It's Not the Oil, Stupid

Humanitarian concerns are driving America's involvement in Libya


Just as with George W. Bush's Iraq war, this administration's "kinetic military action" in Libya is arrogant, reckless, cowardly, wasteful, foolish—and possibly illegal, given the lawsuit that a bipartisan group of lawmakers filed against it last week. But it is not a malevolent plot to secure cheap oil for the American economy.

The latest to lob this accusation is Salon's Glenn Greenwald. Greenwald has considerable street cred because, unlike his comrades on the antiwar left, he didn't melt away after President Obama replaced President Bush in the White House. He stuck around, doing yeoman's work, calling out Obama for his serial violations of civil liberties. He is the standard-bearer for everyone (including me) dismayed by America's post-9/11 belligerence. But attributing the wrong motives to war-makers won't end warfare.

Greenwald insists the administration is lying when it says it is in Libya to protect civilians rather than install a regime that is a "reliable servant to Western oil interests." "Does anyone think we're going to care about The Libyan People if they're being oppressed or brutalized by a reliably pro-Western successor to Gadhafi?" he asks. The people in many Arab countries are clamoring to overthrow their murderous rulers. But America has dispatched bombs only against Moammar Gadhafi. Why? Because, in Greenwald's telling, he had become overly possessive of his oil.

Greenwald rests his case on a rather tendentious reading of a single Washington Post story revealing that lately, Gadhafi had been demanding bigger up-front payments from Western countries for drilling rights and greater profit-sharing. This allegedly offers proof that the United States wages wars "not for humanitarian or freedom-spreading purposes, but rather to exploit the resources of other nations for its own large corporations."

The idea that oil lust drives America's Middle East policy is a perennial—and tired—saw invoked by U.S. critics both at home and abroad. But why, then, does America keep spurning this oil through sanctions on hostile regimes? In the decade between the two Iraq wars, America wouldn't let Saddam Hussein sell any oil except for food. Washington's sanctions on Iranian oil are costing America $38 billion to $76 billion  annually in lost revenue. And America had sworn off Libyan oil until Gadhafi abandoned plans to develop weapons of mass destruction and compensated the victims of the Lockerbie terrorist bombing.

That we are after Libya's oil is particularly untenable for the simple reason that Libya is only a bit player in the world oil market. It is not even among our top 15 crude oil suppliers. The U.S. consumes about 20 million barrels a day and Libya produces 1.7 million barrels for the whole globe. America lost 1 million barrels a day during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and the U.S. economy barely hiccuped.

Launching an unpopular war that has already cost the U.S. $700 million at a time of record deficits and debt in order to protect such paltry supplies seems too dumb even for an Ivy League president—especially since this oil won't do Gadhafi much good if he refuses to sell it to the West, where half the planet's oil consumers reside. Nor does it make sense that we want to replace Gadhafi because he'll cut us off from Libya's future oil reserves, which are admittedly considerable. That's because the best expertise to exploit these reserves actually resides in the West, which is why Western companies, including American, have the bulk of drilling contracts in Libya right now. Gadhafi threatened to hand these contracts to India, China and Brazil—but after we attacked him. Indeed, if we wanted only to promote our corporate interest, coddling him would be a far better strategy.

If keeping oil in friendly hands can't be the motive for the Libyan intervention, how does one explain why this administration is hounding Gadhafi? The real reason is, in fact, humanitarian.

Humanitarian considerations might not solely inform this administration's Mideast policy, but they are an important part of the mix. Had Libya been of more economic, strategic or security importance like Syria, Bahrain, and Egypt, we might not have indulged them. But it is not, so there is little reason not to. In other words, "humanitarian outcomes" are not the "byproduct" of our intervention in Libya, they are the core reason we are there even if this hurts our oil prospects.

The antiwar camp likes the greed rationale because it wants to blame America's seemingly endless quest for war on the inherent logic of its system. But the truth is that the Bush administration had its own reasons for engaging in optional wars and the Obama administration has its own. To pin every war on the greed of corporate capitalism has the virtue of parsimony, but it is false. Greed is arguably more a force for timidity than belligerence in the world.

It might be disconcerting that the road to global hell is being paved not by our greed but our good intentions. But building a solid case against war will require us to admit just that. We don't serve the cause of peace in Libya or elsewhere by making this all about oil all the time.

Shikha Dalmia is a senior analyst at Reason Foundation and a columnist at The Daily, where this article originally appeared.

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  1. Humanitarian? Bullshit.

    If it’s humanitarian, why aren’t we bombing Syria? More dead there and a worse government by far than Libya.

    And why not Bahrain? Darfur? Burma? Yemen?

    It may not be about the oil, but it sure isn’t humanitarian.

    1. It is only “humanitarian” if it does nothing to advance US interests but something (like stopping refugees) to advance Europe’s interests. It also helps if it makes Susan Power feel better about herself.

      1. The war in Libya didn’t stop refugees. It created more.

        1. That is non falsifiable since we will never know how many refugees there would have been had NATO not intervened. It is no coincidence that NATO started bombing shortly after refugees started showing up in Italy.

        2. Once NATO intervened, refugees = rebels.

    2. Yemen?…..over-yemen

      Just because the US isn’t involved in blowing things up and killing people in every single authoritarian backwater simultaneously doesn’t mean that humanitarian motives can’t be claimed for current involvements.

    3. “More dead there and a worse government by far than Libya.”

      Now THAT’S bullshit. We’re talking thousands versus hundreds.

        1. Of course Syria is allied with the Iranians and has caused endless hardship in Lebanon including killing its President. But in fairness, HUFFPO probably considers those positives.

          1. Keep wiping the egg off your face for falling for 30,000=900 by saying “hey, look over there!”

            And the most endless hardship for Lebanon was caused when Israel bombed the living shit out of it while it’s pro-Western leader went on TV begging the US to call off it’s client state, effectively killing its Cedar Revolution. But of course you were cheering that.

            1. Is there anything you can’t blame on the Jews? You think the Jews killed the revolution and not Syria who murdered the President.

              I kid sometimes. But wow, you really are an anti Semite. No one I know in the world doesn’t think Syria has done awful things in Lebanon and is responsible for most of the suffering there.

              You really are defending the Assad? You get more repulsive every day.

              1. You don’t remember the leader of the Cedar Revolution on tv begging Israel’s allies to call off the bombing that was destroying his nation? Memory hole indeed.

