he has made a number of points that i would make about forign/imperialist intervention in libya,although his and my politics are very different in many ways.his commentws immediately resulted in denunciation and insults from some other panellists.
i was thinking about libya in its current struggles anyway.
in talking about libya and me i am making a vague reference to a comic autobiography by the late and famous comedian,spike milligan of goons and q fame.
in entitling his book something like hitler....and my part in his downfall,his distorting observation makes comedy about a giant amongst tyrants,and plays up the part of ordinary people in history.
on the other hand libya and me points up my own admittedly limited but significant involvement in libyan issues.
as a child i becamer aware of libya only as a set of marks on atlas maps,and then at school the barest smattering of information about britiush and other european imperialist intervention,capture and exploitation of north africa and elsewhere that i probably only vaguely understood through the prism of lawrence of arabia in cinema.
of key importance wasa asking my dad about his experience in north africa,and libya specifically as he fought as a member of the pbi("poor bloody infantry")as a private in the ramc/royal army medical corp during world war ii in ther desert campaign,including el alamein which became in churchills words the beginning of the bergginning in leadiung to the britsh/alled victory in world war ii.many inclduing my father fought from some kind of notion of fighting fascism.
i asked him about the experience many times as a child and youth.although me recall is thagt he always answered me,i dont think he volunteered his stories,i suspect because war had such a destructive impqact for him and others.
whilst i have always been interested in military history,as i grew up i became at the least an anti-miltarist as i began to form political and other ideas of my own.i maintained a pride in my fathers actions because its seems both genuinely informed by anti-fascism and anti racism,i also acknowledged his physical courage,especially as despite the training he was not a killer,but an ordinary private/ambulance crew who rescued and helped the wounded,and indeed wrote home to i believe the families of both dead allied and german and italian soldiers.some of me mehis stries were about the pacifist/conscientious objector,and often quaker american ambulance drivers who drove at great speed and personal risk to tend the wounded.
what was glaringly missing from my familiarity with maps that showed tripoli,bengqahzi,tobruk,el alamein and other places was any sense of the local population ammidst all thsi violence,terror,destruction and criss crossing other peoples country by the germans,italians,brits and others.and i never asked.the tunisians just seemed to have walk on parts in the periphery of their own country.
i hope i do not undervalue all this very real self sacrifice,but at what cost the best of their humanity is wasted.my dad survived but his health was ruined.he acquired a condition known to soldiers but apparently not to medicine,of desert lung which seriously reduced hsi health and breathing ability from when i was about 10 until his death when I was 30 and he 65.
in 1986,i had returned from a period in the usa and went back to my job in a volutary/non profit project working with the young unemployed who also experienced other problems.
on the day the usa bombed tripoli i wne to work,worried and swallowing hard incensed and stuned by the crass reporting of a female american journalist standing in the streets of tripoli reporting events but somehow surprised at the anger and horror around her.i wasa anxious that a nuclear world war ii could start and that given the us bombers flwe from british airfields that briatian,indeed london could be targetted in any retaliation.
what was of most concern was the state of the young people at work who could and would not settle to the training they were expected toundertake.
as staff we needed to get a grip.those were the days of relative autonommy as a group of staff,which included qactive trades unionists,feminists and revolutionaries amongst the socialists.
i persionally had recently completed and extended short training course in despiqar work which primarilly focussed on the impact of living in a culture of fear associated with the nuclear threat.
we caled a meeting with the young people and allowed them as well as ourselves to discuss our fears,concerns and anger.several hours later we wrote cvollective lettersd to colonel quaddafi expressing concern for his family and people,that we did not agree with the actions of our own government nor that of the usa and that war was not a way to deal with issues of real concern.we also wrote to the mp for the area in which our office was based and to the prime minister of the time,one margaret thatcher.copies wnet to other politicians and dignitaries.the young people prepared the letters and posted them.,we closed for the day,inviting anyone with any anxiety to talk with us,as adults and staff.we then awaited replies.
