Last week, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s personal lobbying in the Istanbul meeting of countries supportive of the Libyan rebels, known as the Transitional International Council, helped win them official recognition as the legitimate government of Libya. This will be a major boost for the rebels, both diplomatically and financially, as Libya’s frozen billions can now be placed at their disposal.
The decision to ratchet up pressure on Muammar Qaddafi may have been influenced by a continuing impression of a stalemate in Libya, even after months of massive aerial bombardment by Nato aircraft and provision of intelligence and training facilities to the rebels. US officials, however, claim that the regime has begun to suffer from dwindling fuel supply, a cash crisis and low morale among its troops, which explains why Qaddafi has reportedly sent emissaries suggesting a ceasefire.
With formal recognition of the rebels, the western powers have ended the masquerade of operating within the ambit of UNSC Resolution 1973, meant to protect Libya’s civilian population. In fact, the ‘responsibility to protect’ charade has been used to drive the West’s decades-old agenda to engineer a regime change in Libya. This may explain the unceasing bombardment of private homes, schools and hospitals, even in the capital. But truly horrifying are reports of Nato aircraft, having dropped bombs that contain depleted uranium (DU). Investigative author Dave Lindorff said in a TV interview that there is “pretty strong evidence that it is depleted uranium” which accounts for massive explosions when used against tanks. Dr Randy Short, a historian, has stressed that Nato was targeting Tripoli residential areas with DU weapons, cluster bombs and other illegal substances. Admittedly, no international treaty bans them, but because DU’s radioactive and chemical after-effects are not time-barred, they are considered illegal under the 1907 Hague Convention.
What is deeply regrettable, however, is that the Obama administration should become a party to the questionable policy of European powers, whose unsavoury record of occupation and brutality against the Arabs remains a nightmare for the region. This irrefutable historic record should have sensitised the administration to the negative fallout from association with them in any such adventure. But it appears that the neocon influence remains ingrained in Washington’s approach, which accounts for disappointment among those excited at promises made by the president, which included establishing a relationship of ‘mutual trust and mutual respect’ with Muslim countries and ‘engaging’ even with those not well disposed to the US.
Sadly, the administration appears to have abandoned all pretences of embracing ‘progressive’ ideas, whether at home or abroad and, in the process, becoming an advocate of the neocon philosophy of America’s ‘manifest destiny’, which derives from its sense of inherent superiority, coupled with disdain for friends and contempt for foes. Having backtracked on most of his electoral promises, Obama’s admirers stand disillusioned, which explains why dozens of his party’s legislators rejected congressional authorisation of military action in Libya. The administration has, however, insisted on the fiction that the US was not involved in the Libyan war. But it is not only Libya that has exposed continuing neocon influence in Washington. As The New York Times stated on July 18, Obama has been “steadily retreating, sometimes in the face of political opposition, sometimes on his own” from his electoral promises, thus giving sanction to “costly travesties of justice”.
Tragically for Libya, European imperialist ambitions may lead to its Balkanisation. No wonder political scientists are calling Libya a graphic case of postmodern neocolonial plunder. Even though there can be no defence of Qaddafi, the only visible way out to save Libya from being partitioned is a ceasefire, with an end to Nato operations. Thereafter, UN troops could be deployed in the country to ensure security to the civilians, while proposals, such as the one from the African Union, could become a road map for the restoration of desperately needed peace and a guarantee of the country’s political unity and economic independence.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 20th, 2011.
Correction: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of the article stated ‘responsibility to protect’ as ‘responsibility to Pakistan’. The changed have been made.