                1. You don’t how the Syrians later murdered him? Oh that is right only crimes committed by Jews get remembered.

                  1. That’s right John, cover up your ignorance with your usual ad hominen.

                2. John’s classic memory hole forgets that the Prime Minister was murdered in 2005, then the Cedar Revolution followed that, THEN Israel bombed the shit out of the nation and the government government collapsed. Syria’s murder of the PM instigated the Cedar Revolution, it didn’t end it. Syrian forces were forced out of the nation. THEN Isreal bombed the shit out of the country with John et al., cheering on and the people of Lebanon begging us to intervene and call them off, and THEN the government fell apart.


                  1. “Choking back tears, Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora went on television to plead with the United Nations to broker a cease-fire for his “disaster-stricken nation.” ”


                    1. So murdering the President is okay. OF course Hezbollah was attacking Israel and started the war by kidnapping an Israeli soldier.

                      All that goes down the memory hole. You are just gross MNG> Just gross. You defend the Asads and think Israel has no right to defend itself. How do you sleep at night?

      1. Depends on how far you go back. The Assads have I think killed more Syrians that Gaddafi has killed Libyans directly (not counting his stupid African wars), because Gaddafi has been better at ruling via fear alone.

        1. Yeah, they were interventing to stop decades old atrocities…

    4. If you give money to a charity, is that bullshit humanitarianism because you didn’t give money to every charity?

      The United States has finite military resources and they are fully committed. We can only bomb Syria if we stop bombing somewhere else.

  2. “Humanitarian concerns are driving America’s involvement in Libya

    Proof that we must simply hate Syrians.

  3. “Humanitarian concerns are driving America’s involvement in Libya”

    “I beat her because I love her”

  4. Maybe the administration thinks that bombing this Muslim country will win some hearts and minds. Or maybe Obama thinks military spending can revive the economy like it did for his hero FDR. But I think there are most likely corporate interests involved. This is an unpopular kinetic action with a tough election next year. Humanitarian concerns, my ass.

    1. Here you go. Your daily dose of paranoia.…..d-war-iii/

      1. Wow. Please tell ms you don’t read that too often; you know, staring into the abyss and all. Every commen was a manifesto. I’m surprised they are willing to post on the Internet and let the cabal see their thoughts.

        1. I’m sure I made somebody’s “list” just for clicking that link. I’m being watched…

          1. No we aren’t

          2. It’s OK, Francisco. I follow Alex, too. 😉

      2. Alex Jones? Next you’ll be posting links to David Icke.

    2. Is it wrong of me to want my very own war? I’m tired of playing with hand-me-downs. Iraq was already won by the time I got it, and Afghanistan isn’t much fun any more.

    3. You got to EARN that Nobel Peace Prize, baby!!

  5. I love it here.

    1. Knee Jerk, let me make you feel welcome: Fuck off and DIAF whore 😉

      1. nice…
        does your mother greet you at the door with that…

        1. My man Warty does 😉

  6. I don’t see how it’s serving corporate masters. The war’s unpopular and the US never had a huge interest in Libya to begin with (Italy did). And I don’t see how it’s humanitarian, as that fails to explain why we’re not in Syria.

    It’s probably something far less insidious and far more idiotic, like those who initially said we had to be in Libya not wanting to look dumb for getting involved, so we’re refusing to back down even when it’s become apparent we have no business there.

    1. I think that is probably right. The Europeans wanted us to help them. The idiots in the State Department thought “yeah, this is an easy war we can win and look good doing so”. Then once they got involved, they didn’t have the balls to escalate it enough to win and won’t back down and admit they are wrong. So, here we are aimlessly bombing Libya.

      1. Humans are perfectly willing to wage war for decades for no other reasons that saving political face. See also: Vietnam.

        1. They always think there is an easier, clean way to do it. If we had unleashed the dogs of war from the beginning in Vietnam, they would have agreed to the 73 peace accords in about 68. Instead we just kept escalating thinking “this time they will know we are serious”. Instead, the Vietnamese just slowly adapted to the new intensity of the US efforts. We did the a lot of the same thing in Iraq. Rather than admitting we were an occupation and acting like one. We tried to play nice and ended up emboldening a lot of people. For example we fucked around in Falujah for two years before we finally surrounded the place and just leveled it. If we had done that two years earlier, we would have saved ourselves a lot of trouble.

          That sounds terrible. But war is terrible. If you don’t want to do terrible things, don’t go to war. We are seeing the same thing in Libya. We are giving a half ass effort and just making things worse. As Sherman said “War is cruelty. You cannot refine it.”

          1. I’d like to think that if the Western betrayal by Churchill and FDR at Yalta had not occurred and they had stuck to some semblance of moral principle instead of surrendering a third of the globe to Soviet rather than Nazi control, things would have turned out quite differently in both Korea, Vietnam and elsewhere.

            Half-fought wars display a crisis of philosophy and I am not aware of such ever turning out well.

            1. The thing to remember about Yalta was the Churchill was broke and Roosevelt was dying. There are stories of Roosevelt’s ocean voyage where he is given huge briefing books and would just stare out to sea all day. And we found out later a good number of the people in the DOS at that time were outright communists who wanted the Soviets to have Eastern Europe. So, there just wasn’t anyone to stand up to Stalin. Also, at Yalta, we didn’t yet have the bomb and wanted Russia’s help defeating Japan.

              1. Wow, I love this thread, not one but two classic conservative memes (FDR sacrificing Europe at Yalto and those pesky pols holding back the war effort in ‘Nam). Why not go for the trifecta and complain about that dirty traitor Carter surrendering the Panama Canal?


                  Just for you, MNG 🙂

                  1. Almanian,

                    Carter never gave away the Panama Canal. That is just a conservative meme.

                2. Meme is just another word for things MNG doesn’t understand or conflict with the red sky in his world. The past is what it is. Alger Hiss was a communist. And they called it “Rolling Thunder” in Vietnam not “Instant Thunder” (a name chosen in the first gulf war for the contrast from the gradual escalation in Vietnam.

                  1. John, just trying to help out MNG – he asked for it 🙂

                    I remember the Carter era well, having lived through it at a sentient age. The Canal deal, was, as I recall, a matter of treaty. when I’m not so lazy I’ll google to refresh my memory!

