Middle East on May 19.
The speech, which avoided the major issues related to the uprising in North Africa, the Palestinian question and the US/Nato war against Libya, created even more hostility toward his administration domestically and internationally.
At present the US is still occupying the nation of Iraq which has experienced an escalation in attacks from Pentagon forces and their surrogates within the current government in Baghdad. In Palestine, the 63rd anniversary of the recognition of the state of Israel witnessed mass demonstrations against the occupation and the mowing down of scores of activists by the occupation forces.
In Tunisia and Egypt, the revolutionary upheavals of the last five months have resulted in the removal of the US and French-backed dictatorial leaders in both these North African states.
Since February, the US has attempted to take control of the political process in both these countries and to utilise the incomplete revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt in the imperialist war against Libya, which has been raging for over three months.
In Obama’s May 19 address he stated falsely that “Now, already, we’ve done much to shift our foreign policy following a decade defined by two costly conflicts. After years of war in Iraq, we’ve removed 100 000 American troops and ended our combat mission there.” (Text of speech)
Yet the truth is that nearly 50 000 US troops still remain in Iraq along with over 100 000 private contractors. The war of occupation against the country continues with an escalation in casualties among US forces since the beginning of 2011.
Obama disingenuously claimed that “In Afghanistan, we’ve broken the Taliban’s momentum, and this July we will begin to bring our troops home and continue a transition to Afghan leadership. And, after years of war against al-Qaida and its affiliates, we have dealt al-Qaida a huge blow by killing its leader, Osama bin Laden.”
Nonetheless, the war of resistance against the US and Nato has escalated in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. In Afghanistan, there have been more deaths among US/Nato occupation forces as well as civilians since the administration intensified the war in December 2009.
In Pakistan, there have been mass demonstrations against the US raid that resulted in the announcement of the execution of Osama bin Laden and the continuing drone attacks that kill more civilians than Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters who are being hunted down by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Pentagon. More attacks on Nato’s fuel supply lines are taking place in Pakistan and the military operations by the resistance forces in Afghanistan have hit key installations of the occupation forces.
In Obama’s speech, he also falsely claims that the US supports the democratic movements that have swept North Africa, and says nothing of the decades-long backing of the neo-colonial client regimes in Tunisia and Egypt. The administration’s response to the existing military-backed governments in Tunis and Cairo is a “Trade and Investment Partnership” which will only increase debt and dependency for the masses within these North African states.
The Nation magazine, in response to the Obama speech, published an article by Dr Gideon Polya noting that “Obama’s speech on the Middle East is extraordinary for its comprehensive dishonesty involving egregious deceit, lying by commission and lying by omission. Obama’s ignoring of the US-imposed Muslim genocide (about 12 million indigenous deaths in Palestine, Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan) is far worse than genocide denial or holocaust denial because at least ‘denial’ admits the possibility of public discussion.” (The Nation, May 23)
US foreign policy is still guided by imperial aims and ambitions which is reflective of the backing of the counter-revolutionary rebels in Libya and the more than two months of bombing of the oil-rich North African state. In relationship to Libya, Obama stated “As I said when the United States joined an international coalition to intervene, we cannot prevent every injustice perpetrated by a regime against its people, and we have learned from our experience in Iraq just how costly and difficult it is to try to impose regime change by force – no matter how well-intentioned it may be.” (Text of speech)
Nonetheless, the bombing of Libya is not the result of an international coalition, but an alliance of imperialist states in North America and Western Europe which has brought along two surrogate regimes in the Persian Gulf. The rebel destabilisation campaign against the country and the US/Nato bombing has resulted in the displacement of nearly one million people and the death of thousands.
United Nations Resolution 1973 was merely a cover to launch a full-scale war designed to overthrow the Libyan government and to impose a puppet regime compliant with imperialist objectives in the region. This war against Libya is also attempting to place on hold any genuinely revolutionary movement in Tunisia and Egypt since the naval blockade, sanctions and bombings have placed large-scale US/Nato military forces in the region.
Obama said of the leadership in Libya, “Now, time is working against Gaddafi. He does not have control over his country. The opposition has organised a legitimate and credible Interim Council. And when Gaddafi inevitably leaves or is forced from power, decades of provocation will come to an end, and the transition to a democratic Libya can proceed.”
