Imperialism Or Barbarism!

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.

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 talked the anti-imperialism talk, but when push comes to shove, lines up with imperialism.

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

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 Gulg 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 as 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.

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 on the money 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?