by Zafar Bangash (Main Stories, Crescent International Vol. 40, No. 2, Rabi' al-Thani, 1432)
The West’s attack on Libya is yet another crusade launched against a Muslim country on the pretext of protecting its people. Pope Urban II would be pleased to learn that his disciples are still marching on as good “Christian soldiers” against another group of “heathens” in the Muslim world nearly a thousand years after his sermon on Mount Clermont.
The West’s attack on Libya is yet another crusade launched against a Muslim country on the pretext of protecting its people. Pope Urban II would be pleased to learn that his disciples are still marching on as good “Christian soldiers” against another group of “heathens” in the Muslim world nearly a thousand years after his sermon on Mount Clermont. Colonel Muammar Qaddafi does not have to be our favourite tyrant but like Saddam Husain of Iraq, he has enjoyed Western support for decades. Western multinationals salivate at the prospect of consuming his sweet crude. Now they can have their belly full.
Pope Urban II would be pleased to learn that his disciples are still marching on as good “Christian soldiers” against another group of “heathens” in the Muslim world nearly a thousand years after his sermon on Mount Clermont.
Interestingly, too, the UN Security Council was pressed into service to pass a resolution (#1973), imposing a “no-fly zone” over Libya on March 17, ostensibly to “protect” the Libyan people. Twenty years ago, a similar no-fly zone was imposed on Iraq but without even the formality of going through the motion of a Security Council resolution. An estimated 1.5 million Iraqis were killed as a result of sanctions and the Western-imposed no fly zone. On May 12, 1996, when Leslie Stahl of CBS 60 Minutes program asked Madeleine Albright, then US ambassador to the UN, whether the death of 560,000 children was worth the price for ousting Saddam from power, the latter, without hesitation, said it was! Would it be any different in Libya?
The Libyan dictator also received former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in 2008. Qaddafi famously referred to her as “that black woman.”
Let us look at the lineup of countries attacking Libya: the US, Britain, France, Italy and Canada. Italy repudiated its friendship treaty with Libya and US President Barack Obama said Qaddafi had lost his legitimacy. Did Qaddafi ever have legitimacy; if yes, when and how did he lose it? If not, why were the same Western powers eager to deal with him before the recent troubles? Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair had visited Qaddafi in his tent in March 2004. The Libyan dictator also received former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in 2008. Qaddafi famously referred to her as “that black woman.” French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi both hosted Qaddafi in their capitals a few months before the uprisings started in the Middle East. So what has changed to make Qaddafi the bad boy of the Middle East again so quickly?
True, like Saddam, Qaddafi has had a rocky relationship with the West. From being the West’s darling to mad dog and then back into their good books, he has been through many ups and downs. Qaddafi’s current pariah status has nothing to do with the West’s argument of “humanitarian intervention” to save Libyan lives. Since when have Western rulers become concerned about the plight of Libyans or Muslims? If they do not care for the lives of their own friends — look at how the children of poor families are being sacrificed in Afghanistan and Iraq — why should they care about Libyans?
We need to understand what is afoot in Libya. Despite claims to the contrary, Western troops are already operating on the ground in Libya under the cover of “protecting” Western diplomats but actually providing training to the rebels. Even with the deeply flawed no-fly resolution that does not authorize attacks on Libyan ground forces or armored columns such as tanks, that is precisely what Western bombers are doing. This is creeping occupation of Libya as the world’s attention is diverted to the nuclear disaster in Japan. What might be the reason for the latest Western crusade?
Libyan oil, much coveted by the West because of its low sulphur content, has already been mentioned. Similarly, the US has frozen about $32 billion in Libyan assets under Executive Order 13566. Libya’s frozen assets represent a significant portion of its wealth, according to the Washington Post (March 23, 2011). “In 2009, Libya had a gross domestic product of $62 billion; its sovereign wealth fund is estimated at $40 billion and its central bank reserves at $110 billion. The European Union has added the central bank, the wealth fund and three other Libyan institutions to its sanctions — two weeks after the US action [of February 25],” according to the Post. Britain, not to be left behind, has seized more than $19 billion in Libyan assets.” The looting of Libya has begun in earnest by thieves that have honed their robbing skills over centuries.
Neither Qaddafi nor a successor regime — whatever its shape or color — will ever see this money again. Americans have a habit of stealing others’ wealth, whether by freezing their assets or robbing them through direct invasion and occupation. The US froze $40 billion of Iranian assets in 1980 and barring a few million the rest have been usurped. The Saudis have invested more than one trillion dollars in the US economy. They, too, are not likely to see any of this, especially given the precarious state of the US economy.
But the West’s crusade has another, more sinister purpose. Libya will serve as a beach-head for Western penetration into sub-Saharan Africa that is rich in minerals. Chad, Niger and Sudan have vast mineral deposits that the West covets. This also fits into the election of Obama as president of the United States in 2008. With a black man in the white house, the people of Africa as well as African Americans at home would not be too concerned if the US were to attack and occupy parts of Africa. After all, nobody would accuse Obama of racism. The American establishment has had it all neatly figured out.
A hint to the permanence of Western military intervention was given by US Defence Secretary Robert Gates when he said there was no definite answer about the duration of the Libyan campaign. But he did reveal what was afoot. “Let’s just call a spade a spade,” he said in what a no-fly zone over Libya would entail. “A no-fly zone begins with an attack on Libya to destroy air defences. That’s the way you do a no-fly zone.” A closer look at what Gates said reveals that there is no end in sight. Let us also recall the statement of Dick Cheney, former US vice president about the “war on terror”. He said it may last 50 to 100 years. We can now begin to get a glimpse into the thinking of Western policy-makers.
Wars necessarily create humanitarian crises. There are already nearly 100,000 refugees trying to flee Libya. These include Egyptians, Tunisians, Algerians and citizens of sub-Saharan African countries as well as poor Bangladeshis, Indians and Pakistanis. The West would use their plight as a pretext to send in “humanitarian” aid and workers. Then their “protection” would be used as a pretext for sending in large numbers of ground troops. Libya would once again be colonized directly.
We can see also that while the no-fly zone resolution was authorized by the UN Security Council, the military operations have been taken over by France and Britain and placed under NATO command. Thus, NATO powers have, once again, set themselves up as “authoritative judges of the world common good.”
Libyans clamoring for Western support to help them topple Qaddafi will rue that day when they wake up. Foreign intervention has never brought liberation to any people. Horace Campbell, Professor of African American studies and political science at Syracuse University and currently working on a book on AFRICOM has said: “US involvement in the Libyan bombing is being turned into a public relations ploy for AFRICOM (US Africa Command). AFRICOM is fundamentally a front for US military contractors like Dyncorp, MPRI and KBR operating in Africa. US military planners who benefit from the revolving door of privatization of warfare are delighted by the opportunity to give AFRICOM credibility under the facade of the Libyan intervention. No African country has agreed to let AFRICOM onto the continent. It has 1,500 people operating out of Stuttgart, Germany. If Libya is indeed partitioned, that new state could provide a base for AFRICOM.”
Libyans must wake up before they end up in even worse shape than they are under Qaddafi, however bad he may be. There are better ways to seek liberation than foreign help. It always comes with long strings attached and ends up enslaving rather than freeing people.