January 25, 2013
On 11 January 2013, the French army launched a military campaign in Mali following movements of armed Muslim groups towards Bamako. For months now, they took up the whole of northern Mali and were just about, as we are told, to occupy the whole country. France following Mali’s President formal request decided to militarily intervene. And when I say France, I mean President Francois Hollande, without consulting the Parliament, decided on Friday to send French troops to Mali.
Recently the news came out, the UN Security Council unanimously backed up the French’s intervention in Mali. Phew…as if governments ever needed the UN approval. The French mission in Mali is just in line with long running traditions of the West intervening in foreign countries invoking the so-called R2P, the responsibility to protect. This beautiful concept that was built on humanitarian believes in ideals that would allow foreign countries to intervene in sovereign States to protect its citizens sometimes with the UN approval and sometimes not. It has been used for the very first time in 1991 to help Kuwait as it was being invaded by Iraq, in Kosovo by NATO forces in 1999 and more recently in Iraq in 2003 by the US and its allies to free the country from its tyrant Saddam Hussein, a former friend of the West.
Libya has also been the theatre of such intervention invoking the terrible regime instituted by the late Colonel Qaddafi who had to be removed in order to free the Libyan people. This regime however, did not trouble anyone up to then and certainly, did not prevent former President Sarkozy from inviting Colonel Qaddafi and his "royal court" to the presidential palace with all honours accordingly. Suddenly he became a pariah, heavily arming and assisting the rebels seemed to be the responsible thing to do at that time. They made us believe that he had always been our worst enemy, just as the US did for the Taliban regime in Afghanistan in 2001.
Mali is unfortunately no derogation to the rule. Invoking some kind of humanitarian grounds, alongside democratic values and more importantly to fight terrorism… Those concepts combined together would just legitimize about anything and everything. Using the word "terrorism" is some sort of open season that allows governments to get away with about everything and to obtain the support of the population. About 75% of the French population regardless of political tendencies do agree with the bombing campaign in Mali. The people simply believe this is the right thing to do, and who cares if not only it led to more restrictions on our civil liberties, anti-terrorist measures have been strengthened since the beginning of the intervention, but also if it means to embark on deadly crusades all around the world and mainly in Muslim countries. As Glenn Greenwald pointed out in his article in the Guardian this week, western countries have led military interventions in no less than 8 Muslim countries over the last 4 years alone. And always with the same hypocritical narrative as to impose our own views of what democracy should be. If R2P is the one and only motivation that drives those governments, why not intervene in neighbouring DRC for instance, where thousands and thousands of people have died since the beginning of the conflict years ago?
Leading France to war in Mali is something that no one would have expected from President Hollande, who turned out to be in the same line as his predecessors, what we have called in France "le changement dans la continuite" cannot be more true in this case. It turns out that just as the conservatives and the democrats in the US, there are some issues that do generate wide consensus regardless of political ideas. After all his promises, here we are, eight months into his mandate sending French troops in Africa. Breaking his promise to not engage in Africa anymore, Mali being a former French colony, and also his will to repatriate troops from Afghanistan sending them instead to the desert in Mali, as of yesterday he decided to increase the number of troops and to engage on the ground.
How is it that we cannot learn from our past mistakes? As I write this, repercussions have already occurred. 41 individuals including French, American, Japanese and British nationals have been taken hostage and two have died in the neighbouring country Algeria by a group allegedly coming from Northern Mali invoking that they act in response to the French intervention. The Algerian government was after all right to fear a military foreign intervention in Northern Mali.
Western governments are once again fighting for dubious reasons. One can’t fail noticing that even the name given to this operation is a give-away, the "Operation Serval". The serval is an animal close to the cat living in Africa and which particularity is to be able to urinate up to 30 times per hour to mark his territory. Ironic, isn’t’ it? Don’t fool yourself, France is not spending huge amounts of money and risking its troops on the ground as well as its international reputation for the love of human rights and to fight "evil". Considering that flying a military aircraft cost 27 000 Euros for one hour only, do we truly believe they will go at war to protect the people of Mali from terrorism? In reality, it is to secure the supply of Uranium for French nuclear needs and certainly not to secure the region.
Just as the intervention in Libya led to secure the French oil company Total would get juicy contracts for oil extraction, this intervention will probably help some companies to take over uranium mines. The Uranium is extracted in the mines of the northern Niger desert area only separated from Mali by a line on maps. Regarding this, it is interesting to emphasize the extreme perversity of the former colonial powers that once created those boarders ignoring the location of populations, countries and culture.
Finally, France is simply fighting alongside an illegitimate government. Again. It is not the first time France has been involved on the continent. Since its last colony gained independence, France has been known to place controversial African leaders for its own gain. Very recently, France has intervened in Ivory Coast in 2011 to arrest Laurent Gbagbo former president, while helping the newly elected Alassane Ouattara, not much better while complying with international human rights standards.
11 years after the beginning of the so called "global war on terror", can we say that those policies have helped decrease the terrorist threat? Do we feel more secure now than 12 years ago? The situation is unfortunately completely the opposite. The world has never been so unsafe as those policies actually feed the global sentiment of hatred and vengeance among the collateral victims of this war and keeps on creating new theatres for military interventions. This new bombing campaign just shows that once again, we have forgotten vital lessons from the past and history tragically repeats itself.