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Vale The Carbon Tax: Clive and Al – All That Razzle Dazzle But No Cigar.

Vale The Carbon Tax: Clive and Al – All That Razzle Dazzle But No Cigar..

Fair Media Alliance: New Website

As of this morning, our new website is ready to roll. Here is a copy of the opening blog on the new site.

Welcome everybody to our new webpage which I now have the pleasure of declaring open (in a most elementary way) for business – the business of exposing and effectively opposing bias and misdirection in the media. (Offstage, sound of cheap champagne bottle breaking against the hull of flimsy new ship as she slides into the wide, wide ocean.)

This time last week we didn’t exist. Now we do. Now we have a brand new, empty website waiting for us all to do our bit to get all those empty pages ticking over and all those links linking.

So, welcome to everyone who has already registered their support and interest at whatever level. Some of you have taken me under your wings and guided me step by step to this point. You know who you are. May the guidance continue! Others have simply taken the trouble to wish us well. My heartfelt thanks to all of you. From now on I hope there’ll be no more ‘me’ – that ‘we’ can now proceed.

I’ll be delighted, of course, to devote my free time to this project, but I’m visualising a future where I’ll be ‘making the tea and washing the dishes’ for this wonderful enterprise. I’m not ‘leadership material’ – anyone who knows me would tell you that! And anyway, we mightn’t need it. Let’s just see how things develop, and be prepared to adjust our stride if and when it becomes apparent that we need to.

Meanwhile, I’ll continue to do whatever I can, and whatever seems necessary, with your support. Let’s do it.

I realise that this intitial post has been a rara! sort of thing – not much in the way of meat and potatoes, especially for new visitors. Let me refer our new people to the old website that I resurrected in a desperate moment last Saturday night to get things started. ( And found the most extraordinary response – beyond my wildest dreams – the latest stats on the old site are telling me that no fewer than 481 visits were registered the day after – Sunday, 24 March.)

Anyway, that’s where you’ll find ‘the story so far’. Follow the posts titled Media Accountability… The comments are the main thing.

Once again, welcome and thanks,

Kate Ahearne

Meat and potatoes to follow.

PS  There’s a very interesting article by Gay Alcorn in The Age this morning – titled ‘Gillard is not the only one with a credibility problem’. Alcorn suggests that the media have lost THEIR credibility, and argues her case very well. I did get the feeling that she might have been holding back just a little on her commitment to her point of view, but it’s a very important piece of journalism in the current climate.  Good for her!  Is the edifice of Media Unaccountability starting to crumble?  At least some mainstream journalists are starting to speak out.

Media Accountability and Effective Protest: The Initial Response

It seems time now to assess where we’ve come in such a very short time, and to draw together the threads of all the suggestions that have been made before we proceed from here to a website of our own.

First, thanks to all the commentators and all the visitors who have come to this site to see what’s going on and/or to register their support and offer their ideas.

It is clear that everyone who has responded with a comment wants to support or participate in a campaign for media accountability in Australia. No ugly fairies yet.

It is also clear from our commentators that this campaign needs to occur on several fronts.


First, it seems clear and obvious that we need a petition. The two most likely possibilities seem to be either CommunityRun, which is a Getup! Initiative, and/or which is an international organisation which would also suit our purposes.

Does anyone have a clear preference for either of these? If so, could you let us know which, and why? Any other suggestions?

Who should such a petition be addressed to? All Members of Parliament? The offenders themselves? All of the above? Other suggestions, please.

What should the petition ask for? Sensible legislation? Again, let us know what you think.


It is also clear that we need a new website for our enterprise. Reading through the comments, it seems that this new site could perform a range of functions.

It has been suggested that a good title for the new site (and for us) might be Fair Media. What do you think? Any other suggestions? Fair Media Alliance, perhaps?

It could act as a clearing-house for any and everyone who wants to access or disseminate information relevant to the issue of Media Accountability.

We could have a links page with short descriptions of the different sites so that people can quickly and easily find compatible websites and blogs – a sort of instant-link registry.

We could have a graphics page for downloadable cartoons, photos and other materials like thefinnegan’s wonderful ‘gift-boxed’ statistics. (We’d have to ask them if they mind, of course.)

We could have a video page for people to post videos that could be used by other groups or individuals.

We could have guest writers. It seems clear that there are some passionate, hugely informed people already among us – no doubt others will come to our attention.

We could have a breaking news page. Today, for instance I received an email from Getup! with a new petition re John Laws, who has been perfectly despicable about sexual abuse against children. Also this evening, I happened to catch an ad on Channel Nine about the news headlines for this evening – it referred to ‘Julia’ swearing in her new cabinet. (Need I point out that ‘Tony’ would never be referred to in this way.) We could post all sorts of headline news – little and big, as it happens. Often the ‘little‘ things can be the most telling. (This idea didn’t come from the commentators, but I’ve thrown it into the mix anyway. What do you think?)

We could have a correspondence page where people could post copies of any comments they have posted on other sites, especially any that refer or relate directly to us, and letters or emails they have sent, etc.

