March 31, 2011

US-NATO: Might is not right

The US-NATO military intervention in Libya is being justified by invoking UN Security Council Resolution 1973 (2011) authorizing all Member States to undertake "all necessary measures" for the protection of civilians and for the enforcement of a "no fly zone" in Libya’s airspace.

It is supposedly based on the Security Council’s determination, in accordance with Article 39 of the UN Charter, that the Libyan conflict constitutes a threat to international peace and security necessitating the imposition of coercive measures, including the use of force, by all member states.

The premise is grounded on the following claims that have yet to be irrefutably established: (1) the Kaddafi regime is that of a brutal, fascist despot despised by his own people; (2) the opposition to the Kaddafi regime embodies the demands and aspirations of the Libyan people and is supported by them; and (3) the unarmed, peaceful protest actions against the government were being met with unacceptable force allegedly “amounting to crimes against humanity”.

Assuming for the sake of argument that Kaddafi is as authoritarian and as repressive as the US, France, the United Kingdom, some Arab countries as well as international media want us to believe, the fact is that many such regimes have enjoyed the unwavering political and economic support from the US and EU countries, allowing them to overstay despite widespread social discontent and organized dissent.

In the face of these regimes’ bloody, strong-arm measures to tamp down the mass unrest and popular uprisings threatening their rule, there are no moves to impose on these regimes international sanctions of any kind much less armed intervention.

A more credible explanation is that the US-NATO interventionists all have their oil rigs pumping out thousands of barrels of oil and gas daily from the Libyan fields. To cite only the major players and their oil corporations, we have the US (Exxon-Mobil, Conoco Phillips, Marathon, Hess and Occidental), France (Total), UK (British Petroleum), Spain (Respol), Netherlands (Royal Dutch Shell), Italy (Eni), and Norway (Statoil).

Interestingly, Kaddafi reportedly announced in January 2009 a plan to
nationalize Libyan oil, raising fears that the share of oil production by US and European corporations would be reduced, if not totally eliminated. The plan however was temporarily blocked by senior Libyan officials who felt the moves were too drastic, and proposed that the nationalization be postponed.

UNSC Resolution 1973 itself deserves more critical study. Prof. Hans Kochler, president of the International Progress Organization which has consultative status with the UN, has submitted a memorandum to the UN Secretary-General denouncing it as “international vigilantism and a humanitarian free-for-all”.

Kochler says that the vague and completely undefined term “all necessary measures’’ can and will be interpreted according to the self-interest of the intervening parties. This invites the “arbitrary and arrogant exercise of power and makes the commitment of the United Nations Organization to the international rule of law void of any meaning.”

What is even more ironic is that a closer look at the UN structures and system reveals what realpolitik democracy it practices: the truly representative General Assembly has no teeth to enforce its resolutions, while all the real power resides in the Security Council, which consists of a minority of five self-appointed permanent members (each one with absolute veto power) and ten temporary lesser members chosen on rotating basis.

Within weeks the Security Council was persuaded to shift from its earlier Resolution 1970 (2011) adopting a travel ban and asset freeze on Kaddafi, his family members and other high officials of his regime and an arms embargo to Resolution 1973 (2011) or outright military intervention. This is also highly questionable.

Consider that it was generally conceded that the actual situation inside Libya could not be reliably ascertained at the time and even up to now. Reports of civilian casualties, the outcomes of see-saw battles between government forces and the rebels as well as the nature and strength of the motley groups that were fighting the Kaddafi regime could not be independently verified.

The truth is there are alternative assessments of Kaddafi’s almost four decades of rule in Libya that cast further doubt on his touted propensity to massacre his own people. For one, he used income from nationalized oil production to raise the living standards of Libyans way above that in the rest of Africa, considerably higher than in feudal Saudi Arabia which has vastly bigger oil reserves and revenues and generally higher than in the rest of the developing world.

He was generous in his political and financial support for national liberation movements and governments in Africa and Latin America that emerged from colonial struggles before he zoomed to the top of the list as a “rogue” regime targeted for assassination, subversion, foreign-sponsored rebellion, and outright bombardment. Thereafter he was forced to be more circumspect and even to backtrack in his support.

After the Iraq invasion in 2003, Kaddafi tried to ward off further threatened aggression by making big concessions to the imperialists. He opened the economy to foreign banks and corporations; he agreed to IMF demands for “structural adjustment,” privatizing many state-owned enterprises and cutting state subsidies on necessities like food and fuel.

As to the anti-Kaddafi groups depicted by the intervening powers and international media as part and parcel of the democratic winds sweeping the North African and Arab regions but not much more, a close, hard look reveals disturbing information.

The National Front for the Salvation of Libya was reportedly formed and trained by the US and Britain from Libyan soldiers captured by the Chad army, with funding also coming from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Morocco, Israel and Syria. It was involved in attempts to assassinate Kaddafi in the 1980s. It took part in the National Conference for the Libyan Opposition in London in 2005, which is now the umbrella formation of the rebels in Benghazi.

The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (Al-Jama'a Islamiyyah al-Mugatilah bi-Libya) is an Islamic fundamentalist group with links to Al Qaeda. Like the Abu Sayyaf and counterparts in other countries, it consists of former mujahedeen who fought in Afghanistan, trained and funded by the US CIA. It has also been reportedly involved in several assassination attempts on Kaddafi as well as on other Libyan officials, soldiers and policemen. The LIFG is in the US list of foreign terrorist organizations.

With the justification for military intervention and its UN fig leaf of legitimation brought under serious doubt, it becomes crystal clear that what is taking place in Libya today is big powers intervention into the internal affairs of a sovereign country in order to depose a regime not to their liking.

This has spawned more casualties among the civilian population.

This will lead to a prolongation of the armed conflict, greater economic dislocation and hardships for Libyans and foreign workers, and the worsening of political turmoil and social tensions. It could lead to partitioning the country into pro-Kaddafi West and anti-Kaddafi East and foreign control over Libya’s oil and gas resources.

There is no guarantee, not even a clear prospect, that any regime change will result in a better life for the Libyan people. On the contrary, foreign intervention has deprived the Libyan people of their right to determine their own destiny.

History is replete with examples of societies being plundered and destroyed by foreign powers imposing their values and will in the name of humanitarianism, civilization, progress and democracy. There is no iota of evidence that Libya’s case will be an exception. #

Published in Business World
31 March - 1April 2011


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