by Yale University Press and Dartmouth College's political science department as
"a meticulously researched and exceptionally insightful look at modern Libya." I
don't know what book those so-called intellectuals are reading, but the book I
read had very little "meticulous research" and instead relied almost exclusively
on the writer's unsupported opinions.
Pargeter spends much of the book telling us that Muammar Qaddafi was a
tyrant and a very immature hot head, but she presents no evidence to
substantiate these charges. For
example, she states over and over in the book that Qaddafi's government – the
Libyan Jamahiriya - had no popular support among the people and that he was
severely hated by all of Libya. This alleged hatred of Qaddafi serves as her
hypothesis for why Qaddafi was overthrown and murdered in 2011. She even boldly
states that Libyans enjoyed a better lifestyle and greater freedom under King
Idris. To demonstrate this, she cites several examples where she claims Qaddafi
pouted and sulked because he couldn’t convince his son Saif Al-Islam to see
policy the way he did. She
suggests that Qaddafi did whatever he could to sabotage Saif’s efforts at
reform, but again, she presents no proof to demonstrate either why the so-called
reforms were necessary or how Qaddafi did anything to prevent forward
The problem with this book is U.S.
imperialism is so institutionalized within capitalist educational institutions
that this type of pro-West propaganda can be created and passed off as serious
academic work. Still, serious
activists/intellectuals have the responsibility to see through this fallacy.
Even a cursory look at Libya will reveal that Pargeter's analysis lacks serious
logic. For example, her assertion
that the Jamahiriya and Qaddafi had no popular support is absurd.
It would be silly for high school students to suggest any nation and
regime that has no programs and policies that benefit the people while having
the full focus of the U.S. and Israel’s intelligence efforts to overthrow that
regime could remain in power for 42 years without a significant measure of
popular support. We know the
Jamahiriya was popularly supported because we know that Libyans benefitted from
improvements in housing, healthcare, and sustainable life resources since it’s
installation in 1969. Plus,
Pargeter acknowledges Qaddafi’s poor roots in the Bedouin desert region of
Libya, but she conveniently neglects to explain how his humble roots had to have
helped him see the importance of improving the conditions for less fortunate
Libyans like the Tawerghans, or “Black”Libyans, who were firmly rooted on the
bottom of society under King Idris.
It was these people who were the direct beneficiaries of the Jamahiriya
and thus formed much of the core of the support for the revolution.
And, although Pargeter quickly skips over it, Qaddafi's vast and long
ranging support for genuine liberation movements, in spite of his mistakes in
the Horn of Africa and in some other instances, established him and the
Jamahiriya as a true friend to oppressed people's worldwide. For example,
Pargeter mentions that Nelson Mandela of the African National Congress served as
an intermediary to help Qaddafi negotiate around the Lockerbee situation, but
she of course forgets to mention
the historical context for why this happened was because Qaddafi and the
Jamahiriya were supporting the African National Congress in the 70s when the
U.S. and Britain were referring to the ANC as a terrorist organization. Qaddafi had other areas of support. In fact, the Jamahiriya’s base of
support sprang from the Warfalla tribe in the Southeast, the Magarhai in the
Southwest, and the Gadadfa in the Central region. These people were inspired by
the policies and services previously mentioned as well as projects like the Wadi
Ghan Dam project, which supplied drinking water to the people of Libya and the
surrounding countries that bordered the Sahara desert and the drought
conditions inherit with it. Wadi
Ghan was lauded by the United Nations and the African Union as a landmark
contribution to advancing the African continent so it’s astounding that any
book that is presented as a credible critique of Libya could neglect to mention
the dam project and that Wadi Ghan was successfully destroyed from repeated
NATO bomb raids in 2011. Now we
realize and accept how difficult it can be for Europeans like Pargeter to
understand how creating and solving problems like clean drinking water provides
strong self-determination for Africans.
In reality, her leaving out Wadi Ghan can only be explained by concluding
that her only intent is to promote a view of Libya that justifies the exact
opposite of self-determination, neo-colonialism and the re-colonization of
One area in the
book that does deserve some merit is the critique that Qaddafi and the
Jamahiriya made no room for opposition. This is a serious shortcoming of the
regime. Qaddafi's refusal – as indicated in “The Green Book” - to permit
political parties and the accompanying lack of a viable mechanism to voice
dissent is a problem that adversely impacted the Jamahiriya, but it’s also an
issue that all new governments have to contend with when developing their
government infrastructure. The problem for Libya is compounded by the constant
pressure applied by imperialism against the Jamahiriya. Still, all revolutions
deserve the right to develop through those problems and certainly the U.S., the
nation that has killed hundreds of thousands in Iraq, Afghanistan, and who
knows where else due to drone strikes, all in recent years, is in absolutely no
moral position to cast judgment on issues of human rights.
There are many positive sources available to help people understand
revolutions, who they benefit, and how to gauge their effectiveness. One book
that will help clarify the direction Libya was headed in by calling for one
African currency (backed by Libyan gold – another critical point overlooked in
the book) is Kwame Nkrumah’s “Handbook of Revolutionary Warfare” which documents
the strategy to organize for Pan-Africanism; the total liberation and
unification of Africa under scientific socialism.
This is the strategy Qaddafi was attempting to carry out when he was
overthrown and murdered. That’s
why the most interesting book would be the one that explores how Qaddafi’s
efforts to contribute to Nkrumah’s Pan-Africanism were targeted by the
capitalist/imperialist network, led by the U.S.. In fact, it was really this work that
caused the assault against the Jamahiriya. The massive NATO bombing of Libya was so
intense that even Pargeter has to admit that the terrorists who overthrew the
Jamahiriya would never have succeeded without the constant air bombardments
carried out by the U.S. and the imperialist allies.
Finally, the suffering inflicted on the Tawerghans of Libya by the so-called Transitional government
has been criticized from every sector of the world.
Of course, Pargeter’s book doesn’t even address this issue, but it should
be clarified that the assault against these Libyans wasn’t just a racial
cleansing as some reports are indicating.
As previously mentioned, the Tawerghans
were the people who benefitted the most from the Jamahiriya’s focus on providing
support for the oppressed sectors of that society so it was that segment that
most widely supported the Jamahiriya, which set them up for the most violent
retaliation from the reactionary elements who sought revenge once the Jamahiriya
There’s no question that the loss of Qaddafi and the Jamahiriya,
is a severe loss to Africa. The Jamahiriya wasn’t perfect, but the advancements
it contributed to Libya and Africa far outweighed their shortcomings and
they’re loss is going to be felt in Africa for years to come.
Still, imperialism shouldn’t gloat too loudly.
The sons and daughters of Africa are awakening every day.
We are learning from our mistakes and one day the beast will look up to
see a well-organized fighting force of Pan-Africanists that will in the words of
Kwame Ture “bring victory like the sun follows the