Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Libya's 'deliverance'

What price the 'liberation' of Libya? 

Unknown thousands of deaths, mostly civilians?  A country's infrastructure decimated, including hospitals, electricity stations and oxygen plants?  The spectre of a growing humanitarian catastrophe?

One is reminded here of Madeleine Albright's now infamous comment on the over half a million deaths from Western-imposed sanctions on Iraq: "the price is worth it."

And so it is for Western leaders and their media apologists over the 'necessary sacrifice' of so many Libyans and their society.     

Many atrocities have been carried out by both pro and anti-Gaddafi forces.  Alex Thomson of Channel 4 News has witnessed the horror scenes at Abu Salim hospital, finding stomach-churning evidence of patients murdered and left to die.  One lucky survivor was a small boy, the son of Gaddafi supporters, shot in the back and saved only through the intervention of the Red Cross.  Admirably, coming across another terrifying situation, Thomson and his crew managed to talk 'rebel' forces out of killing nine Nigerian men falsely assumed to be Gaddafi-hired mercenaries.

Rare moments of journalistic honesty and compassion amid so much carnage and propaganda.

Yet, where, elsewhere, is the big headline reportage on the West's own principal part in all this murder and despair?    

One cannot presume to claim here that many deaths and much suffering would not have arisen from the war of opposition on Gaddafi.

But we can reasonably suggest that most of the deaths and terror would much more likely not have occurred had Nato and the West kept its militarist, profit-driven nose out of the conflict.

As one can see from every BBC report, to date, we have the predictable highlighting of Gaddafi killings, while rebel atrocities go either unreported or treated as war-situation 'reprisals'.  

But even that discrepancy is secondary in scale to the more blatant omission of Nato atrocities, or the fact that Western bombing is in itself a gross war crime.

Craig Murray notes the core truth of Nato's violated mandate:
"It is worth reminding everyone something never mentioned, that UNSCR 1973 which established the no fly zone and mandate to protect civilians had “the aim of facilitating dialogue to lead to the political reforms necessary to find a peaceful and sustainable solution”.
Was that "aim" ever remotely part of the West's agenda? Has Nato's real strategy - to bomb Gaddafi into submission in order to implement a newer, better Western-serving regime - ever been on our 'critical' media's radar?   How was such a duplicitous distortion of the term 'humanitarian intervention' ever allowed to go unheeded?

Here's just a small sample of liberal editorials rationalising Nato's murderous actions.

"Nato was right to take limited action to avert a bloodbath five months ago, and we are duty bound to help the Libyans rebuild their country now. Liberal intervention is not perfect but, as we said when the uprising began, it is, on balance, better than doing nothing."
From the Scottish Sunday Herald
"Although the fighting is now almost over, challenges lie ahead and the NTC will need huge international support to overcome them. There will still be setbacks and disappointments but one important point has emerged. Unlike the West’s interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq, which exacerbated existing problems this Nato-led operation in Libya was handled with a light touch and perhaps it will provide a blueprint for the future eradication of dictators like Gaddafi."
"But it can now reasonably be said that in narrow military terms it worked, and that politically there was some retrospective justification for its advocates as the crowds poured into the streets of Tripoli to welcome the rebel convoys earlier this week."
From the Sunday Observer
"The motives of Cameron and Sarkozy, as they first ordered their planes into action, seemed more humanitarian and emotional than cynically calculated. There was no urgent reason in realpolitik to oust Gaddafi as winter passed. His last 10 years in power had been quieter than his first berserk three decades. Labour home secretaries spooned his soup and drank his wine. Tony Blair embraced him. Libya's oil contracts were not at issue (just as they aren't today). The survival of Gaddafi's regime may have been a moral affront, but it was one among many. No: what sent British jets across the Mediterranean was a perceived need to save lives.
Again, not a solitary word in any of these missives about Nato's actual crimes, their indiscriminate killing of civilians or their true, expedient motives to secure Libya as a regional prize.  

Besides the spurious case for 'humanitarian intervention' by 'pragmatic leftists' like Juan Cole, some on the more activist left have also engaged in a seemingly misguided calculus on how the 'new regime' will, despite heavy Western imperialist involvement, be 'moderately better' than the old one.
"The government that now follows will be less oppressive and more democratic than the one it ousted, and it will probably be less sectional than the Qadhafi regime.  It would be hard for the coming government to do worse than Qadhafi." 
One wonders.   While denouncing Nato, Seymour's 'no tears for Gaddafi' argument is based on a realpolitik-type analysis of how the National Transitional Council (NTC) will now work with its Western sponsors to cultivate populist legitimacy.  On the surface, it's a sober assessment of how Gaddafi's ouster, albeit effected and overseen by the West, provides encouraging opportunities for a more proto-democratic order.   

The situaton in Libya is, of course, still highly fluid and subject to genuine demands for revolutionary outcomes.  Yet, are we really to assume that, 'humanitarian mission achieved', this Western-rebel assembly will now courteously stand aside, leaving ordinary Libyans to build any kind of progressive constitution, resource-owning economy or socialistic society? 

Without holding any brief for Gaddafi, the incoming NTC - led by ex-CIA-linked and royalist figures, installed by Nato's warmongers and instructed by the usual coterie of neoliberal/IMF carpetbaggers - promises no serious improvement for most Libyans.

The West's key positioning in Libya, now entrenched in NTC understandings of how it should govern,  not only provides a bulwark to the promises of a spreading Arab Spring, it locks Libya, politically, economically and militarily into a stranglehold dependency on the West.  It's a de facto occupation.

And, again, that occupation has come at a terrible human price

With Nato now pledging an unflinching turkey-shoot finale against the city of Sirte, we see how Western 'interventionists', from hawk right to an assorted liberal left, seem either indifferent to, or only remotely concerned by, the actual, bloody loss of lives involved.  

Such is the cold, rational message of how the 'dictators we abhor' must be removed, even if that results in regrettable numbers of dead, injured and traumatised people.          

In response to Richard Seymour, this Media Lens (message board) comment returns us to that key issue:
You wrote: 'It would be hard for the coming government to do worse than Qadhafi.'

"Our point is that the actions of the forces that are trying to create the 'coming government' have surely resulted in many more deaths than would have occured without the Western attack. The death toll from violence is surely in the thousands - the death toll from all causes as a result of the war will of course be even higher...We hold no candle for Gaddafi's dictatorship. Our point is that it is hard 'to do worse' than war, especially one imposed by foreign powers driven by greed."
Like Iraq, like Afghanistan, Libya and its 'liberated' people have already paid the highest of all prices for their 'deliverance' from Gaddafi. Now, as a broken, indentured, client state, beholden to their political-military-corporate masters, they are about to feel the harsh effects of what our media dutifully call 'Western-led reconstruction'.

As with all the other neutralised language of Western aggression and exploitation, such jargon hides a multitude of 'liberal interventionist' sins.  Which, as ever, proves the vital role of our default-line media, particularly its liberal variant, in conditioning the public for more 'necessary' wars and 'humanitarian' regime change.



David Sketchley said...

"'pragmatic leftists' like Juan Cole"??

With all due respect John, but didn't you mean to say: 'CIA Consultant Juan Cole'?

John Hilley said...

Thanks, David. Yes, 'pragmatic leftist' is the label Cole and other such apologists for Nato's actions would likely use to describe themselves.

My own reference to "CIA consultant Juan Cole" is contained in the embedded link.