by E. Michael Jones
On January 25, 2011, on what is normally a national holiday to celebrate Egypt’s police forces, Egyptians took to the streets protesting the very thing they were supposed to celebrate. Disgusted with 30 years of corruption under the regime of Hosni Mubarak, thousands of protesters turned what turned what was supposed to be a celebration into a “day of rage” as they marched toward the headquarters of the ruling National Democratic party shouting “Down with Mubarak.” They protest finally settled in and hunkered down onto Cairo’s main square, Tahrir Square. Within hours of the first protest, the police whom the Egyptian masses were ostensibly supposed to be celebrating turned on them with tear gas and water cannons trying to disperse the crowds. The crowd remained unmoved, and within two weeks it was the regime that fell instead.
At 4:00 PM GMT Omar Suleiman, the Egyptian vice-president announced that Hosni Mubarak had resigned as president and was handing over power to the army. Jubilation swept through Tahrir Square. The celebration proved so big and powerful that not even the boundaries of the nation of Egypt could contain it. Protests against other Arab leaders who were perceived by their own people as puppets of the American/Israel regime began to spread across North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.
On March 11, 2011, two months after the demonstrations began in Egypt, the same spirit which ignited the protests in Cairo leaped across the Red Sea, and spread to Yemen, a small country on the southwestern tip of the Arabian peninsula which had been cobbled together on May 22, 1990 from North Yemen (the Yemen Arab Republic) and South Yemen, the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen, which once served as the training ground for European terrorists of the ‘70s like the Baader-Meinhof Gang. Demonstrations began in Sana’a, the capital of Yemen, and soon spread throughout the country. The reaction spread as well. Fourteen marchers were injured in Taiz when unidentified “thugs” opened fire. On the same day, a high school student in Mukalla, in the Hadhramaut Governorate was shot dead and five other students injured when government security forces opened fire on the protesters.
One week later, on March 18, 52 protesters were killed and more than 250 injured in Sana’a on the “Friday of Dignity” when pro-government snipers fired at protesters from the rooftops of nearby buildings. Mohammed al-Sabri, a leader in the opposition Joint Meeting Parties (JMP), describes the event as an “unprecedented massacre.” In response Yemeni President Ali Abdulla Saleh declared a state of emergency.
Like Hosni Mubarak, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh had been in power for roughly 30 years. In both cases, both men were regarded by their own people as American puppets who were subservient to Israeli interests. This led to home-grown opposition, which Saleh used as a justification for American aid to fight “the global war on terror.”
In order to justify the money he was getting from the Americans, Saleh had to allow more and more violations of national sovereignty, as when he allowed the Obama administration to carry out US air strikes against Yemeni citizens whom American intelligence identified as responsible for the attempted bombings of US cargo planes in the fall of 2010 and a passenger jet on Christmas 2009. The CIA has also carried out drone strikes on terror suspects in Yemen, with comparable effect on public opinion to what drone attacks had been causing in Pakistan.
Before long the Obama administration found itself in a bind. On the one hand it felt obliged to applaud the aspirations of the pro-democracy demonstrators, but at the same time, it needed to support the autocratic regimes who provided military bases and were its allies in the so-called war against terror, even if that oftentimes came down to a war against their own people. As the New York Times put it:
The Obama administration has maintained its support of President Ali Abdullah Saleh in private and refrained from directly criticizing him in public, even as his supporters fired on peaceful demonstrators, because he was considered a critical ally in fighting the Yemeni branch of Al Qaeda.
In the short space of four years, American aid for the Yemeni counterterrorism program has grown from $5 million in 2006 to more than $155 million in 2010. Then in September 2010, the U.S. military's Central Command proposed pumping as much as $1.2 billion over five years into building up Yemen's security forces, a major investment in a shaky government that was now at odds with the democracy which American policy was supposed to be promoting in the Arab world.
In a few short weeks, the world had changed dramatically. As 2010 came to a close, American/Israeli foreign policy had succeeded in isolating Iran, even from natural allies like the Russians, who had cut off their delivery of the sophisticated anti-missile technology which Iran needed to ward off an Israeli or American attack. In addition to that, the Israelis had succeeded in introducing a computer worm which had crippled Iran’s uranium enrichment program.
