Libya, America, and Human Rights: Facts or Fiction

Dr. Robert D. Crane

Posted Nov 1, 2011      •Permalink      • Printer-Friendly Version
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Libya, America, and Human Rights: Facts or Fiction

by Dr. Robert D. Crane

I.  Definitions

A free press is the first essential of human rights.  Human dignity is the second.  Muammar Qaddafi was a model tyrant and totalitarian because he flagrantly violated both of these essentials for a legitimate government.  His political prisons were full of people who dared to question his autocratic dictates. 

    If young Muslim men dared to attend morning prayer in the mosques, they were automatically suspect as revolutionaries, and repeated offenses could land them in prison.  Once in prison, torture to make them confess to political crimes was routine, and confession could amount to a death sentence.  This was particularly true in the Abu Salim dungeons, where in 1996, at a time when I was in Libya, reportedly more than a thousand political prisoners were murdered in a two hour massacre to make room for more. 

    Of course, like all the reports coming out of Libya now, this report may be greatly exaggerated.  Amnesty International has called for an independent inquiry, since it is based on the account of a single former inmate, Hussein al Shafai, who is now in America and has applied for asylum.

    Regardless of such denial of religious, intellectual and political freedoms, we should remember that these are not the only human rights.  The New York Times on October 28th, 2011, published the report of the Bertelsmann Stiftung (Foundation) of Germany, “Social Justice in the OECD – How Do the Member States Compare”, in which the United States of America ranked in the bottom five of 31 countries.  The factors included health care, education, senior citizen poverty, and the wealth gap between the richest and the poorest segments of society.

    By comparison, according to the U.N. Development Program, Libya ranks #1 in Africa and 53rd globally on the Human Development Index - ahead of Saudi Arabia at 55, Iran at 70, South Africa at 73, Jordan at 82, Egypt at 101, Indonesia at 108, India at 119, Afghanistan at 155.  Libyans are said to receive free housing, education, health care, substantial cash when they marry, and overseas education if they qualify.

    Definitions are subjective and are generally loaded to prove a point.  Equally important is whether the answers are facts or fiction.

II.  Human Development in Libya: Fact or Fiction

    Various sources assembled at and distributed on April 1, 2011, included the article entitled “Libya: A ‘Socialist Paradise’ Under Colonial Attack”, which raised the issue whether the accomplishments of Qaddafi’s 40-year reign can or should be balanced off against his crimes.  Specifically, the following ten disputed claims have been made:

1. A portion of Libyan oil sale is credited directly to the bank accounts of all Libyan citizens.

2. There is no interest on loans, banks in Libya are state-owned and loans given to all its citizens at 0% interest by law.

3. Should Libyans want to take up farming career, they would receive farming land, a farming house, equipments, seeds and livestock to kick-start their farms - all for free.

4. Education and medical treatments are free in Libya. Before Qaddafi only 25% of Libyans are literate. Today the figure is 83%.

5. If Libyans cannot find the education or medical facilities they need in Libya, the government funds them to go abroad for it - not only free but they get US$2,300 a month for accommodation and car allowance.

6. One fourth of Libyans have a university degree.  If a Libyan is unable to get employment after graduation the state would pay the average salary of the profession as if he or she were employed until employment is found.

7. There is no electricity bill in Libya; electricity is free for all its citizens.  Forty loaves of bread cost $.15 (15 cents).  The price of gasoline in Libya is $.56 a gallon (56 cents).

8. In Libya, if a Libyan buys a car, the government subsidized 50% of the price. 

9. All newlyweds in Libya receive $60,000 Dinar (US$50,000) by the government to buy their first apartment in order to help start up the family.

10. Home ownership is considered a human right in Libya - Qaddafi vowed that his parents would not get a house until everyone in Libya had a home.  Qaddafi’s father died while he, his wife, and his mother were still living in a tent.

