If your hope for the latest version of “Arab Spring” to be found in Libya was a secular democratic state, you can quickly forget the secular part of the dream.
The leader of the transitional government declared to thousands of revelers in a sunlit square here on Sunday that Libya’s revolution had ended, setting the country on the path to elections, and he vowed that the new government would be based on Islamic tenets.
Indeed, what has immediately happened is the roll back of many of Gadhafi’s decrees that those who’ve now taken over contend violate Sharia law and Islam’s tenets:
Mr Abdul-Jalil went further, specifically lifting immediately, by decree, one law from Col. Gaddafi’s era that he said was in conflict with Sharia – that banning polygamy.
In a blow to those who hoped to see Libya’s economy integrate further into the western world, he announced that in future bank regulations would ban the charging of interest, in line with Sharia. "Interest creates disease and hatred among people," he said.
I’d love to tell you this comes as a complete surprise, but then I’d be acting like some politicians I know.
I’m certainly not going to contend that keeping Gadhafi was the best thing we could do, but let’s be clear, what has happened darn sure doesn’t seem to be an outcome that we’d have hoped to see either. At least as it now seems to be shaking out.
In that area of the world, secular dreams seem to me to be the most foolish. How that particular dream manages to stay alive among the elite of the West is beyond me. It isn’t now nor has it ever been a probable outcome of any of these so-called “Arab Spring” revolutions. The revolutions are steeped in Islam because the governments being replaced were relatively secular for the area and the Islamic groups now rising were the ones being repressed.
How someone could believe that out of that situation, secular democracy would emerge still remains beyond me. No democratic history, no real established democratic institutions and no real democratic experience by the people there. Yet somehow we’ve determined that this bunch is superior to the last bunch.
Based on what I’ve always wondered?
Yet, we continue to hear the hope proclaimed in each upheaval even as reality seems to dismiss the hope at every turn.
Well apparently the Libyan revolution has bagged its bad guy:
Al Jazeera has acquired exclusive footage of the body of Muammar Gaddafi after he was killed in his hometown, Sirte.
Abdul Hakim Belhaj, an NTC military chief, said Gaddafi had died of his wounds after being captured near Sirte on Thursday.
The body of the former Libyan leader was taken to a location which is being kept secret for security reasons, an NTC official said.
"Gaddafi’s body is with our unit in a car and we are taking the body to a secret place for security reasons," Mohamed Abdel Kafi, an NTC official in the city of Misrata, told Reuters.
Earlier, Abdel Majid, another NTC official, said the toppled leader had been wounded in both legs.
A photograph taken on a mobile phone appeared to show Gaddafi heavily bloodied, but it was not possible to confirm the authenticity of the picture.
The news came shortly after the NTC captured Sirte, Gaddafi’s hometown, after weeks of fighting.
"Thank God they have caught this person. In one hour, Sirte was liberated," a fighter in the town said.
Now comes the hard part – keeping the “revolution” out of the “Islamic extremist” ditch.
Cue the Muslim Brotherhood …
It must be true, both the New York Times and the Washington Post have stories on it today. The New York Times:
In the emerging post-Qaddafi Libya, the most influential politician may well be Ali Sallabi, who has no formal title but commands broad respect as an Islamic scholar and populist orator who was instrumental in leading the mass uprising.
The most powerful military leader is now Abdel Hakim Belhaj, the former leader of a hard-line group once believed to be aligned with Al Qaeda.
Nice. The Times goes on:
The growing influence of Islamists in Libya raises hard questions about the ultimate character of the government and society that will rise in place of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s autocracy. The United States and Libya’s new leaders say the Islamists, a well-organized group in a mostly moderate country, are sending signals that they are dedicated to democratic pluralism. They say there is no reason to doubt the Islamists’ sincerity.
But as in Egypt and Tunisia, the latest upheaval of the Arab Spring deposed a dictator who had suppressed hard-core Islamists, and there are some worrisome signs about what kind of government will follow. It is far from clear where Libya will end up on a spectrum of possibilities that range from the Turkish model of democratic pluralism to the muddle of Egypt to, in the worst case, the theocracy of Shiite Iran or Sunni models like the Taliban or even Al Qaeda.
