It is pathetic that agencies and statesmen of the international community continue to describe the events in Libya as a civil war. This is why only sanctions have been agreed upon at the Security Council of the United Nations. Gaddafi and his hired henchmen are murdering and detaining innocent Libyans. This is not a civil war in a contemporary sense, this is an illegal slaughter of civilians peacefully protesting. My assertion of that is backed up by no less an authority than Catherine Ashton, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, for the Human Rights Council. She said “We are trying to respond in real time to the crisis and of course to avoid the civil war that we fear”. That statement is unequivocal: This is not a civil war rather than an ugly and illegal attempt at crushing a peaceful attempt to overthrow the regime by mass murder and doubtless other sickening, violent crimes.
There is little doubt that we live in a world that is fraught with inhumanity and injustice, but if democracy is about anything it is truth and justice. The systematic repression and slaughter by a state of its people cannot be deemed a civil war and International bodies such as the UN must get in step with the new world order and take more robust steps than sanctions, such as a ‘no-fly’ zone.
With each passing day the uprising in Libya has become more shocking and with each new twist and turn the appearances of Gaddafi himself have become ever-increasingly surreal. When the protests began in Tripoli on Tuesday evening, Gaddafi made a weird, appearance that seemed to be based on Gene Kelly in ‘Singing in the Rain’ sitting in what looked like a cross between an old-fashioned Renault 4 and a Robin Reliant, whilst holding up an umbrella and wearing what appeared to be a Davy Crockett hat and a leather Jacket: “I’m in Tripoli” he declared. It must have been met with some disbelief by most of those watching that Gaddafi knew where in the world he was. The only thing we were patently aware of was that Gok had not dressed him for the occasion.
His next speech a day later, from an even more embattled Tripoli, saw him ranting, in what appeared to be a half-finished home improvement extension, that he would devolve even more powers to the masses, despite the fact that he had ostensibly devolved all such powers long ago when he wrote his Green Book, which he brandished relentlessly during his speech. He then went on to compare himself with the Queen, saying “no one criticised her for invading Iraq” (surely she would have left that to Prince Phillip?) and asserted that Bin Laden was to blame and that the protesters were all on powerful mind-bending drugs. I was beginning to wonder if it wasn’t Gaddafi that had been slipped some mind-bending Mickey Finn by the way he was presenting himself.
During the Iraq war we had Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, Iraqi Minister of Information under Saddam, who treated us to surreal, hallucinatory visions of what he thought was reality. Known affectionately as ‘Baghdad Bob’ he entertained us with his take on the invasion and many people were able to suspend their horror at the realities of war and indulge themselves in what appeared to be an attempt by Baghdad Bob to emulate Manuel from Fawlty Towers. Now Gaddafi, never the one to pass the chance of a place in the spotlight to one of his underlings, appears like a cross between Basil Fawlty and Adolf Hitler, dispensing faux largesse by proposing to devolve powers already devolved, whilst calling on his supporters to kill the ‘cockroaches’ that are out and about on his streets. Are these crazy despots all fans of John Cleese?
The responsibility for the willing martyrs in the uprisings for democracy in the Arab lands and the crumbling regimes and toppling presidents ultimately stem from one man, Mohamed Bouazizi. This young Tunisian was harassed and humiliated by the Tunisian police for more than a decade for nothing more serious than the illegal street trade of fruit and vegetables from a barrow in his town. His story has, within the six weeks since his death on January 4th, attained an almost fable-like status, seeming like a modern day version of ‘David and Goliath’.
Having had his produce and his scales confiscated on December 17 last year by spiteful local police, Bouazizi went to find his local Councillor to complain about his unjust and shameful treatment. When fobbed off with a lie about the availability of the official he was seeking, he went and bought a container of white spirit and set himself alight outside the council offices. It took this proud young man almost three weeks to die, but in that time the outrage and contempt that was felt for the unjust authority that pushed him to this tragic end caused the uprising and revolution in Tunisia that has now swept the Arab world, leaving Presidents and Kings fearing for their future and sending many to flee their luxurious palaces; all ultimately paying the price for the inhumanity of their arrogant autocracy.
All of these despicable despots were dealt a crushing blow by a Tunisian street vendor of fruit and vegetables. I would like to think that streets and buildings will be named after this brave man, whose significance lay in the fact that he was always thought of as insignificant. Please remember him. This world needs more people like Mohammed Bouazizi.
My abiding memory of the historic and momentous events of today in Libya will be blighted by the pathetic response of our Foreign Secretary. On a visit to Brussels, Mr. Hague said that the actions against protesters in Libya undermine Gaddafi’s government. When Arab diplomats were showing the courage to stand up to their psychotic tyrant, Mr. Hague’s best shot was to describe the Libyan leadership as weakened or impaired?
Gaddafi henchmen are using machine guns and anti-aircraft weapons to slaughter Libyans and our Foreign Secretary asserts that this undermines those currently committing what has been described as genocide but what must certainly be criminal acts under international law? Was Mr. Hague appraised of the situation in Libya, which many of us were keeping up with on the internet? Is there no one in our politically half-baked government who can speak with some depth and authority? When a nation’s people were showing their selfless bravery and aspiration to democracy, our useless leaders were describing in shades of grey Gaddafi’s government’s lessened credibility.
It is clear from the news broadcasts today that Col. Gaddafi has hired mercenaries to murder and suppress protesters in Libya in the most brutal way imagineable. Surely now is the time to freeze the assets of this dictator and his family worldwide? It is abundantly clear that this despot has now committed crimes that will be the subject of proceedings under international law when the fighting is over.
William Hague said on the BBC’s World At One that the position of the Libyan leader and his government is being undermined. That is a crass understatement. Gaddafi and his henchmen are now completely discredited in the eyes of any reputable or reasonable observer and the EU must make regime change part of their foreign policy where Libya is concerned. If not they will be accused of wringing their hands while hundreds of Libyans suffered mercenaries wringing their necks.
Sarah Brown, the wife of the former Prime Minister, has said in her memoirs of life at 10 downing Street that her husband was misunderstood. Whilst I agree with her regarding the public perception of her husband, there is something that is far more misunderstood by the public than him: the debt created during his term as premier.
The coalition government has, since it took office, continually referred to the financial situation left by the Labour government as Mr. Brown’s debt mountain. What they studiously avoid to explain is that, until the banks messed up and needed shoring up by the taxpayer, Mr. Brown was responsible for keeping Public Sector net debt well below the level left by the previous Conservative administration. The level of debt when John Major’s government was voted out of office represented 42.5% of GDP (May 1997) and it was only on 14 September 2007, when the Northern Rock Bank needed bailing out that the borrowing requirement rose dramatically from 36.2% of GDP to 44.7%. In the last quarter of 2008, when dealing with the problems created by the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), Lloyds TSB and HBOS that the seismic change in borrowing from 46.3% of GDP to 145.7% took place.
Here is what the Office for National Statistics had to say about this: “For the first time data for Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Banking Group have been fully incorporated into the public sector finances. This has impacted considerably on the measure of public sector net debt that includes the effects of the financial interventions.”
Let’s have no more misunderstanding here. This level of debt was created by the banks and their mismanagement of their businesses. Had it not been for Gordon Brown and the action he took we would have been living in complete financial meltdown by now, with at least four of our High Street banks consigned to history.