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Critical perspectives on the U.S.-led NATO war on Libya

September 2, 2011 

The western media has hyped the rebels’ “victory” in the war in Libya.  But it’s impossible to know what is really going on if you only get the mainstream media.  Reports are trickling out from independent journalists that contradict the disinformation being spread by mainstream media.  Franklin Lamb reports in Countercurrents.org from Tripoli:

NATO is widely viewed as having violated the three main terms of UNSCR 1973, to wit, NATO did engage in regime change, it did take sides in a civil war, it did arm one side, and it did refuse to allow a negotiated diplomatic settlement which many here and internationally believe could have been achieved by early April, thus saving hundreds Libyan lives. NATO’s more than 160 days of bombing are seen as egregious violations of UNSCR 1973, Article 2 (7) of the UN Charter and numerous provisions of international law, all part of its campaign to secure Libyan oil and this rich countries geopolitical cooperation for the US, UK, France, Italy and their NATO allies.

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On Monday night August 22, 2011 this observer met with Saif al Islam. He was not captured and he is not dead. At least not as of 11 p.m. 8/22/11 or roughly 24 hours after the NTC (National Transitional Council) and the ICC claim he was captured and was being prepared for transport to The Hague. Saif was defiant and he gave assurances that his family was safe and that NATO would be defeated politically for its crimes against Libyan civilians.

Saif took western camera man and reporter on a short tour of Tripoli showing them that NATO was not in control—not 95% in control of Tripoli as the NTC rep in London has been claiming since Sunday night and not 80% in control of Tripoli as the White House & NATO’s “Operation protect the Libyan civilians” CEO, Rasmussen, has claimed. But the rebels do appear to currently control large swatches of Libya’s capitol. A journalist named “Kim” S. from the UK Independent who has been with the rebels for the past more than two months and who seemed to literally sort of stumble into our hotel yesterday told me this morning that NTC claims made during the period he was with them were “complete bullshit.”

In “Western Media Reports on Libya False”, Stephen Lendman, writer and radio host in Chicago said:

When they talk about a conflict like this Libya one that is just an outrageous American-led imperial war for conquest; absolutely illegal and with no humanitarian concern for the Libyan people, even the so-called rebels are not rebels they’re mercenaries; they have been hired.

Most of them may not even know what they are doing. They were paid; they were brought in mostly from outside the country; they’re probably being paid more than they ever go before so, you know, you need a job and you get a paycheck and you were told “We want to liberate this country from bad people”. And they go in and do what they’re told to do because they want to keep getting their paycheck.

About the so-called celebrations in the streets of Tripoli – I absolutely discount them. There were polls taken a week or two ago that showed across the country including in the eastern part of the country in the Benghazi area – wherever they conducted these polls, which is not an easy thing to do in any country at war so you can’t vouch for the absolute accuracy of this – but polls showed the longer the NATO bombing went on the higher approval rating Gaddafi got; and the last numbers I saw – 85 percent of the Libyan people approve of Gaddafi.

Global Research reports that over 200 African leaders condemned NATOʻs Libyan War as part of a plan to recolonize the continent:

A group of African intellectuals has written an open letter criticising the NATO-led military attacks on Libya, saying Africa ran the risk of being re-colonised.“Nato has violated international law… they had a regime change agenda,” said one of the signatories, University of Johannesburg head of politics, Chris Landsberg.“The re-colonisation of Africa is becoming a real threat,” he told reporters in Johannesburg. The letter was signed by more than 200 prominent Africans, including ANC national executive member Jesse Duarte, political analyst Willie Esterhuyse of the University of Stellenbosch, former intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils, lawyer Christine Qunta, former deputy foreign affairs minister Aziz Pahad, former minister in the presidency Essop Pahad, Sam Moyo of the African Institute for Agrarian Studies, former president Thabo Mbeki’s spokesperson Mukoni Ratshitanga, and poet Wally Serote.

The leaders accused the UN Security Council of approving an illegal policy of regime change:

Landsberg said it was up to the Libyan people – and not the United Nations Security Council – to decide if their leader, Muammar Gaddafi, who had been in power for 42 years, had overstayed his welcome. The letter reads: “Contrary to the provisions of the UN Charter, the UN Security Council authorised and has permitted the destruction and anarchy which has descended on the Libyan people. At the end of it all, many Libyans will have died and have been maimed (and) much infrastructure will have been destroyed.” The Security Council had not produced evidence to prove that its authorisation of the use of force was an appropriate response to the situation in Libya. “Thus they (Security Council) have empowered themselves openly to pursue the objective of ‘regime change’ and therefore the use of force and all other means to overthrow the government of Libya, which objectives are completely at variance with the decisions of the UN Security Council,” reads the letter, which was also supported by the Congress of SA Trade Unions, the SA Communist Party and the Media Review Network. The Security Council also “repudiated the rule of international law” by ignoring the role of legitimate regional institutions in solving conflict.

