No to Imperialist Intervention in Libya

The drive toward war, which was given the green light by the UN Security Council on Thursday, has nothing to do with the humanitarian pretexts offered up by the major powers. Rather, it represents the violent imperialist subjugation of a former colony.

The bombing of Libya by French, British and American planes is not protecting human life, but is transforming the country into a battlefield with thousands of innocent victims. This is an imperialist war. Libya is an oppressed, former colonial country.

Moreover, this war takes place without any democratic legitimacy. There is not the slightest indication that it is supported by the populations of the countries involved. Once again, huge sums are being spent on a war even as the same governments declare there is no money for social programs.

Those who say a military attack on Gaddafi’s bases would bolster a democratic opposition movement against a bloody dictatorship must answer the following question: Why are the great powers not applying the same criteria in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the regimes they back employ brutal violence against any opposition?

And what of Bahrain, headquarters of the US Fifth Fleet, where Sheikh al Khalifa has shot down unarmed protesters with Saudi support? What about Gaza, where these same powers stand by as the Israelis massacre Palestinians? What about Yemen, where the Western-backed President Ali Abdullah Saleh on Friday shot dead some 50 protesters?

Not a single government or newspaper that supports a military strike against Libya has taken the trouble to explain these glaring contradictions. However, the real target of the violent action against Libya is clear, if one considers the logic of recent events.

It is only two months since the Tunisian ruler, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, was overthrown in a popular uprising. One month later, he was followed by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. As a result, the Western powers have lost two of their key allies in the region.

As with Gaddafi himself, the US and Europe had collaborated closely with these dictators until the last minute. France, which is now shouting the loudest for military action against Libya, even offered Ben Ali police assistance when the uprising against him was in full swing.

Only a few weeks later, the great powers are preparing a military intervention in North Africa. Coincidence? Only someone who is politically blind can fail to see the relationship between these events.

The domestic opposition to Gaddafi, a brutal tyrant and a close ally of the Western powers, may initially have expressed real grievances of the Libyan people. But in the underdeveloped desert state of Libya, forces quickly materialized that were ready to do the dirty work of the great powers.

They were to be found in the figures making up the so-called National Transitional Council, who not only guaranteed international oil companies unhindered exploitation of the country’s mineral wealth, but also called for the bombing of their own country. The Transitional Council is composed of senior officials of the old regime who turned their backs on Gaddafi in response to the shift by the imperialist powers.

Military intervention in Libya, whose energy resources have made it the object of imperialist intrigues for decades, is being used both to secure access to oil and to contain the revolutionary movements in the region, which are increasingly directed against the interests of the imperialist powers and capitalist property.

A military presence in Libya, which is bordered by Egypt to the east and Tunisia to the west, would help the major powers to intimidate revolutionary movements throughout the Arab world.

Reference in the UN resolution about excluding the military occupation of the country by foreign troops is hogwash. Military necessity has its own logic. Officially, neither Afghanistan nor Iraq are “occupied” by American troops, but this does not change the fact that in both countries tens of thousands of American soldiers have taken up permanent residence.

It is significant that it was the Arab League that called for a no-fly zone over Libya, giving the US and its imperialist allies a cover of “regional support” for military intervention. The representatives of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and other emirates, who are in the process of arresting, torturing and shooting opponents of their own regimes, have voted in favor of a military intervention for the supposed purpose of strengthening democracy in Libya!

The major powers are acting with extreme recklessness. Apart from the greed for oil and domination, they seem to have no thought-out strategy. President Sarkoz y, who received Gaddafi four years ago with great pomp in Paris to negotiate trade deals worth billions, recognized the National Transitional Council as the official representative of Libya without even consulting his own foreign minister, let alone his NATO allies.

No one seems to have considered the likely economic, geopolitical and security implications of a longer war in Libya, a country on the Mediterranean in the immediate vicinity of Europe. Those expressing warnings of the consequences of military action come mostly from conservative circles of the military, who, after Afghanistan and Iraq, have little desire for another military adventure.

Both President Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron also have their own domestic political reasons for intervening. A year before the next presidential elections, Sarkozy is falling in opinion polls and hopes to make up ground through an aggressive foreign policy.

Cameron faces growing opposition t o his austerity measures and–echoing his model Margaret Thatcher’s 1982 Malvinas war–hopes a war against Libya can divert attention. Since the British army has been weakened by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and is barely able to intervene independently, Cameron has worked hard to engage the US.

The imperialist adventure against Libya is reawakening old divisions in Europe. The European Union’s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) is once again in tatters. Germany abstained in the vote on the UN Security Council, stressing it would not be party to any military intervention. It thus found itself in a bloc with Russia, China, India and Brazil against NATO allies France, Britain and the United States–a development with far-reaching implications.

These divisions result from the imperialist character of the war. It is significant that for the first time since the Second World War, Britain and France are jointly involved in a military conflict and have take n a position opposed by Germany. One should also recall that the last war between German and British armies included major battles in North Africa.

