Colonel Gaddafi, dictator, despot, tyrant, mass murderer, is dead; Free Libya is born - Shamik Das rounds up the latest Libya news and looks ahead to the future.
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• Colonel Gaddafi, dictator, despot, tyrant, mass murderer, is dead. Free Libya is born.
The former ruler of Libya met his end in his home town of Sirte, killed, the National Transitional Council say, with a single bullet to the head, mown down by crossfire after his capture.
He was caught, fittingly, cowering in a drain begging not to be shot – shades of Saddam Hussein’s final moments at large. The fall from power of Gaddafi in so relatively short a time, after four decades of brutal oppression, is staggering.
Few Libyans can have believed the events of the past few months possible.
Reaction has been near-universal – though some may query the circumstances of his death, and many more believe it would have been better had he been tried, few are mourning his grisly end – least of all those who suffered under his regime, victims whose voices we should hear above all others.
As Left Foot Forward reported today, the Libyan Youth Movement said:
“Let’s face it, Gaddafi’s fate was the best possible outcome. Trial could have taken years and caused disagreements amongst the Libyan people. Now that he is dead even his loyalists will want to flee or ‘switch sides’. With him alive his supporters would have continued to fight.
“Also, I think it is safe to say Gaddafi brought this end to himself…”
While Iyad El-Baghdadi, a Libyan exile who has been tweeting and blogging throughout the uprising from his home in Dubai, commented:
“Sorry but I won’t consider the way Gaddafi was treated as info on the future rule of law in Libya, only about how much he was hated. And while I must say he had the right to a trial, my heart rests easier knowing that Libyans got big time closure in one day.
“Justice is blind, and should be. But we aren’t. Gaddafi is not morally equal to his captors. Let’s get that straight. It’s silly to think that just coz some Libyan put a bullet in a captured tyrant’s head, Libyans are going to choose to live without laws.
“Anyone afraid of a ‘new Iraq’ in Libya is only betraying his gross ignorance of both Iraq and Libya.”
As we reported yesterday:
“There has been widespread rejoicing, rejoicing, rejoicing in Tripoli and throughout Free Libya. Liberal interventionism has been proved, once more, to have worked… David Cameron, Nicolas Sarkozy and Barack Obama take credit, but the biggest credit goes to the rebels, who, backed overhead by NATO, have won a decisive, definitive victory.
“They have fought Gaddafi back from the gates of Benghazi to the drains of Sirte; Gaddafi is gone, long live Libya.”
• So what, then, of the future? Where next for Libya, and which dictator will next feel the scales of justice catch up with them?
To the latter question shortly, but first the question of what next for the newly liberated, post-Gaddafi Libya.
By far the best vision of a free future comes from Alaa al-Ameri, a pseudonymous British-Libyan economist and author, who writes in today’s Guardian that Libyans “must now forget him”, and rebuild the country “until there is no sign that Gaddafi or his parasitic family and entourage ever existed”.
“The man himself? He achieved nothing, killed many in the process and deserves to be forgotten. There will be some who will attempt to construct and maintain some fictional memory of him as a brave ‘anti-imperialist’. That’s of no real significance. They can have him.
“The task now is for those who suffered under him to rebuild the country he vandalised and ultimately tried to destroy. For every life he took, for every future he stole, we must commit to rebuilding not just our country, but our whole society to such a standard that when we’re finished, there will be no evidence that he or his parasitic family and entourage ever existed.
“Those who truly deserve remembrance today are those who resisted him throughout the decades and gave their lives for us to have this opportunity. Those who were publicly hanged on makeshift gallows or snatched from their homes, murdered and dumped in mass graves. Those who were driven into exile, only to be followed there by death squads.
“Most fittingly of all, it is time to remember the ordinary men and women who stood up in February 2011 against unspeakable odds to make their voices heard and tell Muammar that his time was up.”
To the question of who’s next, then, and, as Luke Bozier wrote on Left Foot Forward yesterday:
“The obvious answers lie in the Middle East. Syria’s President Bashar Al-Assad is clinging on to power quite remarkably. Despite killing thousands of his own citizens (in the name of law and order, apparently), he is still de fact ruler of Syria. He seems to be particularly difficult to get rid of.
“Blocked by Russia and China on the UN Security Council, the West can do very little overtly at the moment, but attention should be focused on what assets the West can use now to support the nascent Syrian uprising.
“Further afield, Yemen’s President is also due an exit shortly. Perhaps he’ll be smart and go of his own free will, lest Yemen witness similar scenes to Libya today.
“Beyond the Middle East there are sticky dictators hanging on to power in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan in Asia, and Robert Mugabe, Omar Bashir and Idriss Déby in Africa. Robert Mugabe succeeded in seeing off something of a revolutionary movement at the last election in Zimbabwe; perhaps at the next election there will be a flash point which could end his decades-long rule.”
