Palestine: The Single Demand that can Unite Palestinians

* * * * *

The single demand that can unite the Palestinian people
Only direct elections can rejuvenate the Palestinian liberation movement by taking power from the few back to the many

By Karma Nabulsi
Date: 29th March 2011
Source: The Guardian

After another week of breathtaking demonstrations from Jordan to Yemen heralding dramatic revolutionary change, in occupied Palestine things appear much the same. The repetitions of bombing, air attacks on civilians, muted international protests, and dubious gestures towards a bankrupted peace process: all lend an air of futility and hopelessness to the trajectory of Palestinian freedom. Palestinians urgently need their voice to be represented at this historical moment in which unrepresentative rulers are being toppled by popular movements, and citizens are reclaiming their public squares and political institutions on the age-old principle of popular sovereignty.

Since January Palestinians in the refugee camps and under military occupation have all been asking the same question: is this not our moment too? Yet how are we to overcome the entrenched system of external colonial control and co-optation, the repression, the internal divisions and the geographical fragmentation that have until now kept us divided and unable to unify? The situation appears a thousand times more complex than Bahrain, or Egypt, or Libya, or Syria.

The solution to this fierce dilemma lies in a single claim now uniting all Palestinians: the quest for national unity. Although the main parties might remain irreconciled, the Palestinian people most certainly are not. Their division is not political but geographic: the majority are refugees outside Palestine, while the rest inside it are forcibly separated into three distinct locations. The demand is the same universal claim to democratic representation that citizens across the Arab world are calling for with such force and beauty: each Palestinian voice counts.

The campaign is for direct elections to the Palestinian National Council (PNC), the national parliament in exile. It is the institutional body that gives both legitimacy and a mandate to the PLO, which is still recognised internationally as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.

The PLO signed the Oslo accords that created the (supposedly temporary) interim Palestinian Authority in 1994, and the Palestinian Legislative Council in 1996. The authority was to form the institutions of an independent Palestinian state within five years; 16 years later it has yet to achieve any one of the basic liberties Palestinians urgently require, reflecting instead an institutionalised division between the West Bank and Gaza – and, crucially, between Palestinians inside occupied Palestine and the majority of refugees outside it, who were disenfranchised by its creation.

The PNC, as the parliament of the PLO itself, was once the heart of the Palestinian national movement; made up of the resistance parties, unions and independents, it could claim the legitimacy of a national liberation movement. But there have not been proper elections to it for decades: most of the seats are quotas, reserved for the factions; members have died of old age; there is not even a definitive list showing who the current members are. Those on the West Bank and Gaza legislative council are the only directly elected members of the PNC. No one understands how the legislature should now function: everyone agrees it doesn’t.

This crumbling hollowed-out mausoleum once housed a vibrant and well directed Palestinian struggle for freedom, full of dynamism and debate. Now only the mobilising power of direct elections can make it the representative institution Palestinians demand.

The call for PNC elections unifies every Palestinian because it rises above faction, ideology and political orientation. It is also the single revolutionary principle that can overturn Palestinians’ current political imprisonment, because it reassures them that each voice contributes to determining national platforms, policies and strategies. Organising around this demand takes the decision-making out of the hands of the few and puts it back into the hands of the people themselves – Islamist and secular, one-state or two-state supporters, conservative or radical. And the one thing Palestinians certainly need is all these sectors working together in this moment: no one can lead except the people themselves.

It is also by now very clear that nothing else will work: democratic representation cannot be achieved by new presidential elections to the Palestinian Authority; nor can it be secured through fresh legislative council elections held only in the West Bank and Gaza, which excludes the voice of the majority of Palestinians. It cannot be brought about by the transfer of power to a provisional salvation front made up of individuals; it cannot even be achieved through the much needed Fatah-Hamas reconciliation, with the intention of re-activating the PLO on the basis of dividing the seats of the PNC between the two parties.

Indeed, many such measures are designed to keep power out of the hands of the Palestinian people themselves, and they continue to disenfranchise millions of young Palestinians (most of whom don’t belong to either party), who have never had the chance to vote in their lives, but live days full of struggle and peril in the deathly prisons of Arab regimes and the horror of the refugee camps. Their voices are equally valuable and deserve the same dignity as every other Palestinian voice.

The challenge facing Palestinians is to hold to this key demand in the face of the concerted pressure that will be exerted by those who wish to keep to the old order, or to put themselves in charge of the new one. The decades-old Palestinian struggle for freedom and representation takes new life, and new hope, from the Arab revolutions.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Obama: The most pro-war President in Living Memory defends military intervention in Libya

President Obama is the most pro-war President in Living Memory

* * * * *

Obama defends military intervention in Libya
US president says world will be better off with Gaddafi out of power, but removing him by force would be a mistake.

Date: 29th March 2011
Source: Al Jazeera English

US president Barack Obama has defended America’s involvement in a military campaign against Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in Libya in a televised address to the nation.

Speaking to military officers and reporters at the National Defence University in Washington on Monday night, Obama said he refused to wait for images of the slaughter of civilians before taking action.

In blunt terms, Obama said the Western-led air campaign had stopped Gaddafi’s advances and halted a slaughter that could have shaken the stability of an entire region and “stained the conscience of the entire world”.

“Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The United States of America is different,” Obama said.

“To brush aside America’s responsibility as a leader and more profoundly our responsibilities to our fellow human beings under such circumstances would have been a betrayal of who we are.”

“I can report that we have stopped Gaddafi’s deadly advance,” the US president said.

