2011-02-19 #Libya, a Republic for the Masses?

Muammar al-Gaddafi came to power in Libya on the 1st of September 1969 through a military coup which proclaimed the Libyan Arab Republic. Now he is the longest serving national leader that does not belong to a royal family. His stance on international affairs has mostly been conflictive and aggressive in nature, although after a long list of disputes, such as financing terrorism worldwide or military clashes with the U.S., he moderated his policies seeking collaboration with international corporations, especially with the Bush Administration.

In the early years of his regime Gadaffi set up a system based on what he called Islamic socialism. In practice this meant a system based on popular or direct democracy, where the population would be organized in communes or popular councils so as to personally elect their leaders. The state was built upon these units and controlled the larger companies, leaving the small ones for private ownership. In 1975 he started publishing a recollection of his philosophy in what he named the "Green Book", where he called the system in Libya the Third International Theory, a third way in between capitalism and communism. He also called his form of government Jamahiriya (a term coined by him), often translated as “republic of the masses”, thus officially making Libya the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. After some years Gaddafi stepped down from his leading position in the General Peoples Committee (the ruling governmental organ) and is now considered a spiritual guide under the title of “Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Revolution".

Under his rule Libya has been involved in a variety of conflicts. For instance, it is reported that Libya financed the “Black September Movement” that carried out the terrorist attacks during the 1972 Olympics in Munich; he has been in close contact with al – Qaeda and various extremist organizations and has had several violent clashes with Arab and non-Arab nations. The constant animosity with the U.S. reached its climax in 1986, when U.S. military intelligence intercepted cables proving that the Libyan government had been directly involved in a bomb planted in a West Berlin club that was popular amongst U.S. officials. President Reagan ordered an aerial attack over Tripoli and Benghazi that killed 60 people. In 1989 they also financed a bomb attack in a French airliner, the flight was between Congo and Paris and the attack resulted in no survivors.

Their extremist position, however, has changed considerably over the last decade. In 2003, the government wrote a letter of apology for its actions to the U.N. and paid compensations to the victims and the parties involved in the attacks. Thanks to the analysis of the leaked cables the world is offered a glimpse behind the real motivations that led the Libyan government to moderate its position towards the Bush administration, a fact that led to the United States rescinding Libya's designation as a state sponsor of terrorism in June 2006.
Cable 10TRIPOLI79 describes a meeting with Mohamed Layas, the Head of the Libyan Investment Authority in his “prime office-space overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, Layas discussed with the Ambassador (accompanied by the FCS officer and P/E chief) the many ways in which U.S. businesses could thrive in Libya, through investment, trade, and joint ventures”. He also mentioned that “U.S. companies can expand on their success in Libya's hydrocarbon market by competing for contracts in the electricity market, health services, and tourism”. These statements prove that Gadaffi and his family, who are well integrated into the system of power, along with other officials are planning and carrying out large privatizations of state owned companies, a process carried out with success in China and Russia (to name a few) and that would mean millions of dollars for whoever carries out the transaction. This claim is supported by Laya’s own statement, from the same cable, where he admits that there is a great deal of “bureaucratic and red tape corruption”.

In another cable, 10TRIPOLI136, “the new head of the Libyan Privatization and Investment Board, Jamal al-Lamushie, told the Ambassador (accompanied by econoff) during a February 10 meeting that U.S. companies are welcome in Libya, and to that end, pledged to help arrange meetings for the upcoming U.S. Trade Mission. In al-Lamushie's view, most Libyans are pro-U.S., but, he believes some Americans have negative views of Libya due to the media. He said "we consider you as a friend, and we are all part of one team, to make the trade mission a success." He also noted “that Libya was "speeding up" the process of privatization, in which nearly 20 state-owned enterprises will be either liquidated, sold to employees, or sold to investors. He said foreign investors are now able to partner with Libyan companies, either from the private or public sectors, in joint ventures at up to 60 percent ownership”. How these operations will be carried out exactly is left unclear.

In conclusion, the Libyan case (bearing all differences) is fairly similar to all the other governments that have either been collaborating with the U.S. and its corporations for a long time, or have started doing so after the Bush Administration pursued its war interests in the region. So, after months of protests it is becoming clear that what people are really fighting against is corruption created by government conspiracies that are acting against their people illegally for their own benefit and of those surrounding them. The nature of these revolutions is not politically oriented; it rather tends to indicate an attempt to change the structure of government from outside the political structure. The earlier protests in Tunisia and Egypt showed that governments could be toppled (if not yet remade adequately) and most importantly, that when people see the widespread rumors of corruption, backdoor deals and violent coercion confirmed by the media thanks to cablegate, they are not willing to let it happen.

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