‘Humanitarian’ Killing Spree: The Case of Qaddafi

What a difference a decade makes, as they say. Qaddafi’s death has spread euphoria across the Arab world, a celebration we can call as delayed. Why? The same euphoria was felt  elsewhere back in the early 2000s as diplomatic ties between Libya and the West gained new heights. In the years following Qaddafi’s decision to abandon development of weapons of mass destruction, Libya saw a renaissance of close ties with the West: then British Prime Minister Tony Blair visited Qaddafi in 2004, the first such visit since 1943; US lifts its trade embargo on the country; and the EU followed by lifting arms embargo.

The timing could not be more right for the West, the Iraq war has just begun and how to keep it going without hurting the economy too badly than inviting themselves to explore and exploit Libya’s natural resources? Looking back from this year, we can only see how the West, for a decade now, is busy shopping for oil across the planet.

2008 for Libya and the West becomes more intimate as then US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice meets Qaddafi in Tripoli, the first such visit since 1953.  Italy’s leader Silvio Berlusconi then agrees to invest billions in Libya.

2009 brought Qaddafi closer to the leaders who will betray him in the future: he makes a controversial visit to Italy and there had to shake hands with Barack Obama while on a G8 summit.

But the West won’t allow the world to see this renewed intimacy, so as the Arab Spring of 2011 arrived, a new policy on Libya was drafted. Thanks to the uprising, we can only imagine how some countries saw this as the most opportune time to act, and act fast. UN authorizes a no-fly zone in Libya basing the decision on false accusations that Qaddafi is bombing its own people. The resolution made it clear that: arms embargo applies, and that no ground troops and mercenaries are allowed to ‘roam’ Libya. All these were violated by NATO: the ‘humanitarian’ mission gave arms to the rebels while ‘special ops’ helped the rebels gain ground by secretly dropping mercenaries off Tripoli’s shores. Today it is no secret; these secret forces are hailed for being strategic in helping pin down the unpopular leader.

So what now? I suspect there is power politics here as well, as hindsight; the Libyan humanitarian operation might be part of a larger agenda to isolate the Chinese from investing and having leverage in the African continent. Are we not tired of seeing Africans becoming under the boots of the West? Can we give the BRICs a chance to drive change and cultivate a wider policy of development for Africa? As far as history goes, Africa is nothing but the West’s slave and resource exploitation waste land.

We can only speculate what happens to this energy-rich country. Qaddafi’s death is an opportune time to rebuild Libya in the eyes of the West, as if anything, Afghanistan and Iraq serves a recent testament to the kind of ‘democracy’ Western interventions bring to these countries.

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Four Years On: Did We Really Recede from the Recession?

As much as the political elite in the US and EU would like us to believe we ‘recovered’ from the great economic meltdown of 2008, so much of it is actually the reciprocal: unending  declines in investor confidence, clipping of businesses, credit downgrades, social spending cuts, protracted unemployment, very minimal hiring, housing still puling the economy down, and the default predicaments haunting the EU.

All these seem to point to a double-dipped recession, although unsurprisingly, policy makers, especially the ones supporting wars abroad do not admit to this. It is reasonably to state that unemployment in the US is the biggest hindrance to a ‘real recovery’. For one, a high unemployment rate directly affects two things: without jobs, people dramatically cut their spending. As an effect, the government then spends billions to save these people from becoming destitute. This means a reduction in GDP, a tighter government budget, and more deficits. Although some sectors have recovered, such as the auto industry, they arrived at recovery via the layoff route.

Add to that the rise in oil prices this year due to the new Arab Spring and you get inflation back in the picture. Consumers spend even less when confronted with high prices: cotton price has gone up this year thus increasing the price of basic clothing by at least 20%, and the same goes for food like sugar, meat, and corn-based products.

Real estate and housing could be the real drag to US recovery from the 2008-2009 recession. Home equity continues to decline since 2006, so worse today than before that companies are tearing down unsold homes to avoid taxes. As a result, uncertainty in the housing sector also drags finance and net wealth sectors and most especially construction.

Also less obvious is the fact that non-financial companies are holding on to their stimulus money at near record levels, and the consumer is not far from doing so as well. What does this mean? This means that they are more nervous about the future, much like saving up for the stormy days, as they say.

Did we just record a 1.3% GDP growth and 9% unemployment this year? As such, it is hard to see whether Bernanke and his economists were too quick to declare the end of the economic meltdown. In addition to confidence, economic indicators really do point to a recession that really never ended.

On the one hand, as well all know, the NBER (responsible for calling the shot on the start and end of a recession) was unsure to declare that the 2008-2009 recession was really over during 2009. It’s been two summers since, and same as in 2010, this year, more people are convinced that we really didn’t recover and that we are headed to another disaster. Historically, it took the NBER almost 1 year to admit that the recession started in December 2007 and that it took almost 2 years to announce that the IT bubble of 2001 was over. Who knows when the NBER will announce the end of this present recession?