It is a cliché to suggest that Western intervention in Third World countries is all about resources, particularly oil, but do those doing the intervening have to make it so damned obvious…and be so glaringly hypocritical about it?
Since February, protests have swept the Arab world and in at least three countries the military has fired on and killed large numbers of demonstrators (now termed in “NATO-speak,” “unarmed civilians” if they happen to be in countries NATO doesn’t like). In the last few days alone, the Syrian army has used tanks against protesters and Yemeni army snipers continued to shoot those who take their discontent onto the streets. (Of course there is also the ongoing slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza by the Israel Defence Forces, but this doesn’t really count in the same way as far as NATO is concerned). In spite of this, NATO jets aren’t bombing targets in Damascus or Sana’a (let alone in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv). Nope, it’s becoming ever clearer that the obligation to protect civilians only applies in Libya where warplanes, including those from Canada, have now carried out over 5,000 air sorties against the Libyan military (and Col. Gaddafi’s family) since the start of NATO’s intervention on March 19th.
Obviously this must be a totally random roll of the dice sort of thing for the West and surely couldn’t have anything to do with the fact that Libya is one of ten key oil producing countries on the planet and the top oil producer in Africa. Curiously, Syria and Yemen have no significant oil deposits. Nor, incidentally, does Palestine. How’s that for a weird coincidence?
The coincidences don’t stop there, however. The part of Libya in open revolt against the Gaddafi regime, Cyrenaica, just happens to contain virtually all of Libya’s oil wells. The self-declared interim government, the Transitional National Council (TNC) (with a slick official website), now has official recognition by France and the United Kingdom (both of which occupied Libya after World War 2), Italy (the former colonial power, which gets about 25 per cent of its oil from Libya), Portugal (another former colonial master in Africa), and Qatar. Qatar dispatched soldiers to Yemen to help Yemeni forces shoot more protesters. It also provides key military installations to the United States.
Mamoud Jibril, the interim TNC’s leader, holds an advanced degree from the University of Pittsburgh. Jibril was Gaddafi’s appointed head of the National Economic Development Board. It seems that in this role he strongly advocated a policy of privatization. Pre revolution, oil companies from the West paid the Libyan National Oil Company, which then turned the money over to the Libyan government. Again, maybe it’s just a coincidence, but with Jibril as the head of a new regime, can privatization of the oil fields be far behind?
After NATO started bombing, the French and British governments announced that they were sending in senior military “advisers” to help the rebel forces with logistics. Neither country mentioned the obvious fact that senior ranks on the ground need Special Forces, also on the ground, to protect them. Nor that to direct air attacks, Special Forces soldiers need to be ‘in country’ to direct the strikes. NATO denies providing close air support for the rebels, yet the latter advance after NATO bombs, retreat when it doesn’t. No one is yet talking about military trainers for the rebel forces, but it’s a safe bet that such trainers from various NATO armies are also in the rebel areas.
The latest news is that NATO is sending attack helicopters to join the fray. The ostensible reason is to provide better air support that “protects civilians.”
There is little doubt that the Gaddafi regime is foul by any standard or that the Libyan people have the right to remove or overthrow it as they see fit. This right includes force of arms, if necessary. Indeed, all peoples, wherever they may be, have this same fundamental right if their own governments oppress them. (Note to Canada: the same applies here, not just in the Third World).
The question is not about the right of the Libyan people to rise up against oppression, but whether it is actually being done by them on their own behalf or is a convenience of western governments eager to capture yet more oil for their consumer economies. Much of the left seems to have glommed onto the first half of this, all the while letting their critical senses ignore the second. For the powers that be, there can’t be much sweeter than having so-called “lefties” cheering on your military adventures in the name of human rights.
One way to find out how all Libyans feel about the revolt would be for journalists to go talk to those in the areas not in rebellion. This idea does not seem to have occurred to most of the world’s mainstream media, so we don’t know.
There is an old science proverb about the outcomes of any particular experiment that seems applicable to the present situation in Libya: The first time the experiment comes out a particular way, it’s a miracle; the second time, coincidence; the third time, it’s “science.” With Libya, we have the same three stages: a rebellion in the oil region of the country (coincidence), an interim leader who favours privatization (a miracle), and an oil hungry NATO providing the military muscle to make it all happen (only to protect civilians, of course). Bingo, the science of intervention.
All in all, it’s the perfect political hat trick, one that has pulled some pretty fuzzy political goggles over the eyes of many on the progressive side of the house who should know a lot better.
And it’s perfect in another way too: For most of those taking their news from Shaw Media (the former Canwest Global) or CNN, what’s happening in Libya is so blatantly obvious, it’s practically invisible.