Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Oil Price, Secure Supplies and Libya's Impact

That the centrality of oil in the economies of Europe and the USA is shown in the reactions of the oil market to news that indicated the importance of the NATO intervention in getting Libyan oil flowing again. The shortfall in Libyan oil production was made up by the other OPEC nations increasing their supply.

Data produced by the journal United Explorations ( Oil Price and the Effect of the Libya War August 29 2011 ),

'The conflict in Libya started in protests against Gadafi’s regime in the eastern port city of Benghazi, and spread to Zintan, al Bayda and Quba. Since then, the oil price evolved from US$99 to a maximum of US$120.91 in April 28. A 21% oil price increase might seem big, but in fact it is huge.

Taking into account that the daily supply from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries’ 12 members rose to 30.05 million barrels a day in July from 29.94 million in June, it means that the acquisition cost of OPEC’s daily oil production (responsible for 40% of world’s oil production) increased over US$657 million in just a couple of months. But as Gaddafi’s regime is closer to an end the oil price is having a small rest, with a 5% fall in August'

The NATO support for anti-Gaddafi forces was more concerned with stabilising Libya, one of the closet main suppliers of oil to European nations, and part of the geopolitical struggle for diversification. So that when one regime is destabilised, then others can step in to up production of this black engine blood of developed Western consumer economies.

Even so, at a time when the economies of the USA and Europe are faltering on the brink of a double dip recession, lower oil prices are a main objective of Western governments if economic growth is to be stimulated and "consumer confidence" and spending resumed to pre-2008 levels.

The impact of lower oil prices was cited as important In US News ( End of Libyan War Could Mean Lower Oil Prices August 22 2011 ) this was reported,

The turmoil in Libya greatly disrupted that country's substantial oil production and exports. Before the country's civil war erupted in February, Libya produced 1.6 million barrels of oil per day and exported 2 percent of global oil supplies. The conflict curtailed that supply by more than 90 percent. But with rebel forces apparently on their way to seizing control of Tripoli, the civil war appears to be in its final throes.

That could mean a boost to the U.S. economy in the form of new consumer spending. According to the American Automobile Association, gasoline is currently more than 85 cents per gallon more expensive than it was one year ago. For a person buying 10 gallons of gasoline per week, that is more than $440 extra spent on gasoline over the course of a year. A decrease in prices could significantly free up money for other parts of the U.S. economy.

Again, in the short term, lower prices alone will not regenerate economic activity. In the longer term they are an essential prerequisite of continued Western consumer activity and of global economic growth. The danger of the collapse of a leading oil producing state, as seems possible in any state in the Arab World at this moment, only further the quest for diverse supplies.

By use of military force and covert operations to be rid of regimes that oppose Western oil interests in ways that could prove this addiction to cheap petrol to be a rather lethal one.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

The Fezzan: "A Bulwark of the Gaddafi Regime"

This somewhat flipant cartoon by Phil Disley has the hour glass in the wrong hand. It is, in fact, Gaddafi and his clan that have control over the time it will take for the NTC to establish a functioning state that can ensure the supply of water from the large reserves in the Fezzan that flows to Tripoli.

The Fezzan is still under Gaddafi's control. So too is his large grand project of bringing freshwater to the cities on the coast of Libya, one of his main infrastructural projects that he termed "The Eighth Wonder of the World". Gaddafi's power base remains strong in the south in his ancestral tribal city of Sabha.

Gaddafi's stated willingness to negotiate is not based only on his last attempt to ensure his legacy in bequeathing bloodshed as the cartoon here indicates. Nor is it a symptom of his time of killing in the civil war running out compared with the blood on the hands of the insurgent factions.
As John Simpson of the BBC reported the water supply to Tripoli has been cut off and it will be very difficult for the NTC to avert a humanitarian catastrophe in the hot weather conditions. This is most likely part of Gaddafi's last gambit to cause chaos and thwart the NATO backed 'transition'.

As Martin L Lewis wrote ( Libya's Fezzan, A Bulwark of the Gaddafi Regime ),

'As of March 1, 2011, Fezzan remained firmly under the control of the Gaddafi regime, with no indication of rebel activity in any of its cities or towns. The region’s loyalty to Gadaffi is linked to its relative isolation, as well as to the development funds that have been lavished upon it. But parts of Fezzan have also been singled out as bulwarks of the regime. Gaddafi attended secondary school in Sabha, the metropolis of the region (population 130,000). Many members of his own tribe, the Qaddadfa, subsequently relocated to the city, even though the tribe is based on the north coast. Sabha also supports a Libyan air base, which was linked to the country’s discontinued nuclear program, and has been used for rocket testing. The city is noted for its numerous migrants from sub-Saharan Africa, whose presence has been encouraged by Gaddafi and whose future in the country may be jeopardized by a regime change'.
That situation has not changed since and is as significant as the NTC rebels taking Tripoli, a city less firmly under Gaddafi's control that either he or the West liked to think. The violence meted out to black Sub-Saharan Africans,who are collectively seen as 'pro-Gaddafi', could well exacerbate existing ethnic tensions.

Gaddafi seems to be written off as a joke now that his regime has crumbled. Yet the dictator is no idiot. He's a cunning tactician who retains a number of cards up his sleeve. Destroying Tripoli's water supply in the desert regions south of the urban areas is one such guerrilla tactic this "leader of the Bedouins" could yet perform.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Libya: A Template for Future Resource Wars.

The fact that Gaddafi's forces have retreated in to the Fezzan to the south of the two northern coastal provinces of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica now under nominal NTC control and have cut of the water supply to Tripoli is in line with the way more wars are set to be pathological struggles over ever scarcer resources.

Gaddafi's last gambit is to cause a humanitarian crisis by controlling water supplies from the south in order to sabotage the new government.

An EU Times piece in March 2011 spelt out the stakes now being played for drawing on an WSJ that states,

...that a Global Resource War has now begun between the East and West, with the Middle East being the “first battleground”, specifically the vast oil and water resources belonging to Libya.

The distinguished American Professor and Human Rights Watch board member Michael T. Klare first coined the term “resource wars” in his 2001 book “Resource Wars: The New Landscape of Global Conflict” wherein he warned that our World was on the cusp of a century of warfare over access to the dwindling supplies of oil and fresh water every Nation needs, but there is not enough of to go around.

....British Defense Secretary John Reid who, likewise, in 2006 warned that Global weather changes and dwindling natural resources were combining to increase the likelihood of violent conflict over land, water and energy.

Most important to note about Reid’s 2006 warning was that it came at a time that the United States was securing its own energy future by taking the vast oil wealth of Iraq in covert partnership with Iran, but since that time has been moving away from its traditional European and Middle Eastern allies as it further retrenches into its own hemisphere.

Being left out in the cold, so to speak, with America’s retrenchment, the British, under their former Prime Minister Tony Blair, began actively courting Libya dictator Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi, in 2007, allowing the release of Abdel Baset Ali al-Megrahi, a former Libyan intelligence agent and the only man convicted in the Lockerbie Bombing, in exchange for oil drilling rights for British Petroleum (BP).

The New York Times News Service further reported about this “deal” between Blair and el-Qaddafi: “A senior British official, Sir Gus O’Donnell, formally acknowledged that BP had lobbied the British government in pursuit of its oil interests and the British government, in turn, resolved to “do all it could to facilitate an appeal by the Libyans to the Scottish government” for Mr. Megrahi’s release.”

Not just to Libya’s oil were the British after either, as in the early 1980’s, drilling teams in this North African Nations southern parts discovered one of the largest water systems in the World in four major underground basins, these being the Kufra basin, the Sirt basin, the Morzuk basin and the Hamada basin.

In order to utilize this massive underground water wealth the Libyan’s began construction of the “Great Man-Made River”, which aside from being the largest water transport project ever undertaken on our Planet has, also, been described as the “Eighth Wonder of the World.”

In late August, 1991, “turned on the tap” of their Great Man-Made River in a ceremony attended by nearly all Middle Eastern leaders, including former Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak who encouraged his countrymen to “go to Libya” to begin growing food for the entire region.

Important for the reader to note about Libya’s Great Man-Made River is that with a population of barely 6.4 million people, the food resources being grown since the early 1990’s (estimated that by 2012 could feed 50 million) could only be done so with the importation of over 1 million migrant workers, many of whom the UN now reports are either trapped or now fleeing.

