Professor Mansour El-Kikhia

Exiled Libyan dissident and University of Texas political science department chair discusses what he calls the hypocrisy of U.S. presidents concerning Qaddafi.

Dr. Mansour El-Kikhia chairs the political science department at the University of Texas San Antonio. A native of Libya, his published works on the country's politics and human rights in the Middle East are highly regarded. El-Kikhia left his native country in '80, after witnessing atrocities against his countrymen. His brother was also killed by the Qaddafi regime. He received his B.A. from the American University of Beirut and his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of California. He's also author of the book, Libya's Qaddafi: The Politics of Contradiction.


Tavis: Dr. Mansour El-Kikhia fled his homeland in Libya back in 1980 due to political persecution by the Qaddafi regime. He remains a vocal critic of the Qaddafi government from his post as the chair of the political science department at the University of Texas San Antonio, where he joins us tonight. Dr. El-Kikhia, good to have you on this program, sir.
Dr. Mansour El-Kikhia: Thank you for having me.
Tavis: There are those who thought a couple of weeks ago that by now Qaddafi would have gone the way of Mubarak in Egypt, and yet it appears that if he’s going to go, pardon my English, it ain’t gonna be no time soon. What do you make of that?
El-Kikhia: Well, it’s normal. This is Qaddafi’s – Mubarak would have stayed longer, so it would be (unintelligible) too. But Qaddafi wants to stay longer because he’s not going to go that easily. I’ve always said that there are two choices – one choice that he leaves peacefully and goes and says, “My people don’t like me,” and the other choice, he doesn’t believe that, he wants to stay, and he leaves, but he takes with him 20,000 people.
You saw him on television, he says, “My people love me.” The demonstrations are outside, but he still refuses to believe that people actually detest him for so many years of repression and injustice.
Tavis: So what do you think is going to happen in the days ahead? Is he going to dig his heels in even more than he already has?
El-Kikhia: Oh, yes, yeah, oh, yes, undoubtedly. Even yesterday in the attack against Ras Misurata from the east, the civilians who actually moved westwards had to contend with mercenaries, and the mercenaries put up women and children as human shields. That forced the Libyans to pull back rather than kill their sons and daughters.
His air force now is composed of Algerians, Serbians and Syrians because no Libyan wants to shoot his or her own people. He’s going to dig in and he’s not going to go.
First of all, before he leaves, there has to be a – he has to reach the conclusion in his own mind that people don’t want him anymore. But once he sees himself really as the only person – watch him saying, “I am Libya. I am Africa. I am the king of kings.” You’re bordering on megalomania that is very difficult to remove. So he’s going to get stuck in there.
Add to it the other factor which is even more important – that he has been in power for so many years due to two factors, two important factors. One, that he has developed a cadre of individuals loyal just to him, and he has always made it clear to them that if he goes, they will go as well too. Therefore, it is their duty to keep, to make sure that he stays in power. This is one group, which he calls the revolutionary committees.
The other one, of course, is his own tribal base – some of his own tribe, not all his tribe are with him, but some of these tribes are with him. Now when we look at Libya, for the last 40 years just imagine a bag full of goods, and you’re shaking it, never allowing it to come to a rest.
Luckily and unluckily, depending where you are, when the Bush administration removed the sanctions of Qaddafi and normalized relations with him, he made the simple mistake of allowing society to come to rest, and when it came to rest Libyans looked around and said, “Wow, what’s going on? The world is surpassing us, is moving away, and we haven’t moved anywhere,” and that set off the spark.
Tavis: This megalomania that you referenced a moment ago is not a disease, not an illness that just struck Mr. Qaddafi. If he’s been that way, he’s been that way for quite some time. If he’s a thug, the way some describe him, he didn’t just become a thug, and all the while the U.S. was having relations with him, at points normalized relations, to the point you just made a moment ago.
So assess for me the history of the relationship that we have had with this man, and whether or not there’s any hypocrisy in the way we’ve gone about our dealings with him over the years.
El-Kikhia: Oh, you’re so right, you’re so right – honestly, you’re so right. Congratulations. Thank you, thank you, thank you for saying this. Because Qaddafi’s hypocrisy has been so apparent for seven presidents – not for one, for seven presidents, beginning with Nixon.
