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[Letters] Libya: A pig in a poke

Apr 19,2011
Some disconcerting facts, or at least disconcerting questions, are beginning to emerge regarding Obama’s Libyan intervention.

First of all, the Asia Times reported on April 2 (“Exposed: The U.S.-Saudi Libya Deal”) that Saudi Arabia engineered an Arab League voting bloc to approve the American intervention in Libya, in return for Obama giving the Saudis a free hand to intervene in Bahrain and crush the pro-democracy movement - so troubling to the conservative monarchies of the Gulf - in that country.

Contrary to the myth that the Arab League endorsed Obama’s intervention, half of its members abstained. The members that did vote for it were disproportionately in Saudi Arabia’s sphere of influence. Obama got the vote he wanted because the Saudis called their chits in.

So while CNN shows all those smiling people flashing their V for Victory signs in Benghazi, the king of Bahrain is using a state of martial law to suppress the pro-democracy protests, with the help of 2,000 Saudi troops. No tear-jerking CNN reports and no highly visible State Department denunciations.

Know why? Because Bahrain is a “friendly” government and the anti-government movement is largely Shia in an area where Iran is viewed as the major “threat” to be contained.

In Noam Chomsky’s terminology, the Bahraini demonstrators aren’t “worthy victims.” They aren’t being crushed by a radical pariah state that’s run afoul of the U.S. foreign policy establishment. Rather, they’re an inconvenience to a government that knows how to play ball with Washington. So they’re expendable.

Maybe this is the kind of thing White House flack Robert Gibbs was talking about when he said Wikileaks undermined U.S. efforts at “promoting democracy and open government.”

Second, Thomas Mountain at Counterpunch (“Bombing Libya,” March 23) raises some unpleasant questions about the Benghazi rebels. Benghazi, the city in Libya closest to Italy, has for years been a center of human trafficking from sub-Saharan Africa.

An average of a thousand black African refugees a day pass through Benghazi in hopes of escaping to Europe. So Benghazi was the seat of an enormous complex of gangs controlling the human trafficking trade, many of them exploiting their human cargo as ruthlessly as the “coyotes” on the U.S.-Mexican border.

The Quaddafi government, according to Mountain, had been unsuccessfully trying to suppress this trade for years. As a result, the criminal underworld of Benghazi has been a prime supporter of the rebellion.

Benghazi is also home to a large number of black African guest workers who do work that Libyans regard as “dirty.” Native youth, who refuse to take these jobs, are frequently unemployed and idle.

So they wind up joining youth gangs that engage in racist harassment of black African guest workers. These discontented youth were at the heart of the protest movement.

This raises some interesting questions about the reported massacre of black Africans by Benghazi militia - supposedly because black Africans were recruited as mercenaries by Quaddafi - doesn’t it? I don’t know if Thomas Mountain’s account is correct but it should make us think twice when we hear talking heads like Ed Schultz on MSNBC referring to Libyan “freedom fighters.”

So once again, the lesson is: always look for the man behind the curtain.

*Letters and commentaries for publication should be addressed “Letters to the Editor.” E-mailed letters should be sent to eopinion@joongang.co.kr. Each letter should contain the writer’s name and full address. They are subject to editing.


Kevin Carson, an author



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