Libya: The legacy of NATO’s war

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In March 2011, the British Parliament voted to intervene in Libya, opposed by only 15 MPs. Labour ‘left veteran’ Diane Abbott is among those who voted for bombing, as is the current Shadow Defence Secretary Nia Griffith. The legacy of the 2011 NATO war on Libya was thrust back onto the news agenda in May 2017. On 22 May 2017 a British-Libyan, inspired by the Islamic State (IS), carried out an horrific suicide bomb attack at a Manchester pop concert killing 23 people and injuring more than 100. Two days later, 30 people, mainly young children, drowned off the Libyan coast after falling from a small wooden boat carrying 700 people. Together these events illustrate the disastrous legacy of NATO’s war to overthrow the government of Muammar Gaddafi.

 

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Libya - imperialist puppet government invites imperialist intervention

Five years on from the brutal 2011 NATO assault on Libya, the country is in chaos. There has been no functioning state since the fall of Gaddafi’s government. The Islamic State group (IS) has taken advantage of the chaos. The borders have collapsed, and the country is now a centre of human trafficking, significantly contributing to the flow of migrants to Europe. The exploitation of Libya’s plentiful natural resources – including Africa’s largest oil reserves – has been complicated by the chaos. IS controls 12 major oil fields. There are two governments in Libya which have been fighting for power for more than a year – the House of Representatives (HoR), supported by the Libyan National Army, based in the east and led by Khalifa Haftar; and the General National Congress (GNC) based in the capital Tripoli, and backed by an alliance of militias called Libya Dawn. Many other regional militias, not aligned to either government, also hold swathes of territory. For the European and US imperialists, their war in Libya has not gone to plan.

 

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Libya war looms

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 239 June/July 2014

Since NATO-led forces overthrew the government of Colonel Gaddafi in 2011 Libya has been torn to pieces by rival militias presiding over separate fiefdoms. Now a coalition of militia and other forces headed by former general Khalifa Haftar intends to crush their rivals: full scale civil war threatens. On 16 May Haftar’s forces attacked jihadist militias in Benghazi using war planes and helicopters; over 70 people were killed and 141 injured. Two days later forces loyal to Haftar attacked the parliament building in Tripoli. Haftar said he was fighting terrorism. Parliament’s leader, Nouri Abu Shamein, called on jihadist militias to repel the attack.

 

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Libya: oil output collapses

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 235 October/November 2013

The activities of militias and striking workers have reduced Libya’s oil output from 1.4m barrels a day at the start of 2013 to 200,000 barrels in August. As a consequence, Libya’s government and foreign oil companies such as Total, Eni, Marathon Oil, ConocoPhilips and Repsol are losing $100m a day in revenues. Most of Libya’s main oil export terminals were closed in early August by guards paid to protect them. Oil pipelines have been sabotaged. Now the oil multinationals are saying that they plan to sell up and leave Libya.

 

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Libya: Creating a monster

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 233 June/July 2013

On 2 April 2013 HMS Kent docked in Tripoli harbour, the first visit to Libya by a Royal Navy warship in 40 years. It hosted a UK Trade and Investment event which saw 11 UK businesses – including BAE, Thales and Babcock International – vie to secure lucrative security contracts. Over 100 Libyan military personnel were in attendance, including the heads of all five armed services and the police. Naval Commander Ben Ripley praised the ‘thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding visit’ and its ‘potential wider benefits for the UK’. On 10 May the British embassy evacuated all non-essential staff from its Tripoli premises, issuing a joint plea for calm with the French and US governments amid political instability sweeping the country – the newly-established US marine unit at Moron Air Base in southern Spain and an AFRICOM special-ops force based in Stuttgart, were both placed on heightened alert. Imperialism has opened Pandora’s box in Libya; it must deal with the consequences.

 

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Libya: descent into chaos

FRFI 230 December 2012/January 2013

Libya no fly zone 007

A year on from the murder of Colonel Gaddafi Libya has descended into chaos and reaction, which this paper predicted when imperialism launched its attack in March 2011. Housing projects begun under the Gaddafi-led government remain incomplete as ‘foreign contractors refuse to return to a land essentially ruled by shadowy gunmen... The country is earning $1bn every ten days from oil revenues but lacks the administrative capacity to spend it’ (Financial Times 11 October 2012). Apart from security firms, foreign businesses have not arrived, the Chinese have not returned and there is no investment. There is no centrally controlled refuse collection in Tripoli, pensions are unpaid and schools go without books. Libya’s borders are battle zones between rival smuggling gangs. Trees planted as brakes on the spreading Sahara desert are chopped down for their timber.

 

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Libya: turned backwards /FRFI 226 April/May 2012

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism 226 April/May 2012

Those who celebrated the removal of the previous Libyan government should read two recent reports. Amnesty International visited 11 detention centres in Libya. In its report Militias threaten hopes for new Libya Amnesty says, ‘Militias in Libya are largely out of control and the blanket impunity they enjoy only encourages further abuses and perpetuates instability and insecurity.’ The most gruesome tortures are recalled, committed in front of Amnesty staff. ‘Not a single effective investigation is known to have been carried out into cases of torture, even in cases where detainees have died after having been tortured at militia headquarters or in interrogation centres formally or informally recognised or linked to the central authorities.’ Some 8,000 people are still missing after the NATO-led war on Libya and over 8,000 former government supporters are in prisons run by militias, many have been murdered.