Most important of these migrant workers were the nearly 40,000 Chinese who were saved by their Nation’s “epic evacuation” and who were working on vastly improving Libya’s ability to market grains and fresh foods to Asia and various other projects, and by far posed the West’s biggest threat to their “claim” over Libya’s vast oil and water wealth.

Unfortunately for el-Qaddafi, however, was that instead of cementing firm defense relations with either Russia or China he became a “ripened plum” ready to be picked off by the West....

So, with the Middle East now seeing its greatest turmoil since the early part of last century when the Arab people began throwing off the yoke of colonial repression, and with Libya being the “main prize” because of its vast oil and water wealth, it was no wonder that the new British Prime Minister, David Cameron, became the first Western leader to visit Egypt, a visit that was quickly followed by Egyptian Special Forces troops storming into Libya to aid the rebels.

Those Egyptian Special Forces troops were then quickly followed into Libya by British Special Air Services (SAS) troops and MI6 agents who arrived “in the dead of night, armed with weapons, maps and explosives while dressed in plain black clothing”, but “not to worry” said the British, “they were just looking for hotel rooms”.

The Scramble for Libya's Oil Wealth.

Here's some excerpts from brilliant article from journalist Rachel Shabi for Al Jazeera ( NATO nations set to reap spoils of Libya war 25 August 2011 )

It looks like the more telling news on Libya has migrated to the business pages. With jubilant reporting of Gaddafi's imminent downfall seizing headlines, it's the financial pages that have the clinical analysis. So, for instance, it is in this section that the Independent reports a "dash for profit in the post-war Libya carve up".

Similarly, Reuters, under the headline, "Investors eye promise, pitfalls in post-Gaddafi Libya" noted that a new government in that country could "herald a bonanza for Western companies and investors".

Before Tripoli has completely fallen, before Gaddafi and his supporters have stepped down and before the blood dries on the bodies that have yet to be counted, Western powers are already eyeing up what they view us just rewards for the intervention.

There are no more illusions over how far NATO forces exceeded the UN security resolution that mandated its campaign. For months, NATO officials insisted it was operating within brief - an air campaign, designed to protect civilians under threat of attack. But now it is described as an "open secret" that NATO countries were operating undercover, on the ground.

Add to that the reluctance to broker a negotiated exit, the practice of advising, arming and training the rebels, and the spearheading of an escalation in violence and it looks like NATO's job morphed from protecting civilians to regime change.

.....Gaddafi's demise is welcome; the courage of Libyans who fought his regime is staggering and only a stone would fail to be moved by their celebration of freedom now.

But it does not negate those factors to point out that NATO countries have not previously seemed bothered by the bloodiness of this dictator's 42-year-rule - or that the striking feature of the West's relationship to the Middle East has been its cynical alliances with repressive rulers, propped up to shut down their populations while opening up resources to foreign access.

It is exactly this track record - of being a corrosive influence and a self-interested broker - that has made Middle Eastern countries wary of any Western intervention in the tide of revolutions now sweeping the region.

Libyan rebels asked for help, but were wary of what was viewed as a necessary alliance with Western forces. It does the flow of Arab uprisings a disservice to now glorify NATO's mission. A liberal intervention for humanitarian ends may be the comfortable hook; but securing assets and resources, as usual, is the real goal.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Libya and Black Africa.

Adekeye Adebajo looks at the neglected black African dimension to Gaddafi's rule ( Gaddafi: The man who would be king of Africa, The Guardian August 26 2011 ),

...while Gaddafi became increasingly isolated in his bid to lead Africa, his status as an international pariah appeared to have ended with the unilateral dismantling of his weapons of mass destruction programme in 2003. He subsequently co-operated with European governments to deter African migrants seeking to reach Europe. Salivating western leaders from Italy, Britain and the US (now among Nato countries seeking to topple his regime) queued up outside his tent in Tripoli to sign lucrative oil contracts

Colonel Gaddafi's pan-African pose was about realpolitik, of course, no less than Mandela's embracing of the dictator who bestowed one of South Africa’s highest honours, the Order of Good Hope, on Gaddafi in 1997. For all the cynicism of Western states, no state conferred such a distinction.

The "anti-imperialist" propaganda and attempt to portray himself a "King of Kings" was a ploy to shore up support amongst the sub Saharan migrants that entered Libya and the support Gaddafi has with Africans has provided him with a rival sore of support in the poorest third southern province of Fezzan.

It might have been better for Adebayo to focus more on that fact than make snipes at the West given that the pan-Africanist ideology Gaddafi espoused could lead to an ethnic revanchism against black Africans in Libya that exists irrespective of the machinations of "Western imperialists".

There is a history of Arab racism against blacks in Libya that has resulted in such violence as was visited upon Ghanian migrant workers back in 2000, leaving 135 dead, a year after Mandela conferred the South Africa's on Gaddafi who likewise maintained prestige in South Africa akin to Fidel Castro.

Both Castro and Gaddafi supported the ANC in the struggle against Apartheid. As Mandela said “Those who say I should not be here are without morals. This man helped us at a time when we were all alone, when those who say we should not come here were helping the enemy.”

Such anti-imperialist rhetoric ignored the fact the growing ethnic enmity that has resulted now in blacks being seen as all mercenaries shoring up Gaddafi's regime, something that , of course, he was aiming at back to the time of the publication of the Green Book when he mused,

Now comes the black race's turn to prevail. The black race is now in a very backward social situation. But such backwardness helps to bring about numerical superiority of the blacks because their low standard of living has protected them from getting to know the means and ways of birth control and family planning.

Also their backward social traditions are a reason why there is no limit to marriage, leading to their unlimited growth, while the population of otherraces has decreased because of birth control, restrictions on marriage and continuous occupation in work, unlike the blacks who are sluggish in a climate which is always hot.

The removal of Gaddafi and the transition period could lead to much brutality against blacks who defended them against what he termed "hidden hostile hands" that wanted to destroy his Pan-African "ideals". Many black migrants hoping to get to Tripoli also aimed eventually at entering the EU.

In turn, a good number of black African supported Gaddafi. In conditions of chaos where there are squabbles about how gets control over Libya's oil assets, the black minority could well think it has no reason other than to support Gaddafi or anti-NTC forces.

This history of enmity between Arabs and Blacks dates back to the slave trade and has origins independent of the West. So it is hardly credible to see other states in Africa as having absolved themselves for having supported Gaddafi as though it was only the West that played cynical realpolitik.

The Oil Scramble and Divvying Up the Spoils of War.

The announcement today of an official NTC government in Tripoli by the Minister for Finance and Oil, Ali Tarhouni ( a University of Washington in Seattle economics professor ) has been accompanied by promises that the West will be favoured for its support for anti-Gaddafi insurgents.

In the West, Tarhouni is said to be favoured as a future leader of Libya.He has already indicated that existing contracts will be honoured, the endgame is for those nations that explicitly backed the 'rebels' to get a larger slice of the drilling rights and concessions.

As a CNN report confirms (Oil companies ready to jockey for position in new Libya, August 26 2011),

However unpredictable the current situation, European oil companies are gearing up for battle. The major players from there before the uprising began were Italy's Eni, Total of France and Repsol. British giant BP is also trying to get a larger slice of Libyan exploration projects. It concluded a $900 million deal with the Gadhafi regime three years ago to explore for gas. Other players include OMV of Austria and Marathon. China, through its state-owned CNPC, had begun exploring off the Libyan coast to help feed its insatiable appetite for Africa's mineral wealth but recently terminated several contracts because of the unrest.

Libya is the site for a scramble for resources as oil and gas that is set to become more pathological during the course of the 21st century. across the globe from Africa, to the Middle East and Central Asia. Whether Libya's NTC will be able to acheive what was not in Iraq is by no means certain.

What is dangerous would be the sort of shock therapt approach to privatising Libya's oil companies far too quickly so that the NTC presides over squabbling and a widening of ethnic and tribal divisions, not least as Islamist militants played a role in overthrowing Gaddafi.

Whilst the NTC is seeking reconciliation with some in Gaddafi's regime plus investment from the West to a tune of $2.5 dollars to rebuild Libya and prevent the state apparatus crumbling, if Gaddafi is not quickly defeated, then the resulting instability could lead to discontent.

Not least if the emigres in the NTC fail to ensure transparency in the privatisation deals and Western nations put short term greed and the need for 'fast track' oil production at the expense of a process of breaking up the stranglehold Gaddafi's cronies have over the state LNOC.