But then the Arab Spring intervened, and everything changed:
Suddenly the Arab authoritarians who had spent the last two years plotting with Washington to squeeze the Iranians — “Cut off the head of the snake,” King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia was famously quoted as advising in the WikiLeaks cables — became more worried about their own streets than the Iranian centrifuges spinning out nuclear fuel at Natanz. And American and European citizens became distracted, even as oil at $108 a barrel undercut many of the sanctions that the White House had hoped would convince Iranian citizens that the nuclear program was not worth its rising cost.[i]
Israel, which had spent the past three years egging America on to attack Iran, now claimed that it was “troubled by the perception of the U.S. as an ‘empire of the past’. . . .” Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor was appalled at how quickly the Obama administration abandoned long-time ally and Israeli puppet Hosni Mubarak. Meridor felt that “the perception . . . that America is weakening”[ii] was wrong, but it was clear that America was caught in a bind of its own making.
The same democratic color revolutions which the US covertly backed in all of the republics of the Soviet Union had now caught on in the Islamic world without American backing. In fact the facts all suggest that America had been taken completely by surprise when they occurred. Their belated response was to turn the protests in Libya into a coup d’etat which was supposed to bring down Muammar Khadafi, an outcome which at this point is far from certain.
Responding militarily in Libya, however, limited the type of options available in a place like Yemen, where the situation continued to spiral out of America’s control. Like Jimmy Carter, who was caught by surprise when the Ayatollah Khomeni took power in Iran in the ‘70s and kicked out the American puppet Shah Reza Pahlevi, the Obama administration stood by helplessly as it got hoist on its own rhetorical petard. One American puppet after another fell to the Islamic parody of the democracy protests that were only supposed to pry former Soviet republics away from Russia. America was losing control of the Middle East as a direct result of the policies which its mandarins had unleashed in other parts of Asia. It was the ultimate in blowback.
By the middle of April 2011, the spooks at the CIA were talking about retrenching and cutting their losses. Because of its over-reaching, especially the neocon-inspired invasion of the Iraq, U.S. foreign policy had brought about the demise of the very puppets they had installed in regimes across the Middle East. According to Dan De Luce writing for AFP:
the political wildfire spreading across the region means US spy services will have to deal with new intelligence chiefs more wary of Washington and more reluctant to cooperate on covert projects that might be unpopular with their citizens. “The immediate effect, there's no question, is that a lot of relationships which we have built over the years to fight Al-Qaeda and like-minded terrorists are over,” said Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer.[iii]
According to Reidel, “Key figures who became trusted partners for American intelligence services such as Omar Suleiman, Egypt's former spy chief, are now gone and their successors will likely be less willing to do Washington's bidding.”
US officials are most alarmed at the fallout from upheaval in Yemen, where Al-Qaeda has already exploited a violent power struggle between President Ali Abdullah Saleh and his opponents. According to Reidel, “The focus of Yemeni intelligence is not on Al-Qaeda anymore, it’s on surviving and figuring out who's going to be the next boss.”
Some analysts were claiming that “the political earthquake in the Middle East will likely mark the end of an era for US power in the region and curtail the reach of American intelligence agencies,” said Michael Desch, co-director of the University of Notre Dame's international security program. “Part of the reality of the new world that we're moving in to is we've got to recognize the limits of our influence.”
On April 1, 2011, ten million Yemenis took to the streets. Some supported President Saleh; some demanded his removal. Just about everyone supported a peaceful transfer of power. As of mid-April the situation was still not under control. As Ho Chi Minh said famously when asked about the French Revolution, “It’s too early to tell.” The six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council called on Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down, but the deal did not specify a time-frame for the transfer of power, nor did it indicate that he would have to answer for his crimes, something which enraged the protestors, who were carrying banners with slogans like “after bloodshed, Saleh should be tried,” and “you [Saleh] will not escape unpunished.”[iv]
Even though the fall of regimes in places like Egypt and Yemen meant a short-term loss of American influence in the region, many pundits remained confident that that influence would prevail over the long haul, if for no other reason than because the demonstrators were clamoring for “democracy.” Jack Goldstone sees “reason for optimism” in all this because: “Prior to 2011, the Middle East stood out on the map as the sole remaining region in the world virtually devoid of democracy. The Jasmine and Nile Revolutions look set to change all that.”[v]
Like Goldstone other commentators have tried to take solace in the fact that democracy my be the silver lining in the mid-East cloud:
Though political upheaval may have disrupted US counter-terrorism work in the short term, some senior officials -- including Defense Secretary Robert Gates -- say that in the long run genuine democratic change could undercut the appeal of extremist groups that have thrived off of government repression.[vi]
The optimism is misplaced. The United States cannot hope to capitalize on any move toward democracy because its foreign policy is self-contradictory, and because it is self-contradictory it can only be considered pro-democracy under certain conditions. The heart of the contradiction at the heart of current American foreign policy revolves around the two terms which make up the poles of the contradiction: democracy and Israel.
