Friday, April 22, 2011

Libya: 'The Destruction of a Nation'

Libya: 'The Destruction of a Nation'

21 April 2011
Pambazuka News

NATO's involvement in Libya is a simple case of egotistical self-interest and attempts at control on the part of the Western powers, writes Jenn Jagire: 'One thing is clear: Libya did not attack any of these countries for this mighty alliance to bring out its entire arsenal against this small country and its traumatised people.'

Libya as a country supposedly freed from European colonisation has existed for quite some time. The country had particularly shaken off the shackles of Western colonialism and influence since 1960s. With the closure in Libya of the British military base, and the closure of the biggest American military base outside the USA at that time by the Gaddafi regime, Libya could have angered the West, who never gave up the hope of regaining that country for imperial purposes. So fierce was this independence, certain books promoting Western values above those of Libyans were seen as undesirable and burned to decolonise Libyan children's education. Gaddafi's role in decolonisation was also his contribution to end apartheid in South Africa, as other people have written about. A pan-Africanist will not want to leave the African soil or their country for exile for good. Libya needs reforms, but first the end of the war.

Currently, since the implementation of the 'no fly zone' in Libya, Africa has seen American tomahawks spewing missiles over Libya. So many were the missiles aimed at Libyan targets that the Telegraph reported that the navy could run short of tomahawk missiles because one-fifth of the navy stockpile had already been used up against Libya within only a few days. It is a 'miracle' that Libya has survived the assault and that there are still people alive in Libya today after such an aggressive campaign. The embarrassment that the alliance's navy could be talking about now is not about civilian deaths, but rather the running-out of the missiles before accomplishing the unpopular mission.

Who knows? It is not likely that the tomahawks could not have killed women, children and babies along with their military targets. The airstrikes are tearing up the infrastructure in Libya, built over many years. The reconstruction of Libya will, no doubt, come after this country's immense destruction. Then, of course, the Western contractors will come over to do some booming business.

The UN Security Council resolution that gave the opportunity to NATO to implement the 'no fly zone' has largely failed to 'protect' civilians. The 'no fly zone' over Libya has given way to infantry fighting that has seen the incompetent rebels largely defeated each time they tried to gain territory. The people of the Maghreb are seeing the return of the former colonial powers, notably France since its expulsion during the Algerian revolution.

The unclear UN mandate that the NATO alliance seized seems to have backfired, resulting in a stalemate. And Hillary Clinton and Susan Rice, who joined and promoted this campaign, have gone silent. Libya is now seeing itself as a victim of Western aggression. In an interview, Gaddafi admitted to feeling betrayed by the West whom he had supplied with oil while investing heavily there. The US alone has a population of more than 330 million people. Its bombing of Libya, together with other NATO alliance countries of Canada, the UK, France and Italy, makes this campaign a case of 'Goliath attacking David.'

NATO is now not used for defence purposes or to ensure peace for its members, but to wage war in Libya and to test all their heavy weaponry, civilian deaths notwithstanding. One thing is clear: Libya did not attack any of these countries for this mighty alliance to bring out its entire arsenal against this small country and its traumatised people. The bombing of Libya, therefore, cannot be totally justified as the best way to protect civilians.

NATO's involvement in trying to impose a kind of gun-point democracy should be blamed for fuelling a vicious civil war in Libya. France strategically recognised the 'Libyan National Council' in Benghazi, knowing very well such a hasty move was likely to divide the country. In fact, they exploited the traditional rivalry between Benghazi and Tripoli. France must be after something more than just taking a leading role in policing Libya. Recently, the Francophonie has lost some of its members.

For example, in Rwanda and even parts of DR Congo, French as 'the official language' has largely been substituted. France may then have to recover from some of that loss by involving itself in some warlike activities in Africa to regain some 'power'.

Moreover, Saif el Islam's claim that Libya funded Nicolas Sarkozy's presidential campaign could have humiliated him, and hence the haste in wanting to be seen as playing the major role in implementing the 'no fly zone' in Libya in order to fix things at home, with an impending presidential election round the corner. Africa can remember that when the Portuguese colonies of Africa were lost, it caused a revolution in Portugal itself. Western leaders use their 'victories' in Africa to promote themselves at home. Molefi Asante writes that some people in the West believe that 'Africa is a continent that must be acted on'.

Again, nobody should believe that Sarkozy as France's head is supporting a genuine revolution in Libya. France is better known for helping put down revolutions in Africa. For example, in 1976-77, France helped Zaire's Mobutu Sese Seko put down a revolt in Kolwezi in Katanga province. In addition, it is now known that France was about to help put down the revolt in Tunisia, as its foreign minister was holidaying there. And French-speaking Tunisians of Arab origin are now being denied entry into France.

