Extreme Elements in Libya and Egypt Appear in Wake of Revolutions

Many people have been concerned about the Obama Administration’s intervention into the Libyan Civil War with little knowledge of the character of the emerging new government, including indications of strong influences of religious extremists. The concern is that, as in Afghanistan with Al Qaeda, we are supporting the ascension of potentially more dangerous elements. That concern was heightened this week when the new Libyan government flatly rejected any possible extradition of Abdel Baset al-Megrahi — the terrorist mastermind behind the bombing of Pan Am flight 103. In the meantime in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood’s party has already announced sweeping proposed changes to structure society under Sharia law, including limits on tourists, banning bikinis and sunbathing. Other Islamic parties are calling for the removal of art and artifacts as non-Islamic.

In Libya, Mohammed al-Alagi, the Transitional National Council’s justice minister, rejected calls for the return of al-Megrahi. As we discussed earlier, al-Megrahi was released under pressure from Libya under a transparently false claim that he was near death. That was in 2009. His family say that he is again near death, but notably the new Libyan government says that it does not matter. He will never be turned over and furthermore Libya will never extradite its citizens to a foreign government. Al-Alagi stressed “We do not hand over Libyan citizens. Qaddafi does.” Wow, Qaddafi’s handing over al-Alagi was one of his few acts of yielding to international pressure. Previously, I objected to how the new Libyan government looks a lot like the old Libyan government with former officials joining the cause.

These were the same officials who lied for years about the country’s terrorist operations and praised al-Megrahi. It was only when Qaddafi started killing Libyans that they became instant humanitarians.

What, of course, makes the situation even more precarious is the access of Libya to weapons of mass destruction — rumored to be held by the old regime.

Over in Egypt, religious parties are moving against Western influences and even Western tourists to cleanse the country of non-Muslim elements. Abd Al-Munim A-Shahhat, a spokesman for the Salafi group Dawa, called for the removal of historical artifacts and the covering of pictures as non-Islamic — a move reminiscent of the Taliban’s destruction art and the two ancient statues of the Buddha called Bamiyan. A-Shahhat insists that wax should be used to cover art and artifacts because “[t]he pharaonic culture is a rotten culture” and human images must be “covered with wax, since they are religiously forbidden.”

Polls show a majority of Egyptians favor imposing Sharia law on the country with its restrictions on non-Muslim acts and conduct.

Source: Headline News

17 thoughts on “Extreme Elements in Libya and Egypt Appear in Wake of Revolutions

  1. Thanks for posting that (C Moulton ). I can’t read it now, but will later. I thought I had heard that some were skeptical about that conviction, but could not remember any details.

  2. Professor.

    You say “These were the same officials who lied for years about the country’s terrorist operations and praised al-Megrahi. It was only when Qaddafi started killing Libyans that they became instant humanitarians.”

    I would not be so certain that al-Megrahi did in fact carry out the Lockerbie bombing, there is evidence to suggest that Libya and al-Megrahi were convenient scape goats when the US wanted good relations with the likely culprit Iran to facilitate the first Gulf War. This article by Alexander Cockburn in Counterpunch has a good summary of the argument that al-Megrahi was framed and that his release on humanitarian grounds conditional on his dropping of his appeal was for the purpose of terminating an appeal which might in embarrassing information coming to light.

    Here is the relevant extract of the article:-

    Lockerbie in Libya

    My visit to Libya in January 2007, to attend an international conference on the International Criminal Court, gave me the opportunity to hold private conversations with a number of well-educated Libyans who clearly knew a lot more about the West than the West knew about them. I was particularly interested in getting the take of unofficial Libyan citizens on two issues that at the time dominated Western perception of Libya: Lockerbie and the affair of the Bulgarian nurses. I should mention that I never got near Gaddafi, and the conference was sponsored by academics who held diverse opinions on important issues, often unlike those of the Leader, which didn’t seem to bother anyone. But on the issue of Lockerbie, I discovered two general widespread points of agreement.

