Revolution in Libya: Protestors Respond to Gaddafi’s Murderous Backlash with Remarkable Courage; US and UK Look Like the Hypocrites They Are

21.2.11

“Now people are dying we’ve got nothing else to live for. What needs to happen is for the killing to stop. But that won’t happen until he [Gaddafi] is out. We just want to be able to live like human beings. Nothing will happen until protests really kick off in Tripoli, the capital. It’s like a pressure cooker. People are boiling up inside. I’m not even afraid any more. Once I wouldn’t have spoken at all by phone. Now I don’t care. Now enough is enough.”

These are the words of a young woman in Libya — a student , a blogger and a member of the youth protest movement in Libya that is part of a growing uprising against the tyrannical 41-year reign of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. Speaking to the Guardian by phone from her home on the outskirts of Benghazi, the eastern city where the revolution in Libya began just six days ago, and where hundreds of protestors have been killed by Gaddafi’s security forces, she said, “I’ve seen violent movies and video games that are nothing compared to this. I can hear gunshots, helicopters circling overhead, then I hear the voices screaming. I can hear the screeching of four-by-fours in the street. No one has that type of car except his [Gaddafi's] people. My brother went to get bread, he’s not back; we don’t know if he’ll get back. The family is up all night every night, keeping watch, no one can sleep.”

Described by the Guardian as “an expert in subverting net censorship,” who “had regularly posted messages online to gather support” for the protests that began last week, the student explained how, since the uprising began, “her internet connection is down, landlines cut off, mobile coverage interrupted, electricity sporadically cut off and the house plunged into darkness.” She added, “There are even stories here that he [Gaddafi] has poisoned the water, so we dare not drink. If he could cut off the air that we breathe, he would.”

Unlike the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, where there was remarkably litle bloodshed, and the dictators Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak fell from power through the pressure of sheer numbers, there are no signs that Colonel Gaddafi has any intention of relinquishing power without a bloody fight. As the Guardian also reported, sources close to his family told the Saudi paper al-Sharq al-Awsat, “We will all die on Libyan soil,” and it appears that the brutal suppression of the uprising in Benghazi is being led by one of his sons, Khamis, described as “the Russian-trained commander of an elite special forces unit,” and that another of Gaddafi’s sons, Saadi, is also present, along with Abdullah al-Senussi, the regime’s long-standing head of military intelligence.

For those familiar with Libyan history, the brutal response to the uprising is typical, demonstrating what experts told the Guardian was Gaddafi’s “instinctive brutality when faced with challenges to his rule.” The London-based writer and activist Ashour Shamis explained, “For Gaddafi it’s kill or be killed. Now he’s gone straight for the kill.”

In the 1980s, as the Guardian explained, Gaddafi “sent hit squads to murder exiled ‘stray dogs'” who challenged his dictatorship, and throughout the 1990s he crushed Islamist opposition — and any other political opposition — at home, most notoriously instigating a massacre of at least a thousand prisoners in Abu Salim prison in Tripoli in June 1996, as I reported in an article in 2009, entitled, UK protestors mark 13th anniversary of Libyan prison massacre.

An adept survivor, Gaddafi came onside in the “War on Terror” after the 9/11 attacks, prompting the most miserably transparent examples of hypocrisy on the part of Western nations, as their leaders queued up to welcome the former pariah as an ally, and barely managed to disguise their excitement at having access to Libya’s rich oil reserves.

In ingratiating themselves with the dictator, both the US and the UK willingly abandoned former opponents of the regime, who had, until then, been regarded as victims of oppression. The US willingly rounded up exiled Libyans in Afghanistan and Pakistan, sending them to Guantanamo and labeling them as “enemy combatants.” Two of these men eventually accepted voluntary repatriation from Guantanamo, but both were imprisoned on their return, and only one of the two, Abu Sufian Hamouda (transferred in October 2007), has been released, while the other, Muhammad al-Rimi (transferred in December 2006), is still held in Abu Salim.

Both of these men are, however, more fortunate than Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, the emir of a training camp in Afghanistan, who was rendered by the CIA to Egypt after his capture in Afghanistan in December 2001, where, under torture, he falsely confessed that two al-Qaeda operatives had been meeting with Saddam Hussein to discuss the use of chemical and biological weapons. Although al-Libi recanted his tortured lie, it was used to justify the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, and after al-Libi had been moved around various other secret prisons, he was returned to Libya, where he conveniently died, reportedly by committing suicide, in May 2009, just three days before the US reopened its embassy in Tripoli.

