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International

Published on January 24th, 2013 | by Alex Clackson
Image © AP Photo/Thibault Camus

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French soldiers patrol in armored vehicles, in the outskirts of Sevare, Mali, some 620 kms (385 miles) north of Bamako, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013. The U.S. airlift of French forces to Mali to fight Islamic extremists is expected to go on for another two weeks, Pentagon officials said, as hundreds of African troops from Nigeria, Togo, Burkina Faso and Senegal are now joining the French-led intervention.

NATO states are responsible for the Algerian hostage crisis

What do Libya, Mali and Algeria have in common? The three nations have played a pivotal role in the political domino effect culminating over the last week. At least 48 hostages are now thought to have died in a four-day siege at an Algerian gas plant. In response to the Algerian hostage situation Mr Cameron said his government will continue to focus on fighting terrorism: “There is no justification for taking innocent life in this way”. These are typical words attributed to a politician speaking in the generic foreign policy language.  However David Cameron has failed to mention that NATO also played its part in the Algerian hostage crisis. Algerian crisis is linked to the current Mali conflict and the Mali conflict is the direct result of the Libyan conflict in 2011 as those who supported Gaddafi were thrown out from the country because of their colour and had nowhere else to go except to join the Mali terrorist groups. During the conflict hundreds of black Africans living in the east of Libya have been attacked by rebels who accused them of being pro-Gaddafi. And since it was Cameron and his “peace-seeking” NATO states who encouraged the violence in Libya and helped to carry out a regime change operation, it seems NATO are at least partially responsible for the Algerian hostage crisis. Politics works in funny ways.

Let us examine each claim individually starting with Libya. The mission to oust Gaddafi and kick start a new dawn for Libya has been claimed by the West to be a success. Yet an uncomfortable truth rarely mentioned in the Western media remains- hundreds of African migrant workers in Libya accused of being mercenaries for Col Muammar Gaddafi were imprisoned and tortured by fighters allied to the new interim authorities. Indeed it is heavily documented how the victorious rebels were hunting after African mercenaries and the later had no choice but to escape from the destruction-stricken country. These mercenaries found a new home- Mali. Additionally there are irrefutable claims that homes have been looted, and women and girls beaten and raped. Perhaps removing Gaddafi was a success for the Western nations, but the country is currently in turmoil and is still mostly run by heavily armed mercenaries. Indeed it is clear that the West had a lot of interest in removing Gaddafi. While the UN gave the authorisation to protect the Libyan civilians, this objective turned into a regime change operation. It is not surprising that Russia and China continue to veto any resolutions in regards to Syria as they understand that another aim to protect the Syrian civilians would simply mean regime change in Syria. We can only speculate what interests the West has in the region. A number of theories have been put forward: oil, a step towards eventually attacking Iran, protecting Israel, all of the above. While impossible to know the truth, it is clear that the West has a grand strategy for the Middle East and Africa.

And so we arrive at the second stage of the domino effect. The current conflict in Mali seems in many ways to mirror the conflict that took place in Libya. Rebels are trying to take over the country and overthrow the government. There is however one difference. The current Mali government is a friend of France whilst Gaddafi no longer wanted to play by the Western rules. A popular argument used by the politicians is the claim that Libya was a dictatorship while Mali is a democracy and therefore the West has a responsibility to protect Mali from radical extremists. However if this claim was true then the West would have already intervened in Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. However these authoritarian states have good relations with the West and are therefore safe from NATO interventions.