“We will deny the regime arms, cut off its supply of cash, assist the opposition, and work with other nations to hasten the day when Gaddafi leaves power,” he said.

But he added that “it [Gaddafi’s departure] may not happen overnight”.

Against regime change

However, he said that broadening the international mission to include regime change would be a mistake.

“If we tried to overthrow Gaddafi by force, our coalition would splinter,” he said.

Obama spoke on the eve of a 35-nation conference in London to tackle the crisis in the North African oil-exporting country and weigh political options for ending Gaddafi’s 41-year rule.

Obama’s challenge was to define the limited purpose and scope of the US mission in Libya for Americans preoccupied with domestic economic concerns and weary of costly wars in two other Muslim countries, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

President Obama's Speech on Libya

* * * * *

Transcript of President Obama’s Libya Speech

Tonight, I’d like to update the American people on the international effort that we have led in Libya — what we’ve done, what we plan to do, and why this matters to us.

I want to begin by paying tribute to our men and women in uniform who, once again, have acted with courage, professionalism and patriotism. They have moved with incredible speed and strength. Because of them and our dedicated diplomats, a coalition has been forged and countless lives have been saved.

Meanwhile, as we speak, our troops are supporting our ally Japan, leaving Iraq to its people, stopping the Taliban’s momentum in Afghanistan, and going after al Qaeda all across the globe. As Commander-in-Chief, I’m grateful to our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, and to their families. And I know all Americans share in that sentiment.

For generations, the United States of America has played a unique role as an anchor of global security and as an advocate for human freedom. Mindful of the risks and costs of military action, we are naturally reluctant to use force to solve the world’s many challenges. But when our interests and values are at stake, we have a responsibility to act. That’s what happened in Libya over the course of these last six weeks.

Libya sits directly between Tunisia and Egypt — two nations that inspired the world when their people rose up to take control of their own destiny. For more than four decades, the Libyan people have been ruled by a tyrant — Muammar Qaddafi. He has denied his people freedom, exploited their wealth, murdered opponents at home and abroad, and terrorized innocent people around the world — including Americans who were killed by Libyan agents.

Last month, Qaddafi’s grip of fear appeared to give way to the promise of freedom. In cities and towns across the country, Libyans took to the streets to claim their basic human rights. As one Libyan said, “For the first time we finally have hope that our nightmare of 40 years will soon be over.”

Faced with this opposition, Qaddafi began attacking his people. As President, my immediate concern was the safety of our citizens, so we evacuated our embassy and all Americans who sought our assistance. Then we took a series of swift steps in a matter of days to answer Qaddafi’s aggression. We froze more than $33 billion of Qaddafi’s regime’s assets. Joining with other nations at the United Nations Security Council, we broadened our sanctions, imposed an arms embargo, and enabled Qaddafi and those around him to be held accountable for their crimes. I made it clear that Qaddafi had lost the confidence of his people and the legitimacy to lead, and I said that he needed to step down from power.

In the face of the world’s condemnation, Qaddafi chose to escalate his attacks, launching a military campaign against the Libyan people. Innocent people were targeted for killing. Hospitals and ambulances were attacked. Journalists were arrested, sexually assaulted, and killed. Supplies of food and fuel were choked off. Water for hundreds of thousands of people in Misurata was shut off. Cities and towns were shelled, mosques were destroyed, and apartment buildings reduced to rubble. Military jets and helicopter gunships were unleashed upon people who had no means to defend themselves against assaults from the air.

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Israel: Punishing any Public Reference to Nakba, Its Own Creation

Israel passes new Nakba Law
Knesset passes new Nakba Law to punish public institutions for any reference to the Israeli occupation of Palestine in 1948 as a catastrophe or ‘nakba’
Date: 23rd March 2011
Source: Ahram Online

Israel’s parliament passed a measure on Tuesday enabling the denial of state funding to institutions that question the country’s existence as a Jewish state, in a move criticised as targetting an Arab minority.

The so-called Nakba Law, using the Arabic word for “catastrophe” which is how many Palestinians regard the founding of Israel, passed by a vote of 37 to 25 after an angry debate among right and left-wing lawmakers.

Civil rights groups have denounced the measure as an effort to restrict freedom of expression to Arabs, who make up about a fifth of Israel’s predominantly Jewish population.

The law would enable the withholding of funds to public institutions deemed to be involved in publicly challenging the founding of Israel as a Jewish state or any activity “denying the existence of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.”

Many Israeli Arabs, as relatives of Palestinians who remained in what is now Israel when hundreds of thousands of others were driven away or fled during a 1948 war over Israel’s establishment, question whether Israel should be a Jewish state.

Unlike Palestinians living in territory Israel captured in a 1967 war, Israeli Arabs are fully enfranchised though many complain of discrimination.

Right-wing Israeli lawmakers who introduced the bill insisted it was intended to defend Israel against what they see as a growing number of attacks on its legitimacy because of a continuing conflict with the Palestinians and other Arab states.

Israeli liberals argued it was undemocratic.

Arab lawmaker Jamal Zahalka said the measure would likely encourage more Israeli Arabs to participate in the kind of events it sought to prevent — the public mourning of Israel’s creation, which takes place in marches held each year in some Arab towns on Israeli Independence Day.

* * * * *

Israel Accused of ‘A Form of Ethnic Cleansing’
By Mel Frykberg
Date: 23rd March 2011
Source: IPS News

RAMALLAH, Mar 24, 2011 (IPS) – “If the regime that encourages incitement, racism and anti-democracy is not toppled soon, we will find that the future is already here,” says Israeli columnist Sefi Rachlevsky in the Israeli daily ‘Haaretz’.

