Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

Selective Vigilantism


The US-Nato intervention in Libya, with United Nations security council cover, is part of an orchestrated response to show support for the movement against one dictator in particular and by so doing to bring the Arab rebellions to an end by asserting western control, confiscating their impetus and spontaneity and trying to restore the status quo ante.

It is absurd to think that the reasons for bombing Tripoli or for the turkey shoot outside Benghazi are designed to protect civilians. This particular argument is designed to win support from the citizens of Euro-America and part of the Arab world. “Look at us,” say Obama/Clinton and the EU satraps, “we’re doing good. We’re on the side of the people.” The sheer cynicism is breathtaking. We’re expected to believe that the leaders with bloody hands in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan are defending the people in Libya. The debased British and French media are capable of swallowing anything, but the fact that decent liberals still fall for this rubbish is depressing. Civil society is easily moved by some images and Gaddafi’s brutality in sending his air force to bomb his people was the pretext that Washington utilised to bomb another Arab capital. Meanwhile, Obama’s allies in the Arab world were hard at work promoting democracy.

The Saudis entered Bahrain where the population is being tyrannised and large-scale arrests are taking place. Not much of this is being reported on al-Jazeera. I wonder why? The station seems to have been curbed somewhat and brought into line with the politics of its funders.

All this with active US support. The despot in Yemen, loathed by a majority of his people continues to kill them every day. Not even an arms embargo, let alone a “no-fly zone” has been imposed on him. Libya is yet another case of selective vigilantism by the US and its attack dogs in the west.

They can rely on the French as well. Sarkozy was desperate to do something. Unable to save his friend Ben Ali in Tunisia, he’s decided to help get rid of Gaddafi. The British always oblige and in this case, having shored up the Libyan regime for the last two decades, they’re making sure they’re on the right side so as not to miss out on the division of the spoils. What might they get?

The divisions on this entire operation within the American politico-military elite have meant there is no clear goal. Obama and his European satraps talk of regime change. The generals resist and say that isn’t part of their picture. The US state department is busy preparing a new government composed of English-speaking Libyan collaborators. We will now never know how long Gaddafi’s crumbling and weakened army would have held together in the face of strong opposition. The reason he lost support within his armed forces was precisely because he ordered them to shoot their own people. Now he speaks of imperialism’s desire to topple him and take the oil and even many who despise him can see that it’s true. A new Karzai is on the way.

The frontiers of the squalid protectorate that the west is going to create are being decided in Washington. Even those Libyans who, out of desperation, are backing Nato’s bomber jets, might – like their Iraqi equivalents – regret their choice.

All this might trigger a third phase at some stage: a growing nationalist anger that spills over into Saudi Arabia and here, have no doubt, Washington will do everything necessary to keep the Saudi royal family in power. Lose Saudi Arabia and they will lose the Gulf states. The assault on Libya, greatly helped by Gaddafi’s imbecility on every front, was designed to wrest the initiative back from the streets by appearing as the defenders of civil rights. The Bahrainis, Egyptians, Tunisians, Saudi Arabians, Yemenis will not be convinced, and even in Euro-America more are opposed to this latest adventure than support it. The struggles are by no means over.

Obama talks of a merciless Gaddafi, but the west’s own mercy never drops like gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath. It only blesses the power that dispenses, the mightiest of the mightiest.

TARIQ ALI’s latest book “The Obama Syndrome: Surrender at Home, War Abroad’ is published by Verso.

Tariq Ali is the author of The Obama Syndrome (Verso).

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Gaddafi
Diana Johnstone
Hillary Clinton’s Strategic Ambition in a Nutshell
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Stephen Cooper
Hell on Earth in Alabama: Inside Holman Prison
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future
Rob Urie
Name the Dangerous Candidate
Pepe Escobar
The Aleppo / Mosul Riddle
David Rosen
The War on Drugs is a Racket
Sami Siegelbaum
Once More, the Value of the Humanities
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
Neve Gordon
Israel’s Boycott Hypocrisy
Mark Hand
Of Pipelines and Protest Pens: When the Press Loses Its Shield
Victor Wallis
On the Stealing of U.S. Elections
Michael Hudson
The Return of the Repressed Critique of Rentiers: Veblen in the 21st century Rentier Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Drumbeats of Anti-Russia Confrontation From Washington to London
Howard Lisnoff
Still Licking Our Wounds and Hoping for Change
Brian Gruber
Iraq: There Is No State
Peter Lee
Trump: We Wish the Problem Was Fascism
Stanley L. Cohen
Equality and Justice for All, It Seems, But Palestinians
Steve Early
In Bay Area Refinery Town: Berniecrats & Clintonites Clash Over Rent Control
Kristine Mattis
All Solutions are Inadequate: Why It Doesn’t Matter If Politicians Mention Climate Change
Peter Linebaugh
Ron Suny and the Marxist Commune: a Note
Andre Vltchek
Sudan, Africa and the Mosaic of Horrors
Keith Binkly
The Russians Have Been Hacking Us For Years, Why Is It a Crisis Now?
Jonathan Cook
Adam Curtis: Another Manager of Perceptions
Ted Dace
The Fall
Sheldon Richman
Come and See the Anarchy Inherent in the System
Susana Hurlich
Hurricane Matthew: an Overview of the Damages in Cuba
Dave Lindorff
Screwing With and Screwing the Elderly and Disabled
Chandra Muzaffar
Cuba: Rejecting Sanctions, Sending a Message
Dennis Kucinich
War or Peace?
Joseph Natoli
Seething Anger in the Post-2016 Election Season
Jack Rasmus
Behind The 3rd US Presidential Debate—What’s Coming in 2017
Ron Jacobs
A Theory of Despair?
Gilbert Mercier
Globalist Clinton: Clear and Present Danger to World Peace
James A Haught
Many Struggles Won Religious Freedom
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Dear Fellow Gen Xers: Let’s Step Aside for the Millennials
Uri Avnery
The Peres Funeral Ruckus
Tom Clifford
Duterte’s Gambit: the Philippines’s Pivot to China
Reyes Mata III
Scaling Camelot’s Walls: an Essay Regarding Donald Trump
Raouf Halaby
Away from the Fray: From Election Frenzy to an Interlude in Paradise
James McEnteer
Art of the Feel
David Yearsley
Trump and Hitchcock in the Age of Conspiracies
Charles R. Larson
Review: Sjón’s “Moonstone: the Boy Who Never Was”