Glenn Greenwald: The Bombing Of Mali Highlights All the Lessons Of Western Intervention

Posted by on January 15, 2013 in Geopolitics, Military with 5 Comments

(By Glenn Greenwald | theguardian)

The West African nation becomes the eighth country in the last four years alone where Muslims are killed by the west

French troops head for Mali

French troops board a transport plane in N’Djamena, Chad, bound for Mali. Photograph: Handout/REUTERS

As French war planes bomb Mali, there is one simple statistic that provides the key context: this west African nation of 15 million people is the eighth country in which western powers – over the last four years alone – have bombed and killed Muslims – after Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Libya, Somalia and the Philippines (that does not count the numerous lethal tyrannies propped up by the west in that region). For obvious reasons, the rhetoric that the west is not at war with the Islamic world grows increasingly hollow with each new expansion of this militarism. But within this new massive bombing campaign, one finds most of the vital lessons about western intervention that, typically, are steadfastly ignored.

First, as the New York Times’ background account from this morning makes clear, much of the instability in Mali is the direct result of NATO’s intervention in Libya. Specifically, “heavily armed, battle-hardened Islamist fighters returned from combat in Libya” and “the big weaponry coming out of Libya and the different, more Islamic fighters who came back” played the precipitating role in the collapse of the US-supported central government. As Owen Jones wrote in an excellent column this morning in the Independent:

“This intervention is itself the consequence of another. The Libyan war is frequently touted as a success story for liberal interventionism. Yet the toppling of Muammar Gaddafi’s dictatorship had consequences that Western intelligence services probably never even bothered to imagine. Tuaregs – who traditionally hailed from northern Mali – made up a large portion of his army. When Gaddafi was ejected from power, they returned to their homeland: sometimes forcibly so as black Africans came under attack in post-Gaddafi Libya, an uncomfortable fact largely ignored by the Western media. . . . [T]he Libyan war was seen as a success . . . and here we are now engaging with its catastrophic blowback.”

Over and over, western intervention ends up – whether by ineptitude or design – sowing the seeds of further intervention. Given the massive instability still plaguing Libya as well as enduring anger over the Benghazi attack, how long will it be before we hear that bombing and invasions in that country are – once again – necessary to combat the empowered “Islamist” forces there: forces empowered as a result of the Nato overthrow of that country’s government?

Second, the overthrow of the Malian government was enabled by US-trained-and-armed soldiers who defected. From the NYT: “commanders of this nation’s elite army units, the fruit of years of careful American training, defected when they were needed most — taking troops, guns, trucks and their newfound skills to the enemy in the heat of battle, according to senior Malian military officials.” And then: “an American-trained officer overthrew Mali’s elected government, setting the stage for more than half of the country to fall into the hands of Islamic extremists.”

In other words, the west is once again at war with the very forces that it trained, funded and armed. Nobody is better at creating its own enemies, and thus ensuring a posture of endless war, than the US and its allies. Where the US cannot find enemies to fight against it, it simply empowers them.

Third, western bombing of Muslims in yet another country will obviously provoke even more anti-western sentiment, the fuel of terrorism. Already, as the Guardian reports, French fighter jets in Mali have killed “at least 11 civilians including three children”. France’s long history of colonialization in Mali only exacerbates the inevitable anger. Back in December, after the UN Security Council authorized the intervention in Mali, Amnesty International’s researcher on West Africa, Salvatore Saguès, warned: “An international armed intervention is likely to increase the scale of human rights violations we are already seeing in this conflict.”

As always, western governments are well aware of this consequence and yet proceed anyway. The NYT notes that the French bombing campaign was launched “in the face of longstanding American warnings that a Western assault on the Islamist stronghold could rally jihadists around the world and prompt terrorist attacks as far away as Europe.” Indeed, at the same time that the French are now killing civilians in Mali, a joint French-US raid in Somalia caused the deaths of “at least eight civilians, including two women and two children”.

To believe that the US and its allies can just continue to go around the world, in country after country, and bomb and kill innocent people – Muslims – and not be targeted with “terrorist” attacks is, for obvious reasons, lunacy. As Bradford University professor Paul Rogers told Jones, the bombing of Mali “will be portrayed as ‘one more example of an assault on Islam’”. Whatever hopes that may exist for an end to the “war on terror” are systematically destroyed by ongoing aggression.

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