He adds: “If there is one country in the world that should have heeded the commandment ‘Thou shall not fall into the chasm of anti-democratic racism,’ it is Israel. But the regime threatens to turn Israel into a rising anti-democratic power after all.”

Rachlevsky’s remarks come in the wake of an accusation by Richard Falk — an investigator with the U.N. Human Rights Council and an American professor emeritus of international law’ — that Israel is carrying out a form of ethnic cleansing against Palestinians in East Jerusalem.

Falk was addressing the council on Monday as it prepared to pass a resolution condemning settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

“The continued pattern of settlement expansion in East Jerusalem combined with the forcible eviction of long-residing Palestinians is creating an intolerable situation in the part of the city previously controlled by Jordan,” Falk said.

“This situation can only be described in its cumulative impact as a form of ethnic cleansing,” he added.

Falk has requested that the council ask the International Court of Justice in The Hague to investigate Israel’s actions in the occupied Palestinian Territories.

Israel has refused to deal with him and refused him entry to the country on several occasions despite him being Jewish.

Falk’s remarks in fact confirmed what human rights organisations have long accused Israel of: ‘Judaising’ East Jerusalem by making it almost impossible for Palestinians to get building permits despite a chronic housing shortage.

Simultaneously, the Jerusalem municipality has actively encouraged the illegal settlement of Israeli settlers in the area while carrying out a wave of home demolitions which have left hundreds of Palestinians homeless.

Figures released by the United Nations show a two-fold increase in the number of Palestinian homes and agricultural buildings destroyed by Israel during this year, causing concern among officials.

The U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) recorded 70 demolitions since the start of 2011, displacing 105 Palestinians, of whom 43 were under the age of 18. The demolitions were carried out across the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and ordered by Israeli police, municipal officials and Israel’s Civil Administration.

While Jerusalem municipality has been adamant about destroying Palestinian homes and evicting Palestinians, illegal Jewish construction has largely been ignored.

In 2008, the Israeli Supreme Court ordered a group of settlers to vacate the apartment building Beit Yonatan, named after convicted American spy Jonathan Pollard who was jailed in 1987 for passing classified information on the U.S. to Israel. The building is located in East Jerusalem. But Jerusalem municipal authorities have so far refused to enforce the court order.

Towards the end of last year 25 European consuls based in Jerusalem and Ramallah called for strong action against Israeli policy in the eastern sector of Jerusalem.

Israel has extended its discriminatory policy to the Palestinian West Bank where almost 60 percent of the occupied Palestinian territory falls under complete control of the Israeli civil administration.

“Parallels between Israeli and Palestinian construction in the West Bank can’t be drawn. All Israeli settlement in the West Bank is illegal under international law. Settlers are positively discriminated against when it comes to illegal construction. Palestinians should have the right to build and grow but Israel is using its illegal construction policy as a political tool to restrict the Palestinians,” Sarit Michaeli from Israeli rights group Btselem told IPS.

Palestinians also face discrimination in almost every other aspect of life in East Jerusalem with one of the most important sectors being education.

More than five thousand Palestinian children in East Jerusalem do not attend school at all. The drop-out rate for Palestinian school students in East Jerusalem is 50 percent, compared with under 12 percent for Jewish students.

“The rate of school drop-outs and the level of poverty in East Jerusalem, amongst Palestinians is frightening,” Orly Noy from Israeli rights group Ir Amim told IPS.

“The severe neglect of the education system in East Jerusalem is brewing a catastrophe,” added Tali Nir, a lawyer with the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI).

Israel’s Education Law, requires the state to provide education equally to all residents of the city.

However, the Israeli government spent an average of 2,300 New Israeli Shekels (NIS), or approximately U.S. 604 dollars, on each Jewish child in elementary school during the year 2008-2009. In contrast, no more than 577 shekels (U.S. 151 dollars) were spent on each Palestinian child.

Palestinians who have lived in East Jerusalem for generations can also easily lose their residency.

Israeli Interior Ministry regulations provide for the abrogation of the rights of Palestinian residents of Jerusalem who leave the city for a period of over seven years. Citizens of Israel can leave the country for any length of time, and their citizenship and all their rights are theirs in perpetuity.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday Israeli-Arab member of the Knesset (Israeli parliament) Jamal Zahalka argued with Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu over several new discriminatory laws.

The first law withholds funds from any Arab-Israeli town which honours the Palestinian Nakba, or catastrophe, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were either expelled by Israeli forces or fled during the war which saw the creation of Israel in 1948.

The second bill, alleged to target Israel’s minority Palestinian population, allows admission committees to review potential residents of Negev and Galilee communities that have fewer than 400 families “to maintain their cultural identity”.

Haneen Zoabi, an Israeli-Arab member of the Knesset told IPS, “There were approximately 10 laws passed during 2010 which discriminated against the Arab minority.” (END)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Libya: Protecting Civilians by Using Depleted Uranium

* * * * *

Depleted Uranium: A Strange Way To Protect Libyan Civilians
By David Wilson
Date: 24th March 2011
Source: Stop the War Coalition

“[Depleted uranium tipped missiles] fit the description of a dirty bomb in every way… I would say that it is the perfect weapon for killing lots of people.” ~ Marion Falk, chemical physicist (retd), Lawrence Livermore Lab, California, USA

In the first 24 hours of the Libyan attack, US B-2s dropped forty-five 2,000-pound bombs. These massive bombs, along with the Cruise missiles launched from British and French planes and ships, all contained depleted uranium (DU) warheads.

