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Life Arts    H3'ed 9/12/11

Racism in Libya

By Clay Claiborne  Posted by Mac McKinney (about the submitter)       (Page 1 of 4 pages)   2 comments
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Clay Claiborne, longtime activist and, among other things, blogger for the Daily Kos, reflects, in his newest diary, on understanding and misunderstanding racism in Libya and Arab culture, and how its stigma has been abused as a propaganda weapon.

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Some see in Libyan racism an opportunity to attack the revolution. Others see in the revolution an opportunity to attack racism.

Arab prejudice against blacks has a long and ignoble history. Racism against Africans has been a problem of long standing in Libya. Whereas progressives see the current revolutionary situation in Libya as an opportunity to combat this disease and built a new unity between Africans and Arabs free at last from Qaddafi's meddling, some  pro-Qaddafi "left" groups are attempting to use Libyan racism, both real and exaggerated, to attack the revolution. They do this by denying that racism was ever a problem under Qaddafi and "discovering" it among those they still insist on calling the "rebels."

To hear them tell it, you'd think the Klu Klux Klan just took over in Libya. This alarmist piece from the Party for Socialism and Liberation is typical of this line. FYI, PSL is the leading member of the ANSWER Coalition:

NATO's rebels are lynching black people in Libya [30/08/2011]

It is now beyond doubt, and being reported widely: While NATO has been pounding Libyan cities and massacring civilians with thousands of air strikes, the NATO-led "rebels" have been rounding up, targeting, beating and lynching darker skinned Libyans and immigrant workers from other African countries.

No one should be surprised. Imperialism, racism and attacks on immigrant workers go hand in hand.

In the battle for the working-class neighborhood of Abu Salim in Tripoli, where resistance to NATO was strong, NATO warplanes bombed indiscriminately and the "rebels" swept through the wreckage, kicking down doors and slaughtering civilians, many of whom were trapped in the neighborhood precisely because of the saturation bombing.

This is a very warped view of reality. Take, for example, the claim of "saturation bombing." Does PSL even have a clue what they are talking about? Operation Rolling Thunder in Vietnam was an example of saturation bombing. It involved 306,183 strike sorties that dropped 864,000 tons of bombs and probably killed over a million Vietnamese. Nothing like that has happened in Libya.

While the PSL says "NATO warplanes bombed indiscriminately and the "rebels" swept through the wreckage," Reuters tells it somewhat differently,

Libyan rebels stormed Tripoli's Abu Salim district, one of the main holdouts of forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi in the capital, on Thursday after a NATO airstrike on a building in the area, a Reuters correspondent said.

Rebel fighters were sweeping through houses to flush out snipers and were emerging with dozens of prisoners, the correspondent said, adding that gunfights were ongoing.

So "saturation bombing" turns out to be "a NATO airstrike on a building." NATO hit a grand total of 3 targets in Tripoli on the day Abu Salim fell in some of the hardest fighting of the whole Tripoli campaign. They hit that building in Abu Salim and, for their own safety, two surface-to-air missile launchers somewhere around the city. A lot of brave freedom fighters gave their lives to liberate Abu Salim that day but these "anti-imperialists" will give all the credit for the victory to NATO and it's 3 strike "saturation bombing."

They lack a similar sense of proportion when it comes to their charges of racism among the revolutionary forces. The purpose of these exaggerations is to warn off anyone who might be inclined to rethink their opposition to intervention and support the revolution:

The racist crimes of the rebels, however, should clear up illusions by those in the anti-war movement that the rebels are progressive in any way.

While many of these "anti-interventionists" claim only to be anti-NATO and 'neutral' with regards to Libya's civil war, the truth is that they long ago threw their lot in with Qaddafi. Now that their predictions that NATO boots on the ground would be required to beat Qaddafi have fallen flat, and the popular support they claimed for Qaddafi in Tripoli and western Libya has been shown to be an illusion, and especially now that the truth about the Qaddafi regime's horrific crimes against humanity are coming to light, they have turned to the most cynical forms of demonization of the revolution as their last defense.

After all, if some unknown Arab painted a racist slogan on a wall between Misrata and Tawergha, why not reprint it a thousand times and condemn the whole movement for it. If some unprofessional citizen soldiers commit errors in the heat of battle, why not use that to smear the whole revolution in a effort to turn the clock back to Qaddafi's systematic and state sponsored racist violence.

So before we can address the real history of racism in Libya or the very real problems of the present, we must deal with these damning charges of "lynching of black people" and "racist demonization campaigns and pogroms."

On September 4th, Human Rights Watch issued a report in which they called on the new Libyan authorities to stop the arbitrary arrest of black Africans, and while they made that critique, and many others with which I agree, they also said:

Human Rights Watch has not found evidence of killings of Africans in Tripoli or systematic abuse of detainees, but the widespread arbitrary arrests and frequent abuse have created a grave sense of fear among the city's African population.
So no "lynchings," no "pogroms," although there is some evidence for lynchings six months ago in Benghazi the first time protesters seized a fort and captured some snipers.

And the truth is that Africans in Libya have every reason to fear that they are in grave danger. For example, Nubianem wrote of "events [that] occurred a few months ago when thousands of Nigerians, Ghanians and other West Africans were lynched, attacked and killed in the streets of Libya," but he was not talking about Libya after the fall of Qaddafi, he is writing in December 2001 about events that took place under Qaddafi's watch almost ten years ago.

The US state department had a lower body count:

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I am a student of history, religion, exoteric and esoteric, the Humanities in general and a tempered advocate for the ultimate manifestation of peace, justice and the unity of humankind through self-realization and mutual respect, although I am not (more...)
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