Germany does not in principle reject taking military action against Libya, and the German government has pushed for tough economic sanctions. However, it has to date based its influence in North Africa and the Middle East less on military than on economic factors, and fears losing out in any military adventure. “Germany fully supports the economic sanctions, because the rule of Muammar al-Gaddafi is over and must be stopped,” said UN Ambassador Peter Wittig to justify Germany’s abstention. “But the use of the military is always extremely difficult and we see great risks.”

While there are disagreements within the European and American ruling class over a military offensive against Libya, among the “humanitarian” imperialists there is full and enthusiastic approval. This category also includes political tendencies tha t support military operations in the name of an abstract “humanity,” ignoring class issues and questions of history–such as the Greens, Social Democrats, the Left Party, etc.

Since the German Greens supported the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999, they have become enthusiastic supporters of war and play an irreplaceable role in the imperialist war propaganda. The same applies to the preparation for a military intervention against Libya.

The Greens have attacked foreign minister Guido Westerwelle because he did not support the resolution in the UN Security Council. “We have a responsibility to defend human rights,” parliamentary faction leader Renate Kuenast said. The Social Democrats also attacked Westerwelle because he does not favor the war effort.

Green EU Parliament representative Daniel Cohn-Bendit, a major figure in the 1968 student movement, campaigned aggressively for the recognition of the Libyan National Transitional Council and the establish ment of a no-fly zone. The parliament finally adopted such a resolution on March 10 by an overwhelming majority.

In addition to the Greens, a variety of pseudo-left organizations in France have demanded recognition of the National Transitional Council. A resolution to this effect from the Committee of Solidarity with the Libyan People bears the signatures of the Communist Party, the Left Party and the New Anti-Capitalist Party. President Sarkozy is now fulfilling their demand and launching a military offensive.

From WSWS

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Nuclear Meltdown: The Threat is Real for India

Japanese nuclear engineers are making heroic efforts at immense personal risk to prevent a steam explosion (not a nuclear explosion) in the Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) at Fukushima. This is the point at which the design and construction standards of the concrete double containment structure of the nuclear reactor will have to withstand the explosion.

This could trigger a partial or total meltdown of the reactor core, similar to what happened in USA in 1971 in the Three Mile Island NPP. (This put the US nuclear power industry into the doldrums until USA revived it by negotiating the nuclear deal with India in 2009).

Japan has a reputation for good design and safety standards and good quality control and quality assurance in execution. It would be the fervent wish of every thinking person on the planet that the double containment will not fail and that the engineers will control the desperately delicate situation in the Daiichi NPP. Nobody is as yet even thinking of the costs of containing the accident and the subsequent nuclear clean-up.

But let us now cut to the nuclear situation in India. The issue of Indian design and construction quality standards stands naked when we note that the concrete containment dome of the Kaiga (Karnataka) NPP collapsed when under construction, and had to be rebuilt. It has not been revealed whether it was a failure of design or execution quality.

It is not possible to obtain reliable information regarding the operation, safety standards and performance or other cost, constructional or operational aspects of any NPP because of the following reasons: One, Section 18 (Restriction on disclosure of information) and Section 24 (Offences and penalties) of the draconian Indian Atomic Energy Act 1962, do not permit anybody to even ask questions about NPPs.

Two, nobody except the nuclear industry is permitted to conduct tests for radioactivity even outside the perimeter of any NPP. Three, the Environment Protection Act 1986, does not apply to NPPs. Four, the safety and monitoring agency (AERB) is not an independent agency and the public has to accept whatever health and safety information is released by the NPP or the AERB.

Five, the budget of the DAE is not placed even before Parliament and the power generation and efficiency figures are not available even to the Central Electricity Authority (CEA). In short, the Indian nuclear industry is a closed door to the rest of India, and this can be at the cost of public safety and health.

Further, in the event of a nuclear accident, Government of India (GoI) has sought to cap or limit the liability of operators or suppliers of nuclear hardware and technology to assure profits to the US nuclear industry. In simpler language, this means that the real financial cost of post-accident nuclear clean-up and repair would be borne by India, as the liability of the suppliers would be limited to the cap amount, while the real costs of health and livelihood would be borne by the people.

In view of the secrecy and the poor standards of construction even in the nuclear industry, the conflicting parameters of safety, operational cost and radioactive emissions of any NPP leave the public to guess when one of India’s NPPs may suffer a serious accident, and whether we will be able to handle the disaster effectively and efficiently.

Indian nuclear engineers are second to none, thus the issue of safety in India’s nuclear establishment is institutional. The secrecy, intransparency, unaccountability and self-certification of the nuclear industry makes one doubt whether we will be able to prevent serious emergency or handle it effectively should it happen.

This also raises questions about the advisability of going for mega NPPs such as planned in Jaitapur, Maharashtra. This is quite apart from the fact of enormous resistance to its construction from local people on the grounds of livelihood and environment.

