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Marwan Bishara
Marwan Bishara
Marwan Bishara is the senior political analyst at Al Jazeera.
The unbearable lightness of killing
Earth to Gaddafi and Saleh: Your time is up, stop murdering your people.
Last Modified: 02 Jun 2011 19:19
Colonel Gaddafi's forces have unleashed a campaign of carnage against pro-democracy fighters in Misurata and beyond, but Libyans continue to resist [AFP]

Ali Abdullah Saleh and Muammar Gaddafi have (long) forfeited their right to the title of president and should no longer be referred to as such.

Presidents and leaders are meant to defend their people against all aggression - internal and external. Their role at the helm of the state is to protect their society and insure its wellbeing.

If the discrepancy between assumed protection and practiced oppression wasn't already clear to the international community over the last three or four decades, the two leaders are providing the necessary proof of where they stand every day.

They are showing, with every passing hour, that the well-being of their regime surpasses the well-being of their people - no matter the heavy cost in life, dignity and property.

Unleashing the heaviest military arsenal possible against their own people, mostly indiscriminately, has earned them the title of war criminals, not presidents. The use of rape as a terrorising, military means against families in the likes of Misurata goes far beyond pure criminality. It's cold-blooded inhumanity.
 
Between Fratini and Zuma

When I spoke to Italian foreign minister Franco Fratini recently, he assured me with a straight face that his government didn't know anything about the human rights abuses and oppression in Libya.

Only when pressured into admitting that there was enough available information about oppression, did the Italian diplomat insist that Italy wasn't alone in Europe supporting Gaddafi. Unfortunately, he's right.

English and French leaders were no less cynical in their foreign policy.

European leaders have in reality pursued double standard-policies towards the Arab world; on the one hand preaching to us about universal values and human rights, while on the other supporting some of the worst human rights abusers in recent memory.

It didn't take long for Europe's favourite Arab playboys to reveal themselves to be plain killers, or rather 'play-killers' - hiring mercenaries as they would prostitutes. They have proven to be trigger happy and more than willing to turn their countries into "rivers of blood".

That being said, European leaders shouldn't be surprised when Arabs and Africans doubt the sincerity of their new "change of heart" with their support of the protestors - or when the people question the motives behind statements saying that they are committed to the safety and security of the civilian population.

Be that as it may, the Europeans are now standing, at least in theory, on the right side of the international community and modern Arab history. On the other hand, how does the South African president, who heads a post-Apartheid government, explain why his legitimisation of Libyan criminality by honouring the idea of ceasefire with the Gaddafi regime?

The Libyan regime might have supported liberation movements in Africa against Western imperialists, but that's no excuse to deny the Libyans the same human rights that Africa demanded - including freedom from oppression.

Missing the point

President Zuma and other African leaders are missing the point. Arabs and Africans no longer accept the classic ultimatum: oppressive dictators or interventionist Westerners. That's the whole point of the 'Arab Spring'. 

Its motives, and overarching goal, are based on the simple idea that human rights are universal.

It is no longer acceptable for Westerners to speak of human rights in Eastern Europe or wherever is convenient or expedient, while denying them in the Middle East. Or for Arab leaders to speak in support of Palestinian rights under occupation while at the same time acting against the rights of Palestinian and Arab people everywhere else. Indeed, as the new Egyptian government lifts the blockade of Gaza, these rights are shown to be compatible and reinforcing in reality. 

The same goes for African nations.

In order for Western intervention to be put in check and for Libya, Yemen and Syria to become free societies, it's incumbent upon the likes of South African and Western leaders to stand firm in favour of change, democracy and human rights everywhere in theory and practice.

Arguing that national interest doesn't necessarily coincide with humane foreign policy is false, unless it's meant to camouflage the short term interests of "special interests'', such as oil and arms companies, as a "national interest".

And for now, to do everything possible to stop dictators from turning their cities into senseless killing fields.

That's why it needs to be made clear to leaders like Gaddafi and Saleh that they enjoy no support from anyone and that there is absolutely no future for them in the leadership of their countries. Period.

Source:
Al Jazeera
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