Tuesday, 22 March 2011


Small stones can start large avalanches, opposition to Muammar Gaddafi and his murderous repressive regime is not new, it has a long history both inside and outside of Libya. Not that former PM Tony Blair and other Western Leaders who were busy snuggling up the repressive leader and his spawn would have noticed, but courageous Libyans defying the repressive Gaddafi regime took to the streets not a month ago, but more than two years ago. They risked torture and death sentences and their protest largely passed unnoticed by most of the world, a small group of families began to hold weekly demonstrations in Benghazi, the city that has become the epicenter of the uprising that swept across Libya.

In less than three months Gaddafi has gone from being the West's best mate to billy no mates. The UN Security Council has twice in three weeks done the right thing, initially by referring Libya to the International Criminal Court, then, by authorizing military force to protect civilians from Muammar al-Qaddafi's crazed wrath. Qaddafi is in many ways the perfect stage villain complete with an iffy dress sense, madness and way over-the-top threats to "show no mercy" to the people of Benghazi, along with his regional meddling and megalomaniac ideas, left him few friends or defenders.

Now What's even more amazing aside from the fact that China and Russia decided not to vote or even to abstain in the UN, is the fact that the Arab League (which has long promised much and delivered little for the Arab peoples) has also played an key role by abandoning its usual position of opposition to Security Council action against some of it's more repressive members. Previously the league has watched silently as Sudan's Omar al-Bashir committed crimes against humanity in Darfur, somewhat less recently, Saddam Hussein (Iraq) massacred Shia and Kurds, and Syria's Hafez al-Asad destroyed the town of Hama.

Now the question are the winds of change wafting through the Middle East and North Africa or is the ground literally crumbling beneath the feet of a whole host of iffy and repressive regimes - with popular dissent and demonstrations in Algeria, Syria, Yemen and Bharain - where next people may well wonder? What's embarrassing for Western leaders in particular is that they now find that many of the despots they have feted because they brought 'security and stability' to the region (and also lucratively armed to the teeth) are now busy repressing their own people in what appears to be a series of increasingly bloody and brutal (and hopefully futile) attempts to stay in power.

Gaddafi and friend (AFP / Getty)
Western leaders are 'discovering' that 'their boys' are a pretty grim and repressive bunch of (hopefully) no hopers. I suppose that we should all be grateful in that at least we have been spared the embarrassing suggestion that they did not no what they were like or what they were doing. Certainly the former New Labour Government and no doubt the Con Dem's spent plenty of time being nice to Gaddafi regime (the sight of Peter Hain (Labour MP for Neath) defending a long line of arms sales to Libya recently on BBC Question time comes to mind). Now the people are taking to the streets throughout the region, risking their lives for freedom, democracy and human rights against autocratic leaders that have long denied them for so long.

Here's hoping what we are seeing is the wind of change and here's hoping that Gaddafi (and his ilk) and the rest of the repressive bunch end up in Court and after due process spend a seriously long time in goal answering for their crimes. When Saddam went far too much was swept under the carpet (the Kurds amongst many others never did get their day in court) and we never did find out which Western Governments (and the rest) and which companies had been quietly breaking the sanctions because after all he was 'our boy'.

And while we are at it lets have a long hard look at just who's been profitably tooling up the forces of repression around the globe and shine some light on the UK's foreign policy and exactly what decisions have been and are being made on our name? Now this wave of revolution has been fuelled by the courage of ordinary people who are prepared to stand up and be counted, aided and abetted by Facebook - the blocking of which by repressive regimes is a key sign of unrest and dissent- incidentally I wonder if Facebook is blocked in Cuba, Venezuela, Zimbarbwe and Iran all of whom have expressed their support for Gaddafi?

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