Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Divergent fates in the Middle East

The western bombing campaign in Libya has given the western media the perfect excuse to fall head-first into war porn. We have long expected it of the Scum, but the BBC are in on it too. With the debacle of Iraq behind us, war is in season once more.

The Independent - which after Iraq has a reputation has an "anti-war" paper - ponders "the sensitive politics of humanitarian intervention" and urges the West to "win the propaganda war." Some might say that they've already won it. The narrative that this is a "humanitarian intervention" is unchallenged in the mainstream media. The paper which once labelled the inquiry into Dr David Kelly's death a "whitewash" is now concerned "if civilian deaths are verified" only because "undermines the legitimacy of the intervention."

Before the intervention began, there was some disagreement on this issue. The United States and EU originally opposed a no-fly zone because they weren't quite ready to play all their cards. As soon as it became obvious that Gaddafi was too much of a liability to play his former role for western oil interests, the elite consensus swung neatly against him.

Those liberal commentators who remain against intervention call this bombing "hypocrisy." They argue that "the contrast with the western treatment of the rest of the region could not be more stark," pointing to Saudi intervention in Yemen and Bahrain, and the lack of support for suppressed protests elsewhere in the Middle East. They're right, of course. But this discrepancy isn't hypocritical. It's consistent with the guiding principle of the foreign policy deployed by all world powers: to serve the interests of the political and economic elites.

As such, I've stated previously and reiterate here that "rather than speculating on the power plays of the ruling classes and presuming benevolent motives that aren't there, we should be taking the side and agitating in the interest of ordinary people. Everywhere. Always."

This remains true. Especially given that revolts, uprisings, and clashes between the people and the state continue across the Middle East even as the media gorges itself on Libya. In Saudi Arabia, a protest demanding the release of political prisoners was met only with arrests. In Syria, the military has fired on demonstrations and more troops have been deployed in continuing efforts to quell the unrest.

More positively, people in Yemen have seen army units deployed to protect them. As President Ali Abdullah Saleh declared that "the great majority of the Yemeni people are with security, stability and constitutional law," a significant number of military commanders and ministers defected.

Major General Ali Mohsen Saleh declared "our peaceful support of the youth revolution and their demands and that we will fulfil our duties." Unlike his Syrian and Libyan counterparts, he feels that the army's role is as "an integral part of the people, and protectors of the people." This gives the Yemeni uprising a much greater chance of success, though in the aftermath we will no doubt discover whether the army's "peaceful support" is revolutionary fervour or just pragmatism.

All of this fits with my previous predictions that "the result [of popular uprisings] could be radically different in each locality." In Egypt and Tunisia, it saw the ousting of dictators, though the maintenance of the same rough infrastructure they presided over. Elsewhere, protests have been met with brutal violence or concessions have been offered to head off the possibility of demonstrations. And in Libya, of course, protests became an armed insurrection and civil war which has now attracted western bombs.

Whatever happens next, it remains true that there is only one consistent approach for working class militants to take. It is the approach that leads to both opposing western intervention and supporting the struggle against Gaddaffi. That is, support for the masses of ordinary people, in their struggle against all rulers.