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How the West Used Libya to Hijack the Arab Revolts

Vijay Prashad talks neoliberal economics, the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia and why NATO's intervention in Libya marked a new chapter in the story of the Arab revolts.

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Secondly, there are the urban professionals who benefited from the education produced by the Gaddafi regime, but have turned deeply against the Gaddafi regime for being absolutely uninterested in any kind of genuine democracy. And these are people who became lawyers, teachers, etc., people like Fathi Terbil, who plays a very important role at the start of the rebellion. It’s his arrest that essentially opens the door for the rebellion. And the third section would be people in certain cities. Libya is an archipelago of cities, and Gaddafi favored certain cities over all the others. That plainly appears.

So, cities like Misrata, for instance, were always treated like enemies by Gaddafi. And so these three social forces have been protesting since the 1990s, and they faced a considerable crackdown. One of the most elevated crackdown was when the police fired inside a prison in 1996, where 1,200 people were killed. They were largely Islamists who were killed, and their lawyers were people like Fathi Terbil, who was defending the families, trying to get justice for the 1233 people and their family. So that was the essence of the protests.

But the neoliberal section--some part of it was outside Libya, in the Gulf States, in Beirut, in Europe. But the neoliberal section had been brought in by Saif al-Islam Gaddafi to reform or modernize the Libyan state. Some in the country were working with Saif al-Islam, but large numbers were outside. And they wanted to have Libya handed to them. But they did not have the social base of the Islamists, the middle class element, etc. And they needed to have power in the rebellion, and they got that power from NATO. And that is why several of them are still in the saddle. When the Libyan National Transitional Council was formed, at one of their first meetings, they had two things on the agenda: a pledge of unity against Gaddafi, and setting up a central bank. It’s really bizarre that a revolutionary movement would be so eager to create a Central Bank. I had never heard that in any revolt before.


Alex Kane is AlterNet's New York-based World editor, and a staff reporter for Mondoweiss. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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