The breaking of history in Libya

By Op Rana
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China Daily, June 20, 2011
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It has been almost three months since NATO took over command of the attack against Moammar Gadhafi's Libyan forces, but the end is still nowhere in sight. Gadhafi rules over Tripoli and the western part of the country, and rebel forces, with the help of NATO, control the eastern part like they did at the beginning of the conflict.

NATO has cited one excuse after another to target Gadhafi and civilian areas, although while taking charge of the command NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen had said the alliance would enforce "all aspects" of the United Nations Resolution 1973 authorizing action to protect civilians, "nothing more, nothing less".

No wonder, South African President Jacob Zuma lashed out last week: "We strongly believe that the (UN) resolution is being abused for regime change, political assassinations and foreign military occupation." Calling for reform of the UN Security Council, he said: "We have spoken out against the misuse of the good intentions in Resolution 1973."

In its desperation to show results, NATO has now hinted that no target, which includes ancient Roman ruins, is beyond attack. Suspecting that Gadhafi may be hiding military equipment in one of country's three UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Leptis Magna, NATO has not ruled out attacking it. Fortunately, the other two sites, the Roman ruins of Sabratha and the Greek Ruins of Cyrene, are not in the "war" zone. Cyrene is in the east beyond Benghazi which rebel forces control, and Sabratha lies 65 km west of Tripoli which is still under Gadhafi's command.

The threat to bombard Leptis Magna doesn't come as a surprise, especially after what has happened in Iraq, the cradle of civilization. Many of its artifacts and archeological sites have been lost forever.

Much the same can be said about Afghanistan, where part of the Indus Valley civilization sites are (rather were). The difference is that many of those were not even excavated before being bombed to extinction. Of course, the bombing of Afghanistan was not started by United States-led allied forces. That honor goes to the former Soviet Union. But the US has taken up from where the Soviets left, and seems to have done a better job of it.

To be pragmatic, we should not be concerning ourselves with trivial matters of lost civilizations, be they Akkadian, Sumerian, Assyrian or Babylonian, or Indus Valley, or Greek or Roman. These are times of spreading democracy, times of the "war on terror".

But these are also times of crises, the global financial crisis for example, which did not leave the Western world. Sirens signaling that the crisis is alive and kicking can still be heard loud and clear in the US and the European Union.

The EU has been fighting unsuccessfully to emerge from the debt crisis. Greece and Ireland (more so Greece) are battling to keep afloat in the deluge of debts. Spain, Portugal and Italy may be next. And others, if debt factors remain constant, are feared to follow in their footsteps.

We are talking in terms of hundreds of billions of dollars. The European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund and other EU member states have lent money to Greece and Ireland, but they have also expressed reluctance to keep doing so for long. The World Bank, in fact, has refused to help Greece.

The situation in the US may not be as bad as that in Greece, but it sure has its problems, which refuse to go away.

But then NATO and Western forces have enough money to launch another war (in Libya). It's a different matter, though, that they have lost hundreds of billions of dollars and sacrificed the lives of thousands of their own citizens in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Why don't Western leaders divert the money they are wasting on wars to save their own likes in Greece and Ireland, and possibly Spain, Portugal and perhaps Italy? Why don't they use the money to improve the lives of their own people and spare them the draconian austerity measures, instead of using it to kill people in poorer countries?

Perhaps, it's wrong to lament the possible loss of Roman ruins (Leptis Magna was first built by the Phoenicians, though). Why should leaders who don't care about living people (or the future generation) care about those dead and long gone?

The author is a senior editor with China Daily.

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