Let us hope that the Indian nuclear establishment would never need to handle a serious accident of the type of Three Mile Island or Chernobyl or Fukushima.

SG Vombatkere

Eyeless in Libya

Reliable confirmation of any of the situation in Libya is unavailable because reporting by all members of the media has been irresponsible, lazy, not based on actual investigation and racist, argues Mary Lynn Cramer

The Left is waiting (for Goddess only knows what), leaderless and immobilized, bombarded 24/7 by corporate and so-called alternative media demonizing the Libyan crazy man while anxiously supporting the brave, “untrained” rebels who fearlessly confront Qaddafi’s superior forces.

NPR, Democracy Now and the BBC are embedded with those courageous “revolutionaries.” Lourdes Garcia-Navarro (National Public Radio), Pascale Harter (BBC) and Anjali Kamat (Democracy Now) report with palpable sisterly compassion every moment of exhilaration or frustration the lads experience.

The BBC drops a few seconds of incomprehensible words from the Mad Man’s Master Plan (“The Green Book”) while ignoring Qaddafi’s insistence that over two weeks ago, he invited the UN to send in an investigation team, as well as news reporters, to see what was actually going on.

What is actually going on? Peter Bouckaert, the Emergencies Director at Human Rights Watch in Benghazi tells Democracy Now correspondent, Anjali Kamat, that reporters from all the major corporate and alternative media—people you would expect to know better–are doing a very sloppy and unprofessional job of coverage in general.

Most of what passes for journalism, he says, is “irresponsible reporting and just lazy reporting. You know, rather than going out and investigating these incidents and whether they’re true, these rumors, Western journalists from very reputable publications just published the rumors as true. And they talked about African men running wild, raping women and all of these things, which is just about as racist a myth as you can get.”

The Democracy Now correspondent appears unmoved by Bouckaert’s accusations. But she is curious about the rumors that Qaddafi has recruited African men thought to be committing crimes. Her immediate response to the Human Rights Watch complaint is “Can you say a little bit about who the mercenaries actually are?”

Bouckaert patiently explains that Qaddafi “does have the capacity—not to go recruit African mercenaries, but to use the groups that he’s already training and financing. And it’s possible that some of those fighters have been mobilized around Tripoli or even in the east. But before we jump to that conclusion, we should investigate. And for the moment, all of the cases we have investigated in the east, these allegations have turned out not to be true.”

There have been reports of American, French and British “mercenaries” arriving in Libya three weeks ago. Some of the young “rebels” interviewed speak American English without a trace of foreign or Arabic accent. On-line photos show a variety in skin color from white to black, as well as a wide range in physiognomy. All appear healthy, energetic and well-armed.

NPR’s Lourdes Garcia-Navarro assures us they are not lacking in arms and munitions. The “rebels” are reportedly carrying everything from smart new anti-aircraft and anti-tank guns, rocket propelled grenade launchers, surface-to-air missiles, and machine guns. News photos of “rebels” mounting armored tanks with canon, and missile launchers mounted on large trucks are impressive.

However, the NPR reporter complains the “trigger-happy” youth can be heard shooting off their fire arms all night long; but she understands they have little experience and need the practice.

Neither she nor the BBC, NPR, or Democracy Now reporters ask where the rebels come from, or the origin of their handsome camouflage uniforms, rugged all-weather apparel and heavy military weapons. Surely no outside influence or mercenaries among this good-spirited, heroic bunch.

Professor Sam Hamod notes that accounts and photos of Africans being lynched in Libya have not provided identification of the victims: “We don’t know who they are, but we do know there are African Union members sending troops to help Qaddafi against the American backed ‘rebels.’

But remember this, Libyans are black, blue black, dark brown, brown, dark tan, tan and white — the Africans who are helping Qaddafi are black and the ones fighting Qaddafi are mostly white — so if there is any lynching going on, it is more likely the white Libyan ‘rebels’ doing the alleged lynching.” (“African Union, Destroy It: The Secret Agenda of America and the EU,” 3/7/11)

Glen Ford of Black Agenda Report also commented that a “racist pogrom is raging against the 1.5 million sub-Saharan Black African migrant workers who do the hard jobs in Libya, work that is rejected by the relatively prosperous Libyans.

“Hundreds of Black migrant workers have already been killed by anti-Khadafi forces – yet the U.S. corporate media express absolutely no concern for their safety. One western report noted that large numbers of Black Africans were seized in Benghazi, and were assumed to have been hanged. That is a war crime, whether these men were soldiers or migrant workers, but the western correspondent seemed unconcerned.

“One suspects there are many atrocities occurring in the rebel-held areas of Libya, especially against people that are not members of the locally dominant tribe. Benghazi is not Tahrir Square, in Cairo.”

