By Benedict Nyankun Wisseh
July 28, 2011
The uprising in Libya commenced as a normal street protest against Khaddafi’s rule on 15 February 2011. Just about the same time, too, one was taking place in Bahrainagainst the rule of the Khalifa royal family that has been in power for over two hundred years. But there was something different about the protesters in these countries. In Libya, away from the capital, Tripoli, protesters in Benghazi, the country’s second largest city, were armed with every conceivable, modern mobile weapon to take on Khaddafi. Quickly, by 25 February, most of Libya was under their control, seriously threatening Khaddafi’s hold on power. In Washington, this was good news to celebrate. But faced with the possibility of being deposed by now a rebel army, Khaddafi ordered his army to “hunt down” the rebels and have “no mercy” on them. Promptly, after Khaddafi’s army went into action, they reversed the gains of the Libyan rebels. The prospect of Khaddafi, who has never been a favourite dictator of the West, remaining in power and the current Egyptian government's efforts, unlike its predecessor, to unite the Palestinian factions, Fattah and Hamas, to liberate their country, got policymakers in Washington, London and Paris nervous.
The history of Khaddafi and the West does not make good reading for policymakers in Washington, London, and Paris. Col. Khaddafi, since he came to power in 1969, has never taken the road taken by the United States and its allies. In the 1970s, Col. Khaddafi provided economic and military support to Black September, a Palestinian armed organization that was responsible for kidnapping and murdering eleven Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympic. In 1986, the American intelligence networks blamed him for the deaths of American soldiers in the bombing of a nightclub frequented by the Americans. In retaliation, the American bombed Col. Khaddafi’s compound in Tripoli, killing his daughter and narrowly missing him. Then, in retaliation in 1988, according to American and Western intelligence, Khaddafi masterminded the crash of a Pan Am jet over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing all 259, mostly American and British, passengers on board. Also, while the American, French, and British governments were unsympathetic to African liberation movements fighting against Portuguese colonialism and white rules in South Africa and Rhodesia, Col. Khaddafi provided money, arms, refuge and military training camps that were decisive in the final victory of the liberation struggle. For these reasons, politicians in these countries have been wishing for Khaddafi's head ever since.
While in Manama, the Bahraini capital, protesters, armed only with slogans and determination, took to the streets on 14 February and demanded constitutional changes to allow for the citizens to vote and elect their political leaders in free and fair elections. But the ruling Khalifa family, who come from the Sunni minority that constitutes about 30% of the population, responded with a brutal crackdown in which unarmed civilians died and scores were injured. The security forces raided hospitals and arrested the injured protesters. Physicians were ordered by the government not to treat the injured protesters mostly from the majority Shiite. Physicians who were caught attending to the injured protesters were beaten and arrested along with their patients and put in jail. But the United States, Great Britain, and France, who attacked Libya to rescue and protect civilians, were shamelessly muted in their reactions to this deliberate act of barbarity by a modern government against its citizens.
By this time, in February, similar protests have already driven out of office Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia, two American allies, and threatening to consume two other American allies in Bahrain and Yemen in the part of the world where allies are indispensable to the geo-political and strategic interests of the powerful countries. For the United States, the deaths of Bahraini and Yemeni civilians at the brutal hands of their governments drew no concern. Why? Bahrain is the home of the United States Fifth Fleet from where combat aircrafts carry out long-range missions across Afghanistan and Iraq and conduct patrols off the Horn of Africa. InSana’a, Yemen, the United States intelligence officers have unrestricted movement in their fight against Al-Qaeda terrorism. So, having lost Mubarak and Ben Ali, and with the possibility of losing others in Bahrain and Yemen, without knowing the ideological orientations of their replacements, the United States and its allies had to act preemptively to remove Khaddafi. And having taken the military initiatives, and if Khaddafi is dislodged from power, the United States will claim credit. This will open the way for its influence in setting up a future Libyan government inclined to comply with its wishes in the region.
In its action against Libya, the United States proved that the best thing about being a developed and militarily powerful country is that such country can manipulate the United Nations to act as its cover for its selective and hypocritical actions against weak countries whose leaders are not its favourite dictators. Such was the case when the United States and Great Britain got the United Nations Security Council to vote and authorise them to attack Iraq militarily. The reasons for the attack changed many times from Iraq’s complicity in the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center and The Pentagon to having possessed “weapons of mass destruction.” But all turned out to be lies deliberately contrived, as many people strongly suspected, to remove Saddam Hussein from power because he had ceased being a United States conduit for its clandestine subversive activities in Iran, a country the United States had apparently encouraged Saddam to invade and attack militarily in September 1980.
The same United States and Great Britain, again joined by France this time, went to the United Nations Security Council and manipulated it into granting them authorisation to attack Libya. President Obama would have been persuasive, credible and believable had he flatly stated that the United States and its allies attacked Libya only to remove Khaddafi from power. Yes, Col. Khaddafi has a checkered past. But attacking and destroying his country by reasons that are only good by hypocritical standards is unconscionable. It is now troubling, ironically, that the NATO military mission undertaken to rescue and protect civilians, is itself being accused by some of its own members for killing Libyan civilians, including women, children and the rebel themselves.