DU is the waste product from the process of enriching uranium ore. It is used in nuclear weapons and reactors. Because it is a very heavy substance, 1.7 times denser than lead, it is highly valued by the military for its ability to punch through armored vehicles and buildings. When a weapon made with a DU tip strikes a solid object like the side of a tank, it goes straight through it, then erupts in a burning cloud of vapor. The vapor settles as dust, which is not only poisonous, but also radioactive.

An impacting DU missile burns at 10,000 degrees C. When it strikes a target, 30% fragments into shrapnel. The remaining 70% vaporises into three highly-toxic oxides, including uranium oxide. This black dust remains suspended in the air and, according to wind and weather, can travel over great distances. If you think Iraq and Libya are far away, remember that radiation from Chernobyl reached Wales.

Particles less than 5 microns in diameter are easily inhaled and may remain in the lungs or other organs for years. Internalized DU can cause kidney damage, cancers of the lung and bone, skin disorders, neurocognitive disorders, chromosome damage, immune deficiency syndromes and rare kidney and bowel diseases. Pregnant women exposed to DU may give birth to infants with genetic defects. Once the dust has vaporised, don’t expect the problem to go away soon. As an alpha particle emitter, DU has a half life of 4.5 billion years.

In the ‘shock and awe’ attack on Iraq, more than 1,500 bombs and missiles were dropped on Baghdad alone. Seymour Hersh has claimed that the US Third Marine Aircraft Wing alone dropped more than “five hundred thousand tons of ordnance”. All of it DU-tipped.

Al Jazeera reported that invading US forces fired two hundred tons of radioactive material into buildings, homes, streets and gardens of Baghdad. A reporter from the Christian Science Monitor took a Geiger counter to parts of the city that had been subjected to heavy shelling by US troops. He found radiation levels 1,000 to 1,900 times higher than normal in residential areas. With its population of 26 million, the US dropped a one-ton bomb for every 52 Iraqi citizens or 40 pounds of explosives per person.

William Hague has said that we are in Libya ” to protect civilians and civilian-populated areas”.You don’t have to look far for who and what are being ‘protected’.

In that first 24 hours the ‘Allies’ ‘expended’ £100 million on DU-tipped ordnance. The European Union’s arms control report said member states issued licences in 2009 for the sale of £293.2 million worth of weapons and weapons systems to Libya. Britain issued arms firms licences for the sale of £21.7 million worth of weaponry to Libya and were also paid by Colonel Gadaffi to send the SAS to train his 32nd Brigade.

For the next 4.5 billion years, I’ll bet that William Hague will not be holidaying in North Africa.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Libya: Dead Revoution and Notes for an Autopsy

The Libyan Revolution is Dead: Notes for an Autopsy
By Maximilian Forte
Date: 18th March 2011
Source:  Zero Anthropology

The “Arab Spring” was a short one; what follows, another NATO Summer, will last much longer.

If you do not think about it, there is a lot to cheer about the passage of UN Security Council Resolution 1973, against what this time has been a mountain of advice, questions, and critiques from all imaginable political quarters, and not as the warmongering extremists would have it, from “Gaddafi lovers” (George Will? Pat Buchanan? Richard Haas? Gaddafi lovers?). In previous articles, I have criticized the flip-side enough, meaning the positions taken by Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez, and Daniel Ortega, without sparing Gaddafi in the least–I do not need to repeat any of it here, because it is entirely irrelevant to the discussion now. Instead, this is an autopsy, identifying the weapons used, and the criminals responsible for killing the Libyan revolution. This is no longer a Libyan story–that chapter is now closed. My autopsy is divided into several broad categories of actors: the humanitarians, the rebels, the international organizations, the mass media, and the Americans. Finally, what we should be watching in the coming days, weeks, months, and years.

The “Humanitarians”

A great mass of humanitarian social media addicts and self-styled cyberactivists in their hundreds of thousands signed petitions to beg the United Nations to authorize the bombing of Libya. Bearers of good intentions, no doubt, but perhaps less skilled as historians. Many will not even Google their way to the nearest Wikipedia entry that might cause them to ask some basic questions. On the other hand, history does not always repeat itself, and I am not one to make solid predictions, so perhaps this is not a useful basis for discussing the role of “humanitarian concern” in this debacle.

Instead, I have questions.

For example, exactly what kind of global human rights agenda is it that requires substantial military spending, private defense contractors, and a robust air force?

“We can’t stand by and do nothing”–and why not, when it is precisely what you are doing every day when it comes to the slaughter of civilians in Afghanistan (courtesy of our own troops), when it comes to the “secret” war in Pakistan, the “secret” war in Yemen, the “secret” war in Somalia, or for that matter, the killing of civilian protesters today in Yemen and Bahrain? How about how we stood by and did nothing, as our allied torture state, Uzbekistan, boiled alive opponents and the detainees sent to them by the CIA? Boiled alive–whisper it, because not even Gaddafi has imagined perpetrating such horrors. Whisper it, so you can forget it again: “Andijan massacre;” “Uzbekistan: Repression Linked to 2005 Massacre Rife;” “500 bodies laid out in Uzbek town;” “‘High death toll’ in Uzbekistan;” “’700 dead’ in Uzbek violence.” Surely, by now, we have abundant practice in doing nothing at all–we must be a hardened people, with very thick skin, and an ability to ignore the screams coming from the basement whenever we like. So why must Libya be this exception? What made you wake up, and wake up in such a way that you wanted to be the hero of someone else’s story?

“If the world does nothing, the message to dictators will be: ‘Just kill your own people, we will look away’.” They got that message already, and they are still doing just that, thankful that we are all focused on Libya alone. Indeed, some of them even helped to divert our attention toward Libya.