Reliable confirmation of any of these accusations is officially unavailable because, as Human Rights Watch observed, reporting by all members of the media has been “irresponsible,” “lazy,” and not based on actual investigation. They should have added “racist.”

Democracy Now’s Anjali Kamat says these crimes against Black Africans are the result of “populist rage,” and assures us that the rebellious members of the “popular uprising” have promised to stem the tide of racism.

It is estimated that there were between 1.5 million to 2 million foreign workers in Libya, employed in all types of positions from technical experts and laborers in oil related activities, to service and domestic workers. Apparently none of them had felt any need to flee Libya before the revolt began on February 17.

Who and what caused hundreds of thousands to run for the borders attempting to escape Libya with what ever possessions they could carry? Reflecting on this question, Diana Johnstone doubts that the refugees fled persecution from Qaddafi, the man who encouraged them to come to Libya to fill essential jobs and develop Libya’s infrastructure.

“Rather,” she states, “it is fairly clear that some of the ‘democratic’ rebels have attacked the foreign workers out of pure xenophobia. Qaddafi’s openness to Africans in particular is resented by a certain number of Arabs.” Nevertheless, that these workers are fleeing Qaddafi seems to be the unquestioned assumption of the Western press.

Repeated statements that Qaddafi is murdering his own people, are backed up by telephone calls from one Libyan family member to another who then passes the information onto American and British reporters, who in turn broadcast the phone call to listeners literally all day long. 

I keep waiting for a report or investigation and body count, or description of the injured by an official on-site witness. Nothing, just the repetitive taped phone call: “I talked to my cousin who lives in that town, and he says….”

Are these casualties from the well-armed opposition forces engaged in battle with the government military? Are they civilians? A house was bombed. News of the bombing of that house was repeated every half-hour on NPR.

There was a brief report some days ago that the heavily armed rebels had burned down government buildings. As others have pointed out, we are not talking about government soldiers firing on “peaceful protesters.”

Even though he is certain Qaddafi is “a guy who has already shown a willingness to kill civilian protesters that are his own countrymen,” CNBC senior editor, John Carney, is not in favor of bombing Libya and setting up the no-fly zone. No photos and no investigative reporters’ first-hand account of those dead Libyan civilians were provided to back up Carney’s certainty.

Opposition reports that on February 22, Qaddafi had bombed civilians in Benghazi, were again not investigated or verified. However, other sources, including Russia Today (RT), reported that the US and NATO were aware of Russian satellite images showing no air strikes in Libya that day.

The BBC insists it is impossible to know what is going on in areas where there are large populations of Qaddafi supporters. Foreign reporters, they say, can’t get into Tripoli for example.

(After weeks of audibly snickering at Libyan government officials interviewed, and reporting that Qaddafi and his troops were committing crimes against humanity ‒ and that anyone cooperating with him would be subject to the same international legal procedures reserved for war criminals ‒ three British reporters apparently were taken to Tripoli against their will, but not treated to the usual Libyan hospitality. Gadhafi Troops Detain, Beat BBC News Team,UPI.com, 3/10/11) Gadhafi troops detain, beat BBC news team,UPI.com, 3/10/11)

However, non-Western reporters have been reporting from Tripoli, and several current video interviews with families and groups of people of all ages, good-naturedly talking with reporters can be seen on RT. Boys and girls, men and women cheerfully express their support for Qaddafi and invite “foreign reporters” (including Al Jazeera; or, especially Al Jazeera) to come to Tripoli to see what is actually going on. “Does this look like a war-torn area to you?” a young man asks as he gestures toward a crowed avenue of casual pedestrians, shoppers, children at play, and families on park benches.

In their news reports from Libya, RT includes recent interviews with Americans seldom heard from in US corporate media, like Danny Schechter, American film maker (known as “The News Dissector” of Cambridge in the 6o’s), and Sara Flounders, Co-director of International Action Center. (RT News Videos: Tripoli Under Fire In Media Information War; Money As a Weapon In West’s War on Libya; 3/8/11).

It is not only the Western news media that seem to have lost any sense of objectivity as they romanticize the opposition’s attempts to topple Qaddafi and claim Libya as their own. In my neck of the woods, there is a loud silence on Left side of this issue. The usually quite outspoken and easily mobilized human rights and anti-war activists are strangely mute.

One hears no public criticism of the exaggeratedly biased corporate and “alternative” media coverage. No recognition that here we go again on a “humanitarian” war of liberation to save a foreign nation from another Hitler-like, Saddam-incarnate, diabolic ruler.

When pushed for a private opinion some will assert, in sotto voce , that they would not like to see US military intervention in Libya, of course. But then, with heightened intensity and a sharper tone, they quickly confirm their hatred for that murderous devil Qaddafi, and pray that a younger generation will oust him from power. Others, with perhaps less emotional involvement in Middle East politics, ponder how one mounts a protest against US “humanitarian intervention” that won’t be misunderstood as support for Qaddafi.

