Mother Courage and Her Children, in Libya

By A. G. Moore

English Bombardment Group, 1942, on Their Way to Targets in Libya

When I listen to news reports about Libya, I think of Anna Fierling, Bertolt Brecht’s anti hero in the play, Mother Courage and Her Children .  Brecht’s Fierling is a survivor and she is also a business woman.  As a realist, she does not sort out the conduct of business from the challenge of surviving; each role is  part of the fabric of her life.  Fierling steadfastly trudges through the wasteland of the Thirty Year’s War and  hawks her wares to whomever is willing to pay.  War is a provider, she sings. Of course, Fierling is right – and she is wrong. The war will provide, but not for her or hers. Profit from the battlefield will go to those in control of war’s ebb and flow, to those who are far removed from the undiscriminating appetite of engagement.  Anna, mother and vender, will lose everything – not only her goods but also each of her three children.

And so goes the narrative in Libya today.  We know, from communiqués, about the rebels and  Qaddafi; about NATO and the less-than-enthusiastic Arab allies.  We learn from these communiqués about “collateral damage”.  But little is told of the most significant partner in this war, the only one sure to come out a winner: the arms industry.

Dwight Eisenhower cautioned, in his Farewell Address, that there was a danger from “unwarranted influence…by the military industrial complex”.   But I think even Eisenhower would be surprised by the cynical game of musical chairs that arms merchants and cooperating governments have played for the last thirty years.  The 1970’s saw some effort in the U.S at arms reduction. But the 80’s gave us Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, who joined together to pursue a “muscular” military policy. Highlights of the Thatcher/Reagan decade include: the Invasion of Granada the Falklands War; and – echo of 2011 – the bombing of Libya.

One aspect to the cycle of peace and bombing in, specifically, Libya, is this:   after segments of the military were destroyed in Reagan’s ’86 bombing, arms merchants from the U.S., Britain and France – among others – eventually re-supplied Gaddafi with war materials. In a March 2011 Daily Mail article it states that the U.S. sold $46 Million in arms to Libya in 2008 and $15 million to the country in 2009. And, reports in another article, Britain alone sold $98.6 in military supplies to the Libyan government in 2009.

It’s a good bet that NATO and its allies are at this moment obliterating the very equipment that was sold to Libya in the years leading up to the current bombing campaign.

As the stalwart Anna Fierling would say, war is a good provider. Indeed it is – for some. All of the demolished hardware will certainly be replaced once again.


Mother Courage and Her Children:


History of Modern Libya:

Muammar Gaddafi:

President Dwight Eisenhower:

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