Why is Chris Hedges calling for "boots on the ground" in Libya?

Follow clayclai on Twitter
On September 5th, Chris Hedges wrote a very pessimistic article on Truthdig titled Libya: Here We Go Again. His title reflects the very common view among many on the left in the US that whatever happens in Libya, as with the rest of the world, it's all about the United States. This is also the view held by CCDS and numerous other "left" groups that Libya is just like Iraq [from the US POV] and "we've been through this movie before." In other words, same old stuff, nothing new to see here. Nothing to learn. Whatever the Libyans may have accomplished or are trying to accomplish is not nearly so important as what Hedges thinks the US government wants, and therefore will get, out of the Libyan revolution.

To understand why Hedges is promoting such a pessimistic outlook on the future of Libya, we must, for the moment, skip over the garbage that constitutes the body of his article and "cut to the chase" in the last paragraph where he calls for foreign "boots on the ground", which we will review in full:

The vendettas in Libya have already begun. Government buildings in Tripoli have been looted, although not on the scale seen in Baghdad.

And we might add to that, not even on the scale recently seen in London. As @libya20 tweeted on August 26, "Looting in #Tripoli was much less than that in #London despite there is no police in Tripoli and a lot of them in London" While Qaddafi's luxury villa may have been ransacked and looted and the western media has been throwing up a scare about suspected looting of arms depots, there has been almost no looting of the type that is common in western cities as soon as law and order breaks down. Did Hedges call for a UN "peacekeeping" force to be dispatched to London?

Poor black sub-Saharan African immigrant workers have been beaten and killed.

Although there have been exaggerations in the pro-Qaddafi press, this has been a real problem which the NTC is starting to deal with but as I noted in Racism in Libya, it's not exactly a problem that is new in Libya. Did Hedges call for a UN "peacekeeping" force when 150 black Africans were slaughtered in Tripoli in 2001 and hundreds of thousands were interned in Qaddafi's desert detention camps?

Suspected Gadhafi loyalists or spies have been tortured and assassinated. These eye-for-an-eye killings will, I fear, get worse.

While excesses and atrocities can be found on every side in every war, there is no widespread evidence of "torture and assassination" among those captured by the revolutionary forces. Al Jazeera reported on the same day Hedges published his piece:

In recent days, fighters said they had conducted sweeps through the capital and acted on informants' tips to carry out the targeted arrests of ex-regime members.

The arrests of confirmed Gaddafi loyalists, however, have been limited. Some former high-ranking officials claimed they turned themselves in, including Abdelati Obeidi, former foreign minister, and Jibril Kadiki, former deputy commander of Gaddafi's air defence forces.

Imagine that! Qaddafi loyalists turning themselves in to be "tortured and assassinated." Too bad they didn't check with Truthdig before they made that fatal error. I'm surprised Obeidi is still among the living.

As to Chris Hedges' "fear," I will address that shortly and show that it has absolutely nothing to do with the current situation in Libya.

The National Transitional Council has announced that it opposes the presence in Libya of U.N. military observers and police, despite widespread atrocities committed by Gadhafi loyalists.

Yes, the NTC has very wisely refused any UN or NATO "boots on the ground" and with a little help from NATO and Qatari air power, they have in six months reduced the area in which Qaddafi loyalists are free to commit atrocities to three small and surrounded areas, and there is no reason to believe they can't now finish the job in a month or so without foreign "boots on the ground."

The observers and police have been offered to help quell the chaos,

September 17th started another school year in Libya..
Children starting school today in LibyaThe chaos which seems to exist only in the minds of those that need it as an excuse for sending in the marines. Imagine the courage of the stream of international heads of state and other dignitaries who have braved the "chaos" to visit Libya's liberated capital, not to mention the courage of ordinary Tripolians who are starting to get back to their normal lives. Yesterday September 17th, was the first day of the school year in Libya and at least some schools started on schedule.

train new security forces and provide independent verification of what is happening inside Libya.

Because now that Qaddafi is gone, Libyans obviously can't be trusted to run their own country. Clearly from this we can see that Hedges doesn't think the Libyan forces that won the civil war can secure the peace but by what logic does the "socialist" and "anti-imperialist" Hedges conclude that a UN force would be "independent?" Independent, perhaps, of the will of the Libyan people, but certainly not independent of the machinations of the NATO imperialists.

But just as Gadhafi preferred to do dirty work in secret, so will the new regime.

