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Mainstream, VOL XLIX, No 40, September 24, 2011

Revolution, Freedom or Re-colonisation of Libya: An Overview

Wednesday 28 September 2011, by Arshi Khan


[The following article was written sometime back but could not be used earlier due to unavoidable reasons. Its contents, however, remain valid in the current situation through which Libya is passing. It is thus being published for the benefit of our readers.]

International politics is undergoing a very dangerous phase of transition whereby it is faced with those revisionist forces which are moving beyond the theoretical paradigm of ‘structural realism’. Some of the privileged and militarily powerful states are neither interested in Morgenthau’s ‘realist approach’ nor in the UN Charter but only in invading weak countries with bomber jets, trainers, spies and the media. They are also not interested in the regional power balance system. Moreover, their unlawful advancement through their weapons of mass destruction is motivated by their extra-territorial and imperialist desires to gain control over energy resources. They have even transgressed the passage of power politics underlined by Niccolo Machiavelli. What has been happening in Libya and outside since March 19, 2011 is the brutal game of the brigands and war criminals who used the pretext of political reforms and later revolution and freedom to destroy and disable the Libyan society, state and government together.

The question is not so much about the life of Gaddafi or his 41-year rule but the methods adopted by the pro-rebel forces on the humanitarian pretext. This seems to show an emerging trend of a new pattern of relationships and activities in international relations which the US desires—of creating a kind of ‘cowed conformity’ and ‘slavish submission’ controlling over Libya’s resources and independent foreign policy. Who should be tried for war crimes, crimes against peace, and crimes against humanity—Gaddafi or the NATO-rebel forces? Who will be the judge on this issue? These are the frozen questions. The UNSC failed to address the Libyan request made on March 20 for an emergency meeting over the barbaric attacks. It is a painful moment for the weaker countries with natural resources to sustain their dignity and freedom. This is a part of the strategy for creating a Broader Middle East and North Africa would serve the interests of the global imperialist forces and militarily dominant powers in future.

No Freedom or Change but Chaos

Much before it happened, the rebels’ claims of taking over the Central Government on August 23 and the subsequent endorsement by the US and NATO are parts of their strategy to finally translate their belligerent policies and actions into achieving their respective interests and goals. The West and its supporters have called it a ‘revolution’ but in reality it is the result of a well-planned strategy carried out by heavy bombings on the government buildings, security apparatuses and other infrastructures by the coalition warplanes along with aiding, supporting and arming the rebels since last February. It is not the people but the armed rebels with the presence of foreign trainers within Libya who created this chaotic situation for over six months leading to the destruction of the Libyan state. The pattern of aggressions and military operations inside Libya clearly shows systematic and systemic collapse of Libya inviting insecurity, violence, anarchy and chaos. In fact, the rebels and the aggressors rejected all the initiatives for negotiations.

This so-called post-modern coup or revolution needs to be analysed with factual texts and information for the purpose of reaching out to develop an understanding of the problem which the principle of politics as a discipline requires. Coordinated aggressions of the NATO against Libyan security and government assets in addition to heavy civilian losses and series of lies, should not be confused with any liberal design or sincerity of injecting democracy into this desert-tribal society where the British or American model of governance is not a volitional alternative for the people. Even if it is to be introduced, it may take decades to be accredited by them due to the nature of the Libyan tribes. Liberal polity is the outcome of the centuries of rejection of the Church, religion and tradition through Renaissance and Reformation in Europe. In this European change no outsiders were involved but their own generations.

The main question was political reform in Libya. Such a reform can be brought about by changing the government only in a liberal polity with elected institutions. In the case of Libya, such a change cannot be brought about by changing the government due the lack of an alternative and organised opposition. Therefore, it was limited to the government to take such steps which had also been promised. This change in phases required a peaceful situation which was not to be allowed. Then the bombings started and the demand of Muammar Gaddafi ‘stepping down’ was made; this was almost impossible to be met by a government which had ruled for over four decades. How can any country talk of political reform in the midst of bombings, attacks on government institutions and arming of the rebels by the external powers? So the planners pulled the dangerous trigger of creating a chaotic situation in which only violence prevailed. All efforts for dialogue and ceasefire failed as the main objective was not political reform but to install such persons in power who will conform to the G-8 initiative for a Broader Middle East and North Africa advocated since June 2004.

