– 2011-03-08 01:07:36
Libya: Is This Kosovo All Over Again?
Diana Johnstone / CounterPunch
(March 7, 2011) — Less than a dozen years after NATO bombed Yugoslavia into pieces, detaching the province of Kosovo from Serbia, there are signs that the military alliance is gearing up for another victorious little “humanitarian war,” this time against Libya. The differences are, of course, enormous. But letâ€™s look at some of the disturbing similarities.
A Demonized Leader
As “the new Hitler,” the man you love to hate and need to destroy, Slobodan Milosevic was a neophyte in 1999 compared to Moammer Gaddafi today. The media had less than a decade to turn Milosevic into a monster, whereas with Gaddafi, theyâ€™ve been at it for several decades. And Gaddafi is more exotic, speaking less English and coming before the public in outfits that could have been created by John Galliano (another recently outed monster).
This exotic aspect arouses the ancestral mockery and contempt for lesser cultures with which the West was won, Africa was colonized and the Summer Palace in Beijing was ravaged by Western soldiers fighting to make the world safe for opium addiction.
The “We Must Do Something” Chorus
As with Kosovo, the crisis in Libya is perceived by the hawks as an opportunity to assert power. The ineffable John Yoo, the legal advisor who coached the Bush II administration in the advantages of torturing prisoners, has used the Wall Street Journal to advise the Obama administration to ignore the UN Charter and leap into the Libyan fray.
“By putting aside the UN’s antiquated rules, the United States can save lives, improve global welfare, and serve its own national interests at the same time,” Yoo proclaimed. And another leading theorist of humanitarian imperialism, Geoffrey Robertson, has told The Independent that, despite appearances, violating international law is lawful.
The Specter of “Crimes against Humanity”
And “Genocide” Evoked to Justify War
As with Kosovo, an internal conflict between a government and armed rebels is being cast as a “humanitarian crisis” in which one side only, the government, is assumed to be “criminal.” This a priori criminalization is expressed by calling on an international judicial body to examine crimes, which are assumed to have been committed, or to be about to be committed.
In his Op Ed piece, Geoffrey Robertson made it crystal clear how the International Criminal Court is being used to set the stage for eventual military intervention. The ICC can be used by the West to get around the risk of a Security Council veto for military action, he explained.
“In the case of Libya, the council has at least set an important precedent by unanimously endorsing a reference to the International Criminal Court. [â€¦] So what happens if the unarrested Libyan indictees aggravate their crimes — eg by stringing up or shooting in cold blood their opponents, potential witnesses, civilians, journalists or prisoners of war?” (Note that so far there are no “indictees” and no proof of “crimes” that they supposedly may “aggravate” in various imaginary ways.)
But Robertson is eager to find a way for NATO “to pick up the gauntlet” if the Security Council decides to do nothing.
“The defects in the Security Council require the acknowledgement of a limited right, without its mandate, for an alliance like NATO to use force to stop the commission of crimes against humanity. That right arises once the council has identified a situation as a threat to world peace (and it has so identified Libya, by referring it unanimously to the ICC prosecutor).”
Thus referring a country to the ICC prosecutor can be a pretext for waging war against that country! By the way, the ICC jurisdiction is supposed to apply to States that have ratified the treaty establishing it, which, as I understand, is not the case of Libya — or of the United States.
A big difference, however, is that the United States has been able to persuade, bully or bribe countless sigNATOry States to accept agreements that they will never under any circumstances try to refer any American offenders to the ICC. That is a privilege denied Gaddafi.
Robertson, a member of the UN justice council, concludes that: “The duty to stop the mass murder of innocents, as best we can if they request our help, has crystallised to make the use of force by NATO not merely ‘legitimate’ but lawful.”
Twelve years ago, most of the European left supported â€œthe Kosovo warâ€ that set NATO on the endless path it now pursues in Afghanistan. Having learned nothing, many seem ready for a repeat performance.
A coalition of parties calling itself the European Left has issued a statement “strongly condemning the repression perpetrated by the criminal regime of Colonel Gaddafi” and urging the European Union “to condemn the use of force and to act promptly to protect the people that are peacefully demonstrating and struggling for their freedom.”
Inasmuch as the opposition to Gaddafi is not merely “peacefully demonstrating,” but in part has taken up arms, this comes down to condemning the use of force by some and not by others — but it is unlikely that the politicians who drafted this statement even realize what they are saying.
The narrow vision of the left is illustrated by the statement in a Trotskyist paper that: “Of all the crimes of Gaddafi, the one that is without doubt the most grave and least known is his complicity with the EU migration policyâ€¦”
For the far left, Gaddafi’s biggest sin is cooperating with the West, just as the West is to be condemned for cooperating with Gaddafi. This is a left that ends up, out of sheer confusion, as cheerleader for war.
