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Want A UN Invasion? Byers Beware!

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.

Want A UN Invasion? Byers Beware!

March 19, 2011

It's amazing how short the memory can be, all the more so when one is motivated by ambitions that need to forget. After watching civilians exterminated in the air from Iraq to Yugoslavia to Afghanistan and elsewhere, we today are being treated to celebrations of yet another aerial slaughter in the name of human rights. Michael Byers of the ever evolving lack of political direction has jumped into this fray recently. Libya, a few weeks back, was poised to be the third major Arab country to undergo a regime change that would terminate a long standing and unelected presidency. In short order, unlike in Egypt and Tunisia before, the Qaddafi regime decided to fight back with military force and what had been a mass demonstration uprising quickly evolved into a civil war setting. While most reports have been impossible to verify, a picture quickly emerged of air raids being carried out by the state forces against defensive positions held by a rag tag army that the rest of the world knew only as, at first, the “opposition”. It was not for awhile yet after this that we were treated to a few names and policy demands.

During all this time there has been, including on the part of Al-Jazeera sadly, a false dichotomy projected to the point of non-questioning: If you are at all hesitant to both embrace the newly minted “National Libyan Council” or question how US, French or British air strikes fit in, exactly, to a movement called “revolutionary” or that is questing “freedom”, the unwritten rule is you embrace the Qaddafi regime. The calls from Sandinista leader Danny Ortega and Bolivarian Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez have not helped in this matter in the slightest, either. Nonetheless, there is a lot of room to support the uprising of Arabs in every country, including Libya-- and to simultaneously state what should be obvious: Our solidarity does not come from fighter jets and missile strikes. Canada has announced that 6 fighter jets from the Canadian air force are to be involved in bombing raids on Libyan territory, so even in the face of the reality on the ground in Haiti, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia before. Now the “cruise missile left” of “respectable” left-wingers (and I use the term loosely) have begun their circle jerk of applause and fawning before the arsenals of death that exist now over the skies of Libya. And glory be! So when is that federal election again?

Michael Byers, the former NDP candidate who gave people an accidental rush during the last federal campaign after pledging to “shut down the tar sands” has grown a little, though in strange ways, since he made that massive rookie mistake during an all candidates meeting. Then, speaking the truth was accidental, and his groveling apology was taken at face value by the media that allows no such talk of disrupting the largest, most destructive industrial development today. Having learned that the truth is dangerous to your position in politics, the now former NDP candidate (expelled from the party for calling for strategic voting to the Ignatieff Liberals) doesn't even play a little with fact, but uses the same tortured logic of imperial adventure we always hear, with some contemporary colour to make the modern white mans burden sound like a new venture.

Writing an editorial article titled “Libya Resolution a Huge Human Rights Milestone”, Byers places a bunch of warm, fuzzy and false logic behind the invasion of Libya. To be sporting, here they are-- and here they are debunked. Michael Byers:

 

  1. First, the resolution is aimed at the protection of human rights. The resolution is not -- repeat not -- about access to oil and gas.”

So we are told. So, in the resolutions aimed at Iraq there was an explicit discussion about oil reserves and why they are important to the invading countries? Through all of the resolutions aimed at Iraq-- over a 20-year period-- there was never one overt mention of the need for oil and gas. The idea that “it just happens” that Libya is the largest reserve-holding regime in Africa, and that there are countries in Africa with far worse human rights situations (Democratic Republic of Congo, anyone? Anyone?) the notion of the countries involved being non-oil inspired beggars disbelief. First off, the majority of Libyan oil currently gets shipped to Europe. Small wonder than France and Britain-- countries who stand to benefit from a newly subservient and pliant government-- are more gung-ho to control Libya than even the United States.

It is not much of an accident that since the uprising began and the former friends of Qaddafi in Italy, France, Britain and the US have backed away that the government has made direct overtures to India, China and Russia to invest in oil production. That the uprising started on the same democratic basis of Egypt, Tunisia and the other still embryonic revolutions in the region is not in doubt. After the uprising started, however, French giant Total called off all production. Qaddafi himself was quoted on March 14 as saying “We are ready to bring Chinese and Indian companies to replace Western ones,”1 making it fairly certain what outcome would appear if Qaddafi was successful in crushing the uprising. Whatever the initial aims of the insurgents, and whether there are still large independent tendencies within the insurgency, those who have been elevated to “official representatives” are now the ones who would provide Europe with the direct oil deliveries that Qaddafi used to guarantee. Byers again:

2). “Second, Arab League support.”

