Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Political Insanity

I suppose you've all heard by now about the Indiana deputy attorney general who urged Scott Walker to use "live ammunition" against Wisconsin protestors. The Chicago Tribune now reports that the guy has been fired:
The Indiana attorney general's office says a deputy attorney general "is no longer employed" by the state after Mother Jones magazine reported that he had used his Twitter account to urge police to use live ammunition against Wisconsin protesters.

The magazine reported Wednesday that Jeffrey Cox had responded "Use live ammunition" to a posting on its Twitter account reporting that riot police might sweep protesters out of the Wisconsin capitol, where they have been demonstrating against labor legislation.

The Indiana attorney general's office says in a statement that while it respects employees' free speech rights, public servants are held to a "higher standard" and should "strive for civility."

The Associated Press called Indianapolis phone listings under Cox's name seeking comment, but could not locate him.

Remember the indignation of the far right-wing pundits and politicians at being called on the violence of their rhetoric following the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords and numerous other people in her vicinity? That was only last month, right? So I have to ask: was this guy serious, or did he imagine he was making an amusing rhetorical gesture? Or perhaps he was merely sharing a fantasy in public?

In the US, the official attitude toward police violence openly excuses every and all injuries (including deaths) inflicted by officers on not only violent suspects, but also nonviolent suspects and bystanders. (Including on people whose homes are "mistakenly" invaded by heavily armed swat teams who think nothing of shooting up the place.) Are people who collectively engage in direct action-- "protestors"-- considered suspects? Probably. It doesn't matter that nonviolent direct action is a longstanding feature of democracy and is often inspired by the desire to see justice done, often serves the highest civic goals it's possible to have. The official culture of this country has no respect for ordinary citizens without political clout or billions in off-shore loot.

Because of the amount of bloodshed being visited on "protestors" in the Middle East right now--and the amount of attention that bloodsed has been getting from the US media--the question about what Cox was doing or saying in his egregious "exercise of free speech" is one we ought to be thinking hard about.

What, to be more pointed, is the relationship between advice-- or a joke, if it was one-- about shooting protesters on the one hand and a head of state's ordering military office to bomb and strafe his own capitol city where that state's citizens are rising up against a repressive dictator on the other hand?

Not, of course, that violence necessarily ends "protest." Au contraire. Qaddafi may be showing himself willing to strafe and bomb his own country (adding new meaning to the word "bloodbath," but members of his government continue to desert him and large parts of Libya have gone over to the dissidets. Here's Juan Cole's description in a post titled 30% of Libya in Hands of Youth Movement:
If we begin at the eastern border of Libya with Egypt this morning and move west, we find the country is now divided in two, with the east largely in the hands of dissidents and the West still under the thumb of Qaddafi’s security forces. The border with Egypt is in the hands of the Youth Movement, and the Egyptian government at the Bedouin village of Sallum (pop. 14,000) is allowing the border to remain open, permitting supplies and medicine to flow into the eastern cities. This Egyptian policy is tacit support for the revolt.

Then Tobruk is in dissident hands, with what soldiers there are having joined the revolt and now directing traffic and keeping order for the new, civic leadership. Tobruk, a city of 300,000 (about 5% of Libya’s population), is the last major stop in the east on the way to the Egyptian border.

Aljazeera Arabic is showing footage of the Libyan military command in the district of al-Jabal al-Akhdar declaring its allegiance to the protest movement. This Arabic news article confirms that report and gives further details.

Does this news mean that the capital of the district, al-Bayda, has fallen to the Youth Movement? On Tuesday, wire services were reporting that al-Bayda (pop. 200,000) was still in the hands of Qaddafi loyalists, despite fierce fighting between protesters and foreign mercenaries in Qaddafi’s employ. An eyewitness said that the mercenaries had committed a massacre in which 26 were killed in al-Bayda.

(Update: Aljazeera Arabic is reporting at noon Wednesday that al-Bayda and Dirna are now outside the control of Qaddafi forces and that the east of the country is pretty uniformly in rebellion.

Benghazi to the west of al-Bayda has a population of about 700,000, and it has been in the hands of the protesters for several days.
As far as I can tell, the political insanity in Libya (and in Wisconsin and other places in the US) is all on the part of the rulers rather than the revolting ruled.

1 comment:

Kristin said...

It's insanity on the part of the ruling class, but at the same time it follows an all too predictable pattern. The rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and then there's a revolt, and lots of people get killed, and the poor get some of their power back. I'm watching Wisconsin and Libya with a mixture of excitement and anxiety.

Facebook has really surprised me in all this. News like this comes at me within hours, or minutes, from multiple sources from multiple friendship groups. It was only about six months ago that I was astonished at this sort of phenomenon on blogs, and it seemed like a revitalization of freedom of the press, but being in the middle of things, it's hard to see how it will all turn out!