The need to get Libya's high quality crude oil flowing again is important not only to the reconstruction of the Libyan economy after six months of conflict but also to the Western states reeling from the prospect of a double dip recession and a need for falling petrol prices.

The question is whether Tarhouni is the man to carry out these refoms successfully without the kind of catastrophic doctrinnaire approach taken after 2003 by Chalabi. Tarhouni has been in exile since 1973 and has been described by an academic colleague as "fundamentally American".

Tarhouni, like almost all of the NTC hails from Benghazi, the capital of the former Ottoman and then Italian colony of Cyrenaica, which only became united with Tripolitania and Fezzam to make the new libyan state in 1951.

Tripoli was stormed primarly, however, by Western Libyans with a great deal of help from forces aided and guided by the CIA, MI6 and both French and British special forces, a covert operation that has helped flood Libya with angry young men with access to arms.

This includes those in the east in areas like Dernah whose defences have been led by Abdelkarim al-Hasadi of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group who previously had been a jihadist arrested by US forces in Afghanistan in 2002, and now claims he opposes Taliban style theocratic regimes.

The absurdity of empowering Islamist jihadi warriors after having previous backed Gaddafi after 2003 for renouncing non existent WMDs in return for Western oil companies investments and repressing Al Qaida elements is stark. So much for the 'war on terror' against 'jihadists now.

The very SAS that was used to train Gaddafi's forces to fight against jihadists based on their experience in Afghanistan as recent as 2009 was just two years later being used to train militias with jihadist tendencies in places such as Misrata.

The NTC will need to act rapidly if those with guns as part of independent militias as opposed to organised rebel forces more under their control are not tempted to turn their weapons on them should their tribal leaders be excluded from the benefit of Libya's oil privatisation by Tarhouni.

Britain's Covert Support for Anti-Gaddafi Insurgents ( The "rebels" )

The nature of Britain's covert support for the Lbya insurgent rebels fighting Gaddafi's regime. With the onset of a new epoch of resource wars, this manner of bringing about "regime change" now seems to offer the template for such operation.

The Independent ran this report, ( Rebels claim the victory – but did the Brits win it? August 23 2011 ).

Since 19 March – when the Royal Navy launched cruise missiles on Libyan air-defence targets, followed the next day by attacks by Royal Air Force Tornado jets – Britain has placed itself in the front ranks of Western powers enforcing the United Nations resolution protecting civilians from Colonel Gaddafi's forces and simultaneously pursuing the Brother Leader's removal from power.

While the Ministry of Defence has been diligent in providing daily updates on the progress of "Operation Ellamy", the British codename for its £250m part in the Nato campaign in Libya, a quieter London-sponsored offensive has been taking place on the ground for six months, involving an army of diplomats, spooks, military advisers and former members of the special forces.

One British intelligence operative in the Nafusa Mountains had previously been deployed elsewhere in Libya, including the besieged city of Misrata, part of attempts by London to influence events in Libya beyond the activities of warplanes and naval vessels.

It is a clandestine operation that got off to a spectacularly inauspicious start in March when seven SAS soldiers and an MI6 officer were detained by militia members outside the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, during a botched mission to make contact with anti-Gaddafi leaders. Since then, the British auxiliary efforts have been conducted more clandestinely.

A British diplomatic source said: "From quite an early stage there has been a view that Gaddafi's stranglehold would only be broken if there were practical measures on the ground as well as the air campaign. We are not talking legions of SAS crawling through the undergrowth. What we are talking about is offering expertise, diplomatic support and allowing others to be helpful."

The "others" in question are the small groups of former special forces operatives, many with British accents, working for private security firms who have been seen regularly by reporters in the vanguard of the rebels' haphazard journey from Benghazi towards Tripoli.

These small detachments of Caucasian males, equipped with sunglasses, 4x4 vehicles and locally acquired weaponry, do not welcome prying eyes, not least because their presence threatened to give credence to the Gaddafi regime's claims that the rebel assault was being directed by Western fifth-columnists.

Amid frustration and even disdain in British and Allied circles about the ragtag nature of much of the Libyan rebel army – whose reputation as fair-weather fighters proved to be literal in April when two days of rainfall halted their offensive – London has been content for the Benghazi-based National Transitional Council to use funds to buy in ex-SAS men and others with a British military background to help train and advise anti-Gaddafi forces.

The Independent understands that the contracts for the security companies, often signed in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, have involved funds provided by Western countries to the NTC, although much of the money has come from previously frozen regime bank accounts and assets.

The coalition, including Britain, France and Italy, has also funded high-tech equipment used by rebel fighters to communicate their position to Nato commanders as they plot the air strikes that have helped to tilt the balance against Colonel Gaddafi's demoralised military forces. Since March, British forces have destroyed 890 targets in Libya, including 180 tanks or armoured vehicles and 395 buildings.

But it is arguably in the arena of post-conflict planning that the British have been most active. In the wake of last month's decision by London to recognise the NTC as the de facto government of Libya, expelling pro-Gaddafi diplomats in London, the UK mission to Benghazi is now the second largest in North Africa.

Diplomats have been engaged in drawing up a blueprint for a post-Gaddafi Libya, including humanitarian aid, help with policing, governance and reform of the military. The prize of being seen as a "friend" in a stable, oil-rich Libya is considerable.

The Parallel between Iraq and Libya-Robert Fisk.

The parallels between Libya and Iraq are not, as yet, that direct. Yet according to Robert Fisk, correspondent for The Independent, this could change rather quickly as he writes here ( History repeats itself, with mistakes of Iraq rehearsed afresh. With Gaddafi at large, a guerrilla war eroding the new powers is inevitable August 25 2011 ).

Doomed always to fight the last war, we are recommitting the same old sin in Libya.

Muammar Gaddafi vanishes after promising to fight to the death. Isn't that just what Saddam Hussein did? And of course, when Saddam disappeared and US troops suffered the very first losses from the Iraqi insurgency in 2003, we were told – by the US proconsul Paul Bremer, the generals, diplomats and the decaying television "experts" – that the gunmen of the resistance were "die-hards", "dead-enders" who didn't realise that the war was over.

The West's real fear – right now, and this could change overnight – should be the possibility that the author of the Green Book has made it safely through to his old stomping ground in Sirte, where tribal loyalty might prove stronger than fear of a Nato-backed Libyan force.

Sirte, where Gaddafi, at the very start of his dictatorship, turned the region's oil fields into the first big up-for-grabs international dividend for foreign investors after his 1969 revolution, is no Tikrit. It is the site of his first big African Union conference, scarcely 16 miles from the place of his own birth, a city and region that benefited hugely from his 41-year rule. Strabo, the Greek geographer, described how the dots of desert settlements due south of Sirte made Libya into a leopard skin. Gaddafi must have liked the metaphor. Almost 2,000 years later, Sirte was pretty much the hinge between the two Italian colonies of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica.

And in Sirte the "rebels" were defeated by the "loyalists" in this year's six-month war; we shall soon, no doubt, have to swap these preposterous labels – when those who support the pro-Western Transitional National Council will have to be called loyalists, and pro-Gaddafi rebels turn into the "terrorists" who may attack our new Western-friendly Libyan administration. Either way, Sirte, whose inhabitants are now supposedly negotiating with Gaddafi's enemies, may soon be among the most interesting cities in Libya.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Human Rights in Libya and Britain.

In Michel Houellebecq's novel Platform the world weary narrator Michel Renault says that when considering the bombing by NATO of Kosovo, as part of a campaign for human rights, that he thinks the term human rights is based on irony. It is not difficult to see why many are becoming cynical every time the word is used

The idea that human rights can be enshrined in a 'fast track' manner through war and 'liberal intervention' is seen as idealistic. A selfless moral crusade that seamlessly binds a truly enlightened domestic policy with a foreign policy agenda no less.

The bland deputy PM of Britain, "Nick" Clegg, has had an article in The Guardian published that may even well have been actually written by him, that neverthesless asserts this,

'Libya stands on the brink of a new future, one that holds out the promise of democracy and freedom after 40 years of oppression. One of the most important tasks facing the interim government is the prevention of reprisals.

That is why David Cameron and I have urged the National Transitional Council to exercise restraint and respect for human rights.

...something strange has happened in recent years: while governments have continued the call for greater rights abroad, they have belittled the relevance of rights at home'.

Something strange has indeed occurred.

