Saturday, 2 April 2011

Making excuses


Via Poumista, a post by David Osler, Libya: revolution betrayed?, responding to Eammon McCann’s reminiscences in Socialist Worker of his meeting with Gaddafi in 1987, when McCann interviewed him for a Channel 4 documentary. I haven’t seen the film, but a print version of the interview was published by In Dublin magazine in February 1987.

It’s not an article I would recommend to the casual reader. Scholars of kitsch left anti-Western anti-imperialist politics may find it of interest, not for any novelty value but as a good example of its type. McCann’s main aim in the piece seems to have been to make excuses for Gaddafi’s transgressions, to diminish them as far as possible, despite necessarily acnowledging a few unavoidable facts as to the nature of Gaddafi’s rule, and further, to wherever possible call attention to the vices of Western leaders and Western media. A paragraph to illustrate the MO:
Amnesty International reckons the number of victims of Libyan terrorism at nineteen, fifteen of these being Libyans abroad ‘sentenced to death’ by the Revolutionary Committees. Yvonne Fletcher is among the four others. In the period in which these killings took place (1980 up to the present) US proxies in El Salvador and Guatemala killed an estimated 120,000 people.
19 against 120,000 makes for a conclusive argument, and let connection and context be damned. Here’s another choice bit, a quote from Gaddafi that goes unchallenged by McCann, describing Jewish American cabinet members as Israelis:
‘They have involved Israelis in their very government. I’m thinking here of Kissinger and Schultz. This is a great mistake. The American people should elect themselves a president who is qualified, and who will not involve Israelis.’
Enough of that. For anyone sufficiently curious, scans of the article are here: one, two, three, four, five, six.
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From another article on kitsch anti-imperialists and the intervention debate linked to at Poumista, a line to cut out and keep:
At the end of the day, their posture comes down to opposition to whatever the main imperialist bourgeoisies are doing. No matter what. Much that they do, most of what they do, should indeed be opposed. But to equate our long term, rooted, class opposition to these powers with deep opposition to every specific thing they do is not to be independent of them, but to be their slavish mirror image.
That’s from Why we should not denounce intervention in Libya, by Sean Matgamna, posted at Shiraz Socialist.
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Indeed we should not denounce it, but ask why it is still too little, and still too slow. Below is the Turkish ferry Ankara at Misratah port today, taking wounded on board to be treated in Turkey. The ship spent days several miles offshore because of shelling by Gaddafi forces. Apparently NATO forces advised the ship to stay offshore because it was unsafe to dock. What I don’t understand is why didn’t NATO forces escort the ship to ensure safe passage? The UN resolution that NATO are acting under is supposed to “protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack.” Looking at this ship docking days late in the empty port of Misratah, NATO seems to be failing in its mission.



Update 4 April: BBC News reports that the ship Ankara has now sailed to Benghazi before going on to Cesme, Turkey:
Turkey's Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, ordered the Ankara, a car ferry that had been turned into a makeshift hospital, into Misrata on Sunday after it had spend four days waiting for permission to dock.

The ship, which was also carrying medical supplies for doctors in Misrata, arrived under cover from 10 Turkish F-16 fighter jets and two navy frigates, Turkish consular official Ali Akin told the Reuters news agency.

With heavily armed Turkish police special forces standing by, the injured people were taken aboard and laid on mattresses on one of the car decks, above which saline drips were hung. Some were accompanied by their relatives.

Mr Akin said the ship had to leave early after a large crowd - including hundreds of Egyptians - pressed forward on the quayside hoping to escape.

The BBC's Jon Leyne, who went on board the Ankara, says many of the patients have extremely serious injuries, including some amputations.
Read more.

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