Monday, 21 March 2011

Kicking A Dictator Out or Just Another Imperialist War?

The déjà vu feeling arrived all too soon. Within a few hours after the first news of air strikes against Gaddafi's regime, the header popped-up in my e-mail inbox: "RE: Western Imperialist Attack on Lybya." And there I am again, with my back against the wall of my consciousness, trying to chose between two equally appealing moral stands. One based on my full admiration for freedom and those who fight for it against a bloody inhuman dictatorship. Second: the imperative of maintaining alternatives, to a dominant doctrine, social order and military superpower.

It is not the first time I am facing this dilemma. Last time, in 2003, I admitted to a group of progressive activists for global social change, that having lived in a dictatorship I viewed the ousting of any dictator as positive. There was no way for me back then to foresee the outbreak of sectarian violence that was to follow the advance of US-lead occupation troops in Iraq. Moreover, I had never thought or spoken in support of any occupation or violence to begin with. But that did not matter - I soon knew that expressing such a moderate opinion was unacceptable to the community I was with. They all knew immediately that the war in Iraq was a bad idea, and would not tolerate any hesitation.

And here I am again, eight years later, haunted by the pressure to take an ultimate position. "The war is more about the control over oil and stopping the rebellion of workers and younger people in the region from being more radical and anti-systemic. The war is about a regime change: to create a new regime that will be different to oil companies and western imperialist states more than the current one," the message reads, signed by Raju J Das, a geographer at the York University in Toronto. It arrived through the Critical Geographers' list, that I am a a subscriber of. And I swear, I clearly see the points, made by its author, and share their validity.

But seeing images of the counter-advance of Gaddafi's troops against the rebels over the past week has been making me feel anxious and frustrated. Yes, I had also read the analyses of Lybyan society that premised it could easily turn into a second Iraq. And yet, my rational thinking has cracked every time when I thought of the people who had embraced freedom and celebrated it on the streets of Benghazi. And who would soon be massacred by the dictator's death squads. "Help them, help," I could hear myself crying. And so when the news came that bombing against Gaddafi had begun, I felt very - relieved.

So, I am wondering, is it really impossible? Is it unacceptable to see things in nuances, rather than in black and white? In this case it is obvious that oil industry driven interests should not be imposed on a sovereign country. But imposing a brutal dictatorship on your own people over four decades is equally unacceptable. The truth - and the right way forward must be somewhere in between. It is just too difficult to articulate when everyone expects you to take side.