People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 13

March  27, 2011




Imperialism’s Double Standards


Sitaram Yechury


TWO years ago, soon after ascending to presidency, Barack Obama had chosen Cairo, the capital of Egypt to address what was termed as the 'Muslim World'. Riding on the shoulders of a huge peace movement and with his trademark flowery rhetoric at the Al Azhar in Cairo, Obama had promised a different presidency from that of his predecessor and a “new beginning”. But as we had warned in these columns, imperialism, like a leopard can never change its spots. The lessons from Afghanistan and Iraq were not learnt. This is precisely what we are witnessing in Libya.


Yet another imperialist military intervention in West Asia has begun with French air strikes on Libya, ignoring the worldwide public opinion against their intervention. The Arab League, whose support was instrumental in passing the no-fly zone resolution in the UN, expressed its dismay at the NATO air strikes and openly stated “what happened differs from the no-fly zone objectives” and “what we wanted was civilians' protection, not shelling more civilians”. The 53-member state African Union too has affirmed its opposition to “any kind of foreign military intervention” in Libya and urged the United States, France and Britain to “immediately stop” military aggression against Libya. Apart from these blocks, the ALBA, consisting of many Latin American countries led by Cuba and Venezuela too criticised the imperialist move. Members of the UN Security Council, Germany and Japan joined its permanent members, China and Russia in condemning this aggression.


The US-sponsored NATO operation has been launched ostensibly to prevent Gaddafi's forces from attacking its people. This direct interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign country, an intervention that is the biggest since the military occupation of Iraq, comes under the sanction of a UN Security Council resolution. The no-fly zone is being interpreted by imperialist powers as a sanction for military intervention and possible occupation of Libya. This overzealousness of imperialism clearly betrays its eagerness to retain its hegemonic control over the oil rich region and prevent any realignment of forces that could be detrimental to its interests. The region has proven, accumulative reserves of 103.2 billion tons of residual fuel oil in 2009, or 55.6 per cent of the proven total global oil reserves.




Imperialism's double standards become clear with the US-inspired Saudi Arabian military intervention in Bahrain to prop up the Khalifa, intensely opposed by the people who are seeking better standards of livelihood along with human rights and democracy. In Libya, imperialism seeks a regime change and in Bahrain it seeks to sustain the autocratic rule of the Khalifa family that has lorded over the country since 1783. Both interventions are ironically in the name of protecting the people. The reason for such a double standard is not far to seek. Bahrain is home to the US navy's fifth fleet and has been its steadfast ally. Libya on the other hand, is not such a firm ally. Further, Libyan oil reserves and importantly the ocean of fossil water reserves on which its deserts lie today have the potential of more lucrative profits than oil. A regime change here could well be to imperialism's advantage, while in Bahrain it is not.


Behind these military interventions lie the basic geo-political interests of imperialism in the region. The post-World War I history of the region is replete with occupations and military interventions where the sole objective was to control its energy resources. Post Second World War, in a brazen effort towards reversing the gains of de-colonisation, US intervened to topple democratically elected
popular regimes like in Iran and foist dictatorships and pliant regimes. On the one hand, its propping up of Israel, military aggressiveness against Arab countries, denying Palestinians their homeland and on the other, the propping up of client regimes through massive military and 'aid' programs, ensured imperialism’s hegemonic control over the region.


The situation however dramatically changed during the past few months when the rise of popular protests snowballed across the region leading to the downfall of pro-US regimes in Egypt and Tunisia. Hosni Mubarak's Egypt was imperialism's lynchpin in the region. With its fall and popular protests rising in other pro-US countries like Yemen, Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, etc, imperialist hegemony in the region came under a severe threat. All these countries received massive US military assistance. Bahrain alone received over $100 million from the US since 2003. It is indeed ironic that the weapons being used by Gaddafi's forces today, were provided by the US and other NATO allies, in the first place.




The recent popular upsurges have been triggered by the devastating impact of the global economic crisis, which has sharply increased burdens on the people through massive lay-offs and rise in prices. Libya, however in contrast, as Fidel Castro reminds us, occupies the first place in the human development index for Africa and has the highest life expectancy in the continent. It has a system of food security, essential social services, education and health for its people and was providing employment to large numbers from neighbouring countries. However, the images of the protesting youth unmistakably are the expression of indignation. The popular demands for a better life, a better political and social ordering and the ability or the inability of its ruling dispensation to meet these aspirations are matters that have to be settled within sovereign boundaries of independent countries.


The military intervention in Bahrain a week earlier however, has come under the terms of the Joint Peninsular Shield established in 1990 under the umbrella of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), a six-nation regional organisation, where any member state can seek military assistance from another in the face of an external threat. The threat that the ruling autocracy in Bahrain faces is entirely internal. The GCC is estimated to have a $1.34 trillion of surplus assets accumulated in the last few years alone as oil revenues. The escalation of popular protests in Bahrain could well snowball into other GCC states spiralling a political destabilisation that jeopardises such huge reserves. Already protest marches in at least four different locations in Saudi Arabia have been met with repression.


This popular upsurge in various countries of the West Asia, has also negated imperialism's stereotypical projection of any uprising in an Islamic country to the rise of fundamentalism and therefore to terrorism. The Bahraini opposition groups in a joint statement have put it succinctly, “this tri-partite coalition adopts the choice of bringing down the existing regime in Bahrain and the establishment of a democratic republican system”. The people in Islamic countries, like people anywhere else in the world aspire for better living standards, human rights and liberty. This aspiration gets exponentially magnified in countries where for centuries they have been under oppressive, autocratic rule backed by imperialism.


If people are sovereign, then they must be allowed to decide on their future in their sovereign country. Imperialism must be forced to roll back this military intervention. The countries that abstained in UN Security Council, including India, must now assert and stop this yet another military aggression in West Asia.