What exactly is the basic of this charge? Is the Internet still being blocked? Have there been any restrictions to freedom of the press in liberated Libya? By most accounts the people of Libya and the press have been enjoying a freedom there that they have not known for 42 years. If anything, I think they need to tighten up on the "freedom of the press" a little because while I was very pleased to see the work product of the Qaddafi-era documents that an Al Jazeera reporter smuggled out of the state security building showing the close relationship between the Dennis Kucinich and the Qaddafi regime, I thought it bad that they had been left unguarded and available for the taking. Perhaps that is the 'looting of government buildings' to which Hedges is referring?

He ends his piece with a final shot of cynicism, indicating that he, with his infinite experience in world affairs, doesn't think anything will change or can change.

It is an old truism, one I witnessed repeatedly in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and the Balkans, that yesterday's victims rapidly become today's victimizers.

Well Chris, you have never witnessed a revolution like this before!

So the bottomline is that Chris Hedges is pushing for UN forces on the ground in Libya. He must now be a little embarrassed that a week after he called for them in Libya, UN "peacekeepers" have been charged with rape in Haiti. He should also know, given his extensive experience in the 3rd world, that a UN "peacekeeping" force will in reality do little to keep the peace. Witness the bang up job they did in the Cote d'Ivoire. What they really represent is an opportunity for the great powers, which control the UN and will determine the composition and real agenda of any UN mission to get imperialist "boots on the ground" because as has been point out by a US defense analysts "it may be difficult to cement any victory in Libya without ground troops."

I will not critique the body of his article in the same way. You see how tedious it has been to set right just this last paragraph. However, I will run through a few of the main points so you will understand that I am not being mean when I call it garbage.

If Hedges knew as much about Libya as he claimed, he wouldn't be "waiting for a trucked-in crowd to rejoice." On February 20th Libyan's went to what is now known as Martyrs Square to protest the Qaddafi regime peacefully and in large numbers, about 800 of them were murdered. The people rejoicing there as Hedges penned that line represented the freed people of Tripoli in their tens of thousands and they didn't have to be "trucked in." There is no "occupation" of Tripoli. The uprising from within the city led its liberation on August 20th.

He thinks he knows Libya, but he has only known Libya under the dictatorship Mummar Qaddafi, a man that even Hedges calls "insane" so he has no sound basis for now predicting "chaos and bloodletting." He supported "stopping Gadhafi forces from entering Benghazi." but apparent thinks nothing should have been done to stop him from entering Misrata. He is clearly opposed to NATO having any role in protecting civilians in Sirte now, where Qaddafi may be holding as many and 60,000 people as human shields. Because of that, NATO really can't do much, which why it is turning into a house-to-house slug feast.

He claims the NTC has put the number of Libyan's killed in the civil war at 50,000 whereas their official number is 30,000 according to the interim health minister. The 50,000 figure was given by a colonel according to PressTV.

For a guy that came from Harvard and use to work for the NY Times, to produce work of that quality is to produce garbage. Besides which, it is this last paragraph that contains what we call in filmmaking "the money shot", or in comedy "the punchline", or more appropriately in this case, what we call in business "the bottomline."

And the bottomline is that the "socialist" and "anti-imperialist" Chris Hedges is joining the chorus of voices led by NATO, that now include Russia and China, that are demanding UN intervention, not in the war in Libya but in the peace. Every paragraph that proceeds this is just more garbage heaped on top of garbage in the hopes that by the time you reach what we call in the protest movement "the demand", you won't notice that what he is demanding is the capitulation of the revolution to imperialism.

Beside which, the thinking behind Hedges' dismal outlook for the Libyan revolution really has nothing to do with Libya or the facts on the ground there. If we want to understand what is going on in Chris Hedges' head, rather than spending more time on this piece he recently wrote about Libya, we would be better served by looking at a piece he wrote almost a year before the February 17th uprising. That piece is Zero Point of Systemic Collapse, and although it doesn't even mention Libya, I think we will find a better explanation for his views on Libya there than anything in the more recent piece that we have been examining. Here he sums up his worldview:

We stand on the cusp of one of the bleakest periods in human history when the bright lights of a civilization blink out and we will descend for decades, if not centuries, into barbarity. The elites have successfully convinced us that we no longer have the capacity to understand the revealed truths presented before us or to fight back against the chaos caused by economic and environmental catastrophe. As long as the mass of bewildered and frightened people, fed images that permit them to perpetually hallucinate, exist in this state of barbarism, they may periodically strike out with a blind fury against increased state repression, widespread poverty and food shortages. But they will lack the ability and self-confidence to challenge in big and small ways the structures of control. The fantasy of widespread popular revolts and mass movements breaking the hegemony of the corporate state is just that a fantasy.