On 2 March the UN International Commission of Inquiry on Libya published its second report. There is no mention of the former Libyan government planning to massacre civilians, no evidence of ‘what may amount to crimes against humanity’, used by NATO to justify its attack. There is evidence of the removal of 30,000 inhabitants, mostly black people, from Tawergha by Misrata militias, of torture and murder by these militias carried out under NATO’s shield.

On 6 March 2012 militia and tribal leaders in Benghazi announced their intention to form a semi-autonomous region of Cyrenaica in eastern Libya. Cyrenaica contains three-quarters of Libya’s oil reserves. Many of those who made the announcement are connected to the oil industry and are headed by the great-nephew of former King Idris. The head of the National Transitional Council (NTC), Mustafa Abdul Jalil, threatened using force if the east tried to secede and accused ‘sister Arab nations’ of funding sedition.

The NTC announced that land and properties expropriated by the former government will be handed back to their previous owners. NATO has turned the clock back in Libya to colonial times.

Trevor Rayne

 

Libya torn / FRFI 225 Feb/Mar 2012

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 225 February/March 2012

As we foresaw, Libya is being rent apart by internal divisions and outside powers competing for spoils from the NATO-led overthrow of the Gaddafi government. On 21 January 2012 thousands of demonstrators stormed the offices of the National Transitional Council (NTC) in Benghazi, accusing it of corruption, delaying reforms and favouring former Gaddafi loyalists. The following day NTC deputy leader Abdel Hafiz Ghoza resigned. The demonstrators accused Ghoza of being a latecomer to defect from Gaddafi. NTC leader Mustafa Jalil said that Libya risks entering ‘a bottomless pit’, adding that ‘hidden hands’ were behind the demonstrations. Some demonstrators demanded that sharia law be instated. Their protest was matched by an Islamist demonstration in Tripoli.

A new legislature is due to be elected before 2 June 2012. The draft election law restricts women to only 10% of 200 electoral seats and does not indicate how many seats will go to tribal areas. Members of Gaddafi’s government are banned from standing for office. Foreign money, notably from Qatar, whose troops fought with NTC forces, will play a significant role in the election. The Muslim Brotherhood is favoured to win.

Militias are encouraged by the NTC to surrender their weapons and join government forces and job programmes, but refuse to do so. They fight each other to secure strategic locations.

Former government supporters have formed the Libyan Liberation Front. On 23 January forces loyal to Gaddafi fought NTC troops and took control of Bani Walid, 100 miles south east of Tripoli. In Tripoli there are reports of mobilisation among Gaddafi supporters and armed clashes with the NTC forces. Food prices have risen by 18% since the end of the summer.

Médecins Sans Frontières suspended operations in detention centres in Misrata, saying it had treated 115 people with torture-related wounds, only for them to be returned to interrogation centres for further torture.

Resistance to the NTC and imperialism is mobilising and only it can prevent descent into the ‘bottomless pit’.

Trevor Rayne

 

Libya: the vultures circle/ FRFI 224 Decr 2011/Jan 2012

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 224 December 2011/January 2012

NATO said it was going to stop a massacre and then committed one. It has left Libya torn apart between over 50 armed militias; gangs launch frenzied hunts for former government supporters. Black African men, women and children have been rounded up, imprisoned, lynched and disappeared. Meanwhile, the Financial Times devotes an entire page – ‘In a ruinous state: reconstructing Libya’ – to the business opportunities that the devastation offers (18 November 2011).

NATO flew approximately 28,000 sorties, averaging almost 133 a day for nearly eight months, and killed between 50,000 and 70,000 people. Sirte, a town of 100,000 people, is almost deserted and looks like Hamburg after the Allies’ firestorm bombing in July 1943. The murder of Colonel Gaddafi on 20 October was an act of depravity. In Socialist Worker (29 October 2011) the reactionary Alex Callinicos wrote, ‘the West’s role in the dictator’s downfall shouldn’t stop us celebrating.’ Callinicos compares Gaddafi to Mussolini, who like the Italian fascist, was, he says, killed by ‘popular militias’.

At least 13,000 people have been gaoled without trial or evidence by Libya’s supposed liberators. A UN report on Libya since the government’s fall, seen by The Independent, states, ‘Sub-Saharan Africans, in some cases suspected of being mercenaries, constitute a large number of the detainees. Some detainees have reportedly been subjected to torture and ill-treatment. Cases have been reported of individuals being targeted because of the colour of their skin.’ (24 November 2011). This is the work of those whom Callinicos calls ‘popular militias’.

The UN report describes towns and streets under the control of armed militias, settling internecine scores with gun battles and the National Transitional Council (NTC) powerless to intervene. The Zintani militia captured Saif Al Islam Gaddafi and, rather than turn him over to the interim government in Tripoli, they are bartering him in exchange for position and power.