                    1. And conservatives went ape-shit calling Carter a traitor. Heck, every now and then SIV will amble on to denounce him for it to this day.

                3. MNG, I am not a conservative and have never been a conservative. I don’t care if it’s a “classic conservative meme” that Eastern Europe got the shaft in the wake of WW2, because it’s entirely true.

                  There’s a reason why some of my best friends are immigrants from post-communist countries: because they don’t spout idiotic drivel like this or say things like “communism is great in theory”.

                  I consider it a great sadness that the most “American” people I know tend to be born beyond her borders.

              2. I’m not going to cut Churchill and Roosevelt any slack. This wasn’t just some “exhausted due to years of war” issue–just look to 1939 when Finland was invaded by the Soviets and the League of Nations was shown as a worthless joke. The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact along with the annexation of the Baltic states and half of Poland–not to mention the Katyn massacre later–demonstrates to me that anyone paying attention should have known exactly what they were dealing with. If Roosevelt was too weak to command he should have delegated rather than gripping the reins until death.

                Also, that was hardly Churchill’s only transgression:

                “In Austria that May, Churchill perpetrated the same sort of ‘act of a loyal ally,’ but, out of our accustomed modesty, we did not publicize it. He turned over to the Soviet command the Cossack corps of 90,000 men. This surrender was an act of double-dealing consistent with the spirit of traditional English diplomacy. The heart of the matter was that the Cossacks were determined to fight to the death, or to cross the ocean, all the way to Paraguay or Indochina if they had to?anything rather than surrender alive. Therefore, the English proposed, first, that the Cossacks give up their arms on the pretext of replacing them with standardized weapons. Then the officers ? without the enlisted men ? were summoned to a supposed conference on the future of the army in the city of Judenburg in the English occupation zone. But the English had secretly turned the city over to the Soviet armies the night before. Forty busloads of officers, all the way from commanders of companies on up to General Krasnov himself, crossed a high viaduct and drove straight into a semicircle of Black Marias, next to which stood convoy guards with lists in their hands. The road back was blocked by Soviet tanks. The officers didn’t even have anything with which to shoot themselves or to stab themselves to death, since their weapons had been taken away. They jumped from the viaduct onto the paving stones below. Immediately afterward, and just as treacherously, the English turned over the rank-and-file soldiers by the trainload ? pretending that they were on their way to receive new weapons from their commanders.

                “In their own countries Roosevelt and Churchill are honored as embodiments of statesmanlike wisdom. To us, in our Russian prison conversations, their consistent shortsightedness and stupidity stood out as astonishingly obvious. How could they, in their decline from 1941 to 1945, fail to secure any guarantees whatever of the independence of Eastern Europe? How could they give away broad regions of Saxony and Thuringia in exchange for the preposterous toy of a four-zone Berlin, their own future Achilles’ heel? And what was the military or political sense in their surrendering to destruction at Stalin’s hands hundreds of thousands of armed Soviet citizens determined not to surrender? They say it was the price they paid for Stalin’s agreeing to enter the war against Japan. With the atom bomb already in their hands, they paid Stalin for not refusing to occupy Manchuria, for strengthening Mao Tse-tung in China, and for giving Kim Il Sung control of half Korea! What bankruptcy of political thought! And when, subsequently, the Russians pushed out of Mikolajczyk, when Benes and Masaryk came to their ends, when Berlin was blockaded, and Budapest flamed and fell silent, and Korea went up in smoke, and Briton’s conservatives fled form Suez, could one really believe that those among them with the most accurate memories did not at least recall that episode of the Cossacks?” –Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago

                1. Regarding the Yalta Conference:

                  “I just have a hunch that Stalin is not that kind of a man. I think that if I give him everything I possibly can and ask for nothing from him in return, noblesse oblige, he won’t try to annex anything and will work with me for a world of democracy and peace.” – FDR

                  1. And as a State Dept. employee told Harry Truman before his first meeting with Stalin: “Please be nice to Stalin, I think his feelings are hurt.”

          2. Good points. War is horrible; but if you “must” do it, DO IT! 8-( Remember this? Sherman was quite eloquent concerning war and deserves to be better known about it.

            1. Yeah, it worked great for the Soviets in Afghanistan!

              1. Not to take sides, but the Soviets were trying to Occupy.

      2. This is exactly what happened. Not only was it the Europeans in general who convinced Obama. More specifically, it was (GASP!) Sarkozy and the French.

        Shikha is right that it’s not about oil for the US. It IS, however, about oil for the French, which make our involvement even worse.

    2. Isn’t that why we’re still in Iraq?

      1. Sure. I had in mind a non-war analogy, which would be Republicans with Schiavo. Once they realized everyone thought they were stupid, they didn’t say, “forget it.” That would make them look like pure political calculators. So they went all-in:

        In all, the Schiavo case involved 14 appeals and numerous motions, petitions, and hearings in the Florida courts; five suits in federal district court; Florida legislation struck down by the Supreme Court of Florida; a subpoena by a congressional committee to qualify Schiavo for witness protection; federal legislation (the Palm Sunday Compromise); and four denials of certiorari from the Supreme Court of the United States.

        I’ve honestly never understood this strategy, but I guess inability to admit one’s mistakes is a pretty common feature among politicians.

        1. I know some who felt if they didn’t fight for the life of the most helpless, as hard as they legally could, they wouldn’t be able look themselves in the mirror.

          I find your analogy lacking, as it was a legal battle to save an individual life (regardless of anyone’s judgement of quality), and the willful destruction of property, and the mass theft of life by the power of alien nations.

    3. I think there were reports early on that HRC was the main voice in persuading BHO to get involved in Libya.

  7. This is ridiculous.. there are lot of other countries in africa which are in a ahumanitarian crisis for over 2-3 decades.. where is america in those places? Rwanda,kenya, Ivory coast, somalia ….

    1. Yes, but there is not a pretext for intervention in all of them because they are not all rebelling against their kleptocratic rulers! And it was precisely because the U.S. was universally chastised for standing by and letting the massacre in Rwanda happen (didn’t you see Hotel Rwanada?) that it was difficult for the Obama administration to simply let Gaddafi massacre his own people. If we are going to oppose US intervention abroad, we are going to have to address why it is worse when the US intervenes to stop a humanitarian catastrophe rather than doing nothing. The oil argument is largely a strawman, as this article rightly notes.

