By Dan Glazebrook
Fulvio Grimaldi is the legendary Italian (and former BBC) journalist and filmmaker who shot and smuggled out video footage of the Bloody Sunday massacre from under the noses of the British army almost forty years ago. He champions a style of journalism that is passionate, that does not shy away from the graphic horror of war, and that resists the pretence of neutrality in times of barbarism. As he put it after Bloody Sunday: “…impartiality didn’t even cross our minds… we belonged to the running and screaming and falling and dying”. He has belonged to them ever since.
Now 73, he has just returned from Libya where he was making his latest film, about NATO’s neo-colonial ‘revolution’ in Libya. I caught up with him in Bristol where he was attending the film’s English premiere.
I began by asking Grimaldi how closely his recent trips to Libya matched the impression given in the mainstream media:
“Not in the least. I personally visited areas around Tripoli where Gheddafi had allegedly “bombed his own people”, but not a bomb had fallen before Nato started its attacks. And this was confirmed by Russian spy satellites. Wherever I went – only in the company of other Fact Finding officials, talking freely to people of my choice, and stopping wherever I wished – I came across multitudes of young and old, men and women, who declared themselves committed to Gheddafi. They are the people who withstood a 7 month war by 27 military powers who had promised a two-week victory, those who defended Tripoli for over a week, those who today hold out in Sirte, Bani Walid, Sabha, Kufra and in 75% of the still free national territory – against genocidal bombings, special Nato troops and mercenaries.”
This is clearly not the picture we have come to expect from the media – the play-school image of a ‘people united against a dictator’. To what does Grimaldi attribute such high levels of support for Gheddafi?: “The UN explains it in its 2010 report: Libya was the top country in Africa on their Index of Human Development: for life expectancy, education, health, housing, children, the elderly, women. Free schools and hospitals, free housing, free drinking water for everybody, modern infrastructure, the oil revenue distributed to the people – and independence and dignity.” This was what Gheddafi represented to many – and NATO’s bombing only seemed to harden these attitudes: “thousands of civilians murdered by bombs, missiles, Western terrorists and mercenary throat-cutters. What does one think the wanton destruction of all infrastructure, hospitals, schools, factories, waterpipes, homes, may have produced in the attitude of 6 million Libyans and 2 million well-treated, dignified migrant workers?”
These migrant workers have been consistently demonised as “African mercenaries” – or at best, “alleged African mercenaries” – in the Western press from even before the war started, and this wilful disinformation has continued even after an Amnesty International report comprehensively demolished the claim in July. The lie has served to obscure and justify the racial killings that have characterising the rebellion since its outbreak. I asked Grimaldi about these murders and about their willful misrepresentation: “Racism is one of the most powerful weapons in the imperialist arsenal of genocide and regime-change. The thousands of black Libyans and Africans tortured, executed and dismembered by the “rebels” testify to this. There is abundant visual and testimonial evidence for it, even in my film. As to the main-stream media and their passive followers on the left, the process of monopolisation that has taken place over the past years among publishers and networks, identifies the interests of the warmongers with that of their media. The individual journalist has the choice between complying with the agenda of his employer and its psy-op consultants, and unemployment.” Grimaldi is unsurprised by the recent Wikileaks revelation that the Director-General of Al-Jazeera was involved in what he called the “criminal manipulation of information during the whole Libyan crisis”. After all, “Al Jazeera was the main source for war correspondents who sat with the mixed gang of Al Qaeda-Gheddafi renegades while they proceeded to roast blacks and talk nonsense about Gheddafi and non existent rebel-advances.”
Finally, I asked Grimaldi about NATO’s real aims in this war. He is much clearer than most about the war’s importance to the imperial project: “To rid the planet of one of the countries that rejected globalization and neoliberalism, privatization and multinational robbery. To establish Africom in Africa, for further penetration into the Continent, to establish the Greater Middle East from the Atlantic to the Gulf, to eliminate the Chinese and Russian competition for resources and strangle their oil- lifeline, to get the water of Africa’s richest sweet water reserve, and to teach a lesson to all those masses that genuinely produced the Arabic Spring.” In brief – “to expand capitalist dictatorship”. No wonder he no longer works at the BBC.