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Issue #1772      April 5, 2017

Culture & Life

Divide and rule

When the major capitalist powers decided that they were losing control of Saddam Hussein, their “strong man” in oil-rich Iraq, they resorted to a policy they had perfected elsewhere: demonisation.

Suddenly, the whole world was told something the Iraqi people had known all along: that Saddam was in fact a brutal dictator. This fact had not bothered the imperialist powers when they installed Saddam in power. But he turned out to also be a nationalist, who objected to his country’s oil revenues being looted by the West.

The last straw was when Saddam began investigating the establishment of an independent oil market, with oil traded in currencies other than US “petrodollars”. He had to go, and suddenly Iraq was found to have “weapons of mass destruction” necessitating invasion by the West.

Iraq was conquered, Saddam was executed, and the country’s oil was secured for the big Western oil companies. But that was not enough for imperialism: Iraq was not to be allowed to ever threaten Western corporate dominance again. The once-rich country’s economy and infrastructure were systematically wrecked and ethnic and religious divisions fostered.

This was not a new idea for the strategists of imperialism. The British had used it to prolong their control of India for several years and various British possessions in Africa were split into smaller countries before being given their “independence”.

However, the country that has elevated partitioning to the level of strategic policy is the USA. The policy was seen in full display during the destruction of Yugoslavia. As a central element of the Non-Aligned Movement, Yugoslavia had long been a thorn in the side of the US and NATO. By playing on ethnic and religious differences that had always existed but had not previously been considered significant; and by pandering to local politicians who thought playing the nationalist card was their best bet for gaining power if only in part of the country, the US set about breaking the country up. Germany helped by encouraging the revival in Croatia of the Ustashi who had backed the pro-Nazi puppet regime in WW2.

Serbia’s President, Slobodan Milosevic, led his country in firmly opposing NATO’s plan, so they demonised him, then kidnapped him and bundled him off to The Hague as a ”war criminal”. Confined in a small cell he died there from harassment and medical neglect.

From being a pillar of the non-aligned countries, Yugoslavia became a collection of tiny little states that were individually powerless but which were nevertheless encouraged to engage in internecine warfare with one another.

A very similar procedure was followed with regard to another country that had pursued a foreign policy independent of the Western capitalist powers: Libya. Its oil revenues were used to give its population the highest standard of living in Africa. It aided countries struggling for independence or to overcome the legacy of colonialism, and was esteemed throughout Africa and the Third World generally.

Its long-time leader, Muammar Gaddafi, was alternately courted and demonised. At the beginning of 2011, a Western-engineered revolt broke out in Benghazi. It had all the hallmarks of the similarly Western-backed “colour revolutions” that had brought down numerous progressive governments from Moldova to Ukraine. The revolt began in February. In March, as Libyan government forces prepared to crush it, the UN Security Council was persuaded to impose a “No Fly Zone” on the country. However, instead of preventing outside interference as anticipated, the decision was “implemented” by NATO, which talked fulsomely about freedom and even democracy, but in fact set about systematically bombing and destroying the country’s infrastructure.

French, British, US, Canadian, Swedish and Italian air-forces backed up by the Gulf States launched air-strikes against the Libyan Army. NATO’s bombing campaign continued until October, and only ended with the capture, brutalisation and murder of Gaddafi.

Libya was left in chaos, with tens of thousands dead and millions – a third of the country’s population, in fact – forced to seek refuge in other countries. Tens of thousands still languish in the prisons of the NATO-installed government while various warlords and power-hungry factions – including Daesh/ISIS and other terrorist groups – wage civil war for control of portions of the country’s oil industry. At the same time antiquities have been looted and the country’s uranium resources appropriated by thieves and fly-by-nighters.

As an article in Sputnik noted: “At the beginning of 2011, when the ‘revolt’ began, the Libyan state had approximately US$600 billion worth of assets, inside and outside the country, including US$200 billion in bank accounts abroad, along with tons of gold and silver. Six years on, all this has been plundered.”

And Muammar Gaddafi’s cousin, Gaddaf al-Dam adds: “During these six years, not a single brick has been laid. The streets of the capital have no electricity, the water supply has been turned off, wages are not paid, schools are not functioning. ...

“If the problem [in Libya and Iraq] lay in the need for Gaddafi or Saddam Hussein to give up power, as some have claimed, then why is all this senseless destruction and killing still going on?”

Because the US has no interest in normal-sized countries being viable as independent political and cultural entities. Its interest is not in the countries themselves but in their resources. And their resources are more easily looted if the countries have been broken up into barely viable “statelets”.

Libya is ripe for partitioning between its various factions. The US has floated the idea of partitioning both Iraq and Syria. Turkey would support the partitioning of Syria, expecting that the north-east of the country would fall under its control. The US of course would support partition because a segmented Syria would be unable to stand up to Israel/US plans in the Middle East or to be part of the proposed Iran-Syria-Europe oil pipeline, and would be useless to Russia as an ally in the eastern Mediterranean.

“Divide and rule” was a guiding law of imperialism from the 17th century onwards. It still is – it’s just a little harder to apply.

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