  8. Am I the only person who thinks if we’re going to go to war, we should do it somewhere where we actually do have interests, that self interest is better than disinterestedness if we are going to commit our blood and treasure to some venture like war?

    Remember all of the “Get out of Iraq and into Sudan” bumperstickers from a few years ago, usually next to an “Indict Bush” or “No Blood for Oil” sticker? I thought they represented an incredibly bad idea in general: that the U.S. was to put on a cape and wander around the world as a do-gooder, but only in those places that don’t really matter to us. If that’s not a recipe for disaster, I don’t know what is.

    Perhaps it is not coincidental that those who argued against being in Iraq during the Bush years were also those who lambasted “the rich” and other such images of interestedness.


  9. I think Dalmia is confusing ‘humanitarian’ with a proxy business deal.

    A possibility:…..ini-trick/

    1. rather, I thought your comments here were opaque and bizarre. Your comments on your own site? That’s another matter entirely in terms of degree: they are unreadable and make even less sense. If there is a nugget of truth somewhere there it’s buried in so much manure that I wouldn’t be able to find it with a metal detector.

      1. If that’s your idea of a good time.

      2. Fenevad, Reason is focused on Libertarian issues and as such it is mastered by freedom information.

        I don’t just write for just the American audience but the well-read. My traffic is agglomerated in our East Coast, Western Europe, and Asia

        1. QED about opaque and bizarre.

          Reading your comments and site is like trying to make sense of Jacques Derridas, even down to the pointless italicizations, long quotes of irrelevant drivel with no guidance as to what you hope to accomplish with them, non-sequitors, and attempts at wit that fall short of the mark.

          It’s nothing to do with being well read: unclear writing is unclear writing?

          1. Is Rather, even rather?

            1. Is there a rule about names that we must changed them to the native language of the speaker, or do we follow the Arabic paradigm?

              I use either

              1. Can you spare a paradigm?

          2. Tout est dans le texte

            1. OK. This at least is a witty response.

  10. I don’t think we’re there for oil, at least not for ourselves. The commenters who pointed out the European connection above are probably right. The Euros asked for help, and they’re cool because they have small houses and cars and trains and healthcare and castles and cafes and shit, so why not? Plus the UN said it was cool, so that was that. Also, Obama was being heavily criticized for not fully supporting the spring uprising, so this was his opportunity to jump in and save the day in at least one of the countries.

    1. It’s not about oil for us, but it is for Europe, and this is the Administrations half-hearted attempt to rationalize a need for the existence of NATO.


      1. ‘s

  11. If the United States intervenes, it is an imperialistic hegemon thirsty for war profits, advancing a selfish agenda.

    If it does not intervene, it is standing idly ignoring atrocities while having the capabilities to do something about it, advancing a selfish agenda.

    The only constants are the assertions that the United States and capitalism are evil.

    1. The only constants are the assertions that the United States and capitalism are evil.

      Those are, indeed constants. I think we need a symbol for them. Oh, wait, how about – USA! USA!

  12. I swear I already saw this (or some variation of this) article.

    1. We’re reposting it for humanitarian reasons.

  13. It’s not the US who is intervening for oil. The French, on the other hand, depend on Libya for the 15% of their oil. 75% of Libya’s oil production goes to Europe, and the unrest has massively disturbed oil routes throughout the world, as Libyan oil is higher quality than most other sources near to the European users.

    We’re just getting dragged along for the ride.

  14. There is nothing more humanitarian than dropping bombs on brown people.

    1. No shit. I hope the US doesn’t get all humanitarian on me. I don’t think I could survive it.

  15. There is almost never a “real reason” for US involvement. There are too many schools and opinions in US foreign policy. Places where the USA involves have at least two, generally three or more, “real reasons,” each *the* real reason to the people for whom it made a difference. Walter Russell Mead’s book has this correct.

    Sure, the humanitarian reason is the deciding factor among some of the Libya war supporters. But there are others that are doing so because of oil, others who are doing so because our allies want it, etc.

    1. This is likely the closest to the truth.

    2. This is a good point.

      The important question then becomes what is Obama’s deciding factor since he has decided that it’s his decision alone.

    3. I believe the reason we’re there is because our insanely expensive government connected military industry needs to keep coming up with excuses to justify their existence.

  16. Plus there’s all that new hardware that needs testing.
    How can you justify those expensive contracts without field testing the equipment?

  17. Whatever the motivations for the war it’s currently violating the law. Congress should defund the effort immediately.

    1. Let me be clear.

      I’m the law in these parts.

    2. Congress should defund the effort immediately.

      Can’t tell if sarcasm.

    3. Congress should defund the effort immediately, impeach, and remove Obama from office.

      There we go. After that, we can round up Obama, Biden, Power, H. Clinton, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Gore, W.J. Clinton, and Gates, send to The Hague, give them a fair trial, and hang them.

  18. They’re bombing people to be humanitarian? I am kind of amazed to see this actually being published as a serious article on Reason. You’ve got to be kidding me.

    1. Uhh, have you had your head in a hole in the ground? That is the primary public justification for our “kinetic actions.”

      1. My point is why is Reason now parroting the Government’s primary justification? If you believe that you must have your head in the sand.

        1. My understanding of the above article says, yes it is the primary reason, and it is more than a little sick.

          1. It’s for ‘Whirled Peas’, Damn It!

        2. Sometimes a cigar is a cigar. It’s bad enough if those reasons are the real ones without needing to invoke a phantom explanation.

  19. The good thing is that Americans? can feel BETTER about themselves for supporting this effort.

    THAT’s what’s important about this not-a-war – that Americans? can feel BETTER about themselves. Cause we’re HELPING.

    Or something…

  20. Also, when do we test The Snuke?? I wanna see that bad boy in ACTION!

    1. It makes for plain stupidity to laugh and clap that we are using and shld test our Nukes on lybians. There is no difference between what we are doing in lybia today and what OBL did to us on 9/11. Fools like u will never learn! You are just as stupid, cowardly and na?ve as our government.

  21. yeah,it’s not a smart idea

  22. normally,it’s not obama’s idea

  23. It isn’t about Libya’s oil. It’s about the stability of an entire oil-producing region. We play a delicate game over there.

