From The Grio — Trips to the barbershop (or for the ladies, the hairdresser) can be enervating and time consuming, but they can also be instructive. I made that discovery a few short days ago, as I overheard two Brooklyn barbers discussing the multilateral intervention in civil war-torn Libya. As a BBC report about the United Nations sanctioned bombing blared from a high-definition television set, one man pointedly wondered aloud, to nobody in particular: “What is President Obama doing in Brazil as Libya is being bombed?”

The barbershop scene is interesting for several reasons. It underscored the extent to which President Obama, buffeted by weeks of headlines telegraphing indecision and mixed signals about how best to confront Libyan Leader Muammar Gadhafi’s brutal suppression of political dissidents, surprised many by ultimately joining an international coalition to enforce a no-fly zone in the North African country. It is also noteworthy for another reason in particular: the discussants were black men — a group often counted among the president’s strongest supporters (on customers, this particular establishment uses smocks adorned with President Obama’s image).


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As the country and the world at large debate the wisdom of imposing a no-fly zone in the strife-torn North African country, comparisons to former President George W. Bush’s still controversial decision to invade Iraq have flown fast and furiously. Naturally, the action has sparked a riveting debate about whether the action in Libya is justifiedor legitimate. They’ve also prompted a tremendous amount of angst and soul-searching amongst President Obama’s ardent fan base, many of who believed the president they voted for represented a 180-degree turn from his predecessor.

Leaving aside for the moment the jarring inconsistency of a Nobel Peace Prize winner ordering a bombing of a sovereign country, there are obvious questions that beg for answers. Do the president’s supporters have reason to feel betrayed? And is the Libya bombing another example of American supererogation? Important similarities and differences between Iraq and Libya should be noted. At least for the moment, the military campaign in North Africa appears narrowly defined. The military action was given the explicit backing of the U.N., an institution to which the president and his base remains unfailingly deferential. And President Obama has made a painstaking (although wholly unconvincing) effort to draw a distinction between humanitarian intervention and unprovoked or pre-emptive war.


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  • Vanessa

    First and foremost, Bush could not bomb Africa because Africa is a continent NOT a country.


    Second, it is NOT the job of the US to police the world. This a position that we took after WW2 and it has caused us nothing but problems since. The issues in Libya are internal issues and Libyans, not the international community, need to resolve them. Besides how are we (US) gonna make other do right when we can’t do it ourselves.

    Third, let’s not get it twisted. Obama is just like all of the other politicians, just because he is black doesn’t mean anything. This is not about humanitarian help or spreading democracy. This is about OIL straight up. Libya sits on top of oil and Gadhafi is a long time enemy of the US so any reason to get him out is a good one. If the US was interested in helping out for humanitarian and democratic purposes, we would have openly backed the Egyptian people, we would back the people in Bahrain, Syria, and Yeman (known US ally so that isn’t going to happen) where the government is attacking civilians and journalists, AND the would help in Cote d’Ivoire where hundreds have been killed already (ooops… no oil so who cares?! it can’t even make the mainstream news!!).

    • African Mami

      @ Vaneessa,

      EXACTLY! Their issues are of an internal nature, which means controllable by them. And in any case, the U.S. will only intervene when there is OPPORTUNITY for it to do so…in this case OIL. Same could be said of the Darfur situation in Sudan. OIL. It is not because of a humanitarian plight. We ain’t fooled about that!!!!! Your other points are right on the mark!

  • ripuree

    Quaddafi may be everything that he’s accused of doing; just like a lot of other ruthless leaders around the world. But how long is the U.S. supposed to maintain the responsibility as world’s Bounty Hunter for Dictators, without becoming the Nation that does the most wrongs to its own? Doesn’t the very act of needing such an enormous military budget; deny U.S. citizens of fundamental needs that a Government is in place to provide? And if it is impossible for the U.S. to exist with other Nations whose human rights records are not spotless; what are Negroes in the U.S. supposed to do about the inhumane warehousing of our youths in Prisons. Who smoke marijuana (for example) just to deal with the racism they face from Before Cradle To Grave?

    Since the U.S. has unlimited power to invade and occupy any foreign country it wishes, and simultaneously maintain multiple wars; wouldn’t it be better to use that power and money to help local groups trying to restore dignity to their people? Hasn’t the people in the mid-east demonstrated that they will rise up for themselves? With such energy and fearlessness, weren’t there less costly options that the U.S. could’ve engaged? When has greater Military might ended mankind’s inhumanities to each other? Sure, WW2 ended Hitler’s insanity! But did it stop humans from having and acting-on their racist views?

    If war was simply about going in and getting out a Dictator, then who would disagree. But its not. A country cannot be bombed without necessary infrastructure destroyed. A country cannot be bombed without innocent poor people getting poorer, and possibly loosing body parts. After which more Dictators are funded to start all over again. And the Racket of War therefore continues; making some rich people richer; and more mothers to grieve the unnecessary deaths of their sons.

    Ultimately we must realize that each individual owns his/her own life. Militaries with unlimited budgets cannot continue to resolve conflicts by these kinds of aggression, while telling our children not to resolve conflicts in said way. The world is not getting any safer and more harmonious with such actions. One group does not have the right over the decisions of all others, whether good or bad. Like it or not black people in the U.S. Must still co-exist with Glen Beck, Limbaugh and Faux News, and those who claim that they want to Take Back America. Such people pose a much more Clear and Present danger to me as a black mother and grandmother than people in the Mid-East who know that they can’t match the U.S’. Military might.

    By default, bombing make the air more toxic for a while. It also increases destabilization of economy, and increases more stress on already over stressed lives. As a black mother in the U.S. Who know that black men are being re-enslaved in Prisons which criminalizes them more than when they went in, that is a greater mental terror to me, than any terror in the Mid East. So what are black people in the U.S. supposed to do about such chronic injustice? And who assigned the U.S., and UN to be the Owner of every individual on earth, when there is need for retaliation, but not to ensure that the resources on earth are equitably shared? Who assigned the U.S. to stamp out every evil on earth? Can the U.S. Really assume and execute that position, without become more evil in the process, than those condemned? Can the U.S. Execute that Full Time position, and still be fulfill its citizens most basic needs?

    Wouldn’t a less costly way be for Leaders who’re addicted to war, as well as individuals and Corporations -who need wars in their financial portfolios- take themselves out on battlefields and fight their own wars amongst themselves. When is Enough going to be Enough!?

    We have bought the LIE for too long: that in order to have peace we must engage in wars. Its no different than the LIE that Black humans have allowed the English language and Judeo Christianity to propagate on the collective consciousness of humanity. That is; that Black humans are: Evil, Wicked, Cursed, Without Morals and Worthy of Condemnation. While White humans are everything opposite of those sins.

    Again I say, individuals OWN THEIR OWN LIVES! We’re not the properties of our Leaders, so that they don’t need our permission to have wars -supposedly on our behalf. When did we give our leaders permission to use and endanger us in whatever way they decide is right? God damn it people. Black, White, Red, Brown and Yellow. Let us wake up and realize that we’re presently no different than when Black humans had no Right to their lives. We’re all God damn slaves who’re failing to see this, while frollicing about like the people on the Titanic, before it went down. War Is A Racket, as stated by Smedley D. Butler. It always has, and always will be.