Arab tragedies and role of the “west”

Today is the eighth anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq, and today the US is preparing to once again join a military action against an Arab country, Libya.
I wonder how many of Pres. Obama’s advisers have ever even heard the term “Tripartite Aggression”? That is the way Arabs refer to the military action– which also had a veneer of UN respectability– that Britain, France, and Israel launched against Egypt in 1956.
Now, those two long-faded European powers have once again been preparing to take part in a tripartite act of war against an Arab country. And this time, the third party is the United States.
At a time when U.S. allies Bahrain and Yemen have been cracking down very lethally on internal protesters, it is hypocritical in the extreme for the “western” powers to send their military in to punish Col. Qadhdhafi for doing the same in Libya.
What makes the contrast even more poignant is that in Bahrain, at least– and to a large extent also in Yemen– the protesters restrained their actions to acts of nonviolent mass protest, whereas in Libya from very early on the anti-Qadhdhafi movement took on the full aspect of a military insurrection. The Libyan protesters stormed armories and barracks, handed out weapons to all comers, and worked actively to persuade serving military officers to turn their arms against the government forces.
So it is that armed insurrection that the “western” powers are now supporting, while Bahrain’s nonviolent democracy activists are being mown down by western arms in their own streets.
How will it end in Libya? Who knows? The animal spirits of warfare take their own course, as we have seen in Iraq over the past eight years. The invasion of Iraq has notably not turned out well– either for the Iraqi people themselves, whose society was largely destroyed during the fitna (social chaos) that followed, or for the “west”, since the political upshot in Iraq has been an extension of significant Iranian power into the whole country.
55 years ago, the British-French-Israeli aggression against Egypt didn’t turn out well for the “western” powers involved, either. For Britain, 1956 was essentially a last gasp of empire that completely overstretched the London’s capabilities and led almost directly to the collapse of Britain’s ability to extend its power “East of Suez”.
How will this all end in Libya? I suppose there is still time for determined diplomacy by well-meaning non-belligerent powers to get both sides to back down and agree to the ceasefire earlier specified by the Security Council. If so, that ceasefire needs to be monitored. A monitoring body acceptable to both sides needs to be formed. The terms of national reconciliation would need to be negotiated.
The French, however, and the British, and several of those Arab countries that have been so eager to crush the nonviolent democracy in Bahrain, all seem determined to get into the fight against Qadhdhafi, most likely with the aim of bringing him down. (Correction: the Arab powers have been eager to instigate others to get into the fight, not to do it themselves.)
The attempt to act through imposing (among other things) a “no-fly zone” that would, in the view of the authors of this proposal, serve to handicap the Tripoli forces considerably met with a rather severe challenge today, when a first plane was shot down over the rebels’ stronghold in Benghazi– but it turned out to be a rebel-piloted Mirage. If both the rebels and the government forces have planes in the air liable to being shot down, how can the western forces discriminate between them? (And anyway, the no-fly rule is definitely supposed to apply to everyone.)
But let’s say the western forces do take military action. What then? All the commentators in their capitals say they are ready only for a short engagement– nothing like the no-fly zone and tight blockade that the US and UK maintained around Saddam’s Iraq for 12 long years, 1991-2003, causing hundreds of thousands of Iraqi deaths and costing the US a huge amount of money to maintain. So if they are really planning on a “short” engagement this time, it’s likely they are including a decapitation element in their plans. That is, killing Muammar Qadhdhafi in the presumed hope that something better might follow.
Do these people have no memory? Can they not even cast their minds back to the tragedy Iraq suffered after the regime was forcibly toppled there?
In the imagination of some, like Samantha Power and perhaps her boss Barrack Obama, war can be harnessed to worthy humanitarian ends.
Neither Samantha Power nor Barrack Obama has ever, as I have, lived in a war zone. War is quintessentially anti-humanitarian. It visits terrible suffering on children, women, and men– usually for many, many years.
Yes, the humanitarian/political challenge in Libya was searingly acute. (As has been the challenge in Bahrain, and Yemen.) All the powers in the world should be applying themselves to the goal of ratcheting down the violence and finding nonviolent ways to resolve both the underlying political problems and the host of new problems that have been caused by the act of armed insurrection itself.
I pray there is still time.

