After NATO bombings on a building in Tripoli killed a son and three grandchildren of Muammar Gaddafi, there were revenge attacks on the cities of Benghazi and Misrata, and attacks on the British and Italian embassies, among other targets. The killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan by American special forces was supposedly undertaken in revenge for the 3000 9/11 murders. When the anti-Gaddafi forces in Libya heard of bin Laden’s death they called for Gaddafi to face the same fate.
This spiral of murder and destruction is further evidence of capitalism’s appetites in an era where every state, every capitalist faction that aspires to power, is compelled to follow the military option and the path of terror.
In this capitalist world the antagonists go under many flags, but they are all pursuing the same goals. Gaddafi is favoured by many who call themselves socialists, despite being at the heart of a regime for whom repression is second nature and vicious retaliation comes automatically. Barrack Obama is supposed to be a ‘friend of freedom’, yet his military campaigns, from the bombing of Pakistan within the first few days of taking office, just continue from where George Bush left off. Bin Laden is seen by some as an ‘anti-imperialist’ hero, but his ultimate dream of a multi-national caliphate is one of the oldest imperialist projects going. And as for the Libyan ‘rebels’ of the National Transitional Council, they can be marked down as enemies of the exploited and oppressed on a number of counts, from the backing of the US, the calls for the return to a monarchy, and the basic fact that so many of them were not so long ago integral to Gaddafi’s state apparatus.
Following the killing of bin Laden there were commentators in the US who spoke about the possibility of ‘closure’ for the victims of 9/11. With the continuing wars in Afghanistan, Iran and Libya there is clearly no closure for those who have been caught up in and become victims of the American ‘war on terror.’
As Obama said in his first speech celebrating the killing of bin Laden “his death does not mark the end of our effort. There's no doubt that al-Qaida will continue to pursue attacks against us.” Indeed it will, and if one terrorist force is diminished then others can easily take its place. Obama asserted that “we are once again reminded that America can do whatever we set our mind to”. American imperialism, however it is minded, cannot impose its will in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, despite being the world’s biggest military power. On the contrary, all its actions tend, in Obama’s words not to “make the world a safer place” but exacerbate conflicts and chaos across the face of the planet.
Some things have changed since 9/11. In the Middle East, for example, despite the fantasies of Gaddafi, al-Qaida has never really got a foothold, whatever its strengths in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In the recent social movements in various Arab countries, whatever their confusions, there has been no sign that protesters have been going in the direction of al-Qaidaist ideas, adoption of sharia law or other Islamic tenets. On the contrary, many of the demonstrators have explicitly rejected the vicious sectarian and gender divisions which al-Qaida stands for. A bigger obstacle to the movements in North Africa and the Middle East has been the myth of democracy, which serves to prevent the working class from acting as an independent force in society.
All the figureheads of capitalism, whether in the White House, in a tent in the desert, in a cave in the mountains, or in the affluent suburbs, stand for a world of war and destruction and against the liberation of humanity.