Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Colonialism is alive and well

Today’s international conference in London “on the future of Libya” has an unmistakeable colonial ring about it. Put plainly, Britain, France and America are openly plotting the destiny of someone else’s country, which is in the midst of a civil war.

Two things: nothing gives them the right to do this and, as per usual, the objectives are shrouded in a tissue of downright lies from Cameron, Obama and other Western leaders. While the stated aim is not regime change in Libya, in practice that is what is occurring before our very eyes.

Western planes are effectively bombing the opposition into power in Tripoli. Under the cover of a dubious UN resolution, they have openly flouted and exceeded the Security Council’s remit of protecting civilians from government forces and rendering humanitarian assistance through a no-fly zone.

For example, over the weekend RAF Tornados hit 22 tanks, armoured vehicles and artillery pieces which were stationary targets. In the early hours of Monday, they struck ammunition bunkers near Subha in southern Libya, where there is no conflict. These and other attacks have enabled forces fighting Colonel Gaddafi’s regime to make substantial progress without hardly firing a shot.

The hope – and it’s no more than that – is that a less unpredictable and pro-Western regime will replace Gaddafi’s Whether it is more democratic than the present dictatorship is besides the point. Oil and stability are what counts in the short and long term (although did not exactly work out in Iraq where China, apparently, has picked up the oil contracts).

Another dimension is the rush to try and exert some sort of influence and control in the ongoing revolutionary process in North Africa and the Middle East. The US has sanctioned a crackdown in Bahrain with the help of Saudi forces and is promoting Ali Muhsin as a replacement leader in Yemen.

And next door to Libya, the Egyptian revolution has reached a key moment. New laws against protests and strikes, which carry heavy fines and jail terms, are being introduced with the blessing of the armed forces command under Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi. Opposition to the law is growing from organisations like the April 6 Youth Movement.

US defence secretary was in Cairo at the weekend to promise continuing aid to Egypt. In return, Tantawi told Gates he had no objection to the operations in Libya against Gaddafi. Tantawi and his generals represent a counter-revolutionary force in Egypt which has clear US backing. Cries of “Down with Tantawi” are being heard for the first time since the January revolution that overthrew Mubarak. This is not what Gates and Obama want to read and military action in Libya is a shot across the bows of the Egyptian revolution too.

A reluctance to believe anything that the Cameron-Clegg government says is clearly a factor in a new poll showing that seven out of ten people are concerned that the action in Libya could result in Britain being "dragged into a prolonged conflict like the Iraq war". By a margin of 47% to 43%, people do not believe the government was right to commit British forces to action in Libya.

Whatever the solution in Libya is, it cannot be one determined by the likes of Britain, France and America. These countries have not changed their spots suddenly to become agents of humanitarian concern. Turkey has called for a ceasefire and a negotiated settlement between Gaddafi and the uprising in the east of Libya, which would facilitate a transition to a new government. That appeal is likely to be drowned out, however, as sponsored regime change continues to drive the mlitary intervention.

Paul Feldman

Communications editor

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