Thursday, March 24, 2011

It's historical déjà vu all over again , , ,

This year marks the 100th anniversary of air bombings. And history has probably never celebrated such a momentous event more tidily.

What country was bombed 100 years ago?


Is that tidy, or what?

Italian dirigibles bomb Turkish positions on Libyan Territory. The Italian–Turkish war of 1911–1912 was the first in history that featured air attacks by airplanes and dirigible airships.
Ian Patterson, writing in the London Review of Books, had this to say:
The world’s first aerial bombing mission took place 100 years ago, over Libya. It was an attack on Turkish positions in Tripoli. On 1 November 1911, Lieutenant Cavotti of the Italian Air Fleet dropped four two-kilogramme bombs, by hand, over the side of his aeroplane. In the days that followed, several more attacks took place on nearby Arab bases. Some of them, inaugurating a pattern all too familiar in the century since then, fell on a field hospital, at Ain Zara, provoking heated argument in the international press about the ethics of dropping bombs from the air, and what is now known as ‘collateral damage’. (In those days it was called ‘frightfulness’.) The Italians, however, were much cheered by the ‘wonderful moral effect’ of bombing, its capacity to demoralise and panic those on the receiving end. 
A hundred years on, as missiles rain down on Gaddafi’s defences and sleeping Libyan soldiers are blasted and burned, we hear claims of a similar kind: the might of the western onslaught will dissipate all support for Gaddafi’s regime and usher in a new golden age for everyone. Just as Shock and Awe were meant to in Iraq. Or bombing and defoliation were meant to in Vietnam. Or as the London Blitz was meant to break Britain’s spirit. Yet all the evidence suggests that dropping high explosive on places where people live increases their opposition, their solidarity and their resolve. Happy Anniversary.
As we all know, Libya is again being bombed. This, today, from Radio Free Europe:
Fighting is continuing in Libya for key cities after a fifth night of coalition air strikes.  
Several explosions were heard overnight as antiaircraft fire lit up the sky in Tripoli, where coalition aircraft reportedly hit a fuel depot. 
Witnesses also reported a huge blast at a military base in the Tajura neighborhood east of the capital. 
The official JANA news agency said coalition raids on Tajura killed "a large number" of civilians, while Libyan Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaim late on March 23 pleaded for a halt of the aerial bombardment. . . . 
French fighter jets return from operations over Libya.(Reuters)
Air Strikes 'As Long As Necessary'
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said today that coalition air strikes against Libya had been a "success" and would "continue as long as necessary."  
Juppe [said there] had been no reports of civilian casualties caused by allied action, adding that the strikes were "only targeting military sites and nothing else." . . . 
On March 21st, two days after the current Libyan bombings began, Eric Margolis, writing in the Huffington Post, had this to say about U.S. participation:
America's glaring double standard in the Mideast and Muslim world is a major reason for growing hatred of our nation.  
Events in Libya may end up further enflaming such feelings. 
America would be hailed as [a] genuine liberator of long-suffering Libyans if it also intervened in Bahrain and Yemen -- and perhaps Saudi Arabia -- to protect civilians from the ferocity of their despotic governments and promote real democracy. 
But it's only oil-rich Libya that is getting the "humanitarian" treatment from the US and oil-hungry western European former colonial powers. 
A fractured Libya will not only curtail oil exports, it will open the gates to a flood of African emigration to southern Europe. Gaddafi has long been cooperating with France, Italy and Spain to halt the flow of such economic refugees. He now threatens to open the flood gates. There is also a risk that the Libyan conflict could spread into neighboring Mali, Chad, Niger and Sudan.
Turkey has been proposing sensible diplomatic solutions but no one is yet listening to peaceful plans. Once again, the west is gripped by that old crusading fever, a combination of moral outrage at the wickedness of the unspeakable Saracens, combined with a pulsating lust for their riches. 
The question President Obama should be asking himself is: given our $1.4 trillion deficit, can we really afford another little war whose rationale is unclear and outcome uncertain?
As for that outcome, at least from a U.S. point-of-view. . . this, from a March 20th updated AP article taken from the Denver Post:
"No one can say for certain how this change will end, but I do know that change is not something that we should fear. When young people insist that the currents of history are on the move, the burdens of the past can be washed away." Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was pressed repeatedly during a round of Sunday television interviews to explain the mission's objectives. He said the main goal is to protect civilians from further violence. 
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is welcomed by French President Nicolas Sarkozy before a crisis summit on Libya at Elysee Palace on Saturday. (Franck Prevel, Getty Images Europe)
"I think circumstances will drive where this goes in the future," the admiral said on ABC's "This Week." "I wouldn't speculate in terms of length at this particular point in time." Asked whether it was possible that the military goals might be met without Gadhafi being ousted, Mullen replied, "That's certainly potentially one outcome." He described the Libyan strongman as more isolated than ever, adding that Gadhafi is "going to have to make some choices about his own future" at some point.  
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said that although ousting Gadhafi is not an explicit goal of the campaign, his departure might be hastened as the conflict continues. 
"The opposition is largely led by those who defected from the Gadhafi regime or who formerly served it, and it is certainly to be wished for that there will be even more such defections, that people will put the future of Libya and the interests of the Libyan people above their service to Col. Gadhafi," she said.
So, I guess all that means the questions of what, precisely, we're doing in Libya, and why we're doing it, are still being debated. But that does not take away from the historical symmetry of Libyan bombing, then and now.

No comments:

Post a Comment