Their time will come. 2011 has already seen so many momentous events, so many brutal tyrants, terrorists and war criminals taken down; Ben Ali, Mubarak, Mladic, Bin Laden, Gaddafi… The months and years ahead promise many, many more.
• Elsewhere, there are troubles ahead for David Cameron over Europe and the eurozone.
There will be a Parliamentary debate and vote on holding a referendum on European Union membership in the Commons on Monday, a vote the coalition, backed by Labour, will inevitably win – though the repercussions for the image of a new, modern Tory party looks set to take a further battering at the hands of the party’s Eurosceptic backbenchers.
However, as Daniel Elton reported on Left Foot Forward today, the Tory and tabloid obsession with Europe is not shared by the public:
“Looking at the Ipsos-Mori issues tracker data, it is clear that the general public simply don’t care about Europe…
“Taking a look at four issues – economy; unemployment; race relations/immigration; and Europe – we can see that while over a third of those surveyed identified the economy, and both race relations/immigration score around ten per cent, the number of respondents who answer Europe is statistically insignificant.”
As Daniel concludes:
“As the Conservatives engage in tortuous internal wrangling over the issue, they may well just appear completely out of touch with what is worrying most people. Insisting all politics and policy lead back to Brussels – immigration and unemployment for example – will just make them look even more weird.”
Also on Left Foot Forward today, Ben Fox reports on the latest on the eurozone crisis, pointing out:
“The sensible approach is to take action to resolve the crisis to create the conditions for the euro area and UK economies to recover. Unfortunately the Tories seem to think that walking away from the problem is the answer.”
We will have more on the eurozone crisis and the referendum debate on Left Foot Forward next week.
Progressive of the week:
Senator George Mitchell, a man who needs no introduction. Mitchell spoke this week at a Chatham House seminar on “The Middle East in the 21st Century” – on the eve of the release of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit – telling the Israelis and Palestinians, succinctly, simply, to:
“Get in the room, sit down and negotiate.”
He called on both sides to:
“…negotiate an agreement that will be less than 100 per cent of what each wants, but much better than the alternative for both.”
To listen to Mitchell’s words of wisdom, see our article on Left Foot Forward on Tuesday, and there’s more on Gilad’s release in the World Outside Westminster below.
Regressive of the week:
Tory MP and chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Libya Group Daniel Kawczynski, who today demanded of the newly liberated Libyans they pay back the £300 million cost of the UK’s involvement in the war to topple Gaddafi – a man about whom Kawczynski has written a book, which he has profited from.
For more on Mr Kawczynski, his reasons for turning our army into mercenaries, and how he treats his interns, see our report on Left Foot Forward.
Evidence of the week:
“…leadership position may be threatened by its declining share of researchers globally, and by its declining share of global spending on research.”
“The UK is a world leader in research, and is the world leader in terms of research efficiency per researcher and per unit of spending on research. However, the global landscape of research is fluid, dynamic and intensively competitive.
“Other countries are outpacing the UK in terms of growth in number of researchers and spending on research. The UK is well positioned, but its ability to sustain its leadership position is far from inevitable.”
As we reported this week, the BIS findings are but the latest evidence from a vast array of bodies and individuals – from the IFS; EU: scientists, academics and researchers; and opposition politicians – pointing out the negative impacts for growth and research of the government’s cuts to the science and research and development budgets.
Mr Osborne may have ignored all the previous warnings, but he’ll find it harder to dismiss the findings of a government department; let’s hope he changes his mind.
The World Outside Westminster by The Grapevine’s Tom Rouse:
In the US, Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 flat tax plan has formed the focal point for the GOP nomination race. The similarities with a similar plan on the game Sim City have been noted, although Cain has claimed to have never seen the game before.
Mitt Romney continues to set the pace, with Rick Perry struggling to regain his former foothold, despite promising to unveil his own flat tax plan. Support for Romney continues to be lukewarm amongst many sections of the GOP electorate.
President Obama’s position, meanwhile, is looking ever more unstable, with a current Gallup approval rating of -15. Increasingly, his administration is being blamed by the US public for the situation the country finds itself in, with more than twice as many Americans blaming the government ahead of Wall Street for the financial crash
Elsewhere, Greece continues to face a major divide between politicians and citizens. As thousands took to the street for a two-day general strike. Greek politicians were passing the austerity bill they were protesting against. The strike has paralysed the country, forcing the closure of public services – with hospitals forced to rely on emergency staff.
Tunisia is set to hold her first free elections on Sunday, nine months after the revolution began. Tunisian ex-pats have already voted for their choice of the country’s first democratic leader in more than 20 years, with dedicated constituencies serving Tunisians living abroad.
The past week has seen protests and counter protests over the screening of the animated film Persopolis, with conservative groups clashing with freedom of speech protestors.