In the UK, meanwhile, Libyan asylum seekers, who had found themselves welcomed as refugees from the terrorist-supporting dictator Gaddafi, suddenly discovered that they had been designated as “terror suspects,” and were imprisoned without charge or trial pending deportation.

When judges went off-script, refusing to allow the government to return any of these men, and ruling that the “diplomatic assurances” agreed between Gaddafi and the UK government, which purported to guarantee that they would be treated humanely, were worthless, the men were then held on control orders, an oppressive form of house arrest that, like the deportation regime, involved them being held without charge or trial on the basis of secret evidence.

After the Law Lords — following the lead of the European Court of Human Rights — ruled in June 2009 that the control order regime breaches Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees the right to a fair trial, the Libyans had their control orders dropped, either because the disclosure of any information would have demonstrated that they were pawns in a deeply cynical game, or because their liberty was now useful to Gaddafi, who, at the time, was brokering a deal with former political opponents, whereby they would left unmolested if they renounced violence.

As the unrest in Libya spreads to the capital, Tripoli, the Gaddafi regime continues to respond with brute force, using planes to fire on protestors. Whether they can prevail against a people who are overcoming their fear in vast numbers and are apparently prepared to die in an attempt to secure their freedom remains to be seen, but the regime is clearly under threat. Last night, another of Gaddafi’s sons, Saif al-Islam, the supposed moderate and reformer of the family, embraced by Western hypocrites as a sign of the way forward, was wheeled out to deliver an incoherent speech on TV that was full of threats, hyperbole and lies.

Although he conceded that it was a “tragedy” that Libyans had died and stated, “There were some planning errors,” including “Errors from the police … and the army that was not equipped and prepared to confront angry people and … to defend its premises, weapons and ammunition,” he also warned apocalyptically of “civil war” unless order was restored, telling the TV audience that his father was still in the country and that the regime had the fiull support of the army. “We will fight to the last minute, until the last bullet,” he said.

He also claimed, “There is a plot against Libya,” blamed “an Islamic group with a military agenda” for the bloodshed in Benghazi — despite there being no evidence of Islamist involvement in a movement spearheaded by young people, trade unions and lawyers — and said Libya “would see ‘rivers of blood,’ an exodus of foreign oil companies and occupation by ‘imperialists’ if the violence continued.”

At the time of writing, al-Jazeera was reporting that “At least 61 people were killed in clashes in Tripoli,” but that “The protests appeared to be gathering momentum, with demonstrators saying they had taken control of several key towns in the country,” including Benghazi. Ahmad Jibreel, a Libyan diplomat, who confirmed rumors that the justice minister Mustafa Mohamed Abud Al-Jeleil had resigned because he “sided with the protesters,” also told al-Jazeera that “key cities near Libya’s border with Egypt were now in the hands of protesters, which he said would enable foreign media to now enter the country.”

Summing up the spirit of resistance, he said:

Gaddafi’s guards started shooting people in the second day and they shot two people only. We had on that day in Al Bayda city only 300 protesters. When they killed two people, we had more than 5,000 at their funeral, and when they killed 15 people the next day, we had more than 50,000 the following day. This means that the more Gaddafi kills people, the more people go into the streets.

Echoing this spirit, I have just received a message from an exiled Libyan friend, who told me:

Finally and maybe we will be free at last! I am having sleepless nights filled with euphoria about what’s happening in Libya. I am so sick of being in exile and not being able to contribute to my country’s development. Am sick of being ashamed of it and what Gaddafi made of it.

As the situation continues to develop, those words mean much more to me than the platitudes of government representatives in the US and the UK, who have done so little to oppose Gaddafi’s rule, and so much to enrich themselves, and who, in addition, have almost excelled in cynicism when it comes to Libya’s role in the “War on Terror.” As my friend also told me:

All I can say is that we are all so excited about the prospects of change and the ability to have some say in how to manage our wealth of natural resources. The West robbed us of this right earlier, then we allowed our own dreadful leaders do the same and worse.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in July 2010, details about the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, on tour in the UK throughout 2011, and available on DVD here), my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

32 Responses

  1. Tweets that mention Revolution in Libya: Protestors Respond to Gaddafi’s Murderous Backlash with Remarkable Courage; US and UK Look Like the Hypocrites They Are | Andy Worthington -- Topsy.com says...

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by JM Cerqueira Esteves, Andy Worthington. Andy Worthington said: #Libya #Revolution: Protestors Respond to #Gaddafi’s Murderous Backlash with Remarkable Courage; US & UK Are Hypocrites http://bit.ly/gnzOEg [...]

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    On Facebook, Donna Nassor wrote:

    Shared with others.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    George Kenneth Berger wrote:

    Sharing now, Andy.

