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Welcome to America: Gadhafi at United Nations

Farrakhan joins welcome efforts extended to Libyan leader, African Union President on U.S. visit

By Brian E. Muhammad

(September 25, New York, Sri Lanka Guardian) A longtime revolutionary and statesman, Muammar Gadhafi, leader of the Socialist People's Libyan Arab Great Jamahiriya and chairman of the African Union, enjoys a valid reputation as a progressive supporter of just, but often unpopular causes in the eyes of the West. The Libyan leader and his small, but oil-rich North African nation have a history of clashing with Western powers—often over President Gadhafi's backing of movements that met with their disapproval.

But his first ever visit to the United States, slated for September 23, to address the United Nations marks a significant turn in history. It could herald a new era for relations with the United States, and by extension the Western world as well as a potentially major shift since the Libyan leader came to power on September 1, 1969.

Ahead of the visit, there were mixed feelings and controversy reported in the media with support and opposition to his visit. Animosity was fueled by a combination of negative propaganda about Mr. Gadhafi and the recent release of the Libyan national convicted of the 1988 bombing of a passenger jet over Lockerbie Scotland, killing 270 people. Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, 57, was granted an early reprieve from a Scotland prison on compassionate grounds because he has advanced prostate cancer.

The release added fodder for critics who wanted to block the visit. In Englewood, N.J., there was loud opposition to having the head of state utilize a compound there owned by the Libyan government as his place to stay. Opponents said the release of Mr. Meghrahi, who Libyans have insisted is innocent, was an insult and Mr. Gadhafi was unwelcome in New Jersey.

There were also debates about whether the Meghrahi release was made for political reasons and tied to British business interests. Britain oversees Scotland's international relations, but not its internal politics and decisions. British officials and Scottish authorities denied that the release was tied to any business deals or proposed deals. Not everyone, however, was convinced the official accounts were true.

In recent years, the British and American governments have been courting Libya to take advantage of business opportunities lost during years of international sanctions.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown was placed in a difficult position, having to explain the course of meetings between various members of his government and Libyan officials—and talks between Libya and his predecessor Tony Blair. British opposition leaders accused the government of “double dealing” out of desperation for Libyan oil contracts.
On the other hand, a world AP report said Libyan-British relations are still tense after cooperation was suspended by Libya with British police over an unsolved killing of a policewoman outside the embassy in London. Tensions rose after reports surfaced about a British-led plot to assassinate Mr. Gadhafi. British officials, however, hope this can be reversed. Significant progress has been made on relations between the two countries since Libya renounced terrorism and abandoned its program to develop nuclear weapons.

The changes are not surprising, said Mark Fancher, an atttorney and member of the All African People's Revolutionary Party.

“The fact that this has happened with Gadhafi is neither unique nor surprising, it has depended entirely upon whether the West has perceived friendship with him to be advantageous or a detriment which really determines their relationship with him as head of state in Libya,” said Mr. Fancher.

Though defined for years as a villain by American and British media and political figures, Mr. Gadhafi enjoys a different reputation among liberation movements and in much of Africa. Millions see Libya's leader as a powerful defender of the weak and oppressed and see his visit as a victory for those who fight for freedom, justice and equality.

And on the international political stage where good men often die young, Mr. Gadhafi has withstood the test of time, becoming a major powerbroker in Europe and in Africa. In April 2009, Libya hosted the Tripoli Trade Fair that attracted companies from 35 nations, including a large number of African Union firms that were represented in three pavilions, according to the European Union Information Center.

“A high presence of African countries in this fair is very important and we worked hard to invite all the African countries to participate. We all know that the strategic market for Libyan products is Africa,” said the fair's director.

“Brother Gadhafi” as he is known throughout the world is in a small group of leaders—which include Cuban leader Fidel Castro—who have the distinction of outlasting Western enemies. Mr. Gadhafi was formerly persona-non-grata for every U.S. administration from President Richard Nixon to President Bill Clinton—until the current warming of U.S. relations at the end of the George W. Bush administration.

When Mr. Gadhafi led the Al-Fateh revolution against King Idriss—a minion of Western imperialists—his first order of business was to nationalize the economy to benefit and develop the Libyan people. Then he evicted American and British forces by shutting down the Wheelus military base in Tripoli. He condemned the base as a remnant of European colonialism that had to be closed and its facilities turned over to the Libyan people.

As a visionary he transformed the oil rich country into a popular people's democracy, eradicating policies driven by the multinational corporations who exploited Libya's resources.

It was once inconceivable that the man President Reagan characterized as the “mad dog of the East” would be stepping off a plane on the soil of America. It was unbelievable that a man who was the target of the most expensive assassination attempt by the U.S. government, when U.S. planes bombed Benghazi and Tripoli in 1986, would be addressing the United Nations where Libya has a seat on the Security Council and chairs the General Assembly and be received by supporters and friends who have benefited from his generosity and the fruits of his struggle.

“Muammar Gadhafi is an example of how Western imperialism does not understand the word ‘permanent' when it comes to friends and allies. They change their friends and allies depending upon what is strategically advantageous to them from both a foreign policy standpoint and whether U.S. based corporations will have the ability and capacity to make profits,” said Mr. Fancher.

Though Libya was strained under 17 years of international sanctions and isolation; it did not lose money during the current world economic downturn that hurt its historical adversaries England and America.

During the sanction years, Libya still supported causes around the world, including the Irish Republican Army, the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, and the Palestinian liberation struggle.

Libya has also been a friend to the Nation of Islam. Mr. Gadhafi loaned the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad $3 million in 1972 to purchase a Greek orthodox church in Chicago. Mr. Muhammad converted the edifice into a mosque and the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan repurchased the property and it remains the National Headquarters for the Nation of Islam.

During the 1980s, Mr. Gadhafi gave a $5 million loan to aid an N.O.I. initiative called P.O.W.E.R. (People Organized and Working for Economic Rebirth). At the height of U.S. aggression toward Libya, Min. Farrakhan was a major voice and force in a movement to demand the U.S. not attack Libya.

It was during the sanction years that Mr. Gadhafi turned more toward the rest of Africa, jumpstarting the transition of the former Organization of African Unity into the current African Union (AU). He financed, supported and helped give life to the vision of a United States of Africa—an idea birthed in the Diaspora by Pan African thinkers of the 19th and 20th century like Henry Sylvester Williams, from Trinidad, who called the first Pan-African Congress in London and George Charles, of the “African Emigration Association,” who officially took the concept before the U.S. Congress in 1886. Later the Honorable Marcus Garvey, George Padmore and others took up the mantle of a United Africa, which inspired Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, the first president of Ghana who was educated in the United States.

The idea developed further through Africa's leaders and founding fathers of the OAU—Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, Ahmed Sekou Toure of Guinea, Ahmed Ben Bella of Algeria and others. In February 2009, Mr. Gadhafi assumed the chairmanship of the African Union.

After all of the sanctions and isolation; eight U.S. presidents; a U.S. invasion; bogus propaganda and false accusations on terrorism, both Muammar Gadhafi and the Libyan people are still standing—and the freedom fighter's influence may be growing stronger.
-Sri Lanka Guardian

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