Libya, rape, and Achcar’s false analogy

This 22 December 2015 video from the USA says about itself:

Sy Hersh: Backing Assad’s Ouster, Has Hillary Clinton Forgotten the Lessons of Iraq & Libya?

At Saturday’s Democratic presidential debate, front-runner Hillary Clinton rejected what she called a “false choice” between defeating the Islamic State and overthrowing Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. “We will not get the support on the ground in Syria to dislodge ISIS if the fighters there who are not associated with ISIS, but whose principal goal is getting rid of Assad, don’t believe there is a political, diplomatic channel that is ongoing,” Clinton said.

Rivals Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley disagreed, saying it is not for the U.S. to decide Assad’s fate. “I think there should be learning curves with people with that kind of power”, Hersh says of Clinton. “I think what happened in Libya should have instructed anybody in the government, including the president, that when you depose a dictator, you have to be aware of what is going to come next and think long and hard about what you’re going to do. I think, by any standard, getting rid of Gaddafi has proven to be a horrible event. It was a terrible decision, and we seem not to have learned enough from it.”

A 2016 video from the USA was called Destabilization: Yemen, Libya, Iraq and Syria (Hillary Clinton Mix).

Gilbert Achcar is a professor in London, England. He is also a prominent member of the United Secretariat of the Fourth International, one of various Trotskyist political groups professedly wanting to end capitalism and its corollaries of imperialism and war.

Gilbert Achcar on foreign military intervention in Libya:

You can’t in the name of anti-imperialist principles oppose an action

in Libya by the armed forces of the USA, France, Britain, and by the armed forces of the Arab absolute monarchies Qatar and the UAE, right now helping the Saudi Arabian regime in the bloody oppression of the pro-democracy movement in Bahrain

that will prevent the massacre of civilians. In the same way, even though we know well the nature and double standards of cops in the bourgeois state, you can’t in the name of anti-capitalist principles blame anybody for calling them when someone is on the point of being raped and there is no alternative way of stopping the rapists.

This rhetoric by Achcar is a false analogy.

If someone is on the point of being raped, and people then call the police, what do they expect the police to do then? They expect the police, even though working in the context of a bourgeois state, to arrest the individual suspected of attempted rape.

They certainly, and usually reasonably so, do not expect police to start a frenzy of bloody violence against people who have nothing to do with the attempted rape. They do not expect police to kill a three-month-old girl and others in the neighbourhood. They do not expect a firearms attack on people opposed to the attempted rape, causing a young man to lose his leg.

Achcar speaks about a massacre of civilians. One may doubt very much whether massacring civilians in western Libya is a good means against massacring Libyans in eastern Libya.

As Dutch war reporter Arnold Karskens reported from Tripoli, three-months-old girl Seham was killed by a (probably US American) missile. Foreign armed forces also killed other Libyan civilians who had nothing to do with crimes of pro-Gadaffi forces against other Libyan civilians again.

When a United States war plane was downed in eastern Libya, and anti-Gadaffi Libyans wanted to help the downed crew, those Libyans were fired upon by invading United States marines. Twenty-years-old Hamdy will very probably lose a leg because of this.

Apologists for wars in foreign countries waged by the USA speak of the United States as “the policeman of the world”. However, this obfuscates the big difference between violence of police and violence of armed forces. Police aim to arrest people, while armed forces aim to kill people. The police “standrecht”, giving police the right to kill people immediately without trial, does not exist in a normal “democratic” capitalist state, not even if it has the death penalty; though it did exist in nazi Germany and countries occupied by it.

This crucial difference between police violence and armed forces violence is based on various factors. If a policeman wants to hurt someone with a truncheon, he has to aim specifically at that individual; and, usually, he won’t kill that individual. While missiles and bombs, even bombs that in pro-war propaganda are called “smart” bombs will kill, basically at random.

Police usually know something about the neighborhoods in which they are working, which may act as a restraint on violence. While British SAS, French Special Forces, or United States invaders in Libya do not know the country, the people, or their language; removing restraints on violence.

