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Libyan Writer Ghoma

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Thursday, 15 May, 2008

LIBYA AND ITALY: A Storm in a Teacup, Or there's More to It?

By: Ghoma

        The long and protracted squabbling, between Libya and Italy, took a new turn, and definitely a bogus turn, last week. When it was heated up for a day or two, about the appointment of R. Calderoli as a member -though without portfolio of the just formed Government by S. Berlusconi, only to fizzle away, as it started from nowhere to nowhere! The shot that was only heard by its echo! Though, for, a while, the literal duration of a sound-bite, nerves started to flail and tensions to rise. In a preemptive fashion, the self-appointed spokesman of Libya, threatened of "disastrous consequences" in the bilateral relations, if that notorious nutcase from the Northern League, Roberto Calderoli gets appointed into the new government. Berlusconi did appoint him, and Libyans have declared they were no more fulfilling the commitment taken to prevent illegal migrants from leaving their shores toward the Italian coasts. In plain words, Libya has quitted playing effectively the Italian Coast Guard by proxy! Italians, for a day or two, seemed to have been caught by surprise, confused, they gave the impressions to be scrambling around, left and right, to find an acceptable way to parry off any negative consequences subsequent to their expected decisions. However, somehow the fire had been put out fast enough before its flames could do any further damages. By either a stroke of luck, or just someone may have the wisdom to check with an anthropology department and/or Middle Eastern studies, for what's to be done -the barbarians are on the gates! The academics apparently seemed to have suggested some tips to follow in things Arabian in general, which had shown to be effective time and time again. As, for instance, smile and talk softly but hold to your line, that's, show Arabs some remorse and regret but don't blink -that would be taken as a sign of weakness. And apologies will be more effective if offered by the sinner himself. Thereafter, Calderoli apologized and all things seemed to be redressing themselves back to normal. The upshot of all this as it not only appeared but effectively as it took place: Italians have stood their grounds and Libyans got the impression to have listened to! Thus what appeared at its beginning to be a tricky trap, for the Italians to be caught in, and threatened to set the two countries at loggerheads, got somehow, almost by magic, diluted beyond recognition and faded into the ether from where it came. The Question is now: Why did it happen at all? And was it worth the effort?

        "Know thyself" intones the Bible. This urge is as good for individuals as for states. Hence, deserts will bloom before Libya will be able -and will be allowed- to butt its nose -or peek its head- in the Italian tent of strictly domestic business. And likewise, Hell will freeze before Italy could have come up with an excuse that would have justified including a certifiable nutcase as part of its Government. Give the asymmetry between the tow sides, as in Arabian Nights, nothing has its own volition, things were never what they appeared to be but rather, as in the theater of the absurd, things pop up, from nowhere, and fade away, on their own, as they came. Forces beyond our sight or comprehension seem to work their magic, only leave the rest of us puzzled! Holly Molly santo Guacamole! What has happened? Whom did what? And how everything took of care of itself and ended so fast before even we could grasp what it was all about?

        On the face of it, Libya shouldn't even bother interfering in something which was above its cut, bigger than its bite, and beyond the stretch of its reach. If it'd to, then, it should have handled the situation with much more finesse, skills, and a high degree of savoir faire. Instead of injecting itself publicly into what's purely Italian domestic business should have either stayed aloof, or made its concerns known diplomatically -that's what embassies are for? Second, Libya must always remember, or be reminded, and never to forget that what it has with Italy, is a lot more than a trifle of passing duration. The qualms are deeper and heavier than what ne individual or a group could cause or do. They've to do with a half-century of Italy's pillaging Libya for no other reason than it could. This historical legacy still suspended until Italy wakes from its dream, illusion, etc. of denial. That's why no matter how serious what current events seem to be, they shouldn't be allowed to come in between and distract from the main goal of persuading Italy to come to terms with its "colonial history," admit its atrocities, open up its archives, and teach it to its rising generations. Apology and rest will come later. Who makes part of this or that government is not worth the effort of wasting time on?

        If Libya has any muscles to flex, it should save them for the big questions: How to vindicate the loss of its population, redress the humiliations, and account for 40 years of devastations, etc. Therefore, any accumulated capital, leverage, etc., must be deployed exclusively for this task and all the resources employed to bring about Italy's admission of guilt. Call it the historical bargain. Any amends before or without the admission of guilt is tantamount to letting the criminal dictate the terms of punishment. Italy has to admit its wrong doings, in the first half of the 20th century, in mounting numerous campaigns of pure and unjustifiable aggressions, atrocious pillaging, and what amounted to deliberate annihilations and genocidal of Libyans and others, onto their lands. Those policies were outrageous gross violations to everything humanity had worked so hard for to achieve, and constituted a stage of savagery, beyond denial. However, given the direction of political trends blowing these days in Italy, settling this burden has to wait for more auspicious times and better a political climate. As Italy moves further to the Right, negating 65 years of post-Fascist era, the prospect of Libya and Italy seeing eye-to-eye on this matter or any other issues, is becoming dimmer by the minute, and is only a false dream.

        Italian right-wingers (fascists, racists, supremacists, and their brethren sisteren) have revived the turn of the 20th century, Gabriele D-Annunzio, et. al. national jingoisms by wrapping themselves with the banners of xenophobia, only to stick their noses up in the air and ignore whatever does square with their superiority and thus the glory of the country. Thus any non laudatory pages, of past history, if they were not suppressed must be skipped, and in their place chapters of praise to the brave Italians who had carried civilization to the backwoods of Africa. Amid such charged atmosphere of high emotions, few will admit to any of the bad intentions or the wrong campaigns their nation had undertaken only for the purpose of adding to its greatness. To most of these folks, the "past" is just what it was, passe', you must get over it, you hang-uppers and losers. They, like the other European kins, are still in denial that the world has changed; they hide behind the usual rigamarole of good intentions went bad kind of stuff. All the work they had done, in those Godforsaken backwoods, went unappreciated by the ungrateful "locals." Without those campaigns to carry the torch of civilization and to have had incurred the huge expenses, for a purely altruistic and benevolent reasons, the countries which are kvetching now would have been still without electricity, telephones, rail, etc. service. Such riffs and refrains, the Kiplingesque type praises, of the White man burden, have not gone out of vogue, particularly when right-wingers got into power. Justifying the unjustifiable and condone the absurdly is part of their daily chore!

        Libya has approached the whole business with Italy from the wrong side and with the wrong strategy. Being dependent on Italian exports wouldn't help either, unless it's part of a well-thought about strategy, that to build leverage and increase pressure. Asking for compensation before asking for the admission of guilt was another tactical mistake; it's basically equivalent to Libyan Lockerbie's affaire: compensation wouldn't solve the deeper problem. In such a complex and an intricate situation as that of colonialism and its consequences, first must come the moral side of the equation and then later on will be time for the material -just as in a criminal and civil law suits. Given that Libya is not urgently in need, at this time, of any help from a half- bankrupted-half-broken of a half-industrial country. This will give her a wiggling room for maneuvering, many other poor countries cannot afford to. In its own self interest as well as on behalf of all the others, Libya must be a pioneer on this issue and should tackle it with utmost care, skills, and required patience for not only its benefit but also for the benefit of the rest of the wretched of the earth.


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