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Ciudadano Kane Kane wrote:

    Thanks, sharing!

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Neil Goodwin wrote:

    hi andy, i am never allowed to open your postings. bah! love to you and yours mate xx

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Hi Neil,
    Love to you and Dee too.
    Are you using the wrong browser? Explorer 7 is the usual cause of problems. Upgrade to Explorer 8 or use Firefox.

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Ann Alexander wrote:

    Some of the Libyans mentioned in your article, who the UK tried to deport, have been outside the Embassy in London for the past two days. I am told (word on the street) that the “African mercenaries” referred to are actually Algerian forces who are helping Mad Dog Ghadaffi!

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Yamin Zakaria wrote:

    The scum is bombing the civilian population – where is the international community and the UN now?

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Ann Alexander wrote:

    All talk and no action as usual, Yamin. It is shameful.

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for the comments, everyone. Still glued to al-Jazeera … Hoping that the mad dog and his vile regime will be banished, and that the year of the revolution continues to spread throughout the Middle East and beyond. We’re all up against tyrants and excessive greed, however it may be dressed up differently in different locations.

  11. Revolution in Libya: Protestors Respond to Gaddafi’s Murderous Backlash with Remarkable Courage; US and UK Look Like the Hypocrites They Are | NO LIES RADIO says...

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    On Common Dreams, glenn ford wrote:

    This is the end of Western Colonialism in the former Ottoman Empire.

    Where are OilyBomber and Clinton?

    If it were Iran their flapping traps would be going nonstop.

    I did not realize the UK was so corrupt as to arrest asylum seekers as terrorists.

  13. Andy Worthington says...

    Caleb Abell wrote:

    The UK isn’t corrupt, it’s obedient. It does whatever its masters in Washington tell it to do. The mystery is why a country that until only recently dominated the world would so willingly act as lapdogs for their former colonies.

  14. Andy Worthington says...

    phasor wrote:

    Money.

    Or more accurately, to maintain the ability to extort, coerce and control the natural and human resources of foreign lands which UK businesses can monetize.

  15. Andy Worthington says...

    NC-Tom wrote:

    “Where are OilyBomber and Clinton?” IMHO they are probably scratching each other’s intellectual heads and asses right now. The US does status quo very well but does NOT handle change very well at all. We must ALWAYS have the war on drugs, the blockade of Cuba, and our dictators in place in the middle east.

    I would LOVE to be a fly on the wall in the white house, to see them try to figure what to do and what is going to happen next. IMHO the whole lot of them look pretty impotent as this whole boatload of change hits them up the sides of their little heads.

  16. Andy Worthington says...

    da-veed wrote:

    Article about recent US-Libya business ventures:
    http://www.bilaterals.org/spip.php?article17411

  17. Andy Worthington says...

    thepuffin wrote:

    What hypocrisy?

    U.S. and its lapdog UK have a looooong history of supporting dictators when the money is good.

    Like Saddam, until he was more useful hanged ’till his head popped off to satiate the slavering bloodthirsty brainwashed masses–

    The U.S. would hang Tony Blair and Bush himself if it was good for business. Hell, maybe that should be our argument:

    “Punishing torturers and thieves be good for bidness.”

    They just might fall for it.

  18. Andy Worthington says...

    curmudgeon99 wrote:

    One of Bush Junior’s greatest accomplishments….whitewashing the murders of Ghaddafi by …..’bringing him in from the cold’…’he is contrite’….in the early 2000s so Halliburton and others could open up the economy for capitalism .

    I am afraid our government was complicit with the Brits over releasing the Lockerbie Bomber suspect as a final chapter to gain access to Libya’s monies.

  19. Andy Worthington says...

    Jill wrote:

    The wikileaks cables on succession in Libya are extremely interesting. They show the US wants a “leader” who will maintain the flow of oil and buy our military hardware. The US remains silent in the face of genocide by our good friends.

    Good article!

    P.S. Actually a number of cables around the world speak of the importance the US places in other countries buying our weapons. The Libyan cables show it is propaganda to present Obama’s hesitation to speak up being due to having been caught off guard. He was not. He’s just trying to figure out how to maintain oil and military sales, nothing more, while still preaching about democracy with a straight face. Truly disgusting.

  20. Andy Worthington says...

    amacd wrote:

    The snipers are not Libyan security but part of the global Empire’s secret forces, just as Raymond Davis in Pakistan.

    Talk about “oozing hypocrisy”? This is hypocrisy at its most sophisticated!

