- Gaddafi Forces Attack Rebels Amidst U.S.-Led Strikes
- Obama: U.S. to Scale Back Libya Role
- Libyan Forces Release 3 Journalists
- Japan Warns Residents Over Radiation Levels in Food, Water
- Saleh Warns of “Civil War” as Opposition Calls for Immediate Departure
- U.S. Continues Muted Criticism of Yemeni Crackdown
- Syrian Forces Killed 6 Protesters
- Israel Warns of Gaza Assault, Kills 4 Palestinian Civilians
- Obama Ends Latin America Tour, Visits Tomb of Slain Archbishop Romero
- Federal Judge Rules Against Google Library Deal
- South Dakota Enacts 72-Hour Wait for Abortions
- Detroit Population Hits Lowest Point in 100 Years
Yemen’s Parliament enacted several emergency measures March 23 at the request of President Ali Abdullah Saleh in an effort to end anti-government protests. The new laws give the government greater power to arrest and detain protesters and to censor the media. The new laws follow Saleh’s declaration last week of a 30-day state of emergency. The measure passed easily as many minority party members of the 301-seat parliament did not attend the session. Saleh warned that Yemen could face a civil war after opposition leaders rejected his offer to step down by the end of this year. The emergency laws expire in 30 days. despite an appeal from youths at the forefront of anti-regime protests that it could lead to a new “massacre.” (Jurist, March 23)
The logic of the Arab spring is about popular sovereignty. The people power being displayed in the streets, on twitter and Facebook, is intended to sweep away impediments to the expression of the will of the people, mainly presidents for life. The Arab crowds are investing their hopes in a new era of parliamentarism, in elections and constitutions, in term limits and referendums, in the rule of law and the principle that governmental authority must derive from the people. It is not that they are John Stuart Mill liberals. The crowds have a communitarian aspect, and demands jobs and for free formation of labor unions and the right to bargain collectively form a key part of the protest movements. But such labor organizing is also seen by movement participants and part of the expression of the popular will.
That the movements have been so powerfully informed by this Rousseauan impulse helps explain their key demands and why they keep spreading. The progression is that they begin with a demand that the strong man step down. If they get that, they want a dissolution of old corrupt ruling parties and elites. They want parliamentary elections. They want term limits for the president and reduction of presidential powers. They want new constitutions, newly hammered out, and subject to national referendums. They want an end to corruption and croneyism. They aim for future governments to be rooted in the national will.
In Yemen, strongman Ali Abdullah Salih’s offer to step down at the end of this year,was met with demands that he do so immediately, as some of his officials resigned. Salih’s troops shot down dozens of demonstrators in downtown Sanaa last Friday, provoking many defections from his government this past weekend, including among high military officers.
The demands have spread to Deraa, southern Syria. Syria is ruled by a one-party system, the Baath Party, and the reins of power had been passed dynastically from dictator Hafez al-Asad to his son Bashar. Aljazeera English has commentary on the situation.
In Morocco, King Mohammed VI has promised to allow the prime minister to be elected by parliament rather than appointed by himself. He also pledged that the PM would have more prerogatives and that there would be a separation of powers.. Thousands came into the streets of Casablanca on Sunday to put pressure on the king to follow through on his pledges. But the crowds added another demand, of a new constitution to be approved by the people.
In Libya, people were trying to hold out in Zintan as pro-regime forces bombarded the city. Likewise, Qaddafi’s military subjected the large city of Misrata to intensive bombardment.
In Algeria, President Abdel Aziz Boutefliqa and the generals that back him have been forced to lift a state of emergency that had curtailed constitutional rights, and the president is promising as yet unspecified “reforms.”
Michael Hudson surveys the wreckage in Bahrain, where the Shiite majority had demanded constitutional reforms in aid of popular sovereignty from the Sunni monarchy, but got imported Saudi Wahhabi troops instead. The Bahrain monarchy’s rigid refusal to compromise has turned the reform movement into a sectarian issue. Thus, the Bahrain Shiites are attracting support from Lebanon’s Hizbullah (which represents that country’s Shiites) and from Iraq’s Shiites. Bahrain airlines has been forced to cease flying to Beirut because of threats. Arab Shiism has often been denied political expression on the basis of its weight in the electorate, since the majority Sunni societies view that branch of Islam as a heresy, and link it to Shiite-majority Iran.