    On the one hand, nobody believed that Libya was responsible for the Lockerbie bombing. It was taken for granted that Libya had been unfairly accused for political reasons.

    On the other hand, it was clear that the sanctions imposed by the West to punish Libya for its alleged guilt had caused hardship and discontent. The power of the West both to impose sanctions and to project its images amounts to serious interference in the domestic politics of targeted countries, since very many people, especially the young, want to live in a “normal” country and may resent leaders who cause them to be treated as pariahs by the West. Therefore, it was understood that Gaddafi had finally given in to Western pressure to accept responsibility – but not guilt – for Lockerbie merely in order to get the unpopular sanctions lifted. The fact that he agreed to turn over two Libyan citizens to a Western court to be tried for the crime and to pay over two billion dollars of compensation to the victims was explicitly not an admission of guilt, but rather a response to blackmail by Great Powers in order to normalize relations and improve daily life.

    This did not surprise me, since over the years I had read a lot about the Lockerbie case. Indeed, a great deal has been written exposing the weakness of the prosecution’s case, based on a totally implausible scenario (a bomb to blow up a trans-Atlantic flight was allegedly sent via airports in Malta, Frankfurt and London), technical “evidence” that had been tampered with by CIA agents, and a witness who was richly rewarded for testimony which did not fit the facts. All this has been told many times, for instance Andrew Cockburn in the CounterPunch newsletter, or the London Review of Books, “The Framing of al-Megrahi” by British lawyer Gareth Peirce. But the fact that the case has been repeatedly exposed by careful analysis as a probable frame-up has not made the slightest impression on mainstream media and politicians who continue to blast Gaddafi as the monster who ordered the Lockerbie massacre.

    One may add that at the time of the event in 1988, it was widely assumed that Iran had ordered the attack in retaliation for U.S. downing of an Iranian airliner over the Persian Gulf. When the United States, switching from its anti-Iran alliance with Iraq to war against Saddam Hussein, decided to accuse Libya instead, no motive was ever produced. But when a “dictator” has been stigmatized as a monster, no motive is needed. He just did it because that is the sort of thing evil dictators are supposed to do.

    The two accused Libyan airline employees working in Malta had been put on trial in 2000 by three Scottish judges without a jury in a specially built court in the Netherlands. One of the Libyans was acquitted and the other, Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, was convicted and sentenced to 27 years in prison. The United Nations observer at this peculiar trial, Hans Köchler, called the guilty verdict “incomprehensible”, “arbitrary, even irrational” and noted “an air of international power politics” surrounding the proceedings.

    On November 12, 2006, the Glasgow Sunday Herald quoted top State Department legal advisor Michael Scharf, who was the counsel to the US counter-terrorism bureau when the two Libyans were indicted for the bombing, as calling the case “so full of holes it was like Swiss cheese” and said it should never have gone to trial. He claimed the CIA and FBI had assured State Department officials there was an “iron-clad” case against the two Libyans, but that in reality the intelligence agencies knew well in advance of the trial that their star witness was “a liar”. But Great Powers can’t back down. Their sacred “credibility” is at stake. In short, they must keep lying to preserve the illusion of infallibility.

    At the time I was in Tripoli, the defense team of the convicted Libyan was trying to appeal the conviction to a higher court. I was able to call on one of the lawyers on Megrahi’s defense team. I spent a long time in her office, trying to overcome her reluctance to speak about the case. Finally, she agreed to talk to me when I promised to keep our conversation to myself, so as not to risk harming the appeal. By now, the circumstances have changed drastically.

    Here, briefly, is what she told me.

    The Scottish judges were under enormous pressure to convict the two Libyans. After all, for years their guilt had been trumpeted by the United States demanding that they be “brought to justice”. A special court had been set up with the obvious purpose of convicting them. Yet the evidence which would merit conviction in a proper Scottish court was simply not there. The best the judges dared to do was to acquit one of the defendants and pass along the responsibility for acquitting the other to a higher court. But to the dismay of the Libyan defense team, the designated court of appeals evaded the dangerous issue by disqualifying itself. So now an appeal was being prepared for another high court, complete with new evidence further discrediting the prosecution case.

