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Posted on Mar 23, 2011
AP / Jerome Delay

Fallout: During a Tuesday trip organized by Libyan authorities, a supporter of Moammar Gadhafi salutes amid the wreckage of what was described as a maintenance warehouse hit by two missiles Monday evening. The site was at a naval base near Tripoli.

By Robert Scheer

It’s the black gold that drives nations mad and inevitably raises the question of whether America and the former European colonial powers give a damn about human rights as the basis for military intervention. If Libya didn’t have more oil than any other nation in Africa, would the West be unleashing high-tech military mayhem to contain what is essentially a tribal-based civil war? Once again an American president summons the passions of a human rights crusade against a reprehensible ruler whose crimes, while considerable, are not significantly different from those of dictators the U.S. routinely protects.

It is difficult to escape the conclusion that Moammar Gadhafi must now go not because his human rights record is egregious but rather because his erratic hold on power seems spent. After all, from the London School of Economics to Harvard, influential foreign policy experts were all too happy until quite recently to accept Libyan payoffs in exchange for a more benign view of Gadhafi’s prospects for change under the gentle guidance of what Harvard’s Joseph Nye celebrated as “soft power.”

But that revisionist appraisal of Gadhafi suddenly became an embarrassment when this nutty dictator—whom few in the world could ever understand, let alone warm to—was exposed by defections from his own armed forces to be akin to rotten fruit destined to drop. Libya’s honeymoon with the West, during which leaders led by Tony Blair and George W. Bush thought Col. Gadhafi might finally prove to be a worthy partner more concerned with reliably exporting oil than ineffectively ranting against Western imperialism, has suddenly been abandoned as no longer necessary. As with former U.S. ally Saddam Hussein before him, the Libyan strongman now seemed an awkward relic of a time that had passed him by, and easily replaceable. Not so the royal ruler of Saudi Arabia and the surrogates he finances in Yemen and Bahrain; their suppression of their peoples still falls within acceptable limits because of the vast resources the king manages in a manner that Western leaders have long found agreeable.

But this time, in the glaring light of the democratic currents sweeping through the Mideast, the contradictions in supporting one set of dictators while toppling others may prove impossible for the U.S. and its allies to effectively manage. The recognition, widely demanded throughout the region, that even ordinary Middle Easterners have inalienable rights is a sobering notion not easily co-opted. Why don’t those rights to self-determination extend to Shiites in the richest oil province in Saudi Arabia or for that matter to Palestinians in the West Bank or Gaza?

The fallback position for U.S. policymakers is the “war on terror” standard under which our dictators are needed to control super-fanatic Muslims. That’s why the U.S. trained the Republican Guard, led by a man who is the son of the despised ruler of Yemen and also is the counterterrorism liaison with Washington. On Tuesday it was the tanks of the lavishly U.S.-equipped Republican Guard that stood as the final line of support surrounding the Presidential Palace as calls for departure of Yemen’s dictator increased in intensity. The U.S. was still following the lead of Saudi Arabia, long a financier of the Yemeni ruler.

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The Saudi lead was made clearer in the kingdom’s support for the royal family in neighboring Bahrain as Saudi troops were sent in along with forces from the United Arab Emirates to suppress Bahraini democracy advocates claiming that freedom would enhance the power of the majority Shiite population. The fraud here is to locate Shiite Iran as the center of terrorism when it was the Sunni monarchies that were most closely identified with the problems that gave rise to al-Qaida. Not only did 15 of the 19 hijackers on 9/11 come from Saudi Arabia but Saudi Arabia and the UAE, along with Pakistan, were the only countries to diplomatically recognize the Taliban regime that harbored al-Qaida. In Bahrain the majority Shiite population is dismissed as potentially under the sway of the rulers of Iran without strong evidence to that effect. Once again it is convenient to ignore the fact that Iran, as was the case with Saddam’s Iraq, had nothing to do with the 9/11 attack that launched the U.S. war on terror. 

All of which elevates the question of how long will the U.S. and its allies ignore the elephant in the room posed by an alliance for human rights and anti-terrorism with regimes in the Middle East that stand for neither? While the jury is still out on whether the West’s attack on Libya will prove to be a boon for that nation’s population, at the very least it should expose the deep hypocrisy of continuing to sell huge amounts of arms and otherwise supporting Saudi Arabia and its contingent tyrannies.

Click here to check out Robert Scheer’s book,
“The Great American Stickup: How Reagan Republicans and Clinton Democrats Enriched Wall Street While Mugging Main Street.”


Keep up with Robert Scheer’s latest columns, interviews, tour dates and more at www.truthdig.com/robert_scheer.



