Behind the rhetoric about islamism the Western intervention in Mali has seen heavy bombing of towns along the Niger, arbitrary arrests, torture and summary executions
French troops have reached the important town of Gao on the eastern extent of the Niger. Despite stiff resistance from Islamist forces the French ground force of around 2,500 troops, with Malian soldiers in a supporting role, have captured much of the more populous southern region of the recently seceded Azawad. This offensive has been supplemented by heavy bombing of several towns along the Niger and, it has emerged, by widespread brutality. Human Rights groups have reported arbitrary arrests, torture and summary executions.
This abuse has been doled out not only against those suspected of having sympathies with the Islamists, but also against ethnic groups including Tuaregs. According to The International Federation for Human Rights:
In Sévaré, at least 11 individuals were executed in the military camp, near the bus station and near the hospital. Reliable information reports close to 20 other executions in the same area where bodies are said to have been buried very hastily, in particular in the wells. In the Niono region, Malian soldiers killed two Malians of Tuareg origin. We are also being told of other allegations of summary executions in the west and centre regions.
What’s more, the military government, with the full acquiescence of French forces, have taken the opportunity to suppress political dissent. Amnesty International reports:
Malian security forces have also committed violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, including the extrajudicial executions of Tuareg civilians, indiscriminate shelling of a Tuareg nomadic camp and killing livestock which the nomadic population rely on for survival. Crimes are not confined to the north of the country. Amnesty International has also documented cases of torture, extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances and attacks against political leaders, journalists and other people who expressed dissent peacefully in the south, where the capital Bamako lies.
The West is preparing, multilaterally, for the retreat of the rebel groups into the vast desert interior of Azawad. The UN is preparing to facilitate the rapid deployment of some 6000 west African troops to support the French assault. The Pentagon is refusing to either confirm or dis-confirm that U.S involvement has gone far beyond logistical support amidst revelations that U.S drones were in operation over Mali several months in advance of the French assault. Meanwhile influential voices in the Canadian elite are urging an increased involvement to protect the countries investments in Mali, including not inconsiderable gold mining operations. The former Canadian Ambassador to Mali, Robert Fowler has stated:
We have lots of very fine friends in that area of the world…friends that we’ve been working with for 50 to 60 years. We’ve invested hundreds of millions of dollars in development assistance in those countries, and surely it’s in our interest to protect that investment.
In a grimly predictable turn, the UK – first into the breach with France as it was in the Libyan conflict – has increased its logistical support to French troops and, even more ominously, units in the Army, Navy and Air Force have been placed on ‘high alert’. Most lamentably, elements of the French left have returned to bad form, expressing boisterous public support for the French governments ‘mission’ in Mali. Front de Gauche parliamentarian François Asensi urged-on French troops with the following tired tune:
Non-intervention would have been the worst cowardice. An international military action was necessary to prevent the installation of a terrorist state. The Jihadists in northern Mali and their Al Qaeda accomplices have only one goal: to impose bloodthirsty despotic medieval regimes worldwide. Their fundamentalism constitutes a new form of fascism.
According to the mainstay of not only the french Social Democracy but also the French ‘Communist’ Party, almost every military foe faced by France in the last half century or more has been a ‘fascist’ of some variety – a monicker infamously awarded to the Algerian National Liberation Front, for instance. This sorry condition is a sharp reminder for western socialists that the logical outcome of Islamophobia is an accommodation of Western Imperialism.