    This is hypocrisy (a more polite word for outright lies and deceit) — but of course, we can see such hypocrisy in much clearer view, such as the view of Hillary Clinton talking about how all countries must allow full and open communications among people, participation of the governed, and peaceful protest of all citizens to “petition their government for redress” (which is how the US Constitution puts it), saying all this shit precisely as her unidentified thugs and goons attacked, bloodied, and jailed Ray McGovern for simply silently protesting her VAST LIES and hypocrisy by standing with his back to the Secretary of State-Lies.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=My29YT1T4R4

    Likewise, we can all see in full resolution and color on our public airwaves through all the major “corporatist” (or “fascist” as Mussolini himself called corporatism) state-propaganda networks NBC/GE, ABC/Disney, and CBS/Viacom/National Amusements, where we can see our faux Emperor-president, Obama’s, bold-faced lies, deceit, and hypocrisy (just as disgusting as Hillary) piously claiming the protection of “our US diplomats” on February 15th —- at a time when he not only KNEW that Raymond Davis was the CIA killer in Pakistan, but that he was also personally conning the New York Times (the most significant opinion making news source in the US, and the “Paper of Record”) to ‘distort the record’ like Orwell’s Winston Smith in a veiled totalitarian-state, and put it down the “memory hole” in the service of “Big Brother”.

    http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/video/obama-uphold-vienna-convention-diplomat-ray-davis-12923200

    The only thing that the general public of the US does not know, and can not generally see today (because of a two-party ‘Vichy’ facade that would make Hitler and Goebbels’ dead eyes moisten with admiration) is that our former country, the so-called United States of America is the heart of a well disguised ruling-elite global corporate/financial/militarist EMPIRE which is the precise ‘causal cancer’ of all deceit, looting, economic oppression, tyranny, racism, ecological destruction, and all other ‘symptom problems’ in the world.

    The ultimate hypocrisy of Hillary, Obama, and all the political pawns of the Empire is the lie of omission that they practice every single friggin day by never, never, saying anything, or even whispering about the EMPIRE hiding in the burning kitchen of our lost democracy.

    Front-men (and front-women) like Obama, and Hillary can lie through their teeth and deceive us (US citizens, and the citizens of the world) about the brutality vividly vented BY THEM directly on peaceful protesters, like Ray McGovern (ironically right at ‘George Washington’ University), and they can piously lie through their teeth on national TV about CIA killers sent by their Empire bosses to other countries to spy and/or kill, BUT they can never even hint the slightest bit about the actual presence of the ruling global EMPIRE that orders them to do these “Unspeakable” crimes ‘abroad’ and ‘at home’ — because if they give any hint to the Empire that they have the guts to possibly ‘out it’, as JFK did over a period of enlightenment and truth culminating in his American University Commencement speech on June 10, 1963, then they know what “unspeakable” punishment the Empire that they can’t speak about may well extract (as James W. Douglass clearly documents in his sobering “JFK and the Unspeakable”)

    Any Americans who disabuse themselves into thinking that such an “Unspeakable” global Empire will not vent retribution as violent as Muammar al-Gaddafi better think again about the global Empire in our midst.

    Alan MacDonald
    Sanford, Maine
    “Liberty over violent empire”
    Party headquarters

  21. Andy Worthington says...

    NedB wrote:

    “Unlike the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, where there was remarkably little bloodshed…”
    Let’s not sanitize history just yet:
    http://www.almasryalyoum.com/en/news/egypt%E2%80%99s-revolution-death-toll-rises-384
    If the link doesn’t survive the commenting system, the article reports: Protests in Egypt that led to the overthrow of former president Hosni Mubarak have left at least 384 people dead and 6,467 injured, according to health ministry figures published on Tuesday.

  22. Andy Worthington says...

    Oikos wrote:

    When a protester so much as farts in Iran, Hillary gets on her soapbox and starts pontificating about human rights and freedom of expression, but when her friend Gaddafi, tyrant of the 18th largest oil exporter in the world, mows down hundreds of his people (even using airplanes and helicopters), she just continues watching her porn videos in her office at the State Dept. What a disgusting excuse for a human being.

  23. Andy Worthington says...

    Oswald-was-a-leftist wrote:

    You just know Washington is pulling for Old Leather Face in Tripoli. They’ve already lost two long time friends in bordering Egypt and Tunisia. An entire way of political life constructed by Washington since the end of World War II is threatened with demise if this Arab uprising continues.

    I hope the rebels succeed and toss his old carcass into the sea.

  24. Andy Worthington says...

    On Facebook, Nabil Allouche wrote:

    i hope not through the middle east only! hope it will spread to UK and USA too§ comeon POWER TO THE PEOPLE.

