Qaddafi’s Bloodlust is Helping Western Neo-Imperialism
That old adage that when gods wish to destroy a man they make him mad first seems so very apt in the case of Libya's besieged dictator and tyrant, Muammar Qaddafi. In his frenzied bid to stave off his imminent doom, he's letting loose an orgy of blood and mayhem not seen since the Pol Pot massacre of millions of Cambodians in the 1970s.
As the crisis in Libya continues to spiral into a dead-end struggle between Qaddafi and his rebels, the world is being held virtually hostage to an incredible battle of nerves which, as the odds stand today, is exacting a horrendous price in blood from those bold enough to stand against their mad tyrant. According to the latest reports from Misarata, Qaddafi's hometown-which has passed from Qaddafi to rebels and back to him-a vengeful Qaddafi seems to have given a license to his forces to kill his opponents to their hearts' content. They aren't disappointing him.
In the middle of the nerve-wrecking high-wire act by an unrepentant and unyielding Qaddafi, someone at the prestigious Carnegie Endowment in Washington has dug up a long-forgotten Lenin saying that encapsulates the essence of the ongoing spectacle in the Arab world in its entirety: "There are decades when nothing happens; and there are weeks when decades happen."
But even Lenin, with all of his well-documented revolutionary foresight couldn't have presaged that his dictum of decades happening in weeks would come true, almost a century later, in an area that most pundits of world affairs had long come to refer to as half-asleep, half awake.
With this perspective in mind, what's going on in Libya and at least three other fire-zones-Syria, Yemen and Bahrain-is not just spectacular but also mind-boggling.
But Libya, of course, is the one hogging the centre stage because of the ferocity of the struggle between a despot who wouldn't yield to all the pressure being applied on him-both from within his own country and without-and a rag-tag band of rebels determined to put an end to his tyranny and unabated lust for power.
Qaddafi has long been the maverick in the comity of nations and the international community had been mentally resigned to see him acting out what could only be described as a bizarre role of a leader suffering from acute myopia and, because of it, unable to see the writing on the wall against him.
It may seem odd to compare him with the legendary Helen of Troy who was the cause of a thousand ships from Athens launched against the place she had eloped to. But Qaddafi, in his own immutable style has engineered the launching of a thousand Tomahawk 'cruise' and other missiles against his army by a western coalition cobbled together under the US command, and sanctified by the UN Security Council Resolution 1973 that gives the coalition a huge leverage to use all necessary means to loosen his grip on power in the name of protecting the Libyan people.
Apparently, the western scramble to help save the Libyan rebels against Qaddafi's relentless onslaught is being justified and finessed on the basis of humanitarian concern for the lives and welfare of those in the sights of his guns. There's hardly a doubt that the western military intervention came not a moment too soon for the beleaguered rebels who, on March 17, the day the UN resolution was passed in New York, were in imminent danger of being decimated by the Qaddafi forces' onslaught against Benghazi.
So it's Qaddafi's refusal to bend to the wind blowing against him that has opened the way for western military intervention in Libya on the side of the under-dogs, which in this case happen to be the people arrayed against his autocratic regime.
Few in the midst of all these hectic developments on the international stage would be able to recall what western military power did to Libya exactly a hundred years ago, in 1911.
Libya had been set upon, a century ago, to date, by an imperialist Italy following in the footsteps of the Roman Empire that had subjugated North Africa and used it as Rome's granary. The rape of Tripoli at the hands of Italian invaders had sent a shock wave across the Muslim world, which at that stage was largely under western colonial domination and, therefore, unable to do much beyond shedding tears over the snuffing out of another Muslim country's independence.
The great poet and philosopher of the east, Allama Iqbal was devastated at the blood-letting by Italy in Libya and had penned, in remorse and utter grief, some heart-rending couplets to portray the grave calamity; the last of the couplets saw the poet presenting the blood of the martyrs of Tripoli to the Holy Prophet of Islam (PBUH) in a vial in Paradise.
The rape of Tripoli and subjugation of Libya at the end of a heroic struggle by its people-led by the legendary Omar Mukhtar-was the beginning of the end of the Ottoman Empire, which had been tottering on its last legs for decades. The then European colonial powers, France, Britain et al. were hell-bent on squeezing the last drop of life out of the Ottomans and just winked at Italy rendering their cause a big service in Libya.
So, history is repeating itself, with unfailing regularity, in Libya. However, as Marx had so aptly observed, this second repetition of it is nothing short of a tragedy.
What an irony that whilst a century ago the people of Libya were at one in resisting the European imperialist thrust with their blood under the command of a real freedom fighter, the people of Libya-at least those who have risen in arms against an unyielding dictator-have themselves invited the western military intervention today because their leader wouldn't listen to their pleas for change and grant them the freedoms universally guaranteed to all peoples of the world.
A century ago the Libyans had a leader who wouldn't mind shedding his own blood for the sake of his people; today they have a leader who doesn't mind shedding his people's blood so he may prolong his rule. The epic tragedy of the present-day Arab world, under thrall of power-hungry potentates and tyrants, is being epitomized in the turmoil of Libya.
The capture of Libya by the Italians triggered a chain of events in which Arabs were inveigled into rising in revolt against the Ottomans. The Arab revolt led to the fall of Jerusalem to the British in 1917, prompting the then arch-imperialist British PM, Lloyd George to boast that it was the "last and most important of Crusades."
Today, Qaddafi is denouncing the western military assault against his forces as another 'Crusade.'
