Photograph by Bob Baldwin

Former U.S. Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney says the "so-called" Arab Spring is actually a consequence of neocon policy initiatives. The former Green Party presidential candidate spoke at Cleveland State University on Aug. 22.

The day following the fall of Tripoli to CIA/NATO backed rebels, Cynthia McKinney spoke at Cleveland State University in downtown Cleveland about her fact-finding mission to Libya. The Aug. 22 event, which had been arranged weeks in advance of the dramatic events transpiring in Libya, was part of a 21-city tour by the six-term congresswoman and Green Party presidential candidate.

Flanked by an honor guard of the New Black Panther Party dressed in black uniforms and black berets, McKinney opened her remarks by drawing parallels between the way the mainstream media has repeatedly lied to the public about Libya and quotes from Nazi Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebels – “If you repeat a lie a thousand times, people will come to believe it." – and Muammar Qaddafi – “If you tell one truth, you will smash a thousand lies.”

As she pointed out, ever since the Spanish-American War, the American media has been complicit with the imperialist war aims of the U.S. government. Recent examples she cited included the propaganda leading up to the Vietnam War, the Gulf War and the war in Iraq.

The talk was sponsored by an ad hoc coalition of organizations in the greater Cleveland area. Sponsors included: the Cleveland Peace Action Coalition, the New Black Panther Party, Nation of Islam, Palestinian Right of Return, the Cleveland Arab American Association, Code Pink and Black Student Union, among others.

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In regard to media disinformation, the day after Cynthia McKinney spoke in Cleveland, Saife al-Islam, the oldest son of Muammar Qaddafi, whom the mainstream media had claimed to have been captured by rebels, turned up a free man in Tripoli to speak to reporters. The rebels later claimed he somehow escaped. The story of Saife’s miraculous escape was soon dropped, to be replaced by hype over the rebel capture of Qaddafi’s compound, which had been bombed for days by NATO warplanes.
"Since the Spanish-American War, the American media has been complicit with the imperialist war aims of the U.S. government."
At the time the rebellion broke out, McKinney was in Libya, attending a Pan African Conference for Africans throughout the diaspora. She had been invited to the conference as a result of her participation with the Gaza aid flotillas. She spoke about that experience.

During her first attempt to bring aid to Gaza, the ship she was on was rammed by an Israeli naval vessel in international waters in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. She said she wasn’t sure if she would survive. The experience was particularly harrowing because she doesn’t know how to swim. She said that the sacrifices made by heroes of hers, such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Fred Hampton and Malcolm X, gave her inspiration during this ordeal.

On her second attempt she was abducted by Israeli forces and detained in an Israeli jail for seven days. Inspired by Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” she wrote a “Letter from an Israeli Jail” on July 6, 2009.

She claims that media reports that Qaddafi forces fired on “peaceful protesters” was a lie manufactured by the mainstream media as a pretext for war. According to McKinney the demonstrators were financed and armed by NATO and Israeli Special Forces to foment unrest designed to topple Qaddafi's 41-year regime.

McKinney’s claims of media disinformation about atrocities alleged to have been committed by Qaddafi are substantiated by Amnesty International. In a July 2, 2011, investigation, the organization found that the Qaddafi's alleged crimes of shooting unarmed civilians and other abuses for which he is being charged by the International Criminal Court in The Hague are unsubstantiated. They did find, however, that the rebels were untruthful and manufactured false evidence.2 “Human rights groups: charges against Gaddafi unsupported by evidence;” Michael Prysner;;

The “humanitarian assistance” wound up resulting in the round-the-clock bombing of Libya by NATO warplanes, including the bombing of Tripoli, a city of 2 million inhabitants. McKinney recalls that one night during the bombing of Tripoli she counted 89 explosions.

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The administration of Barack Obama was a key promoter of the war along with the governments of Great Britain, France and Canada. Unlike all previous administrations before, including both Bush Administrations, the Obama White House refused to seek congressional authorization for U.S. military participation in the war against Libya. The excuse given was that it wasn’t a war, but rather a “kinetic military action.”
"Unlike all previous administrations before, including both Bush Administrations, the Obama White House refused to seek congressional authorization for U.S. military participation in the war against Libya."
U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, pointed out at the time, by disregarding the War Powers Act, Obama committed an impeachable offense.