The African leaders also accused NATO countries of being “rogue states”:

Landsberg said Britain, France and United States “continue to act as a rogue states”. “A rogue is an errant state that does not live by rules… the tragedy is that they are not likely to be charged in the International Criminal Court.”

In an interview on Global Research, John Robles says that the Libyan “revolution” is more of a western-backed insurgency than a true revolution of the people.   He notes that “the African Union has refused recognition to the so-called Transitional National Council, consisting of what by all accounts is a fairly motley, heterogeneous grouping of anti-government forces in Libya, aided and abetted by major NATO powers like France, Britain, the U.S. and Italy and by Persian Gulf monarchies like Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.”

Rather than withdrawing after the end of the Gaddafi regime, Robles believes that NATO will establish military bases in the country:

…assuming previous Yugoslav and Afghan precedents as a likely scenario, we have a lot to go on. We have the fact that the Turkish Foreign Minister announced yesterday that NATO’s role will continue in Libya after the installation of the rebel government, the so-called Transitional National Council.
And similar soundings have emanated from major figures and NATO countries that suggest, far from NATO’s role ending, it may in a certain sense just be beginning. And that parallels almost identically what happened in Yugoslavia in 1999 and what has happened in Afghanistan in the past decade, where NATO bombs itself into a country and sets up military bases and doesn’t leave. The U.S. still maintains Camp Bondsteel in the contested Serbian province of Kosovo, which is a large, expansive base, by some accounts the largest overseas military facility built by the US since the war in Vietnam. And it remains there over 12 years after the end of the 78-day bombing campaign against Yugoslavia.

Similarly, the U.S. has substantially upgraded air bases in Afghanistan, including those bordering Central Asian nations and close to the Iranian border, and there is no indication they are ever going to abandon them, as they are not going to abandon military bases in Iraq and other places. It’s a lot easier to bring NATO into one’s country or have it forced in than to get it out.

In a CNN interview, former CIA officer Michael Scheuer also blew the lid off of the fraudulent justifications for the US-led war in Libya.  He describes the CIA’s role in backing the insurgent groups and the blowback that could follow.

This is especially troubling when you consider the composition of the Libyan rebels.   According to Michel Chossudovsky, “The “pro-democracy” rebels are led by Al Qaeda paramilitary brigades under the supervision of NATO Special Forces. The “Liberation” of  Tripoli was carried out by “former” members of the Libya Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG). “  The New York Timesalso describes the now cozy relationship between the former al Qaeda linked organization and NATO.   Training and supporting Islamist fighters sounds a lot like Reagan’s Afghanistan strategy that brought the world the blowback of 9/11.

Meanwhile Finian Cunningham reveals the hypocrisy of the “humanitarian” rationale for the NATO war on Libya.  He reports that in the tiny Kingdom of Bahrain, “US Ally Kills Children… So When Is NATO Intervening?”:

This is the face of state terror against civilians in the US and British-backed Gulf oil kingdom of Bahrain – the latest victim a boy shot dead by police. But there will be no call by Washington or London for a Libya-style NATO intervention to protect human rights here. No call for regime change. No call for an international crimes tribunal.

Fourteen-year-old Ali Jawad Ahmad was killed on 30 August when Saudi-backed Bahraini riot police fired a tear gas canister at the youth from close range. On the day that was supposed to be a celebratory end to Ramadan – Eid al Fitr – people across Bahrain were shocked by yet another “brutal slaughter of innocents” by the regime and the stoic silence of its Western backers.]

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It is scarcely believable that Washington or London is unaware of the Bahraini state terror over recent months and in particular the massive, indiscriminate use of tear gas on civilian homes. Bahrain – a former “protectorate” of Britain – has close links between its ministry of interior and British security personnel. The Gulf island is home to the US Navy Fifth Fleet, from where the entire Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea down as far as the coast of Somalia are surveyed. The territory of Bahrain is less than 60 kilometres long and only 17 kilometres wide.