  25. The Year of Revolution: The “War on Tyranny” Replaces the “War on Terror” « Eurasia Review says...

    [...] opposition to the dictators of the Middle East has also been regarded as terrorism — even when, as with Libya, for example, opponents of Gaddafi’s regime used to be considered as victims of oppression until Gaddafi [...]

  26. Is This Endgame For Gaddafi’s Murderous Regime In Libya? « Eurasia Review says...

    [...] var mydate=new Date() var year=mydate.getYear() if (year < 1000) year+=1900 var day=mydate.getDay() var month=mydate.getMonth() var daym=mydate.getDate() if (daym Written by: Andy Worthington Outside Libya, as the third sustained revolution to engulf North Africa — and the bloodiest by far — continues to rage, some reactions are predictable. The world’s powerbrokers are fretting about the increased price of oil and evacating their workers, and President Obama’s response has been sensibly muted, unlike that of David Cameron, who, like the arrogant two-faced public schoolboy he is — playing at being a world leader — flew into Egypt on Monday in the company of a bevy of British arms dealers, and, ever since, has delivered a series of contradictory statements that rival the hallucinatory ramblings of Colonel Gaddafi, who has been blaming the Libyan revolution on al-Qaeda and Nescafé spiked with drugs. In swift succession, Cameron positively endorsed selling arms to dictators in the Middle East, saying that opponents of Britain’s arms trade were “completely at odds with reality,” and then, demonstrating how completely at odds with reality he is, apologized for propping up dictatorships in the Middle East, saying, as the Guardian put it, that “Britain was wrong to prop up ‘highly controlling regimes’ as a way of ensuring stability” — although he failed, of course, to mention how, in its eagerness to secure access to Libya’s oilfields for British companies, the previous goverment — with the full support of the Tories — had treated political opponents of the regime as pawns in a cynical game, holding them as “terror suspects,” and including them in a false narrative of the “War on terror,” as I explained in a recent article, Revolution in Libya: Protestors Respond to Gaddafi’s Murderous Backlash with Remarkable Courage; U…. [...]

  27. Lorne Marr says...

    History should teach us that if the international organizations and the leaders of the most powerful countries of the world are reluctant to act in similar situations then the consequences are often detrimental and costly to the people of the given countries.

  28. U.S., UN , Libya and Israel‏ « Progressive Voices' Blog says...

    [...] “Both of these men are, however, more fortunate than Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, the emir of a training camp in Afghanistan, who was rendered by the CIA to Egypt after his capture in Afghanistan in December 2001, where, under torture, he falsely confessed that two al-Qaeda operatives had been meeting with Saddam Hussein to discuss the use of chemical and biological weapons. Although al-Libi recanted his tortured lie, it was used to justify the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, and after al-Libi had been moved around various other secret prisons, he was returned to Libya, where he conveniently died, [allegedly] by committing suicide, in May 2009, just three days before the U.S. reopened its embassy in Tripoli.” http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2011/02/21/revolution-in-libya-protestors-respond-to-gaddafis-murde… [...]

  29. McCain’s “Interesting Time” w/Gadafi, Ignores Manning || Kerry on No-Fly Zone, Justifies Manning Treatment, “Yes” on Israeli Nukes | The Washington Stakeout says...

    [...] the U.S. was pressuring Gaddafi on human rights, see Andy Worthington’s recent piece: “Revolution in Libya: Protestors Respond to Gaddafi’s Murderous Backlash with Remarkable Courage; U…,” where he writes about the al-Libi case and other cases pointing to collusion between the [...]

  30. McCain’s “Interesting Time” w/Gadafi, Ignores Manning || Kerry on No-Fly Zone, Justifies Manning Treatment, “Yes” on Israeli Nukes | SHOAH says...

    [...] that the U.S. was pressuring Gaddafi on human rights, see Andy Worthington’s recent piece: “Revolution in Libya: Protestors Respond to Gaddafi’s Murderous Backlash with Remarkable Courage; U…,” where he writes about the al-Libi case and other cases pointing to collusion between the U.S. [...]

  31. ARTICLE: Andy Worthington on “How the Abu Salim Prison Massacre in 1996 Inspired the Revolution in Libya” ‹ Libyan Council of North America says...

    [...] a more prosaic sense, the trigger for Libya’s uprising, as with the uprising in Egypt and Tunisia, was the steady mobilization of disaffected youth, [...]

  32. eli says...

    But now we know that were foreign “rebels” to shot people. Why to hurry to believe AlJazeera and otner media? What about using brain before taking side?

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