now soem 25 years later we still awit a reply from that or any other prime minister.but it was striking that within a few weeks if not days,we got what appeared to be a hand/self typed and siigned letter from colonel quaddaffi acknowledging our concerfns and saying taht we were not the enemy.somehwre is till have ythat letter.i admit it coloured my attiude to colonel quaddaffi for some time.it certainly made a clear point about some ofour own keys politicins when a man of already questioanble reputation gave us attention when "our own"politicians were commpletelky indifferent,i guess because few of us amongst the young people could vote.beisdes which why should they care,because until and ujn less we assert ourselves as indivuals and as a class they will simply rule over us in britain and in libya,where quaddaffi and thatcher,cameron and miliband haqve more in common with each other than with us the young and the workers in any part of britain or lbya or elsewhere.
over recent years i have a friendship and professionalrelationship with a young muslim,who has had a sharper,more angry and scerbic and informed view of colonel quaddaffi than myself.
but then as the fire of change,resistance and revolution has spread across north africa,i can only watch and comment as events unfold in libya.i qam clear in supporting the revolutionary anger of the libyan people against a decrepit ,authroitarian regime.
since i wriote my first and last post about libya,i have thought and worried hard in watching the twists and turns backwards and forwards.
i think i ended by post then by opposing foreign intervention,especially as a worker in an aggressive,imperialist state,and influnced by what appeared to be the demands of some of the libyan resistance.
i have i admit had moments of doubt,as the newspeak of the imperialist appears as honeyed words.i also watched as demands in libya,not just from the dissenting but still ruling elite who had "chang3ed sides"but also from sections of the active and young resistance.it is their courage and redsistance being tedsted so any criticism from me,whilst its has its place is limited by that reality and that i have no more familiarity with miltary affairs than many of them.i dont want to watch them die either.
yet it is also clear that whilst quaddaffis forces are ramshackle they are more heavily armed and willing touse it.whilst enthusiastic the resistance in not heavily enough armed to be decisive.it lacks military discipline which can become dangerous.
meanwhile the imperialists have prevaricated formany and varied reasons,not least in that they have not been a readily identifiable or unified block.they do not have the freedoms of warfare on an international scale of say half acentury ago.yet as noam cvomskky has pointed out in arecent newsnight bbc interview biding their time is what the usa does.and the prevarication has been functional.
now the no fly zone is in place it is wider than no fly and whiklst problems are buried in the script,it transfers the centre of politics,discussion,action,power from the reegionn itself to the imperialists.what happens if the resistance takes the iniative?imperialism can crush it.it also presents the regime and the resistance as of equal value and standing.it has already injured some of the resitance who wnet to rescue the pilots of a crashed coalition fighter jet.it niow has a hand in the game it did not have only dqays ago.it presents as reasonable when it is not and i suspect it has set the tione for regime events in bahrain and egypt which are not to be welcome.
i dont have any answers let alone easy ones.we have to start from where we are but train unionists,revolutionaries and others can campoaign and fight for actions and campaigns which deliver solidarity and real help to workers and others in libya and the region as a whole.we need not,cannot and must not give in to gthe beguiling nonsense from the imperialists.history shows that it is all barbed anbd danbgerous and with friends like these we dont need self declared enemies.
that old bogey that our enemies enemies are our friends is part of that nonsense.quaddaffi and the coalition may not be friends but they are the same class and closer to each other than to their respective working classes and peoples.we need to work out in effective practice how we can make real and effective solidarity with the libyan and wider regional working classes.
the reality that the situation and the answers are not easy is not the same thing as there being no answers.life and the world is complex and difficult.it does none of us any good to hide from that reality.we in the imperialist countries have a duty to our oppressed and exploited comrades even if the future offers no guarantees.we should neither rush in whilst seekinbg easy answers nor ourselves prevaricate in delaing with the real difficulties the peoples oflibya and the world face in common-socialism or barbarism.