We could also have a reject page where we can post copies of comments sent to Murdoch, Fairfax, ABC etc which didn’t get published.


We could have an action page where people could leave messages about actions they have taken or propose to take. There is, for instance, the suggestion of downloading and printing off cartoons, photos, or facts and figures like the ones on thefinnegans, to be left all over the place – notice boards, trains etc. Great scope for individual action.

We could have a boycott page where people could go to learn about which companies are advertising with the most obnoxious media offenders, and so take individual boycotting action, organise letters and emails, leave info, support each other and so on. (We have some keen supporters of boycott action. Again, great scope for individual action.)

Perhaps some small, targeted protests? These could feed into local newspapers.

Targeted email campaigns. The Independents, the Press Council etc., presenters of current affairs programmes with questions we want asked. Any suggestions?

Letters to the Editor – local newspapers

Can the unions help us? The printers? The transporters? Even journalists? How could we go about this?

Some Random Notes and Concerns

Our visitors have fallen off in the last 24 hours, which is only to be expected, so it would help us tremendously if we could put in a plug for ourselves whenever we leave a comment about media accountability on other websites. Stick in the link – after all, that’s the very simple action that’s got us to where we are now. (Which isn’t very far, but a long way from nowhere, which is where we were as recently as Saturday.)

I believe that, at least to start with, we shouldn’t worry about money. For instance, I’m quite happy as an individual to pay the $18 a year to open a .com site rather than the free wordpress option – a bit of class, and dead cheap. As an individual, I’ll also be delighted to print off \the finnegans stats, or any wonderful photos or cartoons etc. and leave them lying about. I’ll also give my free time gladly. We might even make a conscious decision to operate the whole sheboodle unfunded. Who knows? Let’s know what you think.

At this stage, we can only make decisions by ‘straw poll’, so if you have an opinion on anything at all, let’s hear it. Later on, we may achieve the sophistication to have some kind of actual voting – who knows?

There is going to be a sturdy group of mostly older people who either don’t have the knowhow to operate the new media, or just feel too tired or unwell for active service. We need to include people like these – give them a chance to put their names to things, get them on mailing lists and so on – at the very least. Let’s create opportunities for ordinary folk, let’s support them to make a difference without them having to get themselves into a twist about it.

One big worry

Media Accountability is not synonymous with getting the Labor Party re-elected and sticking it to Tony Abbott – it goes far deeper and much further than that. It goes right to the core of our culture and our collective future in a way that no particular government can do. At this moment in our history, it is easy to confuse these two issues, but they are not the same. They may not be separate, but they are distinct.. Yes, the Labor-led government has been the most obvious victim of the horrible lies, the twisting and spinning, the manipulations, and the failure to report important news items. But there are other victims, too. The petition against John Laws which has just been launched by Getup! is a case in point – this petition isn’t about Julia Gillard, but about children who have been sexually abused by adults, and about the appalling way John Laws has spoken about them.

So let’s be very clear about this. Media Accountability is what we’re about here. We’re here to do our darnedest for all the victims of Media Unaccountability – and that includes Julia Gillard and her government; the children who are victims of adult sexual assault and who have been so ill-used by John Laws; all of us who are concerned about climate change, and the vast Australian public that is being lied to and manipulated like so many puppets in so many ways on so many issues. The list could go on and on – the National Broadband Network is in grave danger, for instance. And of course, this is a planetary issue – it’s not just about us Aussies. So please, let’s not conflate these issues here.

Let’s get focussed on this issue, Media Accountablility, here, whatever we might choose as individuals to do elsewhere.


The clock on this webpage is a bit weird – maybe it’s on UK time? However, we had about 120 visitors during the first 24 hours, 400 in the second, and so far 260 in the third.

Agenda for the next few days

I need to get on with opening the new website. Before I can do that, though, I need to know what to call it, so if you don’t like Fair Media, could you let us know? Any other super suggestions?

I’ll open the new site tomorrow, so let’s have your responses today.

Start following up on some of the other contacts people have suggested – Newstand, Australians for Honest Politics etc., etc.

Seek advice about the layout and inner workings of the new website.

Follow up on the intriguing question of how Obama used social media to get himself elected.


I haven’t named names here, when referring to the various ideas that have been put forward. Quite honestly, I don’t have the leisure to check back over ‘who said what’ – it was all happening too fast for a while there! But you know who you are, and your comments are here for everyone to see. I must apologise for any wonderful ideas I’ve overlooked – please point them out to me so I can rectify my errors in the next post. My apologies also to the most recent commentators who have had only brief responses from me.

Many thanks to all of you. So let’s do this.

Kate Ahearne

Media Accountability and Effective Protest: Murdoch, Fairfax, ABC et al.

Are you interested in raising an effective protest or challenge to the behaviour of the media in Australia? If so, please leave your comments/ideas and contact details here.

I would like to take part in any sensible campaign that might be able to make a difference. Perhaps we could get a discussion going that might lead somewhere.

