An apology is warranted because her business relationship with the Libyan Government in the recovery of the stolen Libyan assets could be the reason for her comments.
For the most part, the level of reporting by western journalists in Libya has been exceptional; fair, professional and informative. With this standard of professionalism, in both content and practice over the last three years, we were shocked by the diatribe by Ann Marlowe published last month in The Daily Beast. The article’s title was catchy and on-topic to attract western and particularly American readers: It’s Not the USA that Made Libya the Disaster it is Today.
However, as easily-accessible evidence exists to dispute the title’s contention, the title then becomes merely a vehicle to attract the reader, but is not reflective of the article’s content. The content is actually the author’s dictum, or judgment on the Libyan culture but lacking any verifiable sources or expert analysis, can be labeled as nothing but a personal, discriminatory rant disguised as journalism. Slipped in under the pretext of freedom of speech, it was dressed-up as an opinion/editorial piece.
Further, we contend that IF any other ethnic group, other than Arabs were painted by these broad racist brushstrokes, The Daily Beast would not have printed it as is. In addition, a political backlash would ensue that would have prompted The Daily Beast to retract the rant. Case in point, an excerpt:
‘…Even among other Arabs, not exactly known for their economic powerhouse states and innovative companies, Libyans were known as proverbially lazy and ill-educated.”
Taken out of context? Nope. Could this comment ever be taken out of context? Ask yourself, in which context, op/ed or not, would this proclamation be printed. Lacking any sociological data, expert analysis or even an attributable source, Ms. Marlowe passed judgment on an entire race, ARABS and a culture, LIBYANS. Imagine if the word Arabs was substituted for African-Americans and Libyans for Alabama African-Americans OR substitute with Jews and Hasidic Jews. Again, would this piece have been printed as is?
Ann Marlowe: ‘The blame for the mess rests squarely on the shoulders of Libyans…’
Although stating 42 years of Gaddafi was the cause of the current situation, Ms. Marlowe then contradicts herself by blaming the Libyans themselves. ‘The weakening of the state is a direct consequence of the culture Libya developed after 42 years of a chaotic dictatorship.’ And then ‘This isn’t to say Libya’s current crisis is the fault of others. To the contrary: since the 2011 ouster of Gaddafi, the world has cut Libya a lot of slack. No, the blame for the mess rests squarely on the shoulders of Libyans, especially but not limited to the governing class.’ In between these comments of this 1696-word diatribe is the following list of repeated words and comments. Ms. Marlowe left these statements undocumented and unverifiable. Does her choice of words woven in the web of her opinion demonstrate a sinister pattern?
- 9 times ‘Islam’ or ‘Islamic’
- 5 times ‘culture’
- 4 times ‘lazy’ or ‘laziness’
- 3 times ‘Muslim’
- 2 times ‘ignorance’
- 2 times ‘ill-educated’ or ‘badly educated’
- 2 times ‘incompetence’ or ‘incompetent’
- 2 times ‘noxious culture’ and ‘noxious extremist’
- 1 time ‘irresponsibility’
- 1 time ‘sense of responsibility’
- 1 time ‘attenuated attention spans’
- 1 time ‘problems planning and organizing themselves’
- 1 time ‘insane cynicism’
- 1 time ‘unqualified’
- 1 time ‘psychologically crippled’
- 1 time ‘had the mettle’
- 1 time ‘developed any pride in their work or any sense of responsibility for it.’
- 1 time ‘when something goes wrong, it’s always someone else’s fault’
- 1 time ‘I met few Libyans who had a genuine love of learning and interest in increasing their knowledge.’
Has Ms. Marlowe defamed the Afghans? In a personal tweet Washington DC based journalist and Afghanistan expert Joshua Foust noted in relationship to this article that ‘…she did this with the Afghans as well…’ See his embedded tweet at the end.
Our OP/ED discussion will critique Ms. Marlowe article by dissecting four of her virulent comments. More importantly, we will offer what could be a plausible reason for this rant. Although Ms. Marlowe did mention that she worked ‘as a consultant to a branch of the Libyan government’; it seems she failed to disclose the full extent of her relationship with the Libyan Government. NOR did she disclose that she was frustrated with the progress of her efforts with the Libyan Government.