So even before it happens, the possibility that the Arab Spring, or any other mass movement could result in any revolutionary, or even long lasting progressive change, is completely denied. Believing this, how could he possibly see a way the Libyan revolution could succeed? More gems from this piece include:

We have undergone, as John Ralston Saul writes, a coup d'etat in slow motion. And the coup is over. They won. We lost.
We will begin a period in human history when there will be only masters and serfs.

So you see that the possibility that the Libyan uprising could create anything substantially better that Libya under Qaddafi is completely denied before it even begins. He doesn't need to call on his vast experience in the 3rd world or Libya at all to reach his conclusion, that's just to convince you he knows what he is talking about. And his conclusion is that the Libyan revolutionaries, if there really are any, were beaten before they begin and just don't know it yet.

In other words, Resistance is Futile. Not that Hedges thinks that we should stop resisting:

The increasingly overt uses of force by the elites to maintain control should not end acts of resistance. Acts of resistance are moral acts. They begin because people of conscience understand the moral imperative to challenge systems of abuse and despotism. They should be carried out not because they are effective but because they are right. Those who begin these acts are always few in number and dismissed by those who hide their cowardice behind their cynicism.

If resistance is purely a moral act, with no practical possibility of success, then any compromise to enhance that success can also be denied.

We must continue to resist, but do so now with the discomforting realization that significant change will probably never occur in our lifetime.

This is not a theory for building a popular revolutionary movement.

Chris Hedges thinks that the best thing progressives can do is find a quiet, secure place, perhaps in Canada, to weather the coming storm. I think that is exactly what he should do, or maybe he should go back to the NY Times, if they will have him. That is his proper place. The bourgeois press is already home for many petty-bourgeois cynics. But he should stop spreading his cynicism and pessimism and he should stop calling himself a progressive. Progressive are people with an optimistic outlook and great faith in what humanity can accomplish and he should certainly stop calling himself a socialist because socialists are revolutionaries that not only wish for a better world and are willing to fight for it, but also have a clear and confident vision of how it can be achieved.

In short, he should get out of the way, go write a long novel or something.

For more background on the Libyan Revolution and links to lots of information see my other writings at the DailyKos and WikiLeaks Central:
The Worm Has Turned: Good Film on Libyan Revolution from PressTV
Why NATO's mission in Libya isn't over yet
Libya's Freedom Fighters: How They Won
Racism in Libya
Abdul Rahman Gave his Eyes to See the End of Qaddafi
BREAKING: Secret files reveal Dennis Kucinich talks with Qaddafi Regime
BREAKING: Libyan TNC won't extradite Lockerbie bomber
Who really beat Qaddafi?
#Feb17: @NATO Please help MEDEVAC wounded from #Libya
What should those that opposed NATO's intervention in Libya demand now?
BREAKING: Qaddafi's Tripoli Compound Falls!
Does PDA Support Qaddafi?
BREAKING: Operation Mermaid Dawn, the Battle to Liberate Tripoli is Joined
Helter Skelter: Qaddafi's African Adventure
Qaddafi's Long Arm
SCOOP: My Lai or Qaddafi Lie? More on the 85 Civilians presumed killed by NATO
Did NATO kill 85 Libyan Villagers As Qaddafi Regime Contends?
CCDS Statement on Libya - a Critique
The Assassination of General Abdul Fattah Younis
NATO over Tripoli - Air Strikes in the Age of Twitter
How Many Libyans has NATO Killed?
Qaddafi Terror Files Start to Trickle Out!
Have Libyan Rebels Committed Human Rights Abuses?
Tripoli Green Square Reality Check
Behind the Green Curtain: Libya Today
Gilbert Achcar on the Libyan situation and the Left
NATO slammed for Libya civilian deaths NOT!
2011-07-01 Qaddafi's Million Man March
NATO's Game Plan in Libya
February 21st - Tripoli's Long Night
Did Qaddafi Bomb Peaceful Protesters?
Tripoli Burn Notice
Libyans, Palestinians & Israelis
'Brother' Qaddafi Indicted plus Libya & Syria: Dueling Rally Photofinishs
An Open Letter to ANSWER
ANSWER answers me
2011-06-22 No Libyans allowed at ANSWER Libya Forum
Are they throwing babies out of incubators yet?
Continuing Discussion with a Gaddafi Supporter
Boston Globe oped supports Gaddafi with fraudulent journalism
2011-04-13 Doha summit supports Libyan rebels
Current Events in Libya
Amonpour Plays Softball with Gaddafi
Arming Gaddfi
North African Revolution Continues
Is Libya Next? Anonymous Debates New Operation