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Greece, France Send Austerity Jackals Packing

12:13 pm in Uncategorized by Phoenix Woman

Buh-bye, austerity jackal!

In Greece today:

Governing parties backing EU-mandated austerity in Greece are on course for a major drubbing as hard-hit voters, venting their fury in elections, defected in droves, according to exit polls.

In a major upset that will not be welcomed by the crisis-plagued country’s eurozone partners, the two forces that had agreed to enact unpopular belt-tightening in return for rescue funds appeared headed for a beating, with none being able to form a government.

After nearly 40 years of dominating the Greek political scene, the centre-right New Democracy and socialist Pasok saw support drop dramatically in favour of parties that had virulently opposed the tough austerity dictated by international creditors.

[...]

“That agreement now belongs to the past. It has been delegitimised,” said Panaghiotis Lafazanis, a prominent Syriza MP. “Our strong showing sends a message especially to Europe that Greeks have rejected austerity.”

In France today:

Socialist Francois Hollande has won a clear victory in France’s presidential election.

Mr Hollande – who got an estimated 52% of votes in Sunday’s run-off – said the French had chosen “change”.

[...]

The socialist candidate has promised to raise taxes on big corporations and people earning more than 1m euros a year.

He wants to raise the minimum wage, hire 60,000 more teachers and lower the retirement age from 62 to 60 for some workers.

Mr Hollande has also called for a renegotiation of a hard-won European treaty on budget discipline championed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Mr Sarkozy.

Obama, are you listening?

Why Do France and the UK Want Us to Help Them Help Libyan Rebels? 400,000 Refugees Probably Had a Lot to Do with It.

7:13 pm in Uncategorized by Phoenix Woman

When I first wrote about the Libyan uprising and the US’ role in helping the rebels, I wondered about the reasons that Britain and France might have for a) wanting to help the rebels militarily, and b) wanting the US to help with their efforts.

Turns out that I’d seriously underestimated the magnitude of the Libyan refugee crisis that Gaddafi’s crackdown created.

How bad of a crisis? This bad: 400,000 persons have fled the country as of today. That’s out of a population of 6.4 million, meaning that one out every sixteen persons living in Libya back in early February has left Libya, very likely forever. 180,000 of that number had left, half of them for Tunisia, in the eleven days stretching from February 20 — when Gaddafi unleashed his helicopter gunships on protesters — to March 3.

Now, many of the refugees are themselves immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa, and are simply returning to their own homelands. But many, if not most of them, are stuck in Tunisia and Egypt for the foreseeable future, joining displaced persons from Tunisia itself. And a fair number of them, not wanting to go back to their homelands — as one Nigerian immigrant to Libya said, “If our country was a very nice place to be, we would not have gone to a place like Libya” — are looking towards Europe.

In fact, there are a number on European soil already. Five thousand have landed at the island of Lampedusa, which though it belongs to Italy is much closer geographically to Libya. Over eight hundred have made it as far as Malta, and more are on the way to both Malta and Lampedusa, as well as other places around the Mediterranean Sea.

This exodus, on top of the Tunisian exodus, is starting to unnerve a lot of people, particularly right-wing nutjob politicians such as Marine Le Pen, daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen (and who like her father is dismayingly popular in France), and commentators in Italy and France who like to periodically raise the specter of hordes of dark-skinned Africans overrunning the white people of Europe. Ironically, Gaddafi has used these fears to justify his continued rule, stating in December that “Europe will become black” if he is overthrown. However, the number of persons who have already fled as a result of his crackdowns has apparently made various European governments decide that they might be better off if Gaddafi were removed from power as quickly as possible.

So there you have it. No oil, no kowtowing to Al-Qaeda or the CIA, no imperialism, no US leading the rest of the world around. At its heart, it’s pretty much a desire to stop Gaddafi from causing even more people to flee and overwhelm the already-taxed refugee camps in Tunisia, much less Lampedusa or Malta. Whatever one thinks of the US’ involvement in a European and African issue, it’s not based on the motives so many people like to ascribe to it.

UPDATE: A quick note:

The number of refugees who left Libya in the eighteen days before NATO’s no-fly zone: around 300,000, at a rate of 14,000 a day.

The number who have left in the eighteen days since the NFZ was established to yesterday: around 100,000, or around 6,000 a day.

As I touched on earlier, one of the things that until now had made the European nations that make up NATO be relatively friendly to Gaddafi was his self-appointed role as the gatekeeper between Europe and sub-Saharan Africa. Playing on European racist fears, he worked to all but end unsanctioned African migration through Libya to Europe, he also has warned that “Europe will become black” through a torrent of uncontrolled refugees if he’s allowed to fall. However, since three times as many persons have fled Libya in the eighteen days before the NFZ as have fled in the eighteen days since the NFZ was established, his gatekeeper argument doesn’t carry the weight it once did among European leaders.

So again no, it’s not about oil or imperialism or cuddling up to Al-Qaeda. It’s about racism in large part, but it’s also about legitimate fears of seeing UNHCR efforts to keep Tunisian refugee camps, already swamped with Tunisian and Libyan refugees who can’t go home just yet, collapse under a swarm of Libyans fleeing Gaddafi’s crackdown, should he have been allowed to continue it uninterrupted. (In fact, when the rebels do well, many Libyan refugees take it as a sign they can come home; on the other hand, when Gaddafi does well, it increases refugee flow.)

Obama, Britain, France, And Libya: Who’s Behind This And Why

8:37 am in Uncategorized by Phoenix Woman

CNN covers the Zawiya Massacre

There has been a lot of chatter online about the UN-approved NATO attacks on Moammar Gaddafi’s military forces in Libya. Here are a few myths and facts:

Myth: This action is illegal or unconstitutional, for both the US and the UN.

Fact: Actually, since he’s notified Congress, and so long as he pulls out all US armed forces within 90 days, he’s well within what the War Powers Act of 1973 allows:

The War Powers Resolution requires the president to notify Congress within 48 hours of committing armed forces to military action and forbids armed forces from remaining for more than 60 days, with a further 30 day withdrawal period, without an authorization of the use of military force or a declaration of war.

Considering that Gates has already said that the US’ role in this action is going to be quite limited as France and the UK take over, all US forces will have been withdrawn well before the ninety days are up:

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Sunday that the U.S. expects to turn control of the Libya military mission over to a coalition — probably headed either by the French and British or by NATO — “in a matter of days.”

In his first public remarks since the start of the bombings, Gates said President Barack Obama felt very strongly about limiting America’s role in the operation, adding that the president is “more aware than almost anybody of the stress on the military.”

As for the UN, Juan Cole points out that the United Nations Security Council doesn’t have much in the way of legal constraints on its actions, and what has been done to date is well within them.

Myth:
If the rebels win, Al-Qaeda takes over.

Fact: Al-Qaeda’s chief allies, the Taliban, have condemned both the rebellion and the outside assistance received by the rebels.

Myth: Obama is directing this whole affair and the UK, France and other nations are only along as window dressing.

Fact:
It’s actually the other way around…. Read the rest of this entry →