Saturday, March 19, 2011

Libya: No end of Western hypocrisy

Murray Dobbins Blog
Posted on March 19, 2011

US and UK cruise missiles hit more than 20 Libyan air defence targets         ,
Anyone who trusts the “West” to do anything good with its military is suffering from a special kind of delusion and the efforts by NATO and a few Arab states (duly authorized by the UN Security Council) is no different. No one disputes the ruthless character of Libyan dictator Moammar Khadafy, a man suffering from his own delusions and certainly willing to kill his own citizens.

But let’s not get carried away and judge the motivation of the old Imperial powers by simply looking at how bad this particular dictator is. There is no need here, or anywhere else, to suspend our judgment and common sense when coming to conclusions about the democratic revolutions unfolding in the Middle East and North Africa and our ambivalent response to them.

I just listened to Hillary Clinton – the classic Democratic Party warmonger – repeat the word “civilian” eight times in a speech explaining the military action being taken against Libya. While there is no doubt that many unarmed and uninvolved civilians are losing their lives in this ugly conflict it is disingenuous to suggest that the rebels fighting the government forces are simply “civilians.” They are – for better or worse – armed and with some fairly heavy military equipment from anti-aircraft guns, heavy machine guns, armoured vehicles and by some accounts even military aircraft seized with the help of dissident soldiers. These civilians are not hugging soldiers – they are killing them.

I am not suggesting that the armed rebellion is wrong or morally unjustifiable – there is no doubt that it is. But this is not Tahrir Square in Cairo where another group of civilians used completely peaceful means – even after being brutally attacked – to achieve their wonderful revolutionary victory.

Once the Libyan rebels began arming themselves and seizing government arms depots they changed the game fundamentally. Did they possibly believe that Khadafy would not use all the military might at his disposal against them? Clearly they did and it was strategic – with expectation that the West would intervene on their behalf. Khadafy in a letter to Obama asked the Head of the US Empire what he would do if armed rebels seized an American city. Hardly the same situation given that the US is still, nominally at least, a democracy. But a good question nonetheless.

The cry for democracy in Libya has changed into a civil war. The UN decision to intervene is simply the taking of advantage of a useful crisis to implement regime change. For that is what is intended by the military action and it is why the resolution 1973 went well beyond just enforcing a no-fly zone to an almost open-ended mandate to obliterate Khadafy’s military. A no fly zone was not going to give back the towns the rebels held in the western part of the country and on the coast.

Regime change is all about oil. Libya is the largest oil producer in Africa, producing even more than Nigeria. It has almost 50 billion barrels of proven oil reserves and they are incredibly cheap to produce – in the range of $1 a barrel. And most of the oil giants are making millions helping Libya extract its wealth: BP, Conoco Phillips, Total (France), ENI (Italy), Spanish Repsol from Spain, ExxonMobil, Chevron, and Occidental Petroleum.

So what was behind the change of heart of Obama on military force? Khadafy has made it clear that all these companies are now off the bus. That makes regime change suddenly urgent. There is no turning back.

But if it is regime change that NATO, including Canada, are about then they should call it that – before they pulverize Khadafy’s palace and make it too obvious to deny.

Do Obama and Stephen Harper want democracy in Libya? As in Iraq and Afghanistan it is a long way down the list of objectives. If it was democracy – and not oil – then Western democracies would be intervening in two other Arab states where unarmed civilians are being slaughtered. In Yemen, snipers massacred over 40 worshippers as they came out of mosques onto a street where demonstrators have been camped out. According to media reports the indiscriminate shooting lasted for an hour. Hundreds were wounded by the gun fire. An exit from the street was blocked when troops built a wall of tires and lit them on fire.

This gets not even a mention from Stephen Harper and barely a whisper from Obama. Ditto the vicious attacks on – again, unarmed – civilians in Bahrain where troops targeted hospital staff and refused to allow wounded demonstrators medical treatment. And did Obama approve beforehand the sending of hundreds of Saudi troops across the border to assist in this suppression of a democratic outpouring? All he had to do was indicate that wouldn’t do anything if the Saudis acted.

It’s still all about oil and radical Islam. Yemen’s dictator has been working hard to do Washington’s bidding on the latter and as for Saudi Arabia, it acted in support of Bahrain because it remains fearful of the democratic contagion. And the US is in lock-step support of any action that keeps the current compliant regime in power.

The whole thing reeks of hypocrisy, just as we have learned to expect.

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