As the super-power and its sub-super-power friends rain bombs and missiles on Libya, we face a new crisis of clarity and courage in the US. While many in the world recoil from the destruction and human toll of this un-provoked assault by foreign powers on a small, relatively defenseless country, most of our fellow citizens, without much thought, buy into the government and the slavish media’s spin on this aggression.
From a far-off planet, beings would trust their instincts and see the massive military force unleashed on a section of North Africa as the criminal violation of Libyan air space and territoriality that it is. They might wonder what possibly could justify this aggressive action, even what could motivate seemingly senseless economic and human destruction.
But in our corner of the world, words like “No Fly Zone,” “human rights,” “democracy” and “humanitarian intervention” are drained of any credible meaning and cynically repeated by perpetrators who know that, if they are repeated enough and echoed by a subservient media, they will cow masses into thoughtless compliance.
Libya is in the throes of a civil war. Unlike other risings in the Middle East, the opposing forces have resorted to armed confrontation, resolving to settle the affair violently. On one side is a once-popular nationalist leader credited with overthrowing an absolute, but “pro-Western” monarch. He has vacillated between hostility to Western interests and mutual, cooperative relations. Up until the uprising, he had many European friends and corporate collaborators attracted to Libya’s energy resources.
Gadhafi has the dubious distinction of being perhaps the first international leader openly targeted by the US Government for assassination. In 1986, the Reagan administration launched an overt air attack upon him that resulted in the death of numerous civilians. Formerly, government-sponsored international assassination was couched in deniability and reserved for US security services. With little significant domestic opposition, the precedent has encouraged subsequent administrations to expand these illegal murders, most recently with the wide-spread drone attacks embraced by the Obama Administration.
Gadhafi has created his own unique state structure that claims a “democratic” and “socialist” character, a matter best left to be judged by the Libyan people.
Arrayed against Gadhafi in the civil war is a resistance movement that embraced armed struggle and occupies key cities in the Eastern part of Libya. Nominally leading this movement is the former Libyan Justice Minister and a largely anonymous, secretive council that has yet to reveal either a clear program or ideological commitments. Interestingly, they fight under the flag of the old pre-Gadhafi monarchy. Many left commentators have exposed financial ties and covert contacts with Western intelligence agencies and covert organizations. The impact of these charges is difficult to assess since such contacts are widespread, infecting almost all of the oppositional movements in the Middle East, including those in Egypt and Tunisia. Subsequent news reports have confirmed a significant and growing engagement by US and British security forces, including the embedding of a top military leader with undeniable ties to the CIA and the US foreign policy establishment. Anti-imperialists should well remember the covert assistance delivered to Islamic fundamentalists throughout the Middle East by US and Israeli intelligence as a backstop to secular left movements, a devious tactic that spawned a new oppositional movement that turned against its sponsors. Nonetheless, the kept media has, with little evidence, proclaimed the anti-Gadhafi forces “democratic.”
US and European intervention in Libyan affairs hides under the cover of a UN resolution authorizing a “No-fly zone.” A no-fly zone was a formal devise contrived in 1991 to pressure Iraq under the guise of protecting human rights. Forcing a resolution through the UN Security Council, the US and its allies “interpreted” the resolution to allow the policing of Iraqi air space, denying Iraqi military planes or missiles any activity in much of its territory. In fact, this maneuver was an attempt to provoke a response that would lead to an escalation of US military action. Interestingly, US policy assumed that pre-emptive strikes were unnecessary because the US maintained such an overwhelming military and technological advantage.
Facing little effective international or domestic opposition to the Iraqi venture, the US and its allies again went to the UN well for approval of air power to secure “human rights” in the ongoing dismantling of Yugoslavia. From 1993 on, NATO conducted air strikes to influence the outcome. Emboldened by the success of the “humanitarian intervention” ruse and confident of their domination of the UN, the Western allies nakedly used air power to shape the post-Soviet world in their own interests, but at the cost of thousands of innocent lives and massive economic destruction. With most opinion makers in the Western capitalist countries seduced by the doctrine of “humanitarian intervention,” a new tool of imperialism was born.
Now the tool has been unsheathed against Libya. Rushing through another “No-fly” UN resolution with the shameful acquiescence of some abstaining “progressive” states, the US and its allies are again seeking to dictate the fate of a sovereign state. In this case, they have shed even the illusion of disinterested humanitarian intervention by actively coordinating with and supporting the military operations of the anti-Gadhafi forces. The initiative for this aggression was eagerly assumed by France and the UK, a development that likely reflects their reliance on Libyan energy resources.
Like a petulant child, the Western powers – the US and its NATO allies – press the limits of tolerance. From its malign origins as a maneuver to influence regime change in Iraq, the “no-fly zone” tactic has morphed into a scheme to dismantle the former Yugoslavia and, now, a transparent cover for naked, unprovoked aggression against a sovereign nation. The full might of Western military power has wrecked havoc upon the civilian population to sheer away Gadhafi supporters through terror. While paying lip service to the UN resolution, NATO spokespeople have endorsed this terror campaign as the strategic goal – an updated version of “shock and awe.”
Imperialism makes adjustments. After the demise of the Cold War, US imperialism structured a new world order. With the absence of a formidable military and economic counter-force, policy makers were emboldened to take direct, overt action to shape the world in a way agreeable to capitalist economic interests. During the Cold War, these goals were sought through covert action, subservient regional watch dogs, and surrogate armed forces, rarely through direct military engagement; fear of the military might of the socialist community foreclosed direct intervention. With those barriers removed, the imperialist countries are now feasting on weaker countries through open military action.
In order to dampen popular resistance, imperialist aggression is clothed in the lofty humanitarian language of democracy and human rights. With a tame, compliant mass media, aggression is readily postured as fostering democracy and promoting human rights, oblivious to the very lives of hundreds of thousands of those who disagree or are merely bystanders.
Unfortunately, many progressives and leftists have failed to adjust to the adjustments of imperialism; they have been blinded by the cynical, empty slogans proclaimed by imperialist aggressors. They refuse to see those resisting aggression as anti-imperialists, whether in Iraq, Afghanistan, or now Libya. Instead, they are side tracked by cultural, religious or political differences not palatable to smug, all-knowing Westerners.
The crucial and fundamental right of national self-determination, so crucial to the oppressed and scorned by imperialism, has been cast aside. For most of the twentieth century, this principle was the cornerstone of liberation from big power domination. In today’s world, it is expressed as non-intervention in the internal affairs of other nations. Throughout the world - from Cuba and Venezuela to Georgia, from Iran to Peoples’ China – the US violates this principle on a daily basis. However we may personally judge the practices or political systems of our neighbors, they are for them to determine. It is surely not a matter to be decided by the great powers of our time. Their sanctimony thinly disguises their own imperial interests.
Indifference or willful consent to imperialist aggression is not an honest option.