Monday, 28 March 2011
According to the Guardian, Mutassim Gaddafi, who has been described as a "war criminal" by Libyan anti-government protesters, was given private lessons at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in the summer of 2006.
This is one of many sordid revelations that have come to light about British universities and their relationship with the dictatorship of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. It has also been revealed that universities not only profited from ties with the Libyan regime, but actively trained many who were earmarked for roles in Gaddafi’s feared security network. In total British universities registered 2,880 students from Libya last year, while official figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency show 112 universities had Libyan students on their books.
Sir Howard Davies, director of the London School of Economics, resigned several weeks ago after it was found he had accepted a £1.5 million donation from the “Gaddafi Foundation”, the charity run by Colonel Gaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi. It was Saif al-Islam of course who appeared on Libyan state television after the outbreak of anti-Government protests to warn rebels that the dictatorship would "fight to the last minute, until the last bullet".
The cuts in funding British universities currently face make wealthy patrons like the Gaddafi family highly attractive propositions. Raheem Kassam, director of the group Student Rights, said: "LSE has the most market-driven fund-raising model there is in the UK. Has that model reduced them into a simple gun for hire?"
The relationship between Libya and British universities could be said to mirror the amicable ties that developed in recent years between the Libyan regime and the British establishment. Not only did Tony Blair famously hug the Colonel, but British arms flowed freely to the country and British companies were up to their necks in Libyan oil money - while the Libyan people continued to languish under terror and dictatorship.
Sue Yates, then Soas's director of business development, described Mutassim Gaddafi as a "young man [who] was just there for four weeks maximum...This is not unusual at all for members of prominent families. It was special tuition for someone from a high profile background." There is of course a long and deplorable history of dictators sending their children to rich nations to get the privileged education denied to the people of their countries. Those allowed by the Libyan government to study in Britain were themselves carefully hand-picked by the dictatorship.
After 41 years in charge of a regime that brought down an American passenger plane, pitilessly exterminated many political opponents, expelled tens of thousands of Palestinians from the country for being insufficiently willing to immolate themselves for the cause, as well as plundered the Libyan economy for the benefit of Western corporations, to define the Gaddafi regime as suitable patrons for British universities is to leave many in the British establishment up to their necks in shame.
Tuesday, 22 March 2011
Before the notion of Western intervention in Libya had even been mooted, there were those in the "peace" movement who were already suggesting an imperialist smash-and-grab operation was about to seize control of Libyan oil fields at the barrel of a gun.
While predictable and by now rather tedious, this reflex is not an altogether baseless one. When United States military action is entertained one should always engage one's critical faculties and remember the numerous governments deposed with the help of the US military during the 20th century - governments whose only crimes were having the temerity to implement modest social-democratic reforms in often impoverished conditions.
Anti-interventionism, however, has taken a more sinister turn of late. Anyone familiar with the conflict in Kosovo will already be acquainted with the sordid apologetics and outright denials deployed by those who could see nothing wrong in what Slobodan Milosevic was doing - so long that is, as he remained antagonistic towards the US. In this vein was the response of the American academic and Noam Chomsky associate Edward Herman. On Kosovo, Herman, wrote John Feffer in Foreign Policy in Focus, "manages to construct an alternative universe in which Serbian military forces only acted in defence, Slobodan Milosevic was a benevolent Gorbachev figure, and the international legal community functioned as some kind of adjunct to NATO".
Christopher Hitchens was equally lucid is picking up on this tendency in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, remarking that "if there is now an international intervention, whether intelligent and humane, or brutal and stupid, against the Taliban, some people will take to the streets, or at least mount some ‘Candle in the Wind’ or ‘Strawberry Fields’ peace vigils. They did not take to the streets, or even go moist and musical, when the administration supported the Taliban."
For the anti-war movement, any action taken by the West - whether in Kosovo, Rwanda, or Afghanistan – could, and did in some instances, lead to a complete inversion of the role of perpetrator and victim.
To go into the rights and wrongs of specific wars would be to miss the point. Principled advocates and opponents of both conflicts can be found with ease. Based on their record of absolute opposition to intervention of any kind, however, it is the anti-war movement who should perhaps be a little more modest when pulling out the “Hands off Libya” placards. Were it to have got its way over the course of the last 20 years, Saddam Hussain would have annexed Kuwait, Slobodan Milosevic would have made Bosnia part of a Greater Serbia, and the Taliban would still be in power in Afghanistan.
