Friday, March 25, 2011

Middle East Mayhem: For me, more questions than answers

I see Libyan rebels on CNN gunned down on the streets. Someone has to do something to help them, I think. Why doesn’t the UN hurry up and make their decision to enforce a no-fly zone over the country and take down that madman Gadhaffi?

I’m like millions of other westerners watching a mighty revolution take hold in the Middle East. The People want democracy, they say. Enough with repressive dictatorships. “Our time has come.” Who in their right mind could argue with that?

Overall, Egypt has gone relatively smoothly, Syria a little less so, and I’m never totally sure what’s happening in Bahrain, Yemen and even Saudi Arabia (revolution in Saudi Arabia?). I just need a few more pictures. Then I’ll know for sure. Right?

Until then, I remain swept away with concern about Libya. The Libyans struggle is so compelling. They’re taking on a brutal regime, a torturer, a psychopath. It’s clear that the rebels, on the side of the angels it appears, can’t stand up to Gadhaffi alone. They need “us.”

Though I’ve never put much faith in the decisions world leaders make when it’s come to who they choose and support as allies (since both Gadhaffi and Saddam Hussein were at one time amongst the chosen), it’s probably for the best that such decision-making isn’t in my hands instead.

I’m a little untrustworthy and fickle about my values and interests, it seems. Who would have thought I, a ‘make love not war’'60s anti-Vietnam war peacenik, would be a likely candidate to stand beside the military hawks? But here I am.  I’ve been saying “Go get ‘em” in recent years, more often than not. 

That's right. I’ve never forgiven Bill Clinton for not going into Rwanda to stop the merciless slaughter of 700,000. And now, Libya. My (knee jerk) reaction, after seeing nightly footage of what’s happening there has convinced me that the West and UN must do something.

I’d probably unequivocally stand behind my belief if I didn’t stop for a brief second to ask myself a few sobering questions.

They’re questions I don’t have answers for, unfortunately. I can only hope the world leaders do, but I am ye of little faith. They don’t have a good track record.

I am going to give you a link here so you can look at what I consider to be the best, and most moving war photography to come out of the Middle East in recent weeks. While you’re looking, please consider, as I do, some of the questions I’ve been wrestling with. Perhaps you can come up with better answers than I can.

The questions begin:

If we hadn’t been barraged by videos and photographs of pleading Libyans asking for our help; been exposed to constant CNN coverage; or received Facebook and Twitter messages telling us what was going on the Middle East, would we have been equally concerned if only reading newspapers  or watching short news-on-the hour reports?

What if recent massacres in Darfur had had similar coverage? Why didn’t “we” intervene there, where government sanctioned slaughter of non-Arab Sudanese is estimated at close to 300,000? Because we didn’t see their blood-soaked, screaming faces often enough on TV?

Okay, so we have intervened in Afghanistan and Iraq, though I’m not exactly sure why in the case of Iraq other than it was the distorted will of the U.S.’s own madman, George Bush and his Halibuton oil company cronies. In both cases, what exactly has it done for the Iraqis and Afghanis? Have we liberated the women from male oppression? Have we subdued Taliban strongholds in Afghanistan?  How do we feel everytime a Canadian soldier is killed? That his life was taken for a just and worthy cause? 

So what exactly is our objective in Libya? Yes, we want to support the rebel forces and take down Gadhaffi, but UN military forces deny they are going after Gadhaffi.

What if air strikes don’t knock him out and his supporters keep on killing people anyway? Do we step up attacks on land? Do we have any real clue what kind of government the rebels will be setting up  should they win? Look what happened in Iran after their revolution. We’re not so nuts about the present government there, are we?

And one of the biggest questions for me, why did we decide to go into Libya and not Sudan, Congo, Rwanda. Why did we standby and watch ethnic cleansing in Bosnia? Oil, perhaps? Better CNN coverage?

And what about other areas on the verge of eruption? Will we go into Yemen, whose government has already mowed down protesting civilians? What about Syria?

What will happen if UN planes inadvertently strike civilian populations?Besides the innocent loss of lives, imagine the backlash. We don't need no backlash.

And who are these rebels, really, the ones my (bleeding) heart honestly goes out to?

Are they similar to the Afghani men I equally felt sorry for when they were being invaded by the Russians? The ones with the wool hats and shawls who, once the Russians left, became the dreaded, oppressive Taliban?

How good of a judge am I, of character or political alignment, really?  Do I have any real understanding of Middle East, Arab, Muslim and tribal politics, sufficient  to know who is my friend, enemy or really on the side of democractic, humane civic pricnciples? I fear not.

And as for our interventions, where do we stop? Where does it all end? In Libya? If so, why?

President Obama recently said, regarding the decision to enforce the no-fly zone, that it is “a chance  to align our values with our interests.” What the hell does that really mean.

From what I can tell, both the government’s and my own values and interests are in constant flux. I wouldn't trust either of us.

"Politics have no relations to morals."   Machiavelli

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