FDL, April 1, 2011
U.S. analysts who instinctively oppose U.S. imperialism often are entrapped by the demonization stage and then at best argue that U.S. intervention is 'wrong’ not because it wouldn’t be great to oust the target government, but simply because our leaders are being hypocritical or inconsistent. The "why aren’t we also invading Bahrain and Yemen?" pseudo-oppositional argument. (A recent example: Medea Benjamin and Charles Davis in yesterday’s Counterpunch; another example: John Chuckman a few days earlier in the same publication.) But when an argument can be answered with "What, are you nuts?" is it truly opposition to the latest U.S. imperialist brutality? No, not at all.
What’s refreshing is to read analysis that takes for granted that the demonization and 'humanitarian intervention’ fog cover up the usual economic imperialism, and then argue directly against that. More often than Americans, British authors like Alex Cockburn (quoted above) take this stance against U.S.-led intervention. (Is it to avoid sounding completely naive, stupid and American that some are 'allowed’ in mainstream Britain to use the common sense soft Marxist 'follow the money’ approach?) But progressive third world authors, for example Vijay Prashad and Soumaya Ghannoushi, whose native countries continue today to experience the abuse of neo-colonialism, tend to write the straightest takes on what’s really going down in nations most Americans really don’t give a rat’s ass about.
Ghannoushi wrote brilliantly in the Guardian yesterday on the counter-revolution operated by the West, as applied to Libya. Read the entire thing, of course, but here is how it begins:
After unscripted Arab drama, the west sneaks back on set
Arab dictators were not the only ones to have been taken aback by the scale and speed of events in the region. Their allies were also caught off guard. The changes were simply "too much, too fast", as a stunned US official put it. From being the sole actors and directors on the stage, Europe and the US, along with the various despots, found themselves suddenly reduced to mere spectators, and fearful of the future.
The Libyan quagmire was an opportunity for their Euro-American allies, too. It enabled them to breathe life into the corpse of "humanitarian interventionism", using it as a way of riding the wave of change and redirecting its course to their benefit. As the possibility of salvaging a Gaddafi confined to Tripoli and western Libya receded – and with it the chance of protecting their huge business contracts – the international powers shifted positions, joining the rebels’ camp instead. …
Backstage … the French, British, Italians, and Americans are working to promote their own men among the rebels in preparation for the post-Gaddafi era. The real contest is over who calls the shots in the new Libya and who dominates its economy.
Later in the essay she changes gears, focusing on the IMF-imposed economic model that has been kicking hell out of the third world in recent decades, writing that this phenomenon is perhaps the central reason for the rebellions across the Arab world:
. . . people are not only rebelling against an internationally backed political authoritarianism but against the economic model imposed by the IMF, World Bank and, in the case of Tunisia and Egypt, the EU’s structural reform programmes. Millions have been left to fend for themselves as state-owned firms have been sold to foreign investors and a cabal of local partners: corruption flourished as a result.
[For example . . .] In Egypt, public borrowing rose to 89% of the country’s GDP ($183.7bn in June 2010), much of which was spent on food exports as the economy was forced to shift from agriculture and manufacturing to tourism and services. And as national wealth was looted by the nouveau riche, many have found themselves unable to meet their basic needs, living in overcrowded cities and shanty towns and crushed by shrinking salaries, rocketing prices and plummeting living conditions. . . .
The story of the Arab revolution is not only to be found in prisons, torture chambers and political trials, but in this painful trail of economic and social misery. Ben Ali, Mubarak and their political backers in Washington, London and Paris are culpable – and so are the World Bank, IMF and WTO. In a way, they are the real makers of the Great Arab Revolution.