  24. Gadhafi looks an awful lot like Penn Jillette there. Coincidence?

    1. You need to SHUT THE FUCK UP!

  25. “Humanitarian concerns are driving America’s involvement in Libya.”
    Not American humanitarian concerns!

  26. Didn’t I read this horse shit once already?

  27. It isn’t about Libya’s oil. It’s about the stability of an entire oil-producing region.

    If stability is your goal, why are you taking sides in a civil war that was (1) about to be won (2) by the existing government? About the most de-stabilizing thing we could have done was swoop in and save the “rebels”, but only enough to drag out the war.

    1. *shrugs* I can’t come to any other conclusion as to why we take such a special interest in the region. It certainly isn’t because we have such an intense desire to see the Libyan people experience freedom. Unless we just love us some Libyans.

    2. *shrugs* I can’t come to any other conclusion as to why we take such a special interest in the region. It certainly isn’t because we have such an intense desire to see the Libyan people experience freedom. Unless we just love us some Libyans.

  28. To write this and think it made sence is the most stupid thing I have read in a long while. Take it or leave it, we are in lybia for the oil. It america such a father christmass? It I’d like the devil… It gives u something with its right Hand and take it back with its left g hand.

    1. We are not in Libya for oil. Heck, we are not even in Libya. Above it, dropping bombs, yes. In it, with troops on the ground, nope.

      It’s a lot different than Iraq or Afghanistan, IMHO. And even Iraq wasn’t for oil. (It was because Bush was mad than Saddam supposedly put a hit on his dad more than anything else.)

      The closest parallel is the bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999, IMHO. Both were NATO bombings, without ground troops, attempting to prevent mass slaughter of civilians.

  29. Home
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    Tuesday, June 21, 2011
    Why the West wants the fall of Gaddafi? An analysis in defense of the Libyan rais
    16 aprile 2011 | Filed under: Africa,Latest news | Posted by: admin
    Analysis by Jean-Paul Pougala ? Africans should think about the real reasons why western countries are waging war on Libya, writes Jean-Paul Pougala, in an analysis that traces the country’s role in shaping the African Union and the development of the continent.

    It was Gaddafi’s Libya that offered all of Africa its first revolution in modern times ? connecting the entire continent by telephone, television, radio broadcasting and several other technological applications such as telemedicine and distance teaching. And thanks to the WMAX radio bridge, a low cost connection was made available across the continent, including in rural areas.

    It began in 1992, when 45 African nations established RASCOM (Regional African Satellite Communication Organization) so that Africa would have its own satellite and slash communication costs in the continent. This was a time when phone calls to and from Africa were the most expensive in the world because of the annual US$500 million fee pocketed by Europe for the use of its satellites like Intelsat for phone conversations, including those within the same country.

    An African satellite only cost a onetime payment of US$400 million and the continent no longer had to pay a US$500 million annual lease. Which banker wouldn’t finance such a project? But the problem remained ? how can slaves, seeking to free themselves from their master’s exploitation ask the master’s help to achieve that freedom? Not surprisingly, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the USA, Europe only made vague promises for 14 years. Gaddafi put an end to these futile pleas to the western ‘benefactors’ with their exorbitant interest rates. The Libyan guide put US$300 million on the table; the African Development Bank added US$50 million more and the West African Development Bank a further US$27 million ? and that’s how Africa got its first communications satellite on 26 December 2007.

    China and Russia followed suit and shared their technology and helped launch satellites for South Africa, Nigeria, Angola, Algeria and a second African satellite was launched in July 2010. The first totally indigenously built satellite and manufactured on African soil, in Algeria, is set for 2020. This satellite is aimed at competing with the best in the world, but at ten times less the cost, a real challenge.

    This is how a symbolic gesture of a mere US$300 million changed the life of an entire continent. Gaddafi’s Libya cost the West, not just depriving it of US$500 million per year but the billions of dollars in debt and interest that the initial loan would generate for years to come and in an exponential manner, thereby helping maintain an occult system in order to plunder the continent.


    The US$30 billion frozen by Mr Obama belong to the Libyan Central Bank and had been earmarked as the Libyan contribution to three key projects which would add the finishing touches to the African federation ? the African Investment Bank in Syrte, Libya, the establishment in 2011 of the African Monetary Fund to be based in Yaounde with a US$42 billion capital fund and the Abuja-based African Central Bank in Nigeria which when it starts printing African money will ring the death knell for the CFA franc through which Paris has been able to maintain its hold on some African countries for the last fifty years. It is easy to understand the French wrath against Gaddafi.

    The African Monetary Fund is expected to totally supplant the African activities of the International Monetary Fund which, with only US$25 billion, was able to bring an entire continent to its knees and make it swallow questionable privatisation like forcing African countries to move from public to private monopolies. No surprise then that on 16-17December 2010, the Africans unanimously rejected attempts by Western countries to join the African Monetary Fund, saying it was open only to African nations.

    It is increasingly obvious that after Libya, the western coalition will go after Algeria, because apart from its huge energy resources, the country has cash reserves of around a 150 billion. This is what lures the countries that are bombing Libya and they all have one thing in common ? they are practically bankrupt. The USA alone, has a staggering debt of $US14,000 billion, France, Great Britain and Italy each have a US$2,000 billion public deficit compared to less than US$400 billion in public debt for 46 African countries combined.

    Inciting spurious wars in Africa in the hope that this will revitalise their economies which are sinking ever more into the doldrums will ultimately hasten the western decline which actually began in 1884 during the notorious Berlin Conference. As the American economist Adam Smith predicted in 1865 when he publicly backed Abraham Lincoln for the abolition of slavery, ‘the economy of any country which relies on the slavery of blacks is destined to descend into hell the day those countries awaken’.


    To destabilise and destroy the African union which was veering dangerously (for the West) towards a United States of Africa under the guiding hand of Gaddafi, the European Union first tried, unsuccessfully, to create the Union for the Mediterranean (UPM). North Africa somehow had to be cut off from the rest of Africa, using the old tired racist clich?s of the 18th and 19th centuries ,which claimed that Africans of Arab origin were more evolved and civilised than the rest of the continent. This failed because Gaddafi refused to buy into it. He soon understood what game was being played when only a handful of African countries were invited to join the Mediterranean grouping without informing the African Union but inviting all 27 members of the European Union.

