Glen Ford: The US intervention does not have humanitarian objectives
PAUL JAY: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Washington. The stalemate continues in Libya. Gaddafi has sent his vice foreign minister, apparently, to Greece with a proposal for some kind of peaceful resolution to the crisis. In the United States and in London, both capitals are seeing how they can take over, control, influence the outcome of this situation. And the people in Benghazi continue to demand rights. There are many forces at work here. And now to talk–give us his take of what’s taking place in Libya and in Washington is Glen Ford. He’s the executive editor of BlackAgendaReport.com. Thanks for joining us, Glen.
GLEN FORD, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, BLACKAGENDAREPORT.COM: Thanks for the invitation, Paul.
JAY: So, as I said in the opening, there are a lot of different forces at play, all with their own interests. How do you analyze all this?
FORD: Well, it is an imperial assault. We don’t need to lose sight of the forest just because individual trees are acting this way and that. What we’re seeing is a unified Euro-American assault on a major oil producer. But the context must include what people are calling the “Arab Spring”, this Arab nationalist reawakening. And that had Washington and all the smaller imperial capitals very, very confused and off-balance. They desperately wanted to find some way that they could appropriate to themselves some part of the Arab reawakening. Libya has provided that opportunity to them, or they have provided themselves with the opportunity to somehow identify with rising Arab nationalist forces, which they will of course call democratic, even though if they come to power in Libya it will be by force of United States and European arms.
JAY: It’s a rather complicated situation. I mean, from the reports, we understand, from Benghazi, including people who work for us in Benghazi, the initial uprising seemed to be part of the uprisings across the Arab world. There are of course many elements involved in this uprising, as there were in Egypt and other places, and everybody’s got their finger in it, trying to influence it. But the mass participation in Benghazi, to all the eyewitness reports we have, was a spontaneous uprising, as were the others in Egypt and Tunisia. That doesn’t discount the way it’s–there may be attempts to hijack it, both in terms of the leadership of that movement and of course the US and Europe. Does this not–is it not more complicated than simply an assault on Libya?
FORD: The US and European role is not complicated.
JAY: I’m not suggesting it is. I don’t think they act for any reasons other than what they say they do, their own national interest.
FORD: Right. But it must be restated and stated over and over again: the character of the American and European action is an armed assault on a sovereign country with the purpose of regime change. That’s clear. In terms of the internal dynamics in Libya, certainly there is indigenous democratic-minded opposition to the Gaddafi regime. How could there not be after 40 years of rule? Certainly, also, that part of the country is the center of Islamist political activity. And the 1996 rebellion was heavily Islamist in its political orientation. Gaddafi executed about 1,000 prisoners caught in the course of putting down that rebellion. And all of those prisoners had families, and they all belonged to two tribes. And so there’s no question that there was bad blood between Gaddafi and people in Benghazi and that area. There is a difference from the outset between this uprising and in Egypt and Tunisia. This uprising turned violent and military in nature almost immediately. In the first few days, we saw–and The New York Times Magazine has confirmed this, and The Globe and Mail have confirmed it.
JAY: Hang on for a second. The leader of Hezbollah, [Hassan] Nasrallah, he says the reason that happened, because as the viciousness with which Gaddafi attacked the demonstrators and protesters in Benghazi–and he actually came out with a statement, Hezbollah–unless people think Hezbollah’s become a propaganda organ for the US–Nasrallah actually came out with a specific statement defending the uprising in Benghazi.
FORD: Yeah, and the demonstrators were attacked viciously in Tunisia and viciously in Egypt, and they’re being attacked viciously right now in Yemen with huge loss of life. They were attacked viciously in Bahrain. I’m simply saying that the character of that uprising in Libya very quickly turned violent, and violent in an organized way, in which lots of Libyan soldiers and Gaddafi sympathizers were literally lynched. And, in fact, black people in the street were being lynched in these first days of the uprising. And we didn’t see that in Tunisia; we didn’t see it in Egypt. There’s a different character, certainly, to [inaudible]
JAY: In terms of people being lynched in Benghazi, we tried to follow that story with our team in Benghazi, and they didn’t find evidence of that. I mean, do you know where the evidence for that comes? They certainly found evidence of harassment, they found a kind of strain against migrant workers in Benghazi, although they also found that amongst black Libyans, who also had some of the same prejudice against migrant workers. But they didn’t find evidence of any lynchings of migrant workers in Benghazi.
