Last week Sky News journalist Tim Marshall called Libya the “only genuine revolution” of the Arab Spring. Gaddafi was gone, he said. It was a success. Marshall told me it was the appropriate term. My point was the West’s acquisition of oil and economic independence negated any revolutionary element. NATO wasn’t practicing Trotsky’s idea of “world revolution”. This was business as usual.
Marshall disagreed: “A revolution involves overturning something and the only thing overturned so far is Jamahirya,” he said. “The others are a work in progres.”
But Libya has not seen true revolution. Instead we are witnessing a cunningly executed takeover by the West to exert its interests over a series of crumbling dictators in the dollar-rich Middle East. Democracy is an added bonus.
Speaking at the United Nations General Assembly on the same day, British Prime Minister David Cameron said, “This revolution truly belongs to the Libyan people.” It was a shame he did not bring his beret and cigar.
But Cameron, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and President Barack Obama have been far too busy for stage props since hijacking the Arab Spring. They have appropriated the language of revolution in Libya in order to conceal our continued expansionism — Iraq in disguise. Libya is only the first in a series of “genuine” revolutions that will be reclaimed by a West putting the world to rights.
Cameron spoke truer than he knew. Libya is the real deal precisely because it fulfills the true meaning of revolution – a full cycle. Of course we all know revolution is meant as a radical social and political upheaval against an established power; uprising, coup d’etat. But instead, the name of the game is that most miserable euphemism of CIA dictats, “change of personnel.”
Syria, meanwhile, is a work in progress. Men, women and children take to the streets every day to claim their democratic rights. NATO is nowhere to be seen – yet – for reasons we can safely speculate are concerned with oil, arms, or influence.
Unlike Libya’s foreign-led invasion, Syria displays people power versus oppressor, democracy versus fascism, all without Western something-for-something interventionism. This is what we truly understand by revolution.
But this is not just a debate of semantics. Our political language has very real ramifications on the lives of millions of people throughout the region, and the world. It’s not just a case of words. The West has assimilated itself with the language of change and in doing so can control that change, and tailor it to its own political and economic interests.
And so the greatest success is the re-branding of Libya as a progressive force. The war has been a triumph of public relations, a tightly-run exercise in media control. As Cameron hinted at the UN, it will not be the last.
Unarmed civilians die by the day in Syria. Cameron has pledged to help, just as he helped the civilians of Bahrain. The British supplied arms to the Saudi security forces that shot and killed Bahraini dissidents from the rooftops. Our duplicity shames NATO’s (supposedly) grand project, along with defenses of it on the grounds of democratization.
The sound of backs slapped and corks popped in the Pentagon, Foreign Office, and Quai d’Orsay must be deafening. NATO’s neo-colonial mission in Libya prematurely deposed a former-ally, then moved in to secure another hefty Arab oil reserve – the fifth largest in the world. War always has been a good dollar.
But do not be fooled. Any event or movement dubbed revolutionary, supported and facilitated by Western powers is no revolution at all.
Photo Credit: khalid Albaih