Libya gets UN help at last. Gaddafi Cornered by UN Resolution

I’m relieved to see Libya is getting media attention again.  I was afraid Gaddafi would destroy all his opposition and the world would conveniently look the other way, but it was just that Japan got the focus for a while.  As it should.  One heart-warming thing about that country’s terrible challenges has been the response of so many countries around the world.  And not just lip-service.  Could we really be moving towards a world where countries help each other and everybody wants peace and prosperity more than they want revenge and power?

It seems that that might be the case in the Middle East.   Yesterday Gaddafi warned the opposition rebels that “we are coming” and he would show them no mercy, no compassion.  He clearly thought he was untouchable.  But it was enough to tip the scales for the UN Security Council who voted 10 to 0 to pass  the resolution for an arms embargo on Libya, a freezing of Libyan assets, a no-fly zone and the  use of whatever military force is necessary to protect Libyan civilians from being slaughtered by Gaddafi.

Five countries abstained.  Germany is nervous about getting involved in a way which couldn’t be won, China dislikes the idea of using international military intervention – naturally, given its own human rights record.  Russia, Brazil and India also abstained but nobody vetoed.

Today Gaddafi did a 180 degree turn.  The Libyan Foreign Minister gave a press conference in which he said Libya will abide by the resolution and declared a cease-fire and halting of all military operations.  He made out of course that Gaddafi and his regime were the good guys, but what else was he going to do?   Interesting that Gaddafi didn’t make the speech.  I suspect he’s been strong-armed.

The Foreign Minister went on to express sadness at the blanket no-fly zone and the freezing of Libyan assets, because these two actions would hurt Libyan civilians.  He also said Libya was annoyed that the UN is allowed to use military force.   Parting shots of a loser.  The speech clearly wasn’t written by Gaddafi, whose previous speeches all show what a psychopathic narcissist he is.  Well, he’s finally hit his losing streak.  Many think his games aren’t over, that he’s just buying time, that in this period of cease-fire he’ll move and hide all his firepower.

Personally I think he’s not calling the shots any more.   The sulky rhetoric part of the Libyan Foreign Minister’s speech is meaningless.  I think the reality is more likely to be that the ruling group understands foreign military intervention will be the end for them.

The UN Resolution calls for swift military action and US and its NATO partners have various contingency plans.  These include air strikes and cruise missile attacks on Libyan air defenses and military units being used on rebels.  Two countries from the Arab League will be taking part.  I hope this is the end of all the fighting and that those brave Libyans who have given so much finally succeed in their quest for peace and freedom.

I’m so relieved the UN passed the resolution.  Even looking at this from a cynical perspective, that everybody’s just worried about oil, it’s still great that it’s becoming less and less in anybody’s interests to support tyrants and dictators in the Middle East.   And the power has actually come from the people.  Extraordinary.  The more they succeed, the easier it’s going to be for others to follow suit.

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Middle East, Libya, Egypt and Their Brave New World

I have never known very much about Arab and Muslim people.  Mostly by reason of having no real information – certainly very little firsthand.  All I’ve seen and heard have been opinions, when some terrible crime against humanity has been committed.  And of course for me it started with 9/11.

I didn’t buy the Bush government’s story, and I was aware that any foreign hatred of America isn’t entirely unmerited.  I also knew that fundamentalism was at the root of much of the violent atrocities, that Muslims per se are not violent in nature and nor is the religion.  And I don’t like fundamentalists of any sort, so that wasn’t just about Muslims.

Still, since 9/11 I’ve been influenced without realizing it by the perspective of much of the west and the media representations that I’ve looked at.  The picture painted of Muslims and Arabs has never been complimentary.  I’ve rarely seen stories about them in their daily lives, their dreams and aspirations, how they go about trying to accomplish them, their everyday struggles, challenges and triumphs.

I can’t blame it all on the press, though.  I didn’t go looking, either.  Until now that is.  With all the exposure of the Middle East, particularly so far Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.  Tunisia caught my attention, but Egypt touched my soul.  I’ve been glued to my TV ever since Egyptians started protesting. Now it’s Libya. I’ve  wanted to know – and I still do – what’s happening all the time.  I channel hop like crazy between BBC, CNN and SkyNews to get everything I can.

What’s so great is that for the first time in my life I’m seeing the truth about Egyptians, Libyans, and others who are protesting in the region.  Real people, not just general statistics, and not fundamentalists.  I’m seeing beautiful, passionate, courageous, non-violent people by the hundreds of thousands protesting against repressive regimes, willing to sacrifice their lives.

People I can relate to and admire, regardless of the cultural and religious differences between us.  Women and men, young and old, from every sector of society.  Businesspeople, doctors, lawyers, teachers, students, workers.  United in their desire for peace, and to be respected.  None of the protesting has been motivated by fundamentalism or even religion.  It’s just sane people wanting freedom.

What’s not to respect?  Last night I saw a report on Radio Free Libya, in Benghazi.  This was originally the national state radio, totally controlled by Gaddafi and his cronies.  When Benghazi fell to the opposition, much of the station was destroyed, but what remained has been turned into Radio Free Libya – by ordinary people, professionals and business people who have no desire to be in politics, but just want to contribute to putting the country back together again.  None of them are getting any money for it.  It was incredibly moving to watch.