Indeed those who claim that the Mali government are not executing their own civilians like Gaddafi did may be shocked to find that there are growing reports by Amnesty International of extrajudicial killings and other human rights abuses in Mali, as troops battle Islamist militants in the West African country. Residents of Mopti, in the centre of the country, told the Observer of arrests, interrogations and the torture of innocents by the Malian army. Amnesty International says that it has documented evidence of abuse by the Malian army, including extrajudicial killings. It says that in September, a group of 16 Muslim preachers composed of Malian and Mauritanian nationals were arrested then executed by the Malian military in Diabaly.  Undoubtedly the rebels are not saints either. Nevertheless there has to be some consistency from the West. Claiming to be against Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein as they killed their own citizens, while at the same time supporting the regimes in Mali, Bahrain and Jordan, who also treat their citizens with cruelty is simply hypocritical. Of course this is not the first time a Western power has supported brutality. It is also imperative to mention the case of Syria here. Mr Hollande has claimed that the reason why his country is supporting the Mali government against the rebels is because the rebels are Islamic extremists whilst the rebels in Syria are secular. Mr Hollande’s remarks are simply wrong as it is well known that a large section of the Syrian rebels are also radical Islamists. Additionally the radical rebels who have connections to Al Qaeda seem to be having more influence on the Syrian population than the Free Syrian Army who claim to be secular.

And so thanks to the continuous hypocritical interventions by the Western nations we have arrived at a situation where a BP gas site has been assaulted by terrorists. Whilst undoubtedly investigations will be carried out, it seems more than likely that the terrorists who have carried out the hostage mission are in some way linked to the rebels in Mali. It is well known that in life, a particular action always leads to a particular consequence. This is called the butterfly effect. It seems international politics is not immune from this phenomenon, as something that began as a mission by the West to oust Gaddadi in 2011 has ended with Western citizens being taken hostage in Algeria. I say “ended” yet it is probable that this is just the beginning of more violence and conflict which will spread to other parts of Africa.

Whether deliberate or not, the NATO states will now be sucked into sending more military to the continent now that the mission in the Middle East to overthrow all the dictators who refused to get in bed with the West is coming to an end. At least 3,000 American troops are expected to become a permanent presence on the continent this year. The NY Times has concluded in its article that North Africa will be the new hotspot for American militarism in the coming years. However just like with the Middle East, it is unlikely the West would get involved with Africa unless they have their own interests there. Africa is a thriving continent, with plenty of resources and cheap labour. China has been exploiting Africa for some years now and perhaps the West wants to get a piece of the pie. And while the flourishing Africa will now be the new victim of Western interventions, our media and politicians will continue to tell us that our governments are fighting to make the world a safer place by annihilating the terrorists- the same terrorists that arise through Western interventions in the first place.

Just yesterday David Cameron announced that the war on terrorists will go on for decades and NATO interventions will switch from Afghanistan to North Africa. Glenn Greenwald wrote superbly in his article: “The war on terror is a self-perpetuating war precisely because it endlessly engenders its own enemies and provides the fuel to ensure that the fire rages without end.” Whether these interventions will be as high scale as Afghanistan is yet to be seen, but it is likely that Western states are preparing for a long and gruelling campaign in Africa.

Interventions are a destructive cycle. The West intervenes in other regions as a police state under a pretext of supporting democracy, but end up opening a can of warms. Extremism spreads to nearby regions and the locals are angered by the continuous meddling of the West in their affairs and therefore join the terrorist groups which encourages the West to intervene more. It becomes a permanent circle, or better known as a perpetual war.  Alternative solutions to intervention do exist. Empowering regional bodies and governments through international development programs, foreign aid and cooperation are viable alternatives to militarism. The fact that the African Union and the Arab League may not be as competent at dealing with their respective regional issues is exactly why the European Union and the UN should play a vital diplomatic and cooperative role with these bodies to ensure that over time they are able to deal with challenging issues themselves.

While the West may be reluctant to put more boots on the ground due to the growing frustration from the general public, we are likely to see more military interventions this decade. Due to the development of unmanned drones and other rocket-type weaponry, NATO has the capability to continue to intrude in the Middle East and Africa without sacrificing their own soldiers. The result however will be similar to the outcome in the Middle East- destabilisation and the rise in extremism. It seems the West never learns.

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About the Author

Alex Clackson

"Alex has a degree in Politics and a Master's degree in International Relations. His main interests and expertise lie in issues surrounding the Middle East, Western foreign policy and also Russian political system. Alex currently works in communications/public affairs and is also an active supporter of the anti-war movement"



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