Bahrain: Shouting in the Dark

August 7, 2011 

One forgotten uprising of the ‘Arab Spring’ took place in tiny Bahrain.

I have posted articles on this site about the protests in Bahrain and why it matters.  Bahrain is in the backyard of Saudi Arabia. It is also the location of the U.S. 5th Fleet.  The U.S. and western countries turned a blind eye when the Bahraini ruling monarchy and gulf states violently crushed the peaceful protests.

Al Jazeera produced an excellent documentary “Bahrain: Shouting in the Dark” about the protests in Bahrain. (Warning: the images are graphic).

Where is the NATO and U.S. military support for these protesters?

U.S. backs Saudi military intervention in Bahrain

June 17, 2011 

The U.S. has a keen interest in suppressing the popular uprising in the tiny Persian Gulf island kingdom of Bahrain.  Since WWII, the U.S. has stationed its 5th Fleet in Bahrain and has  propped  up the ruling family, which is Sunni and allied with Saudi Arabia. But the Bahraini population has traditionally been Shia and aligned with Iran.   Seeing the uprising against the ruling family as Iranian influenced, the U.S. has given tacit support to Saudi military intervention and violent repression of the protests. Here is a recent report from Russia Today:

 

 

Rhetoric Versus Reality: US Involvement in Bahrain

by grtv

While NATO continues bombarding Libya, they have quite a different approach with other countries–take for instance Bahrain. The country’s crown prince was in Washington DC last week and made a statement at a briefing with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. “We are committed to changes and to find out ways to closer work with the US. We are a very important ally to the US,” said the prince.

Clinton expressed support for Bahrain, stressing it was a very important for the US. While they were talking about reforms, however, dialogue out of Bahrain shows that that is very far from the case overseas.

Michel Chossudovsky, the director of the Center for Research on Globalization, joins RT to talk about the matter.

Bahrain is a very interesting place with a tortured history of invasion and conquest spanning millennia. But this history has made the people and culture quite diverse, cosmopolitan and tolerant. There are many parallels that remind me of Hawai’i. The name Bahrain, like Kailua, means “Two Seas”. The pearl industry was a major industry in Bahrain as it was in Ke Awalau o Pu’uloa (Pearl Harbor) during the early-1800s. Like Hawai’i, Bahrain is strategically located, making it a coveted location for a military base and a prime target for war between competing powers. Like Hawai’i, “prosperity” and “modernization” has meant the destruction of the environment and loss of traditional ways of living.

In his article “Bahrain: U.S. Backs Saudi Military Intervention, Conflict With Iran” March 16, 2011, Rick Rozoff describes the U.S. interests in Bahrain:

That Saudi military forces entered Bahrain two days after Secretary Gates left would lead any sensible person to draw the conclusion that the Pentagon chief had discussed more than Iran and Libya with the kingdom’s top two government and defense officials. Though discussions on Iran would not have been unrelated to those concerning a U.S.-backed deployment of Saudi and other Gulf Cooperation Council forces to Bahrain, as some 70-75 percent of Bahrain’s population is Shi’a Muslim by way of confessional background although the ruling family is Sunni.

A Bahraini protester quoted by Reuters on March 15 commented on the Saudi-led military incursion this way: “It’s part of a regional plan and they’re fighting on our (land). If the Americans were men they would go and fight Iran directly but not in our country.”

The U.S. Fifth Fleet, one of six used by Washington to patrol the world’s seas and oceans, is headquartered near Manama, where between 4,000-6,000 American military personnel are stationed. Unlike Tunisia and Egypt, U.S. military partners but not hosts of American bases, Bahrain is vital to U.S. international military and energy strategy, and allowing a doctrinal affinity to in any manner augment Iran’s influence in its Persian Gulf neighbor is anathema to the White House, State Department and Pentagon.

The Fifth Fleet’s area of responsibility encompasses 2.5 million square miles of water, including the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, the Gulf of Oman, the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean as far south as Kenya. [4] Aircraft carriers, destroyers and other warships are assigned to it on a rotational basis and the fleet is the naval component of U.S. Central Command, sharing a commander and headquarters in Bahrain with U.S. Naval Forces Central Command. Central Command’s purview stretches from Egypt in the west to Kazakhstan, bordering Russia and China, in the east.

The Fifth Fleet has approximately 30,000 personnel stationed across the region.