But how about if we just do not finance them, arm them, school them, and otherwise embrace them to begin with? At the very least, wouldn’t that be the cost effective thing to do? And wouldn’t that start the story with us, by placing responsibility on us first, so we don’t have to send planes in to destroy the planes we sold them? I mean, can one be a humanitarian and logical at the same time, or are these now mutually exclusive?

Either way, “the humanitarians” have validated the military-industrial complex: “The military hierarchy, with their budgets threatened by government cuts, surely cannot believe their luck – those who usually oppose wars are openly campaigning for more military involvement” (source).

“I usually don’t support foreign military intervention, but…” is how some lead their apologies. But…you know what? You do favour foreign military intervention, and having done so you automatically disqualify yourself as a hypocrite next time you try to pretend to oppose it.

The Rebels

I have no intention of simply lambasting those who tried to fight for their freedom, and I think that I can understand their cheers in Benghazi more than ours. However, I cannot deny feeling sadness, watching them cheer, as if victorious, when in fact they had just surrendered. Here too questions remain to be raised/addressed.

This is no longer their story. A major break has occurred. Whatever is written now, it will likely include stories of UN meetings, jet fighters, aircraft carriers, bombs, and the tactical cleverness of Hillary Clinton. Libyans have been displaced as authors of their own destiny. Whatever they wrote, has now become a series of paragraphs in yet another chapter of imperial “morality” deployed from overseas.

One opposition leader reportedly said, “We asked for a no-fly zone to be imposed from day one.” From day one? He’s not kidding either. So why were you prepared to hand over the reins of power to foreign actors, so soon, so quickly? You boasted of defections from the military, of vast popular support, of marching on Tripoli–it did not sound like you needed any global cavalry to come in and save your day. Why did you ask, and then demand?

Elements of the rebel leadership have stained their own name, and stained their revolution. That is inescapable now. But what is damaging to all of us is the narrow, self-centered, provincialism of what is clearly a neo-colonial elite of former regime insiders serving as self-appointed “representatives of the Libyan people,” elites who like the neo-colonized, depend on aid from abroad as part of their self-fulfillment. Cheering for what will be a NATO-led operation, is a validation and legitimation of that organization, and in a time when budgets for education, health, public works, and programs for the poor are all being slashed across the West, they help to validate the need for maintaining heavy military spending. Nobody is out in the streets cheering universities and hospitals, but apparently they are out in the street cheering the bomb. Their provincialism was displayed in their lack of solidarity, or even passing concern, with social justice and anti-war activists in the West, in cases berating those of us who felt we should have a voice–these are, after all, our planes, our bombs, and our political leaders–because all we needed to know was that “Libyans” asked for this intervention. If that is a reflection of the kind of political work and solidarity-building they did at home, then no wonder they had to turn to artificial, prosthetic solutions. Not just the anti-war movement, and the anti-secrecy movement, will be damaged here, as the clock is turned back to 2003–it is the very meaning of “revolutionary,” which can now be made to include those who would be clients of imperial patrons.

In the meantime, a theory is circulating–that the West deliberately delayed so that the rebels would be militarily degraded, and more dependent than ever on NATO, which will now have the upper hand in stage managing their revolt. We will have to see if there is any evidence that comes to light to support that.

The International Organizations

If one were to read the speech given by Alain Juppé, the French Foreign Affairs Minister, at the UN Security Council meeting that passed 1973, one should have an awfully difficult time understanding how everything he said could not also be said about the NATO war, his war, against the people of Afghanistan, and the dictator that they prop up there. Yet, this is what sets the code by which to administer Libya. As for the five countries that merely “abstained” from voting (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and Germany)–what portraits of courage. They opted for diplomatic wiggle room and plausible deniability.

The Arab League’s decision to first call for a no fly zone can only invite the most scornful mockery. This is a club of dictators, who found the ideal opportunity to remove a competing dictator that they have long resented and detested. Soon after their vote, Saudi Arabia sent its troops into Bahrain to smash peaceful, unarmed protesters, and the Gulf Cooperation Council agreed to intervene against the fight for democracy there. Human rights have always been the least of the Arab League’s concerns.

But Washington, skillful and cynical, pressed the Arab League to speak first in favour of a no-fly zone, so it could then use that thin pretense of “answering” the calls of authentic Arabs. Never mind that the U.S. would need their overflight “permission” anyway, for sorties to be flown from U.S. airfields in Iraq, against Libya.

The Mass Media

Here I will focus on one of the other great disappointments in this story: Al Jazeera (with whom I have terminated my relationship). Al Jazeera’s coverage has been heavily slanted, in terms of amount of coverage, to the story of Libya, rather than other cases where tyrants were beating and killing peaceful and unarmed protesters at the very same time: Yemen and Bahrain, to name just two. Today, while they wait for NATO bombs to drop, they have turned a little to Yemen, which has turned much uglier–but is an ally of the U.S. in the “war on terror,” and no UN meetings have been called. When the UN passed the latest resolution against Libya, the Al Jazeera correspondent in Benghazi, Tony Birtley, engaged in obscene and undignified cheering and gloating. Utterly delirious. Never, he said, had he been hugged so much since the birth of his daughter. Rich symbolism. The liberating angel embraced. Had this been Fox News, we would all be slamming it as propaganda. It is. And it covers for the Emir of Qatar, Al Jazeera’s paramount if not exclusive financial sponsor, who by all means has topped anything Rupert Murdoch could ever dream of being powerful enough to do: the Emir is an interventionist in his own right, supporting the Saudi invasion of Bahrain, the crushing of peaceful protest, to which he may add more Qatari forces, while also promising support for the implementation of the no fly zone against Libya. If Murdoch had done just half of that, American protesters would likely reduce Fox News studios to rubble. Al Jazeera is not the voice of the Arab Spring after all, as some of us thought.

