The Politics of Saying Yes When You Should Say No
Mar 24, 2011
David L. Horne, Ph.D. | OW Contributing Columnist
I was, am and will continue to be a great supporter of President Barack Obama. That support comes from his stature as the first African American president and what that means to African descendants, and other people of color, all over the world.
It also comes from his style, grace, eloquence and record of accomplishment during 2008-2011. He has definitely made some major steps forward for both the United States of America in general and the Black American population in particular (please see Our Weekly, January 2011). He has promoted, advocated and signed significant legislation that will continue to benefit this country for years into the future.
But on the issue of the invasion of Libya, I have to stand and say, with all due respect, Mr. President, you are wrong. Not only did you make a very bad decision in this case, but to this point, it is the worse of your presidency. You were very ill-served by your principal advisors on this one, and this may be your Waterloo.
On what do I base this strong position? First, there is very little that the U.S. can gain by its involvement in this military exercise. Not only do we expend more money on another armed adventure, when money spent by this government is clearly a loud public issue, but we gain neither oil nor political leverage (a little more than 2 percent of America’s oil comes from Libya) from the involvement.
In fact, we lose many more friends in the region, and you will be compared with Bush’s recklessness and military gun-slinging.
Our president, as the Nobel Peace Prize winner, should now be expecting any day now a call from the Nobel Committee (remember Reggie Bush?) to return its award, and the insulting-our-intelligence reasons given for the invasion sound exactly like the lame prevarications used by others in getting America to invade Iraq.
From “We must take out his (Saddam’s) weapons of mass destruction” to “We must protect civilians from harm by Gaddafi’s forces,” is but one short step sideways.
To save civilians, the U.S.-led invasion must kill a few hundred more civilians, right? And that’s already started. This American involvement has nothing to do with saving civilians, and for a president to lie to both his supporters and enemies is not a good sign.
Many, if not most, of those civilians are armed. Even the television pictures of them have shown pistols, RPGs and AK-47s that they wave to the cameras. If we remember correctly, they brought down a Libyan jet fighter by themselves before the U.N. and NATO forces arrived, and one can’t do that with bows and arrows or rocks.
This is not about Libya’s high literacy rate, its free public education, its cosmopolitan-looking cities, its low infant-mortality rate, its high life expectancy (77.8 years), its allowance of Muslim women to be educated and have full-time employment, or its high standard of living (one of the top three on the continent) brought on during Gaddafi’s tenure. That’s actually irrelevant, as is the fact that the uprising in Libya was not over lack of food, housing, fuel or free healthcare. Libyans had all that. Compared to every other Muslim country in Africa and the Middle East, Libyans are not poor.
American citizens are not in danger in Libya (unless you count reporters who put themselves in harm’s way to get a story). We can easily substitute another supplier for the amount of oil we get from Libya, and the price will not differ enough to matter. Libya is a member of OPEC, the body that controls from 67 to 75 percent of the world’s known oil reserves, and there are plenty in that group ready to sign up America as a customer.
American involvement in Libya will not and cannot bring peace in that region, even if, heaven forbid, ground troops are committed, and we will have helped destroy the stability already there that’s necessary for regular trade and commerce. There is nothing good that will come from this. Libya is really not our business.
Just as former President Bush and his homies did, Mr. President, you listened far too sympathetically to an anti-government lobbying group that lives and operates outside of its own country, in this case the NFSL (National Front for the Salvation of Libya) anti-Gaddafi-ists who live and work in Virginia.
During the Bush administration, it was the mysterious Curveball informant in Germany who basically lied to U.S. forces and got them pumped up for an attack on Iraq. The NFSL is no better. This group has gained your ear and filled it full of horrors about Gaddafi’s tanks and planes smashing innocent civilians. Rebels are not innocent, Mr. President, and armed rebels are no longer merely civilians.
The fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood is in the city of Benghazi, as are the Wahhabis and Bini Walids, who all oppose Gaddafi’s interpretation of the Sharia and the Koran. There is a major quarrel going on there between Sunnis and Shiites, and Qadhafas (Gaddafi’s tribe) and the Zawiyas. Some soldiers and members of government in these tribes have quit Gaddafi and joined the rebels, and the soldiers have generally kept their guns and uniforms.
Some of these are people who founded the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group based in Benghazi, which allies itself with al-Qaeda and who have, over the years, been responsible for the assassination of leading members of the Libyan revolutionary committees, the attempted assassination of Mr. Gaddafi in 1996, several massacres of dark Africans, and other activities.
This is not violence vs. non-violence. Britain and the U.S. have even recognized some of these East Libyan residents as terrorists and have frozen their assets and put them on watch lists. There is too much going on in Libya for us to be able to sort out friend from foe this quickly. At best, we can only shoot in the dark trying to tell the good guys from the ogres. That is way too much uncertainty for bombs to be dropped.
The city of Benghazi also gives the rebels control of major oil-producing equipment, with no promise that change will benefit the U.S. So why are we indiscreetly supporting regime change in a sovereign country? Libya’s leader may indeed be polarizing and an irritating fellow, but is removing him worth the short- and long-term costs?
The no-fly zone is already a license to kill Gaddafi, so why are we involved in that? This is really too baffling and fallacious for a president who thrives on valid logical argumentation, and it looks at two or three levels, like we have gotten hoodwinked again into doing someone else’s dirty work.
Already the Arab League is repudiating any involvement and refuses to supply any weapons or troops. The league will certainly not lead any anti-Gaddafi brigade but will quickly devolve into recriminations against the U.S. and the West for attacking and bombing Libya. This is a no-win situation for America.
And here’s the greatest rub. In Afghanistan and Iraq, America has lost a great deal of blood and guts on the fields of battle. The primary aim, at least under the current administration, has been to beat back, destroy or fundamentally disrupt al-Qaeda. Mr. Gaddafi is a known anti-al-Qaeda head of state, and he has frequently rooted them out and expelled, jailed or killed them. Mr. President, your sending American troops to help the Libyan rebels may very well be nurturing and supporting the growth of al-Qaeda in Libya.
Mr. President, this is an internal Libyan Arab fight over tribal authority, factional religious domination and control of the resources from oil production. This is also a fight for preserving Italian, French and British oil interests in Libya. Already by March 2, Gaddafi had promised to expel Western oil interests and replace them with Chinese and India oil producers. That did not mean America’s interests. It meant Eni Oil (Italy’s biggest oil company), Total Sa (French), and Repsol (Spain), as well as Royal Dutch Shell and BP (British).
Walk away, Mr. President. You said we’d be there a few days only. Mean it. That is your, and our, only hope now. Don’t play the blackjack sucker 17 cards. The dealer usually wins those and takes your money and your dignity.
Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or Non-Governmental Organization (NGO). It is the step-parent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.