As McKinney noted, only six members of the Congressional Black Caucus voted for Kucinich’s resolution against the War with Libya. She also pointed out that Kucinich, who represents the Cleveland area, will be fighting a tough re-election bid now that the district he serves has been redrawn to include a higher percentage of Republicans.

McKinney, who was the first African-American woman to represent Georgia in the House of Representatives, was one of the only members of Congress to question the suspicious circumstances surrounding the events of 9/11, used to justify the war in Afghanistan and the broader War on Terror. As a result of her stand questioning the Bush administration’s role in 9/11, her opponents, led by the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), poured tens of thousands of dollars into the campaign coffers of her opponent in the Democratic Primary, Denise Majette. Acording to McKinney, donors, many of whom were from out of state, raised over $1 million to defeat her in 2002.

McKinney won back her seat in 2004, only to be unseated in the 2006 primary, following an incident in which a Capitol policeman refused to allow her entry to the capitol building because she wasn’t wearing a congressional lapel pin. According to the police officer, McKinney struck him in the chest. The incident became a national sensation. Her Democratic colleagues in Congress and civil rights leaders largely refused to come to her support.

McKinney pointed out that during that campaign her opponent raised over $100,000 in one day from wealthy donors. After losing for a second time, McKinney left the Democratic Party. In 2008 she ran as the Green Party candidate for President of the United States against Barack Obama and John McCain.

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McKinney listed a number of reasons why the overthrow of Qaddafi was desirable from the standpoint of the western powers and Israel. First and foremost is Libya’s abundance of natural resources, notably oil and water. Libya has the largest oil reserves on the continent of Africa. It is also home to the Great Underground River, the largest human-made project of underground pipes and aqueducts financed and developed by the Libyan government to supply water to cities and villages throughout the Sahara Desert.
"U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, pointed out at the time, by disregarding the War Powers Act, Obama committed an impeachable offense."
Libya under Qaddafi has been an attractive investment opportunity for the Chinese. When the NATO bombing commenced, nearly 36,000 Chinese workers had to be evacuated. At the time of the UN vote in favor of a no-fly zone, both China and Russia could have blocked the resolution by casting a veto. Both countries abstained, thus tacitly supporting NATO’s bombing campaign while publicly appearing to oppose it. Why they did this is not clear.

McKinney believes that one of the major reasons Qaddafi had to be removed was Libya’s role in financing the development of a united Africa. According to the former congresswoman, the Qaddafi regime has provided countries in Africa with as much as $90 billion in economic assistance. She highlighted the fact that Qaddafi had financed the anti-apartheid forces in South African when it was under white rule.

Under Qaddafi, as McKinney noted, Libyans enjoy free health care, free college education and interest-free housing. As with Castro in Cuba and Chavez in Venezuela, Qaddafi posed an ideological threat to the global capitalist oligarchy by offering an alternative means of development for people of the Third World. It was for this reason he was vilified by the western media, and for this reason his government had to be toppled.

McKinney believes that the so-called Arab Spring is nothing more than the policies set forth in action by prominent neocons in their paper, “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm.” The paper was prepared for the government of Israel by a study group led by former Reagan assistant secretary of defense Richard Perle. “A Clean Break” advocated regime change throughout the Middle East to promote Israeli hegemony in the region and enable Israel to expand its territory. The document called for the removal of regimes in Iraq, the Palestinian territories, Lebanon, Syria and Iran.

The proposals laid-out in “A Clean Break” mirror a meeting at the Pentagon that took place 10 days after 9/11 that General Wesley Clark attended. According to Clark, the Pentagon had prepared plans for seven countries to be attacked: Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran.

During the question-and-answer period that followed McKinney’s talk, one member of the audience of approximately 200 asked if she thought Barack Obama was a war criminal. She answered matter-of-factly, “Of course I do. Yes.” The audience, which was half African American erupted in raucous and enthusiastic applause. When she was finished, she received a standing ovation.

Bob Baldwin can be reached at bbaldwin@indy.net.