An Open Letter to Mr Abdurrahim El-Keib, Concerning the Women of Libya

Dear Mr El-Keib,

A long time ago, 31 years in fact, I came to your country – a young woman with her family. I came to Benghazi, the birthplace of your revolution, with my brand new MA and a thirst to see something of the world, and to share with others from my fund of privilege, enthusiasm, love for my fellow human beings, education and whatever my personal gifts may have been. As it turned out, I was ignorant, naive and unwise.

Everywhere I looked, there were billboards of Gaddafi. A couple of days before we arrived at Garyounis University, four students had been executed in the quadrangle because they had opposed the regime. During the next two years, I would often walk and sit there, sometimes with my children. I must say it gave me the creeps.

The streets were crawling with Peugeot 504s which, we were informed, belonged to the ‘morality police’ – a job lot, apparently, because nobody else seemed to own a white 504. The new university was delivering a very ordinary quality of education – poor enough to make you laugh, or weep. Spies were everywhere. Although we expatriates sometimes ventured opinions amongst ourselves, no-one to my knowledge dared mention Gaddafi or the regime in a conversation with a Libyan. Suffice it to say that I knew, or suspected, a lot of other things. My mind was with everyone, but my heart was with the women and the children, because under a regime that robbed everyone except those who were openly associated with it, the women were at the bottom of the heap, and with them their children.

At no point in my life before had I seriously questioned my own value as a human being or my equality with every other human being on this earth – man, woman or child; rich or poor; Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Jew etc; clever or not. Now in my early sixties, I have still never doubted these things, although sadly I have had many occasions to realize that there are many people who do – very, very ignorant men, for example, to whom my inferiority by virtue of my gender, is as plain as the nose on your face; very, very ignorant women who, sadly, agree with them; some rich people; people who think differently, and so on.

I realized that the ‘demon’ that Gaddafi had become in the media here in Australia wasn’t quite the correct image. I had seen glimmerings of something better, or at least, something else. Most important of all, or so it seemed to me then, I saw that women were at last being educated – although I didn’t get carried away, because I knew that the education the students were being offered was of very doubtful quality.

Even back then, the whole shebang was in the hands of ‘committees’. Not just in education, but in every facet of the Libyan system, decisions were being made by people whose only qualification for the task was their adherence to the regime. Evidence of the incompetence of this approach was everywhere. I used to walk into the classroom , knowing that 90% of my effort would go straight down the toilet, but hoping for a proportion of the rest. These students were so far from University-ready, that I came away with a very poor notion of what a Libyan degree might mean. I truly did not want to get onto a Libyan-piloted or maintained plane. And when, as it turned out, I needed a Libyan hospital, I was dismayed and afraid.

Still, I knew for a fact, because I had taught them and examined them, that some of my students did learn some English. Some of them grabbed their opportunities in both hands, hoping for a better future. And those who could, deserted the ship, although opportunities for study overseas were few, and you had to be (or appear to be) a Gaddafi fan if you wanted to get away.  I was told that under Gaddafi’s regime women could sue for divorce, and not only that, they could be awarded property. (Although it seems that the laws affording women their basic rights with regard to marriage, equal pay etc. didn’t come to fruition until much later – 1997, I believe.) The women of Benghazi, the married women, who were not being educated, were looking at me with one eye, the birka between their teeth – not always friendly towards such a strange sight as I must have been to them.  I tried to keep my mind open, which seemed the best thing to do, and the very least that any of us can do.

When I returned to Australia after two years in Benghazi, a little shaken, but safe and sound, I quit teaching and didn’t return to it until 2009, when I went back to Libya to work in Tripoli for six months. While most of my students in Tripoli were men, there were some women, too. During the intervening years, the old white birka had almost disappeared. Instead, most of the women were wearing the headscarf. The committees were still running things, and signs of ineptitude were to be seen everywhere, including the college where I worked. At one point my boss was asked to speak to the committee (called the ‘Scientific’ Committee) that was responsible for the decisions being made about our program. Not one of the members had any experience of teaching English, in fact none of them spoke the language at all. My boss had to speak through an interpreter. None of his recommendations was approved.

So you can imagine how interested I have been in events as they have unfolded in Libya during these past months – interested and worried, and all the time afraid for the people I knew and worked with there. How could they pull it off? And if they did succeed, what kind of society would emerge?

My concern did not end with Gaddafi’s death. In his victory speech, Mr Mahmoud Jibril, then Interim Prime Minister, articulated the contradiction that threatens the future for Libyan women, although he displayed no awareness that any contradiction existed. On one hand, women would have equal opportunity in the new Libya, but on the other hand, the new constitution would be based on Shariah law.

“Today, all Libya’s people are allowed to participate in the building of the future to build institutions with the aid of a constitution that does not differentiate between a man and a woman, sects or ethnicities. Libya is for everyone and will now be for everyone. Libya has the right to create an example that will be followed in the Arab region.” Mahmoud Jibril

At about the same time a group of very vocal men had been demonstrating in Benghazi for their ‘right’ to polygamous marriage. And no doubt, there was, and still is, great pressure from groups calling themselves ‘religious’ who would return their countrywomen to the Stone Age. It was reported that Mr Jibril assured these men that their ‘right’ to polygamous marriage would be restored.

