Thursday, March 17, 2011
No to Airstrikes on Libya!
Today the United Nations Security Council voted to intervene in the Libyan civil war and authorize airstrikes against the forces of Moammar al-Qaddafi. According to the New York Times: "The United States, originally leery of any military involvement in Libya, became a strong proponent of the resolution, particularly after the Arab League approved a no-fly zone, something that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called a “game changer.” Not reported by the Times but widely speculated elsewhere is that the Arab League cut a deal to approve the air strikes on Libya in return for aquiescence to Saudi Arabian/Gulf Cooperation Council intervention in Bahrain on behalf of the beleaguered and unpopular royal family fighting off a mass uprising. While a few stern words have been tossed the way of the Bahrain government by the Obama administration, it's clear that Obama and Clinton completely sold out the Bahraini democracy movement, fearing the loss of a crucial U.S. military base, Iranian influence, and any potential spread of unrest from Bahrain's majority Shi'a population to the Shi'a region of Saudi Arabia. While the Shi'a are a minority in Saudi Arabia, they're a majority where the oil comes from. An invasion of Kuwait by Iraq might have been a big deal back in the day but apparently a Saudi invasion of Bahrain is not; even though the percentage of the population involved in the uprising's protests in the tiny island nation -- now brutally suppressed -- is staggeringly huge.
Back in Libya, things have not been looking good for the Libyan revolution. Government forces seized the upper hand, repressing protests in the capital, Tripoli, and then turning the protest movement on a military defensive. Government forces have retaken most of the cities which threw off allegiance to Qaddafi, leaving now only Misurata, Tobruk and Benghazi under the control of rebel protesters. Qaddafi's propaganda machine seems to have somewhat successfully rallied some of the population behind a wide range of accusations against the opposition ranging from the absurd (they're all on drugs) to the unlikely (they're all Al Qaeda) to the partially true (some of them support foreign intervention).
The hypocrisy is flying fast and furious in the Middle East. The Arab League and the United Nations looked the other way when hundreds of innocent people were being murdered by Israeli offensives in Lebanon and Gaza in recent years. Indeed the "Palestine Papers" released by Al Jazeera tell a story of massive complicity between the region's governments, Israel and the U.S. to destroy Hamas and the Lebanese resistance, no matter how many innocent people suffered. Now that oil supplies to Europe are threatened, and that Europe is gazing nervously at a potential new wave of brown-skinned immigrants, suddenly Qaddafi is enemy number one again. Never mind that just yesterday he had become Europe and America's best friend; an "ally in the war on terror" and fully embraced by Italy's incredibly corrupt Berlusconi as a bulwark against African immigration. Just a couple months ago the dictator's son Seif al-Islam al Qaddafi was being heralded in the American media as the LSE-graduated face of reform and reconciliation. Now Seif al-Islam is leading the counterattack against the popular uprising. Wednesday Hillary Clinton was on a visit to Egypt: walking around Tahrir Square in the aftermath of that country's revolution she said ever so wide-eyed, "To see where this revolution happened, and all that it has meant to the world, is extraordinary for me." Never mind her office's massive ambivalence about the Egyptian protests when they were actually happening. A group of revolutionary youth refused an invitation to meet with her. By the time she got to Tunisia Thursday there were protests against her. According to the Angry Arab News service "Demonstrators chanted: "No to normalisation, Tunisia is free and not for sale" or "Tunisia is an Arab country, neither imperialist nor Zionist."
It's deeply ironic that President Obama is now once again emulating Ronald Reagan, who famously authorized airstrikes on Libya back in 1986. While one of Qaddafi's children was killed by those airstrikes, Qaddafi and his regime survived, his fake anti-imperialism given credibility by American enmity. It is terrible that Qaddafi is making headway against the rebels. But we've seen this story before. There's a short one word answer for those who think this will end well: I-R-A-Q. So much for the antiwar President.
It's not clear to me how the UN resolution will now be carried out: no doubt if airstrikes begin they will be done under cover of "NATO." But the world just got a little more dangerous. The U.S., NATO, the U.N., the Arab League: they don't care about the Libyan people. They care about power. About stability. About preventing the spread of uncontrolled popular uprisings. About oil.
And who the fuck thinks the U.S. needs another war?
NO TO THE AIRSTRIKES! HANDS OFF LIBYA!