The mass of refugees fleeing Kosovo as NATO began its bombing campaign was used to justify that bombing, without independent investigation into the varied causes of that temporary exodus — a main cause probably being the bombing itself. Today, from the way media report on the large number of refugees leaving Libya since the troubles began, the public could get the impression that they are fleeing persecution by Gaddafi.
As is frequently the case, media focuses on the superficial image without seeking explanations. A bit of reflection may fill the information gap. It is hardly likely that Gaddafi is chasing away the foreign workers that his regime brought to Libya to carry out important infrastructure projects. Rather it is fairly clear that some of the “democratic” rebels have attacked the foreign workers out of pure xenophobia.
Gaddafiâ€™s openness to Africans in particular is resented by a certain number of Arabs. But not too much should be said about this, since they are now our “good guys.” This is a bit the way Albanian attacks on Roma in Kosovo were overlooked or excused by NATO occupiers on the grounds that “the Roma had collaborated with the Serbs.”
Osama bin Laden
Another resemblance between former Yugoslavia and Libya is that the United States (and its NATO allies) once again end up on the same side as their old friend from Afghan Mujahidin days, Osama bin Laden. Osama bin Laden was a discreet ally of the Islamist party of Alija Izetbegovic during the Bosnia civil war, a fact that has been studiously overlooked by the NATO powers. Of course, Western media have largely dismissed Gaddafiâ€™s current claim that he is fighting against bin Laden as the ravings of a mad man.
However, the combat between Gaddafi and bin Laden is very real and predates the September 11, 2001 attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. Indeed, Gaddafi was the first to try to alert Interpol to bin Laden, but got no cooperation from the United States. In November 2007, the French news agency AFP reported that the leaders of the “Fighting Islamic Group” in Libya announced they were joining Al Qaeda. Like the Mujahidin who fought in Bosnia, that Libyan Islamist Group was formed in 1995 by veterans of the US-sponsored fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Their declared aim was to overthrow Gaddafi in order to establish a radical Islamist state.
The base of radical Islam has always been in the Eastern part of Libya where the current revolt broke out. Since that revolt does not at all resemble the peaceful mass demonstrations that overthrew dictators in Tunisia and Egypt, but has a visible component of armed militants, it can reasonably be assumed that the Islamists are taking part in the rebellion.
Refusal of Negotiations
In 1999, the United States was eager to use the Kosovo crisis to give NATOâ€™s new “out of area” mission its baptism of fire.
The charade of peace talks at Rambouillet was scuttled by US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who sidelined more moderate Kosovo Albanian leaders in favor of Hashim Thaci, the young leader of the “Kosovo Liberation Army,” a network notoriously linked to criminal activities. The Albanian rebels in Kosovo were a mixed bag, but as frequently happens, the US reached in and drew the worst out of that bag.
In Libya, the situation could be even worse. My own impression, partly as a result of visiting Tripoli four years ago, is that the current rebellion is a much more mixed bag, with serious potential internal contradictions. Unlike Egypt, Libya is not a populous historic state with thousands of years of history, a strong sense of national identity and a long political culture.
Half a century ago, it was one of the poorest countries in the world, and still has not fully emerged from its clan structure. Gaddafi, in his own eccentric way, has been a modernizing factor, using oil revenues to raise the standard of living to one of the highest on the African continent.
The opposition to him comes, paradoxically, both from reactionary traditional Islamists on the one hand, who consider him a heretic for his relatively progressive views, and Westernized beneficiaries of modernization on the other hand, who are embarrassed by the Gaddafi image and want still more modernization. And there are other tensions that may lead to civil war and even a breakup of the country along geographic lines.
So far, the dogs of war are sniffing around for more bloodshed than has actually occurred. Indeed, the US escalated the Kosovo conflict in order to “have to intervene,” and the same risks happening now with regard to Libya, where Western ignorance of what they would be doing is even greater.
The Chavez proposal for neutral mediation to avert catastrophe is the way of wisdom. But in NATOland, the very notion of solving problems by peaceful mediation rather than by force seems to have evaporated.
Libya and the Return of Humanitarian Imperialism
(March 7, 2011) — The whole gang is back: The parties of the European Left (grouping the “moderate” European communist parties), the “Green” JosÃ© Bove, now allied with Daniel Cohn-Bendit, who has never seen a US-NATO war he didnâ€™t like, various Trotkyist groups and of course Bernard-Henry LÃ©vy and Bernard Kouchner, all calling for humanitarian intervention in Libya or accusing the Latin American left, whose positions are far more sensible, of acting as “useful idiots” for the “Libyan tyrant.”