The geopolitical importance of Bahrain was demonstrated when the U.S.’s top military officer, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen, visited several nations in the Middle East and the Horn of Africa last month: Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Djibouti and Kuwait, with a last-minute stop in Bahrain not listed on his itinerary.

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The day after Saudi and Emirati military forces arrived in Bahrain, several thousand protesters descended on the Saudi embassy to demonstrate their opposition to the intervention. As the Reuters news agency reported, “Bahrainis are concerned that their tiny island could become a proxy battleground for a wider stand-off between the Sunni-ruled Gulf Arab countries, all U.S. allies, and Shi’ite-ruled Iran, a U.S. foe.”

In March, when troops fired on peaceful demonstrators, commentator George Galloway discussed “War on Libya, Saudi Arabian Invasion of Bahrain”:

Libya, the West and the Narrative of Democracy

March 22, 2011 

Interesting analysis from Stratfor of the U.S.-led war in Libya and the Westʻs conflicting imperatives: welcoming popular democratic uprisings while preventing repressive governments from crushing them:

Nevertheless, a narrative on what has happened in the Arab world has emerged and has become the framework for thinking about the region. The narrative says that the region is being swept by democratic revolutions (in the Western sense) rising up against oppressive regimes. The West must support these uprisings gently. That means that they must not sponsor them but at the same time act to prevent the repressive regimes from crushing them.

This is a complex maneuver. The West supporting the rebels will turn it into another phase of Western imperialism, under this theory. But the failure to support the rising will be a betrayal of fundamental moral principles.

The problem with Libya is that the government enjoys significant popular support from certain tribal factions, while the opposition forces are a loose coalition of tribes that oppose the Gadhafi regime, not a popular uprising.

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Libya, the West and the Narrative of Democracy

By George Friedman

Forces from the United States and some European countries have intervened in Libya. Under U.N. authorization, they have imposed a no-fly zone in Libya, meaning they will shoot down any Libyan aircraft that attempts to fly within Libya. In addition, they have conducted attacks against aircraft on the ground, airfields, air defenses and the command, control and communication systems of the Libyan government, and French and U.S. aircraft have struck against Libyan armor and ground forces. There also are reports of European and Egyptian special operations forces deploying in eastern Libya, where the opposition to the government is centered, particularly around the city of Benghazi. In effect, the intervention of this alliance has been against the government of Moammar Gadhafi, and by extension, in favor of his opponents in the east.

The alliance’s full intention is not clear, nor is it clear that the allies are of one mind. The U.N. Security Council resolution clearly authorizes the imposition of a no-fly zone. By extension, this logically authorizes strikes against airfields and related targets. Very broadly, it also defines the mission of the intervention as protecting civilian lives. As such, it does not specifically prohibit the presence of ground forces, though it does clearly state that no “foreign occupation force” shall be permitted on Libyan soil. It can be assumed they intended that forces could intervene in Libya but could not remain in Libya after the intervention. What this means in practice is less than clear.

There is no question that the intervention is designed to protect Gadhafi’s enemies from his forces. Gadhafi had threatened to attack “without mercy” and had mounted a sustained eastward assault that the rebels proved incapable of slowing. Before the intervention, the vanguard of his forces was on the doorstep of Benghazi. The protection of the eastern rebels from Gadhafi’s vengeance coupled with attacks on facilities under Gadhafi’s control logically leads to the conclusion that the alliance wants regime change, that it wants to replace the Gadhafi government with one led by the rebels.

But that would be too much like the invasion of Iraq against Saddam Hussein, and the United Nations and the alliance haven’t gone that far in their rhetoric, regardless of the logic of their actions. Rather, the goal of the intervention is explicitly to stop Gadhafi’s threat to slaughter his enemies, support his enemies but leave the responsibility for the outcome in the hands of the eastern coalition. In other words — and this requires a lot of words to explain — they want to intervene to protect Gadhafi’s enemies, they are prepared to support those enemies (though it is not clear how far they are willing to go in providing that support), but they will not be responsible for the outcome of the civil war.

The Regional Context

To understand this logic, it is essential to begin by considering recent events in North Africa and the Arab world and the manner in which Western governments interpreted them. Beginning with Tunisia, spreading to Egypt and then to the Arabian Peninsula, the last two months have seen widespread unrest in the Arab world. Three assumptions have been made about this unrest. The first was that it represented broad-based popular opposition to existing governments, rather than representing the discontent of fragmented minorities — in other words, that they were popular revolutions. Second, it assumed that these revolutions had as a common goal the creation of a democratic society. Third, it assumed that the kind of democratic society they wanted was similar to European-American democracy, in other words, a constitutional system supporting Western democratic values.

