Monday, July 02, 2012

Traditions Determine Why Fascism In Switzerland And Libya Are Handled Differently


Alexander Müller. In the U.S. his name might be Paul Broun or Steve King

Most people who lived through Kristallnacht are dead. No, they weren't all killed by Nazis. It took place on November 9 and 10, 1938 and most people born before then are no longer with us to talk about the horror of those two days. Kristallnacht itself, though, is part of the historical record. Even beyond historical tomes and films, Wikipedia has a long entry that puts this eruption of state-sponsored right-wing, racist violence in Germany and Austria into historical context. There's even a heavy metal song about it:

And then for right-wingers... it's part of their pedigree. The Swiss People's Party (SVP)-- analogous to the Tea Party end of the Republican Party here-- pressured one of their political leaders in Zurich, Alexander Müller, to resign from the Zuriberg school board and the right-wing party after he was exposed last week for a tweet suggesting “Maybe we need another Kristallnacht… this time for mosques.” That meant burning them down. The Zurich prosecutor's office is investigating whether he was inciting people to violence. They've seized his computer and searched his home. He was also fired by the insurance company he worked for. He had also tweeted “I would like to stand certain people up against the wall and shoot them. Less dirt on the earth would be good.”

Abdel Azziz Qaasem Illi, spokesman for the Islamic Central Switzerland (ICCS) said “His Holocaust reference is rare nowadays. Though unfortunately statements against Jews are avoided (in Switzerland) it is more common to hear anti-Muslim hate speech.” Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League said, “Holocaust analogies are never acceptable, but Alexander Müller’s call for a Kristallnacht against mosques is more than bigotry-- it is incitement to violence. We must never forget that Kristallnacht marked the beginning of Nazi violence against the Jews of Germany that led to the extermination of millions of Jews solely because of their religion. The world should never, ever again witness another Kristallnacht against any group of people. Calling for another Kristallnacht is simply beyond the pale."

In post-Qadaffi Libya what's beyond the pale is judged differently-- and dealt with differently as well. Very differently according to a report from our old friend Reese Erlich in The Progressive. There the fascism is full-blown, rampant and completely out of control. Erlich points out that the nations that overthrew Qadaffi don't care about the violence and anarchy making Libya unlivable, "France, Italy, Spain, Great Britain, and the United States are getting their crude," he writes, "while near chaos reigns in the rest of the country."
The Western-backed National Transition Council (NTC) operates a weak and ineffective government. Some sixty militias are the real power centers. Unable to suppress the militias, the council uses some as auxiliary forces to be called out in time of emergency. Others are signing up among the various political parties, a dangerous trend.

Nevertheless, the Obama Administration sees Libya as a great success for its policy of “humanitarian intervention.” NATO removed a dictator hostile to the United States, the argument goes, without the death of any U.S. soldiers and with the cost to the Pentagon of a mere $1.1 billion. (The costs incurred by the CIA, State Department, and other government agencies have never been made public.)

I asked a State Department spokesman in Washington about the invasion’s political aftermath. He minimized the problems, arguing that the American colonists who expelled the British also fought among themselves after the Revolutionary War.

“In 1787, there was major conflict between the groups that fought,” he told me.

But Libya’s situation is far more unstable. I don’t believe there are any recorded cases of disgruntled American revolutionaries engaging in cannon and musket battles in front of the American government headquarters with George Washington trapped inside. That’s the equivalent of what happened in May when one militia used anti-aircraft cannons and rocket-propelled grenades to fight a two-hour gun battle outside the prime minister’s office in Tripoli.

...Washington sought allies among the ex-Qaddafi military leadership and the newly minted militia leaders. The Obama Administration first backed Major General Khalifa Haftar, who reportedly had CIA ties while living in the United States for many years. He became commander-in-chief of the National Army until he was ambushed and wounded by the Zintan militia. Shortly thereafter he was demoted. The United States also backs Osama Al-Juwali, current minister of defense and former leader of the Zintan militia.

Libyan revolutionaries fear that such men will become U.S.-backed autocrats, similar to those who rose in Afghanistan.

“Some leaders here in Libya are trying to get Western backing to become the next Hamid Karzai,” says Elhabib Alamin, a famous poet and official with the Ministry of Culture. “We don’t want another Iraq or Afghanistan here in Libya. Those wars didn’t result in improvements for the people.”

The United States and the International Monetary Fund also are imposing cookie-cutter solutions for Libya’s economic future, leaning on the council to privatize state-owned companies and eliminate state subsidies.

Under their tutelage, for example, the Ministry of Economy studied how to eliminate food subsidies and other state-sponsored services that protect poor Libyans from the impact of inflation and unemployment. Economy Minister Ahmed Alkoshli acknowledged that complying with western dictates won’t be easy. “It’s very difficult to suddenly cut the subsidies,” he told me. “People will complain.”

The IMF will also face strong opposition from Libya’s nascent trade union movement, which has organized dozens of strikes so far this year. Workers at the Sirte Oil Company struck last October and forced the removal of the company president.

Mabrouk Othman, vice president of the Sirte union, tells me workers would never allow privatization of government oil fields and refineries. Profits from oil and gas should help pay for health care, education, and other public services as they do now, he says, adding that privatization of the oil industry is “a redline that can’t be crossed.”

Libya’s future economic policies are supposed to be determined through free elections for a national assembly, which will appoint a new government and oversee writing a new constitution. The elections will take place July 7.

But as experience in Afghanistan and Iraq shows, one or two elections do not a democracy make. In a particularly dangerous development, political parties are now allying with the strongest of the militias. The Muslim Brotherhood’s Justice and Development Party has a militia. Jihadist leader Abd al-Hakim Belhadj ran for the assembly while maintaining his Tripoli militia.

The alliances of parties and militias can quickly develop into a system of warlords, with politicians illegally siphoning off government funds to pay for the salaries and arms of their allied forces. Libya seems destined for a prolonged period of instability.

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At 9:12 AM, Anonymous R. Studer said...

Have you ever read his blog posts? Unlike you I know his blog and I'm able to read his German texts. Alexander Müller is a liberal and an agnostic. What happened last Summer in Switzerland was a battue against a man who dared to speak about human rights and religious oppression. Müller is not liked by the extreme left and many left Journalists and that's why they have attacked him. If you want to understand Müller learn German and read his blog.


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