After seven odd assassination attempts over the last four decades, it was on October 20, 2011, that one of the most successful Libyan leaders Muammar Gaddafi kissed the most brutal and disgraceful death. Libyan fighters snapped him out of his ‘hole’ and shot him to death. His body, half naked, completely wounded, shambled hairs and bloodied was then delivered as prized possession to Misrata (a city near Sirte) where it was put on public display as a token of victory for the rebels. And with it came an end of the era, which Gaddafi built over 40 years. And with his end, the US again proved its double standards to the world!
Yes Gaddafi was a ruler who made a lot of personal wealth the way perhaps many other rulers in India and many other countries try to do. He ruled with an iron fist but then many other rulers across the world do the same. But here are some facts about Gaddafi. Under his rule and his economic policies, Libya’s human development indicators improved so much that it was ranked as a nation that had highest per capita GDP in Africa, best education index and also an exceptional human development index.
During his rule, women had the best of access to equality in the whole of Arab world. Yes, many people did revolt against him due to his iron fist rule, but that doesn’t necessarily make him the kind of evil that the western media has been trying to portray in the last few months. The ire of the west lies actually in the fact that Gaddafi was the real mastermind behind OPEC that virtually transferred billions of petro dollars from the western coffers to the Arab world. And that is something that the west hasn’t been able to forget or forgive.
Let me state clearly that this is no way an attempt to defend Gaddafi or his iron fist policies. The attempt is to bring forth the American double standards by taking a simple look at the three regimes which have been overthrown in Libya, Egypt and Iraq because there can be nothing more shameful than what US is doing to the entire Middle East and Africa. Not only they have been supporting the dictators with arms but with this act, they have overthrown three most successful regimes of the region to quench their lust for oil.
It is no secret that since decades, US has been a chief supplier of arms to the Middle Eastern countries and especially to those nations where the regime needed it most - to most autocratic and ruthless rulers. In 2009, President Obama has asked Pentagon to sell most advanced weapons to governments of Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Tunisia. Between 2006 and 2009 US supplied arms worth $47 billion to Middle Eastern nations, which was 54 per cent of total arms purchased by the region. It was the American weapons that were used in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Egypt to curb the pro-democratic movements. And why not; it is these countries that collectively provided US with $70 billion through arms trade.
The Obama administration last November struck a deal with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia wherein Saudi Arabia agreed to purchase arms worth $60 billion over the next 20 years including F-15 fighter aircrafts. This is the same country which is criticized for suppressing women’s rights and discriminating against foreign workers. The nation has also come under international human rights radar for practicing unfair trials and arbitrary detentions.
Similarly, US support to Jordan’s government is omnipresent. Last year it gave aid worth $300 million that the government eventually used for curbing political resistance and violating basic rights. Interestingly, the US had made its tie stronger with Turkmenistan that last year received military aid worth $2 million a jump from $150,000 in 2009. This jump is credited to the fact that it eases the flow of arms into Afghanistan and Pakistan and this is in spite of the fact that the 2009 State Department report of the US itself claimed the regime to be an abuser of human rights. Similar is the case of American relations with Uzbekistan (Sanctions against the brutal regime were lifted in 2006 and the Obama administration is all set to refurbish the relationship).
Coming back to the case of Gaddafi, Libya had been a key partner of US in the African region. It is no secret that Gaddafi’s rule of Libya was a transformation from an outcast to a neo-liberal nation for the Western countries. In 1980s through 1990s, Gaddafi’s coveted unflagging support to various national liberation movements that later drew ire from the Western countries, who branded Libya as “terrorist rogue state”! The testimony to it is the bombing by the Ronald Reagan administration that was aimed at assassination of Gaddafi! However, the table was turned in late 1990s - when UN sanctions were lifted in 1999 and US itself abandoned its sanctions against Libya by 2006. It was a case of restoring Gaddafi for American policy benefits! The US also blackmailed Gaddafi to support American policies so that it could give a leeway to Libya on human rights (read, hardliners)! US also had interest in Libya for its arms trade - and essentially suggested - and helped Libya develop its missiles and chemical weapons with American help. Gaddafi chased advanced weapons using petro-dollars and tried to portray himself as the leader of the entire Africa! Gaddafi made windfall gains through oil trade that constituted 30 per cent of Libya’s GDP. The per capita export of oil by Gaddafi eclipsed even that of Saudi Arabia thus allowing the country to achieve the highest standard of living Africa. Now that Gaddafi is gone, Libya is likely to plunge into chaotic misrule. Gaddafi was a secular leader and Libyan Special Services was frontrunner and an ally of United States in fight against terrorism and hunting down Osama Bin Laden. There are now clear fears that after usurping power, the rebel forces can sink into the hands of Islamic hardliners and form another breeding ground of terrorism!
