November 3, 2011 · 0 Comments
By Michael McGehee:
In the article “Libya and Tunisia Share a Goal: Development,” which was published yesterday by the New York Times (NYT), writer Farah Halime makes a number of claims which simply don’t make sense, but which predictably conforms to the interests of the Western establishment. The primary claim is that with “regime change” Libya has new economic opportunities to “develop.”
The problem is that Libya was, by regional standards, highly developed before the overthrow of the government. With a welfare state that had a nationalized banking system, no debt, economic growth of 10%, and a state of the art irrigation and health care system, which like education, was free for all—Libya also gifted thousands of US dollars to new mothers and $50,000 to newly wed couples, while also providing heavily subsidies for cars, gasoline, housing, and food—it’s difficult to understand what is meant by “develop.” Cui bono? To whose benefit? The people of Libya, or foreign investors?
A look at other US/NATO “interventions” reveals an interesting continuity. In their book The Politics of Genocide, authors Edward Herman and David Peterson begin their Introduction by noting that there is,
A remarkable degree of continuity stretches across the many decades of bribes and threats, economic sanctions, subversion,terrorism, aggression, and occupation ordered-up by the policymaking elite of the United States. But no less impressive is the continuity that can be observed in the ways these policies are understood by this elite, and by the establishment intellectuals and news media that report about them daily and reflect on or ignore their consequences.
Presumably, much like the argument they build in their book, Herman and Peterson would likely argue that the reason the New York Times does not mention the state of Libya’s economy before the civil war that overthrew the government “can only be explained by the adaptation of the media and intellectual to the propaganda and public relations needs of the Western political establishment.”
In one of the most honest admissions from a high US government official we learn about those needs, and how as of 1948 the U.S. had “about 50% of the world’s wealth but only 6.3 of its population,” and that, “Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships, which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity without positive detriment to our national security. To do so we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and daydreaming; and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives. We need not deceive ourselves that we can afford today the luxury of altruism and world benefaction . . .”
Herman and Peterson note on this “position of disparity,” and continue by writing:
To maintain the global structure of inequality, and in the process serve the interests of its transnational corporations anxious to enlarge their business abroad, the United States had to confront numerous nationalist upheavals by peoples in former colonial areas who sought independence, self-determination, and better lives. In the pursuit of this counter-revolutionary end, the United States regularly aligned with local military and ex-colonial comprador elites to contain and, wherever possible, to resist and roll-back the kind of threat referred to by one National Security Council assessment as “an increasing popular demand for immediate improvement in the low living standards of the masses.”
Herman, along with Noam Chomsky, have written eslewhere on this same topic, and in their study on “[t]he political economy of human rights,” which was eventually published in their book The Washington Connection and Third World Fascism we read in their Preface that,
The ugly proclivities of the U.S. clients, including the systematic use of torture, are functionally related to the needs of U.S. (and other) business interests, helping to stifle unions and contain reformist threats that might interfere with business freedom of action. The proof of the pudding is that U.S. bankers and industrialists have consistently welcomed the “stability” of the new client fascist order, whose governments, while savage in their treatment of dissidents, priests, labor leaders, peasant organizers or others who threaten “order,” and at best indifferent to the mass of the population, have been most accommodating to large external interests. In an important sense, therefore, the torturers in the client states are functionaries of IBM, Citibank, Allis Chalmers and the U.S. government, playing their assigned roles in a system that has worked according to choice and plan.
By using that understanding of how global affairs works, let’s return to Halime’s article for the NYT. In it we read that, “The hope is that the overthrow,” of the Libyan government “will lead to more [...] liberalized economic practices.”
“The big chance of Libya going in the right direction will also be a big chance for the region,” said Mohsen Zerelli, an executive at Groupe Mabrouk, a large conglomerate involved in the retailing, banking and telecommunications industries. “It will also start a new type of economic process and relationships in the region and North Africa.”