The US claims to support democracy, but the Israel Lobby, which dominates foreign policy, has mandated support of Israel as the sine qua non of political survival. This leads to a contradiction. Most Muslims do not support Israel; therefore, any democratic government which came to power in the Middle East would be ipso facto anti-Israel, which means that American foreign policy, controlled by the Israeli lobby, must oppose democracy. This contradiction normally plays out as simple hypocrisy, as in the case when Palestinians got denounced by the US for choosing Hamas, in what everyone conceded were democratic elections.
Because of this self-contradiction, America will come out a loser, no matter what it does. If any politician supports democracy, he will incur the anger of the Israel lobby. If, on the other hand, if the US government supports the Israeli puppets it has placed in power, it will lose the support of the broad masses of the Islamic world, a group which now seems ready to throw off any leader not in tune with Islamic interests. Because America is pro-Israel, she must of necessity be perceived as being anti-democratic in the Middle East.
It is easy to accuse the Americans of hypocrisy when they urge Palestinians to implement democratic elections but then attack the same Palestinians when they voted for Hamas, but the situation is more complicated than that. The United States has become entangled in a net of its own making. It sponsored the various color revolutions in the lands of the former Soviet Union. These were in reality covert black operations that had nothing to do with democracy, but the Arab world not only took that message at face value, it began acting on it in ways that would confound American intentions. The message the Arab world received at face value was the message that America intended to send, namely, that democracy was powerful. When the Arab world acted on that message they unwittingly contravened the real intention behind phony color revolutions, which was to weaken Russia.
There is a still greater contradiction at the heart of American foreign policy. The second contradiction involves the relationship between democracy and capitalism. In sprite of what people like Michael Novak say in books like The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism, democracy is the opposite of capitalism. Democracy puts rule in the hands of the people; capitalism concentrates wealth into fewer and fewer hands. What we are seeing now is another unintended consequence of the neoconservative inspired invasion of Iraq. That ill-considered adventure introduced an element of destabilization into the Middle East which is now spreading throughout the Islamic world. As one justification for the invasion of Iraq, the neocons promised that capitalism would bring prosperity to the Arab world. Capitalism promises prosperity, but it always impoverishes the country that allows feminism, credit cards, debt money, and free markets within its borders. The Arab world is now in the position that eastern Europe was in 1989. Capitalism has replaced Communism as the god that failed.
Twelve days into the demonstrations at Tahrir Square in Cairo, German Chancellor Angela Merkel claimed that the crowds reminded her of the crowds she saw in Berlin in 1989. They “awaken memories of what we experienced in Europe ... people who are shaking off their fear, people who are saying what they don't like, who name injustices by name.”[vii]
As in eastern Europe, so in the Arab world; as in Wisconsin, so in Egypt; as in Egypt, so in Yemen, the cause of the Arab Spring was ultimately economic. Perry Anderson traces “the single spark that started the prairie fire” back to
the death in despair of a pauperized vegetable vendor, in a small provincial town in the hinterland of Tunisia. Beneath the commotion now shaking the Arab world have been volcanic social pressures: polarization of incomes, rising food prices, lack of dwellings, massive unemployment of educated—and uneducated—youth, amid a demographic pyramid without parallel in the world. In few other regions is the underlying crisis of society so acute, nor the lack of any credible model of development, capable of integrating new generations, so plain.[viii]
The immediate cause of the upheaval in Yemen was the devaluation of the riyal. The devaluation of the riyal led to an increase in the price of food, one of the main things fueling the demonstrations in Egypt. Yemen is one of the poorest and least developed countries in the Arab World, with a formal 65 percent unemployment rate, dwindling natural resources, a young population and increasing population growth. After 33 years in office President Saleh had taken in hundreds of millions of dollars in US aid but none of that aid had reached the people, who were now having to spend more and more money on food because of the already mentioned devaluation and a rise is world food prices due to other causes as well.