    And in fact, five months later, on June 28, 2007, the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission, which had been investigating the case since 2003, recommended that Abdel Basset al-Megrahi be granted a second appeal against his conviction. The Commission said it had uncovered six separate grounds for considering that the conviction may have been an injustice. The announcement caused a sensation in the small circles following the affair. It seemed that Scottish justice was courageous enough to assert itself and allow hearings that would expose the CIA frame-up.

    That sort of thing may happen in movies, but the real world is something else.

    A sordid bargain

    What happened after that helped set the stage for the NATO attack on Libya this year.

    Time passed. It was two years later, in April 2009, that the appeal finally was due to get underway. But meanwhile, behind the scenes, secret bargaining was going on, amid leaks and rumors.

    On August 21, 2009, on grounds that he was suffering from terminal cancer, Abdel Basset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi was released from prison in Scotland by the Scottish justice minister Kenny MacAskill and allowed to “go home to die”.

    Now, it so happens that in 2007, Tony Blair went to Libya to negotiate a British-Libyan agreement with Gaddafi covering law, extradition and prisoner transfer. Under this Prisoner Transfer Agreement, Libyan authorities asked for Megrahi to be sent home due to his illness.

    The catch was that the Prisoner Transfer Agreement could be applied only when no legal proceedings were outstanding. So in order to benefit from it, Megrahi had to drop his appeal.

    The matter is confused by the fact that he was formally released on “compassionate” grounds. One way or another, the deal was clear: al-Megrahi could go home, but the appeal was dead. Hans Kochler, UN-appointed special observer to the Lockerbie trial, thought Megrahi may have been subjected to “morally outrageous” blackmail to abandon his appeal against his will.

    The sordid aspect of this bargain is that it deprived Megrahi of the right to clear his name, while leaving the CIA frame-up officially unexposed. There was nothing to counter the chorus of protestations from Hillary Clinton on down denouncing Scotland for having “freed the Lockerbie bomber”. Two years later, news that Megrahi has failed to die has elicited further indignation from Western media, who see this as proof that the UK had “sold the Lockerbie bomber for Libyan oil”. Naturally, the impression must be conveyed that the sly Libyan dictator tricked the naïve but greedy Brits into selling out their principles for petroleum.

    But it is just as likely that it was the naïve Libyan dictator who was tricked by the unscrupulous British into thinking he had made a “gentleman’s agreement”. Rather than pursue an appeal which risked causing acute embarrassment to Western authorities, Megrahi could be released and the matter forgotten. The popular rejoicing at Megrahi’s return home was muted in Libya, but Western media pretended to be scandalized that a convicted mass murderer received a hero’s welcome. In reality, he was welcomed home discreetly as an innocent man who had been unjustly convicted, not as a mass murderer. And whenever he has been able to make himself heard, he has reiterated his desire to clear his name.


  3. more on Juan Cole:
    He says: “The US has an interest in there not being massacres of people for merely exercising their right to free assembly”.

    I would almost dare to hope that the USA could be trusted to adopt this as a principle and find a way to stop massacres abroad without killing a lot of people, innocent or guilty, with our forces having no immunity and with everything recorded on tape via gun cameras or any other sufficient means.

    The arrests outside the White House for the last week show, with even just a sideways glance, that our government must feel that the laws of freedom of assembly bring more honor to the country in the breach than in the observance.

  4. Sometimes there are no words. The always eloquent attorney who writes under the username ‘Seneca Doane’ has the most moving, wrenching and awful story about the Qaddafi family yet. There is nothing I can add to this. Just read SD’s words and watch the embedded video. If you had any doubt about who these sadistic psychopaths really are, this will settle it once and for all.


