Monday, February 21, 2011

The Champions of Democracy?

For the past couple of weeks, all around the world we've been able to follow the struggles of people in Northern Africa and the Middle East - from Tunisia to Egypt, from Libya to Bahrain - as they rise up against dictators, protesting unjust and undemocratic regimes. While it is still too early to tell what will come from these revolts, it obvious that the protestors are being met with truly excessive force. Today, there's been reports of fighter jets being deployed in Libya and the past week has seen heavy causalities in both Libya and Bahrain. Where is the unanimous and strong condemnations of the actions of these dictators? Why are the staunch, self-proclaimed (and self-righteous) Champions of Democracy suddenly so quiet and reluctant to make comments?

The Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt, who was deeply involved with Lundin Petroleum, formerly Lundin Oil, in their questionable actions in Sudan and who primarily uses his blog and Twitter feed to communicate with the press, chose not to voice any critique of the regime in Tunisia or Egypt. With regards to the weekend's events in Libya, he says that "it is not about supporting this or that side, it is about achieving stability and a reasonable development" and also goes on to say that "we have reason to say we share [the worry of South European countries' worry about refugees]".

So. Bildt would like to see stability and a reasonable development in Libya (and, I assume, the other North African and Middle East countries) - and he seem to be of the opinion that dictators such as Muammar al-Gaddafi can provide this. Why else would he refrain from criticizing al-Gaddafi? It seems to me, then, that the stability and reasonable development Bildt wants to see is not primarily one which benefits the people living in Libya, but rather one which benefits European interests. This is all the more evident when considering what he says about the potential stream of refugees.

Of course, Bildt also talks about solidarity. He says that solidarity is a fundamental part of the European cooperation. Very touching. How about solidarity with the rest of the world?

I find it odd that the same people who had no qualms rushing into Iraq and Afghanistan, claiming they fought for democracy, remain suspiciously quiet this time around. Could it be that Saddam Hussein and the warlords of Afghanistan (no doubt horrid dictators as well) simply refused to play ball with the EU and the US? And that people such as Mubarak and al-Gaddafi are on much better terms with those same Western super powers? Could it be that keeping those North African and Middle Eastern countries in check, even if that means using dictators and indirectly oppressing the people living there, goes well with protecting the foreign interests of the EU and the US?

Carl Bildt says it is not about taking sides. I agree, it isn't. It is about standing up against oppression. It is about having the guts and the common sense to condemn a regime which uses jet fighters against demonstrators. If Bildt wasn't as blinded by greed and oil, he might understand that.

Oh. And did I forget to mention that we tried selling Libya military surveillance equipment to help al-Gaddafi with border control? And that the European Union considers Libya a valuable ally in helping us enforce our own border controls?

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