By R. T. Luke V. Browne
KINGSTOWN, St Vincent, Monday May 16, 2011 – My recent article titled “Is NATO Fighting Against the Interests of the OECS?” showed that the Libya crisis has implications for countries in the African Diaspora, particularly those of the Eastern Caribbean. The first job was to show that the fate of Libyans, and by extension Africans, and the fate of Caribbean men and women are tied together. Our African heritage and experience of the Grenadian Revolution, the Cuban Revolution and the more distant Haitian Revolution inform our point of view.
There was beneficial feedback. Karina Johnson, a UWI friend from Grenada, was incensed by Washington’s insults to our intelligence. Karina knows too well that American opposition to the Grenadian Revolution had nothing to do with human rights; and is wary of suggestions that NATO fights to protect civilians and to promote Democracy and social justice in Libya. Marlon Stevenson, my countryman, directed me to an article written by Michel Collon, and published the day after my initial commentary appeared, that laid bare the real reasons for American and European attacks on the Libyan Revolution. I bring these reasons to your attention.
Remember that the USA maintained an important army base in Libya before Gadaffi shut it down in 1969. On October 1, 2008 the USA moved to impose military command over Africa with the establishment of AFRICOM (US Africa Command). All but five African nations subjected themselves to AFRICOM; though no one was willing to host its headquarters. Libya was among the defiant five and therefore subjected itself in no way to Western military control.
Don’t forget that forty five million Americans live below the poverty line. There is apparently no money in the United States to support schools and public services; or in Europe to finance pensions and to create jobs. The point made by Michel Collon is that there are billions at hand to preserve the excess of the wealthy bankers who plunged the world into a financial crisis, we could allow them to distribute US $140 billion last year as rewards and bonuses to their shareholders, traders and speculators; but we just can’t find enough money to ensure that another group of people could eat every day.
They only wage war, at home or abroad, to preserve the profit of multinational corporations; and these corporations profit at our expense. They try to prevent the liberation of poor Americans and Europeans as much they try to prevent the liberation of Africa and the Arab world. Why don’t they demonstrate a concern for social justice at home before they wage war abroad? They should know, as we pointed out elsewhere, that Libya is the highest ranked African country by the Human Development Index and that Libya looks out for its “sub-Saharan” African brothers and sisters.
“ 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. ”–Luke Browne
I remember when a friend called Jedidiah Francis looked out for me; so I could appreciate what Libya has done for Africa. After arriving in the United Kingdom as a student several years ago, I quickly realized how expensive it was to call home from mainstream landlines and cell phones. The rates were exorbitant but I couldn’t do better if I was going to stay in touch with loved ones. I spent more on telephone bills and less on my other main concerns – food, books and remittances in support of Caribbean families. Other students were in my position and many of them financed their studies through loans from Caribbean banks and by other means. So student loans were used to pay unnecessarily high phone bills; and the student was left with debt and the company with profit. A developed nation was exploiting the wealth of Caribbean countries. Jedidiah Francis was the only other Vincentian at my university and he was my senior. He empowered me when he pointed out much cheaper calling options. That’s what you call economic liberation.
In the 1990s telephone calls to and from Africa were charged at the highest rate in the world. At that time Europe was extracting ½ billion dollars annually in taxes on telephone conversations—even calls within the same African country were subject to the tax—for voice transit on European satellites such as Intelsat. Africa was paying 500 million dollars every year when securing its own communications satellite would only cost 400 hundred million dollars payable in one installment, remove further obligations to Europe and, ultimately, lower call costs.
So in 1992 forty five African countries came together to create an entity called RASCOM whose mission was to secure Africa’s very first communication satellite. It was not straightforward to find the initial capital, and for 14 years RASCOM pleaded with the World Bank, the IMF and other Western institutions to finance the purchase of the satellite to no avail. The Western powers were careful enough, though, to dangle the prospect of financing the venture before the Africans every now and then to ensure their good behaviour.
In 2006, Gadaffi took Africa off its knees. He provided 300 million dollars which was later supplemented by contributions from a few other African sources. Call costs plummeted after RASCOM accomplished its mission on December 26, 2007. Since then, a second African satellite was launched and individual African nations have launched satellites. There was also an explosion of African creativity. By 2020, Collon informs us, we expect the first satellite that uses 100% African technology, built on African soil, and that holds its own against the best satellites in the world—but costs ten times less—to be launched. Jedidiah Francis is to me what Muammar Gadaffi is to a continent.
Britain and France were most eager to commence airstrikes against Libya. War is their means of displacing the German and Italian oil companies that make significant contributions to the development of Libya’s infrastructure, including its irrigation systems. These former colonial powers scamper to re-inflate their respective economies and secure an unsustainable energy supply. They approach Libya in 2011 in the same way that they approached the West Indies in earlier centuries.
So to tell us that you fight to protect Libyans when we see the Sultan of Bahrain massacre unarmed demonstrators with the help of two thousand Saudi soldiers sent by the United States is to insult our intelligence. To say that you fight for Democracy in Libya when your helicopters and weapons are used to suppress a democratic uprising in Yemen is to insult our intelligence. Why don’t you fight for social justice at home before you fight for social justice abroad?
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. Colonel Gadaffi is the enemy because he developed relations with countries and companies that do not subordinate the interests of Libya. He offends the West because he uses petrodollars to fuel an ambitious programme to renew Libya’s infrastructure, to build schools and hospitals and to industrialize the country when they could be used to pay the bonuses of wealthy executives in the United States, Britain and France. We are at war because he allowed Africa to become independent of European satellites. Gadaffi is a rambling and ranting dictator because he doesn’t take dictates from Washington, London or Paris or subject Libya to America’s military command. He’s a mad tyrant because he’s Africa’s freedom fighter.
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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