And which do you suppose, given no traditional institutions or experience with “democratic pluralism” in Libya, is most likely to emerge?
Oh, gee, I don’t know?
Who are the best organized and the most ruthless?
Islamist militias in Libya receive weapons and financing directly from foreign benefactors like Qatar; a Muslim Brotherhood figure, Abel al-Rajazk Abu Hajar, leads the Tripoli Municipal Governing Council, where Islamists are reportedly in the majority; in eastern Libya, there has been no resolution of the assassination in July of the leader of the rebel military, Gen. Abdul Fattah Younes, suspected by some to be the work of Islamists.
Yet I’m sure this will all come as a complete surprise to the politicians.
As Libya’s leader, Moammar Gaddafi regarded Islamists as the greatest threat to his authority, and he ordered thousands of them detained, tortured and, in some cases, killed. The lucky ones fled the country in droves. But with Gaddafi now in hiding, Islamists are vying to have a say in a new Libya, which they say should have a system based on Islamic law.
Although it went largely unnoticed during the uprising that toppled Gaddafi last month, Islamists were at the heart of the fight, many as rebel commanders. Now some are clashing with secularists within the rebels’ Transitional National Council, prompting worries among some liberals that the Islamists — who still command the bulk of fighters and weapons — could use their strength to assert an even more dominant role.
Unnoticed by whom? Oh, those in charge of our State Department, apparently. Organization and ruthlessness? Still no guess?
“Secularists don’t like Islamists,” said Ismail Sallabi, an influential cleric who is among nine leaders commanding rebel forces in eastern Libya. Before the revolution, he said, he had never held a weapon. “They want to use Islamists in the fighting stage and then take control.”
And that’s been successful where so far?
Meanwhile, in the category of “best organized”, we have a winner:
Libya is a conservative Muslim nation, and its future government will probably reflect that; the governments of Egypt and Iraq are among Arab states that base their governance on Islamic law. Although Gaddafi’s government tolerated little in the way of activism, Libya’s Islamist groups appear to have emerged from his reign as the best-organized among political groups, and secularists among the country’s new leaders appear determined not to alienate them.
Sigh … do you suppose one day we’ll learn?
Like the US getting duped into helping “rebels” who are also aligned with Iran:
Iran "discreetly" provided humanitarian aid to Libyan rebels before the fall of Tripoli, Jam-e-Jam newspaper quoted Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi on Sunday as saying.
"We were in touch with many of the rebel groups in Libya before the fall of (Moamer) Kadhafi, and discreetly dispatched three or four food and medical consignments to Benghazi," Salehi told the daily.
"The head of the National Transitional Council (NTC), Mustafa Abdel Jalil, sent a letter of thanks to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for having been on their side and helping," he added.
Any guess who comes out on the short end of this? Its not that we’re actually bad guys, it’s just that when it comes to us or them, there’s one big problem between us than they share. Islam and the US being in the “other” category, commonly referred to as “infidel”. So while while the US and NATO do the heavy lifting of getting Gadhaffi out of the way, Iran quietly appeals to its “Muslim brothers” with humanitarian aide. Just enough to get them in good stead with the rebels and in position, now, to take that up a notch or two.
Since the Libyan uprising erupted in mid-February, Iran has adopted a dual approach — criticising the Kadhafi regime for its violent assaults on the rebels while at the same time condemning NATO’s military intervention.
On Tuesday, Iran "congratulated the Muslim people of Libya" after rebels overran the capital Tripoli, but it has so far distanced itself from officially recognising the NTC.
And Iran will withhold that until it helps arrange the proper government type after sorting out who should or shouldn’t be involved in the NTC. Just watch and learn.
The usual treatment has been meted out by some unknown (at the time) foreign entity we chose to help. We’ve been stiffed. After spending months, not weeks, helping the Libyan rebels overthrow Mommar Gadaffi, payback comes in the form of refusing to hand over the convicted murderer of 270 people in the bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.
