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The Challenges By The Libyan Constitutional Union Vision And Principles
Leave Many With Questionable Legacies

The current series of articles by Shaik Ben Ghalbone (internet links below) and general observations of the history of the Libyan Constitutional Union (LCU) over the past 25 years lead one to arrive at certain facts none of which gives any comfort to those of us who are still hanging on to a rapidly fainting hope of returning home one day. Perhaps among the many shocking conclusions that could be drawn from the current series and earlier articles by Ben Ghalbone is that in the early period of the launch the LCU in 1981 and in subsequent years, the very Libyan personalities who understood its mission best and suspected that it might succeed but could not find in themselves to support it. Equally disappointing, but hardly unexpected, the LCU it appears was also denied support and was mercilessly and vigorously obstructed by the very agencies who admit to having a little more than a dash of interest in the Libyan case, claim guardianship to spreading democracy in the Middle East and protecting human rights and, by all accounts now we know, were convinced of the strength of the LCU mission and its likely effect on the presentation of the case against the Gaddafi’s regime. The likely obstruction was (still is) because the agencies in questions feared the prospect of having a confident and a robust Libyan opposition movement that was not within the sphere of influence (perhaps even control) occupying the Libyan opposition platform and seizing the initiative to dictate the agenda of the Libyan case with an independent mind solely to serve the cause (and perhaps ruin other plans with contrary objectives).
The distinctive features of the LCU as a Libyan opposition organisation are found in the vision and the principles that defined the movement since its establishment.
The vision encompasses the reasoning upon which the case against incumbent ruler is built and the route to dislodge his regime from power exploiting international laws and the pressures they could command. In the present context, the vision may be further defined as the “idea behind how to force a political change in Libya and return to The 1951 Constitution”. The principles may be described (in my understanding) as the uncompromising position on fundamentals the LCU adhered to since the beginning, regardless of the cost, in order to protect the integrity and robustness of the legality of steps needed to achieve its aims. In this context, the LCU has been resolute that our case is not be reduced to “whatever works” and be liable to paying the price of misled political expediency and the result of whispered deals.
The LCU vision and principles were laid down at the launch point in 1981 and have remained untouched ever since. More importantly, despite the changing regional and international political scene and the inevitable evolvement of our understanding and expectations of the future ideal ruling system, both the vision and principles have remained relevant to the time throughout and will continue to be so in the future. Some observers commented (with an apologising tone) that the LCU message was more in line to what is expected in a Western society, meaning it is not what we are used to see in third world countries (one hopes that they are misinformed).
Over the many years, the reasons for refraining from supporting the LCU with its vision and principles by many, who otherwise might have been expected to support it and ensure its success, varied. The apparent reasons ranged from personal pride and outdated political thinking to probably much worse. But deep down the reasons share a common theme: true loyalty to Libya and to the cause failed to make the list of priorities. The decisions were taken after deliberation. This is why the response of so many with regard to the LCU will always be questioned. The evidence is that they knew the LCU would make a difference to the case. Furthermore this believe must have been reinforced with the years (not a feature one could attribute to other movements), but still continued to maintain positions consistent only with the wish to see the LCU fail and disappear. This extraordinary disregard to the most important national issue we are likely to face in our time by so many of our prominent contemporaries is inappropriate for any society let alone for a relatively small nation like ours with a recent history of struggle for independence and without any obvious societal dividing fissures. No one should or could be this indifferent to the fate of own county while it is being torn apart by a soldier. The happenings in Libya during the seventies, eighties and nineties coupled with the obvious hopelessness of the opposition parties that occupied the stage, should have awakened many to reconsider their stands. This, as if following a written script, never happened. Observers may well conclude that this has earned us disrespect from our true enemies who knew the details (which it certainly has) and will do so in future by those who learn the truth later.
The evidence for the durability of the LCU vision is abundant. It is expressed by the adoption, after rejection for years, of the Constitutional argument and the Libyan flag by the majority of the Libyan opposition groups. Perhaps the most powerful piece of evidence (not the most meaningful) was Gaddafi junior’s statement recently that it was unreasonable for the country to continue without a constitution. This is not to suggest that the LCU has now a supporter within the Gaddafi house of power (or for that matter among the ranks of colleague opposition groupings), but it does reflect the establishment of an appetite for a constitutional rule in the Libyan psyche. The deeper level point here is that the Libyans have become aware of the values of constitutional rule and become prepared to be proud of having had a Constitution in the past. This cultural change is the result of the LCU efforts and survival with a consistent message in a particularly hostile political environment. This, by any standard, is a considerable achievement. However, in our perverse times, this achievement intensified hostility toward the LCU, particularly by those who appreciated its danger to the concealed agenda. It demonstrated repeatedly how powerful the strategy behind the movement is and how far it might advance if the obstruction was removed.