  5. tomdarch mentions Juan Cole:


    Professor denied appointment at Yale sues CIA and FBI
    Online Exclusive

    “The decision to not appoint Juan Cole was a political decision, whether you’re for Juan Cole or against Juan Cole,” said a professor in the History Department, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he previously received a threat for speaking in Cole’s favor. “[Professors] tried to portray this guy Juan Cole as an anti-Semite and an anti-American.”

    By David Burt, Alison Griswold

    Saturday, July 16, 2011

    Juan Cole, a noted Middle East expert and outspoken critic of the Israeli government who was denied a faculty appointment at Yale in 2006, sued the CIA and FBI on Wednesday.

    The University of Michigan history professor and the American Civil Liberties Union have filed a case asking for the “immediate expedited processing” of Freedom of Information Act requests for documents pertaining to Cole that they submitted to the CIA, FBI, Office of the Director of National Intelligence and Department of Justice on June 23. The lawsuit marks an attempt by Cole to determine whether the George W. Bush administration sought to discredit him and if the CIA spied on him illegally.

    “The CIA is specifically forbidden, in its charter and by statute, from spying on American citizens,” Cole told the News in an email earlier this month, prior to going to court. “It is shocking because it shows how criminal and insecure the Bush White House was.”

    Neither the CIA nor the FBI had responded to the initial FOIA requests, Cole wrote on his blog, prompting him and the ACLU to launch the lawsuit.

    “At the heart of this action is whether the CIA, FBI and other agencies undertook an investigation of a U.S. citizen for the simple fact that he was a critic of U.S. government policy,” ACLU lawyers Michael Steinberg and Zachary Katznelson wrote in their complaint. “Such a chilling of First Amendment freedoms, if it did in fact take place, would send shock waves through the public arena, threatening to limit the open debate that makes our democracy strong.”

    The lawsuit was filed just one week after Yale rejected a request from the Middle East Studies Association for an investigation into whether the Bush administration influenced Yale’s decision to reject Cole’s appointment in 2006.

    MESA had already contacted then-Provost Andrew Hamilton in June 2006 to voice concerns that political pressure had prevented Cole’s appointment, but Hamilton replied ten days later that “an individual’s political views are never taken into account in making appointment decisions.” The organization renewed its efforts on Cole’s behalf after the New York Times reported June 15 that a former senior C.I.A. official claimed members of the Bush administration had attempted to discredit Cole.

    Provost Peter Salovey said in a July 7 letter to MESA President Suad Joseph that there was “no evidence of inappropriate external interference or other impropriety” in Cole’s appointment decision, and that no one from the government or the Bush administration had contacted Salovey, Levin or the deans overseeing the appointment process.

    Despite his assurances, the deliberations surrounding Cole’s appointment decision have long been questioned by Yale faculty members.

    Cole was initially selected for a tenured professorship in modern Middle East studies by a University search committee and approved by both the Sociology and History Departments. But the Senior Appointments Committee, an interdepartmental body that reviews appointments to tenured positions, ultimately voted against offering Cole the job.

    “The decision to not appoint Juan Cole was a political decision, whether you’re for Juan Cole or against Juan Cole,” said a professor in the History Department, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he previously received a threat for speaking in Cole’s favor. “[Professors] tried to portray this guy Juan Cole as an anti-Semite and an anti-American.”

    The appointment met intense opposition in the History Department, said Glenda Gilmore, a history professor who supported Cole’s appointment. Gilmore said she was willing to discuss the History Department faculty vote only because the results of the vote had already been leaked by one or more faculty members immediately following the meeting in 2006. Conservative bloggers Scott Johnson and Michael Rubin both published the results of the vote on May 10, 2006.

    Thirteen professors voted to approve the appointment, seven opposed it and three abstained from the vote.

    Gilmore said the opposition was led in an organized fashion by “one history professor who had associations with Bush and the Bush White House,” and she said she thought the presentations arguing against the appointment given by about six professors seemed coordinated.

