what's left

In Libya, Lies and Imperialism on the Verge of Victory

with 6 comments

By Stephen Gowans

Nato’s mandate in Libya was to protect civilians, not to take sides in a civil war between secular nationalists on one side and Al Qaeda Islamists and CIA backed-exiles on the other. (1) But all pretence that the organization was neutral was swept aside in the Western media’s celebration of the rebel march into Tripoli.

Now it is acknowledged that “NATO warplanes had flown overhead for days, bombing targets in the capital and its surroundings to clear the (rebel’s) path to Tripoli” (2); that “intensification of American aerial surveillance in and around the capital city (was) a major factor in helping to tilt the balance after months of steady erosion of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s military”; that “coordination between NATO and the rebels…had become more sophisticated and lethal in recent weeks”; that “Britain, France and other nations deployed special forces on the ground inside Libya to help train and arm the rebels”; and that the rebels had become “more effective in selecting targets and transmitting their location, using technology provided by individual NATO allies, to NATO’s targeting team in Italy.“ (3)

In effect, the rebels—aided by Nato special forces—acted as Nato’s army. It was a Nato regime change operation all along, with Libyan rebels as pawns. Gaddafi won’t be swept from power by a popular uprising, but by nine parts Nato bombs and special forces and one part Libyan rebels from the east.

Some will rationalize Nato’s violation of its UN mandate by pointing to the probable outcome: the toppling of a dictator. But Nato has little concern for the type of government a country has, so long as it is open to exploitation by Western banks, corporations and investors.

One need only contrast the Nato war on Libya with the West’s muted response to the violent suppression of a popular uprising in Bahrain to see this is so.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, who has played a key role in the Nato war on Libya, greets Bahrain's crown prince in May, soon after Bahraini authorities, with the help of Saudi tanks and troops, violently suppressed a popular uprising . Photograph: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP

The Khalifa tyranny’s killing of its own people—with the help of Saudi tanks and troops–merited no punitive action by Nato and no indictments from the International Criminal Court. On the contrary, Bahrain’s absolutist monarch, King Hamid, was invited by Queen Elizabeth II to the royal wedding in April, while British Prime Minister David Cameron welcomed “Crown Prince Sheikh Salman bin Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa to London in May, greeting him on the doorstep of No 10 (Downing Street) with a firm handshake and bringing a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘blood on our hands’.” (4)

Why the double standard?

Significantly, Bahrain—home to the US Fifth Fleet–is a virtual wet dream for Western investors, boasting no restrictions on repatriation of profits, no corporate income taxes (except on oil companies), absent regulation, no restrictions on foreign investment, and no minimum wage.

Libya, on the other hand, provoked Washington’s ire by practicing “resource nationalism” and amending labor laws to “Libyanize” the economy, as a leaked State Department cable revealed.(5) Gaddafi’s insistence on screening foreign investment, imposing performance requirements on foreign investors, and demanding that Libyans have a 35 percent stake in the country’s economy, did little to help his cause in Washington, London and Paris, even if it did help Libyans enjoy the highest standard of living in Africa.

It appears as if Gaddafi’s days are numbered. But we shouldn’t delude ourselves that this represents an advance of democracy. All that has happened is that a local dictatorship, one which at least had the merit of promoting Libya’s independent economic development, is about to be succeeded by a puppet government answerable to a dictatorship of foreign corporations, banks and investors.

1. For Al Qaeda involvement in the uprising see particularly, David Pugliese, “DND report reveals Canada’s ties with Gadhafi”, The Ottawa Citizen, April 23, 2011 and Rod Nordland and Scott Shane, “Libyan shifts from detainee to rebel, and U.S. ally of sorts”, The New York Times, April 24, 2011.
2. Kareem Fahim, “Instead of a bloody struggle, a headlong rush into a cheering capital”, The New York Times, August 21, 2011.
3. Eric Schmitt and Steven Lee Meyers, “Surveillance and coordination with NATO aided rebels”, The New York Times, August 21, 2011.
4. Mehdi Hasan, “Let them eat doughnuts: the US response to Bahrain’s oppression”, The Guardian (UK), July 11, 2011.
5. Steven Mufson, “Conflict in Libya: U.S. oil companies sit on sidelines as Gaddafi maintains hold”, The Washington Post, June 10, 2011.

Written by what's left

August 22, 2011 at 4:07 pm

Posted in Bahrain, Imperialism, Libya, NATO

6 Responses

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  1. Thanks Stephen, for being such a great resource on the Libyan intervention. Its too soon to count Gaddafi and his supporters out. Its hard to tell whether the reported rebel successes are real or just corporate media propaganda. Even if Tripoli does fall and Gaddafi is killed, his loyalists might carry on the fight against NATO. People counted out Chavez after he was deposed in 2002, but Chavez proved them wrong.

    Sean Mulligan

    August 23, 2011 at 7:58 am

  2. I wonder how long it will take the left boot to start a campaign to save Libyan womanhood from the tyranny of islamo/royalist fascism.If the ”rebels”dont do as their told by their masters,i would say no time at all.Great article stephen.

    mark h

    August 23, 2011 at 4:24 pm

  3. Suppose the regime falls, I wonder if we will see a similar situation to the one developing in Iraq after Saddam was overthrown. Much of the resistance “going underground” and carrying out a gerilla-war lasting for years, and a civil war between different factions of the tribal elites of Libya. A terrible bloodbath, just like the one in Iraq. Doesn´t bode well, to put it mildly.

    Thanx for the article

    Carl C

    August 23, 2011 at 5:55 pm

  4. Victory is a very relative term.

    For the rebels in the East it is implementation of liberal Wahhabi Islam.
    For the rebels in the Western Mountain’s it’s self determination of the Berber people.
    For the rebels in Misrata it’s some form of liberal-bourgeois democracy.
    For the Western media it is the public lynching of Gaddafi.
    For Gaddafi loyalist (or as I call them anti-NATO fighters) it is the protection of the country from imperialism.
    For the Western-imperialist powers it is the fragmentation of the country for ease of access to rebuilding and oil contracts.

    Obviously the only real victory here will be for the imperialist. I predict a long fight between the Berbers and the N(ato)TC on self determination. Something that will be encouraged by the West just as the PKK often is against Iran (and previously Iraq). There won’t be peace in Libya for years.

    More Left Than Thou

    August 24, 2011 at 6:43 pm

  5. brian

    August 25, 2011 at 12:57 pm


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