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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