Imperialism or Barbarism! (Bahrain Doesn’t Count)

By Stephen Gowans

The renegade Achcar

Lebanese socialist Gilbert Achcar (author with Noam Chomsky of Perilous Power: The Middle East and U.S. Foreign Policy) can cite chapter and verse on why the US-French-British-Canadian military intervention on the side of the armed uprising in Libya is imperialist, but that doesn’t mean he’s against it. On the contrary, in this fight he’s lining up with the imperialists.

Gilbert Achcar: Imperialism is anti-imperialist.

In an interview featured in Z-Net, Achcar writes: “The Western response, of course, smacks of oil” and “We all know about the Western powers’ pretexts and double standards.”

Still, Achcar, who somehow has managed to build a reputation as an anti-war activist, says “I believe that from an anti-imperialist perspective one cannot and should not oppose the no-fly zone, given that there is no plausible alternative for protecting the endangered population.”

Achcar stands at the head of a long line of renegades who talk the anti-imperialism talk, but when push comes to shove, walk the imperialist walk.

Their stock-in-trade is to justify their nonsense by turning reality on its head. That’s why, in Achcar’s world, anti-war activism and anti-imperialism now mean the opposite of what we always thought they meant.

We’re bombing to protect civilians—but we might kill them

Canadian prime minister Stephen (cowboy) Harper: We're protecting civilians, but expect civilian casualties.

Canada’s prime minister, Stephen Harper, who is contributing six fighter-bombers to the hastily assembled Libyan rebel air force, as well as a frigate to lead a naval blockade, is warning Canadians that while “Canada is at war to protect innocent Libyan civilians…there are no guarantees that they…can avoid getting hurt.” [1] Harper must be channelling the US Army officer who infamously said during the Vietnam War that US forces had to destroy a village to save it. Canadians, Harper is warning, will be killing some Libyans to protect them.

The other allied military intervention

In the rush to climb aboard the let’s bomb Tripoli bandwagon, we mustn’t forget the other allied military intervention. Tanks and soldiers from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are already in Bahrain, to protect the absolutist monarchy of the Khalifa family from the pro-democracy movement there. Saudi and Emirate’s troops will soon be joined by foreign troops from the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council. The GCC is made up of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and Kuwait. [2].

The Khalifa regime says it’s not waging war against its people. It’s only restoring order. [3]
Kaddafi on the other hand isn’t restoring order. He’s waging war.

That’s the way things work now. When the US and its allies wage war they’re restoring order and protecting civilians. When countries targeted by the US try to restore order, they’re waging war and attacking civilians.

Three for the price of one

The Wall Street Journal reported today that “western officials worried that a victory for Col. Kaddafi could prevent the movement from spreading to places they would like to see it reach, such as Syria and Iran.” [4]

I believe the part about Western officials wanting to see uprisings spreading to Syria and Iran – countries they like no more than they like Libya. But if they were truly worried that a successful crackdown on rebellion could discourage uprisings in other countries, they wouldn’t be tacitly endorsing the crackdowns in Bahrain and Yemen. Do they think the opposition in Syria and Iran is oblivious to what’s going on in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, where US allies are brutally cracking down on rebellions in those countries with impunity?

The concern of Western officials is more likely this: Intervening on behalf of rebel forces sends a signal to opposition movements in Syria and Iran that if they take up arms against their governments, the West will help them too.

Charter, we don’t need no stinking charter

It doesn’t really matter that the UN Charter says that the UN Security Council can’t intervene in the internal affairs of its members. Who’s going to stop the biggest, most powerful countries, from doing whatever they want? Sure, they talk a good game about the rule of law. But the rule of law is for chumps. It is, as someone once said, a spider-web for catching the weak. The powerful simply push through it.

They picked the wrong guy

Jean-Paul Sartre turned down a Nobel Prize in 1964 on the grounds that it was a distinction reserved for “the writers of the West or the rebels of the East,” i.e., that it was used as an instrument of Cold War propaganda.

Immanuel Wallerstein: "There is not going to be any significant military involvement of the western world in Libya."

The Nobel Peace Prize is no less political today for the Cold War having ended. It is used, now as then, as an instrument of pro-imperialist propaganda. How else to explain the peace prize being conferred on a man who can only be described as an imperialist warmonger, now with, what – three, four, five wars under his belt: Barack Obama?
Contrast Obama’s giving the green-light to a declaration of war on Libya with the words of the Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez (who, by the way, could teach Gilbert Achcar, and another Z-Net favorite, Immanuel Wallerstein, a thing or two about what anti-imperialism really means. Wallerstein, it should be remembered, sought last week, in supercilious tones, to disabuse the anti-imperialist left, and Hugo Chavez in particular, of its confused analysis of Libya. Sighing heavily, and wondering where to begin to instruct the ignoramuses who were sounding the alarm about an impending Western military intervention, Wallerstein declared that the US was not about to intervene in Libya. “The … point missed by Hugo Chavez’s analysis is that there is not going to be any significant military involvement of the western world in Libya,” instructed Wallerstein. [7])

Here’s Chavez, whose analysis has turned out to be a good deal more insightful than Wallerstein’s:

“More death, more war. They are the masters of war. What irresponsibility. And behind that is the hand of the United States and its European allies.