The harsh truth is that the invasion and intervention in lands valued for their potential in supplying oil and gas tends to conflict with the notion that the human right to infinitely consume the world's resources is easily reconciliable with the promotion of liberal democracy.

The curtailment of civil liberties under New Labour was bound together with Anti-Terrorist legislation and absurdities such as the bill to introduce 'incitement to religious hatred' as a form of criminal activity in fear of some supposed monolithic 'the Muslim Community' feeling victimised.

This followed increased tensions over the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and the groundswell of opinion, hardly restricted to British Muslims, that these wars for resources that had as their aim the control of ever scarcer supplies of oil and gas.

These resources are essential to underpin the infinite growth utopia that liberal progressives consider the way to integrate citizens living in a "globalised world", benefitting the consumers of lands as Britain no less than those lands from which thousands of displaced migrants are intent on claiming asylum in. As compensation.

Western Europe is dominated by hubristic politicians and a substantial public opinion that is motivated by a combination of the continued greed for increased comfort and material luxury and the guilt that comes from governments intervening in resource rich lands to acheive this. This indicates a civilisation heading for disintegration and decline..

European nations as part of the EU are considered a power bloc based on a liberal vision different to that of the global hegemon across the Atlantic that in reality provides most of the finance and military hardware to fight the resource wars that the USA considers necessary for its national interests.

The difference between the EU and the USA is that the latter happens to be across the Atlantic and not the Mediterranean. So the conflict and potential for chaos in Libya will affect the EU far more than the USA. But the intervention in Libya is connected inherently to Iraq and Afghanistan-control of fossil fuels.

This means that investment in alternatives to petrol fuelled consumerism is more important to maintain world peace than sententious hypocritical grandstanding upon human rights that would be far better promoted by the committment to a civilisation not based on profligate oil based consumption.

Else the coming future is going to resemble something akin to the dystopia portrayed in the film Children of Men. Where relations between and within states are pared down to pathological hatreds over who retains what in material terms and human rights become 'our right' to survive against the 'barbarians at the gate'.

An "Iron Mountain" of Arms in Afghanistan. A Mound of Corpses.

The strategy of arming those to fight for Western geopolitical interests and, it has been hoped, to promote democracy in strategically valuable lands, is a common thread that links the struggle in Libya with that in Afghanistan.

Michael Breen opines, courtesy of The Guardian,

In the continuing struggle for Afghanistan's future, Nato hopes that a massive transfer of weapons and equipment will finally tip the balance in its favour. Over the next eight months, Afghanistan's security forces look forward to receiving a series of arms shipments worth $2.7bn that Nato planners have dubbed the "iron mountain".

This is what is termed termed Afghanistanisation . The idea is to reduce NATO deaths in regions such as Helmland, through which the TAPI pipeline will run, by getting the Afghans to do the work of securing this grand project that will subsequently accrue large transit fees for Kabul to complete 'nation building'.

The omission of any consideration of this central key geopolitical stategy of NATO in Afghanistan, whether it is thought that it is a good or bad idea, is a derleliction of duty amongst journalists in free democratic nations.

The news in the media in those nations directly concerned with the TAPI pipeline regularly mention its importance. The Guardian should deal with the centrality of the TAPI pipeline if it is to remain a source of objective journalism and discussion in Britain.

The reason billions are pouring into Afghanistan were set out clearly by Hillary Clinton.

CentralAsia newswire reports, this,

Thursday, July 21, 2011 - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday promoted the planned Turkmenistan-to-India natural gas pipeline while in the Indian capital New Delhi, but did not speak about the proposed ‘peace’ pipeline from Iran to India, The Hindu news agency noted Thursday.

Participating countries should continue with efforts to lay the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline “both for improved energy security in the subcontinent and the relatively clean energy natural gas that it would provide,” Clinton told an energy security meeting.

Iran and Pakistan announced plans to begin work on laying the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) pipeline before the end of this year. Iran has already completed 679 miles of pipeline on its territory, according to Pakistan’s petroleum and natural resources minister.

Washington sees its policy of containing the Tehran government as a way of stabilizing Iraq and Afghanistan, as it blames Iran for the uptick in violence in both states.

Clinton also encouraged Asian countries to work together on creating a new Silk Road of transnational networks of transit and economic connections to boost development in the volatile region.

"That means building more rail lines, highways, energy infrastructure, like the proposed (natural gas) pipeline to run from Turkmenistan, through Afghanistan, through Pakistan into India," the United Press International (UPI) news agency reported Clinton as saying.

There ought really to be a real and sensible discussion of this. Unless the political classes in the West regard the children, .i.e the public, to be too uninformed to even consider why 379 British troops have been killed there, as well as thousands of Afghan villagers.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Supporting Arab Revolution in Libya Defeats The Arab Revolution.

The facts are that in any Arab Revolution, Libya or elsewhere, the West has had and retains vital geostrategic interests primarily concerning the stability of the supply of oil. Even so, Seumas Milne, Guardian columnist and Stop the War Coalition activist believes NATO)'s backing of The Libyan rebels is an imperialist hijack".

With devastating logic Milne writes,

"Nato's intervention in Libya is a threat to the Arab revolution, but the forces that have been unleashed in the region won't be turned back so easily"

By intervening in Libya to hold back Gaddafi from "turning back the forces that have been unleashed in the region", NATO has in fact 'turned back' the revolution. By preventing the uprising from from being wiped out, any NATO backed government now threatens to be destroyed by the they revolution backed.

If NATO had let Gaddafi wipe out the rebels, then the anti-Gaddafi forces would have succeeded. But Milne is clear this was not the case,

In Libya, the basis for foreign military intervention has been the claim that Muammar Gaddafi's forces were about to carry out a massacre of civilians in Benghazi after he threatened to hunt down armed rebels "house to house". Violent repression was certainly meted out against a popular uprising, but once insurrection had morphed into war there's little evidence that the regime's troops were in a position to overrun an armed and hostile city of 700,000 people.

Yet according to Milne, there was, therefore, no real way Gaddafi could have crushed the rebels in any case, meaning that either that no bloodshed would have happened or that it would and it is of no business of the West if it had.

Yet what evidence is there that Gaddafi was not in a position six months ago to cause a bloodbath in Benghazi before the insurrection mysteriously "morphed" into a civil war that predated NATO intervention ?

Western oil interests had been served fairly well by Gaddafi prior to the outbreak of violence, though there had been increasing concern that Russia and China had been making inroads with Gaddafi's regime in gaining new oil concessions.

The truth is that once Gaddafi lost de facto control over Libya a civil war would have ensued irrespective of the West. Certainly Gaddafi could not have overrun Benghazi in the way that rebel militias are doing now courtesy of the involvement of NATO and the CIA and MI6.

From the perspective of energy hungry Western states, something was needed to have been done to ensure the world's supply of the best crude oil was not left in limbo, precisely after the debacle following the invasion of Iraq made it all the more important to secure the supply from Libya.

Even if Milne's predictable loathing of the intervention in Libya is a result of his Leninist 'anti-imperialist' stance, as opposed to any interest in the predicament of the Libyan's who wanted an end to dictatorship, his idea that the NTC elites will sell out to Western interests over that of most Libyans is not unfounded.

Libya, like all Arab states wil oil wealth, has a huge burgeoning population consisting of young people, often angry men who want to be rid of unaccountable power often supported by the West as a means of ensuring "stability" and the flow of cheap oil.

Yet new governments beholden to the NATO investment in overthrowing Gaddafi will have a problem with creating a new order that will ensure enough oil revenue will be used to invest in providing work for those who will not be fast tracked into well paid jobs in a revived oil sector.

The situation is as it is now and if the new NTC does not preside over a smooth transition in which not only the emigres and former members of Gaddafi's regime benefit, then the period of transition could well see new infighting and violence.

If the Libyans who fought for the TNC fail to see any benefits from Libyan oil somewhat quickly then resentment will follow. As a Guardian report stated just today that Global Witness campaign group has emphasised,

"Any deals at this time could raise concerns within Libya that international support for the NTC is driven by a desire for access to oil rather than for the benefit of the Libyan people. The NTC is likely to have to honour Gaddafi-era contracts in order to get oil revenues flowing. But no new deals for the exploration or exploitation of oilfields should be considered until an elected government can review existing rules and laws to ensure robust transparency and accountability."

Brendan O'Donnell, senior oil campaigner at Global Witness stated,

"By drawing a line under Gaddafi-era corruption and the mismanagement of public wealth, the NTC could champion resource justice in the transitional constitution and set a great precedent for Libya's future."