Each of the countries experiencing unrest was very different. For example, in Egypt, while the cameras focused on demonstrators, they spent little time filming the vast majority of the country that did not rise up. Unlike 1979 in Iran, the shopkeepers and workers did not protest en masse. Whether they supported the demonstrators in Tahrir Square is a matter of conjecture. They might have, but the demonstrators were a tiny fraction of Egyptian society, and while they clearly wanted a democracy, it is less than clear that they wanted a liberal democracy. Recall that the Iranian Revolution created an Islamic Republic more democratic than its critics would like to admit, but radically illiberal and oppressive. In Egypt, it is clear that Mubarak was generally loathed but not clear that the regime in general was being rejected. It is not clear from the outcome what will happen now. Egypt may stay as it is, it may become an illiberal democracy or it may become a liberal democracy.

Consider also Bahrain. Clearly, the majority of the population is Shiite, and resentment toward the Sunni government is apparent. It should be assumed that the protesters want to dramatically increase Shiite power, and elections should do the trick. Whether they want to create a liberal democracy fully aligned with the U.N. doctrines on human rights is somewhat more problematic.

Egypt is a complicated country, and any simple statement about what is going on is going to be wrong. Bahrain is somewhat less complex, but the same holds there. The idea that opposition to the government means support for liberal democracy is a tremendous stretch in all cases — and the idea that what the demonstrators say they want on camera is what they actually want is problematic. Even more problematic in many cases is the idea that the demonstrators in the streets simply represent a universal popular will.

Nevertheless, a narrative on what has happened in the Arab world has emerged and has become the framework for thinking about the region. The narrative says that the region is being swept by democratic revolutions (in the Western sense) rising up against oppressive regimes. The West must support these uprisings gently. That means that they must not sponsor them but at the same time act to prevent the repressive regimes from crushing them.

This is a complex maneuver. The West supporting the rebels will turn it into another phase of Western imperialism, under this theory. But the failure to support the rising will be a betrayal of fundamental moral principles. Leaving aside whether the narrative is accurate, reconciling these two principles is not easy — but it particularly appeals to Europeans with their ideological preference for “soft power.”

The West has been walking a tightrope of these contradictory principles; Libya became the place where they fell off. According to the narrative, what happened in Libya was another in a series of democratic uprisings, but in this case suppressed with a brutality outside the bounds of what could be tolerated. Bahrain apparently was inside the bounds, and Egypt was a success, but Libya was a case in which the world could not stand aside while Gadhafi destroyed a democratic uprising. Now, the fact that the world had stood aside for more than 40 years while Gadhafi brutalized his own and other people was not the issue. In the narrative being told, Libya was no longer an isolated tyranny but part of a widespread rising — and the one in which the West’s moral integrity was being tested in the extreme. Now was different from before.

Of course, as with other countries, there was a massive divergence between the narrative and what actually happened. Certainly, that there was unrest in Tunisia and Egypt caused opponents of Gadhafi to think about opportunities, and the apparent ease of the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings gave them some degree of confidence. But it would be an enormous mistake to see what has happened in Libya as a mass, liberal democratic uprising. The narrative has to be strained to work in most countries, but in Libya, it breaks down completely.

The Libyan Uprising

As we have pointed out, the Libyan uprising consisted of a cluster of tribes and personalities, some within the Libyan government, some within the army and many others longtime opponents of the regime, all of whom saw an opportunity at this particular moment. Though many in western portions of Libya, notably in the cities of Zawiya and Misurata, identify themselves with the opposition, they do not represent the heart of the historic opposition to Tripoli found in the east. It is this region, known in the pre-independence era as Cyrenaica, that is the core of the opposition movement. United perhaps only by their opposition to Gadhafi, these people hold no common ideology and certainly do not all advocate Western-style democracy. Rather, they saw an opportunity to take greater power, and they tried to seize it.

According to the narrative, Gadhafi should quickly have been overwhelmed — but he wasn’t. He actually had substantial support among some tribes and within the army. All of these supporters had a great deal to lose if he was overthrown. Therefore, they proved far stronger collectively than the opposition, even if they were taken aback by the initial opposition successes. To everyone’s surprise, Gadhafi not only didn’t flee, he counterattacked and repulsed his enemies.