You cannot have it both ways. Vilifying Qaddafi as a homicidal, suicidal criminal cannibalizing his own kin, while at the same time opposing US military intervention, may not make sense to those “masses” the American Left hopes to eventually enlist in a “mass movement.”

Along these lines, author and teacher Jean Bricmont points out: “It is difficult for ordinary citizens to know exactly what is going on in Libya because Western media have thoroughly discredited themselves in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Palestine, and alternative sources are not always reliable either. That of course does not prevent the pro-war left from being absolutely convinced of the truth of the worst reports about Qaddafi, just as they were twelve years ago about Milosevic.”

Bricmont also criticizes the “radical” Left, which he says “often manages both to denounce Western governments in every possible way and to demand that those same governments intervene militarily around the globe to defend democracy. Their lack of political reflection makes them highly vulnerable to disinformation campaigns and to becoming passive cheerleaders of US-NATO wars.(“Libya and The Return of Humanitarian Imperialism,” Counterpunch.org, 3/8/11)

The ability of another leftist political author, Diana Johnstone, to take the pulse of European Left and also diagnose them “cheerleaders for war” leaves me breathless. As does the thought of a US-led bombing of Libya.

In this regard, we do not have to look to the Left for pro-war pep rallies. I nominate the BBC’s Pascale Harter, head cheerleader. On March 9, she told the listening audience that the importance of establishing a no-fly zone would basically be “symbolic” to “help boost the morale” of the self-appointed National Council of rebels who intend to govern Libya.

There is something new about the way deeply affectionate tones are used to embrace biased reporting in support of war these days. Whatever the reason, Harter seems blind to the real consequences of bombing raids she passionately promotes. Not so Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who has laid it out in spades: “Let’s just call a spade a spade,” Mr. Gates told Congress. “A no-fly zone begins with an attack on Libya to destroy the air defenses. That’s the way you do a no-fly zone. And then you can fly planes around the country and not worry about our guys being shot down. But that’s the way it starts.” (NYT 3/4/11)

Speaking to a House Committee, Defense Secretary Gates stressed that “creating a no-fly zone would have to begin with an attack on Libya.” (CNN 3/2/11). During an interview with the BBC (3/9/11), Stephen Zunes, Professor of Politics and International Studies at the University of San Francisco, set out the implications of a no-fly zone in more detail. He explained that due to the US bombing raids on Libyan cities in the 1980’s, Qaddafi has built extensive anti-aircraft installations everywhere, especially near crowded urban areas.

Consequently, Zunes’ analysis is that it would take a great deal of bombing to destroy these defensive installations, with a high probability there would be large numbers of civilian causalities. Zunes points out that the recent self-appointed Council of rebels does not represent the whole of the opposition, nor the whole of Libyan society, and certainly not the large number of Qaddafi supporters and government armed forces. “Right now it is a civil war.”

He says it would have to get a lot worse before he could accept justification for “humanitarian intervention” in the form of bombing Libya and imposing a no-fly zone. Although Zunes is explicit about his support for anti-Qaddafi forces, he reminds the idealistic BBC reporter that “supporting an armed faction usually doesn’t result in a democratic government” and that “martial law is not a good way to bring about representative government.”

And the Winner is……??!

“Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has told the Wall Street Journal that Israel may soon seek an additional $20 billion in military aid from the United States in light of the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa. Barak told the paper, ‘It might be wise to invest another $20 billion to upgrade the security of Israel for the next generation or so. A strong, responsible Israel can become a stabilizer in such a turbulent region’.”

Israel already receives $3 billion in military aid a year from the United States. But the big door prize and the oil bucks, as we all know, go to the US and its closest Western allies; while the big losers will inevitably be the majority of Libya’s six million people, “those who just want the peace they had and don’t care who is in charge as long as there is stability…a mixed group of tribal and city folk…[who] did not flee when Qaddafi was in charge…people [who] do not flee the safety of their homes, farms, jobs or whatever unless they fear a new situation.”

In that case, their story is yet to be told. They are not among the handful of individuals interviewed by the Western media, and not among the glorious rebels embraced by that same media.

Mary Lynn Cramer

Libya: Imperialist Powers Accelerating Plans for Military Intervention

The situation in Libya is threatening a major world oil price shock and a sharp downturn in the US economy. On Thursday, Obama underscored this concern when he addressed corporate executives assembled for the “President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.”

Speaking of oil prices, he declared, “We actually think that we’ll be able to ride out the Libya situation and it will stabilise.” Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner sought to allay concerns by stressing the excess oil producing capacity of other OPEC member states.

A US military operation in Libya would have nothing to do with defending the population against Gaddafi’s violence or establishing “democracy” in the country. When the regime first unleashed a wave of carnage against opposition forces, Obama’s initial response was to say nothing, apparently waiting to see if Gaddafi’s forces would quickly regain control.