The criminality of the actors in Libya has not only destroyed the government but also the state and society. Libyan society, state and government were not clearly segregated due to the ongoing revolution as an alternative to socialism and capitalism. The Libyan theatre was more like the ancient Polis, more ethical, traditional, conservative rather than a clearly defined legal institution. These three institutions overlapped as there were not many Ministries and no parliament but only people’s committees. Gaddafi was not a ruler like the GCC sates and their puppets but a revolutionary tribal fellow-chief to sustain and protect its natural resources. Therefore, the aerial campaign destroying the government infrastructures, eliminating the state armed forces, bombing the civilian areas and announcing the bounty of about $ 2 million on capturing or killing Gaddafi were basically meant for dismantling the three institutions—society, state and government.

Therefore, this kind of military operation on the pretext of democracy and freedom is no more than a fantasy. No mechanism is available either with the West or its partner, the UNSC, to reconstruct a reasonably adjustable society, state and government in Libya. Any such claim cannot be trusted on the basis of the emerging trends in the Middle East. Mustafa Mohamed Abdel-Jalil, the rebel leader, promised Western countries on March 14 in a front-page article in The Financial Times, that Libya’s oil concessions would be doled out in proportion to the level of support each country gives Benghazi in ousting Gaddafi.

On the contrary, foreign military forces, powerful states, the UNSC, the media and particularly the American, British and French oil corporates are involved in Libya. This kind of change would only fragment and disturb the social setting affecting the formation of a pro-people, stable government in Libya. In fact the design is quite clear: to keep this country unstable, divided and disturbed through a weak government of those people who will be more loyal to the West. Weak and hired rulers would serve the purpose of giving a free hand over the Libyan oilwells further undermining prosperity. This is happening with the hand-picked Transitional National Council of the rebels which is dealing with such oil corporates. There are strong doubts over the ability and credibility of the TNC to provide unity and stability to Libya; what has been forecast is unprecedented insecurity, corruption, lawlessness and injustice. As a result, the whole purpose of the state and government would be meaningless.

Continental Strategy

The aggressors have no interest in the well-being of the people as they are responsible to make the Libyans fight with one another. They have already done so in Iraq and they are doing it in Syria. It is important to note that the development is linked to peace and security. Their interventions in Lebanese politics have already made Lebanon fragile and conducive to sinister designs. Mainly the US, UK, France and others have targeted two of the powerful states—Iraq and Libya in order to ensure the former’s control over the region. A kind of military take-over of Libya through ‘shock-and-awe’ is also to control and influence the whole African continent rich in unexplored natural resources. This can be traced to August 25 when South Africa was brought under pressure through the West and the UNSC. Now other African countries would come under Western pressure. Earlier, the West, mainly the US and UK, left a bombed and occupied Iraq to place it in the hands of civilians without removing their Army and bases from Iraq; this gave a message of its desire in the entire Middle East. As a result, we find a dramatic change in the Organisation of Islamic Conference, Arab League and Gulf Cooperation Council including Turkey and their institutions of intelligence and information. All of them are now endorsing the Western agenda in Libya.

We need to understand the difference between the post-war efforts which were made in the case of West Germany, Italy and Japan soon after the end of World War II and the deliberate neglect of Iraq and Libya which are the living examples of anarchy and chaos. Such policies and actions in the case of Iraq and Libya cannot be called ‘politics’ but a kind of situation described by Thomas Hobbes in his speculation of the ‘state of nature’ characterised by civil war, absence of a legitimate controlling authority, dispersed sovereignty, lawlessness resulting in the fear of life, violent death, no peace and no development. The meaning of politics cannot ignore the principles of the legitimate source of power, command and control, justice, welfare, order, peace, and rights and dignity of the people and the country. The purpose of politics culminating in the formation of the state and government has been elaborated by political theorists in the West. No country has any right to impose its economic, political, social and cultural values upon any other state. Russian Premier Vladimir Putin has questioned the right of intervention in Libya.