There is one problem with this account.  According to Nizar Mhani (Niz Ben-Essa) of the Free Generation Movement in his article, “Myths of the Gaddafi Regime Explained”, distributed by the Libya Outreach Group on October 24, 2011, from FGMovement on Facebook, every one of the above claims is bogus.  Specifically:

1. There are no electricity bills in Libya; electricity is free for all its citizens.

Categorically untrue. Despite poor electricity infrastructure and poor coverage of electricity lines, even in the Capital, Libyan home owners pay monthly/quarterly (area dependant) electricity bills based on meter readings. Electricity is cut off in instances of unpaid bills. Reconnection upon payment is not instant. The electric infrastructure is weak and some areas of Libya do not have electricity available at all.

2. There is no interest on loans, banks in Libya are state-owned and loans given to all its citizens at 0% interest by law.

Categorically untrue. Banks all over Libya have been giving out loans for years and years. There is a percentage rate charge on all loans, which is comparable to an interest rate, but in the spirit of ‘islamic ethics’ it is not called interest, it is called an ‘Administrative Expense’ – Masareef Edareeya.

3. A House is considered a human right in Libya ¬ Gaddafi vowed that his parents would not get a house until everyone in Libya had a home. Gaddafi¹s father has died while he, his wife and his mother are still living in a tent.

Gaddafi abused this human right as much as he did other basic rights. It is well known in Libya that political opponents and successful business men/women had their homes confiscated and handed over to regime members, usually rewards for Free Officers – Dubat A7rar. Many farms and homes and businesses were confiscated during three infamous phases of Libyas dictatorial history:
 1969 – The dreaded Green Revolution. Free Officers were rewarded land, homes, and farms that sometimes belonged to other people and the original owners were not compensated or asked if this was ok.
 Late 70’s - The introduction of the law Albayt le Sakinehee – The Home Belongs to its Dwellers. As this law was passed overnight, thousands of homeowners instantly lost their homes, as tenants (those renting the homes) claimed ownership on account of being the ‘dwellers’. The law applied to homes, farms, shops, etc.
 90’s - The introduction of Purification Committees (Lejnat al Tatheer). This committee ran by the widely know slogan, ‘Min ayna laka hada?’ – “From where did you obtain this?”, a form of ultra-socialism where people’s possessions, including homes and businesses, were confiscated if seen to be ‘surplus to requirement’ or contributing to a ‘monopoly’.
Regarding Gaddafis ‘vow’: While Gaddafi waited for ‘everyone in Libya’ to be housed, he himself lived in a sprawling 6km square compound in the centre of the capital which was home to state of the art security and an underground network of rooms and ultramodern bunkers. He also had a vast and well known farm on Airport Road in Tripoli. This, just in the capital.

4. All newlyweds in Libya receive $60,000 Dinar (US$ 50,000 ) by the government to buy their first apartment so to help start up the family.

This is a well known rumour and a common joke in Libya. Whilst it may have been passed as official legislation, I know of not a single family who has been given this grant. The backbreaking bureaucracy associated with such grants and loans make them more or less impossible to obtain.

5. Education and medical treatments are free in Libya. Before Gaddafi only 25% of Libyans are literate. Today the figure is 83%.

Education and Health Care – Free does not mean adequate. It is well known that Libya’s standard of health care is nothing short of appalling. It is widely known that the majority of Libyans seeking medical care leave for neighbouring countries for treatment. Our Education system is no better. It is outdated, teachers are underpaid and under-trained and libraries are largely non-existent. The syllabus was constantly being revised and reviewed under direct instruction from the former regime e.g. banning English, changing Quranic verses, etc.
It is commonly said that Libyans would be happy to forfeit their ‘free health care’ and pay for a National Health Service if it was up to the required standard.

6. Should Libyans want to take up farming career, they would receive farming land, a farming house, equipments, seeds and Livestock to kick- start their farms all for free.

This has never happened, in addition to this many farms and homes have been confiscated by the government to build railroads, The Great Man Made River and civil roads.
The owners of the land were only compensated if there was a covered structure on the land as the Gaddafi regime legally owned any land and the people were only allowed to build on it. When there was compensation offered it was nowhere near the actual value of the property and many waited years to receive anything if at all. This system was also rife with corruption many residents told they had to pay a bribe to receive what little they were given.

7. If Libyans cannot find the education or medical facilities they need in Libya, the government funds them to go abroad for it not only free but they get $2, 300/month accommodation and car allowance.