However, the so-called “credible” counter-revolutionary forces would have been decisively defeated if the US/Nato forces had not began the Naval blockade and the bombing of Libya. Therefore, despite the stated reasons for the bombing as being geared toward protecting civilians, the administration’s real agenda is regime-change.
Disregard for US and International Law
Just as the UN resolutions against Libya were in actuality designed to destroy the political and economic system inside the country, the flagrant disregard of US law has gained almost no response from Congress. The War Powers Resolution of 1973, that was a by-product of the popular opposition inside the US to the genocidal war in Vietnam during the post World War II period, has been blatantly violated in the Libyan war.
As a recent petition drive initiated by the New York-based International Action Centre (IAC) stated, that the War Powers Act “requires a president involved in a military conflict lasting longer than 60 days to come before Congress for authorization to continue the war. We believe the people of Libya, North Africa, the Middle East, the US and the world deserve a debate on the need to immediately end this war.” (IAC Petition, May 17)
The IAC Petition explains that the May 13 Nato bombing that resulted in the deaths of 11 Islamic religious leaders and the injuring of 47 others, who were part of a peace delegation to end the war, represented “a most grievous war crime. It is an unprecedented new level of international lawlessness and it reveals a dangerous escalation of the war on Moslem people. It comes on top of the on-going criminal assassination attempts on Col Gaddafi that have already killed his son and three of his grandchildren.”
Although Obama did submit a request for authorisation to continue the war to the US Congress, the attacks against Libya are escalating. Jeffrey Feltman, Washington’s assistant secretary of state for the Near East, travelled to Benghazi and met with representatives of the rebel National Transitional Council in a further provocation against the government in Tripoli that is being bombed on a daily basis.
Irrespective of the outcome of the Congressional discussion on the US/Nato war against Libya, the imperialist states are committed to the on-going destruction of the North African country which has the highest income and standard of living on the continent. The only real hope for ending the war is the continuing resistance of the people in Libya against this military onslaught and the opposition to the regime-change strategy by people in the US and around the world.
Cynthia McKinney speaks to the people of Libya amid escalation of bombing
A new political intervention in the war took place on May 21 when former US Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney spoke on Libyan TV condemning the genocidal war against the government and people of the country. McKinney, who has been a fierce critic of US foreign policy in Africa and the Middle East, travelled to the country as part of a fact-finding mission to expose the actual criminal nature of the war.
McKinney stated on Libyan TV, “it’s very important that people understand what is happening here. And it’s important that people all over the world see the truth. And that is why I am here . . . to understand the truth.” (Libya TV, May 21)
The former Congresswoman and Green Party 2008 presidential candidate continued by emphasising, “I want to say categorically and very clearly that these policies of war . . . are not what the people of the United States stand for, and it’s not what African-Americans stand for. Under the economic policies of the Obama administration, those who have the least are losing the most. And those who have the most are getting even more.”
McKinney noted: s”The situation in the United States is becoming more dire for average ordinary Americans, and the last thing we need to do is to spend money on death, destruction and war.”
These comments from McKinney came in the aftermath of the bombing by Nato of numerous Libyan ships docked in three different ports along the Mediterranean coast. In addition to the bombing of ships, Nato forces have announced the deployment of attack helicopters into the theatre of war.
Nato forces and the rebels they support have once again rejected calls for a ceasefire from the United Nations Secretary-General as well as the Libyan government.
Instead the European Union has opened an office in the rebel-held city of Benghazi in a further attempt to encourage regime-change in the country.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the EU’s top foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton opened an office in Benghazi during a visit on May 22. The newspaper stated that “Ms Ashton opened an EU office in the eastern rebel capital and repeated a call for Col Muammar Gaddafi to step down – this time from Libyan soil.” (WSJ, May 23)
Consequently, despite the public proclamations of the Obama administration, the war against Libya and the overall policy orientation toward North Africa and the Middle East remains the same. It will only be the growing resistance of the people within the region backed up by the anti-war and anti-imperialist movements inside the US and Europe that will provide the only real hope for genuine peace and stability in this part of the world.
The writer Abayomi Azikiwe is Editor, Pan-African News Wire, and can be reached on [email protected]