“They want to seize Libya’s oil. The lives of Libya’s people don’t matter to them at all.

“It is deplorable that the United Nations lends itself to supporting war, infringing on its fundamental principles instead of urgently forming a commission to go to Libya.

“We know what’s going to happen: bombs, bombs, war, more suffering for the people, more death.” [5]

I think Chavez would have been a more fitting candidate for a genuine peace prize. But, then, his imperialist credentials aren’t in order.

Mass Delusions

I thought I had become so accustomed to the depth of US hypocrisy that I could no longer be surprised by it. But the following words, from today’s Wall Street Journal, left me speechless: “Potential Republican presidential candidates for 2012 have criticized the president in recent days for…not pushing America’s traditional role of international peacekeeper.” [6] Peacekeeper! What planet have these people been living on? Has their drinking water been contaminated by a hallucinogen? They might as well have said that WWII put an end to Hitler’s role as international peacekeeper.

Egypt Stagnation, Libya Intervention

Stephen Gowans and Brendan Stone talk about Egypt, Libya and Bahrain. Recorded March 16.

1. Mike Blanchfield, “Risks inherent in helping protect Libyans, Harper says”, The Canadian Press, March 19, 2011.
2. Alex Delmar-Morgan and Nicholas Casey, “Bahrain razes iconic square”, The Wall Street Journal, March 19, 2011.
3. Ibid.
4. Sam Dagher and Adam Entous, “Allied forces attack Libya”, The Wall Street Journal, March 20, 2011.
5. Hugo Chavez condemns military strikes in Libya”, The Associated Press, March 19, 2011.
6. Adam Entous and Laura Meckler, “Libyan raids show Obama doctrine in action”, The Wall Street Journal, March 20, 2011.
7. Immanuel Wallerstein, “Libya and the world left”, Z-Net, March 16, 2011. Z-Net advertises itself as a community of people committed to social change. Social change, yes, but in which direction, and in whose interests?

11 thoughts on “Imperialism or Barbarism! (Bahrain Doesn’t Count)

  1. So this is what the cruise missile left is supporting! nice going guys.
    3. Mr. Ali Al Issawi

    A political and education Libyan who was born in the city of Benghazi in 1966. Has a PhD in pivatisation [What is this?] obtained from the Academy of Economic Studies in Bucharest Romania. He occupied the position of Minister of Economy, Trade and Investment in Libya, and was the youngest minister to fill such a post. Before taking the ministerial position, he founded the Centre for Export Development in 2006 and became the first Director General for it. He also assumed the position of Director General for the Ownership expansion program (privatization fund) in 2005.

    Guess what he wants to do!

  2. FYI for those who think Gadaffi is a brutal despot:
    Last year, incidentally, former British MP George Galloway recounted how, in contrast to the Egyptian government’s obstruction of aid to Gaza, his aid caravan had had its humanitarian cargo doubled during a stopover in Libya. Qaddafi long ago turned his back on the Arab world, considering its leaders hopeless, and turned to Africa

  3. Diana Johnstones latest shrewd piece on Libya:

    ‘False Pretext Number One: “to protect civilians”.

    The falsity of this pretext is obvious, first of all, because the UN Resolution authorizing military action “to protect civilians” was drawn up by France – whose objective was clearly regime change – and its Western allies. Had the real concern of the UN Security Council been to “protect innocent lives”, it would have, could have, should have sent a strong neutral observer mission to find out what was really happening in Libya. There was no proof of rebel claims that the Qaddafi regime was slaughtering civilians. Had there been visible proof of such atrocities, we can be sure that they would have been shown regularly on prime time television. We have seen no such proof. A UN fact-finding mission could have very rapidly set the record straight, and the Security Council could then have acted on the basis of factual information rather than of claims by rebels seeking international aid for their cause.’

    the only problem? Gadaffis Green Book is a much more sensible document than many allege and Gadaffis comic representation only confirms that all the west can charge him with: eccentricity….but such charges are racist.

  4. Yes, many “Progressive Left” activists have shown their real political stripes by directly or tacitly supporting this latest Western aggression.

    Like their support of the NATO attack on the former Yugoslvia over a decade ago or their support of the bogus Save Darfur campaign, these so-called Progressives are not that much different from the political Right.

