“I celebrate this uncertainty”

by zunguzungu

I’m writing something on the broader contours of the “responsibility to protect” debate as it’s happening with respect to Libya, but in the meantime, I want to offer this piece from Anjali Kamat and Ahmad Shokr (from Economic and Political Weekly) as an example of the sort of thing which the American pundit seems to have no ability or desire to produce. Kamat and Shokr not only start from the premise that this is about the Libyans, first and foremost — and have bothered to acquire actual information about what is happening — but they do so because they recognize that any statement or polemic about what is happening in Libya that excludes Libyan voices is, as such, not worth listening to.

From the conclusion:

The anti-imperialist arguments against imposing a no-fly zone are many and convincing. Neutralising Gaddafi’s air power may not give the rebels a much-desired strategic advantage over his ground forces, which are better trained and equipped. Moreover, the decision by foreign powers to impose a no-fly zone is likely to be motivated by their own regional interests rather than a genuine concern for the well-being of Libya’s people.

However, at this crucial time, debates about a no-fly zone should not replace conversations about solidarity. The struggle of the Libyan people for freedom deserves the strongest support. The imperative for solidarity with the Libyan rebels is being lost in anti-imperialist polemics, some of which has casually dismissed those Libyans who call for a no-fly zone as naïve or, even worse, as imperial stooges. This is disrespectful to the many Libyans who have paid a heavy price for challenging Gaddafi’s regime on the streets. A more sensible antiimperialist position would focus less on what a no-fly zone means for western powers and more on listening to Libyan voices on the ground and finding ways to meaningfully support their struggle.

By contrast, Josh Marshall. Also, anything written by Andrew Sullivan, at least since he happily described the Libyan movement as an “opportunistic rebellion, fed by tribal rivalries, that was violent from the get-go.”

One Libyan who has gotten some play in the American media is Hisham Matar, a wonderful novelist (I just finished his In the Country of Men and can’t recommend it enough), who wrote this in the LA Times:

I could sense myself, particularly over the last decade, growing hopeless. I began to wonder whether Kadafi had succeeded in killing the Libyan spirit. I could feel my heart hardening toward my own country. I sheltered a quiet and perverse dislike for my own people; perverse because hatred of one’s own amounts to hatred of the self. At times, in Libyan gatherings, this would momentarily lift and I would find myself completely in love with all things Libyan. Vacillating between these extremes has often left me empty and weary.

I am 40 years old. I haven’t known a Libya without Kadafi. These days, witnessing the fall of the dictatorship and, more important, the rise of the Libyan people, I am realizing that up to now my country has been overwhelmingly a source of fear, pain and embarrassment. Now it is a source of joy and pride.

This, from Spiegel Online (on what Gaddafi means to him):

He has stolen my father from me, he has imprisoned my relatives, he has killed many of my friends. He is my enemy. But more importantly than my personal grievances, he has held back the whole country and forced the Libyan people to live in a permanent state of madness. He represents a kind of nightmare for Libya from which I am just waking up.

Everybody was surprised by the events, even the people who spend their whole life studying Libya. But once the protests started, it was surprising how unsurprising it really was. I sense it in the voices of the Libyans I have known all my life. They sound different, their necks free from being tied. Gadhafi was the person under whom we have all suffered. We are all united by our suffering under him.

And this, in the New Yorker:

As for what the future holds, I think we have to refer to the nature of the movement. Its character has been so far exemplary, showing maturity and good sense as well as a commitment to the rule of law. A provisional government has been set up, calling itself the “National Transitional Temporary Council”. It is, according to a statement issued, committed to “the establishment of a civil, constitutional and democratic state.” Obviously, there are reasons to worry; it would be unnatural not to be concerned when such a radical change is taking place. But I celebrate this uncertainty. For nearly half a century, we, Libyans, knew everything: we knew what to think, what to say, what to read, and how to live; every detail in our life had been decided for us. Now we can decide what sort of society we want.

I appeal to the international community to follow France and recognize Libya’s transitional government. This would help isolate the dictatorship even more and, more importantly, provide a logistical framework for Libyans to manage the needs of their people. We also need, desperately, medical and food supplies. Qaddafi is trying to starve the rebel strongholds.

(Matar links from Hisham Matar’s facebook page, EPW article via Katherine Hawkins)