Weapons of War Crimes

The British Special Forces, Military Intelligence-5 of the UK, commandos of other countries, contracted advisers, mainly ex-Western military personnel, and their war machines are being used to decapitate the government. There are fast jets, unarmed aerial vehicles, larger aircraft operating off the Libyan coast like the Royal Air Force (based at Italy) and NATO AWACS with their huge onboard radars. They destroyed Libya’s air defence, tanks, armoured vehicles, command centres and ammunition. NATO used new precision ammunition and tactics even to target snipers in buildings swept off their roof by the blast wave from bombs that burst n the air. The dominant Western media and TNC have not given any report on civilian damages by NATO bombings and the rebels while the government’s data were obscured by the opponents.

NATO applied its extraordinary logistical capacity deployed in the Southern Mediterranean region, ranging from ground crews, spares and air-born tankers that together sustained the military operations. In the beginning of the aggression, French warplanes and Tomahawk cruise missiles, fired from the United States and British warships and submarines, attacked the Libyan capital of Tripoli and more than 20 coastal targets. They used American Tomahawk missiles, French the Rafale multirole warplane, Mirage 2000, Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier having over 20 warplanes on board, and these included fighter jets such as Mirage, Super Etendard, HawkEye early warning aircraft and jet helicopters, British Storm Shadow missiles, Eurofighter Typhoon jets, and Italian Tornado fighters, A-10 Warthog (Thunderbolt), AC-130, B1-B Lancer (four-engine variable-sweep wing strategic bomber used by the United States Air Force), B-2 Stealth Bomber, Lockheed EC-130J Commando Solo (for civil affairs broadcast missions in the standard AM, FM, HF, TV and military communications bands), F-16, F-18, F-15E Strike Eagle, E-3 Sentry (AWACS), RC-135 (reconnaissance aircraft), RQ-4 Global Hawk, Predator Drones, Tornado, Nimrod, Sentinel, C-18 Hornet jet, CP-140 Aurora (maritime patrol aircraft), C-130, C-17. Also employed was naval power like HMS Cumberland and HMS West-minster frigates, Canadian HMCS Charlottetown warship, USS Mount Whitney, USS Providence, Scranton and Florida, HMS Triumph.

Condemning Aggressions

Despite the ceasefire declared by the government on March 18, they attacked Libya the next day. Last April, the rebels and the West had also rejected the “roadmap” proposed by the African Union to restore peace through dialogue to which Gaddafi had agreed. The leaders of Nicaragua, Bolivia, Ecuador and Cuba similarly criticised the offensive against Libya and called for immediately putting an end to it. Last February, Fidel Castro had raised alarm over the objectives of the imperialist forces. Hugo Chavez heavily criticised the NATO aggression against Libya. To him, the Western coalition bombed Army barracks, schools, and shopping malls simply because the West hated Gaddafi and dreamed of control over Libya’s oil.
India stated that Resolution 1973 to impose a no-fly zone in Libya was built across diplomatic fault-lines and could end in greater difficulties for those it was supposed to help if misused for aggressive actions. New Delhi had abstained from voting over the Resolution drafted by Britain and France, without hearing from the UN Secretary General’s special envoy, former Jordanian Foreign Minister Abdel Ilah Al- Khatib. The Indian Representative at the UN stressed upon the importance of political efforts, including those of the Secretary General’s special envoy, to address the situation. India maintained that it was adopted under Chapter VII of the UN Charter with relatively little credible information on the situation on the ground in Libya.

Chapter VII authorises “action by air, sea, or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security”. India also argued that there was no clarity in the Resolution about who would enforce it and how —“who and with what assets will participate and how these measures will be exactly carried out”. The Left political parties in India also accused the imperialist forces for the destruction and violence. In its early phase, Turkey had denounced the UNSC Resolution 1973 as ‘absurd’ but later complied due to external pressures. Similarly Vladimir Putin had earlier dismissed the US and NATO bombardment intervention as a “call to medieval crusade” but later Russia changed its stand.

Pressures for Criminal Endorsement

There were pressures for passing highly objectionable resolutions by the UNSC; then there took place the NATO military operations and bombings, high level of misinformation campaign against the Libyan Government, freezing of Libyan assets, expulsion of Libyan diplomats, fabrications of the International Contact Group for Libya, recognition of the TNC as the real government of Libya without any such consideration in the UN, the holding of a France-sponsored conference on Libya and now the unfreezing of the Libyan assets of $ 110 billion in several countries. On August 25, the NATO coalition states built up pressure in the UNSC for releasing $ 1 billion from the frozen Libyan assets for helping the TNC. A day earlier, South Africa refused to unfreeze over a billion dollars for the TNC. It defended its refusal to unfreeze the $ 1.5 billion Libyan assets and recognise Libya’s rebel authority. It said that it would approve $ 500 million of the package for urgent humanitarian assistance only.