I’ve heard so many comments about Egypt and Libya that are mistrustful of Egyptians and Libyans and their capacity to create change that will really be about democracy.  There’s a lot of skepticism and voicing of negative opinion.  It’s as if people in the west just can’t bring themselves to be positive about the Middle East.  Can’t even let themselves say “I believe something good – something great – will come out of this.”  It’s a pity. They’re missing out in participating positively in the miracle of the century.  It’s a brave new world in the best sense.

Middle East, Egypt, Libya and Twitter

I’m getting addicted to television.  And Twitter.  Blame it on the Middle East and this extraordinary blossoming of people’s awareness of their rights, all the connection that’s happening.  It’s infectious, that’s what it is.  One revolution such as the world has never seen before.  That points the way for all of us, no matter what our challenge is.  Speak out, stay firm, don’t give in to violence, connect with everybody around you. Ghandi would be proud.

I always hear it – and have said it myself a million times – that history repeats itself, and things never really change.  All the dictators, all the repression leading inevitably to crisis and violent,  bloody revolution.  But it’s not really true any more.  Something’s different this time round.  Don’t forget, it’s the year of the Female Iron Rabbit, generally spoken of as a particularly auspicious year.

Here we are in the west pretty much controlled by the power we’ve given to capitalist kings and queens (mostly kings but let’s face it their wives are right behind them).  They are the dictators of this century for us.  They’ve manipulated the desires, the honor, the work ethic of the middle classes just as any dictatorial monarch.

But just as the French, the Russian, the you-name-it Revolutions of the past started with mumblings and rumblings of dissatisfaction which gathered momentum, our awareness is growing of how powerless we really are, who we’re sacrificing our lives to.  And we’re not so happy about it.  We’re doing some mumbling and rumbling of our own.  Revolution is in the air.

In the Middle East, the business of dictatorship has been business as usual up until now.  Repressive regimes violently punishing opposition.  But something has changed.  In fact quite a few things have changed.  It isn’t just one country, one despot.  It’s a whole region, many different countries.  The rulers are independent from each other, but it’s as if there are almost no borders between the people.  At least no borders that can contain the infectiousness of their courage, their desire for freedom, the fact that they’ve all had enough.

So now each country has the momentum, the kind of mass consciousness of the whole region to back it against its despot.  Even somebody like Gaddafi, who lives in an altered reality, much like Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, and who doesn’t care who he kills or how he goes about it, doesn’t have the power to suppress that momentum.  He may not be able to see it but everybody else does.

And how about this for a difference:  King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia is trying to pre-empt a revolution by promising to spend $3 billion on housing and security.  A political commentator on BBC said it wouldn’t work, people don’t want lip service, they want the real thing.  He’s 87, by the way, the world’s oldest reigning monarch, and one of the world’s wealthiest men.  He stands to lose a lot.  He may still be deluded, but at least he’s thinking, watching, paying attention.

Something else that’s completely different to past revolutions is that so much of this one is being carried out by young people, who have vision, energy, courage – and Twitter.

China, Germany, Middle East: Will Chinese Factory Workers Learn from Egypt?

February 3 this year was the first day of the first month of the Chinese year of the Female Iron Rabbit.  It’s generally believed to be one of the most fortunate of all possible years.  I knew something good was going to happen this year.  When times are bad – challenging – something’s gotta give, and it always does.  So far a lot of good things have happened this year already, on an international front and a personal one.  The first good thing a friend pointed out about 2011 was that it was easier to type!

But to get back to serious things and things Chinese, I saw on BBC the other night an interesting tidbit.   Everybody knows about how China’s economy  has grown off the backs of its people who have worked for slave wages making cheap stuff that China has flooded world markets with.  I don’t have anything to say about that situation that’s good.  I think it stinks.  I hate the cheap factory goods and clothes, I hate that Chinese people are being exploited – by everybody.

Half way around the world is a country which operates on completely the opposite principle to China’s.  Yet it’s doing really well.  Germany owes its economic strength to its manufacturing industry also, but it has focused on producing incredibly high quality, very expensive goods.  Because Germans know there are enough people who can pay and who want to pay.  I know which country I’d prefer to live in.

Now here’s the twist.  One of Germany’s biggest markets is China.  The wealthy Chinese, who have made their gazillions off all the lower and middle classes working for slave wages, don’t want to buy cheap Chinese crap.  They want the good quality German stuff.   Others want it so they can copy it and produce it cheaply.  Ironic is one of the words that comes to mind.  I guess the year of the Female Iron Rabbit isn’t going to be so good for the Chinese workers as it is for some of the rest of world.

That makes me sad.  I went to Google to look for some photos, and found some lovely ones.  Nice clean factories, happy smiling workers all wearing beautiful uniforms.  That wasn’t what I saw on BBC.

I saw workers in a clothing factory.  Cramped, sweaty, no smiling faces.  What a ghastly life.  I wonder if they’ve been watching what’s going on in the Middle East, and have been longing to do the same.  I wonder when they’ll realize how much power they actually have.  Half the world relies on what they produce now.  All they have to do is down tools by the millions and China will collapse, along with whoever else is exploiting them.  Serve them all bloody right.

Somebody should send those workers free cell phones and hook them up to Twitter and Facebook.