On 31 October the NTC installed Abdurrahim Al Kreib as the new prime minister. He worked as a professor in the United Arab Emirates at the Petroleum Institute, funded by BP, Royal Dutch Shell and Total. The first British company to benefit from the NTC is Heritage Oil, headed by Tony Buckingham. In October Heritage bought a $19 million stake in Libya’s Sahara Oil, a Benghazi-based oil trading company. Buckingham worked as a mercenary in Angola and Sierra Leone, ploughing oil and diamond money into Heritage Oil, and last year donated £100,000 to the British Conservative Party. The NTC’s acting finance and oil chief, Ali Tarhouni, promised a ‘smaller government and a larger and freer private sector’, adding ‘the challenge here is that this is a welfare state’. The Financial Times lists health, education and public transport as among the targets for privatisation and for British companies to aim at.

It is a disgrace that Callinicos should serve as an apologist for NATO and join in the demonisation of Gaddafi that NATO used to justify the attack. Gaddafi was the leader of an oppressed nation, formerly colonised by Italy and then Britain and France. The Libyan state repressed internal opposition and collaborated with the US rendition programme against Islamists. However, it achieved the highest life expectancy and lowest infant mortality rate in Africa. It was for the Libyan people and them alone to deal with their government, not NATO and the British ruling class. The Libyan people have nothing to celebrate as they are preyed on by corporate vultures. They will regroup and resist.

Trevor Rayne

 

Alex Callinicos asks us to celebrate NATO’s war on Libya

Black Libyan African woman protests at treatment by the NTC in Tripoli’s Martyr’s Square
Photo: Black Libyan African woman protests at treatment by the NTC in Tripoli’s Martyr’s Square

The 29 October edition of Socialist Worker carries an article by the Socialist Workers’ Party (SWP) leading member Alex Callinicos entitled ‘West’s role in the dictator’s downfall shouldn’t stop us celebrating.’ Callinicos compares Colonel Gaddafi to the Italian fascist Benito Mussolini and says that Gaddafi, like Mussolini, was killed by ‘popular militias’, adding ‘we should have no qualms in joining the Libyan people’s celebrations of their tyrant’s demise’. Callinicos celebrates along with NATO secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen who described the war on Libya as ‘a successful chapter in NATO’s history’ creating ‘a new Libya based on freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law’, and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who said, ‘We came, we saw, he died’, then laughed.

 

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NATO war on Libya - Eyes on the prize / FRFI 223 Oct / Nov 2011

FRFI 223 October/November 2011

NATO bombing cleared the path to Tripoli. NATO planned to escalate the bombing to an ‘unbearable’ level. Approximately 30,000 bombs and missiles were dropped on Libya in six months; nearly 200 bombs per day. Estimates of the numbers of Libyan people killed are between 50,000 and 60,000. All this was done in the name of United Nations Resolution 1973 ‘protecting civilians’. When forces allied to the National Transitional Council (NTC) entered Tripoli on 21 August, they were accompanied and directed by British, French and other foreign military personnel. This was no victory for the Libyan people. Thus far it is a victory for NATO and imperialism. Trevor Rayne reports.

The World Bank recognised the NTC as the legitimate representative of Libya on 13 September. The UN gave the NTC Libya’s UN seat on 16 September. China and Russia recognised the NTC in early September and on 20 September the African Union issued a statement of recognition, accompanied by an appeal that African migrant workers be protected. With all these official blessings it might go unnoticed that the NTC has been unable to announce a cabinet. The previous NTC cabinet was dissolved on 8 August following the assassination of the NTC’s military chief, General Younes, presumably by an Islamic group that he used to suppress before he defected from being head of the Libyan government’s security forces.

The NTC is divided between former government officials, exiles returned from abroad, Islamic groups and factions based on clans and cities, and they are all competing for positions and the spoils. The new military commanders of forces in Tripoli and Benghazi, Abdel Hakim Belhaj and Ismail Sallabi, have been accused by NATO of being anti-western Islamists. Sallabi said that the heads of the NTC wanted to impose a ‘new tyranny’. They control fighters on the ground and will use control of territory to bargain for their own positions in any new government.

More than four weeks after Colonel Gaddafi and the Libyan government left Tripoli, resistance continues against NATO and its NTC allies in Bani Walid and Sirte which the NTC forces have been unable to take. NATO jets continue to bomb these towns and inflict heavy casualties; Sirte is a town of 75,000 people and there are reports of 2,000 residents having been killed.

On 15 September French President Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Cameron visited Tripoli and Benghazi, a day ahead of Turkish President Erdogan. The day before Sarkozy and Cameron’s visit, NATO carried out 123 sorties over Libya. Cameron told the Libyan people that ‘this is your revolution’ and that: ‘This goes beyond Libya, this is a moment when the Arab Spring could become a summer and we see democracy advance in other countries too.’ Sarkozy said he had Syria in mind for this sort of democracy. Cameron had nothing to say about the thousands of black African migrants imprisoned by the NATO allies, the shooting and lynching of black Africans in Benghazi and Tripoli, the bodies of 32 mainly black men found in Tripoli, several handcuffed and already wounded, after a mass execution, or about the towns like Twarga, home to 55,000 people, cleared out completely by NTC forces. Meanwhile, the NATO-led hunt for Colonel Gaddafi goes on.