Prashad just goes straight into the details of the new leadership of the Libyan rebellion, naming names and connections to Western intelligence agencies and economic agendas:
The Benghazi council chose as its leader the colorless former justice minister Mustafa Abdel Jalil. Jalil’s brain is Mahmoud Jibril, a former head of the National Economic Development Board (NEDB). A U. S. embassy cable from May 11, 2009 (09TRIPOLI386) describes Jibril as keen on a close relationship with the U. S. and eager "to create a strategic partnership between private companies and the government." Jibril’s NEBD had collaborated with Ernst & Young and the Oxford Group to make the Libyan state more "efficient." …
With Jalil and Jibril are the February 17 movement’s men. They take their name from an uprising in Benghazi on February 17, 2006 that was crushed by Qaddafi. These men (Fathi Boukhris, Farj Charrani, Mustafa Gheriani and All Ounes Mansouri) are all entrepreneurs. Gheriani told Jon Lee Anderson that they are "Western-educated intellectuals" who would lead the new state, not the "confused mobs or religious extremists." …
By March 14, the military wing of the Benghazi rebellion had been turned over to an ex-Colonel of the Libyan army, Khalifa Heftir and to the former interior minister, General Abdel Fateh Younis. Heftir made his name in Qaddafi’s war against Chad in the 1980s. At some point in that conflict, Heftir turned against Qaddafi, joined the Libyan National Salvation Front, and operated his resistance out of Chad. When the US-supported government of Chad, led by Hisséne Habré fell in 1990, Heftir fled Chad for the United States. It is interesting that an ex-Colonel of the Libyan army was able to so easily gain entry into the United States. Also of interest is the fact that Heftir took up residence in Vienna, Virginia, less than seven miles away from Langley, Virginia, the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency. In Vienna, Heftir formed the Libyan National Army. In 1996, Heftir’s Army attempted an armed rebellion against Qaddafi in the eastern part of Libya. It failed. But that did not stop his plans. History called him back fifteen years later. In March 2011, Heftir flew into Benghazi to take command of the defected troops, joining Younis whose troops had been routed from Ras Lanouf on March 12. They faced the advance of Qaddafi’s forces toward Benghazi. It was in this context, with the uprising now firmly usurped by a neo-liberal political leadership and a CIA-backed military leadership, that talk of a no-fly zone emerged …
With the hands on the political and military tiller firmly in the U. S. camp, it is no surprise that the armed response has escalated. UN Resolution 1973 (March 19) created a no-fly zone to protect civilians. Within hours it was clear that the no-fly zone was used to provide air support for the rebel army. …
The troops of Qaddafi and of the rebels swing back and forth between Ras Lanuf and Ajtabia like a pendulum. U. S. and French air strikes have degraded the forces of the regime, but they have not yet destroyed them. The civil war continues. If the U. S. and France start to supply the rebels, it is likely that in the long haul Qaddafi’s troops will dissolve into an insurgency. In which case, Libya is likely to enter a protracted period of deep instability. The figures in place in Benghazi from the political and military side would hope to ride into Tripoli on their own tanks, but under NATO air cover. They have many to whom they owe much. People like Mahmoud Jibril and Khalifa Heftir will be more accountable to their patrons in Paris and Washington than to the people of Libya, whose blood is being spilled on both sides for an outcome that is unlikely to benefit them.
As usual with Western wars on the third world, where we know our citizens don’t value the war as much as our corporations do, the West kills victim country civilians in order to protect our killers. This 'collateral damage’ civilian killing is a war crime. Cockburn quotes a Global Research report by Russian doctors:
Today, 24 March 2011, NATO aircraft and the U.S. all night and all morning bombed a suburb of Tripoli – Tajhura (where, in particular, is Libya’s Nuclear Research Center). Air Defense and Air Force facilities in Tajhura were destroyed back in the first 2 days of strikes and more active military facilities in the city remained, but today the object of bombing are barracks of the Libyan army, around which are densely populated residential areas, and next to it – the largest of Libya’s Heart Centers. Civilians and the doctors could not assume that common residential quarters will be about to become destroyed, so none of the residents or hospital patients was evacuated.
Bombs and rockets struck residential houses and fell near the hospital. The glass of the Cardiac Center building was broken, and in the building of the maternity ward for pregnant women with heart disease a wall collapsed and part of the roof. This resulted in ten miscarriages whereby babies died, the women are in intensive care, doctors are fighting for their lives. Our colleagues and we are working seven days a week, to save people. This is a direct consequence of falling bombs and missiles in residential buildings resulting in dozens of deaths and injuries, which are operated and reviewed now by our doctors. Such a large number of wounded and killed, as during today, did not occur during the total of all the riots in Libya. And this is called 'protecting the civilian population?
Well, we have so much experience with them, what did we expect from our latest 'humanitarian intervention’? But even with such recent horrific experience as Iraq — which in large part was sold to Americans as a humanitarian invasion — so many progressives continue to buy the bull doo doo. The inferior, (presumably pseudo-)naive analysis of U.S. anti-war advocates plays a part in that.