Having fully duped the Scots by acting as though he was terminally ill, Abdel-Baset al-Megrahi was released by them to a hero’s welcome in Libya, and, apparently a full recovery. Must be the air.
A group of US Senators, obviously presuming that the new rebel government would be somewhat thankful for all the help given them over the past months, requested al-Megrahi be turned over to US custody.
But the transitional government’s justice minister, Mohammed al-Alagi, said Sunday in Tripoli that the request by American senators had "no meaning" because Mr. Megrahi had already been tried and convicted.
"We will not hand over any Libyan citizen. It was Gadhafi who handed over Libyan citizens," he said, referring to the government’s decision to turn Mr. Megrahi over to a Scottish court for trial.
Yes, he’s be tried and convicted … and sentenced. And the only reason he was released was for supposed “compassionate” reasons based on his health. As it turns out, that was a lie. Seems pretty open and shut to me – he’s still convicted and his compassionate release, because of the ruse, is null and void.
Mr. Megrahi’s current whereabouts are unknown, and on Saturday no one answered the door of his villa, hidden behind high walls in an upscale Tripoli neighborhood. A neighbor, Yousef Mohammed, said he saw Mr. Megrahi’s son in the street on Friday and assumed the family hadn’t left the area.
No private guards or rebel fighters were visible in the quiet side street of walled villas. The neighbor, said he often saw Mr. Megrahi in the neighborhood. "This guy is sick. All the time, I saw him" in the wheelchair, he said.
Yeah, I think we’ve seen this movie before.
OK … seems pretty easy from here. No Megrahi, no aid, no assets unfrozen, no help of any kind.
It is now fairly widely acknowledged that what was hoped for in Egypt after its “Arab spring” revolution began is increasingly unlikely to happen. Namely the emergence of a secular and democratic government which will bring stability, peace and prosperity to its nation. The rise of the Muslim Brotherhood wasn’t unexpected to those who understood the dynamics of such revolutions. Nature abhors a vacuum. Power does as well. When the Mubarak regime fell, it created just such a power vacuum. And just as with nature, something was bound to fill that vacuum. In situations like the one in Egypt, that’s usually the most organized and ruthless group available. Unsurprisingly, that group was the Muslim Brotherhood, and Egypt, like a good number of other states in the area, appears to be headed down the long road to Islamic fundamentalism where Islam and sharia dominate the culture with the usual results.
As Libya goes through the final throes of ousting a dictator, one has to ask what the dominant group might be to fill the power vacuum created there. We know the Transnational National Council (TNC) is that supposed vehicle for taking power. But who are they?
Claire Lopez at Big Peace does a little research and gives us an idea. First, she starts by reading the proposed constitution put forward by the TNC and points to the reality that document promises :
Part of that reality is actually on full display with the online posting of Libya’s “Draft Constitutional Charter for the Transitional Stage. As the equally level-headed Dr. Andrew Bostom wrote in his 22 August 2011 posting, “the salient feature of Libya’s new draft constitution is Part 1, Article 1: Islam is the Religion of the State, and the principal source of legislation is Islamic Jurisprudence (Sharia).” [emphasis added]
For those still unsure of what is actually happening in Libya, that Article, which places Islamic law (shariah) at the very top of the constitution, means that principles Jeffersonian republicans consider foundational to a democratic system—such as equality, individual freedom, pluralism, tolerance, minority protections, consent of the governed, natural rights/natural law derived through exercise of human reason, independent (secular) judiciary, and a vibrant free press—even if mentioned later in the draft text, have no real validity. It is what comes first and is stated explicitly in the constitution that carries the real weight. In Libya’s case, that means Islamic law.
Among some that revelation will elicit the reply, “well we don’t know that. We don’t know that such a declaration will really have the effect that critics are claiming”. Of course, you have to deny the reality in the vast majority of states in the Middle East where Islam is the state religion and sharia the legal system to say such a thing.
