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Posts Tagged ‘regime change

When China and Russia use the veto

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Western mainstream media is tearing into the two countries which used their vetoes to stop a United Nations Security Council resolution on Syria. In the views of China and Russia, the draft resolution was hasty, would have ended all consultation, and would instead have provided the means to begin the ‘regime change’ cycle of destabilisation and war that have marked several countries in the Middle East region over the last decade.

Within minutes of the draft resolution being blocked by China and Russia, western TV channels and press media lashed out viciously against the governments of both countries. Several news agencies linked the escalation of violence in the city of Homs to the vetos, cynically twisting the reasons for the vetoes into neglect of the civilian toll of the unrest in Syria – “amid reports of a brutal crackdown, Russia and China prevented action being taken” was the general tone of such agencies, UPI amongst them.

Television channels in the USA immediately ran sound-bites by Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, saying that it had not been possible to work with Russia on a UN resolution “backed by the West and the Arab League” which basically wanted Syrian President Bashar Assad to quit, or face the consequences (the same consequences witnessed by other government heads in the Middle East during a year of uprisings). Since these consequences are directed by the USA, Britain, a few NATO countries and endprsed by Americam allies in the Arabian Peninsula, it is not in any way representative of what the ‘West’ likes to call the ‘international community’. Childishly, the US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice told ABC media that her country was “disgusted” by the vetos. However, Clinton was reported as forecasting bloodshed and civil war in Syria as an outcome.

The human rights organisation Amnesty International, whose apporach on the matter has become openly political in favour of the US government line, chose to moralise its discontent by complaining that the vetos are “a betrayal of protesters” and that the “UN Security Council has remained virtually silent on the violent repression in Syria since March 2011. This is a completely irresponsible use of the veto by Russia and China. It is staggering that they have blocked the passage…” etc etc. The news magazine Time turned to tabloid tactics with a headline: “Reports of Hundreds Killed in Homs, While Diplomats Fiddle” and fulminated that the draft resolution backed the Arab League’s call for Assad to step aside (indeed, in favour of what variety of puppet?). “On Saturday, Russia and China vetoed a watered down resolution, shielding their stalwart ally,” screeched Time.

Sober reporting on the vetos came from the Chinese media. CRI English reported that China on Saturday had voiced its regrets that Russia’s “reasonable” revision proposal on a Syria draft resolution was not taken into account. The news channel said that Li Baodong, the Chinese permanent representative to the UN, made the statement after he, together with his Russian counterpart Vitaly Churkin, vetoed an Arab-European draft resolution which backs an Arab League plan to promote a regime change in Syria.

“To push through a vote when parties are still seriously divided over the issue will not help maintain the unity and authority of the Security Council, or help resolve the issue,” Li said. “China supports the revision proposals raised by Russia, and has taken note that Russian Foreign Minister (Sergei Lavrov) will visit Syria next week,” Li said. “The request for continued consultation on the draft by some council members is reasonable. It is regrettable that these reasonable concerns are not taken into account,” he said.

In similar manner, Xinhua reported that Russia and China voiced their strong opposition to forced regime change in Syria. Xinhua said Russia warned some countries against meddling in the internal affairs of Syria, saying that the international community should prevent a replay of the Libya model, in which NATO military action help topple the regime of Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi. Hours before the Security Council entered into a scheduled meeting on Saturday, with Western powers pushing for a council vote on the draft, Russia insisted that the document be amended.

Xinhua quoted Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov: “We circulated an amended resolution which aims to fix two basic problems …(first), the imposition of conditions on dialogue, and second, measures must be taken to influence not only the government but also armed groups.” Lavrov had said this at a panel discussion at the Munich Security Conference, adding that these two issues are “of crucial importance” from the view of Russia.

At the UN, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed “deep regret”. The UN press briefing mentioned the crisis in Syria, “where thousands of people have been killed over the past year since authorities crackdown on a pro-democracy uprising”. Thirteen of the Council’s 15 members voted in favour of a draft text submitted by Morocco, the UN release said, but China and Russia exercised their vetoes (a veto by any one of the Council’s five permanent members means a resolution cannot be adopted).

“This is a great disappointment to the people of Syria and the Middle East, and to all supporters of democracy and human rights,” Ban said in a statement. “It undermines the role of the United Nations and the international community in this period when the Syrian authorities must hear a unified voice calling for an immediate end to its violence against the Syrian people.”

The UN release did provide the views of the Russian Ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, who said the text as it stood “sent an unbalanced signal to the Syrian parties,” with no call on the Syrian opposition to distance itself from extremist groups. He said a solution to the Syrian crisis must be “objective” and said some Council members had actively undermined opportunities for a settlement and pressed for “regime change.”

