Opinion | Columnists

America's selective vigilantism

Washington's 21st-century Third World colonisation is justified on humanitarian grounds and aided by media networks

  • By Tariq Ali, The Guardian
  • Published: 00:00 September 8, 2011
  • Gulf News

On a sticky wicket
  • Image Credit: Bloomberg
  • US President Barack Obama

Sovereign is he who decides on the exception, Carl Schmitt wrote in different times almost a century ago, when European empires and armies dominated most continents and the US was basking beneath an isolationist sun. What the conservative theorist meant by ‘exception' was a state of emergency, necessitated by serious economic or political cataclysms, that required a suspension of the constitution, internal repression and war abroad.

A decade after the attentats of 9/11, the US and its European allies are trapped in a quagmire. The events of that year were simply used as a pretext to remake the world and to punish those states that did not comply.

The experiences in the occupied lands speak for themselves. Ten years on the war in Afghanistan continues, a bloody and brutal stalemate with a corrupt puppet regime. Meanwhile, sets of protracted behind-the-scenes negotiations between the US and the neo-Taliban have been taking place for several years. The aim reveals the desperation. Nato and Hamid Karzai are desperate to recruit the Taliban to a new national government.

The good citizens of Euro-America who opposed the wars being waged by their governments avert their gaze from the dead, wounded and orphaned citizens of Iraq and Afghanistan, Libya and Pakistan — the list continues to grow.

These days war is presented as a ‘humanitarian' necessity: one side is busy engaged in committing crimes, the self-styled morally superior side is simply administering necessary punishment and the state to be defeated is denied its sovereignty. Its replacement is carefully policed both with military bases and money.

This 21st-century colonisation or dominance is aided by the global media networks, an essential pillar to conduct political and military operations.

Politics and power override all else. Apart from Barack Obama's windy rhetoric, little now divides this administration from its predecessor. Ignore, for a moment, the power of politicians and propagandists to enforce their taboos and prejudices on American society as a whole, a power often used ruthlessly and vindictively to silence opposition from all quarters — Bradley Manning, Thomas Drake, Julian Assange and Stephen Kim know this better than most.

Nothing illustrates this debasement so well as the assassination of Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan. He could have been captured and put on trial, but that was never the intention.

Take Libya, the latest case of ‘humanitarian intervention'. The US-Nato intervention in Libya, with UN Security Council cover, is part of an orchestrated response to show support for the movement against one dictator in particular and by so doing to bring the Arab rebellions to an end by asserting western control, confiscating their impetus and spontaneity, and trying to restore the status quo ante. As is now obvious, the British and French are boasting of success and that they will control Libyan oil reserves as payment for the six-month bombing campaign.

The despot in Yemen, loathed by a majority of his people, continues to kill them every day by remote control from his Saudi base. Not even an arms embargo, let alone a ‘no-fly zone', have been imposed on him.

Libya is yet another case of selective vigilantism by the US and its attack dogs in the West. The frontiers of the squalid protectorate that the west is going to create are being decided in Washington. Even those Libyans who, out of desperation, are backing Nato's bomber jets, might like their Iraqi equivalents live to regret their choice.

All this might trigger a third phase at some stage: a growing nationalist anger. The assault on Libya, greatly helped by Gaddafi's imbecility on every front, was designed to wrest the initiative back from the streets by appearing as the defenders of civil rights. The Bahrainis, Egyptians, Tunisians, Saudi Arabians and Yemenis will not be convinced. The struggles are by no means over.

The 19th century German poet Theodor Dubler wrote: The enemy is our own question embodied And he will hound us, and we will hound him to the same end.

The problem with this view today is that the category of enemy, determined by US policy needs, changes far too frequently. Yesterday, Saddam and Gaddafi were friends and regularly helped by western intelligence agencies to deal with their own enemies. The latter became friends when the former became enemies. The assassination of Bin Laden was greeted by European leaders as something that would make the world safer. Tell that to the fairies.

Tariq Ali has been a leading figure of the international left since the 60s. His latest book is The Obama Syndrome.

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