Ms. Marlowe and the Libyan Government Releasing a full disclosure may have explained Ms. Marlowe’s malicious comments. As she did not, we will. We have seen and retained a copy of a recent document that appears to demonstrate that Ms. Marlowe is spearheading a group worldwide of international participants who have hired lawyers in each country to recover the Libyan stolen assets including the Dabaibas’ stolen money. The Dabaibas’ stolen assets are in about 100 companies at a Marlowe estimate of USD$ 2 billion. As indicated by the document Ms. Marlowe has been working on the issue for quite a while and was frustrated with her perception of the lack of progress with the Libyan Government’s effort, the availability of ministers and other government officials. Even going on to reprimand the Libyan Government for their judicial decision as it hampered her progress in her team’s efforts.
Ms. Marlowe’s frustration parallels the release of the malevolent comments in The Daily Beast article. As the timing of the document and The Daily Beast article coincides, one could speculate that her irritation with her perceived lack of professionalism by Libyan officials is reflected in the article’s derogatory comments. Although, we chose not to publish this document at this time due to its sensitive nature, we DO feel obligated because of her article about the Libyan people, to disclose her business relationship to the Libyan People.
Ms. Marlowe’s Second Derogatory Statement
Ms. Marlowe evokes political terminology attempting to guise her inaccurate, unverifiable remarks.
“Next, add the vices of a rentier state: laziness, irresponsibility, a sense of entitlement, and ignorance…”
‘…Because the money and the salaries kept flowing no matter what one did, few Libyans who worked for the state seem to have developed any pride in their work or any sense of responsibility for it.’
In political commentary, a rentier state is a nation or state where its people live off the strategic national resources demanded by international markets. ‘The vices’ incumbent on rentier states as Ms. Marlowe refers to may or may not be applicable to other rentier states, but definitely does not apply to Libya. As most experts agree, Libya’s proceeds from its oil wealth never met the Libyan people. Experts note that at the outbreak of the 2011 Revolution, the average Libyan was living on about USD $3-4 hundred a month. Hardly the funding needed to be living the life of ‘entitlement’. As the Libyan wealth didn’t reach the people, the assumption among the average Libyan and experts is that it was distributed to the Gaddafi cronies. To refute Ms. Marlowe’s inaccuracies, we provide several sources including excerpts from her hometown newspaper, The New York Times, in a 2011 article:
Per capita annual income grew to above $12,000 in recent years; though the figure is markedly lower than that found in many oil-rich (‘rentier’) countries.
When prices were low or Libya was under sanctions during most of the 1980s and ’90s, the nearly one million people on the public payroll never got a pay raise; experts calculated that most lived on $300 to $400 per month. (2011)
Libyans grumbled that they had no idea what had happened to their oil money; the official news agency said the country earned $32 billion in 2010 alone.
And experts quoted in The Guardian:
‘Professor Tim Niblock, a specialist in Middle Eastern politics at the University of Exeter, has identified a gap of several billion dollars a year between the amount Libya makes from its oil reserves and government spending – a shortfall he expects has contributed greatly to the wealth of Muammar Gaddafi and his nine children.’
‘It is very, very difficult to work out with any degree of certainty just how much they have because the ruling elite hides it in all sorts of places,’ said Niblock,…“But at the very least it would be several billion dollars,.”
‘Alistair Newton, senior political analyst at Nomura, the Japanese bank and president of BRISMES, agreed that it was difficult to establish the extent of the Gaddafis’ wealth but said he “would be surprised if it didn’t run into billions”.
And an expert assessment by Libyans themselves who lived through the Gaddafi years:
Contrary to Ms. Marlowe’s assessment that (state) ‘salaries kept flowing’, state salaries were regularly NOT PAID on the average of 5 months. In addition, during the 1982 Lebanon War, the Gaddafi regime announced that all state salaries would have 1/3 deducted for three months with the deduction being sent to the Palestinians. Libyans reasoned, why work?
