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Proletarian issue 52 (February 2013)
In Amenas attack: Algeria finishes what imperialism started
The news in January that armed terrorists had stormed Algeria’s In Amenas gas facility, seizing hundreds of hostages, was presented to the public as a bolt from the blue.

As the siege developed, culminating in the bloody repossession of the vital facility by Algerian security forces, pundits and politicians alike alternated between injured innocence and righteous indignation. What had we ever done to merit such treatment? Someone has got to pay! And what was Algeria thinking of, being so heavy-handed?

In truth, the 23 oil workers and 32 hostages who had lost their lives by the end were indeed innocent victims, mourned by their families in the US, Britain, Japan, France and Norway as well as in Algeria itself. But what those pundits and politicians took pains to conceal was that it was the ruling classes of all those other countries that lit the fuse to the Algerian attack when they helped to engineer the islamist revolt against Libya and subsequent Nato blitz.

In the spring of 2011, the only country other than Syria prepared to make a stand in the Arab League against the call to establish a ‘no-fly’ zone in Libya was Algeria.

It was this stand on the part of the Arab League that assisted the passage of Resolution 1973 in the UN Security Council, which in turn gave imperialism and its regional hangmen the pretext for eight months of aerial bombardment, wiping out four decades of civilised achievement – not just in Libya itself but across the many countries on the African continent to have benefited from aid, trade and fraternal assistance from the Green revolution. Such Libya-backed plans as the project for an African monetary fund to rescue African countries from dependence upon the IMF were aimed at the promotion of African unity and independence. The rape of Libya was a violation of the whole continent. Algeria opposed that war throughout and today gives refuge to the wife and daughter of the murdered Libyan leader, Colonel Gaddafi.

One of the many countries that previously benefitted from Libya’s commitment to using its oil wealth to help her neighbours develop (in contrast with, for example, oil-rich Nigeria) was Mali, where Libyan investment in the tourist, agricultural and banking sectors gave a much-needed spur to development.

No less important than such material assistance was the constructive role Libya played in strengthening Mali’s national unity. By maintaining close relations with both the Tuaregs in the north and the central government of Bamako in the more developed south, Colonel Gaddafi was able to play a mediating role, helping to relieve tensions and unify the country.

With the destruction of Libya, this stabilising influence within Mali was lost, as evidenced in the eruption of a full-blown Tuareg revolt and by the internal coup that ousted President Touré and replaced him by Sanogo, a military dictator trained in the US. And into the chaos thereby unleashed swarmed the very jihadi reactionaries championed by the West in Libya yesterday and in Syria today.

The genuine attitude of the imperialists towards the same or similar groups when they pop up under cover of a tribal revolt in Mali is less clear. Some imperialists might view a seceded north as easier to do lucrative business with, given reports of large untapped oil reserves waiting under the sand. Some imperialists might be happy enough to see the country weakened, rendering the military dictatorship in Bamako more pliant to western demands.

For such a nihilistic project, the professedly despised jihadis might be seen as a useful tool – just as in Libya and Syria.

However, when those same jihadis start executing foreign nationals from the metropolitan heartlands, our masters’ minds all of a sudden become wonderfully concentrated. It does not inspire the home population with confidence in their rulers when they see their fellow citizens paying the price for their own government’s criminal activities.

At all costs, imperialism must conceal the terror trail which leads from Libya, through Mali to Algeria – a trail of blood traced not by this or that brand of jihadism, but by imperialism itself.

It is particularly difficult for the Elysée to justify the arming of the rebellion in Syria when the backbone of that rebellion is staffed by terrorists indistinguishable from those who are gunning down French engineers in Algeria.

Whilst in November French foreign minister Laurent Fabius was saying that the West should be sending ‘defensive’ weapons to the rebels in Syria, after the attack in Algeria he sounded less gung-ho, still trying to justify France’s support for the assault on Libya but conceding that “afterward we should have paid more attention to the weapons and where they ended up”. According to French officials, arms from the Libyan conflict turned up both in the rebellion in Mali and in the terror attack in Algeria.

And if Fabius’s shift in tone reflects the negative impact of the Algerian incident on French public opinion about these wars, in a country whose leaders have set a belligerent tone from the outset, we can only guess at the chastening effect such developments must have upon opinion in Japan or Norway.

None of this bodes well for the axis of oppression.

Algeria knows a thing or two about terrorism from its own history, not least from having experienced it at first hand when French colonialism attempted to suppress the victorious liberation struggle from 1954 to 1962 by means of terror, torture and large-scale atrocities. France deployed half a million troops and bombed and strafed entire villages, slaughtering over a million Algerians, leaving three million homeless and interning two million in concentration camps.

The assault on In Amenas was a serious threat to the national economy of Algeria – a threat which grew out of imperialist meddling in the Maghreb and needed to be dealt with rapidly and decisively. Algeria relies upon energy production for 95 percent of its exports and 60 percent of its income, and the plant in question accounts for over 10 percent of natural gas production. The Algerian security forces did what they considered necessary to deal with the threat.

Happily, the Algerians do not share the plight of the people of Mali, now pitched into a bloody civil war made a thousand times worse by the intervention of imperialism. Algeria’s own army was able to resolve the hostage crisis in short order with its own resources, unassisted by any ‘help’ or ‘advice’ from Paris or Washington.

Meanwhile, we are told that the jihadist terrorists in Benghazi, whom it pleased British imperialism (and its apologists on the ‘left’) to champion as freedom fighters when their guns were turned against Gaddafi, have now started issuing threats against the presence of British, Dutch and German nationals. As the Foreign Office warns British citizens to flee, it might ponder Mao’s observation: the imperialists pick up a rock to drop upon their enemies, only to drop it on their own feet.
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