The asinine commentary issuing from some leftist quarters, the wild-conspiratorial ramblings, the incapacity to handle dilemmas — all of this would be amusing if it weren’t for the slanders and falsehoods which have so quickly ossified into conventional wisdom. Over half a century after Richard Hofstadter wrote his famous essay it appears the paranoid style still thrives in the politics of both the left and right. The western leftists’ answer to liberation struggles elsewhere is to project their own impotence and assume that there must be a grand conspiracy at play. How else could ordinary people take charge of their own lives and refuse to be silenced and repressed? No, they must be Al Qaeda, or CIA agents, or both — as figures such as Alexander Cockburn, Edward Herman and John Pilger have imperiously declared (relying on a report by West Point’s Counter Terrorism Center no less–never mind that it is a dubious outfit run by neoconservative terrorologists). What better way to divest yourself of moral dilemmas? Blame the victims!
There is a good reason why radicals of the left often find it so easy to turn into radicals of the right. Both are possessed of a Manichean worldview governed by absolutes, free of moral dilemmas, disdainful of ambiguity. This kind of simple-mindedness is the prerogative of those who are either completely powerless and thus free of responsibility, since their actions are of no consequence, or of the absolutely powerful, whose actions are beyond accountability. The rest of us, alas, are doomed to a world where the choices are rarely as simple as between ‘good’ and ‘bad.’
Jeffrey Blankfort has some apt comments:
Also, check out Stephen Shalom’s commentary on Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah’s speech on Libya.
The Western intervention in Libya aroused much more passion in the Western left than it did in Arab countries. Or, to put it more accurately, passions with regard to Libya were not focused on the same issues in the West and in Arab countries. In recent mass demonstrations in Cairo, the tricolor flag of the Libyan uprising was prominently displayed (see pictures), whereas there were no noticeable gestures against the ongoing Western intervention in Libya.
Overall, in the debate within the Western left, little attention, if any, was paid to the positions of anti-imperialist forces in the Arab world. It is thus of some interest to see what Hassan Nasrallah, the Secretary General of Lebanon’s Hizbullah, has to say. Hizbullah has been the most prestigious of the Arab world’s opponents of Western domination. On March 19 — two days after the UN Security Council adopted resolution 1973 — Nasrallah gave a major speech in Beirut in solidarity with the Arab peoples’ struggles.
Nasrallah first addressed the claim that the United States was in some way responsible for the various Arab uprisings:
“Any accusation that claims that America is behind these revolutions, has incited and stirred them, and is leading them represents a false, unjust accusation of these peoples, especially if we talk about these five regimes [Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Libya, and Yemen] which are allies to America. They are regimes that follow America and harmonize with it, that have offered and still offer services for the American plot, and that do not constitute any threat to the American policy — which is Israel in the Middle East region. Is it logical that the American government criticizes obedient, harmonizing, submissive, and allied regimes and incites popular revolutions?
“This is illogical, especially when America knows very well — upon polls, surveys, and public and intelligence information — that the awareness and insight of these peoples has now become obvious and that these peoples have a very aware, steadfast, and committed attitude against the American policy and government and against the presence of Israel. Thus, how could the American government incite revolutions of peoples who are aware, have foresight and are well-determined, without knowing what consequences these revolutions will result in and what alternatives these peoples will produce at the level of governments and regimes? So this is a false and unjust accusation.
“Had we been talking of a withstanding, resistant regime that does not submit to the will of the United States of America or the American plot, a system that withstands and challenges Israel, a system that is then objected by protests, then we could have wondered — excluding prejudice — whether it is likely to be discussed that there are provocateurs and inciters against this regime. But can some say that these are American revolutions against regimes submissive to the U.S.A.? This is unaccepted — as is the ridiculous accusation that Al Qaeda has incited the Libyan revolution and the ridiculous accusation that Iran has provoked the uprising of the people in Bahrain.”
Rather than U.S. plots, these were genuinely popular revolts, declared Nasrallah.
“These are true, popular revolutions that people have launched — primarily youth — then men, women, children, and elders, who were followed by elites and then political powers. These revolutions are based on faith, awareness, anger, enthusiasm — and most important — great readiness for sacrifice….
“We have watched televisions and seen, with our own eyes, youth challenging guns to shoot them, and they were shot. We’ve seen this in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, and Libya. But it doesn’t stop here; afterwards, other youth challenge bullets and guns.”
Nasrallah had no illusions about U.S. and Western benevolence. They are pursuing their own interests, trying to minimize the harm to their positions in the region:
“What we must carefully consider is the unveiled and hypocritical American and western performance through all of these incidents that have been taking place for several months in our Arab region. We can simply discover or understand the currently applied policies by the Americans concerning these maneuvers and revolutions as such:
“Shallow reforms can be made in submissive regimes that the Americans can maintain. Besides, a short-termed chance could be given to the submissive regime to modify the battle with its people in order to avoid inner, serious repercussions.
“Then, in case the American government foresees that the battle will be very costly for American interests, it sets rulers aside, asks them to leave, and mitigates as much damage as can be so as to satisfy the peoples or deceive them — bringing them back to their homes without the accomplishment of the revolutionary declared objectives.
“The American government exploits all of these scenarios to appear as the advocate of civil rights, peoples’ freedom, change, and reformation.