23 thoughts on “Arab tragedies and role of the “west””

  1. This aggression is different — it has the UN seal of approval, notwithstanding the fact that the UN Charter nowhere authorizes that body (UNSC) to order international military aggression against a state, particularly in response to a civil war. What a terrible precedent for further illegal acts by ‘the world community.’
    But not really the world community, just a small part of it.
    World population: 6,910m
    Voting for the resolution:
    United States, Britain, France, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, Gabon, Lebanon, Nigeria, Portugal, South Africa
    Total population: 711m
    Russia, China, Germany, Brazil, India
    Total population: 2,949m

  2. whose society was largely destroyed during the fitna (social chaos) that followed, or for the “west”, since the political upshot in Iraq has been an extension of significant Iranian power into the whole country.
    Give me a break now we blaming the victims for the sectarian and ethnics chose which was clearly invented by your war criminals like Negroponte Helena.
    What about those 160k mercenaries who hired by US inside Iraq Helena? What the doing there for the last eight years are they planting vegetable and rice and preparing food for Iraqis?
    Did you forgot that or you covering your criminals folk naming it as “Fitna” while sure was orchestrated by your “HEROS” Experts with Israeli hand there.
    Oh yes I remember your follow Nier Rossen talking in same manner no difference here shame on all of you who twisting the facts and the history of crimes done by you citizens around the world.
    Well don’t our Quaker humans defender…

  3. Don, the details of the vote are indeed interesting. Setting aside the case of Lebanon where, unless I am mistaken, the, wholly justifiable, grudge Hezbollah has against Ghadaffi presumably tipped the balance, we are left with a very curious collection.
    As to France and the UK they have been virtual Protectorates for decades and are now like a couple of ancients quite content to leave everything up to the US government as they contemplate the imminence of mortality. They don’t count, not under Sarkozy and Cameron anyway.
    Then there is Bosnia-Hercegovina which shouldn’t be on the Security Council being a fully owned subsidiary of NATO, not so much a state as a trophy. It is wholly dependent on the US and NATO. Its vote simply shows how shameless the Empire has become.
    As to Colombia, well we all know about Colombia despite efforts to obscure the facts of the regime’s murderous, fascistic nature. What quarrel Colombia’s could possibly have with Ghadaffi I cannot imagine. Clearly it is just doing what the US wants. And, like Bosnia, not to mention the UK, Colombia is full of US bases, US military and depends upon the US as it consolidates its record for displacing more of its population than any other country except Iraq.
    Portugal is another NATO member, hand in glove with the US.
    As to Gabon, Nigeria and South Africa I await information from Domza.
    A pretty poor show, altogether, not much better than the crowd that backs Israel in the General Assembly.

  4. “Moammar Gadhafi has a choice. The [U.N.] resolution that passed lays out very clear conditions that must be met. The United States, the United Kingdom, France and Arab states agree that a ceasefire must be implemented immediately. That means all attacks against civilians must stop,” the president said. “These terms are not negotiable.

    Did anyone remember or got something in his back-mind what it said by G Bush the father, GW Bush similar/exact in the past?
    Let give you tip here: “These terms are not negotiable.” is it same sentence used in the past by old war criminals? I hope the list of those criminals not update soon by a new one ,which is more likely isn’t?

  5. The puzzle is, why should Fox News need subcontractors from the Left to promote this war? They can do everything they want by themselves.

  6. Israelis are well aware that in 1953 the Eisenhower/Dulles White House was still contemplating forcing Israel to cede the Negev under UK pressure (which Negev had, after all, been evacuated by Jordan without a fight in 1949 due to the hopelessness of the Jordanian position) thus giving Egypt the minor goal it had failed to reach on the battlefield in 1949, the major goal being the destruction of Israel. 1956 is seen as a Second War of Independence which consolidated the state in the face of both enemies and nominal allies who might have forced Israel to a less defensible border for the inevitable next war for survival.

  7. UN never ever done any resolutions taking in accounts the weight of number of citizens or human that supports its resolution.
    Wonder when UN or US or Europeans from Israeli wars/ massacre in Gaza? Why US or UN or European not asking for no Fly Zone over Israeli skies? Or when they invaded Lebanon 1982?
    What the difference? Were these guys and human watch and other who are so sensible and worry about Arab citizens life

  8. Salah is not courteous or helpful!
    Don Bacon – even your figures are generous, as we know that the populations of France, UK and possibly US do not agree with their Reps about the necessity for constant invasions, occupations and destructions in Arab lands. The desires of the people are not taken into consideration when the big boys Sarkozy,Cameron and Obama use their new toys once more.

