War is peace. Protesters are now off-camera, missile diplomacy is on camera. Packaged in moral uprightness, Tomahawks, Typhoons, Tornados, Rafales, Mirages, B-2s and F-18s – not to mention sexy European Storm Shadow cruise missiles and possible guest star the F-22 Raptor radar-evading stealth jet – now speak the language of democracy. These “military assets”, displaying their “unique capabilities”, are now “protecting the Libyan people”. Run for cover – or become collateral damage.
And now for our top 10 list:
10. The return of Ulysses. Operation “Odyssey Dawn”? Gotta hand it to Pentagon ghost writers. Homer’s Odyssey is the archetype of all travel writing. So Odysseus/Ulysses roams the Med again. The return of the heroes who conquered Troy is now the return of the heroes who gave you shock and awe. Benghazi is Ithaca, with Tripoli in the waiting list. Muammar Gaddafi plays the Cyclops. But who’s Circe? Hillary Clinton? Homeric Ulysses was upgraded from a fishing boat to the USS Mount Whitney, the flagship of the US Navy’s 6th Fleet. So one must assume that, for now, Ulysses is commander Samuel Locklear III, who’s in charge of the bombing.
As for Homer revised by Shakespeare, the trophy goes to chairman of the US Joint Chief of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen. He told CNN Operation Odyssey Dawn “isn’t about seeing him [Gaddafi] go”. But then he told NBC Gaddafi could stay, as in “it’s very uncertain on how this ends”. No wonder no one in this Odyssey has yet claimed to be Penelope.
9. The invisible Africom. There’s total radio silence about the commander of the US Africom, General Carter Ham. He’s in charge of all those Tomahawks, from his office in Stuttgart, Germany; after all, none among 53 African countries offered to host Africom. After the current phase 1, the command switches from Africom to the Anglo-French duo, or to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Brussels. Africom’s main business is to guarantee the rapid deployment of “highly mobile troops” – to fight the never-extinct “war on terror”, laser in on all those oil fields, try to offset China’s business drive in Africa; talk about an open-ended mission. In short: Africom is about the Pentagon’s militarization of Africa – suavely sold as “bringing peace and security”. It’s all part of the time-tested Pentagon’s full spectrum dominance doctrine.
8. The R2P enigma. Top American humanitarian imperialists – or liberal hawks – include US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, US ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, and National Security Council senior directors Samantha Power and Gayle Smith. They are all suckers for R2P – “responsibility to protect”, the new international norm that supposedly prevents and stops genocides, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.
R2P is still hazy. How many civilians must be killed before R2P kicks in? A few thousand? (a fair estimate of Gaddafi’s victims before Odyssey Dawn). And where next for R2P? Here’s a list of candidates. Yemen. Bahrain. Saudi Arabia. Israel. Uzbekistan. Ivory Coast. Sudan. Somalia. North Korea. Myanmar. Iran. Pakistan. And – remember Xinjiang and Tibet – China. Don’t count on the UN to “protect” civilians in any of these destinations.
7. The new Obama doctrine, or Bush 2.0. The Obama administration turned George W Bush’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan into open-ended occupations; started an air/counter-insurgency war in Pakistan; bolstered a war in Somalia; bolstered a war in Yemen; and now started a war in Libya. The Western/Arab League war in Libya perfectly fits the new, two-pronged Obama doctrine of US outreach/regime alteration; outreach (former “regime change”) for “evil dictators”, alteration for “our” bastards.
That accounts for Washington desperately trying to position itself on the right side of history at least in one chapter of the great 2011 Arab revolt – amid all the geostrategic imperatives of trying to somewhat control the course of the Arab revolutions, and to keep an eye on the oil.
Gaddafi for his part labeled the US/Anglo-French bombing a “crusader aggression” and his regime’s resistance, a “long war”. He thus managed to mix the Pentagon with al-Qaeda in one sweep. And we always thought they were fighting each other. His Bab al-Azizia compound in Tripoli has already been bombed. At least his family is not featured in a Pentagon deck of cards – yet.
6. No R2P for Israel. In late 2008, while no one was watching, Israel bombed Gaza, killed 1,300 people, the absolute majority civilians, and destroyed at least 20,000 buildings. The UN didn’t bother to invoke R2P, or impose a no-fly zone over Gaza to protect its civilians (50% of them children). Israel never respected any of countless UN Security Council resolutions. By the way, George W Bush invaded Iraq in 2003 without a UN Security Council resolution.
5. No R2P for Yemen. President Ali Abdullah Saleh is a “valuable ally” in the “war on terror” – against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP); although he is the Yemeni Gaddafi, he falls into the privileged “regime alteration” category. President Barack Obama said he “strongly condemn[s]” snipers killing Yemeni civilians and says those responsible “must be held accountable”. This means Saleh’s government. Bit of a problem though; these are the people getting US cash and weapons to fight “terror”.