Aljazeera English has video on Tuesday’s Shiite protests in Manama:
US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in Cairo March 23 that the UN Security Council resolution authorizing a no-fly zone in Libya is “not time-limited” and that it was unrealistic to expect military action to be over in a matter of weeks. “So I think that there is no current timeline in terms of when it might end,” he told reporters. The comments came as nearly 12 hours of Allied air-strikes broke the Libyan regime’s five-day siege of the key rebel-held town of Misurata. Aerial bombardment destroyed tanks and artillery, sending the bulk of Moammar Qaddafi’s besieging forces fleeing, and securing the town for the rebels. The battle for Misurata is said to have cost some 100 lives from shelling, snipers and street fighting. (Middle East Online, The Guardian, March 23)
Muhannad Bensadik is a 21-year-old Libyan-American medical student who has joined the armed struggle against Col. Muammar Gaddafi’s forces. He was reportedly shot during fighting near Brega earlier this month, but it’s unclear if he is dead or missing. We air an interview conducted by Democracy Now!’s Anjali Kamat with Bensadik just two days before he disappeared. We’re also joined by Bensadik’s mother, Suzi Elarabi. She recently learned that her son may not have died in the shooting as previously believed
Syrian security forces killed 15 people March 23 in the city of Deraa, witnesses and rights activists said. Seven were killed when security personnel fired on a group of protesters that gathered after dawn prayers outside al-Omari mosque. Later, about 3,000 protesters from neighboring towns gathered outside Deraa and clashed with an army unit. Syrian state television reported the government fired the governor of Deraa province, and promised reforms. The protest wave in Deraa was apparently sparked after local schoolchildren painted a mural depicting scenes and slogans from the recent revolutions in other Arab countries, and were detained by police. (CNN, FT, March 23)
“The ambassador added saying: “I do not think that anything can affect our ties with the Kingdom. We are still facing together the same external threats and our commitments toward the Kingdom are unchanged.The United States appreciates the efforts deployed by King Abdullah Bin Abdul-Aziz in order to reform and develop his country. But it must be noted that the United States has nothing to do with and is not behind the revolutions that have taken place in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia. However, I expect that the new realities in the region will present better opportunities to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict in the future.”” (thanks Nicholas)
Editor’s note: The following is a statement from the Communist Party USA:
The Communist Party of the USA deplores the attacks by U.S., French and British forces against Libya. With the projection of power by U.S. and other NATO governments, the crisis that was initiated by the government of Libya when its security forces opened fire on unarmed demonstrators calling for democratization stands a chance of turning into a full fledged civil war with sustained imperialist intervention.
With a bold, self-serving interpretation of the U.N. Security Council’s vote on March 17, several member states of NATO, including the United States, the United Kingdom and France, have begun an air and sea bombardment of Libya, increasing the danger of civilian and military casualties on all sides, and threatening the integrity of Libya as a sovereign nation in control of its own resources.
While French and British jets have pounded away at Libyan targets, the United States in the first day hit Libya with at least 100 ship-launched tomahawk missiles, with no end in sight.
In spite of the all-too-evident crimes and abuses of Gadaffi’s regime, a civil war with massive foreign intervention is not in the interests of the either the Libyan or the American people, or humanity in general, which is served only by peace and cooperation among the nations. The Middle East area is one of the most conflict-ridden and unstable in the world, and there is real danger that a civil war in Libya could lead to a wider conflagration.
This situation needs to be deescalated, also, because of the bad precedent it sets for NATO and/or U.S. intervention in situations of internal conflict all over the world. We have only to recall the situations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia to perceive how such military interventions, carried out under humanitarian pretexts, end up causing more death, suffering and destruction than the situations they were supposed to remedy.
In its recent meeting in Lisbon, Portugal, NATO announced to the world that it would be projecting armed force well beyond the “North Atlantic” area. Clearly, the purpose of this force is neither defensive nor humanitarian, but rather serves the economic interests of the wealthy capitalist countries and multinational corporations.
To understand the hypocrisy of the current attack campaign, we have only to ask: Why no intervention in any of the other Middle East countries ruled by tyrants and currently undergoing popular uprisings? Why not in Yemen, or Bahrain?
We are of the opinion that the special interest on the part of imperialism in intervening in Libya can only relate to the politics of oil. Libya is a major supplier of oil to several of the NATO countries (especially to Italy), and has run its own nationalized oil production since 1969.
The current uprising in Libya is centered in the Eastern part of the country, where a large proportion of Libya’s oil production is also to be found. For the NATO powers to end up in substantial control of Libya’s oil production, even if it is not privatized into the hands of multinational corporations, might have an impact on things like OPEC production quotas.