  9. Helena is quite right about one thing : the blatant hypocrisy of the US in attacking Quadaffi’s forces while actually providing assistance (albeit with some minor, useless verbal protest) to the crushing of genuine popular uprisings in Bahrain and Yemen. In those instances mere US pressure without even actual intervention could have made a difference and led to more democratic regimes. (But then where would the 5th Fleet and the CIA drones hang out?)Perhaps this is Obama’s attempt to divert attention from our role in supporting those Gulf State despots?
    Meanwhile, we don’t really know who the rebels in Libya are. It is worth noting that they immediately went for weapons for an armed uprising rather than a mass nonviolent one. Perhaps the nature of Quadaffi and his regime left them no choice. Perhaps, it is just one group of wannabe despots trying to throw out the others and take over. I have seen very little analysis of the nature of the rebels.
    I have always been a great admirer of Quakers and their policy of nonviolence, but there are times when it cannot work. This battle with Quadaffi appears to be a life and death thing for him. Any cease fire arrangement would be no more than a pause to get the UN out followed by the extermination of the rebels, who also would be just regrouping and biding their time before their next attempt. There is a real danger in leaving Quadaffi in place between Egypt and Tunisia trying desperately to democratically reform. Based on performance so far, it is just a shame that US policy is not being informed by wiser heads than those of the current administration.

  10. Hi Bevin,
    Domza is in Tenerife where his firstborn son has just got married (2 days ago). All I can say is that South Africans have no explanation for the volte-face. Perhaps they were hoping for a veto from the Russians or Chinese. The whole affair is terrible.
    Domza’s personal opinion is that there was never a “pro-democracy uprising” in Libya, but only an armed attempted putsch by royalists, adventurers and Quisling fortune-hunters.
    It’s terrible what is happening. It is an invasion of Africa, a recolonisation and a catastrophic underdevelopment of the country that was formerly the one with the highest and most-evenly-spread per-capita GDP in Africa.
    Libya supported us unhesitatingly in our struggle. Many South Africans are feeling shame today, if my e-mails are anything to go by.
    Leaving South Africa, I would say that the propaganda of peaceniks and anti-Imperialists is lacking. The media ambush on Libya was intense and appear5s to have been crucial, while the secrecy around the pressure that was applied to secure the “no fly zone” resolution is the other side of the coin. Are we batter off in the cyber-age as compared with, say, 1956? So far, not by much, I am afraid. Then as now, it depends on the quality of the writing, and on the bravery of the writers.

  11. War is not a video game
    20th March 2011
    The Communist Party of Ireland condemns the savage military onslaught now being unleashed by the United States and its EU and NATO allies against Libya.
    Events now unfolding in and around Libya have more to do with western governments attempting to reassert control over the region than with the protection of the Libyan people from attack by the volatile Gaddafi regime.
    We witness once again the role of the western media presenting events in terms of “good” and “evil,” presenting the savage use of superior NATO military weaponry as some sort of real-life and real-time video game, rather than as a massive military assault that will cause the deaths of ordinary people.
    The manipulation of the UN vote used the cover of certain Arab states to justify these actions by western military forces to secure their economic and political interests. They may get corrupt Arab regimes to give them cover for their military aggression, as those very regimes are under pressure from their own people’s struggle for freedom, for social and economic justice. These regimes need the support of the west to stay in power. It is in their self-interest to back the west.
    The actions of the imperialist powers are not for protecting Libyans but have more to do with the fact that they are attempting to shape and circumvent the continuing popular uprisings now sweeping the Arab world, removing one pro-western regime after another.
    They care little for the people of Libya, just as they have said or done nothing to support or aid the people of Bahrain, whose corrupt government was secured and kept in power only by the invasion by Saudi Arabia; nor do they care about the people of Yemen, as that brutal pro-western and pro-imperialist dictatorship unleashes snipers to murder dozens of its own people.
    The CPI calls upon western military powers, the United States and its NATO allies to cease their military aggression and their bombing of Libya. The Libyan people must be allowed to decide their own destiny. They people must be allowed to solve their difficulties in a peaceful way that protects the sovereignty and independence of Libya.

