The howling hypocrisy of the American response to the uprising in Libya has been so jaw-dropping and nauseating that I’ve hardly been able to address it. Fortunately, Seamus Milne is on the case, and voices much of my thinking about the matter:
The same western leaders who happily armed and did business with the Gaddafi regime until a fortnight ago have now slapped sanctions on the discarded autocrat and blithely referred him to the international criminal court the United States won’t recognise.
Yes, does this not, as they say, take the cake … and the plate and the forks and the napkins too? The United States pushing through a measure to refer Libyan leaders to an international court which the United States resolutely refuses to recognize — lest its own leaders and their underlings find themselves in the dock for the most monstrous war crimes of this century? Yet even today, the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate was sternly wagging his finger at Gaddafi and his underlings, telling them they “will be held accountable” for their actions before the august institutions of international justice, which weigh the whole world in the balance … except for the Peace prize-winning drone assassin and Continuer-in-Chief of a worldwide campaign of state terror, that is. But now back to Milne:
With Colonel Gaddafi and his loyalists showing every sign of digging in, the likelihood must be of intensified conflict – with all the heightened pretexts that would offer for outside interference, from humanitarian crises to threats to oil supplies.
But any such intervention would risk disaster and be a knife at the heart of the revolutionary process now sweeping the Arab world. Military action is needed, US and British politicians claim, because Gaddafi is “killing his own people”. Hundreds have certainly died, but that’s hard to take seriously as the principal motivation.
When more than 300 people were killed by Hosni Mubarak’s security forces in a couple of weeks, Washington initially called for “restraint on both sides”. In Iraq, 50,000 US occupation troops protect a government which last Friday killed 29 peaceful demonstrators demanding reform. In Bahrain, home of the US fifth fleet, the regime has been shooting and gassing protesters with British-supplied equipment for weeks.
The “responsibility to protect” invoked by those demanding intervention in Libya is applied so selectively that the word hypocrisy doesn’t do it justice. And the idea that states which are themselves responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands in illegal wars, occupations and interventions in the last decade, along with mass imprisonment without trial, torture and kidnapping, should be authorised by international institutions to prevent killings in other countries is simply preposterous.
One key point Milne makes here deserves underlining: Western military intervention would be “a knife at the heart of the revolutionary process now sweeping the Arab world.” But of course, that’s exactly what Peace prizeniks and Etonian schoolboys now leading the “Free World” would like to see happen. As Milne notes, the Arab Awakening is threatening some of the West’s favorite dictators and tough guys, from the religious extremists in Saudi Arabia to the ever-complaisant corruptocrats in Bahrain to the client brutalists in Iraq and elsewhere.The dullards directing world affairs have been desperately casting about for a way to put the kibosh on the movement – and Libya might give them the opening they’ve been fumbling for. Milne again:
The reality is that the western powers which have backed authoritarian kleptocrats across the Middle East for decades now face a loss of power in the most strategically sensitive region of the world as a result of the Arab uprisings and the prospect of representative governments. They are evidently determined to appropriate the revolutionary process wherever possible, limiting it to cosmetic change that allows continued control of the region.
In Libya, the disintegration of the regime offers a crucial opening. Even more important, unlike Tunisia and Egypt, it has the strategic prize of the largest oil reserves in Africa. Of course the Gaddafi regime has moved a long way from the days when it took over the country’s oil, kicked out foreign bases and funded the African National Congress at a time when the US and Britain branded Nelson Mandela a terrorist.
Along with repression, corruption and a failure to deliver to ordinary Libyans, the regime has long since bent the knee to western power, as Tony Blair and his friends were so keen to celebrate, ditching old allies and nuclear ambitions while offering privatised pickings and contracts to western banks, arms and oil corporations such as BP.
Now the prospect of the regime’s fall offers the chance for much closer involvement – western intelligence has had its fingers in parts of the Libyan opposition for years – when other states seem in danger of spinning out of the imperial orbit. … Military intervention wouldn’t just be a threat to Libya and its people, but to the ownership of what has been until now an entirely organic, homegrown democratic movement across the region.
Again, that would be — will be? — the very point of any type of Western military intervention in Libya: to kill a popular, democratic movement that is at present beyond the control of the imperial militarists along the Potomac. Such an intervention would allow Gaddafi and other tyrants under threat to paint opponents to their rule as “tools of the imperialists,” while rallying many who oppose them back to their side, to defend the nation against outsiders. This in turn would help “stabilize” the revolutionary situations — and the leaders, now safe once more, could then turn back to their cynical backroom deals with the West, and hoarding the blood and toil of their people in the cool vaults of Swiss banks. Hey, it’s a win-win situation all around.
Events are in free, chaotic flow right now. The Libyan opposition might be able to oust Gaddafi before President Peacey and Prime Minister Fauntleroy go in with guns blazing. And events elsewhere might suddenly erupt and draw off attention and resources. But we are certainly seeing a creeping militarization in the response to the Libyan uprising — and behind the exigencies of this crisis, there is the deeper shadow that Milne discerns: the longer-range project to diffuse and destroy the Arab Awakening before it further spreads its genuine threat to the business-as-usual dominance of Western elites.