FORD: We documented it in the–several weeks ago, I believe three weeks ago. And all of those sources we cited, virtually all of them were Western news sources. You know, it’s amazing what the corporate media see and don’t see. They have been embedded in or right alongside, physically, at least, these rebels for well over a month and were unable to describe their ideology, their political tendencies. They have virtually nothing to say. Very, very, very strange. One thinks, well, maybe they don’t like what they’re looking at. Maybe it tends to confirm that some elements of this uprising are Islamist.
JAY: Our reporting from Benghazi would show the majority of the uprising is, in one form or another, Islamist, which is why I think in Washington there’s such a debate whether to arm the rebels or not. They don’t trust this rebellion.
FORD: Oh, and we said in this week’s edition of Black Agenda Report that the lull in the bombing is a kind of discipline by denial. The United States is blaming it on weather, but we also hear from those same people that the United States forces are capable of bombing, carrying out their mission in all weather and at night and under all circumstances. So of course it’s a purposeful denial. Now, I believe that the reason is to show these guys who is really boss, to let them know that without this, the air armada of the United States and Europe, they would have been put down already, and to tame them, so to speak, because there are disparate elements in there.
JAY: Why target Gaddafi when Gaddafi was playing ball so well with the West? I mean, you know and our audience knows from 2003, especially since 2008, Gaddafi’s been more or less part of this system of imperialism in the Middle East. You know, his son had visited Lockheed Martin just days before the uprisings. He visited the New York Stock Exchange. He visited the Port Authority in Los Angeles. The Libyan Sovereign Wealth Fund in England was a very active player. I mean, they had really been integrated into the Western capitalist system, if you will. So why target a dictator you know and unleash a Pandora’s box of a popular uprising you don’t know?
FORD: They targeted him because they had the opportunity. They also, as I said earlier, were desperately seeking a way to put themselves on the right side of the Arab reawakening, and this was an opportunity. As well, it was what the Saudi’s wanted. It’s well known, it’s been known for a very long time, that the Saudi leadership and Gaddafi were at knife’s edge. Gaddafi liked to bait them and, well, badmouth them, and kings and monarchs don’t like that. So it was an opportunity to take him out. And just because he was collaborating with the United States and the Europeans, collaborating with AFRICOM in terms of operations to find al-Qaeda, just because he was doing that does not mean he was considered reliable. What the imperialists want is a regime that will totally open up the country to Western corporate penetration. They cannot tolerate independence of any kind. They can’t tolerate any nationalism except their own French nationalism or United States nationalism. And that’s why they’re so off balance with this reawakening of Arab nationalism. And they’re not out of the woods yet.
JAY: And I think again you can see that confusion in Washington, especially over eastern Libya, because given its Islamist character, they’re also very critical of the US. They’ve been very opposed to US support for Israeli occupation. It’s a very–it’s a situation I don’t think they’re in control of, although I certainly wouldn’t disagree they’re doing everything they can to control it.
FORD: Nationalism is a very difficult thing to control. Nationalism is complicated. Many varieties, strains of Arab nationalism are also quite caught up in Islamist thought, just as white American nationalism is infused with Christian kinds of ideologies. So it’s not something that can be so easily controlled, which is why the imperialists are not feeling good these days.
JAY: What do you think Americans should be telling the Obama administration?
FORD: The American antiwar movement, such as it is, has the same mission as it always had here in the belly of the beast–to end the war, to stop US aggressions against people in foreign lands. It’s quite simple. Nothing has changed here. And those elements that call themselves the left who are endorsing this aggression against Africa, they’re not really left at all. They’re simply liberals who are searching for some war that they can identify with. And now they have their good war.
JAY: We’ll get one of them on and we’ll have you take them on one-on-one. And let’s–I think it’s an important debate to have. Thanks for joining us, Glen.
FORD: Thank you, Paul.
JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
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