Saturday, May 28, 2011

When a Dictator Becomes a Problem

Because of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie Scotland, thought to be "blowback" (1) for Ronald Reagan's aerial raid on Libya, that killed Muammar Gaddafi's stepdaughter, the UN imposed sanctions on the country. These were renewed after several other infractions, including the development of nuclear weapons.

But the embargoes were finally lifted in 2004, and Libya was open for business, especially in the oil fields.

Paul Martin discusses his first visit to Libya in 2004, certainly newsworthy. But after a private meeting with the Libyan dictator, and expecting the usual questions from the media, he emerged from the tent to discover that there were no reporters there at all.

Apparently at the time, two camels decided to have sex, and the media were preoccupied with that (2), and not what transpired behind closed tent flaps, or what it meant for Canada. Enough said.

However, Canadian companies have fared very well in what might be considered virgin territory. In 2009, the Harper government extended Most-Favoured Nation tariff status to Libya, to reduce trade barriers.

Libya created a Privatization & Investment Board and welcomed U.S. investment, although on their terms.

Libya had survived the recent economic crisis in part due to their isolationist policies, so may not have been willing to simply hand over the keys to the kingdom. They wanted to maintain some state control.

This could explain why, when the protests first sprang up in Libya, the U.S. immediately offered to help oust Gadhafi. According to the Associated Press:
Clinton: U.S. stands ready to aid Libyan opposition
The Obama administration stands ready to offer "any type of assistance" to Libyans seeking to oust Moammar Gadhafi, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Sunday, adding a warning to other African nations not to let mercenaries go to the aid of the longtime dictator ... Clinton spoke to reporters one day after President Barack Obama branded Gadhafi an illegitimate ruler who must leave power immediately.

"We are just at the beginning of what will follow Gadhafi. ... But we've been reaching out to many different Libyans who are attempting to organize in the east and as the revolution moves westward there as well," she said. "I think it's way too soon to tell how this is going to play out, but we're going to be ready and prepared to offer any kind of assistance that anyone wishes to have from the United States."
The U.S. was eager to take sides in a protest that had quickly turned into a civil war.

Is this just a continuation of the Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein writes of?

Much is being made of the dictator's detention centres, and yet the Canadian firm SNC Lavalin, was in the process of building a new one.

When the Canadian Parliament voted on military engagement, there were reports that as many as 10,000 civilians had been killed. We had a moral obligation to prevent more deaths.

And yet we are now ourselves killing civilians.

Canada has dropped 240 "smart bombs", and Stephen Harper is looking to buy 1300 more.

It's so much better to be killed by a 'smart bomb' than a dumbass one.

Stephen Harper is now looking to Parliament to extend the "mission", which we all know is a war for corporate interests.

It's only symbolic, given that he has a majority, and as prime minister, can make these decisions on his own. However, it presents another test for the NDP.

Foreign Affairs critic Paul Dewar, is noncommittal, but if they reject the motion, they may be called "soft on terror". Layton is still living down his "Taliban Jack" monicker. However, if they support the war, and things go bad, they will have no legitimate right to blame it all on the Conservatives.

Should be interesting.


1. Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire, By Chalmers Johnson, Henry Holt and Company, 2000, Pg. 8

2. Hell or High Water: My Life in and Out of Politics, By Paul Martin, McClelland & Stewart, 2008, ISBN: 978-0-7710-5692-5 5, Pg. 336-337

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