By Pepe Escobar
You know the fat lady is about to sing when a dictator unleashes hell from above over his own unarmed, civilian compatriots, and bombs parts of his capital city. That's a bridge too far even by the unspeakable standards of Western-backed dictators in the Arab world.
You know the (ghastly) show may be over when Sheikh Yousef al-Qaradawi, one of the most popular Sunni authorities in the world, not least because of his weekly show on al-Jazeera, issues a fatwa - "I am issuing a fatwa now to kill [Muammar] Gaddafi. To any soldier, to any man who can pull the trigger and kill this man to do so" - and then prays live, on al-Jazeera, for the end of the
Libyan dictator ("O Lord save the Libyans from this pharaoh." When he finishes, the al-Jazeera anchor says "Amen").
You know the bells are ringing when your "Abu Omar Brigade", responsible for your protection, is still on a rampage; but your ambassadors around the world defect en masse; your own deputy ambassador to the United Nations, Ibrahim Omar al-Dabashi, says your government is carrying out genocide; your fighter pilots refuse to bomb your cities; your military officers, in a statement, ask all members of the army to head to Tripoli and depose you; a coalition of Islamic leaders tells all Muslims it is their duty to rebel against you because of your "bloody crimes against humanity"; and to top it off, people are calling for a "million man march" following the Egyptian model.
And what about the Maltese Falcons? In a day of volcanic activity, it's hard to beat the spectacular defection of two colonels of the Libyan Air Force, who flew their Mirages to Malta. They had refused to bomb protesters in Benghazi, telling Maltese authorities they had come so close to carrying out their mission that they could see the crowds on the ground. They also passed "classified" information about what the Libyan military has been up to.
And all this in just one day - Monday.
It was not enough to deploy "black African" mercenaries in a shoot-to-kill rampage in Benghazi. Already on Sunday, Sheikh Faraj al-Zuway, leader of the crucial al-Zuwayya tribe in eastern Libya, had threatened to cut oil exports to the West within 24 hours unless what he called the "oppression of protesters" in Benghazi was stopped.
Akram Al-Warfalli, a leader of the al-Warfalla tribe, one of Libya's biggest, in the south of Tripoli, had told al-Jazeera Gaddafi is "no longer a brother, we tell you to leave the country". The 500,000-strong Berber, Tuaregs from the southern desert, are also against him. When you have four of your key tribes - the spine of your system - marching on Tripoli to get rid of you, you better watch out.
History may eventually register how Gaddafi's appalling 41-year rule in Libya (he was already in power when "Tricky Dicky" Richard Nixon was the United States president) virtually collapsed in only 24 hours. There will be blood - a lot of blood; but "brother" is about to go down.
'Rivers of blood will run through Libya'
The beginning of the end was classic Arab dictator stuff; Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi, looking like an upscale bouncer in suit and tie, went on Libyan state TV on Sunday night instead of his father to deliver a threatening/repellent/pathetic speech that only infuriated the Libyan masses even more, after six days of protests in the historic Cyrenaica region.
After threatening to "eradicate the pockets of sedition" (echoes of Iran's leadership eradicating protests last week) Gaddafi's "modernizing" son said Libyans risked igniting a civil war in which Libya's oil wealth "will be burned".
In 2009, Said received a PhD from the London School of Economics (LSE) with a thesis titled "The Role of Civil Society in the Democratization of Global Governance Institutions: From 'Soft Power' to Collective Decision-Making". Last year he delivered a lecture about it at the LSE (listen to it here.)
Isn't wonderful that the ghastliest dictators in the world may send their offspring to the best schools in the world where they can appease the West's false consciousness while back at home they openly threaten their own people and go for sniper fire, automatic weapons and heavy artillery against their unarmed compatriots?
It's doubtful the LSE taught Saif how to ignite a flash civil war with just a rant. But that's what he accomplished.
Libyan writer Faouzi Abdelhamid - comparing the name Saif al-Islam ("sword of Islam") with Saif al-I'dam ("sword of execution") came out all guns blazing, calling the whole Gaddafi clan criminals and thieves; "You don't even have the right of living among us as ordinary citizens, because you're guilty of high treason".
By the time Saif was delivering his threats, the eastern city of Benghazi had already fallen to the protesters. Tripoli was next, on Monday. With the regime blocking all phone lines, all day Monday occasional, frantic tweets relayed all sorts of terrifying rumors and facts - inevitably clouded by the ominous sound of live ammunition. Helicopters raining bullets down on people in the streets below. Fighter jets launching strikes. Snipers firing from building tops.
