As the conference opened, the Libyan town of Sirte was experiencing its 30th successive day of full scale bombardment and siege from NATO and their Libyan allies, leaving the population “dying from lack of water, medicine and electricity”, according to the Telegraph. Into the town’s housing blocks, “rebels were pouring rocket after rocket from launchers mounted on pickup trucks” it continued, whilst “gunmen assured reporters that there were few families left inside”. Indeed, 20,000 are reported to have fled the city. This leaves 80,000 to face the rockets and enforced malnutrition.
John Pilger does touch on this later in the proceedings, in response to a question from the audience: “As we speak”, he says, “Sirte is being blasted with iron fragmentation bombs and hellfire missiles in an attack comparable to that on Fallujah”. He has been vitriolic in his condemnation of NATO atrocities against Libya ever since his excellent article on the subject, published on April 6th,, two weeks after NATO began their blitzkrieg and six weeks after the Libyan contras lynched their first group of fifty unarmed African migrant workers. But until then, he – and many others – had been silent. When it was most important to speak out was before the invasion, when the die was being cast, when “consent” was being “manufactured” (to use Chomsky’s phrase) with lies about ten thousand dead, mass rape, mercenaries and the aerial bombing of demonstrators. As it turned out, none of these were actions perpetrated by Gaddafi’s forces, but were the fantasies of NATO and their Libyan allies about what they themselves were about to unleash. But neither Pilger nor Chomsky warned of this nor exposed these lies during that crucial phase.
It occurs to me that we too have been caught in a media trap, albeit an unintentional one of our own making, borne of our own prejudices. Almost all of Gaddafi’s claims – of Al Qaeda involvement in the uprising, of systematic racist atrocities carried out by rebel forces, of the rebels being in the pay of foreign interests aiming to destabilise and conquer the country – have been proven correct. And we, including a huge number on the left, have been caught lying – that the uprising was essentially a liberal democratic one, that the rebels were a nonviolent protest movement, that Gaddafi was a genocidal rapist and on and on.