The group called for transparency provisions to be written into the transitional constitution that require public disclosure of how Libya manages its oil sector, and disclosure of all revenues associated with it. It also said terms of existing oil contracts should be disclosed, and details of agreements made by the NTC with governments and companies involving sovereign funds or the exchange of cash, crude oil or "IOUs" secured against frozen assets should be made public – and open to scrutiny.

"A transparently managed oil sector could prove the catalyst for much-needed development and stability in the country," said Global Witness. "But any perception that the rebels or Nato countries have their own designs on Libya's oil could stir further division and conflict."

The danger is the NTC fail to do this due to unrestrained greed and ethnic and tribal factions seeking to put their interests before the common good of Libya, which is hardly a nation state but an artificial unity cobbled out of provinces out of the ruins of the Ottoman Empire.

As much as supporters of 'liberal intervention' might see Milne as a cynical commentator who opposes the Western states as "imperialist" from an ideological perspective, the unpleasant reality is that his gloom laden apocalyptic view of further violence could well prove true.

Sane people do not hold to the Leninist position of "the worse, the better" as so-called 'anti-war' fanatics who have hijacked the mood of unease over these wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and now Libya hold to, those who are more concerned with their post-Soviet hatred of the USA for having won the Cold War than anything else.

However, the West needs to invest far more money in alternatives to being overdependent upon the oil that fuels Western consumerism. The Sun was more candid about the stakes as far as Britons are concerned when it claimed that the Mad Dog's overthrow meant 4p off petrol prices.

As the Western economies falter on the brink of a double dip recession, access to diverse oll supplies have become of more importance. Yet populist anti-war types never point out the fact that even the poorer members of a consumer society as Britain depend on cheap oil to maintain their living standards.

The Importance of Fezzan in Libya.

The Fezzan is Libya's poorest province and it is possible Gaddafi will make his last stand there because, as with Iraq which is also divided into three regions, it is the site of Sebha, the ancestral home of the Gaddafi tribe and 'Mad Dog' will most likely try to play on the fact they will have everything to lose with the NTC.

As historian Mark Almond has written,

....the most likely option is for him to follow Saddam Hussein and try to go to ground in his own country.

Saddam was able to evade the Americans for nine months in 2003, and Libya is a much bigger country than Iraq. Gaddafi’s loyalists still control his home region around Sirte, 300 miles east of Tripoli, but also vast tracts of desert in the south where Gaddafi reportedly has bunkers filled with weapons and supplies.

Should the NTC break up into factionalism and squabbles over who gains control over the huge oil revenues in Libya, then Gaddafi's last ditch plot to gain revenge will be to plan acts of terrorism and insurgency from this area with his mercanaries who come from sub Saharan Africa.

Gaddafi had long been building up a power base in Fezzan to act as a counterweight to the other two northern provinces of Tripolitania and Cyrenacia which were etnically and tribally distinct under the Ottoman Empire before it collapsed.

Ghadames is also the area with a colossal new oil field discovered by the Sirte Oil Company ( with Sirte being Gaddafi's home town and the company staffed by Gaddafi's men ) back in 2007-2008. BP was due to gain drilling rights in tandem with Libya's National Oil Company ( NOC ).

Gaddafi derives support in Sirte and Ghadames as it is clear that Britain and the US will demand the BP-NOC contract is honoured by the NTC , one which was facilitated by by Al Magrahi's release lobbied for by BP, as part of the reward for having deposed Gaddafi.

If Gaddafi is capable of hanging on for nine months in Fezzan as Saddam did in sunni parts of Iraq where he had a power base in Tikrit, then he could exploit the breakdown of unity in the NTC as tribal and ethnic divisions set Libyans against one another sufficient for Gaddafi or his clan to exploit them.

The aim of Gaddafi now has to be to hope for chaos in Libya and the entrance of NATO troops on the ground in Libya so that he can exploit his recurrent theme of western imperialists taking Libya's oil wealth from them. As in Iraq, the scale of angry young men without jobs will lead to anger at any sell out to the West.

Libya and Iraq

As the Battle for Tripoli still goes on and Gaddafi is now reported to have left Tripoli some time ago. On August 23 I wrote on the a Guardian Blog this at 12:06 AM,

'The ease with which the rebels have entered Tripoli was interpreted by BBC correspondent Matthew Price as concievably part of a plan to lure them in whilst Gaddafi had other plans. As with Saddam's escape from Baghdad to lead an insurgency from the sunni strongholds of Tikrit.

Gaddafi could well have fled to Fezzan, the poorest part of Libya in the south, the third region of Libya, in order to pose as the Bedouin leader once more in the desert. He has substantial support in places such as Sabha and amongst the sub Saharan migrants there and retains mercenaries there.

As with Saddam , the poorest region without the most substantial oil reserves ( in Iraq's case the sunni west of the "nation" ) has been used by Gaddafi as a counterweight to any collusion between elites in the other tow regions. Gaddafi encouraged much migration to this part of Libya.

Remember that his stint as a Pan African leader was part of his attempt to bring in more poor black Africans ( hence the fancy African dress he sported at African Union meetings ) as a way of bolstering his narrowing support base in the north as oil revenues increased.

The hubristic talk of a victory is dangerous and , if what I said is, in fact the case, then the conflict is far from over and it may be the beginning of a new stage of events potentially similar to Iraq ( though it is hoped by all sane people that it will not )

Historian Dr Mark Almond also wrote some hours later in the Daily Mail ( Mad Dog Gaddafi has nowhere left to hide as rebels enter Tripoli August 23 8.33 AM

'....the most likely option is for him to follow Saddam Hussein and try to go to ground in his own country.

Saddam was able to evade the Americans for nine months in 2003, and Libya is a much bigger country than Iraq. Gaddafi’s loyalists still control his home region around Sirte, 300 miles east of Tripoli, but also vast tracts of desert in the south where Gaddafi reportedly has bunkers filled with weapons and supplies.

For Libya’s future, the worst option is for Gaddafi to go down fighting. Even if he tries to hide, if he is cornered he will rather die to avoid humiliation by capture. Dying gun in hand could plant the seeds of a ‘heroic’ myth.

Today, Libyans revile the man who wreaked bloodshed until the end. But if things go wrong and the country disintegrates under further tribal and sectarian violence, then the madman’s sense of history could play one last cruel trick on his country.'

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Endgame Libya.

The Battle for Tripoli rages on between Gaddafi's forces and the rebels with it appearing almost certain the Libyan dictator's regime is set to fall and that a new National Transitional Council will assume control with the full military and political backing of the West.

In Britain, The Sun newspaper inadvertently revealed the relevance of Cameron's decision to use RAF jets as part of the air campaign against Gaddafi's forces and the undoubted use of SAS personnel to use sophisticated technology to coordinate the capture of the Libyan capital.

THE downfall of tyrant Colonel Gaddafi will bring joy to motorists by slashing more than 4 PENCE off petrol prices, the AA said last night.

Experts said global oil prices are set to tumble as Libya's production returns to normal when fighting ends - and that will be passed on at the pumps.

The revolution's effects on prices were already apparent yesterday, when Brent crude fell more than one per cent in London to 107.9 dollars a barrel.

The Sun gets it right when they write more candidly about the benefits to Britain in aiding the rebels overthrow Gaddafi. It will mean a 4p reduction in oil prices. This means far more to motorist Britons than abstract arguments about 'humanitarian intervention'.

None of the quality newspapers have bothered to mention the obvious impact on the consumer in such populist terms, despite the fact the popularity of the British government will be boosted by opening up the flow of high grade crude from Libya.

Advanced Western consumer democracies need falling or stable oil prices to maintain their lifestyles. Arab nations need rising prices if the majority of a rising population of young people are going to see benefits from their oil.

Libyan British emigres have been ready to ignore this in the understandably euphoric atmosphere witnessed in Tripoli as Gaddafi's regime crumbles. One, the writer Hashim Matar, wrotes in The Guardian,

The past six months have put an end not only not only to Gaddafi's rule but also to the myths propagated by its extensive PR campaign, managed by companies in London and New York and promoted by western governments and companies wishing to do business with the dictator.

But why have Western attitudes gone from embracing the dictator as happened after 2003 when Britain and the USA led the way in invading Iraq and Gaddafi to now vilifying him to the point of having ruled out any idea of negotiating with him and a settlement between the warring sides ?