This should not have surprised the world as much as it did. Gadhafi did not run Libya for the past 42 years because he was a fool, nor because he didn’t have support. He was very careful to reward his friends and hurt and weaken his enemies, and his supporters were substantial and motivated. One of the parts of the narrative is that the tyrant is surviving only by force and that the democratic rising readily routs him. The fact is that the tyrant had a lot of support in this case, the opposition wasn’t particularly democratic, much less organized or cohesive, and it was Gadhafi who routed them.

As Gadhafi closed in on Benghazi, the narrative shifted from the triumph of the democratic masses to the need to protect them from Gadhafi — hence the urgent calls for airstrikes. But this was tempered by reluctance to act decisively by landing troops, engaging the Libyan army and handing power to the rebels: Imperialism had to be avoided by doing the least possible to protect the rebels while arming them to defeat Gadhafi. Armed and trained by the West, provided with command of the air by the foreign air forces — this was the arbitrary line over which the new government keeps from being a Western puppet. It still seems a bit over the line, but that’s how the story goes.

In fact, the West is now supporting a very diverse and sometimes mutually hostile group of tribes and individuals, bound together by hostility to Gadhafi and not much else. It is possible that over time they could coalesce into a fighting force, but it is far more difficult imagining them defeating Gadhafi’s forces anytime soon, much less governing Libya together. There are simply too many issues between them. It is, in part, these divisions that allowed Gadhafi to stay in power as long as he did. The West’s ability to impose order on them without governing them, particularly in a short amount of time, is difficult to imagine. They remind me of Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan, anointed by the Americans, distrusted by much of the country and supported by a fractious coalition.

Other Factors

There are other factors involved, of course. Italy has an interest in Libyan oil, and the United Kingdom was looking for access to the same. But just as Gadhafi was happy to sell the oil, so would any successor regime be; this war was not necessary to guarantee access to oil. NATO politics also played a role. The Germans refused to go with this operation, and that drove the French closer to the Americans and British. There is the Arab League, which supported a no-fly zone (though it did an about-face when it found out that a no-fly zone included bombing things) and offered the opportunity to work with the Arab world.

But it would be a mistake to assume that these passing interests took precedence over the ideological narrative, the genuine belief that it was possible to thread the needle between humanitarianism and imperialism — that it was possible to intervene in Libya on humanitarian grounds without thereby interfering in the internal affairs of the country. The belief that one can take recourse to war to save the lives of the innocent without, in the course of that war, taking even more lives of innocents, also was in play.

The comparison to Iraq is obvious. Both countries had a monstrous dictator. Both were subjected to no-fly zones. The no-fly zones don’t deter the dictator. In due course, this evolves into a massive intervention in which the government is overthrown and the opposition goes into an internal civil war while simultaneously attacking the invaders. Of course, alternatively, this might play out like the Kosovo war, where a few months of bombing saw the government surrender the province. But in that case, only a province was in play. In this case, although focused ostensibly on the east, Gadhafi in effect is being asked to give up everything, and the same with his supporters — a harder business.

In my view, waging war to pursue the national interest is on rare occasion necessary. Waging war for ideological reasons requires a clear understanding of the ideology and an even clearer understanding of the reality on the ground. In this intervention, the ideology is not crystal clear, torn as it is between the concept of self-determination and the obligation to intervene to protect the favored faction. The reality on the ground is even less clear. The reality of democratic uprisings in the Arab world is much more complicated than the narrative makes it out to be, and the application of the narrative to Libya simply breaks down. There is unrest, but unrest comes in many sizes, democratic being only one.

Whenever you intervene in a country, whatever your intentions, you are intervening on someone’s side. In this case, the United States, France and Britain are intervening in favor of a poorly defined group of mutually hostile and suspicious tribes and factions that have failed to coalesce, at least so far, into a meaningful military force. The intervention may well succeed. The question is whether the outcome will create a morally superior nation. It is said that there can’t be anything worse than Gadhafi. But Gadhafi did not rule for 42 years because he was simply a dictator using force against innocents, but rather because he speaks to a real and powerful dimension of Libya.

Libya, the West and the Narrative of Democracy is republished with permission of STRATFOR.

“The visit is over”: Bahrain: Uprising Against the US-backed Regime Gains Critical Mass

February 23, 2011 

Finian Cunningham reports in Global Research that:

Bahrain’s uprising against the US-backed ruling elite is gathering critical mass, with the Persian Gulf island state seeing the biggest demonstration ever last night. Some 200,000 people took the main highway leading to the financial district in the capital, Manama, shouting in unison for the regime to go.