The dictator has enjoyed the warmest of relations with the US and European powers in recent years, having junked barriers previously erected against the operations of foreign oil companies in Libya and declared his full support for the so-called war on terror.

Western governments regarded with alarm the spread into Libya of the North African uprising of workers and youth. Obama was not alone in his prevarication as reports of Gaddafi government massacres first emerged. TheGuardian today reported that the British government’s delay in preparing to evacuate its citizens from the country was primarily due to commercial considerations.

Unnamed officials told the newspaper that the Conservative-Liberal Democrat government of Prime Minister David Cameron had “hesitated because it was concerned about the Libyan response to a hurried decision to evacuate UK citizens from a country with which it was still keen to do lucrative business and in whose future it had invested heavily.”

Only now that Gaddafi has lost control of the majority of Libyan territory and proven unable to crush the opposition have the US and European governments moved against him. They fear the consequences for their economic and strategic interests of a power vacuum or protracted civil war in Libya.

It remains to be seen whether a military intervention eventuates, but there is ongoing discussion of an initial imposition of a “no-fly” zone. James Phillips, a Middle East expert at the Heritage Foundation, admitted to USA Todaythat this “would amount to military action,” adding it “should be used a last resort.”

The systematic US bombardment of Iraqi targets in the 1990s demonstrated the aggressive character of “no fly” zones. The establishment of one over Libya would almost certainly result in deadly air strikes.

The US and international media have thrown their weight behind the US and European governments’ humanitarian posturing, reviving the pretexts that were used as a cover for US-led interventions in the Balkans in the 1990s. On Thursday, the Financial Times recalled US President Ronald Reagan’s denunciation of Gaddafi in an editorial entitled “Time to Muzzle Libya’s Mad Dog.” The London-based publication demanded an immediate no-fly zone and the opening up of “humanitarian corridors” from Tunisia and Egypt.

The same theme was sounded by the New York Times in its editorial “Stopping Gaddafi.” Halting just short of openly demanding military intervention, the newspaper declared: “After Bosnia, Kosovo and Rwanda, the United States and its allies vowed that they would work harder to stop mass atrocities. One thing is not in doubt: The longer the world temporizes, the more people die.”

These statements are utterly cynical and hypocritical. Less than a decade after the New York Times played a central role in promoting the bogus “weapons of mass destruction” pretext for the US invasion of Iraq, it is propagandizing in support of another colonial intervention in yet another oil-rich country, Libya.

Making American Public Sector Workers Pay Instead of Greedy Corporates

In a bizarre, post-crisis turn of events, public sector activities, in general, and public sector workers, in particular, have become the targets of rightwing attacks in the US. Government spending is unsustainable it is being argued, and therefore, the public sector must be trimmed, by reducing jobs and slashing wages and benefits. It is indeed true that government spending as a percentage of GDP has risen sharply by around seven percentage points from 35 per cent to 42 percent (see Chart). But this occurred during the years after the crisis, when the government was pumping billions of dollars to bail-out the financial system that had speculated its way to failure and the firms that were damaged by the recession that ensued. It was the “subsidy” to capital rather than payments to workers that increased public spending to significantly higher levels.

It is to ostensibly address that problem, that the US House of Representatives recently approved a bill cutting spending this year by $61 billion. But the cuts don’t fall on the rich. Spending cuts, as is well known, fall heavily on social spending for the poor. Reduced social security for the poor and middle classes are the first consequences of austerity. But the impact soon goes further. It begins to adversely affect public sector employment and the benefits accruing to public sector workers.

At the moment, the attacks seem sharper in the states. In Wisconsin, for example, public sector workers are protesting an effort by Republican governor Scott Walker to reduce their benefits and limit their collective bargaining rights. Governor Walker wants workers to contribute more to their pension and health care plans, to roll back wage increases and limit the length of employment contracts. He also wants to bar most state and local government employees from negotiating on issues like benefits and work conditions. In addition, he is working to weaken unions by requiring them to face an annual vote to retain recognition, while pressuring workers to stop paying union dues and resign from union membership.

The reason for the attack is a budgetary deficit that is projected to touch $3 billion. The argument is that public sector pay and benefits are now way out of line with that in the private sector, necessitating some sacrifice on the part of these workers to redress imbalances in public finances. This is an argument that is being pursued in other states as well: New Jersey, Ohio, Tennessee and Indiana among them. And these states see the standoff between the unions and government in Wisconsin as the test of whether they can get their own public sector workers to accept austerity to resolve at least partly their fiscal problems.

Budgetary shortfalls are not, however, engineered by workers. They reflect the fact that governments have not been able to keep revenues buoyant as expenditures rise. One reason is the increasing reticence of governments to tax their citizens and their proclivity to offer huge tax concessions, especially to the more well to do among them. This inability to get citizens, especially the rich, to finance through taxes the social services and infrastructure they benefit from is one among the many failures inherent in a neoliberal ethos that celebrates the market and the wealth derived by a few from its workings. Seen in that light the attack on public sector workers is not the solution to the public sector crisis, but a way of diverting attention from its real sources and origins.

