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This is a response to the opinion article "No Libyans allowed at ANSWER Libya forum," posted here at Daily Kos and on various email lists on June 23, 2011. The writer of the response is the co-coordinator of the ANSWER Coalition in Los Angeles and a friend of mine, and I am posting it here with his permission. I was not at the Los Angeles meeting, so I have no knowledge of what happened there, but I was at the San Francisco meeting a few days later, and before posting the ANSWER-LA response below, let me just add my observations from SF:

There, there were a handful of anti-Libyan-government people (some may have been actual Libyans, others not, I have no way of knowing) demonstrating outside the forum, and several handfuls inside. As far as I could tell, the ones outside were outside voluntarily, since there was obviously no attempt to exclude all people with views contrary to the organizers. Inside, there was a small amount of verbal disruption a couple times, but nothing serious, and most of the questions and comments (largely comments) in the discussion period came from that point of view (i.e., there was no attempt to suppress them, but one who "demanded five minutes to present the other point of view" was told that A) the "other point of view" is on offer on CNN, FOX, MSNBC etc. every day of the week, and that B) he was more than welcome to organize his own forum to present that point of view (Akbar Muhammed of the Nation of Islam even offered to come speak at that forum if they wanted him to)).

From ANSWER-Los Angeles:

There is much to dispute in the article "No Libyans allowed at ANSWER Libya forum," posted on the Daily Kos and elsewhere. I strongly disagree with its tone and assertions. The article's sympathies appear to lie with those who openly support the U.S./NATO war on Libya. But, political line aside, the article is full of patent distortions, mischaracterizations and shoddy analysis from start to finish.

Its headline and main assertion that there were "No Libyans allowed at ANSWER Libya forum" featuring Cynthia McKinney is a flat-out lie. I suppose the headline was meant as a false, but catchy "attention grabber" since the writer even admits that several pro-war Libyans participated in the Q and A inside the anti-war event.

First for some context on the event: The Eyewitness Libya Forum sponsored by ANSWER and featuring Cynthia McKinney Los Angeles was a very successful event. It took place on Saturday, June 18 at Immanuel Presbyterian Church and was the first stop of the national speaking tour featuring Cynthia McKinney, who had just returned from a fact-finding mission to Libya. Over 200 people attended the Los Angeles forum; 60 to 70 percent of the attendees were African Americans. And 95 percent of those who came were anti-war, anti-U.S./NATO intervention.

Here's a brief report on the forum on the ANSWER LA website:

The feedback from nearly everyone who came was overwhelmingly positive. Here's an email ANSWER received from an Arab American activist in Orange County: "It is the best event I ever attended. The event was really worth our time."

An anti-war, anti-intervention forum

Making the miniscule number of counter-protesters outside the Los Angeles forum into the primary issue in a "report" to progressive people is ridiculous.

The only folks prevented from entering the forum were the few who came specifically to protest and disrupt the event. It wasn't because they were Libyan. Several Libyans and other Arab Americans participated in the event and discussion. Some were pro-war and pro-intervention, but most were anti-war.

The people who were outside the event, however, were not interested in civil discussion or even debate. They made themselves known at the event before it started by wearing Libya's old pro-monarchy flags, waving U.S. flags at people, wearing t-shirts featuring King Idris (the former Libyan monarch), and chanting against McKinney before trying to enter the forum. Some of them made threatening statements about McKinney. They chanted that Cynthia McKinney should "burn in the fire" and also made homophobic slurs at the line of college students and volunteers doing security for the event. Not one of the counter-protesters was against the U.S./NATO bombing of Libya. Not a one.

It's worth noting that the writer of the article in question stood with the pro-intervention crowd during much of the event, and was worked up in a frenzy.

Others from the pro-intervention camp, those who wanted to participate with the rest of the crowd in a civil meeting, did so and were allowed to speak during Q and A, just like anyone else. Opposing views were not censored in any way.

Several people with divergent views spoke and asked questions. It is true that the pro-intervention Libyans and others who spoke were booed at times by the crowd, but no one from ANSWER was orchestrating that. People at the event just didn't like what they had to say. It's not too surprising for pro-war voices to get booed at an anti-war forum.

Just to be clear, there is nothing wrong with keeping pro-war protesters out of an anti-war event after they state their intention to protest and disrupt the event. With several high-profile speakers on the panel, security was also a top concern.