Categorically untrue. If this was the case, the former regime would have been in receipt of 6 million application forms – one for every man, women and child who ‘cannot find education or medical facilities they need’. This grant does not exist for the mainstream public. There is anecdotal evidence of some medical grants being given but again, the system was corrupt and opaque.

8. In Libyan, if a Libyan buys a car, the government pays 50% of the price. ‎The price of petrol in Libya is $0.14 per liter.

There is no truth to the former Gaddafi regime paying 50% of the value of a new car.  Whilst the price of fuel is indeed cheap, the quality of roads, the accuracy and availability of road signs, the presence of road traffic police, and all other transport infrastructure is of abysmal standard.
The absence of an integrated and functional public transport system means that people are reliant on their cars for all movement and might end up paying more on fuel than our neighbours around the Mediterranean basin.

9. Libya has no external debt and its reserves amount to $150 billion now frozen globally.

Whilst our sovereign wealth is undeniable, none of it was spent on the people of Libya nor the infrastructure of the country. Basic amenities, services, and state infrastructure are either absent or of appalling standard.
The availability of money is not tantamount to wealth or prosperity. The Arabs have a saying about Libya – “A rich nation of poor inhabitants.”

10. If a Libyan is unable to get employment after graduation the state would pay the average salary of the profession as if he or she is employed until employment is found.

Categorically untrue. Even basic wages are sometimes unpaid for months, for those lucky enough to be employed. Welfare for the unemployed is non-existent.

11. A portion of Libyan oil sale is credited directly to the bank accounts of all Libyan citizens.

No basis to this claim as no such case can be found.

12. A mother who gave birth to a child receive US $5,000

Categorically untrue. There is a Child Benefit welfare payment in Libya – it is roughly 15-20 Libyan Dinars a month per child.  No Libyan citizen was given foreign currency as compensation.

13.   40 loaves of bread in Libya costs $ 0.15

Bread was subsidized by the state. Whilst the price varies (marginally) from shop to shop, bread usually costs ¼ dinars for 10 baguettes (small) or roughly 500grams per dinar.

14.   25% of Libyans have a university degree

The absence of a comprehensive selection process and a corrupt entry protocol means that universities in Libya are grossly over populated and over subscribed, despite limited facilities. This results in an over inflated number of graduates, but not necessarily an adequate level of employability. There are thousands of students studying foundation year medicine in Tripoli alone.

Ten claims against fourteen denials.  Which are fact and which are fiction?

An additional claim is the Great Man Made River Project, begun by Qaddafi in 1984 and called the Eighth Wonder of the World.  This project tapped the almost inexhaustibly vast lake underlying the Sahara Desert to turn the Mediterranean littoral into a rich agricultural center and provide fresh water to Libya’s major cities. Neighboring countries want access to this water.  Until recently no one has disputed this accomplishment, but recently Anne Applebaum of the Washington Post has.

In her column of October 28th, 2011, entitled “Gaddafi’s Bequest”, Anne Applebaum writes: “Gaddafi has left an unprecedented, even weird, vacuum in his wake.  Post-revolutionary Libya is truly a desert, not only in the geographic sense but in the political, economic, and psychological senses also. …  During four decades in power, Gaddafi destroyed the army, the civil service, and the educational system.  The country produces nothing but oil, and none of the profits have trickled down to anybody.  Some 60 percent of the population works for the government, but they receive very low salaries – a few hundred dollars a month – in exchange.  There is hardly any infrastructure, outside of a few roads.  There is hardly any social life, since many people are too poor to marry.  On top of all that, Libya has the largest oil reserves of Africa, and – depending on who is counting – some $250 billion in foreign currency reserves.  Much of the money Gaddafi never spent on his people is now sitting in the bank”.

The advantage of a free press is that both sides in assessing the facts are available, thanks to the internet.

III. Qaddafi’s Crimes: Fact or Fiction

Somewhat less problematic are the three major crimes attributed to Qaddafi, all of which are claimed to be his responsibility but all of which are denied by those who admire Muammar Qaddafi, “The Leader”, as the self-styled, 21st century Che Quevara of global revolution.

    Of the three major accusations, according to the Voltaire Network on October 21, 2011, none of them could reliably stand up in a court of justice, which is why Qaddafi’s death was mandatory. 