    “They seemed to be following a script as one by one they brought up different issues,” she said.

    While Yale was considering the appointment, a stream of editorials in various publications criticized the potential appointment, often arguing that the content of Cole’s blog made him unfit for the professorship.

    The Senior Appointments Committee ultimately rejected Cole’s candidacy on June 2, 2006. (end of article)

  6. Woah. Deep calming breaths…. This sounds a bit more like a World Net Daily post than what I expect from this blog.

    No, Egypt, Libya and Tunisia aren’t going to magically form governmental structures like France or Germany. They aren’t going to be what we wish they would, but then, they aren’t likely to become new Saudi Arabias or Irans, either. Nor are any of them going to do as the Gazans did and elect Hamas for a government.

    For the perspective of a US Academic who has been working in this region for decades and actually knows what he’s talking about, please check in with:

    Prof. Cole is no fan of religious law or repressing women, but he’s pretty calm regarding the role of the religious right in these countries re-formation.

    A poll in Egypt shows that the majority want a religiously based set of laws? Sure, wouldn’t a poll in the US find that the majority of Americans would want US law to be rooted in Christianity? (The majority would probably be shocked to hear that it wasn’t currently…) I don’t worry too much about Egypt for several reasons: The Muslim Brotherhood has been relatively moderate over the last decade or so, and much of its support has been the result of it being the only tenable opposition to Mubarak. In an open, multi-party system, a good deal of their support will go to other parties since voters would then have some real options. Regarding banning bikinis or covering over ancient art… pu-lease. Banning Egyptians from wearing bikinis in public, maybe, but Egypt’s economy is so dependent on tourism that we aren’t going to see anyone glopping the world’s largest ball of wax on the Sphinx any time soon.

    Also, while it’s sad to say so, the “middle class” really runs the show in much of the middle east – particularly a better off country like Egypt. If anything, the problem there is likely to be that not enough will change – that the military is going to hang on to power, and that folks like the Muslim Brotherhood on the right and other groups on the left won’t have enough say going forward. I don’t know for sure, but I get the impression that the Egyptian military is more like the Turkish military, and acts as a secularizing influence in government and society. (In contrast to the Pakistani ISI…)

    While I don’t support a rigid stance from the new Libyan government regarding extradition, the case of al-Megrahi is not a good, clear cut one. He has already been tried, convicted and then released by a foreign court, plus, if he really is ill, that’s all the more reason to not send him back to a foreign prison. It isn’t surprising that in forming a new fledgling government, they would take a fairly nationalistic stance regarding extradition to foreign powers.

    Don’t forget that over the last few years, many countries and politicians, acting on behalf of western oil companies, have been buddying up with Gadaffi – e.g. both Labour and Conservative UK governments and John McCain. There’s a certain irony if the very folks who were doing oil deals with the Colonel a year or two ago are now making demands of or wagging their fingers at the new government. I can see why the TNC wouldn’t be keen on handing this guy over to the UK…

  7. Hey, people have a noodley-given right to screw up without some dick Tater calling the shots. When did the edges of a frying pan ever make the heat more tolerable? Long live the griddle!!

  8. We hailed the loss of Tito in Yugoslavia only to unleash the war between the Serbs and Croats. History is rife with unseen consequences. That is why I feel letting country’s work out their own problems, without US interference is the smartest foreign policy in the long run. God save us from the foreign
    policy expert establishment, because they invariably are going to cause more bad things than good.

  9. Gee who would ever guess that toppling a strongman dictatorship could unleash chaos? That’s never happened before. Thank FSM that Kadaffy is gone and Saddam is gone and Mubarak is gone and Assad is on his way out. Good luck to all the warm and wonderful people in those Allah forsaken places. Many, if not all, of them are going to need every bit of help from Allah, Yahweh (they are the same ‘being’ after all) FSM and a hand from Shiva to avoid a replacement that is not at least as bad as the recently departed. I hope the best for them every day but fear we have sewn the wind and harvest time is just around the corner.

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