The End of Qaddafi

Good News for Arab Spring or Western Oil Lust?

Muammar Qaddafi ruled over Libya for 42 years as an absolute autocrat. He was indifferent and inimical to his people’s yearning for fundamental freedoms. He trampled over them with an arrogance that comes with absolute power. In the end, his people got the better of him and administered to him a punishment that’s not uncommon to tyrants. Like Saddam Husain of Iraq, he had chosen to live by the sword and, befittingly, died by the sword.

The Libyan people are entitled to their sense of jubilation at having got rid of a violent and despotic ruler who had shown no mercy to them and had denigrated them as ‘rats and cockroaches.’ However, once their euphoria is over-and given the diversity and typically tribal nature of the Libyan society it wouldn’t take long to reach that stage-the Libyan people must ask themselves a few basic questions.

The first question they should confront is whether they would’ve succeeded in overthrowing a ruthless dictator so firmly entrenched as Qaddafi apparently was without generous western support and assistance? Even with NATO deploying more than five thousand sorties of their bombers and other aircraft to target and silence Qaddafi’s guns on ground, it took nearly 9 months for the people’s liberation to be accomplished.

The second question, related to the first but of a deeper significance, is why the west was so desperately keen to help the Libyan people’s struggle for emancipation, and would its enthusiasm have been the same if Libya didn’t have all that oil that it has?

The answer to the first question is obvious. NATO’s bombing of Qaddafi’s military assets and sensitive, ancillary, installations was pivotal in enabling the uprising to take on Qaddafi on a more or less level playing field. It’s a case reminiscent of how the Afghan Mujahideen (the word has since become taboo in the American lexicon but was a household word in U.S. when the Afghans were waging their war of liberation against the Russian invaders with a lot of help from the Americans) managed to turn the tide in their favour once they were equipped with Stinger missiles by their then American allies.

 It would be safe to say that without such massive NATO help Qaddafi could have prolonged the Libyan people’s agony much longer even if he couldn’t have avoided the finale that ultimately wrung the curtain down on his repressive rule. That said, it by no means belittles the resolve, the determination and the courage of the Libyan people for having stood up to a despot who had become more and more alienated from his people over time and less and less concerned about their rights and aspirations.

Why the west was in such an egalitarian mood to stand by the Libyan people from the moment they decided to challenge their unyielding dictator, is equally easy to answer. It isn’t rocket science involved in this equation but a very simple logic: Qaddafi had always been a pariah to the west, which regarded him as an irritant if not really a threat to its agenda to loot and plunder the resources of the developing countries even though colonialism, for the sake of form, may have come to an end. The Libyan people’s uprising to overthrown Qaddafi’s tyrannical rule came in as a blessing in disguise. It was just the opportunity western corporate interest-backed up to the hilt by regimes still enamoured of imperialist lust for supremacy and tutelage over whatever lands they could lay their hands on-had been waiting for a long time.

The incontinent urge to intervene in Libya, ostensibly on a moral high-ground in support of its people, by the so-called democracies of the west is a classical example of successors to colonial mentality of the 18th and 19th centuries reprising the cloak-and-dagger policies of their forebears and behaving exactly like them, with only a touch of 21st century sophistication and finesse.

As usual in its role as leader of the west and robustly pre-eminent as a neo-colonialist and neo-imperialist power, US threw its full weight behind the European effort spearheaded by seasoned imperialists in France and Britain.

This was despite Obama’s deceptive lack of enthusiasm to lead NATO upfront in the planned operation against Qaddafi. In order to deceive the American people hankering for an early end to US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, Obama feigned that he didn’t fancy any notion to commit US boots to the soil of Libya. However, in order to enact an imperialist agenda to settle scores with Qaddafi that Ronald Reagan, for instance, couldn’t to his heart’s content, Obama enlisted the help of UN to facilitate his game plan.

It’s interesting to trace back the US involvement in Libya on Obama’s watch. Interesting because it arguably unmasks the militaristic instincts of a man who had hawked himself as a peace dove when he was in the thick of his campaign to win the White House against a known hawk and militarist like George W. Bush.

US Congress weren’t interested, at all, in getting sucked into the Libyan quagmire. According to US Constitution, President Obama was obliged to seek congressional approval for getting US involved militarily in Libya. He simply couldn’t declare war against Qaddafi without congressional consent. So he circumvented Congress by going above its head to UN where a supine Secretary-General could always be counted upon to fall in line behind Obama’s ambition. The UN Security Council also obliged by quickly passing two resolutions-1970 and 1973-to provide a legal underpinning for US playing a military role against Qaddafi in Libya. The ground was set for US to, in the words of Obama, ‘lead from the back’ in aerial combat aimed at crippling Qaddafi’s capacity to roll back the people’s uprising against his cruel rule.

Critics of Obama may now rue and remonstrate that US involvement in Libya was, in fact, a violation of the American constitution and laws. But Obama has got what he set out to achieve at the end of a combat mission that cost the beleaguered US economy more than a billion dollars. To Obama and his apologists, however, this expense may be worth every penny because it not only eliminated Qaddafi but may have paved the way for further fulfillment of the American-led western agenda against the Arab and Islamic worlds.