Also, it’s a complete fabrication that anyone from ANSWER ever said anything remotely pro-Gaddafi or referred to him as "Brother Gaddafi." That just didn't happen. We have the video of the whole forum if you'd like us to prove it.

The forum was an anti-war, anti-intervention forum. Iraq war veteran Mike Prysner spoke against the war on Libya, as did others. Some speakers on the panel did espouse their perspective of pan-African unity and expressed their respect for the Libyan leader. They represent valid political currents within the Black community. Nearly every panel speaker has divergent views on one thing or another, but they were all there to do one thing—speak out against the war. We will not tell other anti-war forces what to say and how to say it. It was an anti-war meeting.

This includes Cynthia McKinney, who has now traveled to Libya twice during the NATO bombing, at great risk to her own life. She is not a pro-Gaddafi mouthpiece in any way. She is not being paid by the Libyan government, not even a dime. In fact, part of the reason for the tour is to raise funds to pay back debts incurred by traveling to Libya on these important fact-finding missions. The main thrust of Cynthia McKinney's talk at the Los Angeles forum was for self-determination for Libyans, and to urge people in the United States to oppose the U.S./NATO war. As a former elected Congresswoman, her heroism in speaking out against the war on Libya should be lauded and supported, not attacked without cause.

The "third camp" politics espoused by the anti-ANSWER article are way off base. They are out of step with people in the U.S.—who polls show oppose the war on Libya 2-to-1—and they are out of step with the people of Libya, who just had a massive 250,000 person march against the NATO bombing this past week, as bombs were dropping around them. Civilian casualties of the NATO bombing are now mounting—even the LA Times and CNN are reporting this.

The real issue is the U.S./NATO war on Libya

The issue at hand isn't one's opinion on Gaddafi—it is the war on Libya, and which side are you on?

Just as the Pentagon and press demonized Saddam Hussein before the Iraq invasions in 1990 and 2003, they have done the same with Gaddafi as a way to confuse people into being inert, seeking to prevent progressives from vigorously opposing the war.

The goal of anti-war activists in the United States right now seems pretty clear to me—we should be doing everything we can to expose the U.S./NATO war for what it is and building as much support as we can to stop it. There is nothing "humanitarian" about this war--there has never been, nor will there ever be a humanitarian intervention by the United States, NATO or the U.N. in their current forms. A short look at history confirms this: Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Yugoslavia and so on.

The article posted on Daily Kos does not help build a stronger movement against the war on Libya. It attempts to do the opposite. It's beyond me why the article would chose to spill more ink denouncing ANSWER, an anti-war group, while saying almost nothing against the U.S./NATO war on Libya. Unfortunately, the article's tone is nothing new. The now right-wing Christopher Hitchens similarly (but more eloquently) attacked those of us who unequivocally opposed the Iraq war before the catastrophic U.S. invasion and occupation. Look at Mr. Hitchens now!

In general, it doesn't give anti-war folks more credibility to side with to pro-war forces and go along with demonization campaigns mounted by the U.S. and NATO to justify a war of aggression. Sure, people who are pro-war have the right to be pro-war, but anti-war activists don't have to agree with them or give them a platform on which to speak. The pro-war opinions are aired ad nauseum in the corporate media. Meanwhile, the war on the people of Libya continues to rage on. Bombs continue to drop. Civilians continue to die in this unjust war for oil and strategic regional domination.

ANSWER will continue to speak out and organize against the war on Libya. People who want to oppose the war can do so with us. We don't have to agree on everything as long as we oppose imperialist intervention and support the right of oppressed nations and people's to self determination. On July 9, ANSWER and others are organizing a march and rally in Washington, D.C. in front of the White House to demand an immediate end to the war on Libya.

One final note, the Eyewitness Libya speaking tour with Cynthia McKinney has drawn hundreds of interested people at each tour stop. It has proven to be an important forum for anti-war voices and organizers from LA to Chicago and beyond. As the bombing of Libya continues, let's hope that more people join the anti-war chorus so that we can bring an end to all U.S. wars and occupations. That should be our goal.