And why do these men want this so-called right? Is it because Shariah law, interpreted literally, allows it? Or is it because they want to show off to other men how rich they are, and how powerful? Is it because they want the power to impose themselves on other human beings, to ‘own’ them, to use them? Is it because they want a life-style that amounts to legalised prostitution?

I know that Gaddafi was awful, but that doesn’t mean that every single thing he did and every single word he said was 100% evil. I realize that a lot of what might somehow be seen as progress under Gaddafi, was more rhetoric than reality. Still, if progress was made, however small, towards equality of opportunity for women under the Gaddafi regime, should those gains now be thrown away? Is this wonderful victory of the people over the oppressive Gaddafi regime only to be a victory for one half of the population and a defeat for the rest? Has one kind of oppression been done away with only so that another may begin? The baby thrown out with the bathwater?

I am aware that there are women in Libya, maybe many women who see nothing wrong with Shariah law being adopted as the law of the land, and applied to their lives. But let’s ask ourselves what actually happens when a man insists on, and exercises his right to marry more than one woman? Isn’t he declaring that women are beneath him, that there can never be a true, loving and equal relationship between a man and a woman? That there can be no trust? And what about the children of these polygamous marriages? What do they learn if not that boys are better than girls, and that there can be nothing more to the relationship between a man and a woman except sex, power and subjugation? And so it goes – to their children and their children’s children, unless this unique moment in history can be grasped with vision and courage and love and respect for all people.

I imagine that some men, and even some women reading this might want to tell me that I just don’t understand Islam. And it’s true – my understanding is limited. But what I do understand is that we can never achieve our potential as human beings in unequal marriages. Children of such marriages can never see how love works when it’s working at its best. That is not to say that every monogamous marriage brings out the best in the individuals involved. The truth is that very few do. But that’s not the point. What matters is that a monogamous relationship provides the framework for the individuals involved to achieve their potential as human beings – in mutual respect, care, trust, understanding and love, if that’s what they choose. Polygamous marriage does not and, by its nature, cannot do this.

Of course, there’s a lot more to Shariah law than this. In Yemen recently, in the town of Jaar in Abyan Province, a man and a fifteen-year-old boy had their hands chopped off for stealing some electrical cable. (Jaar is now under the control of Al-Quaeda militants, who interpret Shariah law in this extreme and literal way.) Later reports indicated that the boy died about a week after the amputation. How can Libya adopt Shariah law without leaving the way open to this kind of interpretation?

And of course in Yemen, child marriages are still very common. Despite some attempts on the part of the government to enforce a minimum age for marriage, little girls are still being forced into marriage – the rationale being that one of Mohammed ‘s wives, Aisha, was a child of only nine when the marriage was consummated. When I was teaching in Yemen earlier this year, my Muslim students named child marriages as one of the problems urgently needing to be addressed in their country. Would the new Libya allow its laws to be interpreted in such a way that children could be given into marriage? Into paedophilia? Would the rights of the child be subjugated to the ‘rights’ of men to impose themselves sexually on little girls? These are hard-basket questions, and no doubt there will be those who really don’t think that I, as a non-Muslim Australian woman have the right to ask them.  Nevertheless, as a woman, a mother and a human being, I do ask them.

The people of Libya now have the opportunity and the responsibility to write a constitution that denies institutionalised injustice, and really does guarantee justice and equality for all – that acknowledges that human beings are different, but equal. This cannot be done by referring to the life or the writings of Mohammed or Jesus or any other powerful religious figure. It can only be done by looking carefully at each issue with reference only to the concepts of justice, equality and representation for all. And a constitution written in this secular way will be much more difficult for politicians to abuse in later years.

A successful constitution will not leave room for interpretation that would rob anyone, regardless of age or gender, of their fundamental human rights. And looking back over history, has any society that confused religion with the rule of law, ever been a success? (Let’s not count empire-building as success when empires have been built on the blood and bones of innocent people.) For instance, when Christianity has not been clearly distinguished from politics, as history so clearly shows, the result has not been beautiful. Let’s just mention the Crusades the Inquisition, slavery.

Democracy begins with consensus in the home. There can be no democracy in the family of a polygamous man. While we all know that democracy is not a perfect system, it is the best that human beings have so far been able to devise. There will always be those who will use the system whichever system it may be, to their own advantage – to bend it to their own ends. This is human nature. But why hand it to them on a plate? Why inscribe in law the right of one human being to subjugate another?

As one young Tripoli man put it in recent interview, ‘Men wear the trousers.’ Those who don’t agree with polygamy, he said, just don’t understand Islam.

You don’t need to be a genius to understand where this attitude comes from. There are men like this young man all over the world, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, who believe that they are superior to half the people in the world by virtue of nothing other than their gender. They don’t believe it because it’s true. They believe it because there’s something in it for them, because it suits them to believe it, because they want to believe it. Isn’t this the way many of our beliefs as human beings are held?

