Libya and Muammar al-Gaddafi (Qaddafi)

As Libya and Gaddafi move to a more prominent place in the news, I thought I’d point to a few posts on the topic. As an Africanist Archaeologist, I’ve got a special interest in Libya (though I’ve never worked there or visited). Haua Fteah is there. Haua Fteah is a cave facing north and overlooking the Mediterranean. It has sediments in it dating to over 120,000 years ago, which thus transcend the entire recent ice age, going all the way back to the last full interglacial. It was excavated by the guy who trained, at that site, two of the three archaeologists whom I had as advisors, Ofer Bar-Yosef and Glynn Isaac, along with a bunch of other people. Another interesting connection: A friend of mine who has helped fund some of the research I’ve been involved in (especially this work) was serving as a volunteer amateur archaeologist in Libya some years back, working on classic era sites. While doing so, she found herself hanging out with the King of Libya (or Sultan or whatever) on the day that the Royal Palace was overrun by the rebels, and only barely escaped with the help of some CIA guys who were also hanging around there. That was some years ago.


But enough trivia. One of the things I’ve been struck by, being an American Citizen as well as an Africanist who has worked more with non-Americans while working there than with Americans (or at least so it seems) is the huge difference between how American feel about Gaddafi vs. others. While most people do see him as being something less than sane, and no one thinks he leads or supports a democratic government, compared to many other dictators of the region, Gaddafi has served his people better. For example, outside of the near east, most oil producing countries are essentially owned by the big oil companies, and the countries themselves get very little of the profits. When Gaddafi/Qaddafi threw out the international oil companies that was a plus for Libya, but also started a strong anti-Libya campaign that included making certain that a number of terrorist events got blamed on them with rather questionable links, such as the kidnapping of the OPEC oil ministers and, possibly, Pan Am 103.

Without further ado:

Flight 103 from Frankfurt

Scene: Berkeley, California, April 1986. A bar. Five conference attendees, myself included, grabbing a hamburger and a beer in a fern-bar on or near Telegraph.

All eyes are on the TV’s mounted over the bar, where we watch footage of an air strike against Libya. This is the retribution by Ronald Reagan against Insane African Leader Muammar al-Kadafi. The White House was issuing statements about al-Kadafi’s involvement in bombings in Europe, the OPEC oil ministry kidnapping, linkage to the infamous Jackal, and so on. Nikki, a friend and colleague, said something, and I remember asking her to repeat it. Nikki is a low-talkier. You’ve got to lean in really close. So I leaned in and heard her say, “Lybia is the only country in Africa where the people get to share in the national wealth. They love Kadafi. Others should take a lesson from him.”

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Muammar al-Gaddafi: Not a bad speech (for the sake of controversy)

No one will take Muammar al-Gaddafi’s speech at the UN seriously because he is generally seen as a raving lunatic. And he might be. However, he made numerous valid points (not all of which I agree with). I loved the part where he threw the book over his shoulder.

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Muammar al-Gaddafi’s Tent

See It Here

Comments

  1. #1 Sonja
    February 20, 2011

    According to the UN Human Development Index (which measures life expectancy, education, and standard of living), Libya has done the best for its people of any country in Africa:

    This puts Libya in the same HDI category (“High”) as these US states: Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Alabama, West Virginia, and Mississippi.

    The rest of the US states are categorized as “Very High”, with Minnesota ranked #5.

  2. #2 Kerrick
    February 20, 2011

    Judging by the Libyan callers to Al Jazeera, many of the people of Libya don’t agree. And I just watched Saif Al Gaddafi threaten to turn his country into rivers of blood if the Libyan people didn’t stop “taking Ecstasy and listening to foreign influence”. What happened?

    Part of what’s happening, it seems, is that Eastern Libya isn’t treated as well as Western Libya. I’m not sure why that should be so; there’s a pretty big gap in my knowledge of Libyan politics. But the fact that Gaddafi does seem to have some supporters left in the West of the country might lead to this becoming more of a civil war than a peaceful revolution. That or the fact that Gaddafi seems to be slaughtering an awful lot of the Libyans who have the effrontery not to love him.

  3. #3 Ellie
    February 20, 2011

    Whatever you think of his past, he just sent mercenaries to kill hundreds of his own people.

    We may be beyond the point of apologetics.

  4. #4 Greg Laden
    February 21, 2011

    Ellie, pointing out that Libyan politics is not in fact what the US was fed by Reagan is hardly apologetics. And no one is apologizing for the death toll of protesters (currently about 200).

    I’m not sure about the west/east thing, but the military in Libya is currently in the process of breaking up into pro-Revolutionary forces (meaning NOT the protestors) and pro “people” forces, the former mainly Gadaffi’s praetorian guard and the latter various other, possibly local units. It might really become a civil war.

  5. #5 Clam
    February 21, 2011

    The East/West split is largely tribal, the east being mainly Senussi, the people of the ex-king Idris who was ousted by Ghadafi. Idris was a nice old boy who ruled from the end of WW II in a very impoverished country. Then the Americans discovered oil (I remember their prospecting teams) and bingo! the then Communist Ghadafi took over.
    Where the figures for wealth came from, I have no idea. Libya has a tiny population and a vast revenue from oil, but not much of it has seeped down to the fedaheen.