Today, there are chickenhawks on Libya, like there were and are on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. There are neo-conservative chickenhawks: the warmongers in the Rupert Murdoch media certainly have no intention at all of subjecting themselves to the dangers special forces in Libya face, or even to the lesser risks air force crews face.

There are “liberal hawk” interventionists. Mr Joschka Fischer in Germany, whose career went from “Green” environmentalist to Big Oil millionaire, has certainly no intention to leave his expensive villa in Berlin. He wants to leave the dying in Libya to Libyans, and to US, British, French, Qatari, and German soldiers.

Now in Professor Achcar, we seem to have a third type of chickenhawk: the “anti-capitalist revolutionary” chickenhawk. At least, in the interview which I quoted, Mr Achcar did not say that he had called British Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron to offer to join the SAS or the Royal Air Force.

Also on Achcar and Libya: here.

Libya, imperialism and the prostration of the “left” intellectuals: The case of Professor Juan Cole: here. And here.

From Business Daily in Nairobi, Kenya:

Eastern Africa’s risk profile is set to rise following continuing bombing of Libya by the US and its allies, with regional security and development group IGAD saying attacks on Col Muammar Gaddafi’s strongholds could spark the formation of new terrorist groups in Africa.

After enthusiastically supporting the NATO war in Libya as a “humanitarian” rescue mission, even hailing it as a “revolution,” France’s New Anti-Capitalist Party (NPA) is now covering up its support for imperialist war. Whitewashing its bloodstained record, it is shamelessly posturing as an opponent of the war that it in fact promoted throughout 2011: here.

Libya intervention threatens the Arab spring. Despite its official UN-granted legality, the credibility of Western military action in Libya is rapidly dwindling, by Phyllis Bennis: here.

Angola’s Foreign Affairs Minister, George Chikoti, said on Tuesday in Luanda that the Angolan government defends dialogue for the resolution of the Libyan deadlock and not a military intervention: here.

Controversy and contestation abound concerning the manner in which powers such as the United States, United Kingdom and France have chosen to implement and enforce the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) mandated no-fly zone in Libya: here.

Dictator of Rwanda supports bombing of Libya: here.

No other German party has so vehemently supported the war against Libya as the Greens. If the former pacifists were in power in Berlin today, then German bombers would be dropping their deadly cargo over Tripoli: here.

Agnieszka Malczak, anti Afghan war Green MP: here.

Marjorie Cohn: Stop Bombing Libya: here.

The Arab rebellion and the imperialist war on Libya from a Kurdish perspective: here.

It’s Tony Blair we should feel sorry for: “I had no idea Gaddafi would end up like this when I sold him tanks”.

USA: Any intentions of boosting the economy will be obliterated by our spending on military actions. As my friend Chuck Spinney has noted in an exchange of emails, President Obama’s actions in Libya show that he has caved in to the “humanitarian interventionists” in his administration, as well as British/French/American post-colonial and oil interests. The result: yet another war with a Muslim country that has done nothing to us. Additionally, the fact that we are doing nothing to staunch the Saudi/Bahraini/Yemeni crackdowns smacks of hypocrisy and will hurt us even more on the Arab streets: here.

Achcar criticized within his own political tendency: here.

Gilbert Achcar and the decent left: here.

May 2013: In the midst of a growing drumbeat for direct Western intervention in Syria, Gilbert Achcar, a professor at the School of Oriental and African Studies of the University of London and the chief Middle East analyst for the Pabloite United Secretariat, has dismissed questions about imperialist interests in the region as a “conspiracy theory”: here.

Australian pseudo-lefts [Karadjis] complicit in US war drive against Syria: here.

“General enthusiasm over the prospects of imperialism, furious defence of it and painting it in the brightest colours—such are the signs of the times.” These words were written 95 years ago, but in today’s political environment are more apt than ever. A better description of the reaction of liberal journalists, left-wing intellectuals and former radicals to the war in Libya could not be found: here.

