September 11th marked the tenth anniversary of the attacks on New York in which 2,986 people died. Contradictions amongst official and unofficial versions of the day’s events have fuelled ten years of intense conflict.
From the very beginning Muslim groups were held accountable; then Osama Bin Laden was identified as the leader of these groups; later it was revealed that the governments of Arab countries were in possession of chemical weapons, posing a danger to the world that, until that point, had never before been experienced.
These weapons served as the main argument in the justification of the invasion of Iraq; an invasion which proved to be beneficial to multinational oil companies, yet detrimental to Iraqi nationals who to this day, remain at the mercy of external powers. While American troops may leave, they are replaced by foreign mercenaries.
Afghanistan, where the war persists, has since suffered a similar fate to that of Iraq and now, a wave of democratization is sweeping across the Horn of Africa and the Middle East. Such democratic movements are bringing about the collapse of authoritarian regimes across the region, yet are ultimately replaced by ‘transitional’ military governments, suited to the needs of Europeans and Americans alike.
Latin America has experienced the same thing; now that the continent’s current governments are in the process of recovering the natural resources handed out to multinational companies under former dictatorial regimes, it is claimed that democracy could be under threat.
During the latter part of the 20th Century, Europe backed the processes of change in Latin America, but they were crushed by the United States. Similarly, Europe also demonstrated solidarity with the resistance movements in their opposition to the Washington-backed military regimes.
Now however, the situation is different. Not only are both Europe and the U.S.A. experiencing respective economic crises, but these very crises are posing a threat to the hegemonic role that the two have jointly played for hundreds of years. The most recent example of this is in Libya.
Since the beginning of the conflict in Libya, it was clear that if the so-called ‘rebels’ gained U.S-European support, it would be in the name of one thing: oil. Now, these ‘rebels’ are rubbing their hands together and awaiting the return of what was, prior to Gaddafi’s nationalisation of the country’s oil reserves, once theirs.
Sami Nair is an Algerian-born French political scientist, philosopher, sociologist and university professor. An advisor to the French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin between 1997 and 1999, he is a professor of political science at the University of Paris VIII amongst a number of other accomplishments, and a columnist for the Spanish newspaper, El País
In a recently published, revealing article (El País, Saturday 10th September), entitled “Los buitres y la democracia” [Vultures and Democracy], he highlights that NATO’s intervention in the Libyan conflict has “changed the parameters of the people’s rebellion”; a rebellion which Gaddafi could have overthrown. He later goes on to highlight the motivation behind France’s involvement in the Libyan conflict.
He indicates that, as a result of France’s support for the former dictatorships of Tunisia and Egypt, French interest in these countries has suffered. In the case of Libya however, Nair notes that France joined forces with the United Kingdom and sided with the rebel fighters, in an effort to avoid ‘losing out’ for a third time.
However, as the rebel fighters stood little chance of winning, the United Nations’ enforcement and authorisation of a no-fly zone over Libya proved a misrepresentation of the facts: it was, in fact, an unauthorised intervention. Defining Libya as a creation of the United Nations, on account of the fact that its very existence is founded upon an agreement amongst UN-backed rebel fighters will, it is feared, give rise to renewed chaos.
Most significantly, Nair believes that the current situation in Libya will lead to the creation of a renewed neo-colonialism in which, going forwards, countries such as Brazil, Russia and China, “who supported the Gaddafi regime until the final moments”, will lose out. Meanwhile France, the United Kingdom, Italy and the U.S.A will reap the benefits of the country’s reconstruction.
These countries are locking horns over the contracts to exploit Libya’s rich oil reserves, estimated at 46 billion barrels. Nair believes that it would be necessary for the UN to play a leading role in the process of granting oil contracts, in order to prevent “the people of Libya being held hostage by the powers of other countries”.
He concludes with the assertion that, “Libyan society is now clearly under threat, not only from the neo-colonialist vultures, but also from its own internal conflicts”, adding that foreign military forces, that are not part of the UN, have the ability to generate substantial resistance.
Nair is quite right to consider that the United Nations should take on a different role in seeking solutions to the conflicts in the Horn of Africa and the Middle East; however, it is becoming increasingly clear that the UN of today, no longer upholds the ideals of the organisation that it had initially set out to be.
Take, for example, the recent events in Haiti concerning ‘Minustah’ (The United Nations Stabilisation Mission in Haiti), a military contingent created as a result of the instability that emerged in Haiti following the fall of Duvaliers, which was not welcomed by their supporters, primarily the U.S.A.
‘Baby Doc’, the last of the Duvalier dynasty, following intervention by the U.S.A escaped trial, and with the collaboration of France was accepted in exile there.
Subsequent Haitian governments have been elected democratically; however, they have faced two main challenges. Firstly, they lack any form of democratic tradition and are therefore inexperienced, and secondly, they lack the backing of Washington.
These factors, combined with absolute poverty, have contributed to the creation of weak governments headed by equally weak leaders, despite having been democratically elected.
In 2004, following approval by the United Nation’s Security Council, a military unit composed of Latin American troops was established as an expression of regional solidarity, and troops were deployed to Haiti in an effort to bring stability to the country.
Seven years have passed and not even in response to the earthquake, which practically destroyed the country, has the mission produced any positive results.
Instead, we now see that things happened which shame them all.
In the midst of the destruction and impoverished, inhumane conditions in which the Haitians suffered, contingent of soldiers, believed to be Uruguayan although they could just as easily have been of any other nationality, threw a very unusual “party” and raping an 18-year old Haitian boy.
In the midst of the revelry, the act was filmed and subsequently circulated, finally coming to light in the newspapers. The pictures show both the boy and the soldier who raped him: the boy with his hands tied behind his back, and the soldier, naked and laughing, whilst those around him celebrate.
Minustah officials denied that the rape had taken place from the beginning; insisting instead that it had all been a game. It has transpired that similar incidents have taken place in other countries, where UN-backed troops are deployed under the guise of the ‘Blue Beret’.
(Translated by Emma Hartgen – Email: Emma.firstname.lastname@example.org)