Schools, government offices and most stores in Tripoli were closed, with armed "Revolutionary Committees", ie regime thugs, patrolling the streets hunting for protesters in Tripoli's old city. According to Salem Gnan, a London-based spokesman for the National Front for the Salvation of Libya, 80 people may have died when protesters surrounded Gaddafi's residence and were shot at from inside the compound.
As the People's Hall - where the parliament meets when it is in session in Tripoli - was set on fire and all cities south of Tripoli were progressively being "liberated", al-Jazeera managed to trace the source of jamming of its Arabsat satellite frequency to a Libyan intelligence building south of the capital.
Ahmed Elgazir, a human-rights researcher with the Libyan News Center (LNC) in Geneva, later told al-Jazeera he got a call for help from a woman witnessing a massacre in progress on a satellite phone. Eyewitnesses reported to Agence France-Presse another "massacre" in the Fashloum and Tajoura districts of Tripoli. By late Monday night, the (unconfirmed) death toll in Tripoli alone had reached at least 250.
Among Libyans, virtually all information all around the country was and remains word of mouth. But tweets that reached al-Jazeera or the BBC also emphasized a profound disgust with the deafening silence of the "international community" ("Are we only worth mentioning when it has to do with oil and terrorism?")
Round up the oily condemnations
Said "international community" indeed started noticing when the Libyan Quryna newspaper reported protests had broken out in the northern city of Ras Lanuf, whose oil refinery processes 220,000 barrels a day.
Yes, apart from Gaddafi's antics, Libya registers in the West because it exports 1.7 million barrels of oil a day. Its gross domestic product is US$77 billion - number 62 in world rankings; that theoretically implies a per capita income of over $12,000 a year, more, for instance, than BRIC member Brazil. But profound inequality is the norm; roughly 35% of Libyans live below the poverty line, and unemployment is running at an unbearable 30%. The oil wealth stays in Tripolitania. Eastern Libya - Cyrenaica - where the anti-Gaddafi revolution started, is dirt poor.
In the high-stakes front, the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA) - also owner of a London-based hedge fund - has invested more than $70 billion around the world. It's a major shareholder, for instance, in the Financial Times, Fiat and one of Italy's top soccer clubs, Juventus. LIA invests - and plans to invest - billions in Britain.
Cue to the European Union (EU) foreign ministers issuing the usual, bland, bureaucratic condemnation. At least Italian Prime Minister, "bunga bunga" idol and close Gaddafi pal Silvio Berlusconi, who had said earlier he didn't want to "disturb" his friend, had to qualify the massacre of civilians as "unacceptable" and profess he was "alarmed". To see Berlusconi literally kissing Gaddafi's hands, go here No less than 32% of Libya's oil exports go to Italy.
Then there's another classic - Washington's deafening silence. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued the standard bland condemnation. Libyan-American scientist and activist Naeem Gheriany told the Institute for Public Accuracy the Barack Obama administration "says it's 'concerned' about the situation - there's no real condemnation in spite of the dire situation. People are being massacred in the hundreds, Gaddafi is reportedly using anti-aircraft guns to shoot people. In a few days, more people in Libya have apparently been killed than in weeks in Iran, Tunisia, Bahrain, Yemen and even Egypt (which has a much larger population) ... Even the oil cannot justify this silence."
Not to mention that Washington and Gaddafi have been the best "war on terror" pals. Captured al-Qaeda operative Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi - the object of a Central Intelligence Agency "rendition" to former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and Omar "Sheikh al-Torture" Suleiman, who duly tortured him into confessing to a non-existent Saddam-al-Qaeda weapons of mass destruction connection that then-secretary of state Colin Powell used as "intelligence" at his United Nations speech in February 2003 - was later tracked in Libya by Human Rights Watch just to end up his life as an alleged "suicide".
Milan villa or The Hague?
Libyan opposition writer Ashour Shamis has remarked, "For Gaddafi it's kill or be killed". The family told Saudi paper al-Sharq al-Awsat, "We will all die on Libyan soil." That means Gaddafi and a row of hated offspring.
Son Khamis - the commander of an elite special forces unit, trained in Russia - is the mastermind of the repression in Benghazi. Son Saadi is, or was there too, alongside the head of military intelligence, Abdullah al-Senussi.
