The Washington Post carried a long story on September 15 eulogising the former American ambassador to Libya, J Christopher Stevens. The article praised the personal qualities of Stevens, his intelligence and fortitude in helping the Libyan rebels to overthrow the dictatorship of Muammar Qadhafi. Stevens was killed by unidentified gunmen who attacked the American embassy in Benghazi, as part of a generalised wave of attacks and demonstrations against US embassies and consulates throughout the Arab and Islamic worlds. The immediate cause of the demonstrations was the release of the vile, repulsive film ‘Innocence of Muslims” produced by Christian rightist elements intent on provoking anti-Islam sentiment, and further worsening tensions between the Islamic communities and the western world. The film was the immediate trigger, but underlying the protests are deep-seated grievances about the criminal and predatory role of US imperialism in the Middle East. Be that as it may, let us get back to the case of Stevens. An endless chorus of effusive praise has been heaped on the murdered ambassador, who was described as a man of honour, upholding and promoting the best American values and a champion of Libya. Stevens is touted as a hero, cut down by fanatical murderous villains.
Let us be clear that no happiness or joy is derived from the death of ambassadors and consular officials. But we must ask difficult questions about why such an attack on the US consulate took place, and why the former US ambassador’s death is being given such promotional coverage and praises heaped on upon the slain man. When the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, was presented with the news that the former Libyan dictator Qadhafi had been killed by a lynch-mob, after being captured and sodomised, she responded with the Caesar-like turn of phrase, “we came, we saw, he died.” After gloating over Qadhafi’s death, is it appropriate for the gunmen who killed the US ambassador to stand over the corpse of the slain official and gloat “we came, we saw, he died?”
Barry Lando over at the Truthdig publication, asks another relevant question – have the Chinese or Russian embassies been the targets of mobs of unruly demonstrators, attacked by armed militants, its consular officials and embassy staff killed, and its flag burned? The United States ruling elite certainly has financial and military interests in the Middle East, so perhaps its defenders argue that the US troops and bases need to be there to protect those interests. China and Russia also have heavy investments in the Arab world, in Islamic countries, investing in construction contracts, buying up mineral resources, transferring techincal know-how to the Arab and African countries. So where are all the Chinese and Russian military bases, intelligence personnel and soldiers throughout Africa and the Middle East? There is however, a vast and growing empire of bases and military fortifications throughout the Middle East and Central Asia, operated and maintained by the United States:
J Christopher Stevens worked to extend American imperial overreach throughout the Middle East, not for the sake of any humanitarian values or altruistic purposes. He was a political operative for US imperialism, ready to make deals with whomever served the US interests. He worked closely with the former Libyan government of Muammar Qadhafi, readily providing his services to enhance Qadhafi’s political trajectory from Third World Arab nationalist to opportunistic proxy of the imperialist agenda. From the early 2000s, Qadhafi joined the ‘war on terror’ and cooperated with the secret rendition of those suspected of ‘terrorism’ offences. Clinton did actually welcome Qadhafi as a useful ally for the United States back in 2009. The Qadhafi government and their US partners discussed various areas of cooperation, including which detainees should be handed back to the Libyan authorities after they had been tortured and brutalised by American forces.
Stevens had no trouble in promoting the American values of investment and profiteering, which involved propping up the Mubarak-torture regime in Egypt, and uncritically supporting the state of Israel in carrying out its creeping colonisation of Palestinian land. Not a word of complaint did Stevens ever utter about the ongoing Israeli blockade and siege of the Palestinians in the Gaza strip. That crippling blockade has resulted in mass unemployment, the deprivation of foodstuffs and medicines for the inhabitants of Gaza, and the immiseration of an entire generation of Palestinians. Stevens upheld the values of plunderous investment as the US was carrying out its near-genocidal war and occupation of Iraq, with all the attendant worsening of sectarian tensions and fratricidal killings in that conflict.
Once the popular uprisings in the Arab world took hold, Stevens, ever the cunning political operative, changed sides and began liaising with the pro-western rebel groups organised under the political umbrella of the National Transitional Council (NTC). He organised the disparate militias into a fighting force, and took up his new mission in Benghazi with zeal. The war to liberate Libya from the tyrant Qadhafi quickly became a proxy war of the imperialist powers to plunder the oil wealth of the country, oust the main competitors of the US, Russia and China, and return Libya to its neo-colonial status under the former King Idris. In one of the ironies of history, while China was one of the last countries to withdraw their support for the Qadhafi regime, they have made a return to Libya though the security situation remains unclear. Stevens led the charge to resurrect the American presence in Libya – because that presence in the form of a US military base had been expelled back in 1970 shortly after Qadhafi took power. Under the tutelage of Stevens, the entire US military-intelligence apparatus began to insinuate its way back into the country, thus fulfilling the anthem of the US Marine Corps, ‘from the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli’.
US Senator John McCain declared that the Libyan patriots fighting the Qadhafi regime are definitely not al Qaeda, and that they should be supported. Stevens served to coordinate military supplies, intelligence gathering and training for the pro-American rebel groups organised by the NTC. Stevens helped to assemble the Libyan defectors, CIA assets, al-Qaeda fundamentalist fighters and associated anti-Qadhafi exiles into a cohesive force. The same forces hailed by McCain as ‘patriots’ were the ones responsible for the murder of Ambassador Stevens. The constant litany of tributes to Stevens’ idealism and courage cannot disguise the cynical and cold political calculation of the imperialist powers in advancing their interests in the Arab and Islamic worlds. The hypocrisies and deceptions of the US in its constant drive for imperial interest cannot be hidden, even by the eloquent writers of the Washington Post. Historical amnesia is one of the devices used by the mouthpieces of corporate imperialism to airbrush the ugly, sordid machinations of US imperialist intrigues. The particular apologist for US imperialist crimes, Roger Cohen, wrote a glowing tribute to Stevens, noting that he met Stevens in 2011, and wished the latter a great July 4 celebration of American independence day, replete with hamburgers, beer and fireworks. The odious lapdog Cohen omitted to mention that for ordinary Libyans, their diet on July 4 2011 consisted of bombs, missiles, blood, guts and pain. The corporate-controlled media have built a falsified history of the career of this calculating political agent of imperialism based on historical amnesia. The militants who killed Stevens may be villains, but they did not kill a hero. They were actually implementing the methods and values that Stevens spent his life promoting.
2 thoughts on “Heroes, villains, the Washington Post and historical amnesia”
Interesting comparison between China and the US, with the former not needing to protect its interests with troops. Can you imagine the reaction if they did send troops to Africa to prop up their investments?
Your last couple of sentences say it all.
Mind boggling as to how many military bases United States has all over the world (does it really need that many?). The Australian government of course copies the US. Australia is thinking of buying drones for ‘surveillance’.