Soon the economic crisis began to spread through the economy. Severe cooking gas shortages hit a number of provinces, leading to price hikes, lengthy queues at gas outlets and the threat of restaurant closure. Gas prices per cylinder rose from YR1,050 to YR3000 in some instances.
The devaluation of the riyal (from 214 to 238 to the US dollar) in the space of one month also caused a sharp price rise in imported construction materials like iron and cement. That rise in price led to reduced demand for construction materials, which led to the lay off of construction workers, and after they got laid off the unemployed construction workers joined the anti-government demonstrations. As a report in IRIN put it: “Instead of staying idle, many of the unemployed have joined demonstrations organized by the youth movement near Sana’a University. They see the protests as an opportunity to air their grievances.” Construction worker Saif Ahmad, who was camping out with the university protesters, put it this way, "We need change. We need to have access to free health care. We need a new government with good economic policies.” Day laborers swelled the ranks of the student protesters because “They have found somewhere they can get food and express their demands; they spend their time participating in anti-government demonstrations.”[ix]
Before long the World Bank began to take notice, putting the ongoing uprisings in the Arab world on the agenda for their upcoming meeting:
Government ministers have realized that the popular uprisings have come in countries whose economies are stagnating. The lesson is that economic conditions and political sentiments are closely linked. A lack of opportunity will fuel unrest; conversely, whether countries grow economically may depend not just on what economic policies they adopt, but on how they treat their populations.[x]
New York Times columnist David Ignatius found “Egypt’s romance with democracy is exciting, if sometimes also discouraging. But there’s one big danger the ballot box won’t address, and that’s Egypt’s sinking economy.”[xi]
As some indication that the upheaval sweeping through the Arab world in the Spring of 2011 was a repudiation of capitalism that was even more sweeping than the repudiation of Communism which swept through eastern Europe beginning in 1989, one of the protesters in Cairo held up a yellow sign on which was written: “Egypt supports Wisconsin workers: one world one pain.” The only thing that Egypt and Wisconsin have in common is capitalism, which was perceived as failing in both places.
Walter Armbrust, who described the situation in Egypt as “a revolution against neoliberalism,” described Egypt as “a quintessential neoliberal state,” which is to say a state “that proposes that human well-being can best be advanced by liberating individual entrepreneurial freedoms and skills within an institutional framework characterised by strong private property rights, free markets, and free trade.”[xii] In 1989 this sort of thing had never been tried in eastern Europe; in Egypt in 2011, it had been tried and it had been found wanting. The demonstrators in Wisconsin and Egypt weren’t throwing off communism in one of the color revolutions that became common in the first decade of the 21st century. The protestors in Egypt were overthrowing Capitalism.
Mubarak’s Egypt was considered to be at the forefront of instituting neoliberal policies in the Middle East. In both Egypt and Wisconsin:
Organised labor was fiercely suppressed. The public education and the health care systems were gutted by a combination of neglect and privatization. Much of the population suffered stagnant or falling wages relative to inflation. Official unemployment was estimated at approximately 9.4% last year (and much higher for the youth who spearheaded the January 25th Revolution), and about 20% of the population is said to live below a poverty line defined as $2 per day per person.
Capitalism, whether in Egypt or Wisconsin, had two sets of rules: one for the rich and another one for the overwhelming majority of people who are not rich. For those who were not rich, capitalism meant hardship and deprivation because Capitalism, means first and foremost, the suppression of labor. For the rich there was a different set of rules;
Egypt did not so much shrink its public sector, as neoliberal doctrine would have it, as it reallocated public resources for the benefit of a small and already affluent elite. Privatization provided windfalls for politically well-connected individuals who could purchase state-owned assets for much less than their market value, or monopolise rents from such diverse sources as tourism and foreign aid. Huge proportions of the profits made by companies that supplied basic construction materials like steel and cement came from government contracts, a proportion of which in turn were related to aid from foreign governments.
In Capitalist cultures like Wisconsin and Egypt, there is no real distinction between business and government:
In Mubarak’s Egypt business and government were so tightly intertwined that it was often difficult for an outside observer to tease them apart. Since political connections were the surest route to astronomical profits, businessmen had powerful incentives to buy political office in the phony elections run by the ruling National Democratic Party.