As it is, the instability in Libya is contributing to a rise in oil prices that affects us in the United States as well.
In addition, the fall of client regimes of Tunisia and Egypt, and the shakiness being experienced by others in the region such as Bahrain, Yemen, Morocco and others, weakens the influence of imperialism in this vital area. We can’t exclude the possibility that imperialism sees the Libya crisis as a means to restoring part of its influence in the Middle East.
Several states and international organizations, some of which voted for the Security Council Resolution, or abstained when they might have voted “no” or even vetoed it, are now having second thoughts about the wisdom of the actions currently being taken. China, Russia, Turkey, India and the Arab League, as well as the Bolivarian Alliance countries in Latin America have all criticized the attacks on Libya.
We hope that the U.S. government, which was not originally enthusiastic about taking military action to create a no-fly zone in Libya, will have such second thoughts also.
Therefore, the CPUSA calls for:
1. An immediate cease-fire by all parties concerned (the Libyan government, the insurgents and outside powers), to be monitored by neutral forces.
2. A negotiated settlement which preserves Libya’s national sovereignty and control of its natural resources, especially its oil and gas reserves and production, while answering the demands of the Libyan people for a democratic transformation of their society and political system, and an end to repression of dissent.
3. Protection for the safety of vulnerable sections of the population of Libya, including foreign migrant workers trapped in a situation not of their making.
4. International action to permit the exit from Libya of refugees whose survival is threatened by the current situation, plus access to humanitarian aid for all areas of Libya, and the restoration of electrical, internet and other services.
5. Support by all progressive people for the struggle of the Libyan people for labor rights, free and democratic elections, freedom of speech, press and association and an end to repression.
Forces loyal to Libyan leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi continue to advance on rebel-held towns amidst ongoing U.S.-led air strikes. Gaddafi’s deadly crackdown on the Libyan uprising has sparked debate on longstanding questions around international intervention. We host a debate between Libyan poet, scholar and University of Michigan professor Khaled Mattawa, who supports U.S.-led intervention, and UCLA law professor Asli Bali, who says the U.S.-led coalition has ignored viable alternatives to military attacks. [includes rush transcript–partial]
Norwegian foreign minister Jonas Gahr Store has a terrific piece titled “Why We Must Talk” in a recent issue of the NY Review of Books. In it, he makes a strong argument why “we”– in this case, I think, western advocates of democracy– need to start talking seriously to, among other, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Hamas in Palestine, and the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Here is the core of his argument:
- Many of those who most strongly oppose dialogue in international relations prefer to live in a world they wish existed. Some of them believe that imposing a particular political system in other countries by the use of force is worth large expenditures of wealth and of life. Others take the view that a “clash of civilizations” requires us to build walls to protect our society from an inevitable global threat. Some maintain that the willingness to negotiate and compromise will be interpreted as a sign of moral and military weakness. None of these approaches points to a plausible way forward. And the cost of pursuing any of them is high.
In contrast, defending and employing dialogue is neither a naive nor utopian strategy. It shows strength to be willing to talk to the adversary. It is not weakness. And it is not cowardice to debate your opponent and try to persuade the world to follow you by speaking your values. It may take some courage.
In this sense, the defense of dialogue springs from a perspective best described as principled realism—an approach that attempts to find solutions that both improve the world and recognize the constraints of the current global order. As defenders of dialogue, we always keep open the option of walking away rather than talking. But we also believe that we shouldn’t be so quick to do so. The fact that there may be some positions and conflicts that cannot be resolved does not mean that the possibilities of dialogue shouldn’t be actively explored. Dialogue is more important to our globalized world than it ever has been. We must therefore defend it all the more strongly. At a time that seemed far more dangerous than our own, John F. Kennedy formulated the principle that has since been too often disregarded: “Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.”
I couldn’t have put it better myself.
The essence of democracy, after all, is the proposition that political differences must be resolved through discussion and deliberation based on mutual respect and the key notion of the equality of all human persons, rather than through the application of brute force or the application of superior power. And this is not just the case at the domestic level: It also applies between nations.
I am so glad Store made this case– which is very similar to the case made by Turkey’s current leaders, too, as well as by many Swiss officials. If these important actors in the community of democratic nations are making this case, why is it so very hard for politicians in the self-proclaimed “leader of the free world” to see the value of these arguments?