False victory in Libya


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.

NATO bombing paved the path to Tripoli. The Daily Telegraph (22 August 2011) disclosed that British military and intelligence officers helped the NATO-backed rebels to plan their attack on Tripoli and that the Royal Air Force launched coordinated raids on key government targets to clear the route to the city. On 25 August The Daily Telegraph reported that Prime Minister Cameron had ordered British SAS forces into Libya and that ‘the SAS soldiers, who have been dressed in Arab civilian clothing and carrying the same weapons as the rebels, have been ordered to switch their focus to the search for Gaddafi’.

Media coverage of the attack has been directed from NATO’s Italian headquarters as a psychological warfare operation. Specialists from Israel’s Defence Ministry of Information have been seconded to the base to advise their NATO allies, devise stories and presentations which have been reproduced across television and radio stations and in the press.

From 31 March to 23 August NATO mounted 19,994 sorties, including 7,541 strike sorties when bombs and missiles were fired. That is approximately 140 sorties a day and 53 strike sorties for 145 days. In the week before 21 August NATO increased its attacks to 855 sorties and 306 strike sorties. By 13 July NATO had killed 1,108 civilians in Libya and wounded some 4,500 others. In the 24 hours prior to the NATO-backed rebels entering Tripoli approximately 1,300 Libyans were killed and 5,000 wounded. This has all been done in the name of the UN Resolution 1973 ‘protecting civilians’. On 9 August, while Prime Minister David Cameron was denouncing British youth for ‘a culture of violence’, NATO bombed a Libyan village, Majer, killing 85 civilians including 33 children. Britain, France and the US have blocked every effort to negotiate a ceasefire. They have intensified the assault on Libya and armed the anti-government forces. Their governments are responsible for the deaths of thousands of Libyans.

This war has been waged with almost no opposition in the countries of the main belligerents: France, Britain and the US. The largest left party in Britain supported the rebels in Benghazi and called them ‘revolutionaries’. In its 27 August edition of Socialist Worker the SWP states, ‘The end of Gaddafi’s regime is a cause for celebration.’ They echo David Cameron when he said, ‘This has not been our revolution, but we can be proud that we have played our part.’ The imperialists are not just interested in Libya’s oil and gas. They used the opportunity of the initial February revolt against the government in Libya, incited by France, to intervene to assert their domination over not just Libya but the whole of the Middle East and North Africa. This was done in the context of the uprisings of the Arab masses in Tunisia and Egypt. They also intended to end the Libyan state’s attempts to reduce Africa’s dependence upon imperialism at a time when the major powers are competing for control of the continent. The imperialists sought to mobilise their regional allies, which they will need to suppress the Arab people’s revolt and stop it targeting imperialism. On this occasion they have been successful. They also demonstrated their willingness to use military and political force to crush any opponents that may emerge in the region. Above all, they have done this with next to no opposition from within their own counties. The oil and gas of the Middle East and North Africa are crucial for the survival of imperialism. The overthrow of the Libyan government is no cause for celebration for any socialist and is a potential threat to all the region’s workers and poor people.

Seventeen countries have committed armed forces to the NATO operation. These include Jordan (fighter jets), Qatar (fighter jets and special forces), the United Arab Emirates (fighter jets) and Turkey (ships and fighter jets). Bases in Britain, France, the US, Italy, Spain, Greece and Turkey have been used to attack Libya. The TNC, which the British government recognised as the legitimate representative authority in Libya in July, has no democratic mandate. It was cobbled together by the imperialists from government defectors, CIA assets and Islamic fundamentalist groups. It has been funded from Libyan government assets frozen in European and US banks. It has received cash from Turkey and the Gulf Arab states. Contracts for European security companies to operate in Libya were signed in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates using the Libyan government’s money.

With its appetite for oil and gas money whetted, (Libya has Africa’s largest oil reserves and is currently operating at one-tenth of its capacity), the Financial Times devoted six pages of its 23 August edition to Libya. The scramble for contracts will be brazen. Turkey announced that it had given the TNC $300 million and that it expected the Turkish state-owned TPAO energy corporation to resume operations in Libya shortly. The German defence minister said that the German government would consider sending ‘peacekeeping’ troops to Libya, while other ministers proposed that German companies play a lead role in reconstruction efforts. Sections of the German bourgeoisie are regretful that Germany did not join in the NATO attack from the outset. The British diplomatic mission in Benghazi is now the second biggest British mission in North Africa. British soldiers and police are planning a future Libyan army and police force. Conservative peer Lord Trefgarne, chair of the Libyan British Business Council has announced a high level trade mission to Libya. However, while the cost of the war to the British government was about £300 million, the cost to the US was nearly three-times as much. The bulk of the Libyan government’s £60 billion in frozen assets is held in the US. The US state will use its control over this money to extract the most favourable rewards for US companies from any future Libyan government.

Meanwhile, the NATO-backed forces are reported to be looting and robbing people. Amnesty International issued a warning that these groups had attacked and lynched Black African people in the east of Libya and may do so in Tripoli. Women in Libya had more rights than women in other Arab countries. Those rights are now under threat from the Islamic fundamentalists among the anti-government forces. The imperialist’s coalition will disintegrate among competing factions of the Libyan bourgeoisie as they fight for the spoils – this will be a disaster for the Libyan people. Whatever plans the British, French and US states may have for Libya the Libyan people will not accept their country being looted by imperialism and they will fight back.

Trevor Rayne


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