    The first is the “La Belle discotheque bombing in Berlin (5 April 1986, three killed), which was used as a pretext by the Reagan administration to bomb Gaddafi’s palace and kill his daughter (April 14, 1986, at least 50 dead). At the time, German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis (the same one who two decades later would rig the investigation into the assassination of Rafik al-Hariri) relied on the testimony of Eter Mushad to indict a Libyan diplomat and his accomplice Mohammed Amair. German television channel ZDF subsequently discovered, however, that Mushad Eter was not only a false witness but also a real CIA agent, while bomb planter Mahammed Aamir was a Mossad agent”.

    Another example is “the Lockerbie bombing (21 December 1988, 270 killed): the investigators identified the owner of the suitcase containing the bomb and the timer thanks to the testimony of a Maltese shopkeeper who had sold the pair of trousers also located in the booby-trapped suitcase. At that point, the Scottish authorities brought charges against two Libyan agents, Abdel Basset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi and Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, while the Security Council took sanctions against Libya. In the end, to get the sanctions lifted, Gaddafi agreed to extradite the two agents (the first was sentenced to life imprisonment and the second was acquitted) and pay $ 2.7 billion in compensation, while continuing to proclaim his complete innocence.  Subsequently, in August 2005, the chief Scottish investigator declared that the main piece of evidence, the bomb timer, had been planted at the crime scene by a CIA agent. Then, the expert who had analyzed the timer for the court admitted he had manufactured it himself before the CIA ‘dropped it off’. Finally, the Maltese shopkeeper admitted having received $2 million for bearing false witness. The Scottish authorities decided to review the case, but the health of Abdel Basset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi did not allow it”.

    The third major accusation concerns “the only international arrest warrant against Muammar al Gaddafi, issued by Interpol before the NATO offensive.  He was accused by the Lebanese justice of having disposed of Imam Moussa Sadr and his companions (1978). This media oversight can be explained by the fact that the kidnapping was sponsored by the United States who wanted to get rid of the Shi’a clergyman before allowing Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, also a Shi’a Muslim, to return to Iran, to prevent Sadr from spreading the Ayatollah’s revolutionary influence to Lebanon”.

    The Voltaire Network adds: “The current disinformation campaign also includes an installment on the lifestyle of the deceased, classified as sumptuous, and the amount of his stashed-away Pharaonic fortune. But all those who approached Muammar al-Gaddafi, or who simply visited his family home and residence after they were bombarded can attest that he lived in an environment equal to that of the middle class in his country, far from the flashy style of Planning Minister Mahmoud Jibril. Similarly, none of the states that for months have been tracking Gaddafi’s hidden fortune has been able to find it. Any money that was seized belonged to the Libyan government”.

Three claims and three denials.  So, which are fact and which are fiction?

IV.  Qaddafi and the Global Wealth Gap

Perhaps Qaddafi could legitimately claim to be the first head of state to advocate the introduction of broadened capital ownership as a means to counter the wealth gap.  The fact is sometimes downplayed that, according to the U.S. Energy Information agency, “Libya has the largest proven oil reserves in Africa”, which is why Libya has been known for decades to be a potential major player in powering Western industry.  The British installed King Idris in 1949 to facilitate proper behavior by Libya, but Qaddafi overthrew King Idris twenty years later in a bloodless Arab Spring, much to the surprise of all the world’s intelligence agencies and to their shock at the prospect of a populist renegade seizing control of Libyan oil. 

    The revisionist historians fail to mention the fact the Benghazi uprising occurred at the same time that Qaddafi scheduled the privatization of Libya’s oil in equal shares of stock to every Libyan in order to avoid foreign control of Libya’s natural resources, or the fact that some of the $30 billion that NATO is scheduled to give to the Transitional National Council allegedly from Qaddafi’s personal loot was designed as the first installment for a new African bank to prevent the concentration of power in African countries by the IMF and Western banking cartels.

    On February 21, 2011, five days after the Arab Spring broke out in Libya, Qaddafi launched a new program to privatize all Libyan oil to every citizen of Libya, initially providing $21,000 to every one of the five million Libyans from a total of $32,000,000,l000 in the Year 2011 (less $21 billion paid to foreign contractors to build roads, houses, hospitals, and schools), so that health, education, transport, and some other ministries could be abolished and individual Libyans could use the profits of their own investments, including from oil ownership, to obtain the relevant services.  This, he said, is the best way to eliminate corruption and to decentralize governmental power. 

