Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Mission creep - galloping into war

The passage of UN security council resolution 1973 authorising a no-fly zone over Libya was accompanied by strong reassurances that no permission was given for ground troops in Libya. We were told by the no-fly zone proponents that the resolution had strict parameters, to enforce a no-fly zone but go no further.

Mission creep is a nice euphemism for when a military invasion gradually expands beyond its initial parameters. The military and political leadership are seized with delusions of grandeur, and historical amnesia, forgetting the lessons of recent imperial adventures such as Iraq and Afghanistan (Afghanistan is in its tenth year of mission creep, and the Iraq war is eight years old, despite the fake withdrawal).

Mission creep? Actually, it is mission gallop. Britain is sending a team of military advisors to the rebels. The parallels with the initial US intervention in Vietnam are striking. How is the purported 'humanitarianism' of this intervention to be realised with a military intervention of ever-increasing scope and depth? I suspect that the 'humanitarian' angle was just so much hot air designed to manipulate public opinion into accepting another imperialist intervention motivated by economic and military-strategic interests.

Most of the NATO members are at least highly sceptical, and the divisions between the European powers are clear for all to see. The Russian government has criticised NATO's Libyan adventure , but unsurprisingly NATO has rejected this criticism.

With increasing NATO participation with the rebel forces, the insurgency will become beholden to the interests and motivations of the NATO powers. The rebels will become just another cat’s paw of the imperial countries, and all its claims to represent a genuine, indigenous uprising against the Gaddafi regime will be at least tarnished, if not lost altogether.

Here is the Socialist Worker, a publication that is hardly pro-Gaddafi, publishing an article by Professor Alan Kuperman, regarding the false pretence for war in Libya. Kuperman's article originally appeared in the Boston Globe, not exactly a bastion of Gaddafi-regime propaganda. The Socialist Worker article is called Bait and Switch and makes for interesting reading.

I doubt that the white House was ‘duped’ as Kuperman alleges. I think that Kuperman’s use of the concept ‘collateral damage’ is reprehensible. Civilian populations suffer horrendously, and arm-chair warriors in the New York Times and associated American publication dismiss these casualties with the cavalier phrase ‘collateral damage’.

The Libyan regime is ruthless, that is so. Gaddafi’s troops have killed people in the towns they have captured. Here is the original Human Rights Watch summary of their findings about the deteriorating situation in Misrata. But genocidal? Let’s stop abusing the concept of genocide because we only cheapen its meaning, and false analogies only obscure the reasons why the Western powers went to war. The word 'genocide' is employed precisely because it is emotional, and harkens back to the darkest chapters of World War Two. Any reasonable human being would want to prevent another genocide, wouldn't they? And this sentiment was exploited during the initial media barrage for a no-fly zone in Libya. That was the first step in the neocolonial intervention.

The Independent ran an article by Kim Sengupta a few days ago called Misrata becomes Libya's Stalingrad. Now the situation for the rebels is serious and desperate, no doubt about that.

But a World War Two analogy? Stalingrad? I realise that the media typically engages in hyperbole to sell its product. But a misused World War Two analogy is not only perverse, but downright misleading. Patrick Cockburn writing in Counterpunch provides a perceptive analysis of the siege of Misrata. The supposed threat of Gaddafi troops indiscriminately killing people was played up to justify the initial no-fly zone. Now the World War Two analogy, with Misrata as Stalingrad and Gaddafi the new Hitler, exploits public sentiment into supporting ground troops for the latest neocolonial adventure. Misrata a 'medieval siege?' We were told that Saddam Hussein was the 'new Hitler', then it was Milosevic in Yugoslavia, and now Gaddafi? For US and British war planners, every year must be 1939, and every single opponent is the 'new Hitler', and every intervention is motivated by the purest humanitarian motivation - to prevent genocide. This tiresome, worn-out record keeps getting played only to cash in on World War Two mystique, reducing the war to a legend that keeps getting trotted out to support imperial objectives.

Now World War Two is an intensely fascinating subject. I think it is vitally important to learn and remember its lessons. For that reason, I think it is equally vital that we stop abusing its battles for current political and imperial interests. The NATO powers are not in the least concerned about preventing humanitarian catastrophes, but for exploiting political turmoil in order to impose a client regime on a former colony.

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