  12. Admiral Mullen: “With Arab states [make that one — Qatar] joining the coalition effort, Gadhafi is more isolated by the international community than ever before, Mullen said, noting United Nations sanctions and an arms embargo now emplaced on Libya.”
    Who’s isolated?
    recent news report:
    Russia urged coalition nations to stop the use of force against Libya, challenging the use of the U.N. no-fly zone resolution as a ” controversial step.” In a statement published on its website, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said air strikes carried out by coalition forces killed 48 civilians and injured 150.
    This is somewhat embarrassing to the U.S. as SecDef Robert Gates is currently in Russia.
    BEIJING — China expressed regret on Sunday over the multinational air strikes in Libya, saying in a foreign ministry statement that it opposed the use of force in international relations. “China has noted the latest developments in Libya and expresses regret over the military attacks on Libya,” the statement said.
    NEW DELHI: India views with grave concern the continuing violence, strife and deteriorating humanitarian situation in Libya. It regrets the air strikes that are taking place. As stated earlier by India, the measures adopted should mitigate and not exacerbate an already difficult situation for the people of Libya.
    The Arab League: The Arab League chief said that Arabs did not want military strikes by Western powers that hit civilians when the League called for a no-fly zone over Libya. Reuters said Secretary-General Amr Moussa was calling for an emergency league meeting to discuss the situation in the Arab world and particularly Libya under UN resolution 1973. “What is happening in Libya differs from the aim of imposing a no-fly zone, and what we want is the protection of civilians and not the bombardment of more civilians,” Mr Moussa told Egypt’s official state news agency.

  13. “Tripartite Aggression”? That is the way Arabs refer to the military action– which also had a veneer of UN respectability– that Britain, France, and Israel launched against Egypt in 1956. Well, that’s what Eisenhower called it too – and the UN, led by the US essentially opposed the “three aggressors.”
    Eurosabra:1956 is seen as a Second War of Independence which consolidated the state in the face of both enemies and nominal allies who might have forced Israel to a less defensible border for the inevitable next war for survival.
    You may be correct about the wacky way this wacky war is now seen in Israel. Israel has always made the next war inevitable by its addiction to attacking its neighbors, its refusal to make peace with them & to behave like a normal state.
    But why consolidate such a crazy hyperaggressive state? Is it really good for the Jews? There simply aren’t enough of them to support such pathological behavior forever.
    Of course Libya is a tragedy. How much blood is enough for the US empire of insanity?

  14. J K: 1952-56 was particularly savage because it was, on both sides, state power deliberately projected at certain enemy civilians made marginal and vulnerable because of their position after 1948 war. The Egyptian army struck at Israeli civilians of Mizrahi heritage on the geographical margins of the state, and the IDF sought out Palestinian-accented Gazan soldiers (and probably some civilians as well) for execution, assuming they were 1948 refugees. There is enough subtlety and cruelty in what took place for everyone.

  15. rosemerry only answer to you is Shut-up
    Helena, Your Trap caught more comments. could you please release them

  16. Libya’s airforce is, perhaps, slightly outmatched by the coalition forces?
    It should written as:
    “Libya’s airforce is, perhaps, “hugely” outmatched (pdf) by the coalition forces”
    If Libya have what the have shown Iraq may had more numbers although it most of the weaponry were well known by Us /UK and they had most advance systems that they cam make those Russian system useless.
    One clear example was in 1981 when Israelite bombed Iraqi Nuclear research center. That was 30 years ago were same weaponry systems still imported and exported by Russian but the west their technology most advanced and unpredicted,so what they have now ……

  17. Domza– Hearty congratulations to your firstborn and the whole family!
    (I am so depressed about the assault on Libya. Shall blog when i can.)

  18. Helena,
    Although you’re technically right about Samantha Power not having “lived” in a war zone, she did spend a reasonable amount of time in besieged Sarajevo during the summer of 1995.
    Overall though, I generally agree with your post. What I haven’t seen articulated to date is: what is the strategy within which force is being used?
    Anyone know?

  19. Helena –
    I totally agree with you on the West’s hypocrisy but am still not convinced that non-violent measures would have worked.
    There was not enough time for the non-violent measures you described. If Benghazi had fallen to Gaddafi (my preferred, simplified spelling), then what would there have been left to negotiate? The opposition would have been dead or scattered.

  20. Helena –
    I totally agree with you on the West’s hypocrisy but am still not convinced that non-violent measures would have worked.
    There was not enough time for the non-violent measures you described. If Benghazi had fallen to Gaddafi (my preferred, simplified spelling), then what would there have been left to negotiate? The opposition would have been dead or scattered.

  21. There has been no shortage of offers to mediate in the past few weeks. And they have all been ridiculed or dismissed. The fact that the Benghazi people did not want mediation suggests to me that, as I thought from the beginning, this intervention was timed to take place after the genuine revolutionaries in the east he had been replaced by the Karzai/Chalabi puppet types whose plan it is to arrive in Tripoli on the back of a tank with a list of ten thousand Ghadaffi supporters to be detained, tortured and killed.
    And we are enabling this preparation for death squads and ethnic cleansing, as ever, on humanitarian grounds. Let us hope that Mr Negroponte will not be too settled in retirement to come back and assist in giving birth to the New Libya.

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