A crusade the current UN-sponsored Operation 'Odyssey Dawn' may not quite be but it's not, at the same time, a purely humanitarian undertaking that every western leader, from Obama to Cameron to Sarkozy insists it's.
Obama is already being hailed by a section of the western media-led, in this instance, by The Economist-for having enunciated an 'Obama Doctrine' with abiding humanitarian concern for oppressed people anywhere as its lynchpin.
This was the theme Obama dilated upon at length in his address to the American people on March 29, the day 40 ministers, including those representing NATO countries as well as Arabs from Jordan, Qatar, UAE and Iraq, met in London to plan about what to do next in Libya.
Libya is obviously being treated as a very special case on the scales of humanitarian concern. However, the west is once again caught at an awkward-and as usual hypocritical-crossroads in its profession of humanitarian concern and practice that may not quite square with such concern universally. Had there been the element of universal concern ruling the roost with these champions of humanism, they should be equally engaged in Bahrain and Yemen, which isn't the case.
In Yemen Ali Abdullah Saleh's autocratic and repressive regime, which is a mirror image of Qaddafi's, isn't being inconvenienced much because Saleh is a front-rank ally in the war against Al-Qaeda in Yemen. So his excesses against the Yemeni people demanding his political demise are being winked at because of the fear of Al-Qaeda capitalizing on the situation.
There is, in fact, a snide campaign already on in U.S., in particular, among the right wing conservatives and empire-dreamers-who otherwise have no love lost for Qaddafi-clamoring that Al-Qaeda is infiltrating the ranks of the rebels arrayed against Qaddafi. These are those typical scare-mongers who see Al-Qaeda and other Jihadis lurking behind every bush.
In Bahrain, the humanitarian handicap is more compounded and complex. Bahrain has an umbilical cord connecting it to Saudi Arabia, and the latter shudders at the thought of Bahrain's Shiia majority taking control of the country, which may, then, quite possibly provoke the Shiias on the east coast of Saudi Arabia to be accommodated at the same level and given the rights denied to them for so long.
The chimera of Iran is an added disincentive against Obama's humanitarian concern coming into action with as much force and fanfare as in Libya. So, Washington has chosen to turn a blind eye to the Saudi tanks rolling into Bahrain to the aid of its beleaguered royals. It's once again the US mantra of security and allergy to Iran trumping all humanitarian instincts of Obama & company. The misery of the Bahraini Shiias gets worse because the Saudis take instant fright to their beliefs and perceived links with Iran.
Back in Libya, however, the juggernaut of conquest and subjugation rolled out by Italy a century ago is playing out to its fullest potential under US and NATO military lust. The latitude of UNSC resolution 1973 is being used and abused to the hilt. Somebody very aptly asked if Qaddafi's tanks could fly? Why would they, otherwise, be targeted under a 'no-fly zone'? The answer to that is that the UN mandate gives the 'friends' of the rebels the right to deploy any means to protect them against Qaddafi's marauders.
But the rebels aren't doing too well against the better-trained and better-equipped Qaddafi army on the battlefield. So the word from London, on the authority of David Cameron is that the 40-ministers' conclave did mull over the possibility of arming the rebels with western weapons. The buzz from Washington has just added more spice to the building momentum of beefing up the rebels' fire power; Obama is believed to have signed a secret order to do just that. Qaddafi, the incorrigible Caligula of our times is whetting the western appetite for an encore of the imperialist era.
However, the western sense of humanism would come alive with full vigour if the nascent movement against Bashar Al Assad's regime in Syria spirals into a serious challenge to the regime's power.
Syria has been in the gun sights and hair-triggers of the neo-imperialists ruling the roost in Washington for decades, especially since the Iranian revolution which brought the two countries into ideological proximity of each other. Moreover, Syria's physical proximity to Israel makes it an automatic target for the neo cons and the Zionists whose influence over Obama's policies remains strong and hard to resist for the occupant of the Oval Office.
Against this backdrop one should be quite prepared to the Obama Doctrine getting briskly into its elements, given half a chance in Syria. In his own words, Obama would be 'on the right side of history' in going to the aid of the Syrian people, an overwhelming majority of whom has no sectarian affinity with the ruling Alawites, who are but only a miniscule element of the Syrian demography.
If that comes to pass, history of western imperialism in the Arab world would come full circle. The onslaught begun in Tripoli in 1911 reached its apogee with the fall of Damascus, the jewel in the Ottoman crown, in 1918. The words uttered by the victorious British General Allenby, at the tomb of Salahuddin Ayubi in the heart of Damascus would remain etched forever in Muslim conscience: 'Saladin, we have returned,' hectored a jubilant and beaming Allenby, rubbing salt into the Muslim wounds. One may wonder who would be hectoring this time around; Obama, Cameron or Sarkozy?
Syria isn't likely to spiral into Libya's kind of turbulence and critical confrontation between the ruler and the ruled for the sheer reason that Bashar Al Assad isn't mad like Qaddafi and the ruling Baath party has built an intricate, and highly disciplined, network of cadres over more than four decades of its power. However, for western imperialism, Syria could well be a more tempting target and prize. Israel is one paramount reason of that and the powerful hold of the Zionist lobbies in U.S. and Europe could get into the works quickly if there are signs of Syria, too, degenerating into a Libya-like scenario. Bashar Al Assad needs to keep a hawk's eye at that.
For the moment, however, it's Libya and Qaddafi's bloodlust riveting western attention on it. The neo-imperialists may wish to get done with Libya, sooner than later, to turn their gaze to Syria and Hizbollah in Lebanon.