    Without the driving force behind the African Federation, the UPM failed even before it began, still-born with Sarkozy as president and Mubarak as vice president. The French foreign minister, Alain Juppe is now attempting to re-launch the idea, banking no doubt on the fall of Gaddafi. What African leaders fail to understand is that as long as the European Union continues to finance the African Union, the status quo will remain, because no real independence. This is why the European Union has encouraged and financed regional groupings in Africa.

    It is obvious that the West African Economic Community (ECOWAS), which has an embassy in Brussels and depends for the bulk of its funding on the European Union, is a vociferous opponent to the African federation. That’s why Lincoln fought in the US war of secession because the moment a group of countries come together in a regional political organisation, it weakens the main group. That is what Europe wanted and the Africans have never understood the game plan, creating a plethora of regional groupings, COMESA, UDEAC, SADC, and the Great Maghreb which never saw the light of day thanks to Gaddafi who understood what was happening.


    For most Africans, Gaddafi is a generous man, a humanist, known for his unselfish support for the struggle against the racist regime in South Africa. If he had been an egotist, he wouldn’t have risked the wrath of the West to help the ANC both militarily and financially in the fight against apartheid. This was why Mandela, soon after his release from 27 years in jail, decided to break the UN embargo and travel to Libya on 23 October 1997. For five long years, no plane could touch down in Libya because of the embargo. One needed to take a plane to the Tunisian city of Jerba and continue by road for five hours to reach Ben Gardane, cross the border and continue on a desert road for three hours before reaching Tripoli. The other solution was to go through Malta, and take a night ferry on ill-maintained boats to the Libyan coast. A hellish journey for a whole people, simply to punish one man.

    Mandela didn’t mince his words when the former US president Bill Clinton said the visit was an ‘unwelcome’ one ? ‘No country can claim to be the policeman of the world and no state can dictate to another what it should do’. He added ? ‘Those that yesterday were friends of our enemies have the gall today to tell me not to visit my brother Gaddafi, they are advising us to be ungrateful and forget our friends of the past.’

    Indeed, the West still considered the South African racists to be their brothers who needed to be protected. That’s why the members of the ANC, including Nelson Mandela, were considered to be dangerous terrorists. It was only on 2 July 2008, that the US Congress finally voted a law to remove the name of Nelson Mandela and his ANC comrades from their black list, not because they realised how stupid that list was but because they wanted to mark Mandela’s 90th birthday. If the West was truly sorry for its past support for Mandela’s enemies and really sincere when they name streets and places after him, how can they continue to wage war against someone who helped Mandela and his people to be victorious, Gaddafi?


    And what if Gaddafi’s Libya were more democratic than the USA, France, Britain and other countries waging war to export democracy to Libya? On 19 March 2003, President George Bush began bombing Iraq under the pretext of bringing democracy. On 19 March 2011, exactly eight years later to the day, it was the French president’s turn to rain down bombs over Libya, once again claiming it was to bring democracy. Nobel peace prize-winner and US President Obama says unleashing cruise missiles from submarines is to oust the dictator and introduce democracy.

    The question that anyone with even minimum intelligence cannot help asking is the following: Are countries like France, England, the USA, Italy, Norway, Denmark, Poland who defend their right to bomb Libya on the strength of their self proclaimed democratic status really democratic? If yes, are they more democratic than Gaddafi’s Libya? The answer in fact is a resounding NO, for the plain and simple reason that democracy doesn’t exist. This isn’t a personal opinion, but a quote from someone whose native town Geneva, hosts the bulk of UN institutions. The quote is from Jean Jacques Rousseau, born in Geneva in 1712 and who writes in chapter four of the third book of the famous ‘Social Contract’ that ‘there never was a true democracy and there never will be.’

    Rousseau sets out the following four conditions for a country to be labelled a democracy and according to these Gaddafi’s Libya is far more democratic than the USA, France and the others claiming to export democracy:

    1. The State: The bigger a country, the less democratic it can be. According to Rousseau, the state has to be extremely small so that people can come together and know each other. Before asking people to vote, one must ensure that everybody knows everyone else, otherwise voting will be an act without any democratic basis, a simulacrum of democracy to elect a dictator.

    The Libyan state is based on a system of tribal allegiances, which by definition group people together in small entities. The democratic spirit is much more present in a tribe, a village than in a big country, simply because people know each other, share a common life rhythm which involves a kind of self-regulation or even self-censorship in that the reactions and counter reactions of other members impacts on the group.

    From this perspective, it would appear that Libya fits Rousseau’s conditions better than the USA, France and Great Britain, all highly urbanised societies where most neighbours don’t even say hello to each other and therefore don’t know each other even if they have lived side by side for twenty years. These countries leapfrogged leaped into the next stage ? ‘the vote’ ? which has been cleverly sanctified to obfuscate the fact that voting on the future of the country is useless if the voter doesn’t know the other citizens. This has been pushed to ridiculous limits with voting rights being given to people living abroad. Communicating with and amongst each other is a precondition for any democratic debate before an election.

    2. Simplicity in customs and behavioural patterns are also essential if one is to avoid spending the bulk of the time debating legal and judicial procedures in order to deal with the multitude of conflicts of interest inevitable in a large and complex society. Western countries define themselves as civilised nations with a more complex social structure whereas Libya is described as a primitive country with a simple set of customs. This aspect too indicates that Libya responds better to Rousseau’s democratic criteria than all those trying to give lessons in democracy. Conflicts in complex societies are most often won by those with more power, which is why the rich manage to avoid prison because they can afford to hire top lawyers and instead arrange for state repression to be directed against someone one who stole a banana in a supermarket rather than a financial criminal who ruined a bank. In the city of New York for example where 75 per cent of the population is white, 80 per cent of management posts are occupied by whites who make up only 20 per cent of incarcerated people.

    3. Equality in status and wealth: A look at the Forbes 2010 list shows who the richest people in each of the countries currently bombing Libya are and the difference between them and those who earn the lowest salaries in those nations; a similar exercise on Libya will reveal that in terms of wealth distribution, Libya has much more to teach than those fighting it now, and not the contrary. So here too, using Rousseau’s criteria, Libya is more democratic than the nations pompously pretending to bring democracy. In the USA, 5 per cent of the population owns 60 per cent of the national wealth, making it the most unequal and unbalanced society in the world.