The same story was repeated for Egypt. It has been the beneficiary of $60 billion of US aid in last 30 years! It is a key ally of US in the Middle East and Hosni Mubarak, to a large extent, was an instrumental tool in achieving the same. That was the reason that Obama administration was reluctant to throw its full support behind the Tahrir Square protestors. It is touted that Obama administration helped Mubarak with weapons in suppressing the pro-democracy movement - which eventually made the citizens more hostile towards Mubarak. However, under domestic pressure and to maintain their political image US eventually and conveniently dumped (read: backstabbed) its major strategic ally The change of regime in Egypt - as one would have liked - didn’t really result in a miracle for the country! From the poor peasants to the miniscule business classes - all are facing a huge fall in the living standards they enjoyed before. Moreover, many hardliner Egyptians follow the Salafi brand of Islam (associated as violent jihad against civilians) that is a cause of impediments to the modernization of Egyptian society. Till the end of Mubarak’s regime, it was justified to claim that Egyptian women were one of the most progressive in the Arab world.
Several advancements had been made to improve women’s rights. Several rights such as right to no fault divorce, greater custody of their children were introduced. Under Mubarak’s regime there were handful of women cabinet ministers and about quarter of corporate top posts were occupied by women. Therefore, there was an overall feel-good-factor for women’s rights and women’s voices in Mubarak’s regime. However, after the fall of Mubarak, quite gratuitously, not a single woman was appointed to the committee for drafting the new Constitution. So, the scenario that has unfolded in Egypt is a fierce return of the Salafi image of Islam and is politicizing women as a gambit to dissipate previous progress made for their rights! Apart from intent to discard and abandon women’s rights as equal to men Salafism discounts politics as revisionist and democracy as a domain of the infidels! If the discourse of the present day is allowed to amplify, it can well foretell a day of doom for Egypt - an Afghanistan like situation - terrorized, chaotic and depressed like that of any brutal middle age regime!
Both of these cases were one where US had a little choice as both of these were public outburst against increasingly unpopular rulers. However, in both the case they tried saving these dictators but eventually backstabbed them to keep their hands clean. In the same light, Saddam Hussain, like Muammar Gaddafi and Hosni Mubarak, was supported, sustained, indulged by US only to be abandoned later because of economic and strategic reasons! The US provided Saddam with several billion dollar financial aid, state-of-the-art weaponry, military intelligence and special operations training to be used as bulwark against Iran’s increasing clout under Khomeini. The arms trade of US with Iraq reached sizeable proportions which the Reagan and Bush administrations frequently encouraged, including chemical and biological weapons! Not only weaponry, but US provided all kinds of training as well to Saddam Hussain’s elite Revolutionary Guards on US soil.
A report released in 1994, clearly explained that the biological weapons (disease producing and poisonous) were exported to Iraq under the licensing of US Department of Commerce. However, in 1990 when Saddam attacked Kuwait, American ire fell on Iraq transforming them from an all-weather-friend to an arch rival! After the fall of Saddam Hussain in 2003, the country plunged into total anarchy as terrorism, disorder, bomb blasts, lawlessness, lack of development, utter chaos and misrule became a daily routine. That’s what US did to a perfectly prosperous, wealthy and a progressive nation! Saddam Hussain was a secularist and a liberal leader. He encouraged women’s rights as well. Women were given full time jobs, they were a part of arguably the best education system in the Arab world, were given maternity leave for a whole year, and public day care centers were set up. However, today Sharia law has been enforced where women cannot involve themselves in public life, their freedom of movement has been restricted, abduction and assassination of women is common! The US act in Iraq is a total failure. The people there are far worse off now than what they were during the Saddam regime.
What I am trying to say in simple words is that no doubt Hosni Mubarak, Gaddafi and Saddam were dictators. But they were American allies at one time or other They have been supported and encouraged by America over the years like many other brutal dictators in Africa, Islamic fanatics like Osama and rogue nations like Pakistan. From 1950 to 1989, it is the same US that delivered $1.5 billion worth arms to Liberia, Somalia, Sudan and Congo.
Qatar’s Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani bought arms worth $200 million from these same Americans, who also sold $7 billion worth advanced missile defense system built by Lockheed Martin Corporation to the United Arab Emirates. In fact Egypt itself bought almost 90 per cent of its arms from US between 1989 and 2008. Americans have regularly in past and even now continue to support brutal dictators around the world.
However these three who have been overthrown and killed first, were the most progressive of all regimes when it came to women’s rights-a key factor of judging Arab nations, national income, education and other human development index parameters. The question is: what is it that America wants? It has miserably failed to bring any kind of democracy in the Arab or African world nor does it care. It supports the most brutal of dictators and supplies arms to them for its own profits. But apart from this greed to secure oil pipelines in these nations, is it also that America wants these nations to be ruled by Islamic fanatics rather than progressive dictators- the latter clearly being the better of the two evils- simply because social disturbances and conflicts in these nations allows US defense budget to thrive and be justified.
All I can say is that for the sake of their arms industry and greed for oil, it has been successful in overthrowing three strong and progressive nations of the world and reducing them to dumps. While nation after nation is on the brink of a social collapse; for the US, it is business as usual. And it is time that the world must wake up and act against this unilateral dictatorship in the name of democracy.
- 06 November 2011 |
- Dr. Arindam On America