Bin Laden Out, Gaddafi Next
Let’s start by invoking a Western cultural icon, Dante; “Abandon all hope ye who enter here”—because international law as we know it has just been delivered a stake through its heart. The “new” sociopolitical Darwinism entails humanitarian neo-colonialism, targeted assassinations—extrajudicial executions—and drone wars, all carried out in the name of a revamped white man’s burden.
In the whirlwind of lies and hypocrisy engulfing the Osama bin Laden hit job, the key justice-related fact is how an unarmed man, codename “Geronimo,” was captured live then summarily executed in front of one of his daughters—after a lightning-quick invasion of a theoretically “sovereign” country.
As for the quagmire war waged by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) against Libya, the fact is that Western public opinion was fed a military attack against a sovereign country that has committed no violation of the United Nations charter. Talk about a wolf—neo-colonialism—in sheep’s clothing—“humanitarian war.”
At the heart of the matter is the concept itself of international law—adopted by all “civilized” nations, as well as what constitutes a just war. Yet for Western ruling elites this is just a detail; there has been no high-level debate on the implications of a United Nations-justified NATO war whose ultimate—and always unstated—objective is regime change.
The dirty operation in northern Africa reveals itself to be even nastier when it has been proved that the war on Libya was initially conceptualized by dubious French interests; that Saudi Arabia delivered a fake Arab League vote for the U.S. because it wanted to get rid of Muammar Gaddafi and at the same time have a free hand in smashing pro-democracy protests in Bahrain; that Libya offers the perfect possibility for the Pentagon’s Africom to have an African base; that a dodgy bunch of “rebels” hijacked legitimate protests, with Gaddafi defectors, al-Qaeda-linked jihadis and exiles such as Central Intelligence Agency asset General Khalifa Hifter, who had lived for nearly 20 years in Virginia, taking over.
The going got even nastier when one learned that on March 19 the Washington/London/Paris financial elites authorized the Central Bank of Benghazi to have its own—Western dictated—monetary policy, unlike the state-owned, and fully independent, Libyan national bank in Tripoli; Gaddafi wanted to get rid of both the U.S. dollar and the euro and switch to the gold dinar as an African common currency—and many governments were already on board.
The war on Libya has been globally sold under the slogan R2P—Responsibility to Protect—a “new” humanitarian imperialist concept that in Washington was brandished with relish by three Amazon cheerleaders; U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, U.S. ambassador to the UN Susan Rice and presidential adviser Samantha Power.
Large swathes of the developing world—the real “international community,” not that fiction in the pages of Western mainstream media—saw it for what it is; the end of the concept of national sovereignty, as in a clever “reframing” completely blurring the original Article 2, Section 1 of the UN Charter principle of sovereign equality of states.
They saw that the “deciders” on R2P were exclusively Washington and a bunch of European capitals. They saw that Libya was slapped with NATO bombing—but not Bahrain, Yemen or Syria. They saw the “deciders” made no effort whatsoever to negotiate a ceasefire inside Libya—ignoring plans by Turkey and the African Union (AU).
And power players Moscow and Beijing of course could not fail to see that R2P could be invoked in the case of unrest in Tibet and Xinjiang—and the next step would be NATO troops inside Chinese territory. Same to what concerns Chechnya—with the additional Western hypocritical factor that Chechens have, for years, been armed by NATO via al-Qaeda-linked networks in the Caucasus/Central Asia.
Even South American players could not fail to see R2P invoked in the long run for a “humanitarian” NATO intervention in Venezuela or Bolivia.
So this is the new meaning of “international law:” Washington—via Africom or NATO—intervenes anyway, with or without a UN Security Council resolution, in the name of R2P, and everyone keeps silent on collateral damage, on bombing a regime while denying the objective is regime change, on not helping boatloads of refugees stranded in the Mediterranean.
As for why Gaddafi gets the boot while the al-Khalifas in Bahrain, Saleh in Yemen and Bashar al-Assad in Syria get away with it—that’s simple; you’re not an evil dictator if you’re one of “our” bastards—that is, play by “our” rules. The destiny of “independents” such as Gaddafi is to become toast. It helps if you already have a key U.S. military base in your country—as with the al-Khalifas and the U.S. 5th Fleet.
If the al-Khalifas were not U.S. lackeys and there was no U.S. military base, Washington would have no problems selling an intervention in favor of the peaceful, largely Shi’ite pro-democracy protesters against a ghastly Sunni tyranny which needs the House of Saud to repress its own people.
Then there are the legalese aspects. Imagine putting Gaddafi on trial. Martial court or civil court? A kangaroo court—a la Saddam Hussein—or offering him all the “civilized” means to defend himself? And how to prosecute crimes against humanity beyond reasonable doubt? How to use testimonies obtained under torture, sorry, “enhanced interrogation?” And for how long? Years? How many witnesses? Thousands?
It’s much easier to solve it all with a Tomahawk—or a bullet in the head—and then call it “justice.”
Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His new book, just out, is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).
He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Asia Times, May 12, 2011