Forget â€œdemocracyâ€; Libya, unlike Egypt and Tunisia, is an oil power.
Many a plush office of United States and European elites will be salivating at the prospect of taking advantage of a small window of opportunity afforded by the anti-Muammar Gaddafi revolution to establish – or expand – a beachhead. Thereâ€™s all that oil, of course.
Thereâ€™s also the allure, close by, of the US$10 billion, 4,128 kilometer long Trans-Saharan gas pipeline from Nigeria to Algeria, expected to be online in 2015.
Thus the world, once again, is reintroduced to war porn, history as farce, a bad rerun of â€œshock and aweâ€. Everyone – the United Nations, the US, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) – is up in arms about a no-fly zone. Special forces are on the move, as are US warships.
Breathless US senators compare Libya with Yugoslavia. Tony â€œThe Return of the Living Deadâ€ Blair is back in missionary zeal form, its mirror image played by British Prime Minister David Cameron, duly mocked by Gaddafiâ€™s son, the â€œmodernizerâ€ Saif al-Islam. Thereâ€™s fear of â€œchemical weaponsâ€. Welcome back to humanitarian imperialism – on crack.
And like a character straight out of Scary Movie, even war-on-Iraq-architect Paul Wolfowitz wants a NATO-enforced no-fly zone, as the Foreign Policy Initiative – the son of the Project for the New American Century – publishes an open letter to US President Barack Obama demanding military boots to turn Libya into a protectorate ruled by NATO in the name of the â€œinternational community.â€
The mere fact that all these people are supporting the Libya protesters makes it all stink to – over the rainbow – high heavens. Sending His Awesomeness Charlie Sheen to whack Gaddafi would seem more believable.
It was up to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to introduce a note of sanity, describing the notion of a no-fly zone over Libya as â€œsuperfluousâ€. This means in practice a Russian veto at the UN Security Council. Earlier, China had already changed the conversation.
In their Sheen-style hysteria – with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton desperately offering â€œany kind of assistanceâ€ – Western politicians did not bother to consult with the people who are risking their lives to overthrow Gaddafi. At a press conference in Benghazi, the spokesman for the brand new Libyan National Transitional Council, human-rights lawyer Abdel-Hafidh Ghoga, was blunt, â€œWe are against any foreign intervention or military intervention in our internal affairs … This revolution will be completed by our people.â€
The people in question, by the way, are protecting Libyaâ€™s oil industry, and even loading supertankers destined to Europe and China. The people in question do not have much to do with opportunists such as former Gaddafi-appointed justice minister Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, who wants a provisional government to prepare for elections in three months. Moreover, the people in question, as al-Jazeera has reported, have been saying they donâ€™t want foreign intervention for a week now.
The Benghazi council prefers to describe itself as the â€œpolitical face for the revolutionâ€, organizing civic affairs, and not established as an interim government. Meanwhile, a military committee of officer defectors is trying to set up a skeleton army to be sent to Tripoli; through tribal contacts, they seem to have already infiltrated small cells into the vicinity of Tripoli.
Whether this self-appointed revolutionary leadership – splinter elements of the established elite, the tribes and the army – will be the face of a new regime, or whether they will be overtaken by younger, more radical activists, remains to be seen.
Shower me with hypocrisy
None of this anyway has placated the hysterical Western narrative, according to which there are only two options for Libya; to become a failed state or the next al-Qaeda haven. How ironic. Up to 2008, Libya was dismissed by Washington as a rogue state and an unofficial member of the â€œaxis of evilâ€ that originally included Iraq, Iran and North Korea.
As former NATO supreme commander Wesley Clark confirmed years ago, Libya was on the Pentagon/neo-conservative official list to be taken out after Iraq, along with Somalia, Sudan, Lebanon, Syria and the holy grail, Iran. But as soon as wily Gaddafi became an official partner in the â€œwar on terrorâ€, Libya was instantly upgraded by the George W Bush administration to civilized status.
As for the UN Security Council unanimously deciding to refer the Gaddafi regime to the International Criminal Court (ICC), itâ€™s useful to remember that the ICC was created in mid-1998 by 148 countries meeting in Rome. The final vote was 120 to seven. The seven that voted against the ICC were China, Iraq, Israel, Qatar and Yemen, plus Libya and … the United States. Incidentally, Israel killed more Palestinian civilians in two weeks around new year 2008 than Gaddafi these past two weeks.
This tsunami of hypocrisy inevitably raises the question; what does the West know about the Arab world anyway? Recently the executive board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) praised a certain northern African country for its â€œambitious reform agendaâ€ and its â€œstrong macroeconomic performance and the progress on enhancing the role of the private sectorâ€. The country was Libya. The IMF had only forgotten to talk to the main actors: the Libyan people.
And what to make of Anthony Giddens – the guru behind Blairâ€™s â€œThird Wayâ€ – who in March 2007 penned an article to The Guardian saying â€œLibya is not especially repressiveâ€ and â€œGaddafi seems genuinely popularâ€? Giddens bet that Libya â€œin two or three decadesâ€™ time would be a Norway of North Africa: prosperous, egalitarian and forward-lookingâ€. Tripoli may well be on its way to Oslo – but without the Gaddafi clan. The US, Britain and France are so awkwardly maneuvering for best post-Gaddafi positioning itâ€™s almost comical to watch. Beijing, even against its will, waited until extra time to condemn Gaddafi at the UN, but made sure it was following the lead of African and Asian countries (smart move, as in â€œwe listen to the voices of the Southâ€). Beijing is extremely worried that its complex economic relationship with oil source Libya does not unravel (amid all the hoopla about fleeing expats, China quietly evacuated no less than 30,000 Chinese workers in the oil and construction business).
Once again; itâ€™s the oil, stupid. A crucial strategic factor for Washington is that post-Gaddafi Libya may represent a bonanza for US Big Oil – which for the moment has been kept away from Libya. Under this perspective, Libya may be considered as yet one more battleground between the US and China. But while China goes for energy and business deals in Africa, the US bets on its forces in AFRICOM as well as NATO advancing â€œmilitary cooperationâ€ with the African Union.
The anti-Gaddafi movement must remain on maximum alert. Itâ€™s fair to argue the absolute majority of Libyans are using all their resourcefulness and are wiling to undergo any sacrifice to build a united, transparent and democratic country. And they will do it on their own. They may accept humanitarian help. As for war porn, throw it in the dustbin of history.
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.