And finally, we offer events occurring when Ms. Marlowe was in and out of Libya:
The final illustration to refute her comment that state ‘salaries kept flowing’ was the strikes of Libyan oil industry workers. Surely Ms. Marlowe noted the Libyans oil workers were on strike as they received a compulsory lower-income than comparable foreign workers. It was an institutionalized practice. As is the practice in other in ‘rentier states’, state salaries of the Nationals are equal or greater than foreign workers. In Gaddafi’s Libya, a Libyan MUST receive less.
Any journalist by definition would have done a simple check on the facts. Therefore, Ms. Marlowe’s illogical, unsubstantiated statement of ‘Laziness, irresponsibility, a sense of entitlement, and ignorance’ could NOT be applied to Libyans, EXCEPT if considering the Gaddafi cronies. Here, several images of the waste, decadence and ‘entitlement’ of the Gaddafi progeny come to mind. However, in the preceding sentence it is clear that Ms. Marlowe was actually talking about the average Libyan:
‘Libyans who lived through the Gaddafi years have, if not PTSD, severely attenuated attention spans, problems planning and organizing themselves, …”
Once again, we feel obligated to provide instances to refute her habitual inexactitude:
One: It seems Ms. Marlowe has forgotten examples from the Revolution? Such as Mohamed Nabbous who DID organize himself to distribute early internet reports from Benghazi and whose inspiration founded Libya al Hurra television channel. The Guardian reported his death. Apparently, Mr. Nabbous overcame his ‘severely attenuated attention spans, problems planning and organizing’ himself so well that considered a threat, he was assassinated by a sniper on 19 March 2011. Named and recognized as “the face of Libyan citizen journalism” Mr. Nabbous was awarded ‘the Louis Lyons Award for Conscience and Integrity in Journalism.’ by ‘the Nieman Foundation at Harvard University posthumously’.
Two: Does Ms. Marlowe remember the example of the two brothers during the Revolution who overcame their ‘severely, attenuated attention span’ and ‘problem planning’ to ‘organize themselves’ to wire-tap the phones of Gaddafi and his henchmen. Their initiative was crucial to Libyan/Western intelligence and was used by the ICC prosecutors to determine the Gaddafis’ arrest warrants.
Three: Again, we offer another example of Libyans overcoming their “severely attenuated attention spans, problems planning and organizing themselves” to contribute innovatively to the war effort. It comes with an Al Jazeera video and a title that noted their initiative, Libyan Rebel Engineers Improvise War Robots In Fight Against Gaddafi.
Ms. Marlowe’s Third Derogatory Statement:
‘Americans come from many backgrounds, but one thing most of us share is a work ethic. Libyans do not.’
Really? Again, lacking any verifiable data, this ethnocentric opinion has no place in journalism.
Ms. Marlowe commentary has been floating around in the Libyan sites and most recently landed in Libya Al Mostakbal. It has been translated by Libyans and as anticipated, was not received with a positive response. As it DID NOT provide any attributable source, (‘One pilot friend’, ‘A Libyan businesswoman friend’, ‘a European lawyer’), the extent of the piece is from Ms. Marlowe’s recollection or beliefs. NOT a psychology or sociology graduate, rather a philosophy (BA-Harvard) and finance (MBA-Columbia University) attests that Ms. Marlowe is wholly unsuitable to provide any psychological assessment of a culture she has visited 6 times in 16 months and the last time being two years ago, in 2012. How many days is that altogether? According to her personal site:
‘Ann Marlowe, a visiting fellow at the Hudson Institute, is a writer and businesswoman based in New York City. In 2011, she made four trips to Libya to cover the revolution and war and returned twice in 2012…’
While many Libyans state there are specific elements of truth in her assessment, on the whole Libyan comments note that is NOT based on any scientific method NOR any analysis by an expert qualified to deliver a summation of their culture. Further, the sources are just descriptive caricatures such as ‘a talkative British Libyan in full Islamic robes’ to enunciate the viewpoint that the Ms. Marlowe wishes to project.
