From Rebellion to Revolution?

The Righteous Wrath of the People

As the situation in Libya rapidly deteriorates we are on the verge of witnessing the first of the populist rebellions in the Arab world rapidly metamorphose into a revolution.  In fact, the activist said they want to henceforth be called “revolutionaries” not demonstrators.”  However I use “revolution” in the narrowest sense of the term: to totally overthrow a system of power and authority and replace it with another.  Yet in its more expansive meaning Revolution implies a great leap forward in the socio/economic relations of a nation, progress; the creation of a new order which dramatically elevates the standard of living and quality of life for the masses.

By this definition we cannot say for sure that what we are witnessing unfold in Libya thus far is a revolutionary change that will bring true progress to the people of that country.  As the former Regis Professor of History at Oxford, Dr. Hugh Trevor-Roper, has reminded us: one barbarian succeeding another barbarian does not make history. In other words, there must be some movement in the ideas that shape our society to signify progressive development.  Likewise, in the case of revolutions, there must be a dramatic move forward in relations between those who held power and created the conditions that led to the revolution, and those who were the victims that rose up in revolt.  In the contemporary Muslim world it is hard to know what will replace the despotisms that are being overthrown by the confused headless host we call “the people.”  What is certain is that things are quickly coming to a head in Libya, as both sides are taking up arms.

There are reports from reliable sources that certain dissident elements in the army have opened their arsenals and are arming the rebels.  Other military men are deserting their posts or refusing to follow orders – such as the two Air Force pilots who defected with their planes to Malta rather than bomb their fellow citizens. Libyan diplomats abroad are defecting from the murderous Quadaffi regime and joining the rebellion.  Clearly the process of revolution has begun.  However it takes more than guns to make a revolution; once must have a revolutionary ideology that defines radical goals. Thus far I see no evidence of this.  Beyond toppling Quadaffi, the goals of the enraged but leaderless masses are a grand mystery.

Mummar Quadaffi – the military autocrat who has ruled Libya with an iron fist during its entire period of independence from France – which spans over forty years now, has vowed not to budge from his position as President of the nation.  Dressed in weird garb and looking every bit the space cadet that he is, Quadaffi called the protestors “dope addicts,” “American agents,” “and “traitors” and called upon his supporters to attack them in their houses!   Quadaffi has also vowed to martyr himself – which means he plans go out in a hail of gunfire – rather than leave Libya and retreat into exile! From the present  stage of the burgeoning crisis it looks like something akin to a civil war is rapidly approaching.

Given the violent morass that Libyan society has become, with all authority breaking down, the guys with the guns are emerging as the deciders of the future. This may yet turn out to be a situation where the autocrat you know is preferable to the theocrat you don’t know. This has been the basis of US support for these despotisms throughout the region, and it has served American interests well….until now!  This is because such arrangements never served the interests of the people in these countries…only a select elite, who were corrupted by the nature of the deal.  America entered into a Faustian bargain with these murderous blaggards and thieves and now there’s the Devil to pay.

Pan-Arabist Mad Man Mummar Quadaffi

The Masquerade is Over: But he doesn’t get it!

Of course, when this policy of uncritically supporting tyrants in the Arab world was formulated, the communist were the enemy of choice. The US even supported Muslim fundamentalist, because they were virulently anti-communist. That’s why the US government declared the Afghan Mujahidin – who became the “Taliban” – “freedom Fighters” and the CIA ended up training Osama bin Laden in terrorist tactics to fight the Russian communist.  Since the fall of communism the American elite quickly found another enemy, the Islamic Jihadists, which American policy largely created.

Not simply by their clandestine training and arming of Muslim forces to fight the Russian atheists in Afghanistan, but by the decision to garrison American troops in Saudi Arabia. Osama bin Laden, a man worth hundreds of millions who walked away from a life of luxury to fight for Al Islam, was enraged by the presence of swine eating infidels on sacred Muslim soil where the Khabba, Islam’s holiest shrine, is entombed.  This is when Osama declared the Saudi Royal family to be apostates and declared Jihad against them and their allies. As the foremost supporters and protectors of this moribund medieval regime we were first on his hit list!  The manifestation of his wrath was rained upon us on 9/11.  And thanks to the Republican blunders posing as tough guys “Osama been forgotten” is still running around in the mountains

However in the eyes of the Jihadists all of the regimes in the Islamic world who are not living under Sharia law are apostates!  Yet the only nation in the world that is living under Sharia, Iran, is also unacceptable to Al Qaeda because they are Shiites rather than Sunnis!  This kind of thinking is a measure of the madness we face in trying to evaluate the situation in the Middle East.  That Quadaffi is a mad man is apparent to anyone who does not suffer with madness themselves; yet he has maintained stability in a nation crisscrossed with clan loyalties and potential religious conflicts based on esoteric theological disputes that date back to the glory days of the Islamic Caliphate in the middle ages.

While right wingers in the US argue that the US shouldn’t support the popular movement sweeping the Arab world because they have been faithful US puppets to US interests, they offer no policy options to counter the policies of the Obama Administration. This is because their cupboard is bare; they don’t have any alternative options.  They fact is that the US is a helpless giant, a colossus with feet of clay, when faced with the present popular democratic upheavals in the Mid-East.  We are already bogged down in quagmires in two Muslim countries which we are trying our best to extricate ourselves from with some semblance of military honor.  So it is apparent to this writer that any thought of military intervention to suppress the popular uprisings is an insane and self destructive fantasy.

However the mindless cheerleading on the left, where the argument is that President Obama should inject the power and prestige of the US into this internal crisis of the Arab world, standing firmly on the side of the raging mobs, may also prove to be a castle built on shifting sands. The assumptions upon which this course of action is justified are as intellectually shaky as the mindless ranting on the right. With a Psychotic megalomaniac like Quadaffi anything can happen. For instance, he is quite capable of blowing up the oil pipe lines, which would drive oil prices through the roof and spark an economic crisis throughout the world.  Alas, preventing this from happening has been the principal objective of American policy in the region.  It is the source of all our sins against the Arabs…which are myriad and now have come back to plague us.

Portrait Of A Madman!

He has vowed to turn the streets red with blood!!


Playthell George Benjamin

Harlem, New York

February 23, 2011

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