Libya: the vultures circle

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


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