Who is Ann Marlowe?
Ms. Marlowe in her own words ‘is a visiting fellow at the Hudson Institute, is a writer and businesswoman based in New York City.’ The Hudson Institute is a conservative Washington, DC think-tank. Considered so conservative according to the Capital Research Center, The Hudson Institute is a 7 of 8 on the conservative side of their ‘rating of the organization along the ideological spectrum.’ Another notable Hudson Institute expert is Douglas Feith, who under George W. Bush was Under Secretary of Defense for Policy from 2001-2005. Mr. Feith co-authored the policy plan presented after September 11, 2001 which became the basis of US intervention in Iraq and is known as ‘A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm.’ In 2007, in recognition of his efforts at the White House, The US Department of Defense, Office of the Inspector General concluded that Mr. Feith’s office “developed, produced, and then disseminated alternative intelligence assessments on the Iraq and Al Qaida relationship, which included some conclusions that were inconsistent with the consensus of the Intelligence Community, to senior decision-makers.” Some may label this as disinformation. The actions of Mr. Feith’s office were deemed ‘not illegal or unauthorized’ but ‘inappropriate.’ See our PDF: DOUGHLAS FEITH Department of Defense PDF
According to her personal site, Ms. Marlowe has ‘op–ed pages of the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post and New York Post, and in the Weekly Standard, Daily Beast, Forbes.com…’ As a businesswoman, ‘Marlowe has also worked as a legal recruiter…since 1987… and since 1990 for herself. As such, she is known to many New York attorneys.’ Here There is a Linkedin page for an ‘Ann Marlowe, Owner of Legal Matches of Greater New York City Area.’ It is listed as a ‘Management Consulting’ company. Is it affiliated with our Ms. Marlowe? We cannot say definitively any longer as this source once noting the affiliation, has since edited its page. Affiliated or not, we could NOT find any company registered by the name of Legal Matches or Legal Matches Management Consultancy with The New York State Division of Corporations, State Records and UCC. HERE
She has two memoirs. One sold on Amazon.com is promoted as a description of Ms. Marlowe’s life as a heroin addict in that she ‘dissects her former heroin habit’. The second book sold on Amazon.com is promoted as an ‘…account of a shattering love affair between a charistmatic (their spelling) Afghan man and a Jewish American writer infatuated with his culture, The Book of Trouble is also a provocative and original exploration of the so-called “clash of civilizations…”
Ms. Marlowe and the Libyan Government
As we said Ms. Marlowe did mention her advisory position with the Libyan Government, but failed to disclose the entire extent of her relationship NOR did she mention that she was irritated with what she perceived as the lack of the Government’s action as it hampered her team’s efforts. She even went on to chastise the Libyan Government for their judicial decision as it hampered progress in her team’s efforts.
The document mentioned a couple of present and former government officials and a few ministries or departments. It notes that Ms. Marlowe told one Libyan Department how to recover the assets by telling them how to file the correct documents ending with a not-so-subtle urge to get the process in motion. As Ms. Marlowe is a philosophy and finance graduate, we could assume the legal advice is coming from the lawyers in her team.
In the document referring to the 2014 summer months, Ms. Marlowe mentioned her efforts in Malta. Coinciding with this document is The Daily Beast article in which Ms. Marlowe made special effort to discuss the ‘merely incompetent’ members of the Foreign Ministry. And in particular, she fixated on the Foreign Minister, noting that ‘the foreign minister has spent most of this year in Malta or Egypt.’ Here, Ms. Marlowe COULD be correct about the Foreign Minister and Malta as some of her comments may be corroborated. We note that Ms. Marlowe’s article cites no sources and that we are actually doing Ms. Marlowe’s research. According to a Bloomberg Businessweek article, Libyan Foreign Minister Mohamed Abdel Aziz’s son-in-law, Abdalla Kablan, is also Maltese citizen and was appointed as heading the Libyan assets recovery. An excerpt from a 7 August 2014 article by David Samuels, How Libya Blew Billions and Its Best Chance at Democracy:
‘When the accounts were discovered, the person nominally in charge of Libya’s stolen asset recovery program was Abdalla Kablan, a 27-year-old mathematician whose experience in international finance was with a company called Exante. Based in Malta, it is a broker for, among other currencies, Bitcoin, the virtual currency favored by drug dealers and money launderers. Kablan also happened to be a Maltese citizen, which made him either a very clever or a highly unlikely choice to represent Libya in adversarial proceedings with that country: His appointment was apparently helped by his being the son-in-law of Libya’s current minister of foreign affairs, Mohammed Abdelaziz..’