    In America such an approach would enthuse both the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street movement if President Ronald Reagan’s similar program would be adopted in order to turn every American into a capitalist by tasking America’s central bank, the Fed, to create $7,000 every year interest-free for every American from birth to be placed in a Capital Homestead account for supervised investment in productive enterprises, including their own.  The chosen alternative vigorously promoted by the New York financial center was to create money to bail out the banks from their inevitably collapsed ponzi schemes at the expense of investment in the productive economy.  No doubt this would have upset a number of special interests, but it would not have triggered a NATO invasion of New York and Washington.

    This economic devolution of power in Libya was already on the books, but on February 21st, 2011, Qaddafi announced that this new plan must be implemented immediately.  The only question was how to accomplish this with a minimum of disruption.  On March 1st, the General Public Congress voted to support this devolution of power in principle but to delay implementation until preparatory measures could be completed.  In his message of February 21st, inaugurating the five-day annual round of meetings by Libya’s Basic Peoples Congresses and in celebration of the Fortieth Year of the Libyan Revolution, Colonel Qaddafi explained, “This is your historic opportunity to take your oil wealth, power, and full freedom”.  This could provide a model for Iraq, Bahrain, and a number of other countries with multiple identities, and even for alliances or confederations such as in the former artificial State of the Sudan and in an Abrahamic Federation of the Holy Land.

    The question arises why the insurgent government long prepared by the CIA in Washington did not support the oil privatization plan.  The initial announcement of the power devolution reached the European media thanks to Philip Pank writing in The Times, followed by his article posted on Information Clearing House on May 12th.  On March 3, Al Jazeera listed the URLs of prominent news articles on this devolution of the ultimate power, namely, capital ownership, to the people as a third way beyond capitalism and socialism.

V.  Qaddafi and Global Finance

    Among the alleged threats posed by Muammar Qaddafi are his five projects to lead Africa away from dependence on the Atlantic countries.  These are:

1)  A political project to form a United States of Africa designed to overcome the
European colonial strategy of divide and rule.

2)  African Telecommunications Satellite, for which in 2007 Libya gave   $300,000,000 of the estimated $400,000,000 cost, thereby saving the $500,000,000 that foreign telecommunications satellites charged African countries, as well as providing greater educational independence.

3)  African Monetary Fund, scheduled to start in the Year 2011 to avoid dependence on the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

4)  Central African Bank based on Abudja, Nigeria, to avoid dependence on foreign currencies.  Libya gave most of the money for this project.

5)  Bank of Investments, headquartered in Libya, to bring independence in planning the economic future of Africa together with China and other independent players in the globalization process.

All of these projects are designed to counter the growing concentration of capital ownership inherent in the existing global system of money and banking, which have been producing an unsustainable wealth gap within and among countries and thereby contributing to global terrorism.

VI.  Conclusion

One question raised by Muammar Qaddafi’s aborted plans for an African Spring is whether the Arab Spring with American backing will adopt a similar vision and practical strategies to promote peace, prosperity, and freedom through justice, or whether the revolutionary verbiage might be co-opted by those with different agendas or simply countered by those who reject the vision as a threat to the existing global order.

    The answer to this question may be useful for historical purposes some years from now in studying the history of AfriCom as America’s newest venture in the boomerang strategy of preemptive deterrence. 

    The issues of the wealth and power gaps raised by both Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party were not invented this year.  The issue of the “99 percent” is simply an issue whose time has come domestically, just as it may globally a decade from now.

    There is nothing new in the world, just new iterations of the old as every civilization rises and falls ad infinitum based on whether material power or transcendent justice provides the civilizational paradigm of ultimate purpose.

    America arose as an exceptional experiment in faith-based justice, but it will die unless we rehabilitate our traditional heritage, which once was the heritage also of classical Islam.  As the former head of a hospice in South Chicago, my experience is that the approach of death can do wonders in the revival of the best in a person spiritually, and, God willing, the same may be true for an entire nation.