The Americans

Good morning America! It’s a great day to be an American again! Finally, a bad guy, who isn’t American. Finally, a good guy, who is American. Once again, another crazy murderous Arab, easy to mock and hold up as the target of mass orchestrated contempt. The kids got all busy making viral “zenga zenga” videos, and the media proudly featured them, enjoying the fruit of their own labour in shaping young minds. Hey and guess what? This evil Arab tyrant might also have some WMDs! Every night I watched CNN’s Anderson Cooper, hot, breathless, turgid, anally righteous, spewing venom against the dictator–much of it deserved, some of it resting on ignorance and fabrication–the dictator’s “lies,” “keeping them honest,” all principles never directed back at CNN. Expect to see pictures of Gaddafi’s dead sons happily featured on evening broadcasts. The blood thirsty ghouls are back.

What a perfect war this will be. No troops on the ground. Do you hear that, suicide bombers? No troops on the ground. No roadside bombs. This will be clean and surgical, the way spectators imagine high-tech war to be. Death from above, baby. War will be spectacularized once again, with an appropriate focus on ordnance, impressive gadgets, mellow-voiced professional pilots, and a wonderful assortment of planes. Already, talk that this will be a cakewalk. Cakewalk, baby.

America is on top again. Iraq? Afghanistan? Fuck you! If anyone in the world for a moment thought these did any damage to the American soul, or to the fact that America remains “the indispensable nation,” then someone missed the fact that Americans have finally been cheered as liberators, in Benghazi. Iraq syndrome? As if! Humanitarian imperialism is back, NATO is cool, America thank you, cakewalk.

Who imagined that this, political satire with puppets, would rise to the status of a documentary? Who expected this to become the liberation charter, the theme song, for both desperate, groping Libyan opportunists and Americans thirsting for patriotic self-validation? The world policeman…is back, baby.

What to Watch For

These are just some of the things we will want to watch for over the coming hours, and years:

  1. Which nation’s planes will be the first to bomb? After that, in the overall number of sorties, how many will have been flown by U.S. pilots? This will be important to see how the U.S. ensures that, in terms of image management, an illusion that the U.S. is not in the lead is created.
  2. When civilians are killed from aerial bombardment, who will get the blame?
  3. Gaddafi is a dead man–and he knows it. Will he just resign to the fact stoically? Last night he said: “If the world is crazy, we will be crazy, too.” Will Gaddafi outlive the coming air war? How will he be removed from power?
  4. Will hostilities on the ground be escalated? Will there be larger numbers of refugees?
  5. Fracturing of the opposition. Will the “Interim Transitional National Council” become truly national, or remain a creature of Benghazi? Will it seek to become somewhat less “interim,” and somewhat more secure in its hold on power?
  6. Opportunistic infiltration, by that other group also desperate for renewed validation: Al Qaeda. Yes, indeed, Gaddafi hurled all sorts of “crazy” allegations that the opposition comprised Al Qaeda terrorists. Interestingly, however, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton partly backed him up (not that many bothered to comment on this): “many of the Al-Qaeda activists in Afghanistan and later in Iraq came from Libya and came from eastern Libya which is now the so-called free area of Libya.” Clinton also noted: “It’s important to recognize that there is a great deal of uncertainty about the motives, the opportunism, if you will of people who are claiming to be leaders right now.” This also means that the U.S. reserves for itself the right to decide who will be treated as legitimate, and who will be treated as the enemy.
  7. How will the U.S. exercise leverage over the opposition/government in waiting? Will it be slow to lift sanctions in order to obtain concessions?
  8. American media coverage: how much time will be spent describing the hardware? How lovingly will fighter pilots and their machines be portrayed? How many times will you hear American voices, compared to Libyan voices?
  9. The bases used for operations: there has been no buildup of U.S. aircraft carriers in the region. Expect flights from land bases nearby. Will this be used to legitimate the American need to hold on to those bases?
  10. Will there be continued subdivision of the left in the West? Are we seeing the emergence of a rift between the Arab left and the Latin American left, whose leaders have been resolutely anti-intervention and in some cases pro-Gaddafi? What about divisions within the left inside the West, and with regard particularly to the anti-war movement?
  11. Will there be diminished cuts to military spending, or no cuts at all in coming years?
  12. How will the U.S. manage yet another war added to its roster, which includes: the lingering occupation of Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, the “secret” wars in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia…and now Libya? How much of this weight will have to be shouldered by NATO partners, and their tax payers?
  13. Will dissent and critique of this war be silenced, marginalized, and virtually criminalized as it has in all of the other recent Western wars? Which politicians’ fortunes will be made on the basis of this war, and who will be made to suffer for not supporting it?
  14. If this ends up being a fiasco, or with the need for foreign troops on the ground, will it be the final act that breaks the back of empire?
  15. Which questions would you add here?
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Libya: The Irony of Foreign Intervention

First Blood: American Missiles Rain Down on Libya
By Chris Floyd
Date: 19th March 2011
Source: Empire Burlesque

When the UN intervention into Libya was first announced, we immediately heard how the United States would not be in the forefront of the military action; the lead would be taken by other nations, with US acting largely as a supplier and facilitator for the “broad-based coalition” arrayed against Libya (including some real live Ay-rabs! as the interventionists enthusiastically noted.) But it took less than two days to give the lie to this claim.