Son Muatassim is Gaddafi's national security adviser and, until now, possible successor. In 2009, he tried to set up his own special forces unit to erode Khamis's power.
Son Saif, the "modernizer" with an LSE diploma, cuts no mustard with the regime's old guard and the dreaded "Revolutionary Committees".
Son Saadi is basically a thug fond of raising hell across nightclubs in Europe. Same applies to son Hannibal.
It all looks and sounds like a cheap blood-splattered gangster movie. What to make of Gaddafi's bizarre 20-second appearance on state TV early this Tuesday ("I'm in Tripoli, not in Venezuela"), clutching an umbrella, sitting inside a cream-colored microvan and sporting a winter hat with ear flaps, with no clue of what is going on? (After all he was supporting his pals, Tunisia's Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, and to Mubarak, until the very end). He defined TV channels - such as al-Jazeera - as "dogs" (in the 1980s he had already used hit squads to murder exiled "stray dogs" who challenged his revolution).
Still, Gaddafi should not be underestimated. He controls all the hardware - defense, security, foreign affairs. Plus all those "black African" mercenaries/exterminators paid in gold. Yemen's Ali Abdullah Saleh said Yemen was not Egypt or Tunisia. Gaddafi said Libya was not Egypt or Tunisia. Mubarak said Egypt was not Tunisia.
They were all wrong; the entire Arab world now is Tunisia. The Libyan masses hate "their" leader. Even fellow Arab dictators - with the exception of the House of Saud - hate him. He has few expat options. Venezuela's Hugo Chavez would be crazy to offer him asylum and forever destroy his "champion of the poor" credibility.
Well, there's always Berlusconi. Nice villa near Milan, great pasta, and he can pitch his Bedouin tent in the luxurious gardens. And if Berlusconi is sent to jail in his "Rubygate"-related trial in April, Gaddafi may even move up to the main residence. But, after you bombed your own citizens from the air, and hired mercenaries to shoot them, there is only one choice destination: the International Criminal Court in The Hague....
Clinton off the mark on Afghanistan
By M K Bhadrakumar
The Barack Obama administration's choice of Marc Grossman as successor to the late Richard Holbrooke, former special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, is significant for three reasons. If Grossman's diplomatic career spanned Pakistan and the Afghan mujahideen at a time when Pakistan was a "frontline" state for the United States, his two stints in Turkey in a bygone era, including as ambassador, make him an "expert" on the strange workings of a political democracy run by the country's military.
Indeed, Grossman also devoted his career to the remaking of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), including the denouement to the alliance's first "out-of-area" operations in the Balkans. Thus, Grossman's appointment gives away a certain shift in Obama's thinking - gradually moving away from the military "surge" in Afghanistan to a diplomatic and political track of reconciliation with the Taliban.
The "leaks" last week by administration officials to Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Steve Coll appeared almost alongside Grossman's appointment - that the US administration is engaged in direct talks with the Taliban. Coincidence or not, this was also the gist of the policy speech delivered by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the Asia Society at New York on Friday regarding the war.
With Grossman's appointment, the past two months' drift in US policies has been punctuated. But the US's capacity to pull off a denouement to the war that Clinton outlined remains in doubt. The principal points in her speech were:
Did Clinton break new ground? The answer is "no". The war is fast morphing into a "bleeding wound", to use Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's famous words of another superpower's Afghan war. Clinton tacitly acknowledged the stalemate. So, all that the Taliban need to do is to simply "wait it out". Just as Washington has preconditions, so do the Taliban.
In a statement on Saturday, the Taliban zeroed in on precisely the aspect of the ongoing US-Afghan negotiations for American military bases in the post-2014 phase (although Clinton deftly glided over the issue in her speech): "Afghanistan is not a country where the native people will tolerate the presence of foreign troops ... The Americans should know that neither the rulers of the puppet regime nor the hand-picked parliament is entitled to trade on the destiny of Afghanistan ... establishment of permanent bases in Afghanistan is an American pipedream and is not realizable."
Most significantly, the Taliban concluded, "The regional countries unmistakably realize the goals and objectives of America behind their prolonged presence in Afghanistan. Naturally, the regional countries will not accept this notion but rather will oppose it. They will even forge an alliance against it if they find an opportunity to do so and will make efforts to hand out a forceful and devastating blow to the American plan."
