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

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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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