    They are the “left hand” of the Ango-American Empire and Western imperialism in general, and when push comes to shove, their imperial prejudices show themselves.

    Kosovo revisited (kind of) By William Bowles


  5. FYI..did you know:
    ‘The revolt started in Benghazi in eastern Libya. A very important point not mentioned anywhere in the international media is the fact that due to geographic location, being one of the closest point to Europe from the African continent, Benghazi has over the past 15 years or so become the epicenter of African migration to Europe. At one point over a thousand African migrants a day were pouring into Libya in hopes of arranging transport to Europe.

    The human trafficking industry, one of the most evil, inhumane businesses on the planet, grew into a billion dollar a year industry in Benghazi. A large, viscous underworld mafia set down deep roots in Benghazi, employing thousands in various capacities and corrupting Libyan police and government officials. It has only been in the past year or so that the Libyan government, with help from Italy, has finally brought this cancer under control. With their livelihood destroyed and many of their leaders in prison, the human trafficking mafia have been at the forefront in funding and supporting the Libyan rebellion. Many of the human trafficking gangs and other lumpen elements in Benghazi are known for racist pogroms against African guest workers where over the past decade they regularly robbed and murdered Africans in Benghazi and its surrounding neighborhoods. Since the rebellion in Benghazi broke out several hundred Sudanese, Somali, Ethiopian and Eritrean guest workers have been robbed and murdered by racist rebel militias, a fact well hidden by the international media.

  6. >tsk!<

    Your source lists (drumroll, please) Webster Tarpley as part of the "True (!) News Network".

    Tell us, why do you insist on bringing in right-wing conspiranoids as "reputable sources" then not bothering to tell your readers this?

    Frankly, I'm getting tired of doing it for you.

  7. so what has Gadaffi been doing? well not what weve been told:
    ”It is also quite apparent that the campaign to demonize Libya’s government has hit a few snags with an increasingly astute public forcing propaganda outfits like BBC to concede their reports are merely “allegations” and “claims,” with even the Department of Defense admitting to having “no confirmation whatsoever” on reports of Qaddafi brutalizing civilian populations. This is important to keep in mind considering the entire justification behind UNSC resolution 1973, authorizing the recent missile and aerial bombardments of Libya by the US, UK, and France is based on these “allegations” and “claims” of which the US Department of Defense has “no confirmation whatsoever.”‘

  8. many on the left have lined up with the imperialists: Louis Proyect(who banned me commmenting on Libya), Swans, Pulse. Most commentators repeat the usual propaganda that Gadaffi is a despot (stephen Lendman) and killing civilians .
    However none of this is true. But it make gripping reading!

    meanwhile, meet the real barbarians, despots and mass murderers….but then they have a history of doing this:

    ‘Brussels – The international military mission against Libyan leader Moamer Gaddafi’s forces will extend for a long period and result in many casualties, the Belgian government said Sunday.

    ‘We can’t exclude a large number of casualties in this operation,’ Defence Minister Pieter De Crem told Belgian radio. ‘There are of course going to be risks associated with this mission.’

    France, the United States and Britain attacked Gaddafi’s forces as Western powers on Saturday began enforcing a United Nations-mandated no-fly zone.

    Belgian’s contribution will be in the form of F16 bombers and minesweepers. The troops will be ready for combat on Monday, according to government information.

    De Crem said it would be necessary to maintain a military presence in Libya even after Gaddafi’s exit. ‘The goal is the departure of the Gaddafi regime and the establishment of a dignified society for the Libyan people,’ he said. This requires a Western presence even after the military strikes end ‘so that the operation was not in vain.’

    africans will remember the Beligians,..they turned their portion of the Congo into a byword for brutality.

  9. I think this is the first endorsement of Chavez’s position I have seen. He knew what was coming and many anti imperialists criticized him for trying to mediate to prevent it.

  10. Paul Krugman is anti-neo-liberal, too. I guess that makes the New York Times a great progressive resource. As to Znet being strongly anti-imperialist, some Znet writers are consistently anti-imperialist, some are often but not always anti-imperialist, and some are never anti-imperialist, but pretend to be or think they are. Iit depends on what you mean by anti-imperialist. Gilbert Achcar thinks the anti-imperialist position on Libya is to support Western military intervention. If you agree with Achcar, and use “anti-imperialism” as a plastic term, to be bent and shaped to mean the opposite of what it’s usually taken to mean, then a favored ZNet writer like Achcar is strongly anti-imperialist. But if that’s so, then Hitler was strongly pro-peace.

  11. Znet is a great progressive resource. It features many great progressive writers such as Michael Parenti, and is strongly anti-imperialist and anti-neoliberalism the commentary by Wallerstein that you mentioned.

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