The prize

‘[Oil] industry executives say Libya is not as big a prize as Iraq’ (Financial Times 20 September 2011). However, it is a big enough prize to draw the first representatives of multinational companies to Tripoli and Benghazi as the competition for contracts gets under way. Libya has Africa’s largest proven oil reserves: 46.4 billion barrels compared to Nigeria’s 37.2 billion barrels. Before the revolt and NATO assault, Libya produced 1.6 million barrels a day, just 2% of the world output, but 10-15% of the world’s high quality, low sulphur content oil. This oil is sought after because it is used for diesel and petrol which meet environmental emission rules. Libyan oil is critical to several oil companies’ operations: Italy’s Eni, Spain’s Repsol, France’s Total, OMV of Austria, Wintershall of Germany and from the US, ConocoPhillips, Occidental, Hess and Marathon. However, the head of the NTC, Mustafa Jalil, showed his gratitude to his European guests by saying that France and Britain ‘will have priority within a framework of transparency’. A UK Trade and Investment representative has already visited Tripoli and the Libyan British Business Council will visit in October, when contracts can be expected to be agreed.

Oil revenues account for 95% of Libya’s foreign earned income, worth $44 billion in 2010. All foreign investors in Libya’s oil industry have to negotiate contracts with the National Oil Corporation (NOC). NTC officials charged with managing the NOC have plans to divide the orga-nisation up into two or three companies. If the multinational oil corporations have a hand in privatising the NOC this will be the biggest prize of all.

The Libyan government had up to $120 billion held in US and European banks. This money was frozen by governments following UN sanctions. Its release will be used to dictate to any future Libyan government. The cost of maintaining the NTC from March until September was $300 million a month. This has been paid for out of NATO-controlled funds. The British government flew 200 million Libyan lira out to the NTC when it took Tripoli. This cash was used to buy support for the NTC. Germany holds seven billion euros of Libyan money. Although many German bourgeois regret that Germany did not participate in the NATO bombardment of Libya, they can use control over frozen assets to extract reconstruction contracts from the NTC.

It is worth recalling that Colonel Gaddafi met five times with members of the British Royal Family between 2007 and 2009, including three times with Prince Andrew. We now know from government documents found in Tripoli that he met with Tony Blair twice since Blair stood down from being Prime Minister in 2007. The documents reveal a sinister side to British-Libyan collaboration. Between 2004 and 2006 the CIA rendered at least six captives to Libya, with no legal procedures whatsoever. Documents show that at least one of them, Abu Munthir, with his family, was handed over to Libyan authorities by British intelligence officers. According to the The Independent: ‘So close had the relationship [between MI6 and Libyan intelligence] become that several Western European intelligence agencies were using the services of MI6 for help with their own terrorist suspects. The Swedish, Italian and Dutch services sought the help of the UK agency in liaising with Tripoli.’ One of those rendered was Abdel Hakim Belhaj. The British government has refused to apologise for his torture, pending future investigations.

When he arrived in Tripoli from Benghazi, Mustafa Jalil said that Islamic law would be the main source of future legislation. Thus 42 years of secular law will be ended. What price will the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and multinational corporate vultures extract from Libya for its reconstruction and to get its oil flowing again? Who will get the oil revenues? Libya had achieved the longest life expectancy in Africa and the lowest infant mortality rate. 90% of adults were literate. When Cameron and Sarkozy speak of democracy Libyan people should know that their free health care and education are under threat. NATO and imperialism out of Libya!

 

False victory in Libya

libya2

In Libya we are witnessing the premeditated murder of a nation by British, French and US imperialism. The people have not won in Libya; any victory will be that of NATO, the oil companies and imperialism.

We are shown the opponents of the Libyan government celebrating in the Green Square; we are not shown their white European advisers and the British and French mercenaries that guided them to Tripoli. We are shown the NATO-backed rebels ransacking the Bab al-Aziza compound; we are not shown the 144 NATO airstrikes that reduced the compound to rubble before the rebels arrived.

Anti-government forces entered Tripoli on 21 August. The following day the share prices of BP and Royal Dutch Shell rose and have continued to rise. ENI, the Italian multinational oil company with the largest stake in Libya, had its shares leap by 7%. ENI’s boss was to meet the head of the anti-government Transitional National Council (TNC) to discuss restoring oil production.

 

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Libya: resistance exposes divisions in NATO strategy / FRFI 222 Aug/Sep 2011

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 222 August/September 2011

What was intended as a show of NATO strength is turning into a demonstration of division and weakness. The attackers thought it would take a few weeks to overthrow the Libyan government but the war is now into its fifth month with no victory in sight. The imperialists are negotiating with the government but require a concession on Colonel Gaddafi’s role to save face. Trevor Rayne reports.

From 31 March to 18 July NATO flew 15,669 sorties over Libya, an average of 128 a day, and 5,902 strike sorties when bombs and missiles were launched, 48 per day. By 13 July the Libyan government said that NATO had killed 1,108 civilians in and around Tripoli and wounded 4,537 others. That is, on average, nine civilians killed and 39 wounded each day for 122 days.

A NATO commander claimed that satellite dishes on roofs were evidence of ‘Command and Control Centres’. NATO bombed a meeting of religious leaders seeking a peaceful solution to the conflict, bombed homes, a public bus, a hotel and the National Downs Syndrome Centre; it has twice attempted to assassinate Colonel Gaddafi and his family. Health authorities report an increase in strokes, miscarriages and stress-related illnesses in targeted areas.

