Libya's Moment in the Sun

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Routinely,
politicians and pundits make grand statements about the unfailing
correctness of certain of our nation’s foreign entanglements. If
one were ignorant of history, he might be able to take it seriously
when men like Rumsfeld and Bush refer to our successes in Afghanistan,
and how these successes will provide templates for similar accomplishments
in Iraq.

Enough has been written about the Afghan quagmire to establish that
the US record in the resolution of that situation is one of, at
best, mixed success. So why are we supposed to take seriously assurances
that the US government can “control” Iraq in any meaningful way?
A telling occurrence on cable news recently was when a newscaster
referred to a “peaceful” Shi’ite protest, implying that the lack
of armed conflict was a positive sign. While no one who matters
is willing to go on record saying that Iraqi street combat is a
positive thing, one might find it troubling – if he supported the
US role in Iraq – to note that peace only came to the situation
when US troops withdrew. In the case discussed above, the troops
turned their vehicles around and left the locals to their own devices.

Indeed, it’s telling that most “global security” situations are
resolved when the US decides to mind its own business. What’s been
going down in Somalia lately? I’ve been waiting for some word from
Brit Hume, but so far – nothing. Likewise, the nuclear threats posed
by India and Pakistan – both potential enemies of the US at least
on par with Canada – don’t get much play from Lou Dobbs. There’s
no reason to mention such matters, as they would detract from our
battle with that faceless, stateless monolith that has conspired,
since the days of Woodrow Wilson, to take away our freedoms.

Some called it, once upon a time, Communism. Beware the Chi Coms!
Fortify your home and meager possessions against the dreaded Sandinistas!
Before that, there was Nazism. No mention need be made of how US
business concerns acted as enablers for certain regimes we later
found it necessary to oppose. To be honest, I get bored typing that
list over and over again; it just seems so dreary.

And, besides, when the US cultivates an ally, it’s for keeps. Consider
the way John Wright, author of the 1969 Praeger edition of Libya
for the “Books That Matter” series, closed his detailed version
of that proud nation’s history.

“Most
of Libyan history is the record of the doings of foreigners in Libya,
and of domination from Tunisia or Egypt, Europe, or Western Asia.
But things have gone well for Libya since 1943, and a country that
achieved and consolidated independence and became one of the world’s
main oil producers in less than two decades can no longer be dismissed
as a ‘buffer state of sand." Libya is ready for more important
things than in the days when, like Shakespeare’s Bohemia, it was
merely a ‘desert country near the sea.’”

Gadhafi must have thought so. You remember Moammar, don’t you? Them
bastards in Washington pre-empted Head of the Class to hit one of
them there pre-emptive whatdayacallits, taking out one of the despot’s
babies. Moammar liked Libya’s strategic position so much, apparently,
that he toppled King Idris in 1969 in what CNN
calls a “bloodless coup.”

The Nasserite Gadhafi, to borrow a phrase from Marge Schott regarding
another of the “world’s worst leaders," was “good in the beginning,
but went too far.” Wallets were flush in Libya for a while, with
an estimated $9000 per capita income at one point. But by the time
Reagan protected us from the Libyan menace in 1986, the per capita
income was less than a fifth of that former number.

The parallels between Libya’s decline and Baathist Iraq’s fall from
grace are unmistakable. Both countries were led by men the US couldn’t
do business with, and both peoples suffered as a result. The lesson
to be learned by leaders of “developing nations," clearly, is to
let the US control all meaningful aspects of every nation’s development.

Imperialism, like the war protesters said. But what else is to be
done by the current administration, locked into subsidy arrangements
with the military-industrial complex, the prison-industrial complex,
and agribusiness that are such bad business that controlling the
world’s economy [and, by extension, its people] is the only way
to make good on our unserviceable, ever-mounting debt? We are in
what certain neo-cons rightly call World War IV for economic reasons,
and any argument to the contrary [such as that we are "avenging
9-11"] is hokum, for show, designed to titillate the addled masses.

May
23, 2003

Anthony
Gancarski [send him mail]
has written for CounterPunch
and other publications; Utne Reader dubbed his Internet work
“Best of the Web.” A writer for the local Folio Weekly, he lives
in Jacksonville, Florida.


     

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