The Guardian (August 25) cited the statement of a Cabinet spokesman, Jimmy Manyi: “The South African Government will always approach this matter in concert with the African Union and in the spirit of multilateralism. The Government of South Africa condemns any form of violence and the doctrine of imposed regime change.” South Africa had voted in favour of the UNSC Resolution 1973 to protect civilians in Libya, but the move proved fiercely divisive at home. The South African Government Ministers say they regretted the move when they saw NATO’s military intervention go beyond a no-fly zone. The daily also quoted the South African President, Jacob Zuma, to whom the Libyan crisis is the latest example of Africa being shown a lack of respect by the rest of the world. “Those who have the power to bomb other countries have undermined the AU’s [African Union’s] efforts and initiatives to handle the situation in Libya. The situation in Libya has been of concern as it has been accompanied by the undermining of the African continent’s role in finding a solution. We could have avoided a lot of loss of life in Libya.” He said powerful nations had abused Resolution 1973 “to further interests other than to protect civilians and assist the Libyan people”. Both the US and UK criticised South Africa’s stance. The Defence Secretary, Liam Fox, said South Africa will face “huge moral pressure” to change its “disappointing” position.

Ground Realities and Fabrications

The Libyan Foreign Ministry holds that the conflict was triggered by a conspiracy among a group of the country’s high-ranking officials. The escape of several of them to the West, where they had surely impressive bank accounts, renders the hypothesis perfectly realistic. Foreign bankers and oil companies are behind it. Libya had emerged a stable, powerful and prosperous country with highly subsidised commodities, services and free education by the government. Gaddafi had headed the African Union in 2009 and emerged as the voice of development for Africa. He had asked the West for compensation over the losses caused by the sanctions based on lies. He had held serious discussions on creating a Gold Dinar in 1996 and 2000 as an alternative to trade in oil sales. He had abandoned the nuclear weapons programme and condemned the Al-Qaeda and similar Islamic groups. Of course, he can be criticised for many faults but NATO has no right at all to attack an independent country.

Thus the policies and actions of interventions in Libya created a situation of full-blown war between the armed rebels and Libyan Army; NATO forces helping the rebels for their freedom; Gaddafi to quit and the TNC to be recognised by others. Overall, words like ‘freedom’ and ‘revolution’ were projected in such a way at the global level as if Libya was under foreign occupation or colonial control.

Here recall the words of Muammar Gaddafi in March accusing the US of helping the Al-Qaeda men in Benghazi; these were rejected and ignored. The investigative journalist of the US, Webster Tarpley, also accused the US of using Muslim militants from those areas from where many youths moved to Afghanistan for jihad as it is mentioned in the West Point Study (USA, December 2007). Therefore, a question can be raised over the right of any external agent to arm and train a group of rebels to fight against his own country merely for political reforms.

The UN Security Council Resolution 1970 was for the purpose of imposing sanctions and another Resolution 1973 imposed the ‘no-fly zone’ against Libya for the purpose of protection of the civilians from attack by the government forces. A no-fly zone is basically meant for preventing the country’s fighter planes to use its sovereign space. Just one day after the passage of this Resolution on March 17, the NATO forces started bombing the country in which the US, UK and France were the major actors. The US handed over military operations to the NATO on April 4. The US and NATO’s military intervention through massive bombardment and infrastructure destruction has created a stalemate while not promoting peace and reconciliation.

The West’s true motives were revealed when President Barack Obama, President Nicolas Sarkozy, and Prime Minister David Cameron jointly penned an Op-Ed article calling for Gaddafi to “go for good” after which NATO started bombing his residence and killing his family members, including a son and grand-children. NATO, US, and the UN have openly intervened to take sides —rather than mediate—in the Libyan civil war, permanently and embarrassingly destroying any credibility the United Nations had. They insist on the safety of civilians which is not possible during day-night bombardment. NATO’s initial plan for offensive against Libya evidently collapsed, and the alliance had to switch to the tactic it employed in Yugoslavia, hammering the whole range of the country’s infrastructures and putting the entire civilian population under pressure rather than limiting the attacks to the armed forces involved in combat.