On Saturday, just after the French — who have extensive oil interest in Libya — jumped the gun on the UN coalition and started attacking Libyan ground forces, the United States joined in with a missile attack on Libyan cities. Not a few missiles; not 10 or 30 or 50 missiles — but a full barrage of 110 Tomahawk missiles, slamming into Tripoli and Misurata.

This was always in the cards, from the earliest mooting of a “no-fly zone.” This PR concept conjures up the idea of knightly pilots chasing the aircraft of the evil ones from the sky — a jousting between combatants high in the heavens, far removed from the people below. But “no-fly zones” are always accompanied, of necessity, by attacks to “degrade” the “command-and-control centers” of the designated enemy of the day. (Almost always a heinous dictator swimming in arms and money given to him by the West before he did something to displease his patrons and business partners.) This means attacks on ground installations and headquarters — which, as in the United States, are often located in the midst of civilian areas, and, as in the United States, filled with civilian workers. It also means, invariably, attacks on regular miltary forces of the designated enemy who are helping sustain the miscreant’s operations. A “no-fly zone” always means a full-scale military attack with everything except ground troops, with an inevitable harvest of civilian deaths. Hell, you can even conduct a whole war with this mechanism, as the United States and its allies did against Serbia.

In any case, the game is now afoot. Barack Obama has drawn his first blood from Libya, which now becomes the sixth (at least) Muslim nation in which he has launched deadly military actions, joining Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. (Of course, the Administration has bragged that it is carrying out secret wars and covert operations in more than 70 countries, with several other Muslim nations certainly among that number.) The West and its reliable dictators in the Arab world are now fully committed to one side in the Libyan civil war, and are actively seeking to bring to power an armed opposition group led by a man who was a chief agent of Gadafy’s repression. (As As’ad AbuKhalil has noted, Gadafy’s erstwhile strongmen have “hijacked” the Libyan revolution.) Meanwhile, the autocratic allies of Barack Obama and the other interventionist powers continue to kill and repress unarmed civilians in Yemen and Bahrain without the slightest negative consequence, beyond a few hackneyed harrumphs served up briefly for public consumption by their string-pullers back in Washington.

But this too is another invariable by-product of armed intervention: murderous hypocrisy.

Meanwhile, Abdel al-Bari Atwan (editor-in-chief of Al-Quds Al-Arabi, the pan-Arab newspaper based in London) asks some pertinent questions about the intervention in a Guardian piece aptly titled, “Relief will fade as we see the real impact of intervention in Libya“:

First, what motives lie behind this intervention? While the UN was voting to impose a no-fly zone in Libya, at least 40 civilians were killed in a US drone attack in Waziristan in Pakistan. And as I write, al-Jazeera is broadcasting scenes of carnage from Sanaa, Yemen, where at least 40 protesters have been shot dead. But there will be no UN no-fly zone to protect Pakistani civilians from US attacks, or to protect Yemenis. One cannot help but question the selective involvement of the west in the so-called “Arab spring” series of uprisings. …

Gaddafi knows how to play the Arab street, too. At the moment he has little, if any, public support; his influence is limited to his family and tribe. But he may use this intervention to present himself as the victim of post-colonialist interference in pursuit of oil. He is likely to pose the question that is echoing around the Arab world – why wasn’t there a no-fly zone over Gaza when the Israelis were bombarding it in 2008/9? …

Finally, there is the worry that the Arab spring will be derailed by events in Libya. If uprising plus violent suppression equals western intervention, the long-suffering Arab subjects of the region’s remaining autocrats might be coerced into sticking with the status quo.

The last point may be the crux of the matter. Western leaders have obviously been casting about for some way to put the brakes on the Arab Awakening before it sweeps away any more of their reliable client-dictators. Libya presents the perfect opportunity for them to muddy the waters, and try to turn the whole movement into the usual murky, bloody quagmire of global power politics. In any case, it is hard to believe that a burning, yearning solicitude for the people of Libya is what is actually motivating our noble interventionists — who haven’t shown the slight crumb of concern for the Libyan populace until now.

NOTE: To decry the course of action being taken by the interventionists in Libya is not to “support” Gadafy. (Unlike his present attackers, who have supported him most sumptuously for years.) This should go without saying, but of course it can’t; this witless denunciation is invariably trotted out against anyone who does not immediately jump on the bloodsoaked bandwagon whenever our leaders start killing people. (You can only oppose this mass production of foreign corpses after it’s over — and even then, you can only describe it as a mistake, or an example of good intentions gone awry through incompetence or happenstance.) But as I noted in the comments here recently:

To oppose an outside military invention is not the same thing as “supporting” whomever the intervention is aimed against. It is simply to look at the historical record and see what the fruits of these interventions actually are. They are, invariably, a widening of the conflict, a vast increase in civilian suffering (even in interventions ostensibly launched specifically to prevent civilian suffering), years of widening, rippling instability, pervasive corruption by war profiteers, and a further militarizing of world society. It is exacerbating an evil by contributing an equal or even greater evil to the mix.

This is especially true in this case, as at present, the Libyan opposition is being led by a breakaway faction of Gadafy’s own thuggish regime. The leader of the opposition was, until just a few weeks ago, an integral part of Gadafy’s use of “brutality against his people.” If he and his clique are the ones who take power after an intervention, we will have merely exchanged one faction of Gadafy’s regime for another. But I doubt if this would bother our humanitarian interventionists; they have been making profitable deals with Gadafy for years. They can go on making profitable deals with one of his former henchmen just as well.