Ian Thompson
ANSWER Coalition, Los Angeles

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (4+ / 0-)

    Eli Stephens
    Left I on the News
    "Stand Up, Fight Back!"

    by elishastephens on Fri Jun 24, 2011 at 06:11:51 PM PDT

  •  Thank you. (7+ / 0-)

    There's something deeply troubling about the pro-war folks here.  It's as if they think they have the right to choose who will die in the internal conflicts of sovereign nations instead of promoting peace and honest dialogue that may minimize conflict deaths.  Binary choices in conflicts -- i.e. Taliban v. Northern Alliance -- often mask that fact that both sides are bad.

  •  ANSWER just doesn't have any self-discipline (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Self-disciplined anti-imperialists, from Quakers to Paulbots, avoid characterizing the actual merits/demerits of the Others that the US would attack or defend, because the core of rigorous anti-imperialism is that those merits/demerits don't matter: imperialism, in their assessment, is bad for the US and/or humanity writ large, so we shouldn't do it.  ANSWER, unfortunately, has always seen the critique of US imperialism as bound up with active defense of its putative targets.  Some of those targets are at least arguably admirable (Chavez, most recently), but most of them are wholly disgusting (Saddam, Milosevic, now Qadaffi) and it's disgusting that ANSWER can't understand that solidarity visits to Qadaffi are subversive of any broad campaign against US imperialism.

    It's better to curse the darkness than light a candle. --Whoever invented blogs, c.1996

    by Rich in PA on Fri Jun 24, 2011 at 07:09:10 PM PDT

    •  And US imperialist apologists (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      elishastephens, pot, jim d

      actively defend wholly disgusting characters (Saddam until 1990, Mubarek, the Shah, every freaking rightwing dictator in Central and South America, etc.) and the assassinations of many who opposed them.


      •  That's not really an answer, though. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        It's no accomplishment to point out that imperialism is based on double-dealing and oppression. The question is what anti-imperialism should be based on.  ANSWER's brand of anti-imperialism seems to be based on the view that anyone opposed by US imperialism must be admirable in some way, and that's so obviously not the case (in so many cases) that it ends up branding anti-imperialism as crackpot or as enabling rulers who clearly are repulsive.

        It's better to curse the darkness than light a candle. --Whoever invented blogs, c.1996

        by Rich in PA on Fri Jun 24, 2011 at 07:27:48 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Regardless of whether or not (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Euroliberal, RonV

          your simplified characterization of Answer is correct, anti-imperialists in the US that don't laud disgusting foreign heads of government are also rarely heard and labeled as crackpots.

          Chris Floyd offers a new mind-stretching puzzle for the black and white set:

          Oh my gosh! Apparently Iran is not a monolithic monster whose entire energies are united in destroy all that’s good and holy and can be sold at Wal-Mart.

          It looks like there are serious and deepening divisions in the ruling elite there, with the Ayatollah Khamenei slowly tightening the noose around the neck of President Ahmadinejad. How confusing this all is! For one thing, whom are we supposed to demonize in the usual cartoonish rendering of reality favored by our own noble leaders and our leading organs of information, where there must be, always, everywhere, “good guys” and “bad guys” to help or hinder?

          Ahmadinejad has been one of the more durable “new Hitlers” of our era, always good for a scary headline or a boost in military spending or a reason for continuing the war crime in Iraq. ...

  •  Watching so-called leftists defend a dictatorial (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Utahrd, petral, zemblan, Lawrence

    regime instead of supporting a people's revolution is pure comedy gold.
    Don't worry guys, you'll still have Mugabe.

  •  Most people just don't get it. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    S.A.W. 2011 STOP ALL WARS "The Global War on Terror is a fabrication to justify imperialism."

    by BigAlinWashSt on Fri Jun 24, 2011 at 08:12:02 PM PDT

  •  So what do we have, propaganda, misinformation, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elishastephens, jim d

    etc., against McKinney and ANSWER that they say they're "for" Gaddifi.  But this guy is saying no, it ain't so.  And most of the progressives eat it up.  
    I'm not all that familiar with ANSWER, McKinney or their tactics, but they're antiwar, anti-imperialism and they know the Libya war is another aggressive war by the imperialists.  We have to work with that.

    S.A.W. 2011 STOP ALL WARS "The Global War on Terror is a fabrication to justify imperialism."

    by BigAlinWashSt on Fri Jun 24, 2011 at 08:30:02 PM PDT

    •  This guy makes an outrageous... (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      petral, zemblan, Lawrence, TomP

      ...claim (among others) in his response:

      ...out of step with the people of Libya, who just had a massive 250,000 person march against the NATO bombing this past week...

