Libya: the manufacture of consent

Almost 1300 people have been killed in Libya in the past 24 hours; almost equal to the death toll of the brutal, three-week Israeli Operation Cast Lead massacre in Gaza. In the case of Gaza, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in cities across the world to demonstrate, but now, we celebrate for Tripoli.

What is it that we are celebrating? Are we celebrating the NATO bombs that carved out a path for the rebels we have trained? Are we celebrating the blood-soaked routes that they took into the capital? Are we wishing for further blood to be spilt in Tripoli, as armed anti-Gaddafi forces clash with an armed and civilian population?

This is not a revolution; it is a western-backed, NATO-sanctioned, colonialist regime change in a sovereign African nation. As political analyst and eyewitness Mahdi Nazemroaya, whilst being interviewed on Russia Today, so aptly surmised:

“This is a NATO war. They bombed this entire city and landed insurgents on the coast. NATO has bombed mercilessly in this country and massacred innocent civilians.”

A massacre, with our consent. Did we really believe that the governments of the UK and the US, the butchers of Baghdad, the burka-banning Sarkozy in France and the Afghanistan-bombing NATO Apaches, had suddenly chosen the side of the people? Or did we believe that later, after their entire country had been decimated and the rebels had taken over, then they could kick NATO out?

To suggest that the NATO members have sunk their teeth deep into oil-rich Libya, and will not simply leave when told, is not to demean or look down at Libyan people, it is a reflection of historical fact. Palestinian people did not ask for the “Palestinian Authority” to be installed in their name, and the Iraqi population did not democratically elect for their country to be occupied and their oil to be looted by foreign powers. Furthermore, the rebel leadership invited NATO into their country and have admitted that they would be nowhere without them. What evidence is there to suggest that that same rebel leadership would now turn their backs on their helpful allies?

“This war has nothing to do with Colonel Gaddafi,” Nazemroaya continued, “Gaddafi is a pretext for this war. This war is about stealing money from the Libyan people.”

As NATO waged war in Libya, another, simultaneous war has been fought. A psychological war, a media conflict… a battle to manufacture our consent. Even last night, from the BBC to Al-Jazeera, the flow of misinformation was as rampant as it has been for weeks on end. Only Russia Today provided a drop of balance in a sea of propaganda. But something does not add up; I remember three days ago, seeing a BBC reporter claiming that “as we could see”, the rebels had taken full control of az-Zawiyah. Behind him, five men held guns in the air. I wonder if the takeover of Tripoli has a similar reality? On Sunday evening, Al Jazeera English broadcast fake images of rebels celebrating in Green Square… only, it wasn’t Green Square.

But if the rebels do take “control” of Tripoli, what will follow? Already, there are fears of the ethnic cleansing of people of Gaddafi’s tribe, or with suspected “pro-Gaddafi” tendencies. Images of the bloody “de-Baathification” of post-invasion Iraq come to mind. “But this is different!” I hear you cry, “NATO didn’t invade Libya!” Indeed, a war by proxy agents. How very humane of us.

So, who is next in the sights of the hungry imperialist powers? Earlier this week, the US, UK, France, Germany and the EU all demanded that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad immediately resigned. There is no question that people in Syria are taking to the streets with genuine demands, and many have lost their lives in the process, but the idea that our governments have any position of moral supremacy is arrogant and delusional. The real question is, will we allow the manufacture of our consent for yet another war of aggression in the Arab world, or will we fall for the pretense of “humanitarian intervention” once again?

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