British Defence Secretary Liam Fox admitted, ‘I’m afraid I think the chance of opposition forces entering Tripoli is unlikely in the near future.’ On 10 July French Defence Minister Gerard Longuet said of the Libyan government and the Benghazi-based opposition Transitional National Council (TNC), ‘They can talk to each other because we have shown there is no solution through force… We must now sit around a table. We will stop bombing as soon as the Libyans start talking to one another and the military on both sides go back to their bases.’ The British and US governments responded with calls for Colonel Gaddafi’s removal.

On 17 July Fox accused other NATO members of not doing enough to support the organisation’s missions, including in Libya. He had already asked his US counterpart, Leon Panetta, for more US help with intelligence, surveillance and aerial refuelling. Britain and France are dependent upon the US to help them sustain the war on Libya. Consequently, the US can dictate the terms of the war to them.

Divisions

As the conflict has gone on so divisions within NATO and between NATO and other states have become more apparent. On 17 March Germany sided with Russia, China, India and Brazil in not voting for UN Resolution 1973 which NATO used to legitimise its attack. South Africa voted with the US, Britain and France. Recently both Russia and South Africa have condemned NATO for exceeding the terms of the Resolution. Italy’s President Berlusconi said he was opposed to the war from the start and the Dutch Defence minister described it as ‘naive’ to believe bombing would get rid of Gaddafi.

Factions of the US ruling class are opposed to another war effort, with its accompanying costs and inextricable commitment. In the US Congress they accused President Obama of being in violation of the War Powers’ Act by committing US forces to war without Congressional approval. A 24 June vote to restrict funds for the war on Libya was defeated by 180 to 238, but a vote to authorise military action was defeated 123 to 295. This restrains what the US, Britain and France can do in Libya, particularly the prospect of an occupation force.

Visiting NATO headquarters in Brussels on 10 June, US Defence Secretary Gates said, ‘the mightiest military alliance in history is only 11 weeks into an operation against a poorly armed regime in a sparsely populated country – yet many allies are beginning to run short of munitions, requiring the US, once more, to make up the difference’. Gates criticised Germany, Poland, Italy, Spain and Turkey for being unwilling to commit resources to the war on Libya.

The heads of the British Royal Navy and Royal Air Force warned that the war was becoming unsustainable. Prime Minister Cameron reprimanded them, ‘you do the fighting and I’ll do the talking’ and said, ‘Time is on our side, not on Gaddafi’s side.’ But that time depends upon the will of the US state and it is the US ruling class that will demand rewards from the spoils of victory – should it arise.

Tripoli prepares

Over 30 countries, including the US, but excluding Russia and China, recognise the TNC as the ‘legitimate government authority’ in Libya. This could give the TNC access to some of the £38 billion of Libyan government money frozen in US accounts. British Foreign Secretary Hague said that £100 million had been transferred to the TNC. The TNC is an imperialist construction, including CIA agents and former Libyan government functionaries among its leaders; it has hired Patton Boggs as it public relations firm. Patton Boggs previously served former Egyptian President Mubarak. Media demonisation of Colonel Gaddafi preceded the attack on Libya. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch found no evidence supporting claims, disseminated by Al Jazeera, of Libyan government soldiers committing mass rape and of the supposed imminent massacre in Benghazi in March 2011. Human Rights Watch reports that ‘rebel fighters and supporters have damaged property, burned some homes, looted from hospitals, homes and shops, and beaten some individuals alleged to have supported government forces’.

On 27 June the International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants for Colonel Gaddafi, members of his family and the government security chief for ‘crimes against humanity’. By freeing up funds for the TNC and issuing arrest warrants the imperialists are encouraging defections from the Libyan government to the TNC. Britain’s International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell explained that he did not want to see members of the government’s ‘revolutionary councils’ in Libya banned from the political process after Gaddafi goes, ‘When Tripoli falls, someone should get on the phone to the former Tripoli head of police and tell him he’s got a job.’ (Financial Times 29 June 2011).

Mitchell foresees ‘UN peacekeeping troops [being] deployed quickly after hostilities ceased…’

The people of Tripoli are preparing to confront British government plans. They have mounted large pro-government rallies and are armed with a street defence plan. All people aged 18 to 65 are accepted as volunteers and given training in the weapons allocated to them. The defence groups, organised into units of five or six people, are equipped with rifles, grenades, rocket-propelled grenades and booby-traps. They will fight guerrilla war if attacked on the ground.

The war has cost British people £260 million so far. Workers in Britain must oppose this attack on Libya mounted by the same ruling class that now attacks our own livelihoods and conditions.

 

100 days of war on Libya

Tripoli

26 June will mark one hundred days of NATO’s war on Libya. It began with 112 cruise missiles fired from US and British submarines on 19 March 2011. Since then, NATO forces, led by Britain and France, have made 12,070 sorties on Libya, an average of over 120 per day, including 4,569 strike sorties in which missiles and bombs were launched, almost 46 a day. By 26 May the Libyan ministry for health said 718 civilians had been killed and 4,067 wounded; that is, over 10 civilians killed on average per day and 58 wounded. It has cost the British state over £250 million, while it slashes benefits and public services. The working class has every reason to oppose the war, yet there is hardly any opposition to the war in Britain or France.

