French president Nicholas Sarkozy greets rebel leader Mahmoud Jibril. Leaked US cables describe Jibril as being keen on a close relationship with the US and
eager “to create a strategic partnership between private companies and
[For more left views on Libya, click HERE.]
Springtime for NATO in Libya
By Richard Seymour
April 4, 2011 -- Lenin's Tomb -- We now know what Washington's model is for the Middle East, in its most
attractive guise. In answer to Egypt's Tahrir Square uprising, they have smoking
craters filled with the charred remains of rebels, and conscript
soldiers, and civilians and other blameless people who must have seen
the joy in Egypt and Tunisia and wished it for themselves.
In answer to
the turbulent, democratic republic with a vibrant and assertive working
class, with its tumult of leftist, Nasserist, Islamist and liberal
currents, its "revolution from below", they offer a prolonged civil war
at best culminating in a settlement with [Gaddafi's son] Saif and his sibling. In
answer to the popular committees, they have private agreements with
regime defectors -- not forgetting that, in a sense, the NATO powers
prosecuting the aerial war are themselves very recent regime defectors.
The Washington model has other variants, of course, which have been on
display in Yemen and Bahrain. But the more glamorous liberal
adaptation is present for all to see in Libya and it is notable for
having more apologists than it has outright defenders.
Can I just
risk a modest proposition? NATO, the CIA and the special forces
belonging to the world's imperialist states are not forces of progress
in this world. Does anyone disagree with that? If not, then it follows
as surely as night follows day that the successful cooptation of the Libyan revolution by NATO, the CIA and special forces
is a victory for reaction. It's no good hoping that the small, poorly
armed, poorly trained militias of the east of Libya, who are now utterly
dependent on external support, will somehow shake themselves free of
such constraints once -- if -- they take power. Even if they eventually
get some of the Libyan money that has been frozen by international
banks, as UN Resolution 1973 promises, it will have come all too late to
have been decisive.
I can well see how conservatives and
liberals would see no loss at all in such a situation, nothing indeed
but a net gain. It means after all that even if [Gaddafi] were to be
overthrown at this point, it would not have been by a popular
revolution. It would not have been because the revolution broadened its
base and spread into Tripoli or Sirte. It would not have been under
circumstances in which the panoply of social and political forces in
Libya were fused into a victorious revolutionary bloc -- e pluribus unum
and all that. And it would not have seen [Gaddafi]'s regime replaced by a
popular one serving popular needs.
Were [Gaddafi] to fall tomorrow, he
would fall to a network of former regime elements and their external
backers. The regime that replaced [Gaddafi] may well be more liberal, the
sort that young Saif was to be entrusted to deliver at one point, but
it would not be a popular or democratic one. The migration deals with
the European Union, the oil deals with multinationals and the arms deals to ensure
the suppression of more radical political forces (under the rubric of
containing "al Qaeda", that ubiquitous, shapeshifting enemy of the free
world) would all be central planks of a post-bellum regime.
liberal argument, which is to the fore, is strikingly apolitical -- and
narcissistic. Only rarely do its advocates relate it to the
shapeshifting revolutionary process currently underway in the Middle
East. Rarer still is anything that could pass for analysis of Libya's
internal dynamics. On the contrary, its preferred starting point is
the solitary, decontextualised crisis point in which the "West" can
redeem itself through military action.
There is in this the echo of
colonial discourse: the missionaries, the deserving victims, the empire
as protector of the meek and virtuous. It's very important for the
defenders of "humanitarian intervention", "Responsibility 2 Protect"
and so on (the clutter of inelegant jargon that accompanies such
doctrines is a sure sign of their incoherence) that there should be an
opportunity to use firepower, to moralise the means of violence. This
is one reason, incidentally, why it never even occurred to them to
wonder how it is that -- unlike in Iraq, which war they castigate as
irresponsible -- there was never even the pretence of diplomacy. I am
no pacifist, but I don't like to be told that there are no alternatives
to airborne death when the alternatives haven't even been tried.
the issue was the minimisation of bloodshed, then a logical solution
would have been to allow Turkey and others to facilitate negotiations.
Yes, I know. A negotiated settlement would be a step back from
outright victory for the rebels. But that is an increasingly improbable
outcome anyway, and I thought we were trying to save lives here?
as it happens, a diplomatic solution seems to be exactly what is on the
cards now. The transitional council leadership in Benghazi has acknowledged
as much. [Gaddafi] is sending ambassadors to talk to interested parties
about a ceasefire settlement. If this is how the situation is going
to be resolved, then it would have been better that it had been
resolved this way several weeks ago. If the aerial bombardment was
supposed to stop massacres, it doesn't seem
to have done so. From "Save Sarajevo" to "Save Benghazi", however,
the liberal imperialists are in their glory when on the warpath, and as
facile with rationalisations and false consolations as they are
contemptuous of the same when deployed by the right.
So, as I
say, it is natural that the usual assortment of cynics, security wonks
and liberal hawks should be content with this annexing, even if their
arguments in its favour make little sense. No one who supported the
revolution, however, can be as content without also being a little naive
or descending into bad faith arguments of the type: "we don't trust the
bourgeois cops, but a rape victim should still call the police." Say
what you like about the police, but one generally doesn't to find them
blowing up neighbourhoods. Their role, in a word, is the suppression of
conflict. The role of imperialist states in the world system is, to
put it mildly, not that. And they are, I will not say "lawless", but
not susceptible to any of the constraints that apply to even the most
British of police officers. And I am not myself prepared to see the
US, or any of its surrogates, as a global policeman just yet.
still are the wised up comments to the effect that "the world is a murky
place, blah blah, which should not be seen in black and white terms,
yawn yawn, and we can't force people to die for the sake of some purist
anti-imperialism, etc etc". No, indeed, but it's hardly better to
expect people to die for the sake a woolly platitude. The war's handful
of leftist apologists are living off the waning hope that out of this
process will come a people's revolution. Why do they think this likely?
No reason. Just 'cos. Press them particularly hard, and they'll