During the previous 'peaceful' years, France was a country better known for its 'diplomacy', so that if anyone was planning to become a 'diplomat' it was necessary to learn French. But even that tradition informed its colonial policy of assimilating the colonised. However, not even that assimilation is genuine, because in 2010 the world saw France cracking down on non-European citizens of France for rioting and burning cars due to perpetual unemployment for some of them in the country. Rioters, especially, descendants of African immigrants were called obnoxious names by the right-wingers in France.

Again, right now the archaic tactic employed by some of the Western powers is that of the colonial era of 'divide and conquer'.

Apparently, the colonial ideology is being revived and recycled for the purpose of intervention in Libya. Meetings held in London and Berlin excluded the AU (African Union) representatives. Perhaps the AU purposely boycotted such meetings. The African Union Chair Jean Ping has separately voiced his concern over the ignoring of the organisation when action was taken against Libya or where it was discussed. But does the AU want to be 'included' or coopted by the EU or NATO and be appointed or authorised by them to sort out Libya's problems, where the West will take credit?

The call that the West makes to Gaddafi to depart from his country is reminiscent of previous methods of deportations of African kings who resisted foreign intervention in their countries. The alliance leaders have repeatedly called on Gaddafi to 'quit and go' though it is not really clear if such a call will be heeded. Such a call, in itself, could be seen as dictatorial.

Earlier on in Uganda, the British dethroned and deported kings to the Seychelles islands to get their resistance out of the way. One of them, Kabaka Mwanga of Buganda, died in exile. Omukama Kabalega of Bunyoro too was deported to the Seychelles where he lived for over 23 years in captivity before returning unceremoniously and tragically dying on his way back to his kingdom.

What the West did to the rest of Africa before is being repeated in Libya right now.

Unfortunately for Libya today, its proximity to Europe and its immense oil wealth has become a curse for it, which should not have been the case. Libya should be free to export its oil to whomever it wants, even to China. The world is now witnessing a new scramble for Africa over oil. There is also this new rivalry over African oil between the West and China.

For example, what are French troops doing in Gabon, an 'independent' country? Gabon is oil-rich, but small. Moreover, the West's efforts, in trying to delink Libya from Africa, can be read as racial prejudice towards Africans. This prejudice is apparently 'out in the open' where Africa is portrayed as poor, wretched and infantilised as not mature enough to have a voice to be heard, or mature enough to give a free hand in mediation in a place like Libya. Western leaders in the Libyan conflict have shown a preference for the Arab League, exalting and glorifying it over the AU. Some hidden agenda is apparent by the Western leaders in trying to pit Arabs against Africans on the continent. But Arabs in North Africa are African Arabs and cannot be delinked from Africa. Moreover, Arabs, even those in the 'Middle East', just like Africans, had been colonised by the West.

The purpose and urgency of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton resuscitating the recently quiet Arab League, headquartered in Egypt with an Egyptian secretary general, was to try to use this organisation as a junior partner that would comply with the Western agenda of dividing up Libya for its oil wealth. But Egypt, where the Arab League is based, remains in Africa and drinks from the same water source of the Nile originating in Uganda and Ethiopia. Egypt and other North African states stand to gain more by remaining united with the rest of Africa. Moreover, there is nothing like 'sub-Saharan Africa' because it is a creation by the West in trying to delink the northern part of Africa from the rest of the continent.

The massacre of innocent people, including women and children, is of course undesirable. Moreover, the war situation created by the West in Libya is not particularly good for all Libyans, including women and children. What the world saw in the former Yugoslavia does not qualify European powers as the most humanitarian to justify their intervention in Libya to protect civilians. They did not do this in time to save women in Yugoslavia during ethnic cleansing.

Calling off this apocalyptic military campaign and leaving Libya to seek a political solution, or better still an African solution, is the best idea. This war over Libyan oil is egoistic and imperialistic. The terrain is Libya and it is precarious, as more Libyans are being killed by the airstrikes from the sea and from the Libyan skies above. What we have seen is that it is a war that is senseless and needs a political solution. Already there is the so-called stalemate in the Libyan civil war and the West could be blamed for its role in the destruction of that country. With many wounded and maimed, as well as many dead since this unfortunate war, the UN has been misused.

NATO leaders, especially the respected secretary general and former prime minister of Denmark, Andes Fogh Ramuseen, should tell the world whether they alone have 'the perfect solution' for Libya or let the AU mediate an end to this war. Watching Ramseen on CNN, it appears that NATO is too big to be in Libya. In the US, Michael Moore, the film director who gave former president George W. Bush a run for his money for invading Iraq, has been tweeting and suggesting that 'President Obama should return the Nobel Peace Prize for leading his country to bomb Libya'. And bloggers have suggested that President Obama could have lost the support of African-Americans by 26 per cent because of the US role in the NATO bombing of Libya, a country in Africa.

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