From the Desk of Reuven Kaminer May 16, 2011
Ending Civil War in Libya – Preventing Civil War in Syria
Just two long months ago, in the early stage of the Libyan crisis, advocates of UN intervention justified their position with the claim that Gadaffi was determined to slaughter thousands of his own citizens. There is no way of knowing whether that horrendous scenario was indeed going to materialize. Let us accept, for the sake of productive discussion in the left that the danger was real. Of course, this factor certainly influenced the public debate regarding intervention. It is understandable that many sincere people on the left supported the USNATO intervention because they did not want the blood of the citizens of Benghazi and other cities on humanity’s conscience. Two months later, the potential bloodbath in Benghazi, has been supplanted by a new dangerous reality, by the ongoing, real, undeniable bloodbath of civil war. Months of war and destruction are descending on Libya. Libyans, mobilized in two warring camps are killing each other daily.
We would like to assume that many friends on the left who supported intervention out of humanitarian considerations are not locked into irreversible support for the continuation of USNATO intervention and remain willing to analyze the situation as it unfolds. The humanitarian instinct, at the outset of the Libyan crisis, sought a particular solution for a specific drastic situation. Moreover, approval extended to the USNATO expedition by some on the left rarely, if ever, could be construed as to include a vote of confidence or any expression of confidence in the political-military leadership of the war against Gaddafi. One cannot be certain regarding motivations, but as far as we understood the bitter debate in the left, it appears that most pro-intervention sentiment was based on the assumption that the mission could be accomplished with speed and accuracy and if the intervention proved that Gadaffi had absolutely no support – his elimination from the political equation would be all for the better.
We know sincere people on the left who are increasingly aware that the UN mandate has been so distorted as to include regime change and even targeted assassination. This is not “mission creep,” but mission revision. And there is more to come.
It would seem that enough has happened – much of it unexpected -to renew the discussion in the left regarding this stage of development on a different level. There may still be some highly imaginative people on the left who are willing to stick with the intervention until victory, laboring under the illusion that with the final conclusive victory over Gadaffi, the revolution will reemerge in all its glory, thank the leaders of the free world for their assistance and relieve them of the keys of the kingdom. But the facts on the ground are quite clear and suggest the absence of any revolutionary perspective. The rebels are split into competing factions vying for USNATO backing and there is absolutely no reason to expect the emergence of anything progressive in the new regime when and if it is installed by Cameron and Sarkozy with Obama lurking in the wings.
It may appear a bit strange, but it is increasingly clear that USNATO is willing to cut any deal in Libya, if you can promise them Gadaffi’s head on a platter. It is not coincidental that the recent bombardment of command and control posts in Tripoli seems unmistakably similar to the targeted assassination techniques perfected by the IDF and learned by the U.S. Seals. There are many signs that the UN command is toying with the possibility of Gadaffi’s ‘accidental’ death. The USNATO stubborn insistence on death for Gadaffi is the kind of material that might well build a legend around him and the Libyan state-sponsored resistance. There is no reason to be certain that if Gadaffi is rubbed out he will not leave a camp of admirers who will continue the fight onwards. Real friends of Libya cannot be indifferent to the historical impact of the war that might cause irreparable damage to the very existence of Libyan society.
If there is an alternative path to stop the killing why would any progressive reject it out of hand? In diplomatic quarters, it is understood that the leadership of the West will suffer a serious blow to their prestige if Gadaffi survives. But, it would seem that no one on the left should be concerned with the danger to the crumbling prestige of the USNATO project, which needs Gadaffi dead to satisfy the appetite for his blood that they have nurtured in the Western media. The situation today in Libya is that the victory of any of the fighting sides might well be the occasion for bloody reprisals and massive revenge. The political will and the humanitarian instincts of people on the left should lead them – supporters and opponents of the intervention alike - to support the same demand today – immediate talks on a cease fire and a political solution.
Of course, there are “advisors” on the USNATO side calling for more and more military force for victory over Gadaffi. Is it conceivable that the left, humanitarian or otherwise, throw in its lot with the hawkish wing of the interventionists, who are calling for increased, more widespread bombing with bigger and more destructive bombs? Can there be a progressive position that calls for the USNATO to spill rivers of blood in Libya in order to end the mess that they have created?
In the face of this senseless killing, the idea of a cease fire has become compelling. Left wing supporters of the intervention are supporting the National Transition Council’s offer for negotiations after Gadaffi is removed. Now, the anti-imperialist left is called on to support the endless continuation of a civil war because the interventionist camp cannot negotiate until Gadaffi is eliminated from the picture. Here is another “anti-imperialist-pro intervention” position that just happens to fulfill the needs of imperial politics. Really.