“What we request today is that nobody in our Arabian, Islamic world be deceived. Certainly no one has been since the peoples now are quite conscious and enjoy high foresight as respects the American policies. They recognize that America has fabricated these regimes and has been protecting them for decades. The regimes’ weaponry, reinforcement, and hegemony on their peoples have been handled by America. Consequently, the American government takes part in all of the crimes these regimes have committed against their peoples throughout all of the past years.
“Moreover, any American talk of protecting the peoples of our region, respecting legal and civil rights, and convicting coercion and horrifying acts enjoys no credibility. This is upon the declared, persistent American policy towards the oppressed Palestinian people. Days ago, the American government vetoed a resolution against settlement construction in the [UN] Security Council session. The Palestinians are killed, shelled, and dislodged. Their houses, fields, and trees are destroyed. Eleven thousand Palestinians are detainees. The Islamic and Christian sacredness in Al Quds [Jerusalem] are endangered, but the Americans defend the killer, the murderer, the ravisher, the bone crusher, and he who shells the civilians’ houses in Gaza with his air force.
“As long as this is the American policy towards Palestine and its people, every American talk of honest, sincere concern to defend the rights of the Egyptians, Tunisians, Libyans, Yemenis, Bahrainis, or others is hypocrisy. The American intervention actually aims at enhancing the American image, running the crisis, guaranteeing the convenient alternatives for the American plot where submissive regimes have failed to continue, or pursuing oil fields instead of letting them into the hands of sincere, honest patriots. This is the background of American intervention rather than the one Obama wants us to believe.
“It is not a different government; neither does it defend peoples. No, I ask the Arab peoples to keep their eyes wide open for Palestine because this American government supports Israel that is crushing the Palestinian people and assailing the peoples of the region. All the American allegations of human rights and democracy are false.
“We may reconsider the American government once we witness a radical evolution of the U.S.A. policies regarding Palestine and its people. This is why it is essential that the peoples be cautious with the American policies and attempts to pillage these revolutions and the martyrs’ blood. The peoples should also be cautious with the unstoppable efforts at diverting the path of public revolutions, at dividing Arab countries, and at inciting a civil open war. These are grave dangers that serve the American alternative plot for our region.”
Turning to Libya, Nasrallah went on:
“Just as the peoples rebelled in Tunisia and Egypt, the Libyans did. A group of youth started at Benghazi, and they were confronted with bullets and murder. Then people rushed to embrace them, and the revolution moved from one city to another. There were demonstrations and civil disobedience, which were confronted with bullets, planes, and tanks. War was imposed on the peaceful and civil public revolution. What is going on in Libya is a war imposed by the regime on a people who wanted change without using arms.
“Hereupon, this people had the choice of self-defense without being an armed organization or having any military experience or enough weapons. War broke out against the Libyan people in the west and east. The planes, tanks, cannons, and rows of Katyusha-missile emplacements, which you and we have seen on television, remind us — the Lebanese — of the Israeli invasion in 1982 and of all of the Israeli wars. What Gaddafi is assailing his people with is the same as that of the previous Israeli war against Lebanon and Gaza. All of the noble in the world must condemn these great crimes committed by Gaddafi’s regime. Besides, every person who can offer any kind of help to these rebellious people must do so in order to assist their steadfastness and tolerance of demolitions and massacres.”
Nasrallah accused Western powers of deliberately delaying their intervention:
“Our rebellious brothers in Libya and our Arab peoples must recognize that America and the west have offered the Libyan regime enough time to crush the revolution. Although they wasted all this time with sessions and so much talk, people were steadfast and tolerant. They fought and embarrassed the world with their steadfastness and tolerance. Had the Libyan revolution collapsed in a few days, a week, or two weeks, the world would have admitted, again, Gaddafi’s regime, settled issues with him, and bought oil from him at the required and convenient prices. Gaddafi’s money would have, anew, been into the pockets of presidents, European-Union MPs, and others. The steadfast of those revolutionists has changed the equation today.”
Nasrallah considered the Western intervention very dangerous, but, significantly, he didn’t explicitly condemn the no-fly zone, while urging Libyans to be vigilant to the dangers:
“Certainly, the Libyan situation today is very complicated because of the international intervention that has commenced and that might lead Libya to [become a prey of] the game of nations. As a result, the rebels must be aware and patriotic enough. The last thing I tell them is that the Lebanese Resistance was steadfast for 33 nights and days at a time when more than a hundred Israeli planes were shelling all regions — killing and demolishing. Today, in the name of this victorious Resistance, I send a thousand salutations to the steadfast Libyan fighters, in Benghazi, Ajdabya, Tobroq, Misrata, and all of the other steadfast, patient Libyan cities.”
Nasrallah wished the Arab and Islamic countries had come to the aid of the Libyans, and claimed that their failure to do so had given an opening to the West. But still, he did not explicitly denounce the Western intervention or call for its immediate termination:
“…the Arab and Islamic countries must hold responsibility for what is going on in every Arab country. Yes, their duty is to interfere by sending armies to defend the peoples and prevent foreign intervention instead of oppressing them.
“Unfortunately, today, upon the renouncement of responsibility by most of the Arab and Muslim governors, western and American intervention has easy access into Libya. We don’t know what will occur in Libya. Allowing access to foreign intervention in every Arab country will take us back into the era of occupation, direct colonialism, partition, or whatever.”
Note: Where the posted English translation was unclear, slight corrections based on the original Arabic were made with the help of Bashir Abu-Manneh.