This was true of both Egypt and America, where
the vast fortunes of Bush era cabinet members Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, through their involvement with companies like Halliburton and Gilead Sciences, are the product of a political system that allows them — more or less legally — to have one foot planted in "business" and another in "government" to the point that the distinction between them becomes blurred. Politicians move from the office to the boardroom to the lobbying organization and back again.
The Egyptian equivalent of Dick Cheney was “Ahmad Ezz, who used his position as General Secretary of the NDP to corner the market on steel and capture contracts to build public-private construction projects.” Similarly,
when former Minister of Parliament Talaat Mustafa purchased vast tracts of land for the upscale Madinaty housing development without having to engage in a competitive bidding process (but with the benefit of state-provided road and utility infrastructure), . . . what they were doing was also as American as apple pie, at least within the scope of the past two decades.
Armbrust makes clear that the Republicans have no monopoly on crony capitalism:
Clinton-era Secretary of Treasury Robert Rubin’s involvement with Citigroup does not bear close scrutiny. Lawrence Summers gave crucial support for the deregulation of financial derivatives contracts while Secretary of Treasury under Clinton, and profited handsomely from companies involved in the same practices while working for Obama (and of course deregulated derivatives were a key element in the financial crisis that led to a massive Federal bailout of the entire banking industry).
Wherever it is implemented, whether in Wisconsin or it Egypt, capitalism destroys government by making it a tool of the rich instead of something that serves the common good:
As neoliberal dogma disallows any legitimate role for government other than guarding the sanctity of free markets; recent American history has been marked by the steady privatization of services and resources formerly supplied or controlled by the government. But it is inevitably those with closest access to the government who are best positioned to profit from government campaigns to sell off the functions it formerly performed.
Egypt and Wisconsin are part of the same global economic system, the system which Armbrust calls neoliberalism and the one which we are calling capitalism. Capitalism was the cause of both protests because Capitalism was the cause of the problem in both countries:
Everywhere neoliberalism has been tried, the results are similar: living up to the utopian ideal is impossible; formal measures of economic activity mask huge disparities in the fortunes of the rich and poor; elites become "masters of the universe," using force to defend their prerogatives, and manipulating the economy to their advantage, but never living in anything resembling the heavily marketised worlds that are imposed on the poor.
So in America, especially in places like Wisconsin and Indiana, where the manufacturing base has been looted by leveraged buyouts and outsourcing and the public sector by privatization, the people become progressively poorer as the looters become fabulously wealthy. When the Capitalist looters get too greedy, when they load the system down with unsupportable debt, they then use the crisis which their recklessness has created as an excuse for more looting, which means more looting of labor.
Both Armbrust and Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman cited Naomi Klein’s book The Shock Doctrine as the playbook for what was happening in Wisconsin. As Paul Krugman puts it:
Maybe Madison, Wisconsin isn’t Cairo after all. Maybe it’s Baghdad. . . . Naomi Klein’s best-selling book “The Shock Doctrine” . . . argued that it was part of a broader pattern. From Chile in the 1970s onward she suggested, right-wing ideologues have exploited crises to push through an agenda that has nothing to do with resolving those crises, and everything to do with imposing their vision of a harsher, more unequal, less democratic society.[xiii]
The shock doctrine, which is the way Capitalism gets imposed on subordinate cultures, was in full display in Wisconsin. Not only did Governor Scott Walker set out to bust the unions, he also planned to hand over the states’ assets to his plutocratic backers:
The state of Wisconsin owns a number of plants supplying, heating, cooling and electricity to state-run facilities (like the University of Wisconsin). The language in the budget bill would, in effect, let the governor privatize any or all of these facilities at whim. Not only that, he could sell them without taking bids, to anyone he chooses. And note, that such sale would, by definition, be “considered in the public interest.”
In the end, Walker’s “attack on unions has nothing to do with the budget. In fact, those unions have already indicated their willingness to make substantial financial concessions—an offer the governor has rejected. . . . Union busting and privatization remain GOP priorities, and the party will continue its efforts to smuggle those priorities through in the name of balanced budgets.”
