Co-incidences are always interesting, for one reason or another.
Iranian Revolution 11/2/79.
Egyptian Revolution 11/2/11
Operation Shock & Awe 19/3/2003.
Operation Odyssey Dawn 19/3/2011
The followers of the Mayan Prophesy must be gloating their boots off. Two revolutions on the same day, and two punitive international attacks on brutal dictators. History obviously repeats itself, moving inexorably in massive, primal cycles or tides beyond the power of man to influence or understand. Like earthquakes or hurricanes. Except that the two wars and revolutions couldn't be more different.
Nevertheless, there are some still determined to confuse the two, just as there are some who tried to sell Tahrir Square as a victory for bloody global Jihad - another Triumph of the Mullahs 1979.
The real significance of the fall of Gadaffi is that it continues the progress achieved at Tahrir Square. Iraq and 1979 were both monumental barriers to progress. And it seems that we have still not achieved enough political sensitivity to appreciate this basic truth, if the knee-jerk reactions of the Stop the War Coalition are typical of those who call themselves 'progressives'.
The really embarrassing spectacle has been the reflex posture of some of those who, correctly, opposed the Iraq invasion. They have simply reached into their intellectual wardrobe and slung on any old clothes from that period of history, without thinking of the occasion. Showing that they didn't truly absorb or feel anything which happened at Tahrir Square. Their opinions are formed purely by inverting those of their traditional enemies. If the nasty man does it, it must be bad. Some are even waving their anti-imperialist stance like a badge of honour, 'Look at me. I'm more anti-western than you!' Watching this unfold online yesterday reminded me of yet another parallel, but this time an accurate one.
Last week I happened to be be in Lewisham (London). Passing a busy roundabout I noticed a memorial shrine of flowers and cards against the railings, which isn't unusual in London, but this one was exceptionally large and lavish. As if for a celebrity of some kind, or in protest at some tragic act of negligence or injustice.
I had my camera with me, and the light was helpful, and I had taken a simple trial shot when I was subjected to a torrent of abuse from behind, and someone poked me with a sharp finger. It was a teenage girl of about 16, in extravagant mourning and make-up, smoking a fag. I hadn't noticed her and her friends seated on the grassy mound behind me.
'What the fuck do you think you're doing??'
'Taking a photograph.'
'Because this is a lovely memorial of someone, and it should be recorded and remembered.'
I would have normally at this point have given my card and offered to provide a print and copy of the file, but the torrent continued.
'Lovely! Fuck off! Who do you think you are? You're a fucking paedo, that's what you are!'
Obviously the girl was very upset, and there was a genuine human tragedy involved. I tried to placate her and sympathise, but it was no use. I turned to her friends, who were silently watching, and asked them to explain that almost everyone now carried a camera in their mobile phone, and that if she erected such a display, people were going to photograph it. She couldn't guard it night and day. They didn't say anything but seemed to understand and were embarrassed for their friend.
As I turned to go she was still shouting obscenities in the rush hour street. And then I realised that the immaculately arranged floral shrine was not really for the deceased, but for her benefit. It was her way of dealing with events and an emotion (grief) she was too immature to understand. She was using a tragic death to draw attention to herself as a teenager would. And at the funeral, she would be determined to cry the loudest. Parading her cartoon grief in order to stand out, to give her life significance of some kind.
The ridiculous attitude of the Stop the War Coalition to the Relief of Bengazi is just as immature and ill-informed. Like the teenage mourner, it is a flight back to the nursery. In her case an emotional one, in their case, a political one. The nursery of Iraq, with all its certainties and cartoon ape-presidents. They think Libya is the same, that all conflict is the same and that the same response will fit them all. In effect, they are reactionaries, relying on a static set of prefabricated principles from which they can construct a public edifice to order, which makes them incapable of seeing the changes happening before their eyes. The changes in mass political consciousness for one, which is bizarre given the extent to which they use the internet to publicise their work.
Ultimately, this is the reaction of the moral middle-classes still in hoc to Ghandi, with a simplistic Hippy interpretation of Satyagrah. They have lazily confused this historic tactic with rumours of the Hindu doctrine of the sanctity of all life, which cannot allow violent resistance or retaliation. It is nothing of the kind. A better translation would be 'Firmness of Purpose'. And the logical implication of it for Ghandi was that victory would still cost millions of lives, it just didn't matter whether whose they were. His policy held human life no more sacred than any general calculating his expected losses for a beach-head.
The people of Libya are quite ready to sacrifice their lives to get rid of Gadaffi and achieve freedom, why won't the steam-age Jeremiahs of STW allow them that inalienable human right? The only one they have, at present. But more than anything, if 'morals' won't allow us to destroy Gadaffi's weapons, who will? What else would have stopped him from turning Bengazi into another Sarajevo? The STW, and Tony Benn, have no answers other that that we should never have sold arms or bought oil from him in the first place. Which doesn't help unless they have a Tardis with which to alter the course of history. But if Stop the War must play Dr Who games, the appropriate fictional period to visit would be during a successful uprising of the Marsh Arabs and Shia population which had secured the south of Iraq from the Revolutionary Guard and had attracted significant defections from loyalists, as in Libya, needed a level playing field to topple Saddam.
In th real world, the STW response totally ignores the fact of the Libyan revolution, and the nature of revolution itself. It refuses to acknowledge that the people will finish the job, and furthermore, that any attempts by the west to impose a solution on them will be met with the same degree of resistance they used against Gadaffi. The lack of faith in the people, and in the Tahrir Spirit, is shocking and tragic and more to be pitied than condemned.
There is also deep resentment that this might bolster the image of the politicians concerned. Frankly I don't care if this does make Cameron and Sarkozi look like Bigshots, as long as it gets the job done. More important things are happening, which don't really include them. They are now enacting the will of the people for once, and this can only be because they feel the pressure of opinion. And the global opinion against Gadaffi is now expressed and formed using the internet, which is what makes this operation different to all others before it, and all comparisons with Iraq meaningless. Just like the battles being fought all over the middle east and elsewhere, this is an information war, being fought with the minds of billions of independent people, adding their contribution to the tide of world opinion. And world opinion said that the heroes of Bengazi had to be saved, and so the UN sanctioned the action. If the events of 2003 were to be re-run now, but at the current level of internet activity, there would never have been any kind of resolution passed to justify the disaster, let alone the shameful excuse which did emerge.
The telephone calls made by Tripoli residents to the BBC yesterday were uncompromising and genuine and said it all.
"We know the dangers. We want the bombing to continue and intensify. We are glad."
And from someone who might well have been my local kebab house owner:
"The happiest day of my life. The missiles hit the army base 500 metres from my house. They're really good shots!"
This is the voice of the people, not just the Libyan people, uncluttered by middle-class neuroses and sensitivities and brimming with working class justice, and the willingness to live for the moment, whatever the price. Those seeking to end all violence should first define their limits. Otherwise they will soon find themselves condemning the revolution itself, which has needed to use violence in its defence from the very start. One consolation has been the emergence of Mahatma McKenzie, ranting about how freedom isn't worth one drop of British Blood - but not to the Stop the War pacifists, who now find themselves squawking from the same hymn-book.