The left’s double standards on Libya

By Jeffrey Blankfort

Jeffrey Blankfort highlights the hypocrisy of some leftists in Europe and the USA who, in the struggles they wage from their armchairs or behind their computers against the bogeyman of US imperialism, are happy to treat Libyan civilians as expendables and to support murderous Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi – as long as he appeared to be opposed by the West.

While the odds are that this so-called “humanitarian intervention” will end badly for the people of Libya, one factor that has been studiously ignored by its opponents and that effectively was used to justify the intervention in the first place was the repeated threats by both Muammar Gaddafi and his playboy son Saif al-Islam to carry out a door to door bloodbath against the people of Benghazi. Dictator and son declared them to be foreigners in the pay of Al-Qaeda, and Libyan tanks and armored personnel carriers were on the road to Benghazi to carry out their threats when they were attacked by French aircraft and destroyed.

France’s Nicolas Sarkozy acted quickly because he stood to be embarrassed by the close relationship he had with both the colonel and his son… British ties to the Gaddafi regime also included payoffs to important Britons…

Whether they would actually have carried out what they promised we will never know – neither Gaddafi nor his offspring are known for their mercy. But it must be understood that their threat to carry out a bloody massacre of major proportions was the equivalent of an engraved invitation to the Western countries to intervene in the name of, but not for, humanitarian reasons.

The belief that any country, and I mean any country, ever bases its foreign policy on humanitarian principles is belied by history and, in this instance, the records of the US, UK and France are certainly proof of that.

France’s Nicolas Sarkozy acted quickly because he stood to be embarrassed by the close relationship he had with both the colonel and his son which reportedly included the latter contributing considerable sums to his election victory. British ties to the Gaddafi regime also included payoffs to important Britons and the report that part of the deal to allow BP to obtain a lucrative exploration contract with Libya was the release from a Scottish prison of the man convicted, probably wrongly, of the Lockerbie bombing.

There is strong evidence that this intervention was not something the Obama administration wanted or needed at this time, just as he was taking off on a long-postponed trip to Latin America and his party was engaged in a major budget fight with the Republicans. Moreover, it was Defence/War Secretary Robert Gates who first publicly objected to the no-fly zone because it could not be enforced without taking out Libya’ air defences, which would be an act of war. The French and British positions, however, made it difficult for Washington not to participate and in a major way.

…this intervention was not something the Obama administration wanted or needed at this time, just as he was taking off on a long-postponed trip to Latin America and his party was engaged in a major budget fight with the Republicans.

Over the years Gaddafi and his sons have not only spread their oil revenues throughout Africa, buying support through various projects, including funding the military force of the African Union, but they have also hosted a number of well known American activists. Like those who travelled to the Soviet Union and its East bloc satellites in past decades, these saw the equivalent of Libya’s Potemkin villages and came away sincerely believing that he was a progressive “socialist” while ignoring the fact that he was a dictator who tolerated no political dissent.

Once one commits oneself to the belief that certain individuals are beyond criticism, as we saw first with Stalin when otherwise intelligent people set aside their critical thinking faculties, it should not be surprising that there has been no mention by those defending Gaddafi of his collaboration and that of his intelligence services with the CIA in Bush’s and now Obama’s so-called “war on terror”, and of reports that Libya was part of Bush’s “extraordinary rendition” network.

Nor have we heard about his ordering the murder of 1,200 prisoners in Abu Salim Prison, Tripoli, in 1996.

This sad state of events exposes a glaring problem that has characterized a significant segment of the US and Western left going back to the days of Stalin, and that is its tendency to see everything in black and white terms.

For this segment, which has been out in full force on this issue, the only criterion necessary to judge a dictatorship or a dictatorial central committee is where it stands in respect to US and Western imperialism.

… a glaring problem that has characterized a significant segment of the US and Western left … is its tendency to see everything in black and white terms. For this segment … the only criterion necessary to judge a dictatorship … is where it stands in respect to US and Western imperialism.


If it is opposed by the US and its allies, it must be defended, regardless of the fact that it might be a police state which denies to its peoples the right to dissent politically from official government policies and practices and to organize opposition to that government – that is, free speech, freedom of the press and freedom of association. How different, in the end, are the double standards of that segment of the left from those wielding power in Washington? Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent statements to the contrary, the White House doesn’t care about what the dictators who collaborate with the US do to their people. As President Franklin Delano Roosevelt once said of the Nicaraguan dictator, Anastasio Somoza, “he may be a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch!”

The double standards of that segment of the left was, without a doubt, one of the reasons the peoples of the former Soviet satellites, all of which were police states, when they were struggling for their liberation, turned to the likes of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher who opportunistically reached out to them and not to the left in the US and the West that had shown them their backs as they are doing to the people of Libya today.

To add to this, well before the Libyan situation developed, numerous websites and many bloggers, most of whom know next to nothing about the region, stated, as if it were fact, that the uprisings throughout North Africa and the Middle East have all been orchestrated by, take your pick, (1) the US through the National Endowment for Democracy and a handful of non-governmental organizations or (2) George Soros, through his Open Society programmes or, if you wish, both.

I suspect that if these movements had avowed what these “experts” considered to be a “socialist” or “anti-imperialist” agenda instead of making demands for such bourgeois concepts as free speech, freedom of the press and the right to organize politically, they might have considered their uprisings indigenous and legitimate. Since they didn’t, they obviously must be manipulated by nefarious outside forces.

Let’s face it. The Libyan situation provides us with no easy answers, and perhaps, with no answers at all. Human problems are not mathematical problems and, more often than not, there are no good attainable solutions – emphasis being on the word, attainable.

The die on Libya has been cast. Now we will just have to see how it plays out.


Jeffrey Blankfort is a US-based radio producer and campaigner for Palestinian rights. A former editor of the Middle East Labour Bulletin and co-founder of the Labour Committee of the Middle East, he is founding member of the November 29 Coalition on Palestine. In February 2002 he won a sizable lawsuit against the Jewish Anti-Defamation League (ADL) for its vast illegal spying against him and other peaceful political groups and individuals, including anti-apartheid activists.

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