Seumas Milne’s article in the Guardian today usefully draws the distinction between the response of Western governments to the Egyptian and the Libyan uprisings and offers a powerful denunciation of the West’s threats to
any such intervention would risk disaster and be a knife at the heart of the revolutionary process now sweeping the Arab world. Military action is needed, US and British politicians claim, because Gaddafi is “killing his own people”. Hundreds have certainly died, but that’s hard to take seriously as the principal motivation.
When more than 300 people were killed by Hosni Mubarak‘s security forces in a couple of weeks, Washington initially called for “restraint on both sides”. In Iraq, 50,000 US occupation troops protect a government which last Friday killed 29 peaceful demonstrators demanding reform. In Bahrain, home of the US fifth fleet, the regime has been shooting and gassing protesters with British-supplied equipment for weeks.
These details alone should be enough to silence those on the left arguing that both insurrections are identical in their political character.
In Egypt, the best way of formulating the recent struggle is that it was large sections of the Egyptian people versus Mubarak, who was backed – though increasingly unwillingly – by the United States and Europe. That struggle of course continues in a new form now Mubarak has gone but elements of Mubarakism remain.
In Libya, it seems to me as if the struggle essentially now threatens to become between the Libyan people and the West, as the imperialists, spotting a weakness, circle from above to safeguard and extend their interests. Any Western intervention would be catastrophic for Libyans.
Gadaffi, despite his rhetoric, gave up long ago doing what was right for his country. By attacking the Libyan people at this conjuncture he is indirectly aiding imperialism, which has no interest in seeing a democratic, popular and progressive government come to the fore.
All power to the Libyan people!