To corroborate both sources we located a PDF where Abdalla Kablan was noted as the head of Libya’s Assets Recovery while both, Mr. Kablan and Mohamed Abdel Aziz attended a summit in Tunisia in 24 October 2013. See our PDF: Tunis Oct 2013 Mohamed Abdel Aziz and Abdalla Kablan
AMBASSADE DE FRANCE EN TUNISIE
SERVICE ECONOMIQUE REGIONAL DE TUNIS
Ambassade de France en Tunisie
Une délégation «business» libyenne a participé au sommet des ministres des Affaires
Etrangères du 5+5, où la Libye était représentée par Mohamed Abdelaziz.
Dr. Abdallah KABLAN, comme président du Bureau de recouvrement des avoirs libyens.
Take in consideration that the document mentioned her efforts in Malta and now consider Ms. Marlowe’s stinging comments about the Foreign Ministry from The Daily Beast article:
‘Anyone who has done business with post-2011 Libya can tell you the horror stories: constant replacement of officials, each more unqualified, lazy and unresponsive than the last; corruption and blatant nepotism up to the very highest levels of the state; delays of almost comic proportions in performing the simplest tasks. Many high officials do not know how to use email, and they keep their phones switched off more often than not. Many don’t read their correspondence and when they do, don’t understand it. One has to make 30 or 40 phone calls or (if one is lucky to be dealing with someone who uses email) send 30 to 40 emails in Arabic to get one or two simple documents sent.’
‘The Libyan diplomatic corps has to shoulder part of the blame, too: the foreign minister has spent most of this year in Malta or Egypt. Libya’s diplomats often don’t speak English, French or the language of the country where they serve, and they include many thieves and even a violent criminal or two, in addition to the merely incompetent.’
Stinging comments and allegations. Can Ms. Marlowe prove the serious allegations of ‘thieves and violent criminals’ in this comment? We are not sure of the remuneration for her team’s services but we presume it is not a pro bono. Therefore, the Libyan people should be aware while collecting fees from the coffers of the Libyan people, Ms. Marlowe makes overtly, derogatory comments about the Libyan culture and Libyan people in general.
For the Libyan People: As far as we can see in Ms. Marlowe background with op/eds, degrees, memoirs and being ‘known to many New York attorneys’, nothing actually qualifies her to lead OR even be a member of the Libyan assets recovery team. So in light of the fact that she mentioned certain Libyans are ‘unqualified’ or ‘merely incompetent’ AND as an assets recovery team consist of specialized investigators with specialized skills, does Ms. Marlowe ‘speak the language’ of assets recovery? Specifically, what qualifies Ms. Marlowe to be on an assets recovery team for the Libyan people?
We suggest that Ms. Marlowe make time to explain to the Libyan People why she is qualified to handle THEIR assets recovery? Further, disclose the other members and THEIR asset recovery experience so the Libyan people can evaluate them as well.
For the Libyan Government Officials: We note that Ms. Marlowe mentioned on her personal site, ‘She is working on a book that will follow Libya’s first year post-Gaddafi.’ Considering the precursor article in The Daily Beast, if she chooses to write a book about her current experiences, you should consider what Ms. Marlowe remarks could be once her business with the Libyan government concludes and she is able to mention names, dates and show documents.