Armbrust says the same thing about Egypt that Krugman said about Wisconsin:
The complete failure of neoliberalsm to deliver "human well-being" to a large majority of Egyptians was one of the prime causes of the revolution, at least in the sense of helping to prime millions of people who were not connected to social media to enter the streets on the side of the pro-democracy activists. . . . a large element of what got enough people into the streets to finally overwhelm the state security forces was economic grievances that are intrinsic to neoliberalism. . . . Americans could learn from Egypt. Indeed, there are signs that they already are doing so. Wisconsin teachers protesting against their governor’s attempts to remove the right to collective bargaining have carried signs equating Mubarak with their governor.
What we are now seeing in both Wisconsin and Egypt is the beginning of a world-wide revolt against capitalism. The fall of communism led to false expectations not only in eastern Europe but throughout the world. With capitalism triumphant, everyone, including the Muslim world, was expecting prosperity to follow. What followed was overindebtedness, the crash of 2008 and the recourse to looting as a way to make up for the shortfalls caused by Capitalism’s contractual appropriation of surplus value. Or as Chris Hedges, former New York Times correspondent put it, “The championing of the free market in countries such as Egypt has done nothing to ameliorate crushing poverty.”
Other commentators were saying much the same thing:
America plays a tremendous role in the outcome of what happens here [i.e., Egypt]. I think that’s very important for the people in the outside world to understand because this country has taken on neo-liberal policies, economic policies that resulted in abject poverty - 50 percent of the people here live on $2 a day. This isn’t something unusual; this is a policy that’s been in place for more than 30 years even before Sadat was assassinated.
Like Krugman and Armbrust, Jack A. Goldstone sees similarities between the revolutions of 1989 and 2011, as well as similarities between Egypt and Wisconsin:
As in Europe in 1848, rising food prices and high unemployment have fueled widespread popular protests. As in Communist Europe in 1989, frustration with corrupt and unresponsive political systems produced defections among elites and the fall of once powerful regimes.
The main similarities are economic. The twin materialisms of Capitalism and Communism have spawned twin counter-revolutions. In the de-industrialized, out-sourced West as well as in the Middle East, wealth has been “amassed instead by a wealthy few.” The vast majority of the “Fast-growing and urbanizing populations in the Middle East have been hurt by low wages and by food prices that rose by 32 percent in the last year alone. Discontent has also been stoked by high unemployment, which has stemmed in part from the surge in the Arab world’s young population. Finally, these regimes’ concentration of wealth and brazen corruption increasingly offended their own militaries, as well as the populace.”
As of this writing, the United States was technically four weeks from default. Congress needed to raise the amount of debt the government can borrow because the $14.29 trillion it had already borrowed was going to run out by May 16, 2011. As the Japan Times put it:
If Congress does not raise that limit, then the U.S. would technically default on its debt — the trillions of dollars it has borrowed in the form of its bonds. That would be, by all accounts, catastrophic. It would mean that investors around the world would lose faith in the confidence of the U.S. to pay its bills as Washington could not borrow more to service its debt.[xiv]
If the US were to default on her sovereign debt that would mean the end of capitalism in a way that no one could deny. Capitalism has been around for a long time. This is not the first time that Capitalism has had to deal with a debt crisis. And how does capitalism deal with debt crises? As it always has, by engaging in looting. As America’s solons were debating whether to raise the debt ceiling once again, NATO bombs were falling on Libya.
The fact that capitalism has failed does not mean that the Obama administration will not continue to impose it by force on that part of the world which is most vehement in its rejection of it. American actions in Libya are proof of that. Nowhere is the hypocrisy of American foreign policy more evident than when President Obama invokes “humanitarian” concerns as the justification for his support of the rebels seeking to overthrow the regime of Muammar al Gadafi.
And what is that American are rescuing the Libyans from in their humanitarian adventure in North Africa?