For a historical perspective to this agenda one should revisit the first Arab oil blockade of 1973, spearheaded by King Faisal of Saudi Arabia, to punish the west for its unabashed partisanship of Israel in the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. Henry Kissinger, then Secretary of state under Richard Nixon and doyen of western neo-imperialism, had angrily denounced that blockade as an attempt to ‘choke off’ western economies. He then came up with his doctrine to pick up the resisting Arab states, one by one like dominoes, in order to break down and pulverize any opposition to western interests. Egypt under Anwar Sadat was the first to fall in the net cast by Kissinger. What followed is history.

Targeting Qaddafi, west’s favourite bête noir, got inspiration from Kissinger’s legacy. George W. Bush’s adventurous incursion into Iraq had not only gone horribly wrong and miscued but also netted zero dividends for western oil cartels that had so avidly welcomed Bush’s cynical aggression. Libya offered prospects of handsome recompense to the ever-avaricious oil lobby in the west. It happened to be so close, physically, to Europe and its oil of premium grade. All that was needed was to shove off Qaddafi, the mercurial and unpredictable curmudgeon.

Supporting the Libyan people’s uprising fitted so neatly into this western agenda. The expense involved was worth every penny; the dividends so promising and rewarding Imagine what a hefty boost Libyan oil, from just across the Mediterranean, could give to Europe’s struggling economies. And the undertaking came wrapped in all the fancy packaging of promoting democracy among a people denied this manna by a despotic autocrat. All this, blended with the Kissingerian edict of picking them up, one by one, was irresistible for Islamophobes like Nicolas Sarkozy of France and David Cameron of Britain. They also knew that Obama in the White House would be only too happy to chip in, as he eventually did.

The fall of Qaddafi should be good news to western corporate interest, especially its oil cartels. Western oil companies had been making a bee-line, even before Qaddafi’s elimination, to the National Transitional Council of Libya to remind its leaders about the pay-back time for western support to their ‘cause.’ It doesn’t take a genius to reason that Tripoli would soon be swarming with western oil barons armed with their blue-prints to tap into Libya’s huge oil reserves. Western oil markets are already warming up to this prospect.

What impact Libya’s cataclysmic development may have on the ongoing ‘Arab Spring’ is an altogether different ball game.

Libya is the third success story in the unfolding Arab saga of oppressed people standing up to tyrannical and autocratic rulers. However, all three stories have developed and progressed differently, although the common thread in all three is the people’s resolve and determination to carry their struggle to a logical conclusion.

Tunisia was an spontaneous success because of its element of surprise, and Ben Ali so unnerved by the popular backlash that he saw wisdom in giving up after a token resistance.

The Egyptian revolt of the people overwhelmed Mubarak’s 30-year rule by the sheer strength of its numbers. The people’s occupation of Cairo’s maidan al-Tahrir spawned a ferment that the Egyptian army-at the back of Mubarak all through the years of his despotism-thought best contained by getting rid of the symbol of people’s rage, Mubarak. But the Egyptian people’s historic uprising against tyranny still remains uncrowned with undisputed success because the Egyptian army, used to wielding unbridled control for so long, is still mounting a stiff rear-guard action in defence of its privileged status in governance.

The Libyan uprising, as explained above, wouldn’t have been crowned with the success it has chalked up without massive NATO support and covert US underpinning of it. Syria is the best , or worst, example of the revolting people still held at bay by an autocratic regime enjoying massive backing from the army and unafraid, so far, of any western intervention, a la Libya.

The Assad regime’s best insurance against western intervention, of the Libyan model, is its credentials of being not bothersome or unbearably troubling to Israel. Israeli sensitivities set the tone for its western friends’ rhetoric as well as actions. The token effort by US, Britain and France, at the Security Council, of last week was a ruse perpetrated in categorical knowledge of the fact that China and Russia wouldn’t go with any sanctions against Syria. It was a game of calculated bluffing that was called, quickly, by both China and Russia by the use of their veto power at the Security Council.

By the same token, Algeria and Morocco-both of which should feel psychologically affected by the rumblings and upheavals in neighbouring Libya and Tunisia-would, in all likelihood, remain unaffected, in the immediate future, by any domino effect of the Arab spring reaching their shores. Since the 1990-91 abortive Islamic Salvation effort in Algeria, western neo-imperialism that had subverted the peaceful revolution has put in a lot of calculated political engineering on the side of autocratic regimes in both countries to guard against the likes of the Libyan uprising. The west is not going to let its heavy investment in these countries go down the drain under the Arab spring.

That Bahrain and Yemen may, likewise, see the people’s vociferous demand to be rid of their tyrants and autocrats go unanswered and unfulfilled for some time is not an unreasonable contention. Western imperialist lust, augmented by regional ambitions of surrogates like Saudi Arabia, currently has no appetite for the Arab spring blossoming to a full maturity and carving out an arc of popular democracies from the shores of Morocco, on the Atlantic, to the coasts of the Gulf. But Libya is still an awe-inspiring paradigm for the oppressed masses of the Arab world.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 November 2011 on page no. 26

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