What Libya can expect from western democracy

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Canada is at war again but you would hardly know it from the media. We should pay attention, for our part in the Libyan "mission" is a stunning example of how easily the self-righteous west can get involved in war without considering the consequences. First it was Afghanistan, then Iraq, classic examples of imperial hubris, western adventures rooted in total ignorance of the societies they were about to savage and executed with lies and manipulation of the invaders' populations.

It is amazing that the U.S. still justifies the invasion of Iraq because of a vicious dictator despite the fact that in doing so they have killed hundreds of times the number of people killed by Saddam Hussein and have set the country back a generation in terms of infrastructure, education and governance. They had to destroy the country to save it. We will be in Afghanistan for another decade.

Democracy is an easy word to throw around and it is obviously hoped that as soon as you utter the term citizens in western developed nations will immediately fall into line behind any and all idiotic adventures. Given our recent experience here -- an extremist right-winger gets a majority government with 40 per cent of the vote -- those promoting western "democracy" might want to display a little more humility.

Regarding Libya, western powers managed to get a UN resolution for a no-fly zone and then the whole operation was contracted out to NATO, which has no business outside Europe. Led by the U.S. (laughably pretending to be in a "supportive" role only) and supported by Canada (and all of our federal parties), it is yet another example of both imperial hubris and incompetence. The no-fly zone mandate has been blatantly violated and has morphed, as it had to, into regime change.

How did this "limited war" happen and why? It is laughable to cheer on this military intervention as some sort of human rights action based on the "duty to protect." From the outset this conflict was fundamentally different from those in Tunisia and Egypt. While there was much talk about protecting civilians, the civilians they were talking about were, after a very short period of peaceful demonstrating, taking up arms against the government. Once you do that -- especially with arms that include heavy machine guns, anti-aircraft weapons, rockets and other materiel seized from the army -- you cease to be civilians. You are an armed insurrection and you are in a civil war by choice.

The slaughter of innocents in Syria, Bahrain and Yemen where civilians have not taken up arms against the state apparently don't deserve Western humanitarian assistance or intervention. Humanitarian intervention is only on the menu if you happen to have oil.

And it is almost as if the rebels -- the U.S., even now, isn't sure who they are -- have to be reminded to talk about democracy. Mostly they just talk about overthrowing Moammar Gaddafi and can't understand why the west won't just do it for them. Wanting power doesn't make you a democrat.

There is little doubt that right from the beginning there were civilians being killed by Gaddafi forces. But, oddly, we never got any actual numbers like we did in other conflicts such as Egypt. Now, of course, it is reported that the armed rebellion has unleashed the worst of Gaddafi Khadafy's ferocious revenge attacks on towns and cities held by the rebels. 

So who is responsible for this brutal assault Gaddafi of course -- no one else is pulling the trigger. But would the scores of people dying every day be dying were it not for the ill-conceived decision to get involved with the so-called "no fly zone." The west, as usual, had such terrible intelligence on the situation in Libya that they evidently believed that wiping out the country's air force would bring Quaddafi Khadafy to his knees.

Do the leaders of the EU and the U.S. actually consult their experts before they get involved in these wars? Or do they only call them in when things go sideways and the reality of their situation smacks them in the face? We know what happens in the Harper government -- the PM is contemptuous of the professional civil service and almost never consults them on anything.

What will be the final result for Libyans? To answer that it might be useful to ask what the ruthless Gaddafi has done in addition to being ruthless.

Libya is not Egypt, where skyrocketing food prices were at the root of popular anger. Western leaders know this but they are loath to admit it because for a dictatorship, Libya looks relatively good in terms of the material conditions of its people. According to researcher Ian Hunter of Globalresearch.ca.

"In 1969, Muammar Gaddafi led a bloodless coup to overthrow King Idris I, a monarch imposed by the British after WWII. At the time, Libya was the poorest country in the entire world; with a literacy rate below 10 per cent. Since then, the Libyan government has improved all aspects of their society.

• Libya now has a literacy rate above 90 per cent.

• Libya has the lowest infant mortality rate of all of Africa.

• Libya also has the highest life expectancy of all of Africa.

• Less than 5 per cent of the population was undernourished [at the time the conflict started].

• Libya has the highest gross domestic product (GDP) ... per capita of all of Africa.

• Libya has the highest Human Development Index of any country on the continent.

• In Libya, a lower percentage of people lived below the poverty line than in the Netherlands, and again, far lower than that of the United States.

• They have free health care, and education is free of charge. Talented youth have an opportunity to study abroad at the expense of the Libyan government.

• Before the chaos erupted, Libya had a lower incarceration rate than the Czech Republic and far lower than the United States."

Just what is a democracy for? Given that the term has always been closely associated with equality, are we to believe that if Gaddafi is overthrown, a U.S.-style democracy will actually improve on these statistics?

Of course not. U.S.-style democracy is "liberal" capitalist democracy which, for anyone in the developing world who has experienced it, means freedom for transnational corporations to do what they please and take what they want.

Until now, whatever you might think of , his mercenaries, and his erratic behaviour, the money from the country's oil has been more equally distributed amongst the population than in any other oil-rich nation in the world with the possible exception of Norway.

If the west prevails in this phony human rights exercise, three things can be predicted with virtual certainty: the oil will end up in the hands of western oil companies, the standard of living of Libyans will drop steadily, and they won't have genuine democracy. How shall we celebrate?

Murray Dobbin is a guest senior contributing editor for rabble.ca, and has been a journalist, broadcaster, author and social activist for 40 years. He writes rabble's bi-weekly State of the Nation column, which is also found at thetyee.ca.

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