One Man Hurdle on the Road to Democracy


S. P. Udayakumar – TRANSCEND Media Service

Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali fled Tunis rather swiftly. Hosni Mubarak tried in vain all his tricks including inciting violence with the help of some of his supporters and surrendered. The beleaguered Muammar Qaddafi is trying to halt the democracy train with the active support of his clan and groups of a few tribes, the fear and reluctance of the majority Warfalla tribe, and the relative weakness of the pro-democracy activists.

Let us, for argument’s sake, agree that the opposition to his tyranny is not more or less absolute like in Tunisia and Egypt, and we cannot demand his resignation. But then, he has no authority to kill his own people, unarmed and unorganized political activists. For this particular crime alone, he can and should be held accountable and punished. This “great revolutionary leader” has abused and plundered his people for almost 42 years and still would not leave them alone but impose himself and his God-forsaken sons on them.

Our support to the anti-Qaddafi campaign should not be inspired by the Western hypocrisy. The Western establishments, their governments, and media all focus on Libya and gloss over Bahrain, and conveniently avoid any discussion on Saudi Arabia or any of their other authoritarian cronies. Ironically, American democracy has always loved dictators. The list is too long to record here.

The urgent question that people in MENA region and all over the world face now is: How can we deal with Qaddafis who ravage the same people they are supposed to safeguard?

Qaddafi claims everybody in Libya loves him. Of course, the world sees that very clearly. Qaddafi apologists would argue that he is the leader of his country and he is trying to establish law and order in his country. Well, indiscriminate killing of unarmed civilians can hardly qualify for anti-insurgency operation. The issue at hand is much larger and more complex. Do human communities have a say against despotic, nepotistic, corrupt, genocidal leadership and say ‘enough is enough’ and demand a change spontaneously and nonviolently. If yes, how can we deal with such tyrants? As the people under the tyrants struggle in all possible ways, what can the larger world do?

Some of the options could be resolutions, sanctions, incentives, interventions, encounter, and the 3D process (derecognize the regime, due legal process, detain him or drive him away).

[1] Resolutions: There is no dearth of resolutions in our political affairs. When the going gets tough, the tough go pass resolutions. If all the UN Security Council resolutions were implemented earnestly, we must have paradise on the Earth by now. After all, as an English proverb puts it tersely: “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.” Any number of resolutions, declarations, pronouncements may be passed and recorded and disseminated, but Hitlers, Mussolinis, Amins, Milosevics, Rajapakshes, Qaddafis, Emirs and Kings would not give a hoot.

[2] Sanctions: Sanctioning means taking away what the tyrant badly wants and needs. But do the sanctions really work? The considered steps may embarrass him politically a little bit and could put some economic pressure. Nothing much more than that happens to him but the people under him end up paying a huge price. They are denied basic needs of life such as food, life-saving medicines, developmental activities, societal progress and so forth. Sanctions rarely bring about the desired result soon or for sure. For instance, the United States has frozen a humongous amount of $32.5 billions that Qadaffi and his sons have hidden here. The man was derided and hounded in this country and his country was called all kinds of names. There was no diplomatic relations between the United States and with Libya for a long time. But how did the US hoard his and his sons ill-gotten wealth in this land of “democracy and justice” so far so secretly? Why didn’t we ever hear about this business/banking side of the anti-Qaddafi propaganda? Obviously, the United States hates the man but loves his money. If Qaddafi and his sons have stashed away $32.5 billion in a hostile country, how much should they have in Switzerland, Lichtenstein, and other “democratic” countries that help criminals from around the world?

[3] Incentives: Giving the things that the tyrant badly yearns for (except continued hold on power), we can try to achieve the desired result. When the tyrant and his family members are given security cover, free passage, political asylum and freedom to enjoy a good life with all his stolen money, he sometimes relents and leaves. But freezing the bank accounts and snatching away the assets can only hamper the process of driving away the tyrant. Because he has lost all he has accumulated and will try to cling on to power in order to recreate all the wealth and assets and gold and greenbacks.

[4] Interventions: Outside powers could intervene (mostly) militarily and remove the tyrant from power. India (in East Pakistan, 1971), Vietnam (in Cambodia, 1978) and Tanzania (in Uganda, 1979) have done that. Only a powerful neighbor with serious socioeconomic-political compulsions/opportunity may intervene unilaterally. There is none next to Libya; Egypt is licking its own wounds. (We can hardly compare these interventions with the American hunting down of Manuel Noriega (Panama) in 1989 for some unresolved business reasons.) So, unilateral intervention is not going to happen any time soon. Collective intervention is another option but with imperialistic United States and imbecilic United Nations around, nothing of that sort is going to happen either. Collective intervention has the real danger of boiling down to US intervention and that is unacceptable. Grenada in 1983 and the recent Persian Gulf Wars are some of the examples. Humanitarian intervention is yet another option but it cannot take place as we have no institution or infrastructure or international will to undertake such operations. Since all the nation-states have skeletons in their own closets, and the concept of national sovereignty reigns supreme, none of them would dare to intervene in any form or manner.

[5] Encounter: When a thug becomes too much to handle, the Indian police enacts an “encounter” drama and gets rid of him. Somehow the thug appears on the scene, tries to shoot the officers (and sometimes even manages to shoot one on them on the surface of his skin), and the officers take him down in self-defense; and voila, he is dead. No charges are pressed against the officers, no enquiry conducted, the public also do not make much ado about the anti-social element’s abrupt end, and the case is closed silently and secretly. Life goes on!

One of the most fundamental operating principles of life on the Earth is: Don’t take what doesn’t legally belong to you. Capitalism, Communism, Ten Commandments and many other belief systems around the world agree on this basic dictum. The Bible proclaims: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.” If this is the rule for material possessions and human-made relationships, how can we take a life that has miraculous origin and mysterious end? If we object to euthanasia, oppose death penalty, and abhor murder as a conflict transformation mechanism, how can we support “encounter”?

Furthermore, we do not have an international police to do an “encounter” on these tyrants. Agencies such as the CIA, Mossad and other notorious intelligence and mercenary agencies often carry out “encounters” and get away with it. The CIA’s encounter attempts on Fidel Castro made a very bizarre story recently. Moreover, such unilateral assassination would be unacceptable as we may have to “encounter” most of these “excellencies” anyway.

Gandhi is said to have exclaimed once: “In the final analysis, we must die that the family may live, the family must die that the country may live and the country must die that the world may live.” Can it be construed that if the death of one tyrant may bring peace and prosperity to millions of people, we must kill him? Isn’t killing different from dying?

[6] 3-D Process: [a] If a tyrant turns on his own unarmed and hapless people and causes death and destruction, all the countries of the world should immediately withdraw their official recognition of his regime. We do not know what prevents all the national governments from derecognizing the Qaddafi regime now. [b] We should either authorize the International Criminal Court or create a similar international body with an exclusive mandate to prosecute the abusive and genocidal rulers. It should bring genocidal charges against him, prosecute fair and square and decide what to do. [c] If charges are proved beyond any doubt, deal the appropriate penalty: detain him in prison or drive him away. We could/should begin with Qaddafi!


S.P. Udayakumar, Ph.D. – Tamil Nadu, India:

* South Asian Community Center for Education and Research (SACCER)
* TRANSCEND Network, South Asia Convener (TSA) (For Rethinking South Asia)
* People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE)
* National Alliance of Anti-nuclear Movements (NAAM) (For a Nuclear-Free India that has No Deals, No Mines, No Reactors, No Dumps, and No Bombs)


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 14 Mar 2011.

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