    4. No luxuries: according to Rousseau there can’t be any luxury if there is to be democracy. Luxury, he says, makes wealth a necessity which then becomes a virtue in itself, it, and not the welfare of the people becomes the goal to be reached at all cost, ‘Luxury corrupts both the rich and the poor, the one through possession and the other through envy; it makes the nation soft and prey to vanity; it distances people from the State and enslaves them, making them a slave to opinion.’

    Is there more luxury in France than in Libya? The reports on employees committing suicide because of stressful working conditions even in public or semi-public companies, all in the name of maximising profit for a minority and keeping them in luxury, happen in the West, not in Libya.

    The American sociologist C. Wright Mills wrote in 1956 that American democracy was a ‘dictatorship of the elite’. According to Mills, the USA is not a democracy because it is money that talks during elections and not the people. The results of each election are the expression of the voice of money and not the voice of the people. After Bush senior and Bush junior, they are already talking about a younger Bush for the 2012 Republican primaries. Moreover, as Max Weber pointed out, since political power is dependent on the bureaucracy, the US has 43 million bureaucrats and military personnel who effectively rule the country but without being elected and are not accountable to the people for their actions. One person (a rich one) is elected, but the real power lies with the caste of the wealthy who then get nominated to be ambassadors, generals, etc.

    How many people in these self-proclaimed democracies know that Peru’s constitution prohibits an outgoing president from seeking a second consecutive mandate? How many know that in Guatemala, not only can an outgoing president not seek re-election to the same post, no one from that person’s family can aspire to the top job either? Or that Rwanda is the only country in the world that has 56 per cent female parliamentarians? How many people know that in the 2007 CIA index, four of the world’s best-governed countries are African? That the top prize goes to Equatorial Guinea whose public debt represents only 1.14 per cent of GDP?

    Rousseau maintains that civil wars, revolts and rebellions are the ingredients of the beginning of democracy. Because democracy is not an end, but a permanent process of the reaffirmation of the natural rights of human beings which in countries all over the world (without exception) are trampled upon by a handful of men and women who have hijacked the power of the people to perpetuate their supremacy. There are here and there groups of people who have usurped the term ‘democracy’ ? instead of it being an ideal towards which one strives it has become a label to be appropriated or a slogan which is used by people who can shout louder than others. If a country is calm, like France or the USA, that is to say without any rebellions, it only means, from Rousseau’s perspective, that the dictatorial system is sufficiently repressive to pre-empt any revolt.

    It wouldn’t be a bad thing if the Libyans revolted. What is bad is to affirm that people stoically accept a system that represses them all over the world without reacting. And Rousseau concludes: ‘Malo periculosam libertatem quam quietum servitium ? translation ? If gods were people, they would govern themselves democratically. Such a perfect government is not applicable to human beings.’ To claim that one is killing Libyans for their own good is a hoax.


    After 500 years of a profoundly unequal relationship with the West, it is clear that we don’t have the same criteria of what is good and bad. We have deeply divergent interests. How can one not deplore the ‘yes’ votes from three sub-Saharan countries (Nigeria, South Africa and Gabon) for resolution 1973 that inaugurated the latest form of colonisation baptised ‘the protection of peoples’, which legitimises the racist theories that have informed Europeans since the 18th century and according to which North Africa has nothing to do with sub-Saharan Africa, that North Africa is more evolved, cultivated and civilised than the rest of Africa?

    It is as if Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Algeria were not part of Africa, Even the United Nations seems to ignore the role of the African Union in the affairs of member states. The aim is to isolate sub Saharan African countries to better isolate and control them. Indeed, Algeria (US$16 billion) and Libya (US$10 billion ) together contribute 62 per cent of the US$42 billion which constitute the capital of the African Monetary Fund (AMF). The biggest and most populous country in sub Saharan Africa, Nigeria, followed by South Africa are far behind with only 3 billion dollars each.

    It is disconcerting to say the least that for the first time in the history of the United Nations, war has been declared against a people without having explored the slightest possibility of a peaceful solution to the crisis. Does Africa really belong anymore to this organisation? Nigeria and South Africa are prepared to vote ‘Yes’ to everything the West asks because they naively believe the vague promises of a permanent seat at the Security Council with similar veto rights. They both forget that France has no power to offer anything. If it did, Mitterand would have long done the needful for Helmut Kohl’s Germany.

    A reform of the United Nations is not on the agenda. The only way to make a point is to use the Chinese method ? all 50 African nations should quit the United Nations and only return if their longstanding demand is finally met, a seat for the entire African federation or nothing. This non-violent method is the only weapon of justice available to the poor and weak that we are. We should simply quit the United Nations because this organisation, by its very structure and hierarchy, is at the service of the most powerful.

    We should leave the United Nations to register our rejection of a worldview based on the annihilation of those who are weaker. They are free to continue as before but at least we will not be party to it and say we agree when we were never asked for our opinion. And even when we expressed our point of view, like we did on Saturday 19 March in Nouakchott, when we opposed the military action, our opinion was simply ignored and the bombs started falling on the African people.

    Today’s events are reminiscent of what happened with China in the past. Today, one recognises the Ouattara government, the rebel government in Libya, like one did at the end of the Second World War with China. The so-called international community chose Taiwan to be the sole representative of the Chinese people instead of Mao’s China. It took 26 years when on 25 October 1971, for the UN to pass resolution 2758 which all Africans should read to put an end to human folly. China was admitted and on its terms ? it refused to be a member if it didn’t have a veto right. When the demand was met and the resolution tabled, it still took a year for the Chinese foreign minister to respond in writing to the UN Secretary General on 29 September 1972, a letter which didn’t say yes or thank you but spelt out guarantees required for China’s dignity to be respected.

    What does Africa hope to achieve from the United Nations without playing hard ball? We saw how in Cote d’Ivoire a UN bureaucrat considers himself to be above the constitution of the country. We entered this organisation by agreeing to be slaves and to believe that we will be invited to dine at the same table and eat from plates we ourselves washed is not just credulous, it is stupid.

    When the African Union endorsed Ouattara’s victory and glossed over contrary reports from its own electoral observers simply to please our former masters, how can we expect to be respected? When South African president Zuma declares that Ouattara hasn’t won the elections and then says the exact opposite during a trip to Paris, one is entitled to question the credibility of these leaders who claim to represent and speak on behalf of a billion Africans.

    Africa’s strength and real freedom will only come if it can take properly thought out actions and assume the consequences. Dignity and respect come with a price tag. Are we prepared to pay it? Otherwise, our place is in the kitchen and in the toilets in order to make others comfortable.

    Jean-Paul Pougala is a Cameroonian writer. Translated from the French by Sputnik Kilambi.

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    1. For future reference, a link will suffice.

      I’ve read that before. Some of it is admittedly good food for thought, but much of it is also nonsense.
      For example, the communications satellite is already in space and being used. That cat is out of the bag.

    2. Does this win an award for the longer response ever on a H&R thread?

  30. I’d really recommend reading that article in its entirety. (Click “lob” in the 2nd paragraph.)

    By the way, Libya has 2% of the world’s oil reserve. Fine, that doesn’t make them Top 15 (for the US) but I would rather have 2% of the world’s oil than win ten lotteries. People say “two percent” as though that’s a meaningless amount of oil. That’s more wealth than most of us can imagine.

    1. This is an excellent point.
      Also, the article’s author didn’t calculate the ROI on the Libyan war correctly.
      The USG doesn’t have to turn a profit. Only Obama does. Politicians are political rent seekers.
      If Obama can open up new oil fields to oil companies then he, as an individual, will likely benefit enormously both during and after his career due to thanks from Western oil companies.

  31. Now this is the real truth why we Americans are in libya. If u are a black American, it is the most stupid thing to think urself as non African. Cus there lies the chains that will continue to keep us down. Aside this truth, we have month .ore reason in libya! Lest we will also be in yemen, bahgrain, Syria, china, and so on.

    1. Blacks are on average more stupid than whites. No one is keeping you down but your own genes.

      Libertarianism is a failure because it fails to account for differences in IQ between human populations. You need high average IQ to get a society that values freedom above all and is libertarian, which is something you can get only through non-libertarian means like eugenics.

      1. I hope you are just trolling and really don’t believe that garbage you’re spewing. Either way, you’re a dolt. If we did decide to practice selective breeding to improve human intelligence the first step would be to submit you for sterilization.

        1. Oh, but I do believe that blacks are on average of lower intelligence and more predisposed to crime than whites. It is also the rare scientific position that happens to be in full agreement with common sense observations, like the the fact that Africa is one giant slum and that the best places to leave in the US have the least amount of blacks (and hence, least amount of crime).

          Of course, I didn’t say anything about individual blacks. And I have to add that there are softer measures that we can try before compulsory sterilization, which should only be based on IQ, not on skin color. Stupid whites, yellows, and blacks should be equally sterilized, but we must admit that under such conditions more blacks will be sterilized than whites, more whites than asians, more asians than jews.

          Also, eugenics is the only way to improve governance under democracy. However, under a dictatorship of the elite, the low-IQ people don’t have any political power at all. South Africa is one example of a country that defied all expectations based on average population IQ under the Apartheid years, and it achieved a standard of living way above expectations based on population IQ.

  32. There was/is a huge subset of Iraq war proponents that considered it primarily a humanitarian mission.

  33. The important, unasked philosophical question: when is going to war moral? While going to war for ‘oil’ or some other national self-interest is considered immoral by many, I submit that a nation waging war for humanitarian reasons is likewise never moral. Waging war requires coercion. There will always be individuals against having their tax dollars spent on humanitarian missions abroad; as an action requiring taxation, it is immoral.

  34. Almost everything in the mid-east is about oil. Other than oil, the mid-east is noted for producing dates, figs, carpets, coffee, multiple religions, and, most recently, suicide bombers.
    Neither the USA (nor the French, British, etc.) need to ‘control’ the oil to use it. We can just buy it. No, the real issue is who is it that controls the revenue generated by the oil. Is it someone who will spend it on weapons or someone who will spend it upon the needs of the populace of the country producing the oil?
    Thus, if governments, who have had to contend with wars (or bombings) financed by these oil revenues, think that Saddam (or Gadaffi) pose a threat because of their past actions, and find an opportunity to remove these troublesome leaders, then those governments probably will take that opportunity.
    Thus Greenwald, in my opinion, is not thinking deeply enough about the issue. It isn’t the oil that is at issue, rather it is the nature of who controls the revenue the oil generates.

  35. It’s about regime change, because bombing isn’t humanitarian, STUPID!

  36. Do you have to be an uncreative, boring writer to contribute to reason magazine? Now it’s just dry and politically stupid rather than just being nonsensical drivel on its own.

  37. Interesting discussion. You should post your viewpoints about this on!

  38. Good intentions??? You must be joking, Ms Dalmia. If we want to help people, why not implement national public health insurance? Why do our efforts to help people always have to involve killing people? There is simply no reason to believe that the government’s intentions in Libya are benevolent, any more than there is to believe in the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy. Why would a government that sentences tens of thousands of its people to death every year by refusing to provide healthcare care about human life in Libya? It just makes no sense. Having said that, I agree with Shikha Dalmia that oil is probably not the reason for this war. Probably the main reason for this war is simply the need to feed the military-industrial-congressional complex.

  39. I think the real reason we are in Libya are due to Soros’ directives to his prot?g? Obama to support the rebels which are dominated by radical Muslim terrorists and the Muslim Brotherhood to complete the dominance of this region by them. We got rid of Mubarak for similar reasons and look who now controls Egypt. We are fighting on the side of our enemies.

  40. Want to help people? OK, here’s a simple idea, guaranteed to work: stop killing them in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. That would be a more effective way to give practical expression to your humanitarian impulses than killing people in Libya. A lot cheaper too. You might even find that you have some money left over to provide health care for your people.

  41. And you could also stop killing people in Palestine, Bahrain and Colombia too. Another dirt-cheap way to help people, without killing them. Sometimes the best way to help people is simply to stop killing them. And it’s just as easy to stop maiming, paralyzing and disfiguring, abducting and torturing people too. And it’s free.

  42. “Greenwald rests his case on a rather tendentious reading of a single Washington Post story revealing”

    The article of this story criticizes Greenwald for relying on a single piece of evidence, and then goes on to cite no evidence of her own. The best the author provides is her estimate on how highly the USG values Libyan oil output.
    And as if this wasn’t sloppy enough the author cites figures of current Libyan output, not the much higher output that Western oil companies would achieve should they gain access to Libya.
    Come on Reason, you normally do much better than this.

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