Gaddafi had lost de facto authority after the Arab Spring motivated those particularly in the East around Benghazi to rise up against him. When he threatened to exterminate the rebels there, Britain and France saw an opportunity to be rid of him and get a democratic new regime installed.

Yet the problem with the Libyan NTC will be not merely the creation of a democracy and civil society in a land beset with tribal divisions but also whether any new government can oversee a transition that will not repeat the mistakes of Iraq in 2003 after the dictator was removed.

The NTC have claimed there will be reconciliation and nothing resembling "De-Baathification".The create a vaccuum of power in Libya would create the same conditions after Saddam Hussein was removed in Iraq

However, the difficult facing the TNC is not only about the political settlement that will prove acceptable to competing factions but also the terms of the economic reforms which may well be spelt out by Western governments and pliant client elites over the heads of the people.

A US diplomatic cable revealed by Wikileaks that dates back to 2007 at least indicates what is at stake with the removal of Gaddafi,

'Libya needs to exploit its hydrocarbon resources to provide for its rapidly-growing, relatively young population. To do so, it requires extensive foreign investment and participation by credible IOCs [international oil companies]. Reformist elements in the Libyan government and the small but growing private sector recognize this reality. But those who dominate Libya's political and economic leadership are pursuing increasingly nationalistic policies in the energy sector that could jeopardize efficient exploitation of Libya's extensive oil and gas reserves'.

The Libyan conflict is not exactly "all about oil" as no conflict is ever all about just only one thing. But clearly Western intervention is premised on the geopolitical advantages of 'regime change' in Libya that has echoes of Iraq in a number of ways.

Firstly, the idea that a rapid transition to a stable democracy boosted by oil revenue will act as a model and beacon for other Arab nations undergoing change and reform. One reason the West has released $150 million of oil revenue to win over the rebels.

Many of the rebels have fought through idealism, hatred of Gaddafi, ethnic and tribal loyalties that date back before Gaddafi's secular Arab national socialist regime. These are very strong in the East of Libya ( Cyrenaica ) which under the Ottoman Empire was a distinct province quite different from Tripolitania.

Secondly, therefore, it is important that the new government does not follow an extreme shock therapy neoliberal model of privatisation that without the creation of a strong democratic state first will lead to corruption and unaccountable elites and tribal bosses fighting over the lucrative oil revenues.

Libya has a rapidly growing young population that needs the oil revenue to be chanelled into providing a diversified economy and a degree of state provision for all Libyans. This requires the new government to no cede away control of its oil wealth wholly to the West which prefers lower prices.

This was aimed at in Iraq when the new government there agreed to PSA's ( Profit Sharing Agreements ) that would ensure a fixed price for 100 years to Western nation.

Then there is the evidence of history. Matar states ,

For exactly 100 years now, our country has battled fascism. In 1911 we had Mussolini, then, after a short break under King Idris, in 1969 we had our own home-grown variety of authoritarian rule in the form of Gaddafi...

This is a curious statement. For a start Gaddafi was, of course, not a 'fascist' but an Arab nationalist who espoused a form of 'socialism' in so far as he could appeal to the wretched of the earth in his part of North Africa in common with the anti-imperialist rhetoric of the 1960s.

Moreover, Mussolini was not even in power in Italy until 1922. The occupation of Libya was a more old fashioned imperial adventure that was about controlling oil resources as well. As Mark Mazower has emphasises these aims have not changed despite humanitarian interventionist doctrines.

After the Second World War and formal decolonisation that happened under King Idris it is true that there was more political freedom. Yet the majority of Libyan's remained poor and cut off from the wealth of the Sanussi elites who in the East in Benghazi who backed the monarchy.

This is important as it should not be forgotten that this is how Gaddafi was able to exploit discontent to gain power in the first place and to retain in by encouraging migration of black Africans from sub Saharan Africa to act as a power base in the Fezzan region in the south.

This is one reason to be cautious about what happens if and when the rebels flying the flag of King Idris take Tripoli. As with Baghdad in 2003, it seems Gaddafi will retreat to his ancestral tribal homeland in Sabha just as Saddam tried to rouse the oil poor Sunni regions to rise up.

It is likely that Gaddafi has abandoned Tripoli to flee to the south which has little to lose when compared to the elites who stand to benefit from Gaddafi's demise in the two oil rich northern provinces on the Mediterranean.

All the more reason that the transition to democracy has to be accompanied without mass corruption encouraged by overhasty economic reforms, asset stripping and the creation of new unaccountable elites who will wave goodbye to those who made their victory possible once they gain power and control.

Western states were content enough to bargain with Gaddafi when they thought they could extract what they wanted as regards drilling rights and oil concessions. When Gaddafi lost control, then it was clear that he was no longer useful and incapable of securing stability.

This does not mean that Gaddafi's removal is not a great moment for a vast number of Libyans. Yet whether it will prove a victory that will satisy a substantial number of its people, should the economic settlement give precedence to Western interests at the expense of those who fought for freedom, remains to be seen.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

The British Council, "cultural Imperialism" and "Soft Power".

On the suicide attack on the British Council carried out by the Taliban yesterday, Kamile Shansie claims,

Given British history, how can the British Council escape the "cultural imperialism" tag? Somehow, it does. Perhaps it's because those involved are aware of the sensitivities and work hard to work around them. Or perhaps it's simply because the institution is such a good thing.

The Taliban is not going to be defeated militarily and yet the British Council has been centrally involved with that process of 'nation building' which is a central objective in Britain having troops to fight and defeat the insurgents who are aiming to thwart that.

BBC reporter Bilal Sarwary, in Kabul, writes that "The work of the British Council in Afghanistan is designed to contribute to development and stabilisation of Afghanistan, and helps to develop and inspire the next generation there" . The BC works with the foreign office and is funded by the British government.

That the British Council's presence in Afghanistan is not merely 'cultural' as was evident when the Director of the BC in Afghanistan Paul Smith made in clearwhen he said April 2011 this,

The skies were quieter above Afghanistan today, courtesy of the British Council.

That's because just about all the pilots of the Afghan Airforce, some 100+ professional military aviators, were gathered at the British Council training centre, at the HQ of the Afghan National Airforce, to receive their English language graduation certificates.

Even the President's helicopter was grounded as its rotary pilots proudly came forward to receive their recognition from Afghan Brigadier General Barakat, Colonel Ken Madura of the US airforce and Colonel Iain Smailes, Defence Attache at the British Embassy in Kabul.

I'm always keen to emphasise the cultural relations significance and liberating power of teaching military cadres English, particularly these soldiers and officers who, by learning the international language, are better able to join the conversation about the rights and values for which they are fighting.

This is aiding the efforts of the government in Kabul to co-ordinate a military struggle. The assumption of the 'rights and values' for which 'they' are fighting are presumed to be those of the Kabul government which are, by extension, those of the Western democracies propping it up.

Which makes it obviously a target as far as the Taliban is concerned in trying to advance its interests in Afghanistan and continuing to derail the attempt to secure the TAPI pipeline which is set to run through Helmland where they are being engaged by British troops.

As repellant and vicious as this appalling Taliban suicide attack is, it is not a "cowardly act" as David Cameron claimed but merely a psychopathological one. proof that the Taliban has members willing to die in order to drive out the military occupation by the West.

What the public is never told when attacks such as this happen is that the war is being fought for a gas pipeline which is the main geopolitical aim of the war, without which Afghanistan will be of little use to the West and which would freeze both it and the West out of the competition for energy in Central asia.

Afghanistan is important to Britain as the pipeline will encourage diversification of Turkmenistan's gas away from Russian control and the prospect of China, Iran and Russia, as well as Iran , Pakistan and India colluding without Afghanistan would mean the West would lose power in the region.

TAPI is essential to NATO's war aims and will be the main source of revenue other than its copious lithium deposits for the new Afghan elites being trained by the West as a 'successor generation'. This is why the Taliban, financed by Western heroin addicts paying high prices for drugs, resist in Helmland.

The real context to the war in Afghanistan needs to be told in the liberal media instead of repeating the notion the BC is doing entirely selfless work for the people of Afghanistan and to educate the masses as a part of some humanitarian project. Most Afghans would not be able to afford studying at the BC.


Paul Smith, of the BC in Afghanistan, also wrote on November 5 2010 about his role in 'nation building' through the BC's role in providing military English,

.....the international crises of our new millennium have clearly proved that culture, in the broadest sense, is central to geopolitics. Surely we must be convinced now that, if we don't do politics and we don't do religion, then we don't really do culture properly. We can be ideologically neutral and still facilitate the crucial talk and action about global issues amongst world faiths and power structures...