Afghan President Hamid Karzai seems to agree with the Taliban. He said in Kabul on Saturday: "This [agreement on US bases] is not something to be done only by the Afghan government and it neither has the authority. It is Afghans who should come up with a decision. In any case, Afghanistan needs peace as a precondition and it wants to make sure that neighboring countries don't feel any threats."
Interestingly, Karzai echoed a Russian Foreign Ministry statement earlier in the day: "This information [regarding US bases] makes one think and it raises questions. Why will the US military bases be needed if the terrorist threat in ... Afghanistan is ended? Will Kabul be able to combine negotiations on a long-term American military presence with the reconciliation process? How will Afghanistan's neighbors view the establishment of a foreign country's military bases near their territory?"
Karzai is convinced that Washington is systematically weakening his authority. He and the Pakistani military leadership will see the new approach in Clinton's speech as a ploy to scatter their nascent endeavor to kickstart an "intra-Afghan" peace process and, generally speaking, to create confusion among Afghan protagonists.
Clinton failed to concede a pivotal role for Pakistan in the search of a settlement. She defined Pakistan's role in terms of cracking down on Taliban sanctuaries, keeping up cordial state-to-state relations with Afghanistan, maintaining non-interference in Afghan affairs and principally moving onto a sustained trajectory of settlement of differences (including over Afghanistan) and normalization with India. In short, Clinton offered to Pakistan a "peace dividend" in terms of its own internal stability and enhanced regional cooperation with India.
She failed to acknowledge Pakistan's "special" interests, a broader security matrix that also includes the alarming prospect (from Islamabad's point of view) of a regional imbalance emanating out of the cascading US-India military cooperation and Washington's unilateral recognition of India as a nuclear-weapon power.
On the other hand, Clinton made it abundantly clear that the key levers of the political process to reconciling the Taliban as well as regional politics over Afghan problem would remain very much in Washington's hands.
Conceivably, Washington counts on its non-Pashtun allies inside Afghanistan to frustrate any Afghan-Pakistan peace process that gets beyond the US's control or defies its objectives and, second, it counts on Saudi Arabia to be the regional "balancer" vis-a-vis Pakistan and Iran, given Riyadh's old links with the Taliban. Washington seems confident it can play merry havoc within the Taliban leadership by splintering or atomising the group, thereby denying Pakistan its "strategic asset".
The US strategy outlined in Clinton's speech, wittingly or otherwise, could create misgivings in Islamabad regarding Karzai's game plan. It all seems rather an audacious hope. The hard realities are:
The US possesses very limited capability to persist with its much-touted civilian and military "surge".
The US claims that the Taliban are weakening and lack conviction. The security situation is deteriorating, war is spreading to the north and Kabul city's security perimeters have been breached.
The latest accord among militants in Kurram agency gives "strategic depth" to the Taliban operating out of the North Waziristan tribal area in Pakistan.
The US military faces the contradictory situation of adhering to a drawdown deadline while simultaneously degrading the Taliban on the battlefield and reinforcing the political and diplomatic "surge".
Washington's equations with Kabul and Rawalpindi are at an all-time low.
The Afghan-Pakistan relationship is way beyond the US's control.
India-Pakistan relations are fraught with huge question marks and Washington faces an uphill task balancing its ties with the two South Asian adversaries.
The US-Iran "standoff" is entering uncharted territory following the developments in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf.
Major regional powers harbor misgivings regarding the US's "unilateralist" approach and its geopolitical objectives.
The war is increasingly controversial in Western opinion and Obama is gearing up for a tough re-election campaign. Clearly, the timeline favors the Taliban.
Clinton's optimism seems unwarranted. She said, "Today, the escalating pressure of our military campaign is sharpening a decision for the Taliban: break ties with al-Qaeda, give up your arms and abide by the Afghan constitution, and you can rejoin Afghan society. Refuse, and you will continue to face the consequences of being tied to al-Qaeda as an enemy of the international community. They cannot wait us out. They cannot defeat us. And they cannot escape this choice."
Very tough talk, indeed. And no mincing of words, either. But, if only life were that simple and the road ahead that straightforward. British Pakistani author and commentator Tariq Ali once wrote that it is when such eloquent rhetoric appears that a resounding voice can be heard echoing through the valleys and hills of the Hindu Kush - loud, derisive Pashtun laughter......
