'Libya no-fly zone is intervention'*
Sat Mar 19, 2011
An interview with author and anti-war activist Phil Wilayto
The establishment of a no-fly zone over Libya is intervention, anti-war activist Phil Wilayto says.
He made the remarks in an interview with Press TV.
Following is the text of the interview:
Press TV: This no fly-zone could be a pretext for foreign intervention not just in Libya but in other countries within the Middle East, as well. Do you agree with that assessment?
Wilayto: Establishing a no-fly zone would be an intervention in and of itself. Whether it's Secretary of Defense Robert Gates or Secretary of the State Hillary Clinton, both of them have pointed out in the last few days that in order to impose a no-fly zone there would have to be actual bombing raids carried out against Libyan airfields. So, this would be an actual act of war.
It's interesting over the past few weeks to see the different approaches that the United States government has taken in each of these different countries where there have been popular uprisings against governments. There certainly was no attempt to intervene in Bahrain, for example, and prevent government violence against people there. In fact, the US government is quietly applauding the intervention of Saudi Arabia. Whereas in Libya, a country that has tremendous oil reserves, the largest untapped oil reserves in all of Africa, the US is very interested in overthrowing the Gaddafi regime and is trying to establish its own relationships with those who are attempting to overthrow him. I agree that the interests of the United States government in all of the situations is how to maintain the control it held working through largely puppet dictators in most of these countries, and to try to find some accommodation with the popular feelings of the people while still maintaining that control. I think they're beginning to succeed in that effort in Egypt. It's a question of whether they will be able to accomplish that in Libya.
Press TV: You just pointed out that the US is more than willing to intervene, as far as Libya goes, and they have been speaking out against the crackdown on protesters there. But they have been very silent in the case of not only Bahrain but also Yemen. We see lots of bloodshed on the streets of those countries. The Washington Post has reported what we're seeing here is not about democracy and regime change. When we talk about the Persian Gulf, it's a whole different ballgame. Do you agree with that?
Wilayto: Two thirds of the world's known oil reserves are in the Middle East and oil is what runs the world. It runs militaries, industry; it's the international currency, if you will. Whoever controls that oil, they don't even have to own it directly, but whoever can control its flow can exert tremendous control over the economies of Europe, Japan, Russia...most areas of the world! So, governments are generally not inconsistent in their actions.
The United States was deeply involved in (deposing) the democratically elected President of Honduras last year, and endorsed the crew, architects and the new government that is completely illegitimate and was silent about all the repression that was carried out against the popular movement in Honduras trying to restore the opposed president. You can't oppose democracy in one area of the world and support it in another unless there's an entirely different issue at stake which is controlling the oil, controlling the economy, and trying to work out a system where they can exert that control on compliant puppet governments either directly or indirectly, whether it's an ally such as Israel or a puppet dictator as Mubarak was in Egypt. I think they have a problem with Gaddafi, although 'the Gaddafi of today' is not 'the Gaddafi of 20-30 years ago' in terms of an imperialist policy. They don't trust him, they don't like him, they resent what he's done in the past. And you just have to look at things like life expectancy and how it's increased by decades, in Libya, over the courses of the Libyan revolution to know that some of the benefits of the oil industry are going to the people and the US is not interested in that.
You have to look at each country separately to see what the US is doing, but the motivation behind all of that is the control of the political and economic situation in the Middle East because that's where the wealth is and oil translates into power.
Press TV: We saw the UN Security Council resolution being adopted weeks into protests and a lot of bloodshed on the ground in Libya. We were speaking to a guest earlier as well with his analysis of an imposition of a no-fly zone and he says this basically gives a green-light to a lot of the autocratic rulers to do as they like with regards to popular protests without fearing any form of concrete action from the US or the West as a whole.
Wilayto: I think the United States would very much like to intervene militarily in Libya. Obviously, it's not interested in doing that in Bahrain. I think the governments of these various countries understand who they're dealing with in terms of the US and they know that as long as it looks like they may be able to hang on, whether it's in Yemen, Bahrain, or in Egypt, it looks like they will hang on, the US will call for calm, peace, and negotiations and so on. And if it looks like the leaders are going to be overthrown, they'll call for it to be overthrown and make peace with the opposition and find people they can work with.
In the case of Libya, it is different from other countries because of the history of that government in opposing US policies more consistently in years past than recently, but still being a thorn in the side of US designs in the area. But, they have a problem. If they're fighting a war in Iraq -- they call it an occupation, but it's still a war -- and they're entrenched in this long occupation in Afghanistan, if they were to move to impose a no-fly zone in Libya by taking out a Libyan air field, militarily, then they have a third war in their hands. And if it goes poorly, then there's a possibility they will have to commit to ground troops. They don't want to do any of that.
The US is holding off on taking any moves by itself until it can try to build a cover, a coalition by itself either through the United Nations, NATO, or other formation or coalition as Bush would express it. They think they're building up a consensus of Western states on the Security Council, excluding Russia and China, that there should be some sort of military intervention. They're still not comfortable with the role this will play in the Middle East and they don't want to seem to interject themselves unilaterally into the situation. But they've got a problem, the Libyan government seems to be resisting the rebellion and may be able to reclaim the eastern part of the country, and then that means the US is in the position of indigence, unless they try to initiate another war. They're overextended with two wars on their hands and an economic crisis at home, a worldwide recession that's still not resolved itself. The last thing they need is another war but they ultimately rely on military power for maintaining their rule.
I think the question is whether other rulers in the area will take a role if they have a blank check. It depends on their relationship with the US imperialism, whether or not they have a blank check. Gaddafi does not. The royalty in Bahrain apparently does. It's true that each situation has to be viewed separately but I'm not sure that the US has contradictory interests in each area. Interests, as I said is "control" so that the wealth of the Middle East is under its control and not under the control of the people in the region or one of its economic rivals.