Saturday, 9 April 2011

Libya: the hypocrisy of liberal intervention

Brilliant article by Johann Hari in the Independent yesterday on the real reasons behind the West's compulsion to stage "humanitarian" intervention with things that go bang in countries whose people we helped keep down with more things that go bang.

Take the present round of Middle Eastern revolutions rocking our oil-owning buddies including Libya, where the current NATO offensive is mashing up the rebel opposition in a series of friendly fire incidents:
"David Cameron's instinctive response to the Arab revolutions was to jump on a plane and tour the palaces of the region's dictators selling them the most hi-tech weapons of repression available. Nicolas Sarkozy's instinctive response to the Arab revolutions was to offer urgent aid to the Tunisian tyrant in crushing his people. Barack Obama's instinctive response to the Arab revolutions was to refuse to trim the billions in aid going to Hosni Mubarak and his murderous secret police, and for his Vice-President to declare: 'I would not refer to him as a dictator.'"

In Pakistan, the US has been sending in drones to kill those identified as Taliban. Glossed with a ludicrous concept of "precision bombing" straight out of the first Iraq War, this needle-in-a-haystack enterprise relies on dodgy information and, unsurprisingly, results in a kill ratio of 50 civilians for every alleged terrorist. Being this reckless with civilians' lives means that, for many potential recruits to the fundamentalist cause, it is the American government that is the terrorist.

Yet for other civilians for whom some can make a case for NATO protection:
" ... 'armies of business' had invaded Congo to pillage its resources and sell them to the knowing West. The most valuable loot is coltan, which is used to make the metal in our mobile phones and games consoles and laptops. The "armies of business" fought and killed to control the mines and send it to us. The UN listed some of the major Western corporations fuelling this trade, and said if they were stopped, it would largely end the war."

"By contrast, when the Congolese government recently nationalized a mine belonging to US and British corporations, there was a fire-burst of fury in the press. You can kill five million people and we'll politely look away; but take away the property of rich people, and we get really angry. ... We are almost never prompted to look at the equally real and equally huge abuses by our own country, its allies and its corporations – which we have much more control over – and ask the same question."

Had China done this we would, rightly, never hear the end of it. Every time I read the liberal press slamming China for using its purchasing power in Africa, I shall think of the damage we are still doing to people in Africa, the Middle East and Pakistan at the barrel of a gun, and reread this article. Ever wonder why we never hear about the African Debt any more? One thing we can surely thank China for is putting Bono's out of our misery and out of business.

As for any humanitarian advantage resulting from our attacks, Hari cuts to the likely outcome:
" ... any coincidental humanitarian gain in the short term will be eclipsed as soon as the local population clash with the real reason for the war. Then our governments will back their renewed vicious repression - just as the US and Britain did in Iraq, with a policy of effectively sanctioning the resumption of torture when the population became uppity and objected to the occupation. ... But if you are still convinced our governments are acting for humanitarian reasons, I've got a round-trip plane ticket for you to some rubble in Pakistan and Congo. The people there would love to hear your argument."

Keep your ears peeled for Johann Hari's programme for BBC Radio 4's 4Thought on this subject.

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