You have Nixon, you have Ford, you have Carter, you have Reagan, you have Bush I, then Clinton, Bush II, and now you have Obama. Mr. Obama’s an honorable man, and I know of all of them, I know he wants to do the right thing. But unfortunately, he can’t do the right thing because of so much opposition internally within the United States to opposing Qaddafi.
First of all, first and foremost are the oil companies. They want to see Qaddafi stay in power. Why wouldn’t they? They’re getting what they want, they have access to whatever they want in the country, and so why would they want to see Qaddafi removed from power? So this is one.
The other part of the hypocrisy is saying well, we really can’t help Libya. We can’t provide a no-fly zone. But it was done in Kosovo. No, it just depends where you are. They wouldn’t do it in Rwanda and Burundi, in Africa, because I hate to say this because it’s laced with racism, but it is racism. We are now just – we saw hundreds of thousands of people slaughtered in Africa and the Europeans did nothing. Kosovo, something happens in Kosovo, we have a no-fly zone in Kosovo.
This is a horrible man who has been in power for 40 years, and every single American president has known what this man has done. He has been responsible for massacres and murders in Africa, in Liberia. It is not Charles Taylor who should be in the International Criminal Court; it is Colonel Qaddafi, because he’s the one who supplied Taylor’s troops. He’s the one who armed them, he’s the one who trained them and he’s the one who set them loose on the poor continent of Africa.
No country in Africa has been able to withstand his assault. Uganda today is facing problems with fragmentation. Why? Because Mr. Qaddafi decided to make himself king of kings of the tribes of Africa, tribal kings, and now every single tribal king in Africa is saying, “Oh, no, my area has sovereignty; therefore, I will not recognize the central government.”
What will that do? It will bring about civil wars. The United States knows that, the Europeans know that, and yet they turn a blind eye. Why? Because of interests.
Tavis: Professor, you mentioned the no-fly zone a moment ago. Let me ask whether or not you think that senators, Democratic and Republican, people like John Kerry and John McCain, are right about the fact that we ought to – that is to say, the U.S. – ought to do something to help put into place a no-fly zone as we speak.
El-Kikhia: Well, yeah, okay, I understand Mr. Gates comes out – I agree with them, okay?
Tavis: Right.
El-Kikhia: But I understand the difficulties. All right, we don’t want to put a no-fly zone because we don’t want the United States to be involved in another war. Fine, I understand that. You don’t want to put a no-fly zone, give at least the people a chance to shoot down those silly planes that Qaddafi is using.
We did it in Afghanistan and we weren’t even there, but we did it. We gave them some means to shoot down those planes. At least level the playing field. This is not a revolution by rebels. I mean, listen to me –
Tavis: So are you suggesting that we ought to supply the opposition in their fight against Qaddafi?
El-Kikhia: Oh, yes. Oh, yes, I am. I am indeed. Because listen, the argument that Qaddafi has been making, that these people here are rebels, I understand if it’s a rebel of 1,000, 2,000, 3,000. But not when 1.5 million people are opposed to you. They cease to be rebels. They’re people asking – what are Libyans asking for? They’re asking for an end to dictatorial rule, they’re asking for democratic rule, which they themselves can in fact participate.
Libya itself has tribes, but it’s not a tribal society because most of the Libyans live within cities, they’re urban. Most important of all, Libyans are Muslims, but they’re not Islamists. So the idea that Libya will all of a sudden become this base for terrorism or radicalism is a lot of nonsense.
Tavis: Right. Let me just ask you this final question, and that is whether or not you think, given – I want to go back to where we started this conversation. Given that there are many who thought that Qaddafi would be gone by now and he is not – in some ways, he may be strengthening his stronghold at the moment – but is it possible that over time, that is to say in the coming weeks and maybe months, that he can wear down the opposition?
El-Kikhia: Oh, no. The opposition will wear him down. My major fear is that even though the oil is still coming out of Libya, the money that comes from the oil is going to Qaddafi. It is not going to the legitimate government of the people who are actually fighting against Qaddafi.
Listen, for Libyans today it has become an issue, and something that perhaps Americans have said that – give me liberty or give me death, and that is the truth.
Tavis: He’s professor, as a matter of fact, chair of the department of political science at the University of Texas at San Antonio, fled Libya back in the ’80s due to Qaddafi’s regime. His name, Professor Mansour El-Kikhia. Professor, honored to have you on. Thanks for sharing your insights. I appreciate your time.
El-Kikhia: Thank you for having me, Tavis. Thank you very much.
Tavis: My pleasure.

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Last modified: August 23, 2011 at 4:13 pm