Gaddafi and the media
During the Second World War, the British Army fought the Italian and
the German armies in to-and-fro campaigns across the deserts of Egypt
and Libya. Thousands of lorries, guns and tanks were destroyed in these
battles and they littered the desert from El Alamein to Tripoli and
In 1951, Libya gained independence from Italy as a monarchy under the
petty potentates of the feudal Senussi tribe of the Benghazi area.
Britain had already backed the establishment of a separate Cyrenaican
Emirate under their Senussi clients.
In return, the Senussi granted Britain and America extensive rights
in Libya, including Wheelus US Air Force Base near Tripoli. This
dependent allegiance continued even after Britain and France invaded and
violated Egypt’s sovereignty over the Suez Canal area.
A Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC) fighter stands
outside the drainage pipes where ousted Libyan leader Muammar
Gaddafi was captured in the coastal Libyan city of Sirte on
October 20, 2011. AFP
The mining of petroleum was begun, but the main income earner for the
kingdom remained the sale of scrap metal from the knocked out tanks,
guns and lorries left over from the war.
This situation changed after 1969, when the military uprising led by
the 27-year-old Muammar Gaddafi overthrew the decrepit old feudal order
and established a republic. Libya began to demand higher royalties and
championed the establishment of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting
Gaddafi began to use the revenues thus generated to benefit the
people. An attempt was made to redistribute the national wealth.
Subsidies were considered the most effective way to do so, and food,
housing, fuel, healthcare and education were either free or heavily
Under the feudal regime, literacy had been an astonishingly 10
percent - one of the lowest in the world. Within four decades, this
rocketed to 90 percent, one of the highest in the Arab world. Life
expectancy was increased by 20 years to 77 years, just one year short of
that of the USA.
School enrolment, which stood at 360,000 in 1970, rose to 1.2 million
within 16 years and the number of teachers quadrupled. For the first
time, girls began to receive an education and women were allowed to go
into paid employment.
Under the Senussis, 40 percent of the population lived in shanties,
tents or caves. Within five years of the republic being established, the
housing stock was increased by a third.
In 1984, the US $ 25 billion Great Man-made River programme was
inaugurated, aiming to pump the waters of Libya’s Southern aquifers to
the cities on the Northern shoreline. However, the project has not yet
been completed and a quarter of the population still lacks safe drinking
As a result of these measures, by 2010 the Republic Libya had the
highest Human Development Index in Africa, greater than that of Saudi
Arabia and almost as high as that of Cuba.
Gaddafi also attempted to increase Libya’s role in Africa. Not only
did he give aid to sub-Saharan African countries and provide employment
for their migrant workers, he also increased the status of Libya’s
indigenous black population.
Anti-Black African propaganda
Various vested interests attempted over the years to destabilise the
Gaddafi government, which was accused of ‘terrorism’. The only evidence
for this is that one of Gaddafi’s men was found guilty of the Lockerbie
However, at least two legal experts of high repute, Austria’s
Professor Hans Koechler and Scotland’s Professor Robert Black, have
reported that pressure was put on the judges to render a guilty verdict,
in the face of contrary evidence. The uprising against Gaddafi was not
the ‘peaceful demonstration’ it was made out to be by the media.
It was a well-orchestrated armed rebellion by elements associated
with the old ruling Senussi tribe - disenchanted by their loss of power.
Their affiliations were revealed early when they displayed as their
standard the old flag of the discredited feudal Senussi Emirate - as
against the Green Flag of Libya.
A very important part of the psychological arsenal employed by the
rebels was anti-Black African propaganda.
Their rhetoric, which is evocative of that of both Nazis and Ku Klux
Klan, indicates the extent to which they feared the empowerment of
The rebels’ special ethnic cleansing force deployed against the
predominantly black town of Tawargha called itself the ‘The Brigade for
the Purging of Slaves and Black Skin’. By the time it had finished its
work the town, formerly with a population of 10,000, was empty.
It is noteworthy that, from the very start of the armed rebellion,
the Western media covered the ‘demonstrations’ in Benghazi extensively.
This self-same media refused to give the barest coverage to the peaceful
occupation of Wall Street for nearly three weeks.
For example, the USA’s National Public Radio reported from Benghazi
from the very outset, but refused to broadcast the story about the Wall
Street occupation on the grounds that it was unimportant. It also sacked
a freelance reporter who participated in the New York demonstration.
And, from the outset, the media was partisan in its reporting of the
feudal revolt. False reports were carried uncritically of mass rapes by
non-existent Black mercenaries said to be supplied with Viagra on the
orders of Gaddafi.
On the other hand, no mention was made of the rebels’ ethnic
cleansing for months after the initial report in the Wall Street
Journal. Even now, this element of the rebellion - which clashes with
its portrayal as ‘democratic’ - is downplayed.
Nor was there substantial reportage of the extensive casualties
caused when the rebels bombarded the towns of Sirte and Bani Walid; nor
of the fact that the rebels cut off water and electricity and refused to
let in medicines for the hospitals.
The media never mentioned the achievements of Libya under Gaddafi’s
leadership. Nor did they use the name Gaddafi without a modifier, most
often ‘despot’, ‘dictator’, and ‘tyrant’ sometimes with the addition of
an adjective, e.g. ‘crazy’.
Perhaps Gaddafi’s epitaph will be ‘he was crazy to have attempted to
uplift the people’s living standards, instead of depressing them for the
benefit of a few’.