No Tahrir in Benghazi: A Racist Pogrom Rages On against Black Africans in Libya

American progressives and peace forces have been in a state of joyous delirium in recent weeks as they experienced vicarious, televised popular victories in Tunisia and Egypt.  Watching unarmed crowds achieve tentative victories against entrenched, U.S.-backed regimes produced a kind of giddiness on this side of the ocean — an otherworldly feeling that, somehow, the foreign outposts of the U.S. empire might suddenly disintegrate by popular demand.  But now, the U.S. naval war machine lies off the coast of Libya, and it is time for the American anti-war movement — such as it is — to remember who is the biggest enemy of peace on planet Earth: U.S. imperialism.

It is certainly not Muamar Khadafi, no matter what you think of him.  And the conflict that is raging in Libya seems in important ways very much unlike the events in Tunisia and Egypt.  The anti-Khadafi forces were armed from almost the very beginning of the uprising and included elements of the military.  Unlike the opponents of Egypt’s President Mubarak, we know very little about who these rebel Libyans are — except that they have been getting lots of material help from the Americans and the French and other Europeans.  It is also becoming clearer by the day that a vicious, racist pogrom is raging against the 1.5 million sub-Saharan Black African migrant workers who do the hard jobs in Libya, work that is rejected by the relatively prosperous Libyans.  Hundreds of Black migrant workers have already been killed by anti-Khadafi forces — yet the U.S. corporate media express absolutely no concern for their safety.  One Western report noted that large numbers of Black Africans were seized in Benghazi and were assumed to have been hanged.  That is a war crime, whether these men were soldiers or migrant workers, but the Western correspondent seemed unconcerned.  One suspects there are many atrocities occurring in the rebel-held areas of Libya, especially against people that are not members of the locally dominant tribe.  Benghazi is not Tahrir Square in Cairo.

How convenient that most of the Libyan voices we hear on corporate media call for armed western intervention.  How in synch with the increasing American and European threats of “no-fly zones” and amphibious naval actions — all, of course, for humanitarian reasons, rather than having something to do with the fact that Libya is a major producer of some of the world’s sweetest crude oil.

American United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice, who is at least as warlike as Condoleezza Rice, is visibly eager to invade Libya under humanitarian pretexts.  The U.S. is the last country in a moral position to criticize Khadafi for his treatment of Arab civilians.  Remember Fallujah, the Iraqi city of a quarter million people that the U.S. leveled after first bombing its hospitals, inflicting many thousands of casualties.  If most Americans don’t remember Fallujah, the Arab world certainly does.

Many Americans that claim to be anti-war are actually just looking for a U.S. military action that is to their liking.  Fortunately, the United National Antiwar Committee, UNAC, understands that U.S. imperialism is the ultimate enemy of peace, and says “no” to the U.S. invasion of Libya.

Glen Ford is Executive Editor of Black Agenda Report.  The text above, first published in Black Agenda Report on 2 March 2011, is a transcript of his Black Agenda Radio Commentary on the same day; it is reproduced here for non-profit educational purposes.  Cf. “Africans Hunted Down in ‘Liberated’ Libya” (afrol News, 28 February 2011); Yoshie Furuhashi, “Black Africans Live in Fear in ‘Free Libya'” (MRZine, 2 March 2011); and “HRW: No Mercenaries in Eastern Libya” (Radio Netherlands Worldwide, 2 March 2011).

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