Blog Archive

Blog Archive – March, 2011

Libya war means "Africom, here I come!"

March 31, 2011

by Barbara Nimri Aziz

America’s pet AFRICOM needs a home—if not by coercion, then by war. 

It’s not really about oil. It’s about a nice little piece of real estate strategically located in Africa. Just a few hundred square miles would be fine, hardly noticeable among the vast stretches of uninhabited (sic) Sahara, for example. 

For the past decade American military strategists have been house-hunting. They desperately need a continental base for their Africa regional military command, known as AFRICOM.  

Although working for years on this project, with an African American general appointed to head the project, Washington’s AFRICOM is still homeless. The US has been unable to convince (or coerce) even friends like Nigeria or Ghana to welcome a US military installation. Steadfast rejections. Although any host would find the arrangement very profitable, and it would doubtless offer it security (as per Jordan with its easy access to US forces in Iraq).  

Several attempts have been made to entice first a West African state, then some North African leader. Now a chance presents itself: Libyans' pursuit of democracy. What an opportunity Libya now provides for Washington’s military’s needs!   

Occasionally a political analyst raises the issue of Africom, and then only tangentially, in their review of west aggression against Libya. Mainly they see the West using humanitarian issues, peoples’ thirst for democracy and the newfound madness of a leader to justify military attacks and a probable invasion.  

Michel Collon of Investig’Action, in his excellent overviews of the Middle East, points to the long–established plan (led by France) for control of the Mediterranean. Only Libya remained a major obstacle in France’s realization of complete command of the area, he suggests. (Although Syria at some point may also been seen as rejectionist.) I refer you to Collon for details of France’s regional plans and Libya’s role therein; but let’s return to US interests in Africa. 

For more than a decade military wars and disease raged across Africa with little American concern. During this time however, North Africa was symbolically, economically and diplomatically sliced away from the Middle East. It became ‘South Med’ or  ‘The Maghreb’ in EU parlance. 

Before the current revolutions across Arab States, the USA became aware of how vital Africa was as an alternative source of oil and gas. Not insignificant was China’s expansion in the area too. In 2008 an Algerian observer noted the shift: Africa was no longer just an AIDs story. It was a new place for western investments!  

Yes, China was ahead of the game, with investments, development projects, partnerships and an estimated million workers in Africa. (Note how these men suddenly appear in the story of the flight of migrant workers from Libya.)  The USA and Europe awakened to the fact that China had to be matched if not thwarted on the rich continent. That was one issue. Another was protection for its investments. 

Since 2008 US has been polishing its image of Africa, and it has launched itself anew into the area. But it could find no host for the critical AFRICOM component of its neo-colonial policy. Even as the USA heightened the profile of AQIM (Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb) neither Algeria nor Mali would buy into it; not Morocco or Mauritania.  

On the surface the USA has no immediate interest-besides humanitarian aid and democracy, they say-- in North Africa, especially in Libya. Yes, Libya is rich in energy resources, but as in the case of Iraq, it has never refused to sell to the west. On its side, through one European intermediary or another, the west never totally dismissed the unpredictable and irascible Libyan leader, or his sons. Libyan investments are spread throughout the industries of European partners and the USA.  

Suddenly all those assets are frozen, and the march towards Tripoli is on. The US is a major partner in this war, despite what the president claims, and when victory is at hand, AFRICOM will be the first investment in Libyan real estate. 

[ Libya war means "Africom, here I come!" ]

Time to hear from Arab Americans

March 23, 2011

by Barbara Nimri Aziz

Time for Arabs in America to follow the lead of their families in the Arab World. 

Across the entire globe people are watching the revolutions in the Arab world with some admiration (and apprehension). Leaders who share the excesses and abuses of those under attack doubtless feel threatened now. 

For most of the world these ongoing events are arguably inspiring. We witness the restoration of dignity in Arab voices and on the faces of Arabs from Morocco to Iraq.  

Arab Americans, particularly as it became clear that the former Egyptian president was doomed, dare to come into the streets to voice their support for Egyptian people. Of course their help was not needed in Tahrir Square. Nor is it required by the Yemenis, or Bahrainis as millions risk all to achieve that dignity that is now, finally, within their grasp. In the US, I am waiting for the spark to ignite our Arab Americans. 

Americans of Arab heritage have enjoyed freedoms and successes of various degrees in the USA. But have they enjoyed real self-esteem? I think not.  

In a few cases where wealth is accompanied by distinction, individuals may experience precious dignity. Yet, the large majority of us are silent. As immigrants we remained silent about the oppression of the people in our homelands, silent over US complicity in the suppression of freedoms of sisters and brothers across the Arab world, and silent on justice issues at home in the US. 

We have a small handful of Arab commentators coming forward to condemn Israeli aggression and racism or offer haughty political analyses of ‘conditions’  in the Arab world. On the whole though, until dictators are about to fall, we remain passive and timid. Privately we may express our frustration and outrage. A few may author complex academic tomes for graduate students to pore over. That is the extent of our involvement in any liberation struggle.  