As for Ms. Marlowe we know that authors love to read their work. We suggest she re-read her 2011 reporting from Zuwara as published in The Weekly Standard to refresh her memory of how she once wrote about the Libyans and consider that apology. Two excerpts of Ms. Marlowe’s work:
‘Zwara illustrates the highly personalized nature of Gadhafi’s rule. The Gadhafis treated the country like a personal fiefdom. Very often, development of cities had only to do with whether the family had a personal stake in the city. This resulted in huge vanity projects placed only where a Gadhafi family member decided to put them…’
‘The Zwara troops entered their hometown around 6 p.m. two days ago to public rejoicing and many cries of “Allahu Akbar!” Yet less than nine hours later, a civilian was killed on his roof by shelling from Gadhafi’s forces. And yesterday, the town was mobilized for war. Commanders from the Zwara, Sabratha and Zintan brigades made the local scouts’ building their impromptu headquarters. The local equivalent of boy scouts (called something else, but with the same logo) prepared meals for the fighters throughout the day.’
A balanced view and a correction of Ms. Marlowe comments
For those readers who read Ms. Marlowe’s article and left with a negative impression of an entire race and culture, we feel obligated to provide a correction, a deeper understanding of life under Gaddafi by concentrating and dissecting the last of Ms. Marlowe’s intentionally inaccurate, superficial characterizations of the Libyan culture. To state the following without any source other than her opinion, is irresponsible. As a journalist, Ms. Marlowe has a social contract with her readers to provide accurate, unbiased assessment of the facts. As she violated her social contract, this comment shocked us into dissecting and refuting it:
‘In Gaddafi’s Libya, knowledge didn’t bring power, so it wasn’t valued. While there are many Libyan engineers and doctors, I met few Libyans who had a genuine love of learning and interest in increasing their knowledge. I don’t think I have ever seen a Libyan in Libya sitting and reading a book for pleasure. Even among other Arabs, not exactly known for their economic powerhouse states and innovative companies, Libyans were known as proverbially lazy and ill-educated.’
‘Even among other Arabs, not exactly known for their economic powerhouse states and innovative companies, Libyans were known as the proverbially lazy…’ A shockingly racist comment that should not have printed as it cites no data other than her opinion which can ONLY be accredited to her preconceived notions of Arabs and Libyans in particular. Ms. Marlowe must deal with the ramifications and backlash of her remarks. We, however, will concentrate on the ‘ill-educated’ part.
As Ms. Marlowe stated, “I don’t think I have ever seen a Libyan in Libya sitting and reading a book for pleasure…” As any intellectual or journalist presumably knows, reading for pleasure is an act done ONLY when one’s stomach is filled, and peace and security abounds. This obviously was not the case during the time Ms. Marlowe was in & out of Libya. Nor does it excuse her biased implication from the entirety of her comment that Libyans are ‘proverbially lazy,’ ‘ill-educated’ and lack a ‘genuine love of learning and interest in increasing their knowledge.’
‘In Gaddafi’s Libya, knowledge didn’t bring power, so it wasn’t valued.’ Wrong. Actually, the regime knew the value of knowledge… it could OVERTURN their power. Therefore, knowledge in books was dangerous. Hence, NO bookstores. Noting her first impression of Libya, Ms. Marlowe recalled, “the shoddy, deteriorated infrastructure, the segregation of the sexes, the almost complete absence of culture (books, cinemas, local music).
Any intellectual or journalist presumably knows that rule #1 in controlling a society is to control the flow of information. Gaddafi’s Libya wasn’t any different. Many Westerners may be unaware that Muammar Gaddafi was a history student; literally, three years in college. Yet, as a student of history rather than being an innovator, he was a mimic. Even his coup d’état was a parody of the Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser’s coup. The New York Times article:
They dissolved Parliament and set up a 12-member Revolutionary Command Council to rule Libya, mirroring Mr. Nasser’s Egypt.
Gaddafi devoured historical biographies, not trying to obtain intellect for intellect’s sake rather he was seeking tried and true methods to consolidate control, to create a cult around himself and subsequently degrade, ruin and eliminate a culture… the Libyan culture.