This is almost comical, when one looks at the totality of who is making up the Arab League these days. We have the governments of 22 Arab States, minus Libya, deliberating on an uprising that also threatens each and every single Arab regime, and we are asked to believe that their decisions to ask for a bombing campaign in Libya is based on human rights. In fact, Byers flips reality completely on its head as he asserts: “Aircraft from several Arab countries are expected to play a role in the no-fly zone, along with planes from France, Britain, Canada, and the United States. The news could not come at a better time for pro-democracy protestors across North Africa and Middle East.” In the uprisings of Egypt and Tunisia, people power was able to take the streets, make demands and eventually see a good chunk of those demands carried through. In both countries, the main stumbling block remaining is the military itself.

Inspired by these partial and heartening victories, people have taken to the streets in Algeria, Morocco, Yemen, Oman, Jordan, Bahrain and even Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian West Bank. Indeed, Byers even recognizes this-- in a very confused manner.

“Saudi Arabia recently sent troops into Bahrain, where they have been slaughtering people in the streets. In Yemen, dozens of protestors have died at the hands of the police and military. Hopes for a real democracy in Egypt hang on a thread while the military government weighs its interests against internal and external pressures. Now, having supported the UN resolution, Arab governments have to live with its consequences.” Really? Is that the historic evolution of how power manifests through the Security Council? If a country had to “live with its consequences” when a resolution was passed we would have seen at least partial justice for the Palestinians decades ago. In reality, each and every one of the Arab regimes is currently living in terror of the people of their own countries. They have not made their own situation more complicated-- they are doing what they have always done-- use brute force to terrorize the population into subservience. Having their paymasters attack Libya and control the direction of that rebellion--Qaddafi was never a favoured son of any of the Arab regimes-- is both ideal in terms of outcome but also frightens the Hell out of the region. The most important factor for all of the other states in the region is to maintain their own control of their populations.

The people of the region know what the US and other countries are capable of. The Arab states need to use fear to quell any further thoughts of dissidence. The uprising in Libya was unable to take state power quickly, and any all-out bombing raids combined with “all measures” to “protect civilians” with military means has taken the innocence of the Arab Spring and squashed it.

All the more curious is the timing, not only after Qaddafi offered the oil reserves of the country to Russia, China and India-- but at a time when all military information coming out of the country was that Qaddafi's forces were about to recapture Benghazi. Now, even if the forces that are trying to unseat the current regime are to take power in Tripoli they will never be independent but completely reliant on the same powers that have upheld the brutal dictatorships in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Algeria, Morocco, Jordan and so on. In other words, the “new boss” in Libya will answer to the “old boss” for the entire region.

Once the “no fly zone” is established it will not come apart any time shortly thereafter. With the modern weapons and flight systems that are possessed by imperialism air control is total, absolute, untouchable and unassailable. No new government in Libya will have anything remotely like “independence,” but instead will be a subsidiary of the corporations like Total that are headquartered by the states that will now control Libyan skies. What will be the price of relinquishing control of Libyan airspace? To assume something other than a new colonialism would be to assume, without precedent, that the nature of imperial countries has changed-- with nothing to force exactly that.

To those who are concerned with real human rights violations by the Qaddafi forces? Let's note who now heads the “National Libyan Council.” Mustafa Abdel Jalil, the former Justice minister under Qaddafi. We are not talking about decades ago, but rather he tendered his resignation on February 21st of this year, during the uprising. Defections during the collapse of a regime to attempt to join the new one are common in such times. Of course, a Justice Minister for Qaddafi would have been in charge of Qaddafi's jails-- whatever tortures were going on happened under his watch. This is who is to be installed via the military invasion of the United States and Europe? We know little to nothing about any other members of the “opposition”, other than the fact they have been going cap-in-hand to beg assistance from France, the UK, the United States (including a “private meeting” with Hillary Clinton) and Saudi Arabia. So what is the US thinking here? Byers states:

 

3)“Third, a fresh position by the U.S.”

 

Byers would have us believe that bombing in the Middle East to deal with a former ally dictator gone astray-- who controls vast reserves of oil-- is a new policy. Explicated as “From the moment he turned against Hosni Mubarak, Barack Obama has abandoned the pursuit of Middle East stability in favor of huge risks and uncertain rewards of rapid political change.” There has been no over-arching change in policy from the United States whatsoever, theirs was one of the last governments to abandon Mubarak-- the same Mubarak they propped up in the first place with the largest financial handouts annually that went to a country not named Israel.

The reasons behind “abandoning” Mubarak are still playing out, and clearly so, in the streets of Egypt as the media turns away and people are now fighting the same Egyptian military to guarantee the demands of their revolution actually get invoked. With the rapid disintegration of Egypt's ruling circle, the US needed to be in a place to make certain that the new regime could be “directed” and that their internal intelligence contacts in the army could be maintained. Since then and throughout the entire region the US has been trying to catch up, having been caught off guard in a manner seldom seen since the Sandinistas took Managua in 1979.

