A British-American bluestocking living in the UK writes about politics, pop culture, and emerging new paradigms as they unfold on both sides of the Atlantic. (New content.)

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Cameron Calls for No-Fly Zone in Libya While the Bloodshed There Continues and Mid-East Countries Beg for US Support

Benghazi After Capture by Opposition
On the heels of the Prime Minister's controversial call for a "no fly zone" and the comment that he said he would "consider arming the opposition", Britain is now said to be sending teams of spies and diplomats into Libya to depose Qaddafi who is holding on to his last vestiges of power with alarming and bloody tenacity.

It appears that Libya is being divided up between those that stand by Qaddafi in the West (with Tripoli as its central hub) and the port city of Benghazi in the hands of the rebels in the East.  Cameron was hoping for United States concurring with his proposal.  It was a "no-go zone" that Cameron got instead from the US.  While the President wants Qaddafi to step down, he has not followed it with any action, choosing to stick by his "organic revolution" so that the US won't appear to be too interventionist. This has left the opposition in a lot of Middle Eastern countries upset and confounded.

Today, Qaddafi stressed that he was "fighting terrorism" and he demanded an investigation from the UN and the African council. Ibrahim Dabbashi, the Libyan ambassador to the UN says that Qaddafi's days in power "are limited" and supports a no-fly zone as Qaddafi forces are "attacking the people."  Three Dutch nationals fell into the hands of Qaddafi forces while attempting to rescue their own citizens trapped in the country. Qaddafi now is holding these three (which includes a woman ) as "prisoners". The political situation in the Middle East is

Here in the UK, the SAS along with MI6 agents are preparing to land in the eastern part of Libya where it will meet with opposition forces in the port of Benghazi. The word here is that 600 "Black Watch" soldiers of the famous Royal Highland Battalion are ready to be deployed to "aid in the revolution against the Qaddafi government." The regiment is so named for the color of its tartan and for the "watch" they kept over the Scottish Highlands through its long and distinguished history. A further 200 troops from South Cerney (UK) near the Lyneham RAF base (the main British military base) are also set to be deployed. The UK government is quite openly supporting the opposition forces in Libya.  These military decisions championed by the Prime Minister came as the bloodshed in Libya continues unabated.
In a very provocative interview, the son of Qaddafi, Saif Al Islam escorted Lisa Holland, a reporter for Sky News (UK) around Tripoli, answering her questions and attempting to show her how very "normal" Tripoli was now that his father was "back in charge". Saif is highly articulate and savvy and well-versed (no doubt) in the impact that the media has in these revolutionary times. As Holland interviewed him, with a Sky News camera crew in tow, Saif was greeted with smiles and jubilation in the neighborhoods of Tripoli. (Never mind that the over-enthusiasm might be for the fact that one wrong move might mean a visit from a mercenary at midnight.) When Ms Holland pressed him on the continuing violence and persecution of the opposition, Saif insisted that whatever was going on was simply to "frighten" the opposition, not "to kill them."  It did not look at all like that when Western cameras were able to catch Qaddafi forces gunning down dozens of people as they assembled for prayer. In the frame, you can view them falling down one by one as they are riddled through with gunshot. Qaddafi says that he "welcomes" the Western media and yet, cameras and mobile phones are being confiscated and some reporters are being held for questioning.

Saif, Qaddafi's son
It is difficult not to be disarmed by Saif, who has a Phd from the London School of Economics (news today emerged that LSE was embroiled in a controversy for accepting millions of pounds from the Libyan  government). He is well-spoken as he attempts to explain what his father is doing. He contends that "everyone is armed" when Lisa Holland asks about the YouTube video that has gone viral that shows him holding aloft a rifle and rousing the masses to stand for his father.  And indeed, for example, in Sirte, Qaddafi's hometown, all citizens have been given guns to arm themselves against the opposition which is on the march toward it as this is being written. Sirte has benefited greatly from the largesse of the country's leader. Students have been sent abroad to study on full scholarships and it boasts an extremely high literacy rate and comfortable style of living. Sirte is the "gem" in Qaddafi's crown of all that is "best" about Libya and his rule.

Watching Saif answering questions in his wire-rimmed glasses and plaid shirt, he appeared a lot more like the math whiz in college who helped you pass Calculus rather than the son of  a despot.  One wonders what Saif, a former student of the West would have thought of this revolution had he had a different father. One also wonders if Saif has also been pushed into being a spokesman for his father simply out of loyalty and fear. No wonder he appears disconnected with the reality of what is happening in Libya. He denies knowing anything bad is happening. Tyrants come in all forms and they appear not just in ruthless dictators--but in husbands and fathers. One wonders if his own life has been touched by a closer domestic form of tyranny. Perhaps he, too, wants to run for the border. He may be operating on auto-pilot with his father in total command. He lacks the bravado or pluck of his father, but he is the perfect photo-opportunity son and he is doing his job well.

The United States is still reviewing its possible options for responding to the Libyan crisis as the UK moves full steam ahead. Because it moved so slowly in rescuing its citizens, Cameron wasted no time in showing his muster.  Bill Richardson, Former Secretary of Commerce and known as a skilled diplomat said that Qaddafi conducted one of the most "tyrannical reigns of all time" and that the United States had to "stand up for the oppressed." He called for the US to get involved more actively.  In an interview with Al-Jahzeera, the Libyan chairman of the Political Science department at University of Texas, San Antonio,  Mansour El-Khikia stated clearly that when a group of people numbers one million they "cease to be rebels" and that the US silence is contributing to further genocide of the Libyan people. He said that Obama was "taking his time at the expense of the Libyan lives".  While he did not feel that the US needed to show force, he said "what about just helping (the Libyans) morally?" with support, a no-fly zone or even satellite photographs to show where Qaddafi forces were located. "Obama can wait, " he countered, "but in the meantime, 12 or 13,000 Libyan lives will be lost." The fear among international supporters of the Libyan opposition is that Qaddafi will stop at nothing and that the human rights atrocities will continue.

It isn't just Libya that is asking for US support. Faris Almatrahi, a spokesperson for the Yemeni Youth movement asked for "proactive and preventative measures" and that if the US "took a strong stand with the Yemeni people, it would show greater credibility" on the part of the US.

In the past, the United States has pushed its own agenda and it seems that in its quest not to be another Vietnam or Afghanistan it is not coming to the aid of a people who are desperate to have word that their revolutions are not in vain.And the question continues as to how many of these dictators in the Middle East have been propped up with American money? How many opposition forces are being gunned down with American arms? We have to ask the hard questions and come clean about how what we have done. And part of that is to finally stand up for what is right.  It is interesting to note that it has been the Prime Minister of England who has come forward, rattled his saber (and a few cages of his detractors) and pushed forward to aid the Libyan people despite the naysayers. And until the President of the United States throws in his support, Cameron and the Middle East will have to look elsewhere for an ally.