This reasoning is supported by the fact that judging by relative circumstances, Wisconsin should not be a state that should consider forcing public workers to tighten their belts to resolve the fiscal crisis and release resources to support a recovery. The state’s deficits are nowhere near the top of the league table in the US. Its unemployment rate is, at 7.5 percent, below the national average. And, its pension fund is assessed as being relatively robust. Ideologically, the attack on the public sector in the state of Wisconsin originates elsewhere and not in a fiscal crisis.

The attack on public sector workers is not a marginal issue. Such workers in state and city governments and educational institutions total 19.4 million and account for close to 15 per cent of the workforce in the US. Their significance does not stop here. Over the last four and half decades, the unionised segment of the non-agricultural workforce has collapsed from close to a third to just above 12 per cent. Much of the decline has been in the private sector, which has managed to push workers out of unions. According to figures from the Bureau of Labour Statistics, in 2009, the number of unionised public-sector employees (7.9 million) rose above that of private-sector employees (7.4 million), even though public sector workers are a minority even in the non-agricultural sector. Attacking unions in the public sector is, therefore, a larger attack on collective bargaining.

That attack comes at a time when workers are at the losing end of a sharp shift in the distribution of incomes. Workers wages and benefits have stagnated in real terms in the US for a long time now. On the other hand, incomes of the super-rich have exploded. According to University of Massachusetts economists Robert Pollin and Jeffrey Thomson, “during the economic expansion and Wall Street bubble years of 2002–07, the average incomes of the richest 1 percent of households rose by about 10 percent per year, more than three times that for all households. The richest 1 percent received fully 65 percent of all household income growth between 2002–07.”

Rather than tax these surpluses at the top of the pyramid to help resolve the crisis, the right has decided to shift attention to a small segment of the workforce they mistakenly claim is pampered. It is indeed true that the public sector is the standard bearer for the terms and conditions that constitute decent work. But that standard is not extravagant. For similar qualifications and experience public sector workers in the US earn less than those in the private sector. And even those terms have not been garnered with ease. Using the unavoidable public accountability of government, to sustain unions in the public sector, has ensured them. That union strength has in turn been used to win and retain better employment terms and conditions.

This points to points to the real factors explaining the effort to bash the public sector and its workers. It is part of an effort to weaken unions and dilute the standards to which private workers would aspire for. This would make stagnant real wages, deteriorating work conditions and high unemployment appear to be the unavoidable lot of the many, who will not have options to turn to and better conditions to look to and aspire for. Even when there is enough money to dole out concessions to the rich.

What is shocking is the context in which this occurs. America’s government has just poured billion of dollars to buy up worthless toxic assets, render banks that speculated their way to near bankruptcy solvent, and offer cheap credit to speculators who put their institutions and the country’s economy at peril, so that they can bounce back to profits and pay themselves big bonuses. The attack on public sector unions is only an effort to cover up these unjustifiable actions.

By CP Chandrashelhar/thehindu.com

Tom Morello Rages Against Anti-Union Bill at Wisconsin Rally, Denounces ‘Mubarak of Midwest’

Rage Against The Machine guitarist Tom Morello spent Monday at the Wisconsin protests, performing acoustic songs at a rally and delivering a fiery speech to the thousands inside of the capital rotunda who are protesting Governor Walker’s attempt to end the right of state employees to collectively bargain.

“What’s happened so far might be the most inspiring 24 hours of my life as an activist,” Morello tells Rolling Stone. “I’ve never seen this kind of outpouring of unapologetic, steel-backboned support for union causes in the United States. The Madison police were delivering bratwurst to the protesters inside the capitol, and the kids were thanking them. It was unbelievable.”

At a freezing cold rally outside of the capital, Morello was joined by Rise Against frontman Tim Mcilrath, Wayne Kramer of the MC5 and Boston folk group Street Dogs. The show mixed classics like Neil Young’s “Ohio,” Bob Marley’s “Get Up, Stand Up” and Morello’s driving acoustic version of Rage Against the Machine’s “Guerilla Radio.” “No matter what Gov. Walker, the Mubarak of the Midwest, says, this land is your land,” Morello said before singing Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land.” “Never give up and never give in!”

If Governor Walker’s bill passes, it would effectively destroy Wisconsin’s civil servant unions; many fear that other Republican-controlled states would attempt to follow suit. “I come from a coal-mining town in central Illinois where everybody was union,” says Morello.

“For almost 30 years, my mom was a public high school teacher in Libertyville, Illinois. I grew up with a firm belief that the leverage we have as working people is through the union. It’s the only counterweight to the raw greed of corporate power. For the past 22 years, I’ve been a union man in L.A. as a member of the Professional Musicians Local 47.”