What we get are articles saying that Libya is ‘turning into the best shop-window for competing aircraft for years’. For example, ‘the Typhoon and Rafale up against each other’, and now the Apache takes on the French Tiger and Gazelle helicopter gunships and British and French ex-special forces mercenaries demonstrate their services to potential buyers.

 

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Libya: imperialists prepare to break the stalemate

liby2The letter signed by US President Obama, British Prime Minister Cameron and French President Sarkozy published on 15 April 2011 is a statement of their intention that imperialism will remain dominant in North Africa and the Middle East. They say, ‘Colonel Gaddafi must go, and go for good,’ and thereby intend to demonstrate their power militarily, politically and symbolically by imposing regime change on Libya. Dressed-up in the language of humanitarian intervention, this is naked, brutal rule by armed force.

The three leaders state, ‘The city of Misrata is enduring a medieval siege as Gaddafi tries to strangle its population into submission.’ Typical of the ruling class media has been The Independent (17 April 2011) which carried the headline ‘Misrata becomes Libya’s Stalingrad.’ There are claims that cluster bombs have been fired on Misrata’s people, the Libyan government denies doing this, and we have been shown television coverage of children and others wounded in Misrata’s hospitals and people fleeing the city by boats. On 18 April the Canadian head of NATO’s Libyan operations accused Libyan government forces of taking off their uniforms and ‘hiding on rooftops of mosques, hospitals, schools, that’s where their heavy equipment is positioned’. In the context of a military stalemate between the Libyan government and its opponents, the media coverage can be construed as propaganda preparations for some form of NATO and European ground force intervention. There is no coverage of the use of depleted uranium weapons by the NATO forces and no scenes of suffering in Tripoli’s hospitals recorded for our television screens.

 

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Imperialist Hands off Libya /FRFI 220 April/May 2011

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 220 April/May 2011

An immense revolt has risen up across North Africa and the Middle East. Millions of people have taken to the streets to challenge corrupt dictatorships. They are fighting not only rotten local ruling classes, but the entire hold of capitalism and imperialism over their lives. Revolt is the people’s answer to the international capitalist crisis. From Tunis to Bahrain, from Cairo to Sana’a the shout has gone up ‘Enough!’ Their revolt places imperialism in peril. We see in Egypt, Libya and Bahrain how the British ruling class will connive and fight to keep its hold on the region – a region crucial to its power for over 150 years. Workers in Britain are under attack from the same class that wields its armies against the people of North Africa and the Middle East. We must join the revolt against capitalism and imperialism. The risen Arab people are changing the world!

British Prime Minister Cameron announced the start of Operation Odyssey Dawn on 19 March 2011 with the words, ‘We are doing what is necessary, legal and right.’ 112 cruise missiles were fired at Libya from US and British naval vessels. French and British RAF fighter airplanes flew from bases in their home countries to bomb Libya. This is the 46th separate British military operation in the Middle East and North Africa since the Second World War and it was sanctioned by United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 proposing ‘all necessary measures’ to stop the Libyan government attacking its opponents. Trevor Rayne reports.

Cameron continued: ‘our thoughts should be with those in our armed services who are putting their lives at risk in order to save the lives of others. They are the bravest of the brave.’ Since 1991 Britain and the US have been constantly at war. The RAF has flown thousands of missions since 1991, bombing Iraq, former Yugoslavia and Afghanistan. In that time only one or two British air crews have been hit or downed. They fly over people, bomb them and return to base, at practically no risk to themselves. This is not bravery. Unleashing missiles against which people have no defence and no means of retaliating is not bravery: it is murder – murder perpetrated by the British government with the blessing of the Labour Party opposition. These are not ‘precision’ weapons; civilians are killed as they were in the former Yugoslavia, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Where was the no-fly zone over Gaza when the Israeli Defence Force killed over 1,400 Palestinians in 2008-2009? Where are the British soldiers saving the lives of people in Bahrain and Yemen as they are gunned down on the streets with weapons that British, US and French companies sold to brutal dictatorships now waging counter-revolution? Barbarism dressed in the garb of ‘humanitarianism’ barely conceals naked self-interest.

This war on Libya comes at a time when the British government faces growing opposition to its spending cuts. ConDem government politicians will wring all the chauvinistic support they can get from this war. In 1982 the Thatcher-led Conservative government trailed Labour and the SDP/Liberal alliance in opinion polls. It launched the Falklands/Malvinas war that year, implemented economic measures that pushed unemployment to a post-Second World War record of over three million people – and was re-elected in 1983 with a landslide majority. This was made possible by the chauvinism generated by the war. Workers in Britain have every reason to oppose this imperialist attack on Libya; failure to do so will enfeeble our own attempts to defend ourselves. Just 15 MPs voted against the attack on Libya in the House of Commons vote on 21 March. Every Liberal Democrat voted for the war.

