The folly of General Haftar’s coup attempt in Libya

The Libyan people revolted against Muammar Qaddafi because of his tyrannical ways. They do not want another dictator.

Jamal Khashoggi
Jamal Khashoggi
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Defected General Khalifa Haftar is attempting a military coup, saying he wants to end chaos, terrorism and lawlessness, and to build a new Libya. Haftar lived in the United States, where there has never been a military coup despite the abundance of weapons there. He received his American citizenship and exercised his right to vote. Therefore, he must have learnt there the values of democracy, justice and law.

Read also: Old CIA links return to haunt Libya’s Haftar

Haftar could have easily become a member of the Libyan parliament to protect his legitimacy, strengthen his position, and conduct new elections that may grant him the majority of votes. By virtue of his extensive military experience, he would have gathered a real national army, not just a military faction. He could have become a consensual national leader like the founding fathers of the United States.

The Libyan people revolted against Muammar Qaddafi because of his tyrannical ways. They do not want another dictator, regardless of how much they want an end to chaos and insecurity

Jamal Khashoggi

The late U.S. President George Washington established the basic framework for democracy, which is the rotation of power, and that no leader should hold a monopoly on authority, because one day they will be normal citizens who can be held accountable. Why did Haftar not learn from this example?

He wants to “cleanse” Libya of his political opponents and put elected members of parliament on trial. How will he do this, by sentencing them to death or detaining them? How many prisons are needed to house all those who oppose him? People who take part in coups do not usually like opposition. In fact, they fear it. This is why they often rely on oppression, ensuring a cycle of violence. Is it worth it?

Haftar as a salvation?

The Libyan people revolted against Muammar Gaddafi because of his tyrannical ways. They do not want another dictator, regardless of how much they want an end to chaos and insecurity. Some may see Haftar as their salvation, but his success will lead to oppression, because he will eventually face massive opposition, and will send his opponents to prisons and guillotines. This cannot be victory or a permanent situation. Fear prevails over the current regime and the people. If he does not end this battle, Libya will not be settled for years.

In 1934, the United States was going through a very difficult period economically. American businessmen and industrialists told General Smedley Butler that they would financially support him if he carried out a coup against the government, and that they were ready to finance and equip half a million troops to invade Washington.

Butler did not like the idea and reported the plot to the press, saying: “I believe in the value of democracy, and if you can rally 500,000 troops to fight for fascism, then I can rally 500,000 more who would fight back fiercely for democracy, but then we would find ourselves in the middle of a devastating civil war.”

Haftar failed to learn from this wisdom during his 20 years in the United States. If you are able to rally tens of thousands of soldiers to fight for what you believe is right in Libya, there are others who can rally fighters, resulting in a raging civil war.

This article was first published in al-Hayat on May 24, 2014.


Jamal Khashoggi is a Saudi journalist, columnist, author, and general manager of the upcoming Al Arab News Channel. He previously served as a media aide to Prince Turki al Faisal while he was Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States. Khashoggi has written for various daily and weekly Arab newspapers, including Asharq al-Awsat, al-Majalla and al-Hayat, and was editor-in-chief of the Saudi-based al-Watan. He was a foreign correspondent in Afghanistan, Algeria, Kuwait, Sudan, and other Middle Eastern countries. He is also a political commentator for Saudi-based and international news channels.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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