Libyan revolution – languid but not liquid

Remember Libya? You could be forgiven for having forgotten about the revolution taking place in Libya, what with our current voyeuristic obsession with a scandal involving amoral media, pwned politicians and corrupt police officers. I realise that one is supposed to prefix such charges with the word “alleged”, but for the sake of narrative flow I think we can dispense with such minor details.

Diplomats may be meeting today with Hillary Clinton to discuss the Libyan crisis, but it must be said that the Libyan people’s struggle for freedom has so far received only lukewarm support from the international community. That, despite NATO’s considerable investment in bombs dropped from on high on the Gaddafi regime’s forces. Revolutionary fighters are reportedly making ground, but it is a slow, painful and costly process.

The Libyan revolution is costly in terms of human sacrifice, but also money – an issue discussed in some detail in a report broadcast last night on the BBC’s Newsnight programme. Paul Wood’s field report is worth watching in full, but I was especially struck by the attention given to the matter of financing the Libyan revolution. At around 41 minutes into the programme, Wood interviews Transitional National Council finance minister Ali Tarhouni, who shows all too clearly his frustration with the situation on the ground, and the prevarication of the international community…

“We’re not asking anyone to give us money. This is our frigging money, and I’m tired of saying that.”

The minister has a point. It is a question of releasing to the TNC resources that already belong to the Libyan people, but are currently frozen as a result of international sanctions. We are not talking about western charity, but rather political decisions that should be made by the international community. For whatever reason, they are not being made in a timely fashion.

Tarhouni has every reason to be tired of repeating himself, for he has made the same point on numerous occasions. Take, for example, an interview in May with MSNBC, in which the finance minister spoke of the war economy he is charged with running…

"We’re faced with the same sanctions as Gaddafi. I don’t have access to any foreign exchange to cover any purchases, open lines of credits to merchants, so that’s a very challenging aspect to what I do."

It is difficult to understand why the international community has failed to give the Libyan revolution its full and unequivocal backing. Going by what journalists have revealed (real journalists – they still exist!) about the balance of forces opposed to the Gaddafi regime, the TNC offers real hope for genuine and stable liberal democracy in the region.