The myth of U.S. humanitarian intervention in Libya

This article was the May/June cover article for the International Socialist Review.

By Michael Corcoran and Stephen Maher

THE MYTH of humanitarian intervention has once again surfaced as the key justification for Western imperial adventurism. This time, Libya has been targeted by the United States and France for a bombing campaign that is alleged to be primarily about “protecting” the people of Libya, who joined others in the “Arab Spring” in demanding freedom from a ruthless dictator.

As this so-called humanitarian intervention takes place, the United States continues its support for the brutal suppression of peaceful demonstrations in states allied with the United States, such as Bahrain and Yemen. This clearly demonstrates the brazen level of hypocrisy of the U.S. position and illustrates just how concerned U.S. state managers are with human rights. Clear geopolitical motives for the intervention in Libya, as well as the suppression in Yemen and Bahrain, show the true purpose of the U.S. policy: to maximize its control of a vital, resource-rich region while hiding its true intentions, as always, behind the veil of benevolent intentions. This has been made possible, in part, because the media has worked to spread the party line of U.S. humanitarian intervention and benevolent intentions, serving as what the neo-Marxist writer Louis Althusser referred to as an “Ideological State Apparatus” (ISA).1

This article seeks to dismantle the arguments made by apologists for U.S. imperialism in Libya by examining the true nature of U.S. foreign policy and its concern (or lack thereof) for human rights, the illegality of the Libyan invasion through the lens of both domestic and international law, and by demonstrating how corporate media complicity has helped to sell this narrative, serving, as always, as an arm of official ideology.

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