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EmileZ's avatar

By EmileZ, March 23, 2011 at 7:13 am Link to this comment

I think Obama is trying to flex his muscles and assert American dominance over the region. The high profile (and quite positive) developments in Egypt, left him and his administration looking like a bunch of dictator supporting imperialist assholes (which they are).

Obama is trying to stay on top of and control the situation in Libya with his bombing raids and hopes that by doing so he can save face and simultaneously give a P.R. boost to the idea of U.S. military intervention. For these purposes the Gadhafi regime is in many ways ideal, especially when you consider the fact that we (Reagan) has bombed Libya in the past. Obama wants to look like he is “finishing the job” and at the same time get on the right side of history (by allegedly supporting the democratic uprisings in at least this one country), while supporting the U.S. imperial agenda for the region.

As for Mr. Scheer’s comment that “this is essentially a tribal based civil war”, It doesn’t really look that way to me, but I am not an authority.

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By Inherit The Wind, March 23, 2011 at 6:50 am Link to this comment

Scheer is being unusually dense.  The Saudis do many things far differently in retaining their repressive regime.
1) They pay off potential trouble-makers.  Thus they have funded the spread of Wahabbi extremist schools, but in return the Wahabbis don’t attack Saudi corruption and clear Shariat violations.
2) They are VERY careful to maintain cordial relations with the West, particularly the US, even, very quietly, with Israel.
3) They know how to stop even civil disobedience before it spreads.  Their military is far better trained and far more loyal than Libya’s.
4) In the Arab League they come across as a voice of moderation, eager and willing to get along with all their neighbors.  Only Iran proves troublesome for them.
5) They spread the wealth around so that more Saudi citizens have access to the basics of life than Libya, where Qaddaffi kept most for himself, his friends, and his military.
6) They aren’t run by a bat-shit crazy lunatic who dreams of being Caliph and is prone to making outlandish, provocative remarks.
7) We (our government) LIKE the Saudis and don’t like the Libyan leadership.
8) Helping the Libyan rebels has to be making the Saudis nervous.  Each dictatorship that falls to popular rebellion puts the Saudis at more and more risk.

This stuff isn’t hard to figure out.  I’m disappointed that Scheer didn’t.

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By Jeffrey C. Goldfarb, March 23, 2011 at 6:32 am Link to this comment

Theoretical consistency and following the logic of political action to their logical end in politics, and especially in international relations, are not virtues but the a deep problem. Weighing alternatives and considering ultimate ends and immediate possibilities, rather is what it is all about, making this piece an entertaining but not a serious argument. The conflation of the truth of philosophic position and political decision is a significant part of our problems, not a solution (http://www.deliberatelyconsidered.com/2010/12/politically-correct/)

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PatrickHenry's avatar

By PatrickHenry, March 23, 2011 at 6:31 am Link to this comment

More war for profit.

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drbhelthi's avatar

By drbhelthi, March 23, 2011 at 6:20 am Link to this comment

The “Black Gold” was always there.

The medium for profitably and misuse is attributed to an
infinitesimally small group of humans.

Certainly, Saudi Arabia is next, after the smaller kingdoms have been
annexed.

Control and power is the motivation of this group. Never enough. They
will face their end only upon squaring off with extra-earthers. After
the most of the rest of us have crossed over.

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Lafayette's avatar

By Lafayette, March 23, 2011 at 6:09 am Link to this comment

DEFAMATION CENTRAL

RS: If Libya didn’t have more oil than any other nation in Africa would the West be unleashing high-tech military mayhem to contain what is essentially a tribal-based civil war?

Libya ships 2.2% of all petroleum products. So, that’s a reason to invade it?

Saudi Arabia accounts for ten times as much (22.6%). So, yes, of course, that’s a good reason for invading it! (Price of a gallon at the pump will $15.)

The fact of the matter is that the Saudi’s have us by the short-‘n-curlies. The US economy would come to a grinding halt without Saudi oil.

(And if we don’t like that fact, then let’s quickly get an electric car engine on the road.)

NB: Statistics from here.

Once again an American president summons the passions of a human rights crusade against a reprehensible ruler whose crimes, while considerable, are not significantly different from those of dictators the U.S routinely protects.

Presuming RS means the Saudi family? But, nope - that ain’t necessarily so.

The Saud family’s rule over Saudi Arabia is autocratic, yes. But they have no murderous record like the despot Ghadaffi, who is being investigated by the International Criminal Court – see here.

Or perhaps RS has proof of what is alleged and if not the article is public defamation, unbecoming of a respected journalist. (But unfortunately legal in the US.)

INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT: Just the facts, ma’am

If interested in factual information regarding criminal investigations for Crimes Against Humanity before the ICC, go
here.

Or just glance at the ICC’s investigations map here.

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By brianrouth, March 23, 2011 at 4:35 am Link to this comment

Right on the money in this article!

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