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Message to America and Europe: Spare us the crocodile tears over Libya

The uprising in Libya and the government's response dominate the news.  After the success of the revolution which ousted President Mubarak in Egypt, it only took a few days for the Libyan people to begin their own revolution against a megalomaniac dictator who has oppressed them for more than four decades.  It was clear from the start that Colonel Gaddafi would use great brutality in order to stay in power.  Within the first few days of the uprising, hundreds of Libyans were killed as Gaddafi unleashed a full scale military onslaught against his own people, using mercenaries from outside Libya and bombing cities form the air.  Gaddafi's actions were met initially with a deafening silence from the West.  The United States had little, if anything, to say about events in Libya and Gaddafi's chief ally in the West, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, said that it would be best "not to disturb" him at this critical time.  This response seemed to suggest that Western governments wanted Gaddafi to remain in power.  Although an enemy of the West in the 1980s, Gaddafi and his regime were "rehabilitated" in 2004.  Ever since then, lucrative trade deals have sprung up between Libya and the West.  The oil-rich state has become a market for Western arms and is a major supplier of oil to Europe, as well as a partner in the drive to combat illegal immigration from Africa to Europe.


However, the West is now taking a much tougher line with Gaddafi.  On the 26th February the UN Security Council voted unanimously to impose sanctions on Libya, which included an arms embargo and a freeze on the Gaddafi regime's assets abroad.  US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said that a no-fly zone could be imposed on Libya, in order to prevent Gaddafi from bombing his own people.  She has also hinted strongly that direct military intervention is on the cards and said that it is time for Gaddafi to go.  This has been echoed in Britain by David Cameron who has said that Britain will never abandon the Libyan people in their struggle against Gaddafi. These actions and statements are being made in the name of human rights and humanitarian concerns but beware of such crocodile tears.

There are parallels between the Libyan situation and another recent conflict in the Middle East where a brutal regime was willing to kill thousands of innocent people in order to stay in power and employed airstrikes and artillery against defenceless civilians. Gaddafi in Libya 2011 mirrors in many ways Israel's assault on and invasion of Gaza in 2008/9.  While Western governments are now raising the possibility of military action against an oil-rich Middle Eastern country, supposedly out of concern for its people, as they did in 2003 before the invasion of Iraq, it is worth recalling the attitude of Hillary Clinton and her ilk to the suffering of the Palestinian people.  The Israeli war against Gaza took the lives of 1,400 Palestinians, most of them civilians and one-third of them children; it was conducted with unprecedented ferocity and callous disregard for innocent life.

After the war ended the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) appointed Judge Richard Goldstone to lead a fact-finding mission; he found strong evidence that Israel had committed war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity.  After the publication of the Goldstone Report, the United States tried to suppress it.  Secretary of State Clinton telephoned Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas personally to tell him not to give his backing to the Report at the UNHRC. At Clinton's bidding, the Palestinian delegation to the Council sought to postpone discussion of Goldstone's damning findings.  After widespread outrage among the Palestinian people, the Goldstone Report was re-submitted by the Palestinian Authority for discussion by the UNHRC and was endorsed by that body. However, since then the report has been more or less buried.  It was condemned by the US House of Representatives and was not submitted to the UN Security Council.  Today, the United States continues to ensure that Israel is, literally, allowed to get away with murder through its violations of the rights of Palestinians, as seen in its veto of a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israel's illegal settlements and Hilary Clinton's allegation that the UNHRC is biased against Israel; she made this claim during a session discussing Libya. Her allegation is typical of pro-Israel cheerleaders who can't find logical reasoning to explain their support for a law-breaking rogue state, and so resort to "shoot the messenger" tactics instead.

It is thus very difficult to believe that America's concern for the people of Libya is motivated by any genuine worries about their welfare.  Libya is located in a strategic area of North Africa and it possesses vast reserves of high grade petroleum; sound familiar?  America and its European allies are more concerned about disrupted oil supplies than the situation faced by Libya's people.

After Gaddafi handed over the suspects in the Lockerbie case and agreed to give up his weapons of mass destruction programme – which, if it existed at all, was never advanced – the West was happy to do business with him, despite knowing about the crimes he had committed against his own people, such as the notorious Abu Selim prison massacre of 1996, in which Gaddafi's forces killed 1,200 unarmed prisoners.  As long as Gaddafi was buying weapons from the West, supplying oil, and opening up his country to Western business, such atrocities were overlooked.  The tough line that the West is taking now is more to do with the fact that Gaddafi has lost control of most of Libya and is looking increasingly like a spent force despite his stubborn attempt to cling to power in Tripoli.  Libyan oil exports have fallen from 90,000 barrels a day to 11,000.  The United States and Europe now want to ensure that whoever comes to power in Libya will be just as accommodating as Gaddafi.  The pseudo-humanitarian stance they are taking may be in preparation to exert more direct influence over the country and establish a permanent military presence in Libya.  It is worth remembering that before Gaddafi seized power, the United States and Britain had several military bases in the country.

Western military intervention in Libya will, of course, be a disaster on several levels.  In addition to the thousands of inevitable civilian casualties, Gaddafi's image will change from that of a murderous tyrant to a national leader battling against foreign occupation.  His opponents, on the other hand, the very people the West purports to be so concerned about, will be smeared as lackeys of Western imperialism.  This will destroy the credibility of the revolution against Gaddafi, despite the fact that the revolutionaries have already declared their opposition to any foreign military intervention.  The Libyan people will never accept a foreign occupation and this could lead to a conflict that could drag on for years, as happened in Iraq.  With that as a precedent, no one should trust the declared humanitarian intentions of the West.

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AfricaAsia & AmericasCommentary & AnalysisLibyaUS
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