Interview with a Libyan Dissident

by Matthew Shaffer

Over at Egypt Watch – which is by now in fact watching all the unrest in the Middle East — I have an interview with Najla Abdurrahman, a Libyan-American dissident who’s spent the past several years studying and exposing Gaddafi. She tells her fascinating story, gives some very helpful background information on Libya’s history, requests the imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya, and makes the case that Libya’s tribal structure will actually help stabilize it in a post-Gaddafi world — a compelling case I haven’t seen elsewhere in all the commentary about Libya. 

Here are some highlights:

Under Gaddafi things swiftly deteriorated. He instituted so many populist policies that were just insane – he essentially abolished the market. I’m not an economist, but from what I understand he instituted policies based off his adage that, “the whole country there are no wage-workers, all partners” — so quasi-socialist, populist measures that destroyed free enterprise. At the same time he monopolized the  oil resources. The infrastructure was completely neglected.

I can tell you from going to Libya that, for a country that’s so rich — in terms of resources and the total wealth there — teachers don’t get paid for months….

Under Gaddafi’s regime, the rule of law has been absent for 40 years in Libya. There has only been one rule: you don’t go against the regime. When I have gone to Libya I have been amazed by how much Libyans have simply had to police themselves, because there literally was no rule of law, no constitution (there was a law book, but it was not enforced). So the tribal structures actually became very important in organizing people in a country where organization for decades has been proscribed under penalty of jail and death. So I feel hopeful that these networks will actually help to organize people, and will prove to be a positive at the end…


Now it’s too late for a weapons embargo. What’s the point of that now?  Europe has already sold Gaddafi weapons that he’s using on the people right now. I don’t understand the logic of a weapons-embargo now.

What people have been asking for — and I don’t understand why they’re not doing it — is the implementation of a no-fly zone over the country. But NATO has rejected it. Everybody seems to reject it, and we don’t understand why

It’s all here

The Corner

The one and only.