[Libyans] are entitled to free treatment, and their hospitals provide the best in the world of medical equipment. Education in Libya is free, capable young people have the opportunity to study abroad at government expense. When marrying, young couples receive 60,000 Libyan dinars (about 50,000 US dollars) of financial assistance. Non-interest state loans, and as practice shows, undated. Due to government subsidies the price of cars is much lower than in Europe, and they are affordable for every family. Gasoline and bread cost a penny, no taxes for those who are engaged in agriculture. The Libyan people are quiet and peaceful, are not inclined to drink, and are very religious.[xv]
Even if that is just propaganda, there is no denying at least one very popular achievement of the Libyan government: it brought water to the desert by building the largest and most expensive irrigation project in history, the US$33 billion GMMR (Great Man-Made River) project. Even more than oil, water is crucial to life in Libya. The GMMR provides 70% of the population with water for drinking and irrigation, pumping it from Libya's vast underground Nubian Sandstone Aquifer System in the south to populated coastal areas 4,000 kilometers to the north. The Libyan government has done at least some things right.[xvi]
So what are the Libyan rebels fighting for? One of the first things the Libyan “rebels” did, even as the tide of battle swayed back and forth toward an outcome that was still shrouded in the mists of the future, was to create a new bank. Ellen Brown noticed the surprise of experienced observers. Robert Wenzel wrote in the Economic Policy Journal:
I have never before heard of a central bank being created in just a matter of weeks out of a popular uprising. This suggests we have a bit more than a rag tag bunch of rebels running around and that there are some pretty sophisticated influences.[xvii]
And why did they do this? Was it because Libyans had been denied banking services. The problem lies not with the Libyans but with the “globalist banking cartels”:
in order to do business with Libya, they must go through the Libyan Central Bank and its national currency, a place where they have absolutely zero dominion or power-broking ability. Hence, taking down the Central Bank of Libya (CBL) may not appear in the speeches of Obama, Cameron and Sarkozy but this is certainly at the top of the globalist agenda for absorbing Libya into its hive of compliant nations.[xviii]
In fact, the Libyan bank, which was state-owned, was the engine of Libya’s prosperity, because it was state-owned and not part of the Swiss-based Bank for International Settlements or BIS, which is the enforcement arm of the international usury debt-monetary system. This prompted Ellen Brown to say: “Libya not only has oil. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), its central bank has nearly 144 tonnes of gold in its vaults. With that sort of asset base, who needs the BIS, the IMF and their rules?”
Egged on by Nicholas Sarkozy, who felt that Libya was a threat to the financial security of mankind, NATO acted as the enforcement arm of international finance and attacked Libya to steal Libya’s natural resources from the Libyans (“What’s our oil doing under their sand?”) and, more importantly, crush any alternative to Capitalism, which is state-sponsored usury.
That would explain where Libya gets the money to provide free education and medical care, and to issue each young couple $50,000 in interest-free state loans. It would also explain where the country found the $33 billion to build the Great Man-Made River project. Libyans are worried that North Atlantic Treaty Organization-led air strikes are coming perilously close to this pipeline, threatening another humanitarian disaster.
Ellen Brown doesn’t mention Naomi Klein, but it’s pretty clear by now that the attack on Libya is a page taken out of her playbook. The outcome is now uncertain, but if the “rebels” win the assets of the Libyan people, most especially their oil and water, will get sold off to the man with the most paper money, and the rest of the economy, including the education and health care which is now free, will be privatized, which is to say, looted for the benefit of the mammon worshipping capitalists who run the world economic system.[xix]
Capitalism can’t deliver prosperity; any more than communism could deliver economic security or equality. The problem lies with the materialistic underpinnings of both systems. In the midst of the Arab Spring of 2011, China announced that it is rescinding its one-child policy. It was one more nail in the coffin of capitalism. China instituted its one-child policy to get technology. The ultimate technology was Capitalism. Capitalism was also the ultimate magic, and all it brought about in China was a lot of dead babies and increasingly worthless paper. It is now obvious that capitalism has failed, and as the deflation which follows that failure becomes more difficult to avoid, we will see more and more brutal measures, like the looting of Libya, to make up the shortfalls. It’s time to dispense with the charade of America’s “humanitarian” foreign policy and hold those responsible for the failure of our economic system responsible for their dereliction. It’s time to stop blaming the victim, whether we find him in Wisconsin or in Egypt. Americans need to pack up and go home instead of invading more countries in the Middle East. Like Pogo, the Americans who have traveled to the Middle East to spread a bankrupt system need to get honest with themselves and admit we have met the enemy and he is us.
This article was published in the June, 2011 issue of Culture Wars.
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[iii] DeLuce, AFP
[iv] AP, 4/11/11 “Yemenis demonstrate against Gulf mediation deal.”
[vi] DeLuce, AFP.
[ix] IRIN http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportID=92359
[x] NPR, Tom Gjelten, “World Bank: Fight Poverty with Political Reform”
[xiii] Paul Krugman: Madison isn’t about the budget; it’s a power grab. (NYT, 2/28/11)
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