It’s too early to make any definitive judgements on the latest developments in Libya. Nevertheless, the revolutionaries appear to have conceded the African Union’s (AU) position on Muammar Gaddafi after reversing their public stance. While Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC) has stood by its demand to remove Gaddafi from Libya, the organization is under Western and AU pressure to extract Gaddafi through “face-saving measures.” The AU’s weekend summit produced a favorable consensus on Gaddafi, denouncing the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) warrant and including him in Libya’s ceasefire negotiations.
Left with little choice except to soften his line, NTC chief Mustafa Abdel Jalil told reporters on Sunday that Gaddafi could remain in Libya under "international supervision” while negotiations began. For their part the revolutionaries seem to have listened to international advice. Now the West - America in particular - should listen up.
"We support the fight against impunity, we do not support impunity, we are not even against the Criminal Court," explained Jean Ping, AU Commission chairperson. "We are against the way justice is being rendered because... it looks as if this ICC is only interested in trying the Africans.”
Obviously this isn’t first complaint against Western imperialism and double-standards. Although we support the Libyan revolutionaries in their struggle against Gaddafi, the AU’s overall response is a legitimate warning against imbalanced and hypocritical international law. The law of the strong, meanwhile, continues to stand the test of time. Ping added, "It is not only in Africa that there are problems. So why no one else except the Africans are being tried and judged by this court?"
“Does this mean that in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Gaza, in Chechnya, there is nothing happening there?”
Having accused Western governments of holding a double-standard to their own war machines, U.S. policymakers and the public will likely ignore the AU’s complaints. Gaddafi’s 40-year rule and the slaughter of his finale don’t compare to the abuses committed by U.S. troops in Afghanistan or Iraq. Israel’s siege of Gaza will be justified. Drones are within the rule of international law - and maybe they are. Except they also demonstrate the political and moral recklessness of escalating military operations in fragile nations such as Yemen.
Similarly, Ali Abdullah Saleh faces no real threat from the international community. While Gaddafi runs from NATO warplanes, America and the EU have illegitimately granted Yemen’s battered president immunity for his entire family. The key motive: Washington is protecting Saleh from human rights abuses potentially committed with U.S. arms. Meanwhile his regime is being preserved at the cost of Yemen’s revolution.
AU countries see the difference between American’s response to Libya and Yemen, to Syria and Bahrain. They easily perceive the favoritism at Washington’s unilateral level and the Western community at large. They watch drones fly over Yemen’s revolutionaries as they protest U.S. interference, and monitor Saudi troops backing Bahraini security forces in their crackdown. The AU isn’t the only political actor believing a Western double-standard exists between its own behavior and developing states, whether political, military, economic or environmental.
Many developing countries and their peoples believe this to be true. So do a substantial number of Americans and Europeans.
Drones are now starting to resemble butterflies. Clearly their effects are being felt internationally, and this pattern is bound to intensify under Washington’s “new” counter-terrorism strategy. In reality this plan is nothing extraordinary and built on years of preparation; “new” means drones and enhanced intelligence gathering/sharing. Automated warfare is arriving on an expanding scale, at a time when the Obama administration needed a deceptively easy equation. Due to economic shortfalls and popular pressure to reign in foreign spending, the administration scaled back conventional ground forces while increasing unconventional forces: U.S. Special Forces and the CIA.
These forces are exponentially cheaper and pack an immediate delivery to hype at the public level. They satisfy the Democratic thirst to reign in military spending and the Republican desire for military escalation. The U.S. media suppresses public debate to a minimal level, and Americans are sacrificed in full knowledge that the average understanding of Yemen or Somalia runs low. The ultimate drawback of this seemingly invincible strategy is a high chance of failure within the conflicts themselves (particularly Yemen, which will be updated tomorrow). However the Obama administration’s response to the Arab Spring and its “post-Arab Spring” CT strategy will also collide within various interpretations of international law.
So far the Nobel Prize winner hasn’t run out of rhetoric to whitewash his hypocrisy, but his international audience continues to head for the exits.