It might be argued that what resulted from the subsequent interventions was worse than what would have befallen the peoples of those countries had no action been taken; and in certain cases I might agree. But not having to deal with the consequences of inaction is one of the luxuries of not being in power and never being likely to hold any office of power. It is also worth remembering that it is not any particular intervention that is opposed by the anti-war faction, but the very concept of intervention itself – unrelated to circumstances on the ground. However bad things get, the placards will still come out.
In Libya, one need not see America as a disinterested superpower to acknowledge that without the no-fly-zone Gaddafi will probably triumph and cling on to power. “Peace”, as the Stop the War Coalition defines it, is an easy objective to achieve, and in reality means the immediate rebel capitulation to Libyan Government forces.
The word peace, however, is misleading, for it is not the overriding concern of the anti-interventionist crowd. For that we need look no further than an anti-imperialism which trumps any consideration for the lives of other human beings. As long as one never, ever gives an ounce of support to Western foreign policy one can willingly sit by while comrades in far-away lands are massacred. Whether that means giving “critical support” to tyrants like Gaddafi or the Iraqi “resistance” is unimportant. Masturbating in that fashion is never likely to have any real consequences for those espousing it; and in contrast to the struggles being waged in Libya, contradicting the “anti-imperialism” of your peers on the far-left may get you shouted down at a meeting or two.
It is not peace, but justice - by which I mean the removal of Gaddafi from power by the rebels with any necessary help - that will admittedly be the more difficult but infinitely more rewarding outcome in all of this.
That the Libyan rebels appear to be demanding more, not less in the way of air strikes is unimportant to the peace crowd, however. To them it is the posture that matters. The cost falls on those they will never have to face and never have to address. And of course, why would they? They themselves uniformly live in liberal democracies.
Tuesday, 1 March 2011
"Searchlight poll finds huge support for far right 'if they gave up violence'"
The British press have been dirtying themselves for quite some time in the mucky sewer of anti-immigrant rhetoric. Dave Osler believes the influence of the Daily Mail, the Sun and their ilk is exaggerated in this respect by the left, and not as influential as many like to believe; the media in-fact caters-to and feeds-off an ample amount of already-existing prejudice.
For reasons other than the fact that I find such thoughts incredibly depressing, I disagree.
What the media do very effectively in their coverage of immigrants and asylum seekers is create a climate of crisis, whereby there is seemingly a constant immigrant and asylum seeker "problem" about to engulf British society. In featuring stories about immigrants and fatuously linking them with crime and social problems over many, many years, the narrative of immigrants is unhesitatingly linked in the popular mind with deviance and, more recently in the case of Muslims, a hostile group attempting to impose their "alien values" on a country which is, predictably, too much of a "soft touch" to defend itself.
Question enough people about immigrants and asylum seekers and you will readily hear things like "all you see is the immigrants coming ere and gettin handouts", and "they tellin us to help them integrate while they tear down churches to create mosques". This and inane stories of councils banning England flags and forcing children to eat Halal meat so as not to "offend Muslims".
The expounders of such views are not simply to be written-off as deranged bigots; they genuinely believe these things to be true.
Do tall-tales of an impending immigrant takeover simply appear out of thin air then, in a kind of vacuum? I mean, if concerns like this are illegitimate, which they are (unless of course you believe churches really have been demolished in order to make way for mosques, and England flags are being banned from pubs; in which case I suggest you start reading again from the top,) then why the prevalence of misinformation on such a massive scale?
It may be impossible, or at least very difficult, to discern which comes first, a person's prejudices, or their exposure to prejudicial propaganda; but it is much harder to dismiss the link between fatuous and entirely made-up stories about primary schools being bulldozed to make way for mosques when an exponent of such absurdity is the copy that is distributed up and down the country every day of the year (bar of course Christmas; but don't worry, that will probably be banned soon, if this lot are to be believed).
The Daily Star has recently even gone as far as to openly back the English Defence League, a far-right, racist, street-fighting outlet where one can be as racist as one wishes so long as the proxy of "Muslim" rather than "Paki" is used. Muslims are not a race they will tell you, therefore hating them cannot possibly be described as racist.
As far as my attitude to the corporate press and its barely concealed racism goes, I stand by what I said in an article at Christmas:
"Anyone who meekly suggests that the ownership of the mass media as it stands is "a price worth paying" when compared to the worst imaginable alternative must take responsibility for this "price", not only in terms of the rampant prejudice, homophobia and sexism pumped out by the British press, but also the consequences of such prejudices on government policy and every-day attitudes and their expression, rather than simply imagining the corporate media to operate in a cultural void, detached from real-life implications."