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Behind the demonizing of Gadhafi

Published Mar 2, 2011 4:50 PM

Africa continues to be the most underdeveloped continent, despite having the world’s most abundant mineral wealth.

The United States in 1847 created Liberia as a place to send freed African-American slaves. Eventually it became the biggest rubber plantation in the world. In the late 19th century, most of the rest of Africa was carved up by the European colonial powers, including Germany, Britian, Portugal, Spain, Italy, France and Belgium. By the time of World War I, Africa was nothing more than a gigantic plantation, with hundreds of millions of African peoples made into virtual slaves and their resources ripped off to help enrich European and U.S. capitalists.

After World War II, anti-colonial struggles spread like wildfire throughout Africa, bringing forth dynamic African leaders at the head of campaigns for independence and sovereignty from their former colonial oppressors. These heroic leaders included Patrice Lumumba, Amilcar Cabral, Samora Machel and Kwame Nkrumah.

Libya had been an Italian colony until Italy’s defeat in World War II. After the war, the U.S. and Britain set up a monarchy in Libya under King Idris I. Moammar al-Gadhafi was a military officer when he led a coup in 1969 against the monarchy. This led to the nationalization of Libya’s oil and social gains for the Libyan people.

In recent years, however, U.S. sanctions and military aggression against the Gadhafi regime led the government to make concessions and agree to austerity measures demanded by imperialist banks, all of which fueled unrest in the population.

On top of this growing imperialist intervention and pressure, the capitalist media are carrying out a vicious, vindictive campaign against Gadhafi, characterizing him in demonizing, racist terms like “mad dog.” Such terms are never used to describe former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak or other U.S. puppets in the Arab world, from Saudi Arabia to Jordan to Bahrain.

The U.S. has imposed sanctions on President Gadhafi and his family’s bank accounts; by contrast, the U.S. did not impose similar sanctions on Mubarak and his reported $70 billion in bank accounts. While President Barack Obama has publicly called for Gadhafi to step down from office, he treated Mubarak with kid gloves before the resolve of the Egyptian masses forced Mubarak to leave office.

The racist, hostile treatment of Gadhafi is not an isolated example. Another African leader who has been demonized in a comparable manner is Robert Mugabe, president of Zimbabwe. Unlike Gadhafi, Mugabe has been the leader of a national liberation movement, ZANU-PF. Mugabe forced Britain, the colonial oppressor, to the bargaining table in 1979 to work out an agreement in which Britain would subsidize the giving back to African war veterans of millions of acres of land stolen by white farmers. But Britain didn’t live up to the agreement. When Mugabe kept his promise to these freedom fighters by seizing the land, the U.S. and British governments in 2000 imposed genocidal sanctions on the Zimbabwean economy and also sought to isolate Mugabe with a prolonged character assassination. They called him a “tyrant” and “despot” and accused him of starving his people — when the real culprits were “structural adjustment” measures imposed by the IMF, along with periods of severe drought.

The Western imperialists have also made every effort to demonize President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan while funding secessionist movements in the oil-rich South and West of the country, imposing sanctions and bringing criminal charges against him in the International Criminal Court.

It is the right of any oppressed people to oppose and organize against their leaders if basic needs and rights are not being met. It is not the right of imperialist governments to manipulate, exploit and outright intervene in the internal affairs of another country while personally and politically demonizing their leaders. This is a violation of the basic right to self-determination.

There have been reports from news sources, including Al Jazeera, that low-waged migrants from Chad, Niger and other sub-Saharan African countries working in Libya have been physically attacked and accused of being “mercenaries” hired by Gadhafi. These attacks are being carried out by anti-Gadhafi forces who are receiving backing from the West.

The imperialists don’t care about any suffering of the Libyan people but will do what they deem in their interests to gain control of the oil that Libya possesses. The people of Libya don’t need imperialist intervention; they need and deserve reparations from imperialist banks and governments that have held back real economic development and political independence on a continent that has been severely abused for centuries, beginning with the devastating slave trade.

It is imperative that the progressive movement in the U.S. take up the clarion call of getting imperialism off the backs of the African people by intensifying the class struggle here. This is what real solidarity is all about.