Unprepared to acknowledge his catastrophic mis-assessment of the situation in Libya, unreconstructed Stalinist Seamus Milne prefers to serve up more wholesale historical revisionism. Milne has throughout this year denied that Gaddafi's forces were about to commit a massacre in Benghazi in February.
Today he states in the Guardian that: “Naturally we can never know what would have happened without Nato's intervention. But there is in fact no evidence – including from other rebel-held towns Gaddafi re-captured – to suggest he had either the capability or even the intention to carry out such an atrocity against an armed city of 700,000.”
No evidence? Benghazi is of course the city where 1,200 were massacred in Abu Salim prison in 1996. Gaddafi reportedly declared in February that he would show "no mercy" to the uprising in Benghazi. If Milne had bothered to read the accounts of journalists on the ground between 18-23 February (including in his own paper), of killings in Benghazi, of the pilots who mutinied rather than fire on the rebels, or of the artillery used against the city, he might find some evidence.
Better still, speak to Libyans who were in Benghazi during that period, who will tell him of the tanks massing outside the city, of the helicopters flying over head or the sounds of gunfire and bombs falling in their neighbourhoods. He should speak to members of the British Libyan Solidarity Campaign who will give him first-hand account of what was happening during those fateful days.
To question Gaddafi's capability to carry out such a massacre simply defies logic. The Guardian on the same day (in G2) reports that Gaddafi spent $30bn on weapons between 1970 and 2009, importing from Russia alone 2,000 tanks, 2,000 armoured fighting vehicles and 350 artillery weapons. If that’s not a “capability” to wage war, I don’t know what is.
Milne’s article also contains a nasty, barely-stated pro- Gaddafi undertone. He writes: “But for Libyans, it has meant a loss of ownership of their own future and the effective imposition of a western-picked administration of Gaddafi defectors and US and British intelligence assets.”
Libyans did not have “ownership of their own future” under Gaddafi. What they had was the complete absence of liberty and the miserable prospect of more repression. They were not even “independent” of the Western powers since Gaddafi was brought back into the fold by Tony Blair. Nor was Libya free of the multinational corporations – look at the energy firms and the arms dealers who were knee-deep in contracts with his regime.
Milne utterly misunderstood events in Libya, because his politics are focused on the negative (opposing whatever some of the big power do), rather than on what working people actually do to improve their lives. The Libyan fighters are just as much a part of the Arab spring as the great protesters in Egypt, Syria, Tunisia and elsewhere – and they even managed to topple the dictator. Genuine socialists should rejoice in Gaddafi's downfall.