Yet another oil producing nation in the Middle East is today being subjected to imperial aggression. Yet again, the munificent imperial powers have found it in themselves to protect civilians by raining destruction on their country. Yet again we'll hear the matter-of-fact exculpation of political and military leaders in the imperialist countries for attacks by their armies on buses and hospitals: after all, this is war, and 'these things' should be expected.
We've all been witness to how imperial air power has been used in recent times to protect civilians: from the decade-long use of depleted uranium against shepherds, civilian air-raid shelters, hospitals and residential centres in Iraq; through cruise missiles incinerating television stations, foreign diplomatic missions, and refugee convoys in Yugoslavia; to regular air-raids on villages and wedding-parties in Afghanistan and in Pakistan's north-west.
Some have questioned why the imperial powers didn't impose no-fly zones on Israel when it invaded Lebanon or when it attacked Gaza. Some question why no-fly zones aren't being enforced over Bahrain and Yemen (and, no doubt, will ask it for Syria and Jordan tomorrow). The real question, though, isn't why are the imperial powers not using force against whoever we might think is worse than their present bogey man. The real question we should be asking is why is nobody raining bombs on us; why is nobody destroying our ability to use advanced weapons and heavy ordnance against the peoples of the world?
In preparation for the military aggression, we've been subjected to an equally brutal ideological onslaught—aimed principally at Mu’ammar al-Qadhdhafi—which has enlisted all the classical tropes of colonial racism: al-Qadhdhafi is unhinged, he's irrational, given over to violent and extreme outbursts; he talks and acts like a petty street-thug; unconcerned at the fate of his own people, and so anaesthetised to human suffering by his own brutality that he's willing to unleash chemical and biological weapons. In short, he's a madman, not fit to run his own country. The imperial powers, of course, are rational; they are moved by human suffering; they do know how to run former colonial states; they do know and act in the best interests of peoples they ruled but half a century ago. Even the standard accusations of mismanagement of natural resources and corruption should be seen in this light: we, the liberal, humanitarian, and white peoples of the world would, of course, manage their natural resources much more wisely and effectively if only we were in control of them.
To be sure, Libya is not a 'normal' state. But we cannot and must not indulge in racist fantasising to explain this. Libya's 'abnormality' is entirely a product of its 'skewed' resource extraction-based capitalist economy and reliance on guest-worker labour. Exactly this constellation accounts for the 'abnormal' political forms that prevail in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. But whereas in the latter it has produced the last of the Arab monarchic states, in the case of Libya it produced the last of the Arab world's radical, republican-nationalist states. And this state has often had an anti-imperialist and, more recently, pan-Africanist content. Libya has been at the forefront in pushing for greater levels of African unity and cooperation, notably with the creation of the African Union; and it gave unconditional support to the anti-apartheid struggle of the ANC at a time when the British government was denouncing Nelson Mandela as a terrorist. It also rendered a great deal of material support to the National Union of Mineworkers at a time when the British state was engaged in a brutal repression of striking miners.
On the other hand, little seems to be concretely known of the character of those forces in Libya that have nevertheless been variously labelled with confidence as 'revolutionary' or 'pro-democracy'. Some things, though, are clearly known.
For a start it is hard to imagine any 'democrat', much less a 'revolutionary', marching with quite so much unabashed glee under the standard of the old, pre-revolution Senussi monarchy that prostituted itself first to Italian and then to British imperialism. Some have argued that this is simply a means of demonstrating that 'another Libya is possible', one without Mu’ammar al-Qadhdhafi. But Libyans more than anybody else are fully aware of exactly what associations that flag carries: associations that are neither revolutionary, nor even simply democratic.
The whole world has also seen the reaction in Benghazi to the Security Council's vote in favour of aggression against Libya: wild cheering and a fireworks display to salute the extension of NATO air power to yet another subaltern state.
It is, furthermore, hard to ignore the attacks on and threats against black Libyans by the 'revolutionary forces' when assessing their true nature. Equally, as we in Britain all know very well from experience, attacks on foreign workers are never a feature of any form of progressive politics.
Not a single concrete demand has been articulated by these forces which can be demonstrated to include any socially or economically radical, revolutionary or even democratic content; and this from forces who've had the wildly sympathetic ear of the world's news agencies for almost a month. What we do have is open affiliation to the monarchic past, open cheering of imperialism, and racist attacks on blacks and foreign workers. It is abundantly clear that if the imperial powers succeed in bringing these forces to power (as is their clear intention), the Libyan state will be wholly in hock to those powers—just as is the case in Iraq, and, even more so, in Afghanistan. Libya's people and its natural resources—including the largest known oil reserves in all of Africa—will be at the mercy of imperialist capital.
It is imperative that all those who opposed the wars imposed on Iraq and Afghanistan mobilise against this new aggression aimed at Libya. We should call for an immediate and unconditional end to all military operations against Libya, and the withdrawal of all those forces—naval, aerial, and 'intelligence gathering'—that have been put in place to encircle Libya and to facilitate this aggression.