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To the Shores of Tripoli?


It seems reasonable to state that the reason Washington launched its machinery of death against Libya is to insure it would have some input in that nation’s future after Gaddafi’s departure.  The claim of saving civilian lives, while laudable, rings as hollow as ever.  As always this claim begs the question how does a military save civilian lives while destroying civilian lives?  History tells us that this reasoning is only for the folks watching the attacks on television, not for those in the region being subjected to them.  The Arab League, having foolishly believed that Washington and NATO truly exist to save civilian lives, are now regretting their support of military action in the wake of climbing civilian casualties.  Casualties which the US and its posse have denied occurring.

While the US and its European cohorts would probably like to have friendly forces control the entire country of Libya, they may decide to be content with those forces in control of the part already held by the rebels in the east.  On February 28, 2011,Abdessalam Najib, a petroleum engineer at the Libyan company Agico  told a Reuters reporter “Nearly all the oilfields in Libya east of Ras Lanuf are now controlled by the people and the government has no control in this area.”   This area is where a good portion of Libya’s major oil fields and related industry are.  Of course, should it start looking like the anti-Gaddafi forces find themselves unable to hold that territory, one can be certain Rome, London and Washington will figure out a way to put some friendly troops in there.  In fact according to scattered press reports, some from the US may already be there. (reported on WNBI-TV, 3/23/2011, New Bern, NC.)

Beyond Libya lies the greater revolt of the Arab people.  Manipulating this revolt and turning the hopes of the people in the region for genuine democracy into a US-style electoral charade seems to be the best Washington can hope for in the near future.  For those movements unwilling to settle for this, their battle will become more difficult.  It is unlikely that Washington wanted the Egyptian people to go as far as they have.  The current situation with the military in control provides some comfort to Washington, but the urgings of the people to move beyond the military has raised concerns.  Washington can hardly wait until a government more like Mubarak’s is in control.  At the same time, Washington’s fear is that there will never be another government like that in Cairo.  A pro-western military presence in Libya, combined with  the repressive regimes in the sheikdoms and Iraq, would certainly help keep a lid on any further revolutionary stirrings.  Despite this, even Washington understands (and fears) that revolution operates on its own terms.

The pathetic displays of military hardware combined with the crowing of the Wolf Blitzer-types on cable news channels are nothing new.  They shouldn’t piss me off like they do.  The strutting of that hardware accompanied by statistics about death and capabilities is reminiscent of a football locker room before a game.  Without going deeper, suffice it to say that while the aforementioned displays may be pathetic and the crowing by news anchors, the most pathetic displays are those of liberal politicians and their supporters actually believing (for the umpteenth time in the past twenty years) that the US military is doing good.  That launching cruise missiles is defending civilians.  That Tomahawks and F-22s are something other than the weapons of mass destruction commandeered by uniformed men and women who are essentially cowards.  Regarding the other side of the aisle, let me say this.  Hearing John Boehner and other Republicans call for the White House to explain to Congress the nature of the mission is a joke.  It’s not like they have a history of opposing US military intervention or even much  affinity for the constitution.  Their cries to include Congress are as genuine as Barack Obama’s promises to close Gitmo, exit Iraq, and withdraw from Afghanistan by June.  On the other hand. what does Obama have to fear by including Congress?  It’s not like there will be any effective opposition to his imperial foray.

Don’t be fooled by the stage managing of this intervention.  Just because Robert Gates or General Ham (now is that a name or what?) point to the presence of bombers from Norway, Denmark and even (yes, even) from Qatar, the fact is this is Washington’s show.  From the halls of Pentagon City to the shores of Tripoli, the power behind the Tomahawks and bombers is all American.  And so is the hypocrisy.

RON JACOBS is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground and Short Order Frame Up. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden. His new novel is The Co-Conspirator’s Tale. He can be reached at:



Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at:

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