Control is the basis of most despots’ actions, yet Gaddafi is unique in his desire to go that extra step to ruin the culture. We contend that contrary to Western political depictions, Gaddafi was not erratic. Each policy, decision and action was deliberate, focused and planned in order to eradicate the fibers that made the culture uniquely Libyan. The tenets that give people pride in one’s nation such as values, ethos or spirit. Gaddafi undermined this foundation by attempting to change the people’s behavior such as instituting laws where a climate of corruption would flourish or turn Libyans against each other. Listen to a Libyan and you will hear the word Shatan or Devil attached to the name of Muammar Gaddafi. This is not an expletive for expletive’s sake; it is a belief among Libyans that only a devilish person would work to defile their culture. Many people, including Gaddafi, believe his motive was because Libyans rejected him. It could be, as Gaddafi was quoted as saying after the death of Egyptian leader Nasser, “Egypt is a country without a leader, and I am a leader without a country.”
In Gaddafi’s Libya, knowledge didn’t bring power, so it wasn’t valued.’ A second point, if Ms. Marlowe would have side-stepped her bias; she would have noticed that knowledge was valued especially among the Gaddafi elite. Gaddafi’s children and his cronies’ children were educated outside Libya. Let’s list a few; Saif Gaddafi-PhD, London School of Economics, Aisha Gaddafi- ‘doctorate in law from the Sorbonne University in Paris’, Hanaa Muammar Gaddafi, daughter, ‘British Council certificate under the name of Hanaa Muammar Gaddafi’. Mousa Kousa’s son Gamal Kousa, is ‘An orthopedic surgeon trained at McMaster and ‘a clinical fellow at McMaster University, where he has been studying orthopedic surgery since May 2004.’ Moussa Ibrahim, Gaddafi spokesman during the Revolution –‘from the same tribe as Gaddafi. Mr. Ibrahim studied at several British universities and claimed to have lived in London for 15 years.’ Hafed Al Ghwell: Gadhafi’s friend ‘since the 1960s’ and Lockerbie Lawyer Ibrahim Al- Ghwel’s son ‘Hafed went to boarding school in Switzerland (1977-1978) at College du Leman in Geneva.’ At today’s standards that is an annual fee of over USD $100 thousand before entering George Washington University at USD $65 thousand per annum.
It was just those average Libyans who studied abroad and those that remained in Libya who must suffer the degradation of no books. Simply stated the proviso for possession of books in Libya during the Gaddafi–era was, were you were a member of Gaddafi inner circle?
Book Burning in Gaddafi’s Libya
We wish to provide three poignant stories, two relayed to us by the participants and one published. First, was an elderly man who described to us the act of burning his son’s books during the Libyan Cultural Revolution. Gaddafi ever the mimic, introduced a Mao Zedong-style Cultural Revolution, Mao’s Red Book became Gaddafi’s Green Book. The 1973 Cultural Revolution announced in the Zuawara speech saw a Mao-style attempt to rid the Libyan culture of all that is Western; music, books, ideologies and urbanization. It was an attempt to revert to what Gaddafi deemed the Libyan identity: ONLY Bedouin tribal music, poetry and the increase the importance of the tribes. Gaddafi’s version of a Cultural Revolution was where western books and music was publicly burned and anyone with an ideology was arrested, i.e. Islamists, Brotherhood, socialists and communists, all in one big mix. The New York Times article:
To consolidate his power, Colonel Qaddafi tried to eliminate or isolate all of the 11 other members of the original Revolutionary Command Council. Strikes or unauthorized news reports resulted in prison sentences, and illegal political activity was punishable by death. Western books were burned, and private enterprise was banned. Libyan intelligence agents engaged in all manner of skulduggery, reaching overseas to kidnap and assassinate opponents.
During Gaddafi’s Cultural Revolution if caught with a library, you were tossed in jail. This hunting of those in possession of books ran through the 1980s and 1990s. Remember, Muammar uttering ‘BAIT, BAIT, DAR, DAR, ZUNGA, ZUNGA’ in his infamous speech at the outbreak of the Revolution. This was NOT a new slogan or policy. House to House, Room to Rooms, Alley to Alley was the policy for the book-hunt during his Cultural Revolution. In 1996 the eastern City of Derna: EACH house was raided with dogs looking for weapons and jihadist contraband books by Gaddafi’s policy of BAIT, BAIT, DAR, DAR, ZUNGA, ZUNGA.