      Evidence, please. Pravda reports this. As does the Iranian government-run Press TV. They both say one million Gaddafi supporters in the streets. But why is it no trustworthy media have mentioned it? There are scores of decent reporters in Tripoli. Are they all blind and didn't see this demonstration? Or on the NATO payroll? Let me say, unequivocally, that this massive march of supporters DID. NOT. HAPPEN.

      And, please, get familiar with ANSWER and McKinney and their tactics. Ron Paul is antiwar, too. But that doesn't make him worth following.

      Don't tell me what you believe. Tell me what you do and I'll tell you what you believe.

      by Meteor Blades on Fri Jun 24, 2011 at 11:35:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I know your deal man. It doesn't matter. (0+ / 0-)

        I'd prefer not to deal with you, you don't seem to be what you seem to be.

        S.A.W. 2011 STOP ALL WARS "The Global War on Terror is a fabrication to justify imperialism."

        by BigAlinWashSt on Sat Jun 25, 2011 at 01:19:21 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Ah yes, let's toss MB under the bus because he (0+ / 0-)

          has relatives that have died at the hands of the Gaddafi Regime....

          ... what a disgusting attitude.

          "A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle" - Mohammed Nabbous, R.I.P.

          by Lawrence on Sat Jun 25, 2011 at 08:34:12 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  My position on Libya is clear... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          ...and my rationale for taking a position that is contrary to my usual positions on interventions has been explained in detail publicly. But even while I support the intervention, I think the President made a very big mistake on the War Powers Act. It should apply to every President, or none.

          You say you don't know much about ANSWER or McKinney, yet you back them anyway. I am urging you to find out more about each, in detail. Then, if you still support them, you're at least doing so from an informed stance.

          I have a great deal of respect for many people who oppose the intervention. We are 95% on the same side, after all. But I have zero respect for ANSWER and McKinney. She goes on "fact-finding" missions to Libya but only talks with people the government lets her talk to, goes where the government lets her? That's not fact-finding. That's helping spread Gaddafi's disinformation. ANSWER's leadership's backing of "anti-imperialist" dictators is no better than Donald Rumsfeld's or Jeane Kirkpatrick's.

          Nobody should accept propaganda—whatever its source—without investigating. U.S. propaganda, Gaddafi propaganda. Doesn't matter which. When ANSWER claims big demonstrations in support of Gaddafi, they ought to be able to come up with EVIDENCE. You know how many cell phones with video capability there are in Tripoli? Hundreds of thousands. And yet nobody captured that demo and put it on the Internet? Even the Gaddafi government didn't do so?

          Don't tell me what you believe. Tell me what you do and I'll tell you what you believe.

          by Meteor Blades on Sat Jun 25, 2011 at 09:58:35 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Well said. I was kind of agnostic (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Meteor Blades

            on teh intervention.  I did not oppose it because it was planned to be short, its goal was to prevent a massacre, and we could do it without being bogged down in a land war.

            I agree totally that it is a mistake by the President to ignore the War Powers Act.

            I don't take ANSWER or McKinney very seriously.  One can oppose the intervention without acting as if Ghaddafi is such a good guy.    

            Answer and McKinney often fulfill right wing stereotypes of the left.

            CitizenX: "If the republicans were in charge GM & Chrysler would be dead and Osama bin Laden would be alive."

            by TomP on Sat Jun 25, 2011 at 11:34:15 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  And I don't follow McKinney at all. You keep (0+ / 0-)

        misinterpreting me man.  Stop it.

        S.A.W. 2011 STOP ALL WARS "The Global War on Terror is a fabrication to justify imperialism."

        by BigAlinWashSt on Sat Jun 25, 2011 at 01:20:16 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Press TV IS trustworthy (0+ / 0-)

        Much more so, in my opinion, than CNN et al. If you watch Press TV and RT you'll see a LOT of good and informative programming, reporting on things which are suppressed or ignored by American corporate media, particularly when it comes to reporting on things like demonstrations.

        Here's one example of a demonstration that happened yesterday in Los Angeles, covered by Press TV. CNN? Not so much. They cover what politicians do, not what people do.

        Eli Stephens
        Left I on the News
        "Stand Up, Fight Back!"

        by elishastephens on Sat Jun 25, 2011 at 09:45:26 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  One need not believe Press-TV is ... (0+ / 0-)

          ...trustworthy just because it has covered something CNN has not. (I have big problems with CNN, and much of the U.S. megamedia, which I have seen from the inside.)