Churkin said Russia was actively involved in diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis and, to that end, the country”s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov would lead a delegation to the Syrian capital, Damascus, on Tuesday for talks with President Bashar al-Assad. China’s Ambassador Li Baodong voiced disappointment that the draft resolution did not incorporate amendments proposed by Russia, which China supported. He said an “undue emphasis” on pressuring Syria”s authorities would prejudice the result of dialogue and only complicate the issue rather than ending the fighting. He said the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Syria must be fully respected.

Eighty years after Umar al-Mukhtar’s execution, western Europe’s rulers announce the Libyan plunder

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Umar al-Mukhtär (b. c. 1862), a leader of Sanüsi resistance to Italian colonisation until his execution in 1931. Photo: General History of Africa, Vol VII, UNESCO 1985

We do not know if the president of France and the prime minister of Britain were aware of the historic signifiance of the timing of their joint visit to Libya last week. Either David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy had been informed of what had happened there, exactly 80 years before, and chose the date as a symbol of the military might that occupying colonial powers have had in North Africa; or they did not, their presence at the time being coincidence. Whichever the explanation, the Libyans who watched the two western European political leaders in their country could not have failed to have observed the anniversary of the execution of Umar al-Mukhtär, Libya’s legenary freedom fighter and the ‘Lion of the Desert’. It had taken place exactly 80 years ago, on 16 September 1931.

The Cameron-Sarkozy visit recalled all the sordid and bloody traditions of imperialism: untrammelled hypocrisy, rank economic plunder and the ruthless use of force to secure such plunder. They were feted by the leaders of NATO’s local client, the National Transitional Council (TNC), under heavy security in Tripoli. Delivering the ghastly charade, Cameron hailed “free Libya” to the cheers of the assembled crowds. “France, Great Britain, Europe, will always stand by the side of the Libyan people,” his counterpart Sarkozy declared.

A comment in The Guardian has explained that in Libya the long decades of oppression could not be forgotten so easily. The Italians had devastated the old pastoral economy, and depopulated much of the land: the very term Siziliani (many of the settlers had come from Sicily) remained a term of loathing. Memories of anti-colonial resistance helped to legitimise Libya’s new British-backed king, Idris, who as head of the Sanusi order had been a figurehead for the struggle against the Italians. But such memories also helped bolster the 27-year-old Colonel Gaddafi when he accused the king of selling out to latter-day imperialism, toppled him in a coup and set up the republic.

Poster for the file, 'Lion of the Desert' (1981)

This year that republic became the pretext for NATO’s neo-colonial adventure — to protect Libyan lives from the regime of Muammar Gaddafi — one that has almost completely been dispensed with. Based on a blatant illegality [‘Is the resolution on Libya legal under international law?‘], NATO warplanes continue to pound targets around the remaining pro-Gaddafi towns of Sirte and Bani Walid with scant regard for civilian lives as the TNC and its NATO backers push to bring the entire country under their control. The World Socialist Web Site has explained that all the hypocritical claims that the war for “regime change” in Libya was all about saving human lives notwithstanding, the aims of British and French imperialism in Libya, North Africa and the Middle East are no more humanitarian today that they have been for the past 200 years.

Earlier that week, the CEO of Italy’s energy giant ENI, Paolo Scaroni, was in Tripoli to discuss the resumption of Libyan gas exports. ENI was Libya’s largest energy producer before this economic war was illegally launced the energy company wants to defend its dominant position. Libya has the largest proven energy reserves in Africa: 46.4 billion barrels of oil and 55 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Libyan officials reported to the “Friends of Libya” gathering in Paris on September 2 that five major foreign energy corporations were back in the country.

To compare better the bloody and tragic history of ‘regime change’ carried out under colonial domination then and now, here is an extract that describes the events leading up to 16 September 1931.

“To worsen the situation even further, on 21 December 1922, Emir Idrïs al-Sanusï, the Union’s spiritual leader and supreme commander, went into voluntary exile to Egypt. His unexplained and sudden departure, which is still being debated among historians, completely demoralized the people and caused many of the warriors either to leave the country or surrender to the Italians. However, before leaving, al-Sanusï appointed his brother Al-Ridä as his deputy, and Umar al-Mukhtär as commander of the National Forces in the Green Mountains, and it was under his leadership and because of the efficient guerrilla warfare that he developed that the resistance continued until 1931. He divided his forces into three major mobile companies (adwär) and camped in the mountainous area south of al-Mardj at Jardas. The series of attacks launched against him in the summer of 1923 were all repelled. Another army sent against his camp in March was routed.”