It’s worth keeping in mind that one of the first things NATO’s rebels did was create a central bank that led CNBC to note how such a move “reveals that foreign powers may have a strong influence over the rebels.” And sure enough, even before Gaddafi was brutally murdered, and Sirte was “liberated,” and tens of thousands of black Africans were raped, lynched, assaulted and ethnically cleansed from their homes and communities, the rebels had begun talks with the IMF. It’s also worth keeping in mind that the new government in Libya just appointed a corporate and state technocrat ,with not only American citizenship but close ties to the petroleum and energy industries, as their new Prime Minister.
This is not the first time in recent history that has NATO carried out a supposed “humanitarian intervention” under the false pretense of stopping a genocide, but was more motivated by curtailing the “increasing popular demand for immediate improvement in the low living standards of the masses.” It was NATO’s intervention in Kosovo. John Norris, a senior Clinton official who was part of a team led by Deputy Secretary of State, Strobe Talbott, for the Americans in tripartite negotiations, wrote in his eyewitness account Collision Course: NATO, Russia, and Kosovo that, “It was Yugoslavia’s resistance to the broader trends of political and economic reform—not the plight of Kosovar Albanians—that best explains NATO’s war.”
One could also point to Iraq as an example as well, which was “once rapidly modernizing,” and “a leading power in the Middle East.” (Herman and Peterson)
And after eight months of aggression where NATO violated its own mandate “to protect civilians” by carrying out 10,000 attacks on some 6,000 targets that included government buildings, news stations, and entire towns where civilians were siding with Gaddafi, we are told by Halime that “Libya needs help.” No doubt, and though Halime does manage to inform us that Libya had “an average 9 percent annual growth rate,” but that, “Libya’s civil war and international sanctions against Colonel Qaddafi’s government,” ground that and regional trade to a halt, there is still no mention of how developed Libya was, nor how Libya went from being one of the poorest countries in the world at the time they gained independence from Italy in 1951 to being ranked 53rd in terms of human development, far surpassing the rest of Africa, which continues to suffer from “[t]he ugly proclivities” of U.S. imperialism. (And though we can excuse Halime for this, there is no mention that November 1 was the centennial anniversary of the first aerial attack in human history, where upon Italy bombed Libya in their effort to colonize the north African country.)
Though even the U.S. government acknowledges Libya had a quality health care system, Halime tells us that, “During the civil war, hundreds of thousands of Libyans crossed the border to be treated for injuries sustained from cross-fire between rebel forces and Qaddafi loyalists,” and how a “health clinic in the center of Tunis was at full capacity, treating Libyan patients.”
And whereas Uncle Sam knew that “[b]asic health care [was] provided to all citizens,” according to Halime, “Libya’s interim government, the Transitional National Council, has been paying the health care fees of Libyan patients as long as they can prove they were wounded in fighting.” The writing on the wall is clear: The new government does not cover the costs of “all citizens.”
The record of foreign investment in Africa does not provide a good picture for anyone who has authentic concern for human rights. There is a direct link between human rights abuses and foreign investment on the continent, which comprises the “least developed economies” while also being the place of highest returns for foreign investors. In fact, in late 2002 the World Bank said that, “The rate of return on FDI [foreign direct investment] was highest in Sub-Saharan Africa, compared with other regions in the world,” and nothing has changed by this current information provided by the bank indicating investment is increasing. A recent UN report, Investment Climate and Foreign Direct Investment in Africa, openly stated that African countries can attract even more foreign investors “if they would institute reforms that will improve the investment climate in their country through improving the business regulations that promotes friendly business environment.”
“Friendly business enviornment” means something to the people of Africa. As theU.N.’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) reported: “Many of the most grave and complex human rights challenges facing the world today are found in Africa. Poverty, discrimination and exclusion are reinforced in many countries by poor governance, corruption and ethnic divisions.”
In imperial parlance, “poor governance” is a euphemism for dimminishing the ability of governments to respond to “increasing popular demand for immediate improvement in the low living standards of the masses.” So when you read in the NYT that foreign investors will “invest huge amounts of cash in Libya, as it rebuilds infrastructure and banking systems and reinstates services industries,” this should be read simply as the re-colonization of Libya.