Just one last comment on the dispute on the left. At this stage a lot of energy on both sides of the dispute is devoted to picking up and relaying particular news items that seem to have a bearing on who is right regarding the meaning of the intervention. The “dogmatists’ have been vilified for coming out automatically against the imperial initiative, though the anti-interventionist camp has massed sufficient evidence to fully prove the hypocrisy behind the whole attack.
Now, when each side to the argument on the left regarding the intervention is busy looking for quotations, it might be a good idea to ask who should carry the burden of proof. Do the anti-interventionists have to labor to show that it is silly if not worse to present the US-UK-French aggressors as disinterested volunteers in the cause of freedom? Even when the evidence regarding the mendacious nature of the NATO is plentiful, do we on the left have to labor to prove the wisdom of the principle that imperialist intervention is not and cannot be a vehicle of progress. Are we impartial regarding the loyal heirs of Bush and Blair?
Assad’s Last Chance
We remain unwilling to bow to the current fashion which refuses to see any difference, whatsoever, between the Assad regime, on one hand, and that of Mubarek in Egypt and Ben Ali in Tunisia. As a matter of fact all the Arab regimes have been dictatorships as far back as we can remember. All dictatorships fight against the opposition with no holds barred. The level of brutality and repression usually varies in direct proportion to the danger. This world and its mode of operation have been dictated in large by the needs and demands of the imperial masters of the region. The real chances for a democratic opening involve disabling the military, economic and political control of the region from USNATO domination. Support for the intervention in Libya is support for USNATO domination in the region.
It seems quite clear that the Syrian dictatorship did not hesitate to resort to brute force in order to squelch the rising flames of genuine and legitimate protest. This is inexcusable, and those responsible for this kind of response must be brought before the bar of justice. This having been said without any further qualification, more has to be said on other aspects of the Syrian question. Syria’s defense of its sovereignty over the years and its refusal to play the US game in the region regarding Iran, Lebanon and the Palestinian issue were and remain an important contribution to restraining US-Israeli aggression. Justified criticism of Syria by the left cannot ignore these positive elements in the picture because of justified concern for the rights of the Syrian people and clear opposition to the brutal repression we have witnessed for weeks.
The first reports regarding the repression in Syria appeared at a time of the intensive debate regarding USNATO intervention in Libya and there was reason to fear that confirmation of the repression in Syria would appear to support intervention in Syria.
Intervention, it turned out, is not for the moment on the agenda in Syria. Importantly, there are still no signs of any credible political opposition. The opposition in the streets to the Assad regime is based for the most part on different and even competing sectarian and ethnic groups. Moreover, some of the regimes traditional enemies appear to have exploited the opportunity to initiate armed action. The strength and the cohesion of the regime, which is trying to deflect mass opposition by the promise of serious reforms, have restricted the USNATO scope of action. But, let there be no doubt that the USNATO operation is looking for weak spots in Syria and hoping for an opening that might make intervention a more feasible option.
It is certainly for the good that the Libya intervention has reminded Obama, Cameron and Sarkozi that there are no easy interventions.
In Syria there are serious calls from the left and many popular organizations for dialogue and genuine reform. There are differing opinions regarding the sincerity or lack thereof of the Assad reform program. Window dressing and empty slogans will make things worse. The neo-liberal policies of the regime have completely alienated natural allies among the workers and peasants. Assad must change course or crash and if he relies on massive force and repression to save him, no one on the left will be sorry to see his regime go down in flames.
Israel Sics Dogs on Workers
I generally shy away from covering the atrocities and more disgusting aspects of the Israeli rule over the occupied Palestinian territories. This unpleasant but necessary mission is performed by many devoted groups and non-governmental organizations. But the following piece of information has to be shouted from the rooftops in the hope of shaming the perpetrators of this latest bit of pure ugliness. The courageous journalist, Gideon Levy, tells of the latest IDF technical upgrade in punishing workers who try to get into Israel to earn their daily bread. Haaretz Friday May 13, 2011. http://www.haaretz.com/weekend/week-s-end/israel-s-dogs-of-war-1.361449
The soldiers lay in wait on the border in the very early hours of the morning before dawn and sic the dogs on laborers trying to get into Israel for a few days work. The IDF explains that if not dogs, they would have to employ more severe measures. Iron logic and poison in the soul.
Meir Degan, recently retired from his “distinguished career” as Mossad chief, came out openly against the idiotic idea of attacking the Iranian nuclear facilities. There is only one single explanation for Dagan’s speaking out. Just one: he has reason to fear that this option is being seriously considered by the Israeli leadership – here and now.