Rank hypocrisy

The hypocrisy with which the imperialists turned on Gaddafi and the Libyan government is striking: the Gaddafi family, including Colonel Gaddafi, met Prince Andrew five times between October 2007 and February 2009. Former Labour Prime Minister Blair, who visited Gaddafi in 2004, paving the way for deals with Royal Dutch Shell, BP and other oil multinationals, said of the UN vote that it ‘comes not a moment too soon’. Now he rediscovers that Gaddafi is a ‘despot’. British special forces trained Libya’s special forces; British police trained Libya’s police; the London School of Economics accepted £1.5m of Libya’s money after awarding Saif Gaddafi a doctorate and then accepted £2.2 million to train Libyan civil servants. British arms sales to Libya in 2010 exceeded £212 million. How content they all were with the Libyan government as long as the oil revenues flowed their way. Italy’s largest oil multinational Eni said that the European Union should not impose oil and gas sanctions on Libya for to do so would be ‘shooting ourselves in the foot’. Eni is the biggest foreign operator in Libya. Libya supplies about 25% of Italy’s oil and 10% of its gas.

The collapse of the Soviet Union and socialist bloc (1989-1991) accelerated the essential characteristics of imperialist capitalism: its drive for profits, its tendency towards crises and its aggressive, militaristic nature. This takes place in a context of the fight by the US ruling class to sustain global hegemony. The British ruling class allies with the US to strengthen its own position relative to those of other capitalist powers. Oil and gas reserves and control over distribution of fuel are critical to imperialist power. The Middle East and North Africa contain two-thirds of the world’s oil and gas reserves and Libya has Africa’s largest reserves. Libya is adjacent to both Tunisia and Egypt where mass revolts have removed the political figureheads, Ben Ali and Mubarak, allies of imperialism. The US, British and rest of the European Union’s ruling classes are threatened by the rising revolt of the region’s masses. If they can remove the Libyan government and install a pliant leadership, it will be a reassertion of their regional power. For the imperialists, the move to overthrow the Libyan government offers an opportunity to co-ordinate the Arab bourgeoisie and especially to mobilise regional armies at a time when imperialism needs them to crush the Arab revolt. They have used the rebellion in Libya to seize this opportunity.

As with the ‘shock and awe’ unleashed on Baghdad in 2003, the sheer scale of the assault is intended to demonstrate to any future revolutionary government in the region what it would face if it dared to defy imperialism. In the 24 hours to 6am local time on 23 March, the coalition forces flew 175 sorties against Libya.

The US ruling class was divided over whether to attack Libya. Defence Secretary Robert Gates, with experiences of Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan in his mind, and the US economically and militarily overstretched, said that any Secretary of State that advises the US to send troops into Asia and Africa ‘must have his head examined’. The German government said it did not want ‘to get involved in a civil war in North Africa’. Turkey said it opposed the UN resolution and Egypt said it would not be party to intervention. However, the vote by the Arab League on 12 March for a no-fly zone, followed by Britain, France and Lebanon drafting the UN motion and successfully lobbying for it, forced the US’s hand to join the attack. Neither Russia nor China used their veto power; China said it abstained because of the Arab League’s decision. The Arab League’s decision offered a cloak of legitimacy and, with Russia and China declining to use their veto, the US calculated that it had to side with Britain and France. The imperialists will have congratulated themselves on mobilising the 22 members (excluding Libya) of the Arab League to vote for a no-fly zone. Five of the Arab League’s heads of state trained at the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst in Britain: they are still loyal.

The African Union voted against ‘any form of intervention’ in Libya. Brazil, India and Germany abstained in the UN vote. The Resolution states: ‘for all necessary measures short of an occupation force to protect civilians under threat of attack’. However, Cameron was explicit in his intentions for regime change in Libya, ‘It is not in our national interests for this man [Gaddafi] to lead a pariah state on the southern borders of Europe with all the problems that could entail.’ US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described Gaddafi as ‘a ruthless dictator…If he does not go he will just make trouble’. These are not the words of powers that will abide by the apparent limitations of Resolution 1973, which excludes ‘a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory’. On 20 March a British submarine fired a missile into the Gaddafi family compound in Tripoli. British government ministers have no compunction about killing foreign heads of state.

To those in Benghazi and in the British press like The Guardian and The Independent and all the right wing media, who applauded the UN decision, let them recall Amiriya, Baghdad, on 13 February 1991. In the name of the no-fly zone the US fired missiles on a bomb shelter, incinerating over 400 people, many of them children. The US said they thought that the shelter was a military command site. It had been used as a bomb shelter for years previously during the Iraq-Iran war. NATO planes enforced a no-fly zone on the former Yugoslavia. Civilians were killed by cluster bombs – ‘anti-personnel devices’, as they were called – dropped on Serbia and Kosovo. In July 1995 in Srebenica, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, over 8,000 Bosnians were massacred under the cover of a NATO no-fly zone. Over 100,000 Serbs were ‘ethnically cleansed’ from Croatia and Bosnia under the cover of the NATO no-fly zone. In Afghanistan wedding parties, funeral processions, even children gathering wood on a hillside, are all targets for US and NATO war planes. What of the enduring tragedies inflicted by depleted uranium weapons? A former British ambassador to Libya remarked that NATO and other forces attacking Libya will be unable to distinguish between government and opposition forces; they use the same equipment.

