconceptions About Lobbying Representatives and Agencies
Ted Rall
Trump Gets Away with Stuff Because He Does
Mel Gurtov
Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and the Insecurity of China’s Leadership
Nicky Reid
Dennis Kucinich, Tulsi Gabbard and the Slow Death of the Democratic Delusion
Tom H. Hastings
Cross-Generational Power to Change
John Kendall Hawkins
1619: The Mighty Whitey Arrives
Julian Rose
Why I Don’t Have a Mobile Phone
David Yearsley
Parasitic Sounds
Elliot Sperber
Class War is Chemical War
December 05, 2019
Colin Todhunter
Don’t Look, Don’t See: Time for Honest Media Reporting on Impacts of Pesticides
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail