- Paperback: 272 pages
- Publisher: AK Press (8 May 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1849351120
- ISBN-13: 978-1849351126
- Product Dimensions: 11.4 x 1.9 x 18.4 cm
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
Arab Spring, Libyan Winter Paperback – Import, 8 May 2012
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Despite the (probably) millions of words written about the Libyan uprising and the NATO intervention, nothing written in English has come near the truth. After reading Arab Spring, Libyan Winter, it seems that when all is said and done, Prashad's work will come the closest. --Ron Jacobs, Counterpunch
A compelling alternative history that ought to disquiet all those who attach the term 'humanitarian' to NATO's intervention in Libya. --Chris Toensing, Middle East Report
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One outrage which captures the depravity of our involvement was the giddy attitude of Hillary Clinton when she learned that Khaddafi had been murdered by revolutionaries who captured him after his car had been destroyed by NATO bombers.: Her laughing remark was "We came, we saw, he died." He did die. He was murdered, with NATO as an abettor. Being led from behind by the U.S.
That the rationalizations and excuses for our going to this war are groundless seems pretty well acknowledged, but Prashad goes through enough of the history to make that clear for those not already well aware of it. .The short of it appears to be that Khaddafi made a mistake no other despot is likely to emulate--he sought to curry our favor by giving up his nuclear ambitions and WMD's. Now we wonder why Assad keeps his, Kim continues development of his nukes, and the Ayatollah has no interest in playing nice.. And we fooled the Russians and Chinese into not vetoing a UN resolution about protecting civilians, which became the cover for out extensive bombings of any area not under control; of the revolutionaries. Today the Syrians are paying the price for our having "fooled Russia and China once" They don't believe us any more.
There are perhaps three negative elements in this book. First, it is certainly not well written, which may be unavoidable when trying to convey to American readers a story about the strange goings-on in a strange country. Part of that is the perhaps unavoidable difficulty of dealing with Arab names. It's much like struggling through a Russian novel. I finally concluded that it just wasn't worth the effort to keep track of all the people and organizations--it was enough to recognize that there were a lot of them, and accept on faith that Pradesh had the story straight.
Which gets top what may be a negative, although it didn't seem as such while I was reading the book. Pradash is, at least according to Wikipedia, an avowed Communist--a persuasion which, in retrospect, may have colored some of his descriptions of events. As I read, though, I was certainly not conscious of any such bias; nor, as I reflected on it, could I see how that might alter the facts of our conduct which so distress me.
It is indeed disheartening to read of this, but essential. Our conduct today is little different from that which led to the Mexican-American War. One would have hoped we might have progressed beyond that point.
Prashad also discusses the Arab Spring in Yemen and Bahrain (and a little about Tunisia). In Bahrain, the Obama administration quietly endorsed the Saudi led Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) invasion of the country to crush its pro-democracy movement. Prashad explains the US position regarding the question of democracy in Bahrain. Bahrain houses the US fifth fleet and any democratic government responsive to popular will might kick the fleet out. Prashad quotes two Wikileaks cables from 2008 where US diplomats report that the Al Wefaq party is very popular among Bahrain's oppressed Shiite majority and that the party is a non-sectarian and non-fundamentalist. But the US does not want an independent Bahrain--nor does Saudi Arabia, which continually worries about unrest amongst the Shiites in its eastern provinces. Meanwhile in Yemen, Obama quietly accepted the stepping down of a US ally, dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh, in favor of Saleh's vice-president. With no protest from Obama or other moralists in his administration, Saleh was granted immunity from prosecution for his crimes by Yemen's parliament.
The second part of the book is devoted to Libya. Prashad describes the evolution of the Qaddafi regime from its Arab nationalist origins to its embrace of neoliberalism and the US War on Terror in its last years. Increasingly Qaddafi invited men with close links to the international business world into his government. Prashad quotes one of the diplomatic cables released by wikileaks which describes a conversation that the US charge d'affaires in Libya had in 2008 with a friend of Shukri Ghanem, who later defected to the anti-Qaddafi rebels and was Qaddafi's Prime Minister between 2003 and 2006.This friend declared that Qaddafi was dragging his feet on economic reform, frustrating the ambitions of the technocrats around Qaddafi's son Saif al Islam to unleash "shock therapy" privatization on Libya. The friend doubted that neoliberalism would ever make the advances its Libyan adherents wanted unless Qaddafi was removed. The neoliberals were thus very supportive of the February 17th rebellion and quickly hijacked it.
Prashad notes that after February 17, Libyan opposition figures immediately began to spread unverified stories of genocidal violence and the western media reported such stories as confirmed fact. Within a week of February 17, reports claimed that Qaddafi had already massacred 10,000 people. However, Prashad notes that a UN investigation headed by Cherif Bassiouni estimated in mid-June, four months after the rebellion started, that 10,000 people had been killed. Prashad does not say whether the investigation included soldier deaths in the 10,000 figure. The investigation found that Qaddafi's forces committed war crimes but that the rebels did also. Western media, Libyan rebels, western governments and even a leftist like Gilbert Achcar warned hysterically that Qaddafi would enact genocidal reprisals in order to retake rebel held cities like Bengazhi Prashad notes that there is no evidence that Qaddafi's forces conducted genocidal reprisals before NATO's bombing. Prashad writes that in the city of Az Zawiya reports suggest that as few as 8 people were killed after Qaddafi's goons retook the town. He cites a Human Rights Watch report of April 10th that in Misrata--heavily fought over by Qaddafi and the rebels--the highest casualty estimates were 949 wounded and 257 killed. Only three percent of the killed were women. Misrata and Az Zawiya suggest very bad things but not genocidal violence. Similarly Prashad notes that Amnesty International's Donatella Rovera concluded that there was no evidence to support the heavily circulated stories about mass rapes by Qaddafi's troops
Prashad gives some attention to the atrocities of the NATO rebels and the civilian casualties from the NATO bombing. He cites a Wall Street Journal report about the town of Tawergha where the Misrata rebels ethnically cleansed the town--which once had 30,000 people-of its dark skinned inhabitants. Tawergha became literally a ghost town. Tawergha was an example of the human rights violations meted out by the rebels to Africans and other dark skinned Libyans. As for civilian casualties from NATO bombs, Prashad cites a December 2011 New York Times investigation.
Prashad does not buy the bunkum that NATO bombed Libya for moral motives but that it wanted to take control of the Arab Spring dynamic that was threatening to unravel western hegemony in the region. He argues that NATO's institution of the "No-Fly Zone" and support for Qaddafi's indictment before the International Criminal Court eviscerated the chances for a peaceful settlement of the conflict.
Prashad hopes that the Arab Spring will deepen democracy in Arab countries. He writes that Islamic parties might be the winners of this democratic opening in the short term--however these parties embrace the neoliberal economics so loathed by the masses; thus their political successes might be short-lived. He notes that prospects for genuine democracy in Libya look dim at the moment.
I know space is finite but perhaps Prashad might have included a lot more discussion about Egyptian post-Mubarak politics.
This book contains no footnotes or endnotes.