by Jane Briggs-Bunting
As the battle for freedom and control wages in Libya, it brings to mind the popular uprising in Hungary in October 1956. Never heard of it? Not surprising. It’s not covered in a lot of history books.
The people, initially led by students, dared to criticize the Soviet controlled puppet government and the repression. In the few heady weeks they even elected their own leader, Imre Nagy.
Despite the pleas of the revolutionary government for help from the United Nations, no one came to their aid.The Soviet Union invaded in November crushing the revolution. Nagy was executed as a traitor and that small spark of freedom died. Soviet domination continued for more than three decades before disintegrating in 1991, though some historians say the 1956 uprising was the “first tear” in the Iron Curtain.
The rebels in Libya are asking for similar help. In Tunisia and Egypt, the army made the decision not to fire on its own people. Gaddafi, if news media reports are accurate, imported mercenaries and now has his military firmly following orders.
Meanwhile, the world’s powers discuss and debate. How would our own American Revolution have survived or succeeded had it occurred in 2011 rather than 1776?
Rather than ponder, it’s time for action. Gaddafi has murdered his own citizens and is also, if his own officials are to be believed, responsible for the bombing of Pan Am 103. Wiki-leaks reports say U.S. and other world diplomats view him as “mercurial and eccentric” and “volatile.”
The 57 member nations, emirates and kingdoms in the Organization of the Islamic Conference said Tuesday it wants the U.N. to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya. Gulf Cooperation Council on Monday unanimously condemned Libya’s use of weapons against civilians and its own people, calling once again on the UN and also the Arab League to protect the Libyan people. The Arab League, with its 22 members countries, including Libya, also supports creating a no-fly zone. (Clearly, Gaddafi gets no respect from his neighbors in the region.) England and France are reportedly working on a Security Council resolution though either Russia or China or both could torpedo it with a no vote.
Meanwhile, some of the rebel leaders in Libya say that Gaddafi’s government is negotiating with them to step down and leave the country, something the official Libyan spokesman flatly denies. Gaddafi wants safe passage for himself and his family and a non-prosecution agreement among other things, reportedly.
But all this takes time and almost four weeks have passed while people, innocents, rebels and soldiers, are dying. Bold leadership by the UN, the Arab League and NATO could swiftly defang Gaddafi and put an end to his murderous and oppressive regime.
The parallels to the Hungarian revolt are there, though the times and methods of communications have changed dramatically. No need to storm the state radio station any more. YouTube, Twitter and Flickr show the power of the free flow of information of the people, by the people and for the people.
Opportunities to transform the Mideast may be risky but they should not be squandered. What started in Tunisia and spread to Egypt and now Libya is a game changer. With air power cut off, Gaddafi will swiftly fold. Delay by the world is an ill-advised default position.