By Paul T. Shipale–04 November 2011
READING a large swathe of newspapers, one is struck by how many ‘analysts’ got it wrong again in the Libyan case. It takes a doughty critical analyst to touch the right cords, I once wrote.
Some analysts resorted to the duplicitous methods where all those who were supporting Col Gaddafi were regarded as enemies, while the bootlickers and their backers in the Western world were sold to the nation as doyens of truth.
These ‘analysts’ advanced some spurious, superficial and shallow arguments vilifying anyone who defended the territorial integrity of Africa, as a dunce and an enemy of freedom.
The impression that has been created of Col Gaddafi being a brutal dictator is nothing further from the truth. The fact remains that Col Gaddafi supported national liberation movements in Southern Africa, helped to transform the OAU (Organisation of African Unity) to the AU (African Union) and presided over a country that was not indebted to the IMF and the World Bank.
Libyans enjoyed free electricity, education and medicine and other benefits under Gaddafi. I am also reminded by an anonymous African woman that it was Gaddafi who in a one off deal of US$400 million offered all of Africa its first revolution in modern times - connecting the entire continent by telephone, television, radio broadcasting and several other technological applications such as telemedicine and distance teaching.
The West made vague promises for 14 years and never wanted to finance such project. Gaddafi put an end to the futile pleas to the Western ‘benefactors’ with their exorbitant interest rates and put US$300 million on the table, the African Development Bank added US$50 million more and the West African Development Bank a further US$27 million, followed by China and Russia who helped launch satellites for South Africa, Nigeria, Angola, and Algeria. That gesture deprived the West of US$500 million per year and billions of dollars in debt and interest.
Using the popular upheaval of what others called ‘the Arab Uprising’, as a cover, France, Britain, the USA and others intervened in Libya with 26 000 sorties after securing to drum up support and a UN sanction on the phony pretext of avoiding another Rwanda while the real intention was to stop the new currency Libya was advocating that would rival the dollar and the euro.
The West also wanted to secure oil contracts and a base for AFRICOM, the institutional arm of the US military intervention on the African continent, as well as to legitimatize regime change in international law by abusing the international humanitarian law norm of the ‘responsibility to protect’. Of course, this is in line with the “Transformational Diplomacy”, in other words, “Regime Change” doctrine, as outlined on January 18, 2006, by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
It transpired, according to the succinct and accurate analysis by Bill Van Auken and Mahmood Mamdani that appeared in the New Era of October 27, 2011 that the late Col Gaddafi, after continuous NATO bombardment and a brutal siege by the ‘rebels’, tried to flee from Sirte. His convoy was, however, detected by US spy planes and attacked by the American Predator Drone aircraft operated by remote control from an air base in Nevada, and then an American AWAC surveillance aircraft alerted the French jet fighters, which dropped two 500-pound bombs on Col Gaddafi’s convoy.
The air strikes left the Libyan leader wounded and then hunted down by the NATO-backed ‘rebels’ who were operating with ‘advisors’ from the SAS British Special Forces. Col Gaddafi was then dragged, kicked and beaten bloody, with guns and fists before being thrown onto the hood of a vehicle.
A number of jumpy video footages showed a gun placed on his head and then his body on the pavement, blood pouring from the back of his skull. It defies logic why they didn’t give Col Gaddafi a fair trial to defend himself in a court of law as per international norms. It seems, despite adopting the UNSC Resolution to pull out of Libya nem con on October 31, 2011, Gaddafi’s shadow looms over the Western leaders’ shoddy deals as they are afraid their hypocrisy and their dirty trading will be exposed, including when their electoral campaigns were financed by Col Gaddafi.
The Libyan drama and horror, if one can describe it that way, unfolded right under our nose and happened with our complicity and only a few dared to say something, including our Head of State, H.E. President Hifikepunye Pohamba and our Founding President and Father of the Nation, H.E. Dr Sam Nujoma. The rest were cowed into submission and chose to turn a blind eye.
In fact, it was under an African Secretary General that the proposal for ‘the responsibility to protect’ was tabled and it was with the assistance of African states that the resolution authorising intervention in Libya was passed in the Security Council.
It seems, while Africans were sleeping on duty, Western powers were creating a political and legal framework for intervention in otherwise independent countries through the UN Security Council and the International Criminal Court.
The former identifies states guilty of committing ‘crimes against humanity’ and sanctions intervention as part of the ‘responsibility to protect civilians’ while the latter, in tow with the other, targets the leaders of the state in question for criminal investigation and prosecution. What this teaches us is that the West has found a formula to intervene in other countries, so cry my beloved continent!
Professor Chinweizu already warned us when he said that the old global order that has inflected holocaust, through genocide and culturecide and has visited exploitation, through slavery and colonialism was not a thing of the past; it is still very much with us.