Partie de Tunis et de Tripoli. Afrique no. 3. (Dresse par Ph. Vandermaelen, lithographie par H. Ode. Troisieme partie. - Afrique. Bruxelles. 1827). Cartographer: Vandermaelen, Philippe, 1795-1869. Date: 1827. Collection: David Rumsey Historical Map Collection

“It was Tripolitania that fell first. By June 1924, all arable land was occupied. But aware of their weakness as long as they did not control the desert, the Italians began a long campaign to control the desert and finally Fazzän. This was not marked by success despite the use of aerial bombing and poison gas. Several Italian advances were stopped. As late as 1928 the Libyans blocked the main Italian force at Faqhrift south of Surt. But by the end of 1929 and the beginning of 1930, Fazzän was finally occupied and the Libyan resistance in the west and south collapsed.”

“Meanwhile, the resistance in Cyrenaica continued and succeeded in inflicting heavy defeats on the Italians. When the Fascists failed to suppress the revolution of Umar al-Mukhtär in Cyrenaica through direct military attack, they resorted to some measures unprecedented in the history of colonial wars in Africa. They first erected a 300 km-long wire fence along the Tripoli-Egyptian border to prevent any aid coming from Egypt. Secondly, continually enforced, they occupied the oases of Djalo, Djaghabüb and Kufra to encircle and isolate the warriors in Cyrenaica. Finally, they evacuated all the rural population of Cyrenaica to the desert of Sirt where they kept them in fenced concentration camps. This measure was meant to deprive al-Mukhtär’s forces of any local assistance. Other mass prisons and concentration camps were established at al-Makrfln, Sulük, al-Aghayla and al-Barayka. Conditions in these camps were so bad that it is believed that more than a hundred thousand people died of starvation and diseases, not to mention their animals which were confiscated. In al-Barayka prison camp alone, there were 80,000 persons of whom 30,000 are said to have died between 1930 and 1932, according to the Italians’ own statistics.”

“Despite these wicked measures, the revolt continued and hit-and-run tactics were resorted to. The Italians again offered to negotiate with al-Mukhtâr. A series of meetings were held between the two sides. Among them was the one held near al-Mardj on 19 July 1929, attended by Governor Badoglio. At this meeting, the Italians offered to bribe al-Mukhtlr who turned down the offer and insisted on liberating his country.”

One for you, two for me. French President Nicolas Sarkozy (right) greets British Prime Minister David Cameron on Thursday at the Elysee Palace. Photo: Der Spiegel/DPA

“Later, when al-Mukhtär discovered that the Italians were trying to apply the policy of ‘divide and rule’ among his followers, he broke the talks with the Italians and resumed his tactics of guerrilla warfare which included skirmishes, raids, ambushes, surprise attacks and incursions spread all over the country. In the last twenty-one months before his capture, he fought 277 battles with the Italians as Graziani himself admits. In September 1931, however, al-Mukhtär was captured and taken to Benghazi. He was then court-martialed and executed before thousands of Libyans at the town of Sulük on 16 September 1931.”

[Extract from the chapter, ‘African initiatives and resistance in North Africa and the Sahara’, by A. Laroui, in Volume VII of ‘General History of Africa – Africa under Colonial Domination 1880-1935’, UNESCO-Heinemann, 1985]

From the very start of the Gaddafi regime, the Guardian comment observes, present and past merged as the anti-colonialist Gaddafi ordered British and American air bases to close and kicked out the 20,000 Italians still living in the country, nationalising their property. As his regime became more and more unpopular, so it found new uses in Libya’s history of oppression. Even as it razed the monuments of the Sanusi leadership, now seen by regime propagandists as feudal usurpers of a popular nationalist movement, so it sent researchers into the countryside as part of a vast oral history project to collect memories of the guerrilla war and Italian atrocities.

Such moves not only wrapped the regime in the heroic mantle of the anti-Italian jihad, they served geopolitical purposes too. Two years after forcing the Italians to leave, the socialist Gaddafi was inviting Italian corporations back in, turning the former colonial oppressor into Libya’s chief European business partner. And when in 2004 he sought new respectability in Europe, Italy became a crucial ally and history was part of the deal: Berlusconi apologized publicly for Italy’s past crimes, and in return, Gaddafi promised to keep Italy’s unwanted illegal migrants locked up in camps inside Libya.

There is more on Libya here: The bloody cost of ‘democratic transition’ in Libya ; A time before the pillage – what North Africa should mean to us ; Mussolini and Ethiopia, Italy and Libya, the mill of history ; Libya, the economic reasons for invasion ; Nato’s fascist war and the Black Code of the West ; So, why did the powers now attacking Libya easily tolerate Gaddafi for the last 10 years? ; The West’s Libya campaign has begun