وكي لا "نفلح في البحر" وكي لا تنطفئ شعلة الثورة المتنقلة من وطن عربي الى آخر، يجب ان نعي ان اطاحة الطاغية لا تعني بالضرورة الوصول الى الحرية والديموقراطية. هناك مسافة شاسعة بين اسقاط النظام واحلال نظام جديد. من الثورة الى الحرية طريق طويل وهناك على الطريق من يتربص لاغتيال الثورة ودفنها. وهناك على الطريق كثير من التحديات. سنركز على ثلاثة منها:
التحدي الاول، هو الفوضى. فالفوضى قد تقود الى حروب اهلية وحروب عبثية، وتضل فيها الثورة الطريق الى اهدافها. ولكي لا نقع في الفوضى تحتاج الثورة الى فرز قيادة شجاعة وحكيمة وحضارية. من دون قيادة لا تصل الشعوب الى مكان. قائد واحد في إمارة دبي اخذ الصحراء وجعلها جنة. وقيادات طائفية سياسية متخلفة في لبنان اخذت "الجنَّة" فيه وحولتها "صحراء". والقيادة الشجاعة والحكيمة لا تكون من دون تنظيم سياسي واجتماعي. فالقيادة والتنظيم هما القوة لإنجاح الثورة والوصول بها الى اهدافها
والتحدي الثاني الذي نخافه ويخافه العالم كله، هو ان تنتهز الاصولية الدينية المتمثلة في هذا الشرق العربي بالايديولوجيات الاسلامية المتطرفة الفرصة والفوضى لتخطف الثورة . فهناك خوف من ان تتحول الثورة في البحرين حكم الاصولية الشيعية. وها قد ارتفعت في اليمن اصوات تنادي بجمهورية اسلامية. وهناك خوف حقيقي في مصر من نفوذ الاخوان المسلمين وقوتهم. ان محور الثورة ليس الاسلام بل الانسان. وها قد امتزجت دماء المسيحيين مع دماء المسلمين في الشوارع. كلهم ثاروا. مسيحيون ومسلمون. كلهم رفعوا شعارات واحدة: الحرية والكرامة والديموقراطية. وكم هو مهم ان نفصل بين الدين والثورة حتى تبقى الثورة للشعوب ويبقى الدين لله
والتحدي الثالث هو عودة العسكر. قد يستغل العسكر الفوضى للعودة الى السلطة بحجة فرض النظام والاستقرار. فالعسكري قد يعي اهمية الاستقرار والسلام لكنه، على رغم احترامنا لما يقوم به من مهمة اساسية لحفظ الامن للمواطن، قد لا يعي ما هو أهم من الاستقرار، ألا وهو عظمة الانسان الفرد واهمية العقل والابداع وقوة الحرية. نحن نطلب من الثوار ان يرفعوا شعاراً كبيراً "لا عودة للعسكر"
بين الثورة والحرية طريق طويل. سيسقط الكثيرون وسيموت الكثيرون. ولكن هل هناك خيار آخر للثورة غير المضي الى الامام؟ ونتوجه الى النخب العربية ونقول لها: لقد دقت ساعة الحقيقة. في الماضي وفي الحاضر كان عتبنا عليكم كبيراً. اذ ان السواد الاعظم منكم إمّا لاذ بالصمت وإما تملّق للطاغية. ان الكثيرين منكم بدل ان يلتزموا قضايا شعوبهم التزموا مصالحهم الشخصية الآنية. وهنا لا بد لنا من ان ننحني اجلالا واحتراما امام القلة من هذه النخب الذين فضلوا السجون على الركوع للطاغية والقبول بالذل
هذه الثورة هي ثورتنا. هذه هي فرصتنا التاريخية. ويل لنا اذا قتلناها بجهلنا، وويل لنا ان اغتالوها. ان تحرير الانسان الفرد هو اكبر قضية في هذا الشرق. وتحرير الانسان هو الخطوة الاولى في الطريق الى الحرية، والحرية هي الطريق للابداع، والابداع هو الطريق للحضارة، والحضارة هي التي ستعود بنا ثانية الى التاريخ. من زمان كان العرب في التاريخ ثم خرجوا منه لقرون عدة وها هم اليوم يعودون اليه
حتى الأمس القريب كان مفكرون في الغرب يعتقدون ان الاسلام هو العقبة لدخول العرب التاريخ مرة ثانية. وهل يا تُرى، أدركوا بعد ان رأوا ما رأوا، وبعد ان مات من مات في سبيل الحرية، انهم كانوا على خطأ كبير؟