By Kumaran Ira and Alex Lantier:

13 January 2014

France’s rampage through its former colonies in sub-Saharan Africa is an indictment of reactionary pseudo-left groups like the New Anti-capitalist Party (NPA).

Having applauded wars in Libya and Syria and called for the election of now-hated president François Hollande, who is waging the wars, they bear political responsibility for the blood French imperialism is shedding in Africa.

In addition to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, France’s Nicolas Sarkozy and the UK’s David Cameron, there are others who bear political and moral responsibility for the human tragedy in the Mediterranean: an international fraternity of pseudo-left intellectuals and groups that served as cheerleaders for imperialist intervention, supporting the US-NATO war on Libya as a “humanitarian” rescue mission, and even proclaiming the events in Libya a “revolution”. Representative of this sociopolitical layer is University of Michigan Professor Juan Cole, who turned his widely read web site “Informed Comment” into an open propaganda vehicle for imperialist war: here.

“Left” propagandists for escalation of imperialist war: here.

40 thoughts on “Libya, rape, and Achcar’s false analogy


    March 28, 2011

    Gilbert Achcar Joins the Interventionists
    Cruise Missile Marxists?


    “The U.S. is scrambling to check the most widespread and powerful revolutionary upheaval since 1848 from sweeping its strongmen into the dustbin of history. The no-fly zone is damage control, an attempt to co-opt the Libyan revolution.”

    When the U.S. and its allies imposed a no-fly zone over Libya, cruise missile liberals at the New York Times and MSNBC jumped for joy. No surprise there. The surprise came when Marxist and self-described anti-imperialist Gilbert Achcar joined them.

    Achcar’s support for the no-fly zone rests on two key arguments: 1) Gaddafi’s forces were at the gates of Benghazi and would slaughter thousands if they entered the city and 2) the rebellion’s leaders demanded the imposition of a no-fly zone to neutralize Gaddafi’s air superiority.

    Achcar’s first point is indisputable. Nothing is more humiliating to a ruling class than a successful rebellion; such rebellions have historically been drowned in the blood of tens of thousands of people. Benghazi would not have been treated any differently than the Paris Commune in 1871, Hama, Syria in 1982, or Fallujah, Iraq in 2004.

    Does that mean opponents of imperialism should support the latter’s imposition of a no-fly zone because there was no alternative means to stop Gaddafi’s forces? Achcar argues yes. He goes on to say that he would’ve supported imperialist intervention in Rwanda and implies that he would’ve supported the U.S. in the Second World War. For him, the dead civilians in Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Dresden were just so much “collateral damage” on the road to defeating German and Japanese imperialism.

    Achcar’s opposition to imperialist intervention is based on the following: “What is decisive is the comparison between the human cost of this intervention and the cost that would have been incurred had it not happened.”

    So what is decisive for Achcar is the body count.

    Every imperialist intervention in world history has been waged under the pretext of saving lives, whether said lives were in real danger or not. How many lives will be “saved” by a given intervention is impossible to calculate beforehand, unless Achcar has a crystal ball. Imperialist interventions unleash a chain of events that cannot be foreseen with any meaningful accuracy; there is no way of knowing for sure how many lives will be lost due to intervention as opposed to allowing events to run their course without imperialist interference.

    George Bush Sr. ordered 30,000 marines into Somalia ostensibly to stop mass starvation caused by local warlords who were pilfering food convoys from relief organizations. No one could’ve predicted that 18 Americans and 1,000 Somalis would be killed in a single firefight immortalized by Hollywood in the film Black Hawk Down. Achcar asks about Rwanda rhetorically: “[C]an anyone in their right mind believe that Western powers would have massacred between half a million and a million human beings in 100 days?” By the same token, who in their right mind would demand that U.S. marines land in Rwanda given the fact that 1,000 Somalis were killed in a single firefight during a “humanitarian” mission?