However, Chinweizu asserted, we cannot overlook our complicity in what happened, and is still happening to us. We must find out what deficiencies in our sense of identity, what quirks in our mentality, what faults in our feelings of solidarity made it possible and still make it possible for us to succumb to the divide and conquer tactics of our exploiters.
Mahmood Mamdani wrote in ‘The Politics of Naming: Genocide, Civil War, Insurgency’ that we need to come to the realisation that peace cannot be built on humanitarian intervention, which is the language of big powers. The history of colonialism should teach us that every major intervention has been justified as humanitarian, a ‘civilising mission’.
It was no mere idiosyncrasy that inspired the devotion with which many colonial officers and archivists recorded the details of barbarity among the colonised. The chronicling of atrocities had a practical purpose: it provided the moral pretext for intervention. Now, as then, imperial interventions claim to have a dual purpose: on the one hand, to rescue minority victims of ongoing barbarities and, on the other, to quarantine majority perpetrators with the stated aim of civilising them.
Iraq should have acted as a warning on this score. In Iraq, it was said to be a cycle of insurgency and counter-insurgency; in Darfur, it was called genocide and now in Libya it was called a humanitarian mission to protect civilians. Why the difference and who does the naming? Mamdani asked. It is said Rwanda is the guilt that America must expiate, and to do so it must be ready to intervene, for good and against evil, even globally. That lesson is inscribed at the heart of Samantha Power’s book, ‘A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide’.
As always, newspaper writing and TV news broadcasts have always sketched violence and seem fascinated by and fixated on the gory details, describing the worst of the atrocities in gruesome detail and chronicling the rise in the number of them. This voyeuristic approach accompanies a moralistic discourse whose effect is both to obscure the politics of violence and position the reader as a virtuous, not just a concerned observer.
The journalists give us a simple moral world, where a group of perpetrators face a group of victims, but where neither history nor motivation is thinkable because both are outside history and context.
Mamdani then concluded, whatever its analytical weaknesses, the depoliticisation of violence give its proponents a distinct political advantage to occupy the moral high ground. The campaign presents itself as apolitical but moral, its concern limited only to saving lives.
The language used is full of figures of speech such as euphemisms, innuendos, sarcasms, paradoxes and pathetic fallacies. Little wonder, US Secretary of State, Mrs Hilary Clinton also used the asyndeton figure of speech boastfully literally meaning ‘we came, we saw, we conquered’.
“With the sobering benefit of hindsight, we know only too well that clearly, hordes of us, blinded by our euphoria and uncritical optimism after the halcyon years of the inspirationally bracing and emotionally rapturous era of the prospect of political independence, believed much too easily that Africa’s independence was going to rapidly lay the foundations for a prosperous and advancing area of humanity and the scales of illusion took long to fall off our eyes and we are definitely not seeing what we ostensibly bargained for,” said Professor Prah.
In our desire to establish a new social order – apparently without bothering about how it would protect itself from enemies – nobody saw it fit at independence, Chinweizu said, to ask the paramount and pertinent question of collective security that should have informed whatever new social order we set out to build.
In our amnesia and haste, we have treated our enemies as our mentors and “development partners”, which have left us vulnerable and unprepared for enemy attack. Had we sought to heed the fundamental strategic principle to know our enemies, we would have not paid the heavy price from the neo-colonial onslaught and war been waged on us. Had we made collective security our concern, it would have obliged us to examine the history of our relations with others and make provisions for a multilateral pact of mutual defence and a concept of security broadened beyond military security to include economic as well as social and cultural security, Chinweizu concluded.
Instead, some were busy dancing the mumbo jumbos with tantrums and turned west including inviting them presumably to oust ‘rebels’ from their territories, while others are now drooling at the prospect of a western intervention. We are apologetic and cannot even empower our people through enforced mechanisms, while others are caught in the jostling for positions and the daggers-drawn out in contests for the few crumbs left from the table of the Western masters.
“We allowed fidelity to orthodoxy to stand in the way of our quest for the betterment of the lives of the masses while China, Vietnam and others have found a way of benefiting from the world order without jettisoning wholesale, the ideals of Ho Chi Minh, Pham Phan Dong, Vo Nguyen Giap, Mao ze Tung, etc.
And they have done this by not clinging dogmatically to philosophical precepts but by being pragmatic and holding fast to strategic principles and being flexible in tactics,” concluded Prah.
Pardon my tautology and pleonasm but it seems we stand at the threshold of a new world order. Hence, Africa needs creative and innovative leaders who will not sleep on duty but who will invest in education, innovation, defence and “unlock the concealed potential and destiny of our country” as the Governor of the Bank of Namibia, Ipumbu Shiimi said.
Above all, we need unifiers and nation builders, to be able to consolidate the gains of our hard won independences because ultimately, we are the only plausible architects and engineers of our progress and no amount of ostensible western largess or salving magnanimity will turn Africa around.
• Disclaimer: These views do not necessarily represent the views of my employer nor am I paid to write them.