Their protest is now firmly established at Pearl Square, where tents have been erected and basic amenities installed to cope with the thousands who now camp there nightly. In deliberate replication of the demonstrations at Tahrir Square in Egypt’s capital, Cairo, the protesters in Bahrain are saying that they are not moving until their demands are met.

Men, women and children have lost their fear. After a brutal crackdown by the state last week, which resulted in seven civilians murdered and hundreds injured, failed to crush the uprising, the people are now increasingly emboldened and determined to demand the overthrow of the Al Khalifa regime.

People have found their voice to demand what they have been wanting for many decades – for, what they see, as an imposter regime to go; to get out of their lives and their island.

The origin of the conflict is a 200 year old occupation by a foreign tribe that came to occupy the island:

Bahrainis have long memories regarding the nature and origin of the regime. Over and over, the protesters will tell you that they have had enough of the Al Khalifas’ predatory rule.

One small, makeshift placard held by a group of young teenagers said in Arabic: “The visit is over”.

Many indigenous Bahrainis (about 600,000 of the total one million present population) can trace their family origins back to the time of “Prophet Issa” (Jesus) and beyond.

They view the ruling Al Khalifa family as something of an imposter that has abused the civility of the Bahraini people for the past 200 years. It is not a gross oversimplification of history when Bahrainis relate how the Al Khalifas originated from a Bedouin tribe in what became central Saudi Arabia and voyaged around the Persian Gulf as pirates and renegades seeking a base.

After being kicked out of Zubarah (later Qatar), the Al Khalifas settled in Bahrain. With the help of the British Empire, they became rulers of the island in return for British “protection”. Bahrain, as an ancient trading hub, bestowed on the indigenous people a certain cosmopolitan, civilized attitude. They were fishermen, farmers, boat makers and artisans who were able to make a good living from the island’s rich natural resources, which included abundant freshwater aquifers.

The impact on the native people of the island is reminiscent of conditions in Hawai’i and other small islands under foreign occupation:

“When I was a boy, my family used to fish here. We always had plenty to eat and we would sell fish at the market. Now I don’t have any work.” He pointed to the ground beneath the skyscrapers and said: “This used to be sea. This is where we used to live.”

Bahrain also happens to be the site of a major U.S. military base and home to the 5th Fleet.    It is not clear how demonstrators feel about the U.S. bases, but it’s a good bet that the uprising is making U.S. elites nervous.

Why the U.S. is worried about protests in Bahrain

February 20, 2011 

The revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt have sparked numerous uprisings in the Arab world, including tiny Bahrain. But as AOL News reports, due to the strategic location and the large U.S. military bases on Bahrain, the political unrest there has U.S. officials worried:

Most Americans couldn’t find Bahrain on a map before this week, but the escalating violence unfolding in the tiny island monarchy could do more damage to U.S. interests in the Middle East than the more high-profile revolution in Egypt.

Bahrain is a tiny group of islands that could fit nearly six times over into Rhode Island. The country has been the headquarters of the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet since shortly after World War II and is a major resupply and refueling depot for warships supporting troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and patrolling the pirate-infested waters off Somalia.

It is also a strategic listening post for keeping tabs on Iran and its navy

The military issued warnings to U.S. personnel in the area and is also monitoring the situation in Djibouti, the location of another U.S. military base:

The Navy said it is monitoring the situation and stressed that the demonstrations are not aimed as the U.S. government. Still, the Navy has warned uniformed personnel, civilian workers and their families to stay clear of the area where the protests are taking place.

U.S. forces in Bahrain aren’t the only ones on heightened alert. The Pentagon has several strategic military bases scattered around the gulf. It also is watching closely as protests heat up in the small nation of Djibouti in the Horn of Africa, where the only U.S. military base on that continent is located.

Al Jazeera coverage of the uprising in Bahrain:

Global Research posted an article on the social and political roots of the uprising in Bahrain:

“Have you ever seen an island with no beaches?” The question posed by the young Bahraini taxi man standing among thousands of chanting anti-government protesters seemed at first to be a bit off the wall. But his explanation soon got to the heart of the grievances that have brought tens of thousands of Bahrainis on to the streets over the past week – protests which have seen at least seven civilians killed amid scenes of excessive violence by state security forces.

Why no beaches?

