By R. T. Luke V. Browne
KINGSTOWN, St Vincent, Wednesday May 25, 2011 – Not so long ago a civil—as opposed to a criminal—court jury in America found the City of Philadelphia guilty of using excess force, and violating human and constitutional rights, when it bombed and killed members of a black liberation group. Dropping bombs on occupied homes was declared unconscionable, but no public official ever faced criminal prosecution. No one suggests that international crimes are associated with America’s horrible destruction, under false pretense, of Iraqi lives. Muammar Gadaffi, though, should be dragged before an International Criminal Court that has no authority over Americans.
What about NATO’s allied leaders? Aren’t they the indiscriminate aggressors in the battle for Libya? And don’t they fight outside their local jurisdiction? Aren’t they the ones whose actions have reverberated across Africa and the Middle East and stained the conscience of the world? Who, really, has dealt another horrible blow to a deliberately underdeveloped Africa?
The population of Libya is 50 times less than the population of the USA
President Obama’s pledge that America would not use military force to effect regime change in Libya was reassuring. I admire Obama and didn’t believe that America could be contemplating an Iraq-like mission. The United Nations had a real interest in preventing a humanitarian disaster comparable to Rwanda’s 1994 tragedy. Now that the Libyan government has agreed to necessary political reform, demonstrates a credible commitment to working with the Rebels, and has welcomed international mediation, why does NATO continue the bombardment? Why is an international call for ceasefire led by Pope Benedict XVI being ignored? How did the home of Gadaffi’s son become a command-and-control centre? Is it because the leader of the 42 year old Libyan Revolution was expected to be there? Why does NATO declare a special interest in protecting civilians who do not belong to Gadaffi’s family, tribe or wider support base? What if you strip Gadaffi of military advantage and then realize that the he has majority support in Libya? You’ll then arm and train the Rebels so they could defeat the majority? You’ll tie the hands of soldiers behind their backs and place them at the mercy of Rebels with tanks and guns? Inverting the one-sided contest you wanted to avoid? And this war is not about regime change? Was it about protecting civilians in the first place? One American asks: “Was Obama stampeded into war by hysterical talk of impending atrocities that had no basis in fact?” Wasn’t Libya an ally in the fight against terrorism? Couldn’t the CIA have a hand in the destabilization of another African country?
We acknowledge the dissatisfaction in Libya. There is dissatisfaction in every country including the United States of America. Consider the growing discontent in places like Wisconsin and Ohio, where Americans protest measures against the interest of workers in those states. It’s no mere coincidence that the states involved are from northern USA. It has been found that these states are disadvantaged by federal tax laws. Northerners are roughly Democrats and Southerners are roughly Republicans. Southerners were for slavery while Northerners were against slavery. The divide is more or less rooted in original settlement patterns and geographic differences, and it persists today because of a deeply entrenched culture and slowly changing demographics. But there is still the United States of America.
The population of Libya is 50 times less than the population of the USA. Libya, for the most part, is ethnically and religiously homogeneous. Geography, at least, tells us that Libya’s East-West divide is different from America’s North-South split. But there is, in more ways than one, a vast desert between Libya’s two main population centres – Benghazi in the East and Tripoli in the West. The country’s East-West divide is rooted in historical tribal antagonisms inherited by Gadaffi’s Libya.
We see the genuine indignation on the face of protestors. We notice the development gap between East Libya and West Libya. The Rebels would like to solve problems like those faced by workers in the United States. Suppose we find out that Libyan intelligence agents stimulated the revolt in Wisconsin and Ohio in a bid to destabilize the American government? Suppose Libyans armed and trained American protesters and tied the hands of their government? How seriously would we take a group of Libyans calling for the resignation and exile of an American president? What if Libya advocates dividing America into a group of northern states and a group of southern states? Creating two different nations? When did war become a humanitarian option? And since when Africans are considered human?
We conclude from America’s example that national unity is in the interest of Libyans. Libyans conquered the Sahara desert with their irrigation systems and could conquer it again after political reforms. Though there are even challenges to internal consensus in the east, a federal solution is no more difficult to achieve in Libya than it was to achieve in America. And we don’t solve national problems associated with the marginalization of the east by the marginalization of the west. One thing that Libyans are united against is the foreign occupation of their country. We could play a role, however, by ensuring that there is an honest referendum on Gadaffi’s leadership as a first step. Let him be judged by Libyan’s and not by a sham called an International Criminal Court. We could then do our best to ensure that Libya’s political future reflects the referendum decision.
Colonel Gadaffi’s serious errors do not prevent us from giving him credit where credit is due. The international community might also help address Libya’s dearth of qualified and experienced personnel and build up the country’s public infrastructure. We might be able to help address the shortcomings of Libya’s education system. In previous commentary we discussed Gadaffi’s appreciation for Democracy and showed that he has made no ordinary contribution to human development in Africa and the Caribbean. It’s just that more reform is now necessary. Cuba is a model of well managed reform. My earlier article on the real reasons for NATO’s attacks on Libya established that “the war is less about Gadaffi’s threat to his people and more about his threat to countries seeking to recolonize Libya and take control of its oil.” After reading that article, a Nigerian who I never met and did not know sent me a message via facebook to say that he is saddened by a world that “steals some people’s fate so others can remain wealthy and rich.” The Nigerian, whose fate was stolen, understands this world quite well. I accepted his corresponding friend request and told him that I am sad too but that we need to keep the faith. There is still hope for a world where what is good for America is also good for Africa.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of R. T. Luke V. Browne. Mr Browne is a West Indian politician and writer based in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
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