Sun. Jul 14th, 2024

Violence never solves anything, that’s what I say, but I am finding it hard to object to the current international attack on Colonel Gaddhafi’s praetorian mob.

Gaddhafi is what we political scientists like to call “a complete and utter crapbag”. He is much closer to the model of brutal, scary bastard than Saddam Hussein ever was. Demagoguery plus insanity equals very bad news for peace, reason, life, liberty and limb.

The colonel has spent forty years brutalising his own people, retarding the cultural, intellectual and economic development of his country and quite probably sponsoring violence abroad. Pretty much like a small version of the US, without the inconvenience of having to elect a new tyrant every four years.

The resolve to act by the international community was as unexpected as it was frustratingly late. The military action has been just as unexpectedly prompt after the resolution and startlingly violent.

However, at the risk of sounding sceptical (What, me? Sceptical?) you do have to wonder about the motives for this sudden international consensus for justice.

After all, in recent years the same countries that are attacking Gaddhafi now have spent a lot of time cosying up to  him, training the members of his apparatus of oppression and supplying it with hardware.
Now, you know I am going to use to use the o-word, so let’s get it out of the way. Oil.

Libya was on a US neocon hit list under the Bush maladministration. Remember that Gen. Wesley Clark let the cat out of the bag back around the time of the attack on Iraq. That attack was presented to him as part of plan to reshape the middle east and north Africa that targeted Iraq (tick √), Iran, Yemen, Syria, Libya (tick √ at the time) and others. The US didn’t get any further than Iraq and Libya. Yes, Libya was the only other country where the US got its way, and without a fisticuffs. Gaddhafi relinquished his WMDs (they existed in his country, unlike Iraq) in exchange for access to western oil markets, previously blocked off through sanctions.

Western military trainers and suppliers moved in, things got right chummy. The UK even released the Libyan national convicted (probably wrongly) of blowing up an airliner over British soil.

As soon as the rebels took to the streets this year, oil prices spiked, going over 100 dollars a barrel. Libya settled into a civil war that was likely to take a while and assuming Gaddhafi won, left the champions of liberty and justice in the west doing business with a guy who has just obviously been massacring his own people. Moreover, the big G was always a difficult guy to get along with. A west-friendly people’s government would be so much better to deal with.

Sceptical about my scepticism?

Let’s have a little impromptu survey of western interventions and invasions in recent years.
In no particular order, and just as they come to mind:

  • Rwanda. Eight hundred thousand dead in a staggering orgy of genocide. I wasn’t there, but the event truly terrified me at a distance of thousands of kilometres away. Canada and some European countries argued for an intervention but the US, on whom these countries would rely for logistics, vetoed the proposal. The UN were chased out of the country and not permitted to fight back when attacked. Eventually France sent in a small force which was effective in stopping the violence. No oil in Rwanda.
  • Congo. Five million dead. Let’s say that again. Five million. Dead. No western intervention. After a number of years an Asian peace keeping force was deployed but the violence had pretty much exhausted itself by then. No oil.
  • Sierra Leone. Thousands killed and mutilated in many years of civil war stoked by neighboring countries. It was nine years before the beleaguered AU peace keeping force was bolstered by the British military and violence ceased. No oil.
  • Liberia. A country founded by the US as a place for ex-slaves to live in freedom. The name of the county means freedom. Even as the US was enforcing freedom in Iraq there was no intervention in Liberia. Citizens piled corpses at the gate of the US embassy begging for help, but US marines hung off the shore and didn’t step in. No oil.
  • The Balkans. No summary necessary. The world sat by and did doodly during the sieges of Gorazde and Sarajevo. When Kosovo seemed to be about to kick off, the west organised a spectacularly large intervention. At one point almost the whole British army was committed (though not all deployed). Yet the violence leading up to the intervention was very small. In raw numbers, the Serbians had probably killed fewer Kosovars than the Israeli armed forces killed Palestinians in the intifadah. No intervention in Palestine ever. The west might have been waking up late to a moral dilemma and making up for years of inaction in the other Balkan republics or they might have been worried about the stability of European markets. By the way, US camp Bondsteel in Kosovo sits on the route of an oil pipeline from the Caspian. Odd that.
  • Israel. Decades of oppression and aggression. The proxy of the west in the Middle East. Thousands killed. No intervention. Rarely any condemnation.
  • Afghanistan. Gas rather than oil. Access to Caspian and central Asian carbon reserves. The Great Game. Taliban ceased negotiating with the US months before the invasion. Do I really need to explain?
  • Somalia. There’s a tricky one. No oil. Massive US intervention that ended in a dire right-wing propaganda film by Ridley Scott (Black Hawk Down). The violence continues. Western involvement through Ethiopian proxies, air attacks and special forces incursions. Somalia sits on the shipping approaches to the gulf of Aden and the Suez canal. Today pirates operate from these shores bagging, among other things, oil tankers on this important trade route.
  • Sudan and Darfur. There’s an excellent article on this subject by a chap named Chris Page that was published in the London News Review some years ago, and you can read it here. http://www.psipook.com/features/darfur.html There was no intervention but western interests were probably leading up to one. Just read the article. Buckets of oil in Darfur. Oh, and the west is probably getting its way in Darfur without sending in the troops — see recent referendum on separation.
  • Iraq. No WMD. Lots of oil. Lots of bullpoo about Saddam being a threat to the world. Bollocks. Nationally owned oil industry and associated businesses privatised and sold off to US companies under the US stewardship and occupation before the Iraqi people were allowed to vote on their future.
  • Burma. Violent ongoing oppression. No intervention. No oil.
  • Venezuela. Attempted coup backed by CIA. Failed. Lots of oil.
  • Bahrain, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iran … various friends or enemies of the west, various levels of violence by the state. Various quantities of oil. Various levels of censure.

Have I missed anything?

In truth, ‘oil’ is too small a word to explain international interventions and dissembling. ‘Strategic interest’ is a much better term. ‘Defending people from oppression’, ‘promoting freedom’ and all those other terms are just lies, a narrative spun so that we can feel good about ourselves,like a Band Aid gig or a Facebook group. The western failure to act over Rwanda and Liberia and the supporting of the means of oppression in Libya, Israel, Saudi Arabia and so many other countries give the lie.

And there are occasions such as the current mess in Libya where the line between what is right and what is venal is so blurred it is lost to rational examination.

So. Go rebels. The nations aligned against Gaddhafi are certainly doing the right thing, but I doubt if it is for any reasons that any humanitarian would want to be associated with.

PS Since I posted this, Michael Moore tweeted this:

#6. Unrest forced France & others 2 close down their oil shipping from Libya. Khaddafy then offered China, 3rd World France’s oil. Oops.

By chris page

Magazine editor, writer of fiction and non-fiction; exile; cat person; red wine for blood and cheese in his soul. Chris Page is the author of the novels Weed, Sanctioned, Another Perfect Day in ****ing Paradise, King of the Undies World, and The Underpants Tree. He is also a freelance journalist, copywriter, editor, cartoonist, illustrator, graphic designer, and consultant in the use and abuse of false moustaches (don’t wear them — you’re welcome — the invoice is in the mail).

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