After the rally, Morello entered the packed Capitol rotunda, which had been occupied for the past week, grabbed a bullhorn, and made one of the most rousing speeches of the day. “This is what they do in times of economic crisis,” Morello said.

“They think people aren’t paying attention, that they can just sneak through this legislation that would rob us of decades, centuries of social progress. We didn’t pick this fight. [Governor Walker] tapped us on the shoulder and said ‘let’s fight.’ And now we’re gonna knock his legislative teeth out.”

Patrick Doyle/Rolling Stone


Egypt: Mubarak’s Fall Is Only the Beginning of the Revolution

Hosni Mubarak’s departure came after 18 days of demonstrations and strikes that had waxed and waned, but that had generally grown in size and scope in spite of the brutal oppression of the regime. At this stage in the revolution, at least 300 have been killed―the real number is doubtless far higher―and thousands have been arrested and “disappeared”.

The decisive moment came Wednesday and Thursday, when the Egyptian working class moved to the forefront, partially or completely shutting down every sector of the economy.

The strike wave propelled the Egyptian military to finally move against Mubarak. Up until then, the Obama administration backed Mubarak, fearful that his removal would only spread the revolutionary contagion beyond Egypt and set the stage for a showdown between the Egyptian workers and the military, which will be neither willing nor able to address the social and democratic grievances of the masses.

Today there is justified jubilation in the streets of Cairo, Alexandria and other cities, as millions of Egyptian workers and youth celebrate their historic victory.

These extraordinary events are a turning point not only for Egypt, but for the entire world. They have shown the immense social power of the working class, unanswerably refuting claims that the collapse of the Soviet Union signified the “end of history”—that is, the end of class struggle as a factor in human affairs. The victorious heroism of the masses of Egypt in the face of torture, arrests and repression are an inspiration for workers and youth around the globe.

Mubarak’s resignation was a humiliating about-face from his speech, delivered less than 24 hours earlier, in which he provocatively refused to step down. It was also a blow to the military brass, which issued a statement on Friday morning supporting the transfer of authority to Vice President Omar Suleiman, the longtime head of the Egyptian intelligence agency.

It is a devastating setback for the Arab bourgeoisie, which fears the spread of revolution beyond Egypt; for the Israeli state, whose policies of repression and military terror depend on the suppression of working class struggle both in the Arab countries and in Israel itself; and above all for US imperialism, which for 31 years was the main financier and backer of the Mubarak dictatorship. Washington has been complicit in all the regime’s crimes, including the widespread use of torture against political opponents.

The revolutionary upheavals gripping North Africa are the first major response of the world working class to the conditions created by the global economic crisis of capitalism. In bringing down Mubarak, workers in Egypt have launched the first salvo in a world struggle against economic exploitation, the suppression of democratic rights, and social inequality defended by governments not only in Egypt, but around the world.

As significant as the resignation of Mubarak is, however, it is only the beginning of this struggle. Mubarak may be gone, but the regime remains, with power in the hands of the officer corps that has been the linchpin of the capitalist dictatorship in Egypt for decades. The masses know they have only begun to settle accounts with the exploiters—the secret police, the venal Egyptian generals, and Mubarak himself.

In its struggle to hang on to power, the Egyptian regime will find its most ruthless allies in the financial aristocracy of the imperialist powers. For weeks, the Obama administration has worked behind the scenes to bolster Mubarak, insisting that he should oversee an “orderly transition.”

Obama’s perfunctory speech Friday afternoon acknowledging Mubarak’s resignation came on the heels of a Friday morning statement in which the administration pointedly did not call for Mubarak to step down.

Washington is undoubtedly engaged in intense discussions with the Egyptian military to ensure that whatever regime replaces Mubarak will equally be committed to US imperialist interests.

No confidence can be placed in the military or in Egypt’s official “opposition”—which has indicated its complete support for the military government—to oversee a “democratic transition.” One “opposition” leader, Mohammed El Baradei, has suggested that this could take place in a year’s time, leaving the military free to do what it wants for an entire year.

US imperialist strategists hope that in the meantime Washington will be able to shower its favored stooges in Egypt with cash, and arrange a “transition” that returns the working class to where it was before the overthrow of Mubarak. Speaking on CNN, former CIA director James Woolsey said the US should “work with the forces of stability and change in a democratic and law-abiding direction” and “help them economically, help them politically.”

Such comments are a serious warning to the working class. The jubilation tonight at Mubarak’s departure is as it should be, but the initial gains of the revolution must not be lost. The question of class strategy and the formation of a new revolutionary leadership in the working class will determine the fate of the next stage of the revolution.

The backing given by Washington and El Baradei to the military government is not an accident, but a reflection of the interests of the capitalist class. Every attempt to improve the conditions of the masses—raising wages, reducing prices, or defending political freedoms—inevitably puts workers in conflict with the representatives of this elite, who oppose any change that impinges on their economic or strategic interests.

From WSWS