  6. #6 Lassi Hippeläinen
    February 21, 2011

    The east/west issue is normal in African politics. All country boundaries in Africa are artificial, made in the colonial age. They have no connection with cultural realities.

    “some CIA guys who were also hanging around there”
    What a coincidence…

    Here in Europe we don’t follow American politics that much, but the usual news channels I do follow haven’t reported any response from the Tea Party. Are they being ignorant as normal, or don’t they understand that what is now happening in the Arab world is against their interests?

  7. #7 Captain Obvious
    February 21, 2011

    Lassi – not sure what else has been going on but Tea Party High Priest Glenn Beck hjas been pumping out the crazy at an accelerating rate over the revolutions. The assorted revolutions get linked together with random things like the UK student protests last year about fees going up etc, which provide evidence of the creation of a Caliphate that stretches from China to the atlantic, while plucky ol’ USA is undermined from within by islamo-communist fifth columnists.

    Stockpiling food and buying gold was a recommendation in one segment I was subjected to. :|

  8. #8 Greg Laden
    February 21, 2011

    Lassi: Not a coincidence at all. They were there to rescue the crowned prince or whoever it was.

    Yes, I’m aware of so called “tribal issues” which in other regions (outside of Africa) tend to be called by different names. I still have not seen specific information linking anything like this to the specific factionalization reported in the news over the last week, but I may have missed it.

    Clam, the “tiny population” of Libya, (larger than seven other “Arab/mideast” nations) has in fact seen more of the oil money measure pretty much in any terms than the people of any other African oil producing country, measured any way you’d like to measure it. Having said that, of course the Revolutionary regime has gotten quit rich off it. But the reason you are programmed to hate Libya and fear Gaddafi is because the oil companies have received so little from exploitation in this area and the policy of the oil companies and Western nations is to stand by until they can take over again. So keep an eye out for that happening.

  9. #9 gina rex
    February 21, 2011

    The recent rebellions in the so-called “Arab World” are consistent with Top Male government, which despite western claims of democracy, dominates the globe: this is all about Top Males knocking each other off in the male quest for dominance. The U.S. doesn’t want democracy to spread: as the world’s Top Top males, we want subordinate dictators whom we can pay off, bribe, threaten, supply with “goodies” – weapons. All this arguing over whether a Top Male is a good-bad guy, or a bad-bad guy is ridiculous! It’s all framed on his “obedience” to the U.S., and it’s a thumbs up, thumbs down verdict no different than in the arena’s of Ancient Rome.

  10. #10 johannes
    February 22, 2011

    Clam, the “tiny population” of Libya, (larger than seven other “Arab/mideast” nations) has in fact seen more of the oil money measure pretty much in any terms than the people of any other African oil producing country, measured any way you’d like to measure it.

    Libya is more similar to a Gulf emirate than to Nigeria or Angola, that much is true, but that’s not because the current (?) regime is so competent or benevolent. It simply reflects the fact that Libya is a desert country with a largely Arabic population, relying on an oil-rent as the base of its economy. Hence, in ecolgy. economy, demography and ethnic set up, it’s more similar to Kuweit than to Angola.

    But the reason you are programmed to hate Libya and fear Gaddafi

    Actually, my dislike for Gaddafi, his regime, its friends like Genoud, Caignet, Verges, Ziegler and Garaudy, and all forms of Strasserism, Marlenism or National Bolshevism comes not from big oil or the Reagan administration “programming” me, but from being an indiepop kid in skinhead-infested early nineties central Germany – and from colonel G’s treatment of poor African refuges, which btw has the full approval of western governments and media.

  11. #11 Greg Laden
    February 22, 2011

    johannes: Don’t get me wrong. No one denies that the Colonel is a nutbag and that the regime is repressive. My point is simple yet rarely understood: Libya has a very different policy as to how to handle oil and the oil money than many other countries, and that is a) probably better in many ways b) not what Big Oil wants and c) therefore a major item that anything will be used to distract from. People can not get past Gadaffi hating and Libya distrusting because they are not allowed to think past those items by the rhetoric.

    It will be very interesting to see what happens when the Libyan revolution, now underway, is over. I wonder if Big Oil has a plan? Well, of course, they do. I guess i wonder how many months it will take before they run the place.

  12. #12 Josh12310
    March 17, 2011

    In my opinion, I believe that Gaddafi should stop ruling Libya like a dictatorship. What he’s doing to poor, inncoent civilians is awful. When he’s heard enough protesting he gives the order to fire and his minions, or whatever you’d like to call them, through bombs out into the crowds. What he’s doing in unjust. He and his men should be stopped before anymore innocent people have to die.

  13. #13 Josh12310
    March 17, 2011

    Also, I would like to add in that the Libians should and ought to have the freedom of speech like we as Americans do. I understand from research that their freedoms are limited, but I think it is unquestionable that all beings should have freedom. It’s essential to a world where opinions and ideas matter. In forthcoming, I would like to say that if people in countries like Libya or Egypt or Tunisia are being held accountable under a society ruled by oppression, then they must get their freedom back. Even if it means fighting their own government, then so be it. To finish off, some people may say or think that the world is coming to an end, but I say it isn’t. I say the end of freedom as we know it, is dispersing through nations.

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