The upcoming elections provide a stark contrast with events in Syria, where thousands of people attended a rally in support of President Bashar al-Assad. The opposition claims the gathering is the latest in a series organised by the government; which has categorically denied the claims.
In the Middle East, Gilad Shilat was finally freed after five years being held captive by Hamas. His release was not without a price, with Israel forced to free more than 1,000 prisoners in exchange for his freedom.However, this deal is not without controversy; a monument to Yitzhak Rabin, the assasinated Israeli PM, was defaced by the son of victims of an Israeli terrorist attack.
Whether his release marks the start of closer relations between Israel and Palestine is unclear, but the timing of the release, just weeks after Palestine lobbied the UN for formal statehood, seems to indicate a new desire for respectability.
Ed Jacobs’s Week Outside Westminster:
As the SNP faithful gathered for their annual conference in Inverness, delegates had much to cheer over the party’s plans for independence, as polling by ComRes found support for Scottish independence gathering pace on both sides of the border.
It came as the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey (pdf) found 74 per cent of Scots thought the Scottish government should have most influence over how Scotland is run, and 61% said they trusted the Scottish government “just about always” or “most of the time” to act in Scotland’s interest, compared with 22% who trusted the UK government to do so.
Little wonder, then, that in his opening remarks to the conference, SNP leader Alex Salmond declared:
“With the support of growing numbers of Scots, of all ages and all backgrounds, this can be the independence generation.”
Meanwhile, as figures showed the Scottish economy grew by just 0.1% in the second quarter of the year, and with Pricewaterhouse Coopers reporting the loss of 25,000 jobs over the first year of the spending review, Labour’s new shadow Scottish secretary went on the attack.
Speaking to the Daily Record, Margaret Curran said:
“Young Scots are facing a double whammy – the Tories in Westminster crippling the British economy and the SNP are failing to deliver as well. Alex Salmond is cutting capital investment more than even chancellor George Osborne, cutting key drivers of growth like colleges and presiding over stagnation.
“We need a jobs plan and the Scottish government need to bring forward long-term investment projects in schools, roads and transport – to get people back to work and strengthen our economy.”
Responding to the figures, PwC’s Lynn Hine argued:
“After only one quarter of data for this financial year, the job losses in the public sector have already exceeded the OBR forecast for the whole of the 2011-12 financial year.
“The total number of job cuts over the spending review period to 2015 will not necessarily be that much greater than forecast, as job losses may be lower in later years, but earlier than expected job cuts have sapped demand at a time when the economy is already relatively weak due to a series of global economic shocks this year.
“The challenge now for government is not only how to do things differently, but how to do different things and mitigate the impact of further cuts in spending on services.”
Welsh first minister Carwyn Jones, meanwhile, formally outlined his government’s objections to Whitehall’s plans to close Swansea coastguard station.
“The UK government needs to re-consider its proposals and explore alternative options that would allow all existing stations across Wales to be maintained. We are not convinced that the proposals for a reduction in the number of MRCC’s around the coast would not have an impact on response times and, subsequently, on safety.”
It was a week largely dominated by the decision of the UK government not to hold a full scale public inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane.
“There are sometimes occasions when frank disagreements arise between states. This is one, on this occasion.”
The issue was also raised at Prime Minister’s Questions as the SDLP MP and former party leader, Mark Durkan, asked:
“The prime minister has acknowledged that there was collusion in the murder of Pat Finucane.
“Does he accept that in order to get to the bottom of that we have to get to the top of that? Does he recognise that many of us lack confidence that a desk review by even an eminent lawyer will be able to do that? Will he reflect further on the grave misgivings expressed by the Finucane family and the Irish government?”
Responding, Mr Cameron insisted a QC-led inquiry would get to the truth of the matter.
Elsewhere, the Electoral Commission report (pdf) on May’s local, assembly and AV referendum elections was critical of the planning for them, concluding there had been problems completing the counts in a “timely manner”.
Although largely well run, the commission revealed up to a third of ballot paper accounts contained mistakes as training for officers in charge of boxes was different from the paperwork to be completed on polling day. Concerns were also raised over a lack of staff.
Séamus Magee, head of the Electoral Commission’s office in Northern Ireland, said:
“Voters in Northern Ireland have the right to expect the same high standard of electoral services as their counterparts in Great Britain. We are calling on the UK government to ensure that appropriate performance standards are put in place in Northern Ireland so that meaningful comparisons can be made.
“Consideration should also be given to looking at what else can be done to give voters and their elected representatives more say on how the electoral process is managed in Northern Ireland.”
This week’s most read:
1. Gaddafi has underscored the new paradigm; who’s next? – Luke Bozier
2. Gaddafi is dead. Long live Libya – Shamik Das
3. For every extra £4 spending is cut, it only cuts borrowing an extra 75p – Cormac Hollingsworth
5. Has Lansley misled the House over links to private health? – Shamik Das
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