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Powell River, BC
When the U.S. invaded Iraq riding a pack of lies and monstrous manipulation, the entire U.S. elite, including major news services, academics, and politicians from both parties, lined up to cheerlead and off they went to war. It was one of the most shameful chapters in the long history of shameful acts of U.S. imperial foreign policy.
But it actually didn’t take too long for dissenting voices to come out of the woodwork. The lies were exposed, the liars identified, the manipulation denounced. The war went ion but at least we knew the lies.
Watching the sorry media spectacle of the tragic farce unfolding in Libya, one has to wonder if anyone will ever expose the lies and hubris that have characterized the coverage of this faux Arab spring.
To be sure, as more journalists, aid workers and human rights representatives arrive in the country the more some of the obvious facts trickle out. The “freedom fighters” — more like soccer hooligans with guns — have looted dozens of arms depots of the Libyan military. According to Peter Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch, “Every time a city falls, they end up being looted. . . Every facility we go to where there were surface-to-air missiles, they’re gone.”
Just what will these lovers of democracy do with these weapons? The U.S. and E.U. might just start to worry that no matter who buys them on the black market, they will eventually end up in the hands of al Qaeda or other militant groups. As NATO knows full well, some of the so-called rebels have ties to al Qaeda. Or perhaps the missiles will end up in the hands of the Taliban where they will be used to shoot down U.S. helicopters. Talk about blowback. Too bad the Americans have never quite grasped the meaning of irony.
The photos of the revolutionaries give any thoughtful observer pause. Almost every photo of the victorious rebels show aggressive, undisciplined, young men armed to the teeth holding their guns high in the air (often firing randomly). Boys with their (lethal) toys.
And while the Western media repeatedly imply that the Nation Transitional Council is in control of these dangerous gangs the truth lies elsewhere. Several rebel groups have denounced the NTC and said they don’t recognize its authority. So not only does the council not represent anyone, it doesn’t even control its own “army.” The NTC is little more than a group of greedy opportunists salivating at the thought of getting its hands on the billions in state funds that NATO is now handing over to them. Only with the constant disciplinary efforts of its NATO handlers does the council manage to maintain a semblance of decorum and credibility.
In other situations where dictators were deposed the seizing of their assets was justified – because they were in personal bank accounts. But the tens of billions illegally seized by Western countries was money belonging to the Libyan state and its national bank. That no one has commented on the casual elimination of sovereignty, someone should. NATO has effectively destroyed the Libyan government — not just Gaddafi’s regime. Tens of thousands of foreign workers have left Libya, many of whom were critical to the running of the country. Rebels have been accused of randomly executing blacks, many of them students and workers. Who will fill their critical roles now?
But none of this bothers the Canadian political elite and its intellectual hired guns. One of the most shameful examples is Lloyd Axworthy, the “highly respected” former foreign affairs minister under Jean Chretien. He penned an op-ed for the Globe and Mail in which he waxed on romantically about how the NATO bombing of Libya is a huge advance for the principle of Responsibility to Protect – a UN principle promoted by Axworthy in in 1999-2000.
According to Axworthy, “We are seriously engaged in a resetting of the international order toward a more humane, just world.” I predict that instead NATO’s grotesque manipulation of the UN mandate to impose a “no fly” zone to protect “civilians” (a violation Axworthy doesn’t even mention) will in fact do more damage to the responsibility to protect principle than any similar action to date. It will tarnish the UN, too, which has allowed its mandate to be used for imperial gain. The rush by France, Britain and Italy in particular, to get their hands on Libyan oil will soon be too obvious to cover up. The revolutionaries are no doubt busy signing deals handing over that previously nationalized resource to the neo-colonialists who put them in power — robbing the real civilians of their birthright.
We should ask who will take the “responsibility to protect” Libyans from this new gang? Who will protect the people of Libya so that they continue to enjoy a literacy rate above 90 per cent, the lowest infant mortality rate and highest life expectancy of all of Africa, free medical care and education and the highest Human Development Index of any country on the continent?
Do the boys firing their guns in the air even have a clue that their living standards — subsidized by nationalized oil — were among the highest in Africa? Who will they blame when medical care disappears and their kids have to pay to go to school? Western, free-market democracy will come to Libya at a very high price when designed and delivered by the neo-colonial powers.
Why does virtually no one in the mainstream Canadian media even mention the fact that Libya was the biggest obstacle to the continued super-exploitation of Africa and its vast resources. This is, after all, the principle reason for NATO’s determination to turn a ‘no fly zone” into regime change. On a whole number of fronts, Libya was using its oil wealth to gradually close the doors to the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the hegemony of the U.S. dollar in the economic domination of Africa.
Africa’s role as a giant pool of cheap resources was being threatened just as the U.S. and E.U. faced economic catastrophe because of the failure of their own neo-liberal policies. Gaddafi’s determination to eliminate Africa’s dependence on Western financial institutions was one of the most serious threats faced by global capitalism. Gaddafi was not only in the process of creating the African Investment Bank (providing interest-free loans to African nations) and the African Monetary Fund (to be centred in Cameroon) and eliminating the role of the IMF. It was also in the planning stages of creating a new, gold-backed African currency that would seriously weaken the U.S. by undermining the dollar.
It is almost certain that in return for putting the new bunch in power, and freeing up the billions in state funds, NATO will demand these new institutions be smothered in their cribs. Gaddafi was also instrumental in killing AFRICOM, a new U.S. military command and control base intended to add military intimidation to American economic domination. Look for that initiative to be revived.
It’s easy to be gratified getting rid of a brutal dictator. But when will we learn that waging war has enormous, long-lasting consequences? Already, the head of the new “government” is calling for legislation based on Sharia law – reversing 42 years of secularism in Libya. Western-style democracy is an unlikely outcome in a country consisting of many different and hostile tribes – unified only by Gaddafi’s iron fist and socialist policies which distributed wealth equally amongst them.
So if we are going to feel triumphant – Prime Minister Stephen Harper boasted about Canada “punching above our weight” – let’s be clear what we have accomplished. We got rid of one moderately nasty dictator. But we have eliminated a government which distributed its oil wealth more equally than any other Arab state, will impose on Libya a new market imperative, likely eliminating most social programs and making Libya less equal, may well end up with a government based on Islamic law (if it doesn’t fly apart in tribal warfare) and have destroyed Africa’s best hope for independent development.
How shall we celebrate?
MURRAY DOBBIN, now living in Powell River, BC has been a journalist, broadcaster, author and social activist for over forty years. He now writes a bi-weekly column for the on-line journals the Tyee and rabble.ca. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.