Tuesday, 1 March 2011

The revolutions belong to the people who made them

The days of Colonel Gaddafi’s regime in Libya are surely numbered. Large parts of the country are in opposition hands. And – in common with the uprisings elsewhere in the region – every attempt to intimidate the population only feeds the determination of the people to win.

But all the talk today is of a possible Western military intervention in Libya. A headline in The Times reads: “Britain is ready to use force to free Libya”

It is a display of breathtaking hypocrisy. Western powers have propped up dictatorships across Africa the Middle East for decades. One by one these dictators, bought and paid for with our money, are now falling.

Yet the heroic Libyan people are now expected to believe that British politicians are interested in their freedom: Politicians like Tony Blair, who signed a “defence co-operation agreement” with Libya, including agreements to train Libyan Special Forces; politicians who approved the sale of crowd control vehicles, now being used to crush protestors; politicians who flocked to the arms fairs, all too keen to profit from arms sales to brutal dictators.

They can’t pretend they didn’t know what Gaddafi was up to. As one expert reminds us: “The West has known about crimes against humanity and terrorist plots committed by Col Gaddafi's regime for decades now, most notably the June 1996 Abu Salim massacre in which more than 1,200 political prisoners were gunned down after protesting against prison conditions. Still there was no international inquiry, mainly due to oil interests.”

Once again, the smell of oil is in the air. Libya has some of the largest oil reserves in the world, and is a particularly important supplier to Europe. Suddenly our governments are rushing to pose as friends of the Libyan people, ready to go into battle against the very armed forces they helped to finance and train.

There is little evidence that the Libyan people want foreign military intervention. As the Guardian editorial rightly says today:

“(The revolutions) belong to the people who made them. The Libyans, Egyptians and Tunisians have made enormous personal sacrifices to get this far, humbling eyewitnesses with their determination and heroism. They do not want, nor have they yet sought foreign intervention.”