At times, it is part of our obligation to the cause that we apply a minimum dose of objective analysis to the activities of our opposition groups. The reasons are not based on a wish to attack colleagues or diminish their contributions. But we are in serious trouble and simply cannot afford to avoid difficult issues anymore. In this context, contrasting the LCU vision with the ideas that underpinned the activities of other opposition groups is relevant. One aspect of the LCU movement is that its vision is strictly Libyan, unique road to forcing a change and rescuing the country without relying on help from Gaddafi or external risky partners with ideas. On the other hand it is hard to see what lies behind the rational by other groupings beyond the notion that Gaddafi’s regime is a sponsor of international terrorism, violating human rights and generally committing crimes against his own people and we offer an alternative with the promise to do better (and incidentally we would even throw in a constitution etc.). This extremely basic reasoning, in addition to being incompatible with modern thinking, had the obvious weakness of relying on Gaddafi continuing to be bad guy in order to receive the essential support from allies and propagate the case against Gaddafi’s regime toward some sort of end. This precarious positioning was unsustainable and was always tainted by the air of “whatever works”. As we have seen so spectacularly during the recent years, Gaddafi’s rapid metamorphosis into an internationally accepted statesman and an ally of the West (an exemplary one no less). He went on to resolve his differences with the West and was quickly re-invented as a good guy. The queues of international dignitaries outside the tent for photo opportunities stretched far. The consequence for the opposition’s bad guy argument was that it has become redundant and lost whatever persuasive strength it may have had (and presumably support). End of story for the Libyan opposition. No need for an alternative governing system as far as the priorities of the West went.
In reality what we witnessed was the result of change of the previously implied objective by the super powers of regime change. The strategy was revised without notice and with complete disregard to the Libyan opposition’s case. The incumbent regime was quickly transformed from a piranha to an ally. This left the opposition movements (except the LCU) essentially without a case and looking somewhat of a depressing scene.
The recent news of some opposition personalities on a visit to Libya to initiate a discussion process with Gaddafi is not only troubling but is also a convincing sign of an opposition bankrupt of ideas. Troubling because it opened another sad chapter designed, more accurately engineered, as were many previous plans, to squander opportunities yet again and occupy the energy of the opposition in another worthless pursuit. It is completely ludicrous to expect that a meaningful dialogue could ever be established with the Gaddafi regime. The episode appears to be a re-run of an old movie with different actors: “waste a few more years”. Alas, ours have learnt nothing. A more devious and dangerous additional purpose of this phase is probably to normalise the facade of the regime by establishing the fact that even sectors of the Libyan opposition are now in fruitful talks to advance the spread of democracy etc.
This is not suggesting that the concerned Libyan parties (individuals and organisations) do not wish to see the country rescued and returned to order and some sort of democracy. But one is saying that the evidence does lead one to conclude that the concerned parties would rather continue to pursue absurd paths than acknowledge the LCU pioneering message in its entirety and exploit its strong points in a transparent honourable fashion consistent with true commitment to the national cause.
In reality perhaps the LCU does not accommodate personal priorities and therefore it is difficult for some to accept it. Some of course may be concerned that they would not be credited for future success attributable to the LCU (the fatal not-invented-here condition). One of the most difficult aspects of this whole thing is that the attitude toward the LCU by many of our prominent leading personalities, where we might have expected a different response, appears to happen instinctively yet we know the decisions were take by individuals after deliberation. It makes the scene look much worse because a good number of important Libyan personalities decided individually not to serve. Response that is not compatible with loyalty to the country in its critical times.
It is quite reasonable to argue that individuals whoever they may be are free to exercise their democratic choices and support whatever they wish. Point taken. But we should remember that we have not earned the democratic choice yet, we are still fighting to regain it. We do not even have a country to practice this privilege. Furthermore, in times of crisis, the loyal temporarily suspend their right to democratic views in order for the crisis to be dealt with as united people with one objective. More specifically to the case, according to our Libyan conditioning rightly or otherwise, we the insignificant ones expected a greater act from our notables the influential. Our old society traditions conditioned us to expect bigger responses from our leaders when in crisis and the stakes are high. It is the expectation from those who we looked up to and believed that they would do the right thing when it really matters. It is not the expectation from someone paid or elected by us to office. It is a nobler kind of expectation. We needed their support. They knew it was needed. They knew it could make a difference. Their personal barriers made them turn away. In some cases, personal barriers were so strong they were driven to worse actions.
By all accounts we are now facing the prospect of having the Gaddafi regime for many more years to come. He has secured a long lease. Our front leaders have squandered many opportunities. Some will suggest, including this one, that it could have been different. History will question the stance of many of our notables toward a movement that is purely patriotic, a movement that could make a difference. The extraordinary limits to which some agencies with claims to guardianship of democracy went to in order to deny oxygen to LCU will also be questioned. In this sense and with immensely sad mind, the agencies in question with the help of our own have ensured the continuation of Gaddafi’s regime. History may decide that the challenges by LCU vision and principles left all with questionable legacies.

Links to cited articles:
http://www.libyaalmostakbal.com/MinbarAlkottab/October2006/ mohamed_ben_ghalboon_lcu061006p6en.htm (and links in article)

http://english.daralhayat.com/opinion/OPED/09-2005/Article-20050906-2a75407b-c0a8-10ed-0043-91f024562a8e/story.html

http://www.libya-watanona.com/news/lcu/lc08086a.htm

Ahmed S. Mosbah
LONDON, October 8th 2006


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