          Press-TV has promoted the idea that there was a million-person demonstration that nobody has video or photographs of. They report, without comment, utter bullshit like this from the so-called journalist Lizzie Phelan:

          Of course, before the uprising there were frustrations in Libya as there are within every singly country, but the Libyan people are an extremely non-confrontational people that will go to the ends of the earth to resolve in a non-confrontational way.

          And that is also reflected in the government in the way in which the government has tried over the decades and bent backwards to accommodate opposition forces within the government, which in a sense has backfired as we saw from the people who defected from the government and who sold out because they were in the pockets of the CIA andMI6 and the other Western intelligence services.

          So, from my experience in Libya the support for the government is absolutely widespread. There was a Guardian journalist in Libya who thankfully was deported from Libya for reporting that the reason why there is no opposition in Tripoli is because there are informers everywhere. A million people marched through the streets of Tripoli so the people have spoken for themselves.

          The Libyan government has bent over backwards to accommodate opposition forces? Only when digging their graves. Libyans are non-confrontational? Unbelievable. No, asinine. Does Phelan actually know any Libyans? "Support" for the government has nothing to do with informers being everywhere? Is she familiar with the "Greens" who for decades have chilled any opposition by doing the very informing that the Guardian reporter was deported for discussing?

          Show us the video of the million demonstrators. It should be easy. Surely, state television was on the scene, recording the event to show the world that Gaddafi is not the mass murderer he is reported to be.

          Don't tell me what you believe. Tell me what you do and I'll tell you what you believe.

          by Meteor Blades on Sat Jun 25, 2011 at 11:09:45 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  McKinney suggested there should be a referendum. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Troubling to learn that when a diplomatic initiative from Africa visited Benghazi they were rebuffed.

    So it seems that the US and NATO wants a military solution rather than a political one. While good people may be fighting for a real democracy, it should be noticed by supporters of real democracy that these moves appear to be more imperialistic ones perhaps with pre-picked leaders who will deliver the high calibre oil for the right price.

    We don't live in a democracy . . . we live in a capitalist oligarchy, with some democratic representation…Social Security, Medicare, the minimum wage, or labor unions?… The capitalist oligarchy …were forced to accept them…Howard Zinn

    by jim d on Fri Jun 24, 2011 at 11:43:15 PM PDT

  •  What hogwash. (0+ / 0-)
    The "third camp" politics espoused by the anti-ANSWER article are way off base. They are out of step with people in the U.S.—who polls show oppose the war on Libya 2-to-1—and they are out of step with the people of Libya, who just had a massive 250,000 person march against the NATO bombing this past week, as bombs were dropping around them. Civilian casualties of the NATO bombing are now mounting—even the LA Times and CNN are reporting this.

    It's amazing how deluded some people are...  250k Libyans protesting for Gaddafi?  Where?  In your mind? In la-la land?

    If anything even remotely similar to that had happened, we'd be seeing those images all over the place, and especially on Libyan propaganda tv, which the pro-Gaddafi Cynthia McKinney was oh-so happy to appear on.

    Cynthia McKinney has allowed herself to become a Gaddafi mouthpiece and is a terribly deluded lady.  It's no wonder that ANSWER blocked actual Libyans from your Cynthia McKinney, pro-Gaddafi event, as can clearly be seen in this video:

    As for McKinney, I think that Tasbeeh Herwees said it best:

    She’s the worst sort of person to be involved in the Libyan conflict: not only incredibly uninformed but deluded as well, having fully swallowed the lies of the Gaddafi regime as unalienable truths. Mckinney continues to defend Gaddafi as a ‘hero’ of African rights (we’ll talk about this more below) and refuses to acknowledge the crimes of his regime.  Her justification for doing so indicates a stunning ignorance on her part. Even as damning evidence of the Gaddafi regime’s unspeakable cruelty mounts against it—countless videos, photos and eyewitness accounts of citizens, journalists and others—Cynthia Mckinney stands by Gaddafi, recently making an appearance on Libyan State TV from Tripoli as part of an NGO “fact-finding” mission.

    "A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle" - Mohammed Nabbous, R.I.P.

    by Lawrence on Sat Jun 25, 2011 at 08:32:20 AM PDT

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