Twelve years later, it is Kosovo all over again. Hundred of thousands of Iraqis dead, NATO stranded in an impossible position in Afghanistan, and they have learned nothing!
The Kosovo war was made to stop a nonexistent genocide, the Afghan war to protect women (go and check their situation now), and the Iraq war to protect the Kurds. When will they understand that all wars claim to have humanitarian justifications? Even Hitler was “protecting minorities” in Czechoslovakia and Poland.
On the other hand, Robert Gates warns that any future secretary of state who advises a US president to send troops into Asia or Africa “must have his head examined.” Admiral McMullen similarly advises caution. The great paradox of our time is that the headquarters of the peace movement are to be found in the Pentagon and the State Department, while the pro-war party is a coalition of neo-conservatives and liberal interventionists of various stripes, including leftist humanitarian warriors, as well as some Greens, feminists or repentant communists.
So, now, everybody has to cut down his or her consumption because of global warming, but NATO wars are recyclable and imperialism has become part of sustainable development.
Of course the US will go or not go to war for reasons that are quite independent of the advice offered by the pro-war left. Oil is not likely to be a major factor in their decision, because any future Libyan government will have to sell oil and Libya is not big enough to significantly weigh on the price of oil.
Of course, turmoil in Libya leads to speculation that itself affects prices, but that is a different matter. Zionists are probably of two minds about Libya: they hate Gaddafi, and would like to see him ousted, like Saddam, in the most humiliating manner, but they are not sure they will like his opposition (and, from the little we know about it, they wonâ€™t).
The main pro-war argument is that if things go quickly and easily, it will rehabilitate NATO and humanitarian intervention, whose image has been tarnished by Iraq and Afghanistan. A new Grenada or, at most, a new Kosovo, is exactly what is needed. Another motivation for intervention is to better control the rebels, by coming to “save” them on their march to victory.
But that is unlikely to work: Karzai in Afghanistan, the Kosovar nationalists, the Shiites in Iraq and of course Israel, are perfectly happy to get American help, when needed, but after that, to pretty much pursue their own agenda. And a full-fledged military occupation of Libya after its “liberation” is unlikely to be sustainable, which of course makes intervention less attractive from a US point of view.
On the other hand, if things turn badly, it will probably be the beginning of the end of the American empire, hence the caution of people who are actually in charge of it and not merely writing articles in Le Monde or ranting against dictators in front of cameras.
It is difficult for ordinary citizens to know exactly what is going on in Libya, because Western media have thoroughly discredited themselves in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Palestine, and alternative sources are not always reliable either. That of course does not prevent the pro-war left from being absolutely convinced of the truth of the worst reports about Gaddafi, just as they were twelve years ago about Milosevic.
The negative role of the International Criminal Court is again apparent, here, as was that of the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia in the case of Kosovo.
One of the reasons why there was relatively little bloodshed in Tunisia and Egypt is that there was a possible exit for Ben Ali and Mubarak. But “international justice” wants to make sure that no such exit is possible for Gaddafi, and probably for people close to him, hence inciting them to fight to the bitter end.
If “another world is possible,” as the European Left keeps on saying, then another West should be possible and the European Left should start working on that. The recent meeting of the Bolivarian Alliance could serve as an example: the Latin American left wants peace and they want to avoid US intervention, because they know that they are in the sights of the US and that their process of social transformation requires above all peace and national sovereignty.
Hence, they suggest sending an international delegation, possibly led by Jimmy Carter (hardly a stooge of Gaddafi), in order to start a negotiation process between the government and the rebels. Spain has expressed interest in the idea, which is of course rejected by Sarkozy.
This proposition may sound utopian, but it might not be so if it were supported by the full weight of the United Nations. That would be the way to fulfill its mission, but it is now made impossible by US and Western influence. However, it is not impossible that now, or in some future crisis, a non-interventionist coalition of nations, including Russia, China, Latin America and maybe others, may work together to build credible alternatives to Western interventionism.
Unlike the Latin American left, the pathetic European version has lost all sense of what it means to do politics. It does not try to propose concrete solutions to problems, and is only able to take moral stances, in particular denouncing dictators and human rights violations in grandiloquent tones. The social democratic left follows the right with at best a few years delay and has no ideas of its own.
The “radical” left often manages both to denounce Western governments in every possible way and to demand that those same governments intervene militarily around the globe to defend democracy. Their lack of political reflection makes them highly vulnerable to disinformation campaigns and to becoming passive cheerleaders of US-NATO wars.
That left has no coherent program and would not know what to do even if a god put them into power. Instead of “supporting” Chavez and the Venezuelan Revolution, a meaningless claim some love to repeat, they should humbly learn from them and, first of all, relearn what it means to do politics.
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