In the US, we concentrate on our personal liberation, mainly directed at getting a U.S. visa and a fine house.  Some of my Arab American colleagues bemoan this meekness. Yet few of us dare to act. It is a formidable task to be sure, especially after 1990 when the US targeted Iraq, and Arabs became the focus of heightened US surveillance.   

Still, why settle in the US on the claim that this is where freedom is to be found?  

For a long time I have been struck by how few Arab Americans one finds in institutions of justice and community activism. Among the ranks of U.S. teachers, lawyers, artists and filmmakers whose message is focused on liberty, we see precious few Arab Americans.  

The USA is a country where books and films can have immense social and political impact and where civil rights attorney are in the frontline of the struggle for justice worldwide. How many Arab American writers, filmmakers and lawyers can you name among them?  

Knowing the conditions our families live under, knowing the modern techniques of protest, the achievements of earlier American freedom fighters, tasting and benefiting from freedoms (won by others) in their new chosen homeland, they ought to be leading the way. Shame.  

[ Time to hear from Arab Americans ]

Libya-- A new 'demon' to demonize

March 04, 2011

by Barbara Nimri Aziz

If you lived through the telecasts of arguments and battles in 1991 in Iraq, in Afghanistan in 2001, and then in 2003, the attacks and invasion of Iraq, you can recognize the process. Enthusiastically and ably assisted by the media and our intellectuals, the ‘just’ leaders of our democratic Western nations prepare for war.

The process of justifying their aggression is subtle at first. Then, when the opportunity arrives, it swings into action oh so gallantly.  

First we have an internal political crisis—in this case the call by Libyans inspired by the successes in Tunisia and Egypt to challenge their leadership. Some brave opponents are struck down and this in turn leads to more demonstrations. The threatened leader is defiant; he and his sons retaliate, at first with words. The protests continue but the leader vows to die fighting. With threats of serious fighting, hundreds of thousands of Libya’s immigrant laborers rush to the exits. A humanitarian crisis is at hand, we are told. Agencies rush to the borders to help.

The besieged leader sends his troops against demonstrators—this earn him the label: a man who ‘kills his own people’.

The UN goes into action; the Arab League calls a summit and suspends its recalcitrant member. More UN meetings. Sanctions are discussed, and some countries impose sanctions unilaterally. One partner, Italy, suspends its trade and non-aggression agreement with the rogue state. The US leadership boldly calls for regime change. Fears of the madman’s deadly arsenal circulate. (Forget about who sold his guns to him.) Individual nations freeze bank assets of their new enemy. More UN meetings; accusations of genocide spread. Human Rights organizations move into full gear. The international criminal court meets and announces it will launch an investigation of ‘war crimes’. US and allied battleships move towards the besieged country. The Arab leader appears on TV; his hours of talk offer editors around the world abundant clips--quotes to indicate he is a fool, totally unstable (and thereby cannot be trusted to behave rationally, or to engaged in dialogue). Demonization of the leader steps up. It looks like he is out of control—he must go. Any foreigner with prior experience in Libya is called on to give first hand evidence to the media about the eccentricities of the leader. Libyans in exile offer testimonials on the oppression they lived under. Documentaries are swiftly compiled to educate the world: look! we not only have a madman but also a criminal on our hands. Foreign military officers assure media that war ships are standing by, that they are ‘prepared for any option’. At the very least those warships may be available for ‘humanitarian assistance’. 

Who dares to defend the demon, a ‘new Hitler’? No one steps forward to talk about the funds he provided for their project, for their revolution, for their educational scheme. 

I found only one honest review of the ‘good’ West’s relationship with Colonel Gaddafi. Appearing online is “Petroleum and Empire in North Africa: Muamar  Gaddafi Accused of Genocide? NATO Invasion Underway”. Author Keith Harmon Snow has done his homework. Snow is a smart, well informed guy who knows a bit of recent history. Read it: (http://www.keithharmonsnow.com/)  

Oil is not the only motive. Petrol interests are a major factor behind the West’s new position on Mr. Gaddafi. There are also geo-military issues. Remember that the USA has for years coveted the center of Africa for its AFRICOM base. No country has been willing to ‘host’ Africom, but here, alas is an opportunity. A few hundred square miles in South central Libya would do perfectly, thank you. With Libya ‘secured’, that base can be in place by the end of the year. What a windfall! 

What I find most chilling is the process by which almost the entire globe, informed and disinterested people alike, now seems to be behind a US-led campaign to oust the man Washington helped bring to power 42 years ago and embraced in recent years.  

The same mechanisms working today against Gaddafi are the same ones that proved so rewarding in Iraq and Afghanistan.  

And the public buys it, hook line and sinker. The same intelligent public that belatedly told Bush and Blair “you lied to us” is now firmly on board for another invasion and another round of criminal acts by the leaders of ‘the free world’. 

Take a look through media and UN archives of the 1991, 2001, and 2003 US-UK led wars and judge for yourselves. 

[ Libya-- A new 'demon' to demonize ]


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