Like embedded journalism pursued in the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, the pro-rebel forces managed information for causing maximum damage to the Libyan Government. Like NATO, the Western media also favoured the rebels calling the Libyan Army mercenaries, spreading the rumour of personal assets of Gaddafi in the West, plagiarism by Saif al-Islam in his Ph.D in the London School of Economics, the rumour of Gaddafi’s escape to Venezuela, workers fleeing for safety, bloody stalemate, Gaddafi’s nuclear stockpiles to be used as ‘dirty bombs’, capturing of Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam on August 23, sex videos in palaces, and Gaddafi poisoning the state’s water supply.

On the pretext of humanitarian aid and civilian protection, the West, mainly the US, started bombing Libya on March 19 and handed over the military operations to the NATO on April 4. In addition, special military experts were sent to the rebel areas. Reuters reported on March 30 that the Obama Administration approved the secret order in mid-February authorising covert US Government support for rebel forces seeking to oust Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. So the whole game of protecting civilians remained a reference-point while the unseating of Gaddafi became the policy issue of the West. The whole military operation, media management and diplomatic strategies were directed towards this agenda. This included the creation of the Contact Group on Libya, establishment of the Transitional National Council (TNC) of the rebels, managing high-profile defections within and outside Libya, expelling Libyan ambassadors, and the recogni-tion of the TNC as the real government of Libya. There are attempts to justify nomenclatures going in favour of the rebels. The rebels are now being called the Free Libyan Army while the govern-ment forces are being called by the Western media as Loyalists and Armed Groups. The revolutionary leader is now a rebel and the rebels’ TNC is claiming to be the government!

It is important to recall that by mid-March, the Libyan Army had succeeded in taking back most the areas held by the armed rebels but the unlawful US and later NATO aggressions swung towards unexpected chaos. By August 26, bombings over Libya entered the 160th Day which include 20,395 NATO sorties and 7681 air strikes. CIA operatives, reconnaissance planes and drones were all being used in the operation. Now they are bombing Sirte with full force. Regular bombings have terrorised all civilians, caused deaths and injuries of many children, women and youth, and destroyed civilian infrastructures to sustain life. At the social level, Christians protected by Gaddafi are terrified, African Libyans are being expelled and prisoners from Egypt and Tunisia and hired mercenaries are also being used as partners of destruction. Genuine news is limited to videos and Youtube and the lies are on display as it happened in the case of Iraq.

The US and NATO have breached international laws by massive destruction of undefended cities, towns or villages, buildings or houses. The UNSC Resolution 2131 (XX) of December 21, 1965, containing the Declaration on the Inadmi-ssibility of Intervention in the Domestic Affairs of States, was backed up by Resolutions 31/91 of December 14, 1976, 32/153 of December 19, 1977, 33/74 of December 15, 1978, 34/101 of December 14, 1979 and 35/159 of December 12, 1980 on non-interference in the internal affairs of states. No attempts were made under the UN Charter (Chapter VI, Article 33), to “seek a solution by negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements, or other peaceful means of their own choice”. The NATO even violated Article 46 of the Charter that put “plans for the application of armed force shall be made by the Security Council with the assistance of the Military Staff Committee”. Such a Committee was never convened. NATO’s strikes started against civilian structures without any formal declaration of war. NATO used phosphorous in the battle of al-Brega between July 17 and July 24, 2011; this substance is prohibited by the Chemical Weapons Convention (1997).

There are emerging splits and tensions between different groups and ideologies which will fragment the society into rival formations. There will be many cases of suicide bombings, car-bombs, target and organised killings and political manipulations in which foreign agencies are directly involved. Libya is faced with the issues of sustaining social unity, state-building, Constitution-making and forming a legitimate government. Then there will be problems of maintaining peace, order and development, and regaining sovereignty in domestic and foreign policies. Given the chaotic situation prevailing in Libya, rebels and their sponsors would try to further their own interests and share as they are the foundational sources of the destruction of Libya.

Dr Arshi Khan is an Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh.

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