This attitude doesn’t really have any necessary basis in religion, although religion can be called upon, and often is called upon to support it. This attitude has its roots in bygone times. The fact is that the average man is bigger, heavier and physically stronger than the average woman, and at any moment, should the whim take him, he can subdue and harm her. In the far distant past, there was nothing except his own decency and common sense to prevent him from doing as he liked. But as history has unfolded, laws have evolved to protect the vulnerable from those who might harm them. And at the same time, humanity has evolved. Physical strength is no longer as important as it once was. Superior physical strength isn’t necessary for a doctor, a teacher, a prime minister, an engineer, an air traffic controller, a taxi driver, etc., although it still counts in some areas.  But more importantly, in the modern world we now have access to the fact that women tend to excel in some areas where men do not, and vice versa. Some people are better cooks than others, and some can run faster. As cooks and runners, they may be superior, but as human beings they are not.

This young man, while accusing others of not understanding Islam, understands very little himself about what it means to be a human being. Perhaps his children, girls and boys, given the opportunity of a good education, will grow up with broader minds.

As an outsider looking in, the big problem with basing a nation’s laws on Shariah is not so much Shariah itself, but its capacity to be interpreted literally – a hand for a theft, a nine-year-old as a bride, etc. – and the appeal that literal interpretation will always have for those whose ends can best be served in this way.

And it is, after all, easier to interpret ancient writings literally, than it is to do the inner work. There are certainly plenty of fundamentalist Christians who find it so. It requires such a lot of mental, emotional and spiritual effort to step outside the comfort zone where everything we need to know is written in stone, and all you have to do is believe it, exactly, without question – even when a child’s hand has been cut off because he stole some electrical cable. Even when he died as a result.

I refer to an interview that you recently gave on Libyan television, hoping that the translation is true to your intention:

‘I see a country with men/women who have the capability to build a modern, civil state… I wish to see a united Libya, moving towards a future together, with equality in the law.’ lissnup@ArmchairArab

Given that a part of your interview was missing from the translation I saw, and the translation itself may not have been accurate, I was relieved to see that you repeatedly referred to men and women, and made no reference to Shariah law. And at the time of writing, I have seen no reports that suggest that you, personally are in favour of Shariah as a basis for the new constitution.
Your first responsibility of course, is to the people of Libya. But the world is watching, particularly other people in the region, especially in Yemen and Syria. Whatever you do now will have repercussions far beyond your borders and for generations to come. The weight on your shoulders is monstrous. It seems that everyone wants a piece of you and your interim Ministry – the regions, the fundamentalists, the tribes, the would-be polygamists, the young people, those who formerly supported the Gaddafi regime, and the women. Not to mention foreign governments and oil companies.

And by the way, those who are agitating for Shariah law, might be forgetting that in the earliest days of the revolution, at least some of the imams in Tripoli used the Friday prayers to urge the people of Libya not to challenge Gaddafi. It was against the law of God, they said. I really feared for the revolution all those months ago when I saw those reports.  Did you?

I have had the temerity to write this open letter to you because of my love and anxiety for Libya and her people, and because I feel a responsibility towards you all, and in particular towards women and children everywhere who do not enjoy the freedoms and privileges that I have enjoyed. And perhaps the greatest privilege of my life has been my access to ideas and the freedom to observe and to think, to agree and disagree, to develop my own ideas and to express them without fear.

I wish you, your Interim Ministry and all the people of Libya every success in your great endeavour, and hope that you will be able to find your way through this minefield with all the courage and dignity that will be required.

‘Raise your head, you’re a free Libyan.’ Unless you’re a woman?

Compensation, Retribution, Vengeance; Making Gaddafi’s victims pay.

There must be lots of people  all over the world, especially journalists and politicians, trying to figure out what the sleeping issues might be, now that Gaddafi is dead.   What are the stories whose implications have been overlooked in all the excitement and horror of the last 8 months, especially the last week?

One issue that has been lying about like a crocodile just under the surface, is to do with compensation, retribution and even vengeance against the newly liberated people of Libya.  Victims of the Lockerbie bombing want money, victims of IRA bombings (Libyan semtex, Gaddafi-trained terrorists) want money,  Britain’s Tory MP, Daniel  Kawczynski wants £300 million to cover the cost of Britain’s support in the war.  And it seems that Gaddafi’s family want Libya’s interim authorities and NATO pursued for war crimes.

The Lockerbie bombing and The IRA bombings were dreadful crimes.  The loss of innocent, uninvolved lives and the grief of families and friends left behind is truly awful to contemplate.  And it’s not difficult at all to understand that the families of those victims might want someone to pay.

In the case of the Lockerbie bombing, substantial monetary compensation has already been paid, both by Pan Am and by Gaddafi’s Libya.  Some, although not all of the victims of the IRA bombings have also been compensated.  Colin Parry, the father of a young boy who was one of the victims of the Warrington bombing has remarked recently that he hopes Gaddafi’s death will open the way for compensation for those cases that have not yet been concluded.

And Britain’s PM, David Cameron, intends to pursue the issue of compensation for victims of the IRA bombings.

“It’s a vitally important issue. There is no doubt that the Libyan provision of Semtex to the IRA was immensely damaging over many years and possibly even still today.