It is often and quite correctly pointed out that the US military is vastly overextended-- this is pointed out regularly as one of the reasons that the US has not yet launched attacks on Iran. In the case of both Libya and Iran the over-extension of the military is also lined up with the logic of what it would mean to have “boots on the ground” in yet another Muslim country. That, combined with how the US will lose the tiny bit of credibility it may have left in the region if it continues to shore up dictatorships has left the United States trying to find other ways to protect their Empire (called “national interests”). There is a dual track policy that has evolved since the time after Mubarak was obviously going to fall.

Track one is to pre-empt revolutionary movements in countries with valued and well-funded dictatorships that are reliable-- Algeria, Bahrain, Jordan and most importantly Saudi Arabia have seen attempts to buy off their populations with billions of dollars or partial concessions around governmental policy that does nothing to affect the nature or direction of the regime. These governments have had the added protection of being allies in one form or another of the Qataris, who ultimately run Al Jazeera, and have devoted their news to cheerleading this invasion while only mumbling about the other ongoing slaughters and plots against rebellions in country after country. Today, the first day of the bombing, Qatar announced they will soon join the air campaign.

The fact that in both Saudi Arabia and in Bahrain there are people willing to take the streets against not only the vicious repression but such an important American ally should be worthy of a lot more than footnotes from an entire network, and a spin that tries to cast such uprisings as only Shiite vs Sunni in nature.

The US has been visiting with Arab countries and openly proclaiming the need for “reform.” This is a reform where only the most cosmetic surface changes take place, maintaining both class relations as well as foreign direction and ownership. In other cases such as Libya (or Iran and Syria), when the government is teetering they armlock the opposition into their fold and strengthen domination within the region. Perhaps more than before the struggle for what shape the Egyptian revolution ultimately adopts will be one of the most important deciding factors-- Tunisia and Egypt both happened while the US and its allies were looking elsewhere. They have evolved a new strategy of control. Using the airforce to direct any uprising against Qaddafi (or, say, Assad) is a crucial part of the strategy to crush the truly independent aims of the Arab Spring. So, too, is using the Saudi Arabian kingdom to arm the Libyan rebels on the one hand, while arming Bahraini state police to kill opposition demonstrators in a country with a massive US Naval base on the other. If the goal is to maintain the US empire, then this is coherent. In fact, the idea Saudi would trade a bombing of Libya for their “right” to invade Bahrain is already making wide circuits. All the while we are nearly blacked out of the protests in Saudi Arabia, where tens of billions in bribe-to-stay-home money is failing to keep the population in their homes.

What is at stake here is no more and no less than the continuation and independence of the Arab Revolution. The countries that have fed and armed the very dictatorships that are now under siege have no role to play in the struggle. They are the enemies of freedom and the people who are rising now are rising against an entire regional structure that places the locals as irrelevant to anything other than the European and North American gas tanks. They are rising against the Arab League. They are rising against being the property of the Western world. The Arab League countries are counting on American and French planes to extinguish the hopes of people in the entire region. The Middle East has long had governments implanted for the twin reasons of keeping the oil flowing and enslaving the Palestinian people at the cost of the rights of people in country after country. The UN is attempting to maintain that, nothing less.

That the US, France, UK and their Arab allies such as Algeria and Saudi Arabia would collude to crush the uprisings once and for all is of no surprise. I only wish it were a surprise when “humanitarian intervention” continues its Orwellian ability to deliver intellectuals to abuse the English, French and other languages with high sounding morals that send individual peoples to their deaths, and theaten the movements for freedom of an entire region.

It seems that once every 10-15 years, liberals want to refashion another population of people of colour to bomb and parade their fantasies of civilizing the world. Such missions are hardly new, and the intellectual hangers-on who scribe for power in political spheres are nothing new, either. What is new, however, is the major opening for real freedom-- for hundreds of millions of people who have paid the price of imperial ambitions for far too long. What is taking place is a chance to break the US, European and Israeli enslavement of the Middle East and North Africa. Stopping this UN war may keep the revolutionary opportunity alive, for this war is on the whole region, the people and their dreams. And let us be clear: Their dreams do not involve American fighter jets-- those jets have long been the Arab nightmare, lived day after day after day.

 

1http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/3/12/7661/Business/Economy/Gaddafi-offers-Libyan-oil-production-to-India,-Rus.aspx


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Macdonald (Macdonald Stainsby)
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I would be mighty surprised

I would be mighty surprised if you actually believed everything you just wrote.

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