Secondly, Libya is a country with no real experience with western democracy, philosophy or ideals. For at least 40 years, individual rights have been trampled. “Natural law” consisted of Gaddafi dictating and the people obeying. The organs of such a hoped for revolutionary change simply don’t exist in Libya. But what does exist is an organization of Islamists bent on taking power. What one has to realize is they believe what they are going to try to do is what is best for both the country and the people. And they have help:
Those taking over are no less a cause for concern: as Walid Phares points out in his insightful Fox News analysis of 23 August 2011, the Libyan TNC is a motley crew comprising “former diplomats, bureaucrats, and military officers from the old regime” as well as “politicians and leaders from movements and groups from the political left, Marxists, Socialists, Arab Nationalists, liberals and Islamists.” As in Egypt and elsewhere across the region, however, it is the proponents of shariah who are the best organized and most determined to impose their agenda in the post-revolutionary milieu. Their push for power in Libya already is underway, openly supported by Yousuf al-Qaradawi and the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, and will accelerate from positions within the TNC as its grip on the country is consolidated.
Emphasis mine and an argument I’ve been making prominently since Egypt. There is nothing at all to indicate that it will be any different in Libya. What most in the West, who have a different take on the involvement of religion in everyday life means, is that Islam is woven into the very fabric of the life of most adherents and is more than something they do once a week. It is going to be interesting to see how NATO and the US handle this, but when all is said and done, I expect to see another “Islamic Republic” in place, mostly hostile to the West and Israel and with its people again under the boot heel of another form of dictatorship – this time religious in nature.
After months, not weeks, of a NATO bombing campaign, it appears that the regime of Libyan strong-man Moammar Gaddafi is about to end. Rebels have advanced into Tripoli, the capital, and Gaddafi is said to be cornered in his compound. When last heard from his advice to his remaining supporters was to take to the streets:
In a brief broadcast on state television, Gaddafi made what came across as a desperate plea for support. “Go out and take your weapons,” the Libyan leader said. “All of you, there should be no fear.”
But the opposite seems to be what his loyalists are doing:
But reporters traveling with rebel forces said Gaddafi’s defenses were melting away faster than had been expected. There were reports of entire units fleeing as rebels entered the capital from the south, east and west, and his supporters inside the city tearing off their uniforms, throwing down their weapons and attempting to blend into the population.
A Tripoli-based activist said the rebels had secured the seaport, where several hundred reinforcements for the opposition had arrived by boat, and were in the process of evicting Gaddafi loyalists from the Mitiga air base on the eastern edge of the city.
There are also reports that a safe haven is or is still being negotiated for Gaddafi. South Africa has been identified as a participant in those negotiations with Zimbabwe and the Congo as two possible destinations.
Obviously Gadaffi’s reign is within hours, if not days of ending.
The question then becomes, “now what”? While this is supposedly a flowering of the Arab spring, there have been disturbing reports of Islamist radicals in leadership positions within the Rebel alliance. Additionally, there have been various councils and groups claiming leadership. Once Gadaffi is ousted and the capitol taken, the hard part begins – governing. Who or what band or group is likely to emerge as the leadership group. While there is a lot of talk about “revolutionary youth”, etc., in cases like this the most ruthless and best organized group usually take charge.
The “Twitter revolution” started by “revolutionary youth” in Egypt has since yielded to the Muslim Brotherhood – a well organized Islamist group which has seemingly reached an accommodation with the army and will apparently take power there after the next election. The secular and democratic activists have been pushed to the side.
There’s also the question of “now what” for the West. Does NATO tip its hat to the rebels and wish them good luck, or does it plan on some sort of post-Gaddafi role? France has a historic interest in Libya. Will European nations simply walk away or will they attempt to help craft a solution in Libya?
Finally, is the collapse of the Gadaffi regime a vindication of Obama’s “leading from behind” strategy? It certainly forced NATO to do more than has in quite some time and the campaign got the desired result. Does that make it a good strategy for the future, or a one-of-a-kind campaign that got lucky given the weakness of the target and the geography of the nation?
