Monday, 28 March 2011


The Vatican was on record opposing the US war in Iraq and Pope John Paul II had personally expressed his views to former President Bush. When the US-UK-French campaign to strike Libya by air started, the Vatican was officially neutral. Just as the air strikes were announced, La Stampa daily noted that the Catholic Church concurred with the 'legitimacy of humanitarian air raids' in Libya as it had also recognized the necessity for intervention in Afghanistan.

 On 27 March 2011, Pope Benedict XVI changed his earlier position and noted that the safety of civilians requires cease fire by all sides and a political solution. A number of Catholic charity organizations in cooperation with the UN have been helping refugees in North Africa and the Pope was briefed regularly about events. It seems that there was pressure on the Vatican to take a position, other than praying and providing relief aid. 

Now that his Holiness has come out against the NATO air campaign, which would have to become a ground campaign soon unless Gaddafi leave, would NATO have the same response to the Pope's plea as Joseph Stalin, namely, "how many tank divisions does the Pope have?"

If the logic for NATO intervention in Libya is to be applied for all such cases without discrimination, doesn't this mean that NATO should have been bombing Tel Aviv every time Israeli planes, tanks, and soldiers struck down Palestinian civilians? And would NATO follow the same policy toward Saudi Arabia and Gulf States when the time comes for mass uprisings, and it will?

Let us assume for the sake of argument that British police clash with protesters in the future and civilians are killed and injured the next time when mass demonstrations that reach over half a million in London as they did on 26 March 2011. Should NATO bomb London as it did Tripoli? Unthinkable and appalling indeed, but why is it so? Why the obvious Western hypocrisy behind which rests what many Africans as well as non-Africans describe as 'a racist neo-colonial policy'? 

No matter what categories we invent other than the terms that Africans use today, do semantics change the reality of a mode of operation by US-UK-France, the 'crusading trio' - bombs will kill people and destroy property? Isn't the net result on the ground the same whether Africans who have a history of white subjugation call it racist neo-colonialism or 'pursuit of democratic air raids'?  

Libya is a case of "White Man's Burden", something Africa has suffered from the 15th century when the Portugese set foot on the continent. That white-dominated governments are attacking non-white countries owing to racist and neo-colonial motives can be debated. Why are there Africans who insist that the goal of the air raids in Libya is to undercut Pan-African solidarity - never exactly very solid in any event - and to weaken and divide Africa?

At the very least, the goal of the 'crusading trio' is ultimately to have a pro-West regime that signs oil, investment and trade deals on better terms than Gaddafi has been offering. Where is the benevolence in this policy and why has the Pope failed to see it when he called for end to the war? Will the West heed the advice of the Vatican? If not, how is the 'crusading trio' any different than Stalin in his pragmatic attitude toward the Pope? 

How can the 'crusading trio' explain heavy bombing of Libya - and scheming in Syria now in the initial stages of protests - while at the same time allowing permanent Israeli war and occupation of Palestinians? I have seen no government intelligence that the 'crusading trio' will strike at Syria; at least not at a time that things are 'up in the air' in Libya where ground troops may be required. Do I believe that the 'crusading trio' will strike at Syria if conditions were right as they may become down the road? Absolutely, either directly or they could have Israel do it.Washington has denied such plans, but will they resist the temptation to remove Assad from power, no matter what he does to reform the regime?

Social unrest in Syria could be described as marginal (mainly in the cities of Latakia and Daara) in comparison with what took place in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, and now Libya. In fact, the Syrian situation may not be as serious as the one in Jordan, but news reports are not the best from inside Syria and the uprising could change very rapidly. If it does, the 'crusading trio' will have no problem striking at Syria, or have Israel do it for them.

When Obama came to office, there were some efforts to ameliorate relations with Syria. At present, however, the Arab uprisings offer the opportunity for the US and Israel to see political change in Syria. If the Syrian people want Assad and his regime out, then they should be forced from power, but if regime change rakes place because the 'crusading trio' and Israel want it and they are willing to destabilize Assad amid widespread Arab unrest, that translates into foreign intervention and violation of national sovereignty, in short, neo-colonial schemes hiding behind the thin veil of 'democracy'. 

The one-party state should be terminated, if that is the will of the Syrians, and sooner or later that will take place. Sooner or later, Syria will have open and democratic institutions that will best serve them, assuming no foreign interference. But does the West have a history of delivering democracy to the Middle East, Africa, Latin America or Asia? Is the goal of the 'crusading trio' humanitarian, or is humanitarianism a pretext concealing tangible interests (economic and strategic) that have nothing to do with promoting democracy, social justice, economic development, or any other benevolent goal?

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