NATO war on Libya - Eyes on the prize

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.


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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.


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Libya: resistance exposes divisions in NATO strategy

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.


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100 days of war on Libya


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


The 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

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!


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Carving up Libya


On 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!


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!


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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