By William Blum
On July 9 I took part in a demonstration in front of the White House, the theme of which was “Stop Bombing Libya”. The last time I had taken part in a protest against US bombing of a foreign country, which the White House was selling as “humanitarian intervention”, as they are now, was in 1999 during the 78-day bombing of Serbia. At that time I went to a couple of such demonstrations and both times I was virtually the only American there. The rest, maybe two dozen, were almost all Serbs. “Humanitarian intervention” is a great selling device for imperialism, particularly in the American market. Americans are desperate to renew their precious faith that the United States means well, that we are still “the good guys”.
This time there were about 100 taking part in the protest. I don’t know if any were Libyans, but there was a new element — almost half of the protesters were black, marching with signs saying: “Stop Bombing Africa”.
There was another new element — people supporting the bombing of Libya, facing us from their side of Pennsylvania Avenue about 40 feet away. They were made up largely of Libyans, probably living in the area, who had only praise and love for the United States and NATO. Their theme was that Gaddafi was so bad that they would support anything to get rid of him, even daily bombing of their homeland, which now exceeds Serbia’s 78 days. I of course crossed the road and got into arguments with some of them. I kept asking: “I hate that man there [pointing to the White House] just as much as you hate Gaddafi. Do you think I should therefore support the bombing of Washington? Destroying the beautiful monuments and buildings of this city, as well as killing people?”
None of the Libyans even tried to answer my question. They only repeated their anti-Gaddafi vitriol. “You don’t understand. We have to get rid of Gaddafi. He’s very brutal.” (See the CNN video of the July 1 mammoth rally in Tripoli for an indication that these Libyans’ views are far from universal at home.)
“But you at least get free education and medical care,” I pointed out. “That’s a lot more than we get here. And Libya has the highest standard of living in the entire region, at least it did before the NATO and US bombing. If Gaddafi is brutal, what do you call all the other leaders of the region, whom Washington has long supported?”
One retorted that there had been free education under the king, whom Gaddafi had overthrown. I was skeptical of this but I didn’t know for sure that it was incorrect, so I replied: “So what? Gaddafi at least didn’t get rid of the free education like the leaders in England did in recent years.”
A police officer suddenly appeared and forced me to return to my side of the road. I’m sure if pressed for an explanation, the officer would justify this as a means of preventing violence from breaking out. But there was never any danger of that at all; another example of the American police-state mentality — order and control come before civil liberties, before anything.
Most Americans overhearing my argument with the Libyans would probably have interjected something like: “Well, no matter how much you hate the president you can still get rid of him with an election. The Libyans can’t do that.”
And I would have come back with: “Right. I have the freedom to replace George W. Bush with Barack H. Obama. Oh joy. As long as our elections are overwhelmingly determined by money, nothing of any significance will change.”
Postscript: Amidst all the sadness and horror surrounding the massacre in Norway, we should not lose sight of the fact that “peaceful little Norway” participated in the bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999; has deployed troops in Iraq; has troops in Afghanistan; and has supplied warplanes for NATO’s bombing of Libya. The teenagers of those countries who lost their lives to the US/NATO killing machine wanted to live to adulthood and old age as much as the teenagers in Norway. With all the condemnation of “extremism” we now hear in Norway and around the world we must ask if this behavior of the Norwegian government, as well as that of the United States and NATO, is not “extremist”.