The Arab Spring and US Credibility in the Region

Occurring within a week of each other, two recent deaths illustrate gracefully the Janus-faced nature of American political ethos.

I am writing of the deaths of Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, the son of Anwar al-Awlaki, and Libyan dictator Mouammar Ghadafi. The former was a 16-year old American citizen, the latter a one-time client of the United States.  Abdulrahman al-Awlaki was the son of Yemeni-American Anwar al-Awlaki, who died from an American drone attack a few weeks ago. Abdulrahman died the same way. On the other hand, Ghadafi was captured by the rebel forces of the National Transitional Council (NTC). He later died under rather mysterious circumstances.

The Obama administration claimed victory in both cases. In reality, both deaths illustrate on different levels the extent of American paranoia and deception. Enough has been said about its inexplicable execution of the teenager Abdulrahman al-Awlaki. The Washington Post obtained his birth certificate to confirm his age. Barack Obama has successfully gained for himself the most radical executive power of all, more than the Constitution or the Bill of Rights ever sought to prevent.

Mouammar Ghadhafi was once the friend of the United States. Human Rights Watch’s Johanne Mariner pointed out the obvious:

“One remembers Reagan’s efforts to confront Qaddafi decades ago: the 1986 missile strikes, the skirmishes in the Gulf of Sidra, the labeling of Libya’s leader as the “mad dog of the Middle East,” and of Libya as a rogue state.

But the line that one is tempted to draw between U.S./Libyan relations then and U.S./Libyan relations now isn’t straight.  While Qaddafi is now despised as an enemy, for much of the past decade he was treated as a friend.

In 2006, announcing that the U.S. was restoring full diplomatic relations with Libya, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice held up Libya’s leadership as ‘a model’ for others to follow. Qaddafi’s glaring violations of human rights—which, in 2011, gave the U.S. cause for military intervention—were not simply overlooked during the Bush years; they were exploited.”

I’ve written about the implications of such exploitation, as have others. So where is the United States headed? The Arab Spring, among its list of impressive achievements, has also circumvented much of the rhetoric of the War on Terror. Not only has it made Al Qaeda almost irrelevant, it has exposed the hypocritical nature of U.S. policy vis a vis the popular uprisings.

After all, the U.S. claimed Mubarak’s regime as “stable” when it was under severe pressure in February. The U.S. continue to back the corrupt and violent regimes of Bahrain and Yemen, only to see the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to one of the most vocal leaders of the latter country’s opposition movement. It is starting to lose its hold on the region altogether.

And let us not forget the biggest time bomb of all. Every year, the United States gives more than $3,000,000,000 US to the state of Israel. It is a practice in aid-giving that has even established pundits scratching their heads. Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian Territories, along with its burgeoning demography problem may force it to enter a serious national crisis within a decade.

How will the United States deal with these changes?


New Libyan Flag on Its Way After Ghadafi’s Death

Posted on: The Charlatan, October 27th, 2011

After requests from students, Carleton administration has asked that the Libyan flag hanging in the Unicentre atrium be removed and replaced with the new one, according to the department of university communications.

Students have been lobbying for the flag to be replaced since September, said Reda Zarrug, a public policy student who’s involved in the local Libyan community’s effort to support the National Transitional Council in Libya.

The substitution is especially relevant now with the recent death of former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, and a more representative flag must be raised, Zarrug said.

“It’s the only solid colour flag in the world. It’s just all green,” said Zarrug, referring to the flag Gadhafi implemented after he seized power.

“We live in Canada, and just because we’re not in Libya does not mean we can’t do anything,” Zarrug said. “There’s so much more peaceful stuff that we can do here, and this is just a little gesture that we feel is necessary.”

The crescent and star flag the students were advocating for is actually the original flag of Libya, Zarrug explained. It was taken down and replaced with Gadhafi’s solid green flag in 1977.

“It’s not representative of the Libyan people,” said Ala Fallah, another public policy student at Carleton.

The new Libyan flag will be hung upon its arrival, according to Christopher Cline, the university’s media relations co-ordinator.

Zarrug said administration noted a new flag would take some time to arrive.

The new flag will replace the current one, hanging beside dozens of other flags in the atrium, representing Carleton’s diverse student body.

Kevin Gallinger, Carleton’s assistant director of maintenance, said the logistics of changing the flag isn’t complicated.

“If the country decides that it wants a new flag, and it is being manufactured, then changing a flag is like moving a chair for us,” Gallinger said.

Zarrug said a flag has been ordered and it will arrive on site in a few weeks.

“It’s been more than a dream come true to see this man in the state he is,” Fallah said, referring to Gadhafi. “Before, we didn’t associate him with a human being, but now it’s like I can’t even believe it.”

When asked what came to mind when he heard of Gadhafi’s capture, Zarrug replied with one word: “liberation.”

“It’s sad to see that the death of one human being makes so many people happy, but he’s brought so much misery to everybody in Libya,” Zarrug said. “It’s an amazing thing.”


Carleton to Build Solar Research Facility

Published on: The Charlatan, September 15th, 2011

With help from local construction firm Urbandale Construction and Panasonic Canada, Carleton is set to build a new and innovative facility for solar energy research on campus.

The project, dubbed the Carleton Research and Innovation in Sustainable Energy House (C-RISE), will be for highly qualified graduate students to explore the possibilities of solar energy and its potential to help reduce heating and cooling costs, according to the Ottawa Business Journal.

The project will draw from a $582,242 grant obtained by Carleton engineering professor Ian Beausoleil-Morrison through the Canadian Foundation for Innovation, according to Carleton’s website.

The initiative first took shape when students from Beausoleil-Morrison’s fourth-year class played around with a design from Urbandale, according to the Ottawa Business Journal.

The class made a new design that met the voluntary energy efficiency standards from National Resources Canada, called the R-2000 standard of 2012. Further ideas are still being developed, such as incorporating solar water heaters and heat pumps, according to the Ottawa Business Journal.

The program will “recruit top students graduating from its sustainable and renewable energy engineering and conservation and sustainability [bachelor of engineering] and [bachelor of architectural studies] programs into graduate studies,” said Briana Paige Kemery, a member of Beausoleil’s team. These students will able to explore new designs that could potentially become available on the market.

Panasonic Canada has even offered to provide vacuum insulation for the facility.

Urbandale’s general manager Matthew Sachs is the “industry liaison” for the project.  Sachs, who worked with Beausoleil-Morrison, has helped students balance their ideas with practical and financial considerations. The initiative is estimated to cost Urbandale $200,000.

Those doing research at C-RISE will be examining the issue of single-family detached housing producing excessive greenhouse gas emissions.

In Canada, approximately 10 per cent of emissions come from such types of housing, according to Carleton’s website.

“The Carleton Research and Innovation in Sustainable Energy House (C-RISE) will bridge an important gap that currently exists between the modeling and reality to tackle these issues,” according to Carleton’s website.