In the early hours of Thursday, up to five thousand Bahraini protesters were forced from the main demonstration site at the Pearl Roundabout, a landmark intersection in the capital, Manama. The Bahraini authorities deployed helicopters, dozens of tanks and armoured personnel carriers, with army and police firing teargas and live rounds. Among the protesters were hundreds of women and children.

At the centre of the site is the Pearl Monument, which alludes to the country’s traditional pearl diving and fishing industries – industries that were the mainstay of communities.

Within view of the monument are the iconic skyscrapers of Bahrain’s newfound wealth, including the Financial Harbour and the World Trade Center. Only a few years ago, this entire area of the capital was sea, the land having been reclaimed and developed. Up to 20 per cent of Bahrain’s total land area has been reclaimed from the sea over the past three decades.

However, this vast reclamation and development drive has, according to local environmental groups, devastated the island’s marine ecology and fish stocks in particular. The rampant development – which has made fortunes for the country’s elite – has had an equally devastating effect on local communities who have depended on the sea for their livelihoods. While these communities have suffered the blight of unemployment and poverty, they also have witnessed roaring property development, land prices and profits benefiting the ruling elite.

And these destabilizing social conditions are linked to the U.S. military interests in Bahrain:

Bahrain’s unstable social formation is underpinned by unwavering US diplomatic and military support. The island serves as the base for the US Fifth Fleet in the Persian Gulf. The latest wave of state repression has tellingly elicited only a subdued, ambivalent comment from Washington, urging “all sides to refrain from violence” – Washington-speak that translates into support for the government. Last year, Bahrain received $19.5 million in US military aid, which, on a per capita basis, equates to greater than that delivered to Egypt.

U.S. expands missile sites in Persian Gulf

January 31, 2010 

Very disturbing movement by the U.S. to deploy missile launch sites throughout the middle east and eastern Europe.

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http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100131/ap_on_go_ca_st_pe/us_gulf_defenses

US upgrades defense of Persian Gulf allies

AP

By ROBERT BURNS, AP National Security Writer Robert Burns, Ap National Security Writer – Sun Jan 31, 7:31 am ET

WASHINGTON – The United States has begun beefing up its approach to defending its Persian Gulf allies against potential Iranian missile strikes, officials say. The defenses are being stepped up in advance of possible increased sanctions against Iran.

The Obama administration has quietly increased the capability of land-based Patriot defensive missiles in several Gulf Arab nations, and one military official said the Navy is increasing the presence of ships capable of knocking out hostile missiles in flight.

The officials discussed aspects of the defensive strategy Saturday on condition of anonymity because some elements are classified.

The moves, part of a broader adjustment in the U.S. approach to missile defense, including in Europe and Asia have been in the works for months. Details have not been publicly announced, in part because of diplomatic sensitivities in Gulf countries which worry about Iranian military capabilities but are cautious about acknowledging U.S. protection.

The White House will send a review of ballistic missile strategy to Congress on Monday that frames the larger shifts. Attention to defense of the Persian Gulf region, a focus on diffuse networks of sensors and weapons and cooperation with Russia are major elements of the study, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.

Russia opposed Bush administration plans for a land-based missile defense site in Eastern Europe, and President Barack Obama’s decision to walk away from that plan last year was partly in pursuit of new capabilities that might hold greater promise and partly in deference to Russia.

One military official said the adjustments in the Gulf should be seen as prudent defensive measures designed to deter Iran from taking aggressive action in the region, more than as a signal that Washington expects Iran to retaliate for any additional sanctions.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton consulted with numerous allies during a visit to London this week. She told reporters that the evident failure of U.S. offers to engage Iran in negotiations over its nuclear program means the U.S. will now press for additional sanctions against the Iranian government.

Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. Central Command chief who is responsible for U.S. military operations across the Middle East, mentioned in several recent public speeches one element of the defensive strategy in the Gulf: upgrading Patriot missile systems, which originally were deployed in the region to shoot down aircraft but now can hit missiles in flight.

In remarks at Georgetown Law School on Jan. 21, Petraeus said the U.S. now has eight Patriot missile batteries stationed in the Gulf region — two each in four countries. He did not name the countries, but Kuwait has long been known to have Patriots on its territory.

A military official said Saturday that the three other countries are the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain — which also hosts the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet headquarters — and Qatar, home to a modernized U.S. air operations center that has played a key role in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

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Associated Press writers Anne Flaherty and Anne Gearan contributed to this report.