All of these questions and more will be answered in the next few weeks. One has to wonder how many of the answers will come as a surprise.
In this podcast, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss the Libya vote in the House of Represenatatives, the economy, and Gunwalker.
The direct link to the podcast can be found here.
As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2010, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.
I swear I think politicians are like geese – they wake up in a new world everyday and are both irony impaired and have no concept of hypocrisy.
Remember Senator Clinton in 2007?
[Mrs.] Clinton, D-N.Y., a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has since May requested a briefing from Pentagon officials as to whether they have undertaken any serious planning for a future withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.
On Thursday she received a response from the Pentagon that she told ABC News was “outrageous and offensive.”
The letter from Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Eric Edelman did not mince words. “Premature and public discussion of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq reinforces enemy propaganda that the United States will abandon its allies,” he wrote.
“I deeply resent the administration’s continuing effort to impugn the patriotism of those of us who are asking hard questions,” Clinton told ABC News.
The other day, at a press conference in Jamaica, it was she who was being asked the hard questions. Her response?
QUESTION: [...] We’ve entered a situation in Libya that looks increasingly quagmire-like. And it’s starting to create a political headache for the Administration with Republican leaders arguing that the actions were inappropriate in the sense that they circumvented congressional approval for them. What is the – your vision for the endgame, a medium-term plan for U.S. involvement in Libya? And what do you make of House Speaker Boehner’s remarks?
SECRETARY CLINTON: [...] I have to take issue with your underlying premise. I think that there is very clear progress being made in the organization and the operational ability of the opposition, the Transitional National Council, the military efforts on the ground. I don’t think there’s any doubt in anyone’s mind that Qadhafi and the people around him have their backs against the wall. The kind of support that we saw forthcoming for the Libyan opposition at the recent Libyan Contact Group meeting in Abu Dhabi was very heartening. Money is flowing, other support is available.
So I know we live in a hyper-information-centric world right now, and March seems like it’s a decade ago, but by my calendar, it’s only months. And in those months, we have seen an international coalition come together unprecedented between not only NATO, but Arab nations, the Arab League, and the United Nations. This is something that I don’t think anyone could have predicted, but it is a very strong signal as to what the world expects to have happen, and I say with all respect that the Congress is certainly free to raise any questions or objections, and I’m sure I will hear that tomorrow when I testify.
But the bottom line is, whose side are you on? Are you on Qadhafi’s side or are you on the side of the aspirations of the Libyan people and the international coalition that has been created to support them? For the Obama Administration, the answer to that question is very easy.
The irony? She’s questioning those who oppose her point of view’s patriotism. The hypocrisy? She’s essentially saying “you’re either with us, or against us” – something she roundly condemned in her previous life.
Oh, and of course as she rejects underlying premises, let me do my fair share. I reject the premise that says if you oppose the illegal war in Libya it is because you are “pro-Qadhafi”. But of course any thinking person should know it’s a false premise to begin with.
So, where’s the UN, NATO and R2P? I mean, this should be bad enough to get them involved given the Libya scenario:
Syrian tanks took up positions outside the city of Hama on Saturday, where tens of thousands of people took to the streets to mourn the deaths of at least 65 protesters gunned down by security forces there the day before.
But wait, there’s more:
The government’s violent crackdown against a three-month-old popular uprising continued, with helicopter gunships killing 10 people in a neighboring province and residents of Hama bracing for a military assault that would be the first on the city since the government bombed it in 1982, killing at least 10,000 people.
Wow, that was enough to get Gadhafi the full might of the UN, NATO and the US to come down on him.
What is that? Is that the sound of hypocrisy I hear in DC, Europe and the UN? Inconsistency? Or just cluelessness?
So many were treated for gunshot wounds at local hospitals that blood supplies ran low, residents said. Throughout the night, loudspeakers on mosques normally used for calls to prayer urged people to donate blood.
Yeah, this isn’t anything like our illegal war in Libya, is it?