Monday, February 28, 2011

When the Global War on Terror Becomes a Global War on Democracy

Flag of the former monarchy in Libya 1951-1969

What do the tragic events currently taking place in Libya and the United States/European Union’s Global War On Terror (GWOT) have in common? … possibly the special commandos and foreign mercenaries that Kaddafi has unleashed on the large, peaceful protesters that had little choice but fight back in Zwara, Misratah and Benghazi. Please allow me to explain.

What the Global War on Terror and the fragmenting state of Libya might possibly have in common are the soldiers coming to the aid of Mummar Qaddafi, the aging leader of Libya for over 40 years now. There are the obvious loyalists of Qaddafi who possibly have received preferential treatment during his rule. These are not the link. Instead, there are various reports from Al Jazeera and other news agencies of Black African special commandos and foreign mercenaries coming from Niger, Chad and as far away as Zimbabwe. This should not be a surprise. Qaddafi for the past couple of decades has been showering West and Central African states with philanthropy in order to create a better position for Libya in the African Union and also in the larger geopolitical arena.

Now that his regime faces collapse, he is certainly calling on those countries to assist him with soldiers and equipment and what certainly is a part of his persuasiveness, rewarding these states and soldiers handsomely with beaucoup d’argent. Brace yourself because here comes the punch line. These forces that Qaddafi has called upon and are protecting him now … the ones coming from at least Niger and Chad, wearing ‘yellow hats’ by Al Jazeera’s accounts, and speaking French among each other as they hunt down protesters in Libyan cities to shoot, kill and rape may very well be the forces trained by US and European Special Forces to fight terrorism in the Sahara and Sahel. Surprise! Just like the tear gas canisters that were made in the USA and thrown into the crowds of thousands that assembled in Tahrir Square neighborhood of Cairo, Egypt, Western Nations have, once again, contributed to needless violence against a genuine democratic movement.

Before writing angry letters to Washington, London, Paris, Berlin, Rome, and Madrid, let me clarify something. If my theory rings true and these special forces Qaddafi is using to save himself and his cronies are, in fact, the same soldiers trained by US and European Special Forces in GWOT, then we must be fair to our short-sighted politicians. It was certainly not their intentions to train soldiers to protect Qaddafi’s dictatorship. That was not then, and not now, their goal. They did intend, however, on supporting the weak democracies and brutal dictatorships that exist in West and Central Africa. After all, these are their allies against terrorism, or at least they designate these regimes as their GWOT allies.

The major problem with GWOT is it has failed in its efforts to reduce violence in the Sahara and Sahel. In fact, it has increased the number of violent incidents. In our efforts to train the national militaries in West and Central Africa, we (Americans and Europeans) have provided West and Central African regimes the tools and training to suppress their political rivals, and, more importantly, their own citizenry. Meanwhile kidnappings and attacks on Western interests have increased since September 11th. Meanwhile, flukes and unintended consequences like Qaddafi calling upon US and European trained special forces from Niger and Chad have found a market for their skills by protecting a brutal dictator, who by conservative estimates, has killed over 300 of his citizenry (some of them while attending the funerals of Libyans that were killed earlier).

One last rant (this one is especially for the Governor Walker of Wisconsin and new members of the US Congress). At a time when you are claiming it is in America’s best interest to give up what few social safety nets they have, cut their wages and benefits, and scrap any future efforts at collective bargaining, do you think it is in your best interests to keep shoveling funds into failed military programs like GWOT while cutting what little benefits Americans have at home? … (GWOT) funds that inadvertently undermine real, democratic, social change organized by peaceful Libyans, Egyptians and Tunisians? Or will you wrap a terrorist label around these people as you cut the modest benefits of teachers, fire fighters, janitors, and other public employees? And if this was not enough, you also want to strip them of their rights to assemble, strike and bargain? I don’t want to be cynical about this, but it truly looks like GWOT and the agendas of politicians for 2011 are really just fronts for a Global War on Democracy both at home and abroad.

Flag for the Libyan Protesters of 2011

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