The West cannot go on cultivating hideous leaders and then turning on them whenever the winds change
A GOOD COMMENT
By Yasmin Alibhai-Brown
"....And yet we couldn't do it, couldn't wholly back the Libyan mission, not even on a wing and a prayer. Why? It is to do with trust. As Abdel al-Bari Atwan, the editor-in-chief of Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper and a friend, wrote last week: "The first reaction was relief ... who would not want to stop a bully intent on 'wiping out' those who oppose him? But any relief should be tempered with serious misgivings. First what motives lie behind this intervention?"
There are the obvious reasons for the hyperactivity around Libya and the concomitant, languid indifference to the agony of people in other places with autocratic rulers. Yemen? Oh, no oil, so why bother? Let the "barbarians" slaughter each other. It's what they do. What about Saudi Arabia, then? As grotesque a regime as you can get. Watch the Newsnight report by Sue Lloyd Roberts tonight on this evil empire which interns its females and decapitates dissidents, which spreads its Islamicist tentacles to Muslims worldwide, including Britain, which has marched into Bahrain to "control" the crowds seeking reform. Ah, but it has much oil and much money to buy our warplanes and guns and mansions in Park Lane......
Look also at who are the people most excited, nay delirious, as the skies over Libya turn black and orange? Worse than tabloid cowboys waving their patriotic guns are fanatical "liberal imperialists" – excitable journalists, think-tank warriors wanting action, Foreign Office wonks, horribly hubristic commentators – jumping at any chance to catch a conflict and bend it to Western will and control. The failure of Iraq, instead of chastening them, has made them frantic for one that will bring glorious victory. M. Junaid Levesque-Alam, an astute observer of the modern Muslim world, blogs: "Some Western pundits have started exercising their shoulders to once again take up the White Man's Burden." Read the well-honed thoughts of ex- British diplomat Robert Cooper and you understand how they long to return to a colonial world order with a modern twist.
Even more disagreeable are the posturing European and US politicians up and about and everywhere. Their swagger and sanctimony should fool nobody. On this, I agree with Pilger, Benn and others including Sami Ramadani, an Iraqi with considerable moral authority. In a letter to a newspaper, they censure Western governments who: "... have prioritised cheap oil, arms sales and support for Israel's oppression of the Palestinians above the rights of Arab peoples." Many of the weapons Gaddafi is using were sold by us to him – thank you very much, Mr Blair. As Tunisians and Egyptians made their bid for freedom, PM Cameron was out there selling to the bastards, colluding with them with a smile on his face. The French have been just as busy. (Their excuse is jobs. If miners and other workers are dispensable, why should those making blood goods be for ever protected? So others will step in to make the devil's tools? Let them.) Now they want to be saviours. Not so fast gentlemen. Could you first apologise? And then promise no more such deals? If not, even if Gaddafi is driven out, Western involvement will be suspect. It will be seen as toxic effluence which contaminated the budding Arab Spring.
At the end of the long coffee-drinking evening, most of us seemed to feel that helping rebels in Libya was necessary. But the real passions were raised over what the West does next. Their movers and shakers cannot go on cultivating hideous leaders and then turning on them when the winds change. They embrace Saudi Arabia and in the same moment shoot down Libya. Such hypocrisies will no longer be swallowed by people who are now globally connected. Realpolitik needs, I know, to prevail over idealism some of the time. However, if the West wants respect for backing democracy and humane standards, it has to put its own houses in order. The Arab revolutions have spread to our shores and are calling out for consistency and honour and for a foreign-affairs reformation. Whatever happens in Libya, our Government must listen or be damned. "