How aiding directly the military effort in Afghanistan can be said to be "ideologically neutral" , when it has been lauded as "liberal intervention" by its supporters and when Smith claims that 'culture, in its broadest sense, is central to geopolitics', is somewhat puzzling.

More to the point Smith then wrote,

Communicating and understanding well is a critical need for all who hold power, whether it be the power held by a Ministry official in Tokyo, the power held by a corporate CEO in Chicago, the power held by a blogger in Khartoum or the more metallic power held in the hands of an armed soldier in Kabul.


Another day, Another Attack. Another Attempt to Outrage Rather than Explain.

The cliches of 'war without end' and 'endless war' are staples of populist hacks who want to carve out a living for themselves by exploiting distrust, anger, annoyance, incomphrehension, puzzlement at the British and American involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mehdi Hasan, a leading journalist who writes for The New Statesman and The Guardian writes ( Barack Obama's Wars without End August 19 2011),

Another day, another attack. On Friday, the Taliban celebrated Afghanistan's independence day with an audacious assault on the British Council office in Kabul, which killed nine people. The day before, insurgents killed at least 25 people after a roadside bomb ripped through a minibus in the western province of Herat and a suicide car bomb exploded at a US-run base in the eastern province of Paktia.

A decade on from 9/11, bloodshed and chaos continue to plague Afghanistan and Iraq.
A US state department report published on Thursday revealed that the number of terrorist attacks in Afghanistan had jumped by 55% last year; in Iraq, attacks were up 9%.

The US-led invasions and occupations of both countries have been a dismal failure – thousands of lives lost and trillions of dollars squandered. The presence of western troops in Muslim lands has provoked more terrorism than it has prevented.

Why does an intelligent politician such as Barack Obama have such difficulty understanding this?

Putting more boots on the ground was a gross misjudgment. More US troops have died fighting in Afghanistan during Obama's two and a half years in the White House than in Bush's two terms in office – and, despite the recent decision to start bringing troops home, there will be more US military personnel fighting the Taliban at the end of Obama's first term in office than at the start.

It is clear that the war in Afghanistan is not actually supposed to be a war without end as the US and UK have claimed that troops will be withdrawn by 2014. It seems a war without any conclusive end. But Mehdi does nothing to outline what he thinks the endgame is.

In Afghanistan it is the key remaining war objective to ensure the security environment that will allow the TAPI pipeline to be built. A transit route for gas from Turkmenistan that will give the Western powers a strong stake in the New Great Game for the oil and gas of Central Asia.

The plan is to link Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India together economically in a community of regional interest that will ensure the rival IPI pipeline that would bypass Afghanistan completely does not result in the West failing to have a toehold from which it can determine Central Asian supplies of oil and gas.

The TAPI pipeline is scheduled to be completed by 2014. Curiously this is the date when UK and US troops are timetables to withdraw. The pipeline is an essential part of Western geopolitics and it does journalism a great disservice that this obvious fact is seldom mentioned in discussions of what is at stake in this war.

The strand of anti-war opinion in England often fails to take into account the fact that supplies of oil and gas are diminishing and that both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are resource wars intended to secure the energy future that underpins the material wellbeing of presumably even the less wealthy in Western lands.

The idea that the war in Afghanistan is about corporate profits and the military industrial complex is simply erroneous. "Liberal intervention" is about what is considered "enlightened self interest". Should TAPI become a reality, then Afghanistan will be integrated into the global economy.

This war aim is believed to benefit the Afghan people who will gain from the transit fees and the investment of corporations in exploiting the copious supplies of lithium which are valuable for producing high tech goods. One reason China is negotiated with Karzai's government for acres to these resources.

The problem is that the Taliban know the strategic value of TAPI and that it has to go through Helmland as most of the land to the east is consists of impassable mountain territory. This is why the conflict has yielded so many casualties for Britain in that region.

Generalised commentaries that consist just in mentioning the scale of Afghan deaths from drones, or else maudlin ones that emphasise British soldiers sacrifices only, both fail to actually deal with the most pressing question: what is all this death and destruction supposed to be for ?

Hasan does no more to enlighten the British public in this regard than ITV's increasingly sinister use of it's news channel to amplify official war propaganda that Afghanistan is a sacrifice of the troops for the home country. Obviously the war it has nothing to do with defence from dangerous enemies but with energy security and geopolitics.

Perhaps, it is thought that the British public is too stupid to understand this. More likely, their could be a lot of anger if it was thought that the war was about a pipeline, one that British far right leader Nick Griffin of the BNP has been keen to exploit in his propaganda about "Bringing Our Boys Home".

However, the idea of evil imperial elites and corporations being alone wholly responsible for unleashing carnage for pure profit only lends credence to the idea that to explain the reason for the continuing war in terms of a pipeline is a 'conspiracy theory'.

The idea that Afghanistan is about what Pilger calls, with repetitive insistence, "rapacious power" is as much a tedious and obsolete propaganda trope as the Establishment propaganda about a war to defend our streets from terror.

Exchange the word 'imperial elites' with 'metropolitan liberal-elites' and the idea of sinister profiteers and callous, unresponsive, and malign sysstem and 'regime' can become a form of propaganda that bolsters the far right in Britain, a left wing war for saving Muslims who are bound to detest Britain anyway and which this foreign policy makes worse.

This is the problem when the media buys in to the official PR spin about a 'liberal intervention' or 'humanitarian war' or what Obama and Cameron 'should', 'must' or 'ought' to do in Afghanistan to ensure peace and a workable settlement without understanding what is the reason for being in Afghanistan

And that the auxiliary objectives ( hospitals, clinics, rights for women, education etc ) are secondary in importance to the geopolitical struggle to get the TAPI pipeline constructed. Without even mentioning the reality behind the war strategy, public discussion is stifled into 'what about the benefits to the Afghans? ' or ' it's all one hypocritical sham'.

The stark fact, the few seem to grasp,, is that the legitimacy of governments such as Britain's depends on the ability of the political class to ensure economic growth and rising consumer prosperity. This is as true of ailing democracies as Britain's as it is of one party systems such as energy hungry China.

Face facts: Afghanistan, no less than Iraq, is a war to promote the future supply of fossil fuels that consumers feel they have a right to expect. Party political popularity and legitimacy in a democratic system are upheld by their ability to supply cheap oil and thus diversify supplies.

Some Objections Considered.

"Although you are right to mention the pipeline as key to understanding the mass murder undertaken by Obomber and Co you seem a little confused as to the underlying intentions of the western intervention in Afghanistan. corporations invest to get profits mate. Sorry it's all about greed and good old fashioned colonialism. Your post is confusing and only serves to obfuscate"

No, I said that the war is not crucially about corporate profits as the driving force, though profits are certainly to be made. But billions of dollars spent on Afghanistan have yielded a paltry return so far. So the war effort is hardly "worth it". The question is who is meant to benefit from the war ?

The idea Afghanistan is only about enriching corporations ( note the word "only" ) is facile. It is more complicated than that, something that does not amount to "obfuscation"but more to the fact that global economies depend upon oil and gas to maintain living standards.

That does not mean that it is ethically right. But distinguishing what 'is' the actual case for competition over fossil fuels is different to claiming this 'ought' to be so.

Governments are not merely only the servants of corporations. The US government actually thwarted US corporate oil interests in Iran as it contradicted their policy. Corporations do not determine foreign policy, though they can be influential and certainly seek to profit from it.

In Afghanistan corporations are set to make profits from mining resources. But the main aim is about hegemony in Central Asia and about the construction of the TAPI pipeline for the geopolitical reasons I have outlined. So silly propaganda about selfless humanitarian intervention is designed to obfuscate.

As regards Pilger, he just sees Afghanistan as about sinister elites doing this only for profit and power. Yet as with Iraq, it is easy to claim this and pretend that western consumer prosperity, that is the interests of the vast masses of consumers, is not also tied up with continued access to cheap oil and gas.

Investing in alternatives to fossil fuels is the clear way out of this and not spending money on futile wars. But to pretend that resource wars are simply about profits is, well, just simplistic. My criticism of Pilger is that he trades in propaganda by just inverting official propaganda on it's head.