4. The oh so democratic Arab League. The voting at the Arab League calling for a no-fly zone over Libya was unanimous. But at first, Algeria and Syria were strongly against it. Damascus publicly justified itself as against another Western intervention in Arab affairs.
This never deterred the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) dictatorships (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and United Arab Emirates), which lobbied hard for no-fly. American and European diplomats are desperate for the Arab League – and not NATO – to do something, like flying the odd jet and paying most of the bill to provide the illusion that the West is not attacking another Muslim country.
Washington explicitly requested that from Qatar, the UAE and Jordan. Qatar and UAE – which helped Saudi Arabia to invade Bahrain – are now invoked to secure “democracy” for Libya. The UAE will support democracy with 24 Mirage 2000-9s and F-16s and Qatar with up to 6 Mirage 2000-5s.
The Arab League first warned against an “attack” on Libya – as if a no-fly zone could be imposed by broomsticks, not bombs. Then supreme opportunist Amr Moussa, head of the Arab League, criticized Odyssey Dawn because of the inevitable collateral damage. And then he backtracked. No one cares, as long as the Arab League rubber stamps Odyssey Dawn to make it look like an Arab decision.
3. No R2P for Bahrain. The House of Saud invasion of Bahrain to help Sunni “cousins” the al-Khalifa dynasty – with pitiful coverage by otherwise progressive al-Jazeera – smells like a deal between the House of Saud and the emir of Qatar, which implies Washington behind it as well; the immensely corrupt and fearful House of Saud does absolutely nothing without Washington’s approval. al-Jazeera reports have called for a “dialogue” between government and opposition in Bahrain; no such calls for Libya.
The GCC dictatorships are basically Pentagon annexes. Since 2007, they’ve bought no less than $70 billion in weapons – and counting. Libya is part of the African Union (AU). Gaddafi requested support from the AU against his internal opposition; that’s exactly the same as Bahrain asking for support from the GCC. The difference is the AU did not vote for a no-fly zone – nor invaded a neighbor, a la Saudi Arabia.
The al-Khalifas in Bahrain have been so scared by the protest movement that they had to physically demolish the Pearl monument at the center of the homonymous square in Manama, with its six white curved beams topped with a huge pearl. This implies also destroying Bahrain’s history; before becoming “business friendly”, Bahrain was a pearl diving center. Now it’s just “bullet-friendly Bahrain.”
2. How good was my dictator. Just yesterday Italian Prime Minister Silvio “Bunga Bunga” Berlusconi was literally kissing Gaddafi’s hand – and allowing him to pose this tent in Rome. He dropped him like a stone. Same with the Brits who were merrily selling loads of weapons to the colonel.
As for neo-Napoleonic French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Gaddafi was a godsend – allowing Sarko to officially pose as the new Arab nationalist hero. France in effect prohibited NATO from intervening at the start of Odyssey Dawn, so Sarko’s dashing Mirages could get all the glory. Carla Bruni – who calls his husband Chou Chou – must be very impressed; who needs bunga bunga when you can actually bang, bang?
1. Democratic Saudi Arabia. To have the holy grail of medievalism and repression – the House of Saud – voting in the Arab League to bring democracy to Libya while quashing any progressive moves inside the kingdom (and invading a neighbor) will forever live in infamy as the Top Hypocrisy of the Great 2011 Arab Revolt. King Abdullah’s billionaire package of “reforms”, ie bribes, essentially bolster the House of Saud’s two strategic pillars; the security/repression establishment (60,000 new jobs for the Interior Ministry), and the religious clerics (more money to the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice). Even if they have successfully preempted the kingdom’s “Day of Rage”, this proves how scared they really are.
What many don’t know is that Operation Odyssey Dawn is personal – and has nothing to do with Greek heroism but Bedouin hatred. It revolves around the extremely bad blood between King Abdullah and Gaddafi since 2002, in the run-up to the war on Iraq, when Gaddafi accused Abdullah of selling out the Arab world to Washington. So this is not Operation Odyssey Dawn; it’s Operation House of Saud Takes Out Gaddafi. With all the heavy lifting subcontracted to the West, of course, and the eastern Libya protesters posing as extras.
Odyssey Dawn – a “just war” – started exactly eight years after the Iraq war. In 2003, at the start of Operation Enduring Freedom – still ongoing, having “liberated” over a million Iraqis from life – George W Bush said, “American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger”.
This Saturday, at the start of Operation Odyssey Dawn, Barack Obama said, “Today we are part of a broad coalition. We are answering the calls of a threatened people. And we are acting in the interests of the United States and the world.”
Maybe we should call this whole thing Operation Enduring Odyssey – and send the bill to the House of Saud.