    The body count must be rejected as a means to determine whether or not to support an imperialist intervention. This is especially important because imperialist wars that start small and limited tend to end up being large and bloody.

    Achcar’s second argument is much stronger. The rebels in Libya did call for a U.N.-sponsored no-fly zone because Gaddafi was using his air superiority to pound the poorly armed disorganized rebels into retreat after retreat. No amount of obfuscation can cover up this fact.

    So how do anti-imperialists in the West respond?

    The first thing to understand is why the rebel leadership, organized around the Libyan National Council (LNC), called for a no-fly zone. It was not because they were comparing “the human cost of this intervention and the cost that would have been incurred had it not happened.” For them, it was a question of the revolution’s victory or defeat; desperate times called for desperate measures.

    No anti-imperialist in the West should begrudge them for this act of desperation. Our job isn’t to dictate tactics to Libya’s revolutionaries. We should support revolutions against tyranny and oppression no matter where they break out, who they are (mis)led by, or what their political program is.

    That said, we shouldn’t close our eyes to weaknesses within the revolutionary wave stretching from Algeria to Iran. Unlike in Egypt, Libya’s revolutionaries have not appealed to the rank-and-file of the military to switch sides, nor have they sought to mobilize the country’s workers to strike against the regime. This took social revolution off the table and confined the struggle between Gaddafi and the rebels to a purely military dimension, guaranteeing him the upper hand and setting the stage for the LNC’s desperate plea for help from the region’s most anti-revolutionary force: the U.S. government. This failure was no accident; many members of the LNC are top figures from Gaddafi’s decrepit and brutal regime. Instead of mobilizing workers, they’ve issued proclamations honoring all contracts with foreign oil companies.

    By inviting imperialist intervention in the form of a no-fly zone, the LNC risks becoming dependent on the good graces of Washington which will use its newfound leverage to contain the revolution even further. Limiting and weakening the revolution will strengthen Gaddafi.

    Achcar began his article with a quote from the Russian revolutionary Lenin about the childishness of rejecting all compromises in the name of being principled. This is ironic, given that Achcar has seemingly forgotten Lenin’s articles dealing with World War One. In those writings, Lenin did not dwell on the respective body counts of French, British, Russian, German, or American imperialism. Instead, he argued that “war is politics by other means.”

    Here are the politics of the war in Libya: Gaddafi is trying to crush a democratic revolution; the revolution’s leadership prefers to call for imperialist intervention under a U.N. fig leaf instead of mobilizing the masses to bring down the regime; the U.S. is scrambling to check the most widespread and powerful revolutionary upheaval since 1848 from sweeping its strongmen into the dustbin of history. The no-fly zone is damage control, an attempt to co-opt the Libyan revolution. Washington is setting the stage for a new client state in eastern Libya to emerge under its air cover and “regime change” in Tripoli would be the icing on the cake (hence why Gaddafi’s compound was attacked early on in the establishment of the no-fly zone).

    All anti-imperialists should oppose the no-fly zone. Revolution? Yes! Intervention? No!

    Pham Binh’s articles have been published by Asia Times Online, Znet, Counterpunch, and International Socialist Review. He can be reached at


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    MICHEL COLLON : Syrie, Libye, Yougoslavie, Irak, Afghanistan… Comment se fait-il que la majorité de la gauche française à gauche du PS, qui était traditionnellement en pointe dans la luttte pour la paix, se retrouve actuellement en pointe dans la lutte pour… la guerre ?! Et qu’au lieu de défendre le droit international, elle réclame qu’on le foule aux pieds ?! Et qu’au lieu de se méfier de l’info des grands médias, elle la recopie sans esprit critique ?! Et qu’elle n’étudie pas du tout le programme politique des forces en présence, se rangeant systématiquement du côté des plus réactionnaires ?! Suicidaire ? Des questions cruciales que Jean Bricmont pose de façon originale et lucide.


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