In other words, Afghanistan is not about a heroic crusade for democracy ( obviously ) nor about pure profit and power. Both views are wrong and evident untruth put forth by the government are not countered by failing to understand the gravity of the crisis caused by over dependence on fossil fuels.

......."there are strategic interests, but I don't buy the argument that Afghanistan is now primarily about securing real estate for a pipeline".

The pipeline is central to US/NATO interests more for geopolitical reasons than profit as it is about uniting the regional powers under the auspices of Western military force and also about containing and encircling Iran from both the west ( Iraq ) and Afghanistan to the east.

By blocking off the IPI alternative, the West will be able to retain a military and diplomatic stake in determining the supply of fossil fuels from Central Asia and the Middle East. Control over energy supplies is precisely power politics and retaining the capacity to remain a regional and global player where it matters.

'An interesting new factor with regard to the US securing all that fossil fuel is that we don't really need to. Turns out the US has vast supplies of natural gas and production is ratcheting up at a furious pace. (I live in Pennsylvania.) New technology gives access to vast oil deposits in Canada. North America has the potential to once again become a major exporter of fossil fuels".

The US has stockpiled vast reserves of oil and gas, of course. But it still will not be enough and the point is that the US and the European states need diversity of supply. In a world of increasing instability, where fossil fuel producing states are riven with ethnic and sectarian divisions, diversification is the goal.

Moreover, Europe has by far not enough oil and gas and more pro-US states such as Poland see diversification as as means of reducing dependence upon Russia which has shown it wants to use the supply of oil and gas as a tool of diplomacy: annoy Russia and expect a slowdown in gas supply.

The TAPI pipeline will primarily and directly benefit the states through which it runs as regards supply of gas. That fact is often used by certain mendacious commentators to claim that the idea that TAPI is about Western economic interests only is a 'conspiracy theory'.

If it was so, it would be a kind of mere 'conspiracy theory'as the reasoning goes that we could have cut a deal with the Taliban just as Blair said he could have cut a deal with Saddam if the war in Iraq was only about taking the oil.

This is, of course, what the governments of Western nations involved in Afghanistan want their publics to believe. When TAPI is reported in the Western media, it is curiously confined to the economic and financial sections of newspapers as if it were somehow wholly unrelated to the political and military news.

Yet the fact remains that NATO's political and military effort is geared towards securing the pipeline route and it is their blood and treasure that is paying towards this geostrategical gambit of putting the West in a strong bargaining position to determine the future of global energy supplies.

I do believe that in the final analysis, it is all about 'profits', be it financial, political and/or strategic profits. With changing geopolitical and economic conditions, a country might well intervene into another country for one or more reasons, then find other reasons for continuing their intervention. is not inconceivable that some dishonest and devious politicians will intervene on a 'leap from' basis, citing one reason for intervening but intending to be able to make a stronger case for wider intervention once the have intervened and 'created facts on the ground.'

Afghanistan was invaded because the Bush administration believed in 2001 that Al Qaida was a hierarchical organisation akin to something like SPECTRE from James Bond with Bin Laden as the evil No 1 and that by getting rid of the Taliban they could defeat Al Qaida.

This also provided a pretext for getting the pipeline constructed as this had been a long term aim of the US as part of it's strategy for Central Asia throughout the 1990s. The Taliban were after 2001 believed to be unreliable as clients given their role in harbouring Al Qaida.

The idea of 'mission creep' is less convinciing in a sense. Regarding the 'war on terror' and 'war on drugs' and other reasons for 'staying the course' are also attempts to rationalise a conflict that the US and NATO blundered into and for which abstract utopian aims were advanced by 'liberal interventionist' crusaders.

One of the problems now for democratic governments is the 'endgame'. As regards Britain, the loss of 379 soldiers and reports of Afghan villagers being blow up, has in some ultimate sense to have been 'worth it'. If not, the whole decade long war would be seen as futile without gaining something.

The construction of the TAPI pipeline remains the one sole aim that it is believed can make the expense and casualties all part of a successful exercise in 'nation building'. No pipeline and Afghanistan will have little worth investing, no New Silk Route as Hilary Clinton terms it will develop and nothing will have been gained.

If the TAPI pipeline is constructed, this gives the pro-Western Afghan elites the chance to use the hefty transit fees to strengthen the power of the state. Though the reality is that it could just lead to more corruption and squabbling. That can even be seen in other pipeline transit states such as Georgia.

Moreover, the Taliban ( and warlords ) financed by opium profits have money to continue insurgent actions. The drugs follow New Silk routes into Europe for recreational consumers no less than the oil and gas that Western states are likewise addicted to.

Friday, 19 August 2011

The Meaninglessness of the English Riots was their Cause.

Clifford Stoot and Stephen Reicher have offered one more attempt to frame the events of 6-1o August 2011.

Yet another piece of rationalisation of the riots for those who want to lead some 'social response' to the riots which is as flawed as the authoritarian repression model of dealing with the spectre of disorder. Face facts: the riots are an inherent result of addictive compulsive disorders.

There is no morality to the riots any more than morality plays much of a part in decision making across British society, be it the greedy bankers, lying spinning politicians and corporate admen and PR spivs who sell the people want they are conditioned to believe really want, whether the X Factor, celebrities, etc.

Riots generally occur when groups have a sense of illegitimacy about how they are treated by others and where they see collective confrontation as the only means of redressing the situation.

Indeed, by coming together in the crowd, people become empowered and can invert normal social relations. EP Thompson, the pre-eminent historian of crowds, argued that in a world where the powerless are generally invisible, the riot is a form of "collective bargaining".

At the very least ( my italics ) the rioters' problems have become a problem for the powerful and hence the powerful have been forced to take note of issues they had previously ignored.

Where is the evidence that the rioters and looters had specific demands and were trying to increase pressure upon the government to deal with their wants and needs ? Have they conducted a survey of the looters and how they regarded their role in the violence ?

This is a convenient ideological rationalisation of the kind that is designed to console those who need to find a meaning that satisfies their need for meaning and to give a voice to the voiceless to advance their own careers and interests.

Does any of this matter? Well, yes it does. Because our understanding of the nature of crowd action has fundamental implications for how we respond to them.

Obviously. But this response does not matter. It's another interpretation based on an obsolete belief that there are necessarily always rational interpretations of mob behaviour when the irrationality of the mob is generated by pathologies that still are created by a consumer society of entitlement.

Let's face facts: there were riots outside Ikea in Wembley over being first to get into the store to take advantage of the sales offers. Advertising and media ramps up desire for consumer goods as the be all and end all of human existence.

Under New Labour's regime of credit fuelled debt bingeing and easy money, there was cash for the goodies that the rioters used ( laptops, blackberry Iphones etc etc ). Then that dried up and jobs became scarce due to the colossal scale of migration of better educated and hard working Catholic Poles

Migration has not once entered the reckoning of the liberal left as regards the riots, despite them invoking 'alienation'. and unemployment. The figures that show migrants taking the majority of created jobs in the British economy has not been discussed in The Guardian which continually lauded it for the past decade.

If, like Cameron, you see riots as an irrational and pathological phenomenon, then the response is first to repress (why reason with those who have no reason?) and second to look for problems inherent within the communities from which the rioters are drawn.

Thus we see the government pledging a series of new repressive police powers such as curfews (which the police themselves don't want) and looking to uncover the source of moral sickness among disaffected youth.

So this sort of consumerist rioting is not a moral sickness any more than pathologically greedy bankers ? Really ? Perhaps there should be no judgementalism or moralism about the bankers actions then. They are alienated from themselves and others no less than rioters.

If, however, you see the actions as a meaningful response to a shared sense of illegitimacy and lack of alternatives then you need to address the way in which this has arisen. That is, you need to look at the experience of relations between rioting communities and those with power, authority and influence in our society.

The lack of meaning in the lives of those who rioted and were given a sense of identity through acting violently to create a sense of meaning and "empowerment" does not mean the riots were a 'meaningful response'. The meaninglessness of it is as meaningless as an absurd and fundamentally unproductive consumer money economy of which it was a symtom.

The riots had causes but the rioters themselves had no cause and the primary spring was 'because they could' due to social media networking, boredom with life, no direction or higher goal to which to put their aggressive energies and partly identification with a gansta rap subculture that glamourises violence as the way to survive.

Once law and order broke down due to the police being afraid they would alienate "the community", the riots spread with a seemingly unstoppable momentum into sheer criminality and looting. That does not make them 'mindless' or the causes of the riots being down to only criminality but it helps the government to portray it as such.