We suggest that IF Ms. Marlowe would have interviewed ANY Libyans by asking ANY questions, she would have realized that it is not that they are suffering from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder ‘(PTSD)’ rather they are coming out of living in an authoritative world very similar to that created in Ray Bradbury’s book, Fahrenheit 451 ‘where books are outlawed and “firemen” burn any that are found.[4 . But, contrary to Ms. Marlowe’s contention that Libyans lack the ‘love of learning’, like the hero in the book, nobody knows the value of a book more than one who is robbed of his right to own one. Libyans included.
The published account. First Deputy of the National General Congress Juma Attiga was a victim of Gaddafi’s Cultural Revolution. In his memoirs, Mr. Attiga recounted an applicable incident. From our recollection: In 1973, while working for the Benghazi’s prosecutor’s office, Mr. Attiga was arrested after the 1973 speech in Zuawara. While incarcerated in a Benghazi prison with fellow in-mate and lawyer, Mustafa Al Alem, they spotted a friend visiting. Asking why the visit, the friend with an embarrassed hesitation stated that his son was caught with a girl. Mr. Al Alem stepped up by saying, ‘You should thank God your son was not caught with a book…’
Although humorous, Mr. Al Alem noted at least his son knows the crime he committed. Those caught with books never knew what laws they had violated.
Secondly, in Gaddafi’s Libya, the crime of being apprehended with a girl is less dangerous than the crime of being apprehended with a book.
The man who was forced to burn his son’s books was relayed to us when he was a seventy-year-old man. Born under the Italian occupation, he was allowed only a third-grade education in Italian of course and in the Italian reasoning, just enough education to be a functioning laborer within the Libyan province of Italy. We note that he only learned his native language Arabic, competently, as a middle-aged man.
As a young man when independence came, he sought education but found family responsibilities too great to allow him to continue, so he concentrated his love of learning on the education of his children. Imagine the emotions pouring out of this man as he is burning his son’s books. The books were benign subjects such as western philosophy, religion and politics but considered threatening enough to the Regime to force a home book-burning.
The Third Story. The final story is a young Libyan professional arriving in the Tripoli airport with a box full of Western books to set-up a new office. This occurred just a few months after Muammar Gaddafi’s death. Border security demanded the seizure of the books as it was a standing order for ALL imported books. An order yet to be challenged in the NEW LIBYA. The young Libyan entrepreneur stated that standing order was to PREVENT a revolution. As the revolution had already OCCURRED and SUCCEEDED, the rule was no longer applicable. The books were promptly released.
The inference from these stories is that throughout the entire 42 years of the Gaddafi–era, books and reading were dangerous to the regime. Therefore, both were outlawed because of the subsequent independent thought. These are not isolated incidents, families throughout Libya could have relayed similar stories to Ms. Marlowe if she had only asked.
Finally, the title of Ms. Marlowe’s article is, It’s Not the USA that Made Libya the Disaster it is Today. Is the US government responsible for the state that Libya is in today? Ms. Marlowe took the easy answer, yet many Libyans and experts would disagree. As Ms. Marlowe’s personal declaration is not based on any facts just merely her opinion, we feel compelled to touch on the subject. Such will be the basis of our next article.
Has Ms. Marlowe been a habitual defamer of cultures? According to Joshua Foust, a Washington DC based journalist, ‘is a columnist for PBS Need to Know, and blogs about Central and South Asia at the influential blog Registan.net. A frequent commentator for American and global media, Joshua appears regularly on BBC World, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua is also a regular contributor to Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, and his writing has appeared in the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor.‘ As an expert on Afghanistan and ‘the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from Registan.net,‘ in a personal tweet, Mr. Foust noted that Ms. Marlowe had done ‘this with the Afghans as well.’
As such, we reiterate that Ms. Marlowe needs to apologize to the Libyan People.
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