August’s award for blatant brown-nosing of the Moroccan “Autonomy Plan” for occupied Western Sahara goes to Edward M. Gabriel, who served as U.S. ambassador to the little kingdom from 1997–2001. In an article in The National Interest, Gabriel helpfully informs us that “Morocco is dedicated first and foremost to solving the humanitarian crisis that this conflict has engendered.” Some of the people featured in this short documentary film by Carlos Gonzalez might not recognise this description of Morocco as a benign entity acting in their best interests. It was probably the beatings by Moroccan security forces that clouded their view of Morocco’s role in the conflict.
Gabriel, and the editorial summary of his article on The National Interest homepage, refers to the Polisario as insurgents. Insurgency generally implies armed rebellion against lawful authority. However, there is currently no fighting in Western Sahara. Furthermore, Morocco’s sovereignty over this disputed, non-self governing territory is almost universally regarded as at least contested and at most non-existent. Finally, Western Sahara is physically partitioned (by a wall constructed by Morocco) into a zone controlled by Morocco and a zone controlled by the Polisario. At the present time, Moroccan forces are not subject to any action by Polisario forces, the Polisario being absent from the Moroccan-occupied zone. The term “insurgency” therefore seems wildly inaccurate and misleading, which is precisely why Gabriel has used it – he wants to persuade us that the Polisario are the bad guys, challenging a progressive, benign Moroccan state, not the representatives of an indigenous people variously displaced and repressed by an aggressive expansionist military power.
According to Gabriel, “Autonomy as “free association” with Morocco is consistent with the country’s evolving democratization.” So there we have it. By endorsing Morocco’s occupation of Western Sahara, and by supporting its colonial policies towards a people who do not want to be ruled by it in a territory it invaded by force, we are promoting democracy. No wonder the US has such difficulty spreading peace, democracy and stability throughout the world, if this is what democratisation means to Washington. To me this looks more like another example of a callous, cynical, short-sighted, self-serving, and ultimately destabilising foreign policy dressed up as a modern civilising mission designed to spread western values. The reality is ugly, and the disguise just looks stupid when we look at how previous such missions have fared over the past couple of centuries.
Now that Washington has restored diplomatic relations with Libya, perhaps we can look forward to similar articles by ex-ambassadors to the Great Jamahiriya extolling the virtues of Colonel Ghadafi’s Green Book, perhaps as an alternative to the United States Constitution?