* * * * *

War on Libya: U.S. and NATO air strikes, cruise missile attacks begin
By Kosta Harla
Date: 19th March 2011
Source: Fight Back!

MEDITERRANEAN SEA (March 19, 2011) The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Barry (DDG 52) launches a Tomahawk missile in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn.

With missiles from French fighter jets and cruise missiles from U.S. naval forces stationed off the coast of Libya, the large scale foreign intervention aimed at overthrowing the Libyan government began on Saturday March 19 – exactly eight years after the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq began.

The air strikes come just 48 hours after the UN Security Council voted – with abstentions from China, Russia, Brazil, India, and Germany – to implement a “no fly zone” over Libya.

U.S. military leads the way in “Operation Odyssey Dawn”

The U.S. Department of Defense noted that “U.S. military forces are on the leading edge of the coalition operation, taking out Libya’s integrated air and missile defense system”. The military operation is called “Operation Odyssey Dawn”.

The U.S. began its assault in Libya with 110 Tomahawk cruise missiles (at a cost of $2 million each) launched from U.S. submarines and frigates. Twenty-five naval frigates from the U.S., the United Kingdom, France and Canada are positioned off the coast of Libya, ready to launch further strikes on the country.

Meanwhile, French fighter jets were reported to have bombed a number of targets in Libya. Libyan state television is also reporting that Libya’s air defenses shot down a French fighter jet, although this has not yet been confirmed.

Military officials with NATO have pointed out that the current assault is only the first phase of the intervention. It is not yet clear what the second phase will encompass, but Al Jazeera is reporting that the targets will include ground forces and tanks.

The air strikes and attacks on Libya took place despite the invitation from Libya’s government to bring international observers into the country. Khaled Kaim, Libya’s deputy foreign minister, told the BBC, “the ceasefire is real, credible and solid. We are willing to receive observers as soon as possible”.

President Obama spoke as the assault began, noting that U.S. forces were “responding to calls of a threatened people”. However, Obama made no mention of the threatened peoples and ongoing massacres of protestors in U.S.-backed dictatorships in Yemen and Bahrain.

People of Libya resist foreign intervention

Since the beginning of the current crisis, the media has portrayed the conflict in Libya as a struggle between the overwhelming majority of Libya’s people and a dictatorship lacking any credibility or popular support.

But whatever one’s view of Colonel Gaddafi or the existing regime, if one looks past the pro-war propaganda, it is sufficiently clear that what is taking place in Libya more accurately resembles a civil war than a situation like Egypt or Tunisia. In those countries, overwhelming numbers of people demanded the fall of the regime, and the military and police forces of those governments were unable to suppress the revolt.

But in Libya it is clear that just as there are significant numbers of people opposed to the regime, there are also masses of people who support the existing government and are willing to fight for it.

Recall that just 72 hours ago, the rebel forces headquartered in Benghazi were nearly routed, and many talked about the collapse of the rebellion.

And on February 15, as the crisis was beginning to unfold, thousands of people rallied in cities across Libya in support of the government.

Al Jazeera is currently reporting that hundreds of people are camped out at Colonel Gaddafi’s home at Bab al-Aziziyah, to protect it from possible air strikes, while thousands are reported to have attended rallies on March 19 in the capitol Tripoli against foreign intervention.

Rather than so-called “humanitarian intervention” in defense of the overwhelming majority of people, what is taking place is a military intervention on one side of a civil war.

Progressives must defend the right of the Libyan people to self-determination. It is not the place of western and historically colonial powers to intervene in the affairs of Libya. Whatever problems exist with Libyan society and government are best dealt with by the people of Libya, and not by imperialistic powers.

The real reason for intervention in Libya

Foreign intervention will not result in self-determination or independence for the Libyan people.

Those who today defend the necessity for “liberation by cruise missile” in Libya should think about what took place in Iraq over the last twenty years.

Like Libya, Iraq has massive oil reserves and occupies a strategic location in the region.

Like Libya’s Gaddafi, Iraq’s leader Saddam Hussein was depicted in racist terms by the corporate media and as a “mad man” intent on oppressing his own people; and that military intervention in Iraq was for “humanitarian” purposes.

In Iraq, the no fly zone resulted in thousands of air strikes that killed many civilians and patriotic Iraqis over several years. The no fly zone ultimately led to a declaration of war, invasion, and occupation that killed over 1,000,000 Iraqis, utterly devastated the country, and destroyed an independent, sovereign nation in the Middle East.

The U.S., U.K., French, and Canadian forces, along with the rest of NATO, are not humanitarians. Their cruise missiles, naval frigates, bombs, bullets and troops will do nothing to improve the situation for the people of Libya or anywhere else in the region.

They are opportunistically seeking to seize control of Libya’s vast oil reserves – the largest reserves in the African continent – and re-assert dominance in a region that is shaking from a powerful storm of revolutions against corrupt U.S.-backed dictatorships.

U.S. anti-war movement calls to end U.S. intervention in Libya

The same day that the air strikes began in Libya, tens of thousands were protesting in the United States to mark the 8th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. At many of these demonstrations, calls to end the U.S. aggression against Libya were being heard.

On April 9, thousands of people will converge again in New York City and San Francisco to protest the Iraq, Afghanistan wars, and now the assault in Libya. While progressive forces in the U.S. have held sharply differing views on the nature of the conflict in Libya, the entire progressive movement can and must unite on the basis of opposing further U.S. attacks on Libya and supporting the right of the Libyan people to determine their own destiny, free from foreign interference.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment