OPINION

Who ate the lotus fruit?

Unlike Shock and Awe, the term that the George W. Bush administration used for its massive high-tech raid against Iraq in 2003, the name chosen for the Western attacks on Libya was not meant to strike fear into the hearts of the people. Instead, the campaign was ironically dubbed Operation Odyssey Dawn.

Perhaps the architects of the operation recalled that, according to Homeric analysts, the land of the lotus-eaters, where the legendary hero spent some time during his long journey home following the fall of Troy, lies in Cyrenaica, in the eastern part of Libya.

But who are the lotus-eaters of today? Perhaps the name of the operation has a self-critical touch, assuming that the name-givers like to remember anything that promotes their interests and, at the same time, are keen to erase from their sensitive memory what no longer serves their strategy (like, for example, the dealings that some Western governments appeared to have with the regime of Colonel Muammar Gadhafi whom they now denounce as a dangerous despot).

Or take Bahrain, in which case all sides are urging for restraint, while in the case of Libya, the Western powers have agreed to carry out air raids in spite of the risk of collateral damage (although the international community does not seem too worried about this anymore). The difference does not depend on the size of the country or the number of dead but on the magnitude of the interests at stake.

It?s more likely though that the lotus-eaters of today are those who are turning a blind eye to the dark record of the allies as well as certain aspects of their current activity — an activity whose objectives remain deliberately opaque.

For example, who exactly is intervening in this conflict? Is it the United Nations? The resolution was not approved by all members — nor are all those who voted in favor participating in the operation. Is it NATO? But the operation is taking place without its consent. Is it an alliance between Western states and the Arab world? But the Arab League has kept a distance from the operation (and it?s hard to claim that Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are the most authentic representation of the Arab world).

If this really is Sarkozy?s war, as even Washington has suggested, the real motives behind this operation must lie somewhere else than the French president?s purported interest in the Libyan people.