“I think we need to be very clear that this is going to be an important bilateral issue between Britain and the new Libyan authorities. We have got to let this Government get its feet under the desk but it is very high up my list of items.” Read more:

Tory MP, Daniel Kawczynski, erring perhaps on the silly side, wants £300 million from the Libyan people.

His reason? Disquiet amongst his constituents at:

“…the prospect of when they have local libraries being closed and pressure on public services as a result of the economic difficulties that our country are facing, they find it difficult to comprehend how we could be spending this amount of money abroad in pursuing the liberation of Libya whilst having to make cutbacks in our own country.”

Yes, you heard him right: Libya should pay the costs of their liberation because his constituents are upset at the library closures and public sector cuts his party instigated and he voted for. This is not so much balancing the books off the backs of the poorest in Britain – as is Osborne’s strategy – but balancing the books off the backs of the victims of Gaddafi. (From Shamik Das, Left Foot Forward.)

Yes, that is the question.  Who will be paying this compensation?  Gaddafi’s Libya no longer exists, and any compensation successfully claimed now will come out of the pockets of the Libyan people, the vast majority of whom  had nothing whatsoever to do with any of it, and are indeed victims themselves, the vast majority living in poverty and fear all those years. Perhaps at least some of those pursuing compensation will come to the conclusion that the person they really need to be suing is dead, and that maybe they should be pursuing his family and their ill-gotten wealth, rather than his other victims.

And as for the family.  It has been reported that Gaddafi’s wife, Safia, and other relatives have been putting pressure on the UN to prosecute NATO for firing on her husband’s motorcade, and the interim authorities for the way her husband was killed. She’s claiming war crimes.  In this she  has joined forces with lots of other voices that have been raised in horror at the way Gaddafi was treated after his capture. Apparently Safia Gaddafi was reported on Syrian TV as saying that she was proud of her husband’s courage and of her children, who stood up to 40 countries during the past 6 months, and that she considers them to be martyrs.

To some extent, Libya’s interim PM, Mahmoud Jibril, took the wind out of the sails of outrage by promising, very soon after Gaddafi’s death, that a full enquiry would be held into the circumstances.  That promise has been reportedly repeated several times since. But more important than any of this is the need for the interim authorities to make it perfectly clear to everyone in Libya that reprisals will not be tolerated.

Yes, it does seem that Mrs Gaddafi’s husband was mistreated dreadfully after his capture – possibly murdered.  But what about all the other war crimes?  What about the thousands that were killed, many in summary executions?  (On both sides?)  What about her husband’s appalling behaviour during every one of those 42 years?  As his wife, wasn’t  she a co-conspirator – in fact, if not in law?

‘Hi, Honey.  I’m home.’

‘Hi darling.  And how many of those nasty riff-raff did you ‘disappear’ today, sweetie-pie?’

Let’s get a little perspective.  A little decorum, please.

Truly, words almost fail me, except to remark that that family has more neck than a herd of giraffes.

Compassion for Poor Old Gaddafi

…‘The regime was odious, while the man undoubtedly suffered from some form of mental illness that had unspeakably tragic consequences for the people of Libya.’ … ‘What is worrying is the jubilation of Libyans themselves. It is understandable, but it leaves no room for compassion for the man, whose state of mental torture caused so much pain.’…

Michael Mullins, Even Gaddafi Deserves Compassion,
Editorial, Eureka Street, 24/10/11

Dear oh dear.  Michael Mullins produced a strange piece of writing in yesterday’s issue of Eureka Street.

Yep, most of us reckoned Gaddafi was mad.   But did he do the dreadful things he did, live the horrible life he lived because he was mad or because he was nasty? Did the illness cause the evil-doing, or was he ill and coincidentally evil – just another horrible person who happened to be mentally ill? (If, indeed he actually was mentally ill.  But most of us are not qualified psychiatrists, so we can’t be sure.  No ‘undoubtedly’ about it!)  And what kind of illness? Psychopathy? Narcissus complex? Depression? Well, probably not depression.   Or maybe all the horrible things he did made him sick?

And what evidence is there that Gaddafi suffered from mental torture? None. At least, not that I’m aware of.  Not a shred. On the contrary, in all those millions of images of Gaddafi during all those years right up until the moment when he was fished out of the drainpipe in Sirte, was there even one that portrayed a tortured soul?  Give me strength.

The word ‘deserved’ is often misused.  (Has it been redefined while I wasn’t looking?)  Bearing in mind that there is so much that we can never really know about the inner life of another person, surely Gaddafi got what he ‘deserved’, in the sense that he reaped as he sowed, lived by the sword and died by it, got his comeuppance, and so on.   He may be entitled to our compassion, but does he deserve it?  And his death was merciful, really. Imagine how horrible, how humiliating it would have been for him to have had to face up to incarceration and trial, and eventually, if the trial had taken place in Libya, imagine the genuine mental torture of waiting, day after day, for the firing squad?

Of course we must practise  compassion for all our fellow creatures, but it may not be appropriate to express that compassion in every situation. Sometimes other considerations are more important.  Sometimes a particular context dictates that it would be irrelevant, unhelpful or even damaging to express compassion.  Sometimes there are others who ‘deserve’ our compassion more – in the case of Libya, the millions who have suffered all these years, and especially the thousands, maybe even tens of thousands who gave their lives to free their people from poor old Muammar, more mad than bad and sadly misunderstood.

Sometimes it helps to consider a parallel situation.  Take the case of Aunt Bagatha – a nasty piece of work  if ever there was one.  Let’s pretend that most of the time, when Aunt Bagatha  says something particularly cruel and cutting, it is best just to grin and bear it, and it helps to remember that poor Aunt Bag didn’t have a very happy childhood.  This is a technique that helps us through many a situation where  forbearance  is required.  But sometimes she does something especially vile.  Perhaps she spits her vitriol on some poor soul who will be badly hurt by it.  Perhaps she takes to somebody with her umbrella and leaves them bleeding on the floor.  When something like this happens, compassion for Aunt Bag may not be 100% appropriate – much more  appropriate in this situation would be to recognise the fact that she is a rotten old horror, and that something has to be done about her.  And a little compassion for the poor bleeding victim on the floor would be nice.

So really, within days of the death of one of the most monstrous human beings on earth, this call for compassion for Gaddafi seemed quite bizarre, and yes, inappropriate, no matter how obnoxious and distasteful some of the events surrounding his death might have been.

But having said all that, I can’t help applauding Michael Mullins for what I am guessing he was trying to do.  Yes, we really do need to foster goodwill between all the different elements of Libyan society that have been involved in this conflict.  Those who have been pro-Gaddafi during all these dreadful months must now be brought into the fold and made to feel at home in their own country.  If  all the various interest groups are going to pull together into a better future, the victors must embrace the vanquished, and vice versa.  Reconciliation will require big hearts all round and tremendous feats of goodwill and  understanding

The Death of Muammar Gaddafi: The Tyrant is Dead. Long Live the People

These remarks are from a blogger on

Posted by Jean, October 21, 2011 at 8:12 am | Permalink

Gaddafi shoots someone without trial = murderous dictator.
Someone shoots Gaddafi without trial = noble freedom fighter.

See it all at

So let’s fire our guns in the air, shout something about Allah, put the women in bin-liners, and onward to democracy!!!

Dear Jean,

Thank you for encapsulating in so few words so many of the attitudes that grieve me.  Sadly, I’m sure there are many people who think as you do.

I have lived in Libya during two periods of my life.  In 1980 I travelled to Benghazi with my family and worked there for two years, as an English teacher at Garyounis University.  More recently, in March of 2009, I returned to Libya, where I taught for six months at the Police Academy in Tripoli and for a short stint at the Police Academy in Benghazi.  (The Academy complex in Benghazi  was reportedly destroyed in the early days of the uprising.)  There followed a 2-month stretch in Kuwait, then home for a few months followed by six months in Sana’a, the capital of Yemen.

As you might imagine, I have been watching the unfolding of The Arab Spring with my heart in my throat.

When I got up yesterday morning on the gorgeous north coast of Tasmania and turned on the radio, I heard that Muammar Gaddafi  had been killed.

I am neither ashamed nor embarrassed to say that I was overcome with a sensation of joy.

Almost immediately, of course, I began to wonder if this could be another ‘mistake’ in the media-reporting of the conflict in Libya, like the death and/or capture of the various Gaddafi sons and henchmen who, as it transpired, hadn’t been killed or captured at all, or perhaps  had  later been freed by Gaddafi loyalists lurking among the freedom fighters.

For the next few enthralling hours I listened to the radio and surfed the internet.  The photos of the dead person purporting to be Gaddafi were not very clear, but it sure looked like him.  I began to relax into a quieter, more moderate joy,  and a hope tinged with sadness at all the lives that had been lost or spoiled during the 42 years of tyranny and these last 8 months of defiance.

And I am affected, not just by the lives of the innocent and courageous, and the grief of their families, but also by all those other lives that had been seduced and corrupted by the sheer personal power of the man, the stranglehold  of the regime, and the privilege it could, and did confer on those who were loyal to it.  The grief of their families, too.

How could we really blame or pass judgement on those who had hitched their wagons to the Gaddafi juggernaut, when  opposition seemed, and indeed was,  pointless and deadly, and when there was no other way out of the pit of poverty and hopelessness?    For 42 years,  the doubters had been hanged, or  lined up and shot, sometimes even ‘live’ on national television.   Even during the years that Gaddafi was being courted by ‘the west’, when the average Libyan was living on the equivalent of $2 a day and the billions flowed freely into Gaddafi’s pockets, dissent was being murdered.  And we knew.

How profound was the courage of those who rose up against it?

Which of us could truly  say what we would have done in a similar situation?  Not me anyway, unchallenged and untried as I  have always been – enjoying the freedom and peace, opportunity and privilege that  my parents’ generation fought for, killed and died for, during the Second World War.

Well, not exactly untried.  Tried, and found wanting, I think.

There were times during my life  in Libya when I might have shown some courage,  and there were times when I did show a little bit.  But when it came, in 1982,  to being followed around by the secret police everywhere I went,  because I was trying to help a Polish woman and her daughter escape to Australia, I became so frightened that I had to hand the whole mess over to my more courageous then-husband and flee.  At that time, Poland was behind the Iron Curtain, and Polish doctors, nurses and technicians were being put onto  non-stop flights back  to Warsaw at the end of their contracts in Libya.  I heard later that my friend,  Sofia and her daughter had settled in Perth, WA.  I hope they are still happy and well.

So when I returned to Libya in 2009,  I looked and listened, of course, and noticed things, but said nothing, and nobody said anything to me.  Not once in 6 months did I hear the word ‘Gaddafi’ from the lips of any Libyan person.  That’s how it was, and how it had to be.   Fear rules, or so it seemed.  I  was relieved when my contract came to an end.

If you had asked me then if Gaddafi could be overthrown, I would have said ‘no’.  I could not have imagined it.

Now, I think about my students and wonder.  Who is still alive and who is dead?  There is only one student, because of his presence on Facebook, that I know to be alive.

I think about the classroom full of students who were bussed in every day from Al Zowia.  How many of their eager faces are smiling today?  How many of them are shooting their rifles at the sky in jubilation, wantonly wasting their ammunition for the sheer joy of it?  And why not?  I have no way of knowing, but the fighting was so fierce and so prolonged in and around their hometown that I can only accept that some, and maybe many of them are gone now– men and women, girls and boys.

Libya has been in a state of  war during these last 8 months.  The rules of war apply, and a little  understanding about the 42 years that went before wouldn’t go amiss.  How many of us would have quibbled if someone had shot Hitler?  Gaddafi was a combatant, self-declared.  He had vowed to fight to the death, to flush out the ‘rats’ and kill them all.  (The wonderful irony of his having been found like a rat hiding in a sewer has not been overlooked by the media, and will go down in history.)  He was the leader of a rotten regime.  It has been reported that up until just a few hours before he died, Gaddafi was busy recruiting yet more sub-Saharan African mercenaries  to come to his support so that he could be reinstated to his ‘rightful’ position.

If he had been captured alive and put on trial, would the fighting have stopped?  Or would his followers have continued to hope and just kept on with the war?  And of course there is the possibility that he might have escaped, as others have quite mysteriously escaped , including at least one and probably two of his sons during the battle for Tripoli.  As the saying goes – where there’s life, there’s hope.

In war, Jean, we do kill the fighters on the other side.  And if the leader of the enemy troops  comes into our sights, we shoot  him if we can.  We’ll probably never know all the fascinating details about just what happened, and we don’t need to.  Was it murder or was it an act of war?  Is it really an either/or proposition?  Whatever else it was, it certainly was a legitimate act of war.  Yes, atrocities have been committed, probably on both sides of the conflict, and the perpetrators of those acts must be made accontable.  But the killing of Gaddafi was no atrocity.

As I write this, Libya’s interim leaders continue the debate about where to bury Gaddafi.  They know how powerful he is, even in
death.  How and where can he be buried without his grave becoming a mini-Mecca for those who believe as he did?

We are all going to be disappointed, one way or another, by the way things work out in Libya.  The future might look rosy now, but it won’t be rosy.  Not all of the rebels are angels or saints.  Some of them are thugs and some are simply misguided, just like we are.  Many of those who defected from the Gaddafi camp during these last few months were genuine.  But there must be some, at least, who thought they were backing a new winner.

Self-interest is human. It did not die with Gaddafi, and it will never go away.  It will fly into Tripoli and Benghazi  on corporate jets.  It is already there, on the ground, has always been there,  the incomers greeted with handshakes and great big smiles, just like we do it down here in beautiful Tasmania.  And, of course, the oil will flow again, and with it, wealth.  We can only hope that a goodly proportion of that wealth will  now flow to its rightful owners.

Reconstruction is in almost everyone’s interest, and will happen.  But reconciliation might not.

So let’s get down off our smug little high-horses and consider.  There will still be skirmishes, of course  –  tragically,  more lives will be  lost before order is established in Libya, if it ever is or ever can be.  But let’s think for a quiet moment about all those lives that will not have to be lost, now that Gaddafi is dead.

The shot that killed Gaddafi was the shot that ended this particular war.  It will resound throughout the region – Yemen, Bahrain, and Syria in particular.  Dictators will not take heart from it, but the people will.

And by the way, Jean.  The ‘something’ that is shouted about Allah translates as ‘God is Great.’  And Libyan women don’t wear garbage bags, bin-liners or even pillar boxes, although Muslim/Arab women do cover themselves top to bottom except for their eyes in some other countries.  In Yemen, for instance, most of the women wear the ‘pillar box’.  In Libya, though,  the married women used to wear the birka – a kind of white sheet thing that wrapped the whole body and was held by the hand or in the teeth so that you looked at one eye, and one eye looked back at you,  sometimes friendly, sometimes not.  Always curious.  Now, nearly all Libyan women wear the headscarf, and look you in the face.  And, modesty permitting, they wear whatever else they want to wear, or can afford, within reason, under the circumstances.