Libya’s future

Ministers, judges, ambassadors and military officers defected from the government to support the opposition Provisional National Transitional Council (NTC). They are part of Libya’s bourgeoisie. The NTC is headed by former Justice Minister Mustafa Abdel Jalil who worked with the British special forces when they trained their Libyan counter-parts. The NTC reassured the imperialists that oil contracts with multinational corporations will be honoured. It rejected talks with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who proposed a ‘committee of peace’ to mediate between the contending forces. Some 6,000 Libyan troops defected at the end of February to side with the opposition, but they have hardly featured in the fighting. Iman Bugaighis, spokesperson for the NTC, said, ‘We need more than diplomacy. We need a no-fly zone. We need air strikes. I think they know where to bomb if they want to bomb.’ However, in Benghazi, centre of opposition forces, posters declared, ‘No to foreign intervention – Libyans can do it by themselves.’ Opposition to the Gaddafi government is divided. It flies the flag of King Idriss, drawn from the Senoussi clan of eastern Libya – it is a clan flag.

The weakness of the NTC is primarily political and then military. In the light of their experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan this will strike doubt into the imperialists’ minds. Within days of the launch of the assault the coalition was divided over who should lead it and what should be the limitations on its methods and aims. The US, British, French and Italian ruling classes wrangle over rival claims to the spoils, should they get rid of the Libyan government.

From being North Africa’s poorest country under King Idriss, Libya achieved the highest Human Development Index ranking in Africa in 2010, with free health care and education up to graduate level. Its infant mortality rate at 25 per 1,000 live births compares with a Middle East and North African average of 52. Imperialism favours a weakened and pliant Libyan state, even the partition of the country between east and west, as long as it strengthens its grip on the region.

The ruling class media in Britain bangs the chauvinist drum. The cost to the coalition of just those 175 sorties flown in 24 hours will exceed £120 million in weapons and fuel alone. The cost to Libya will be in scores of lives lost.

We ask: what of the millions of poor and oppressed people throughout the region and the world who are rising up to save their lives and the planet – their enemies reside in Washington, London and Paris as do the enemies of the Libyan people. What of the millions of people in Britain who are being driven into unemployment and poverty by the same forces that would dictate the fate of Libya? As Lenin foresaw, we are living in an era of wars and revolutions.

 

Carving up Libya

lybia_warOn 31 March the US government announced it would stop its aerial assault on Libya in two days’ time. The head of Britain’s RAF told The Guardian on 4 April that they were planning for six months’ of operations over Libya. While the NATO allies are divided over methods and ends in their war on Libya, neither the Libyan government nor its opponents within Libya seem capable of overcoming the other. With the opposing forces apparently in stalemate, the British government despatched a diplomatic mission to Benghazi, presumably to direct the opposition forces in any forthcoming negotiations.

Evidence of civilian casualties caused by NATO bombs and missiles is increasing. On 30 March the BBC reported that a NATO airstrike had killed seven civilians, mostly children. A team of Russian doctors described how bombs had damaged a hospital in Tripoli and killed dozens of people. The Vatican’s representative in Libya confirmed bomb damage to hospitals and reported some 40 civilian deaths.

 

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Hands off Libya! Oppose chauvinism!

'Libya

The general leaning towards barbarity acquires a certain method, immorality becomes a system, lawlessness gets its law givers and club law its law books.' Karl Marx.

British Prime Minister David Cameron announced the start of Operation Odyssey Dawn on 19 March 2011 with the words: ‘We are doing what is necessary, legal and right.’ 112 cruise missiles were fired at Libya from US and British naval vessels. French and British RAF fighter airplanes flew from bases in their home countries to bomb Libya. This is the 46th separate British military operation in the Middle East and North Africa since the Second World War and it was sanctioned by United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 proposing ‘all necessary measures’ to stop the Libyan government attacking their opponents.

 

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Imperialist hands off Libya!

To those in Benghazi and in the British press like The Guardian, who today applaud the UN vote to impose a no-fly zone  'and all necessary measures' to protect civilians in Libya, let them recall Amiriya, Baghdad, on 13 February 1991. In the name of the no-fly zone the US fired missiles on a bomb shelter, incinerating over 400 people, many of them children. The US said they thought that the shelter was a military command site. It had been used as a bomb shelter for some years previously during the Iraq-Iran war. NATO planes enforced a no-fly zone on the former Yugoslavia. Many civilians were killed by cluster bombs - 'anti-personnel devices' as they were called - dropped on Serbia and Kosovo. In Afghanistan wedding parties, funeral processions, even children gathering wood on a hillside for their families, are all targets for US and NATO war planes. Imperialist hands off Libya!

 


 

libya_protest

The European and US public have been prepared by the mass media to accept a foreign military intervention in Libya, should the imperialists consider it necessary or opportune. Libya possesses Africa’s largest known oil reserves. Any military intervention will have these as its objective, although it would be conducted under the pretexts of rescuing US or European workers and stopping the appalling bloodshed in Libya. Sanctions have already been imposed and the imposition of a no-fly zone is under consideration; these are preparations for a full blown military intervention as in the former Yugoslavia (1993-95) and Iraq (1991-2003).

On 26 February 2011 the United Nations Security Council voted unanimously to impose sanctions on the Libyan government for ‘gross and systematic violation of human rights’. The text was drafted by Britain and France. Sanctions include a travel ban on Gaddafi, his family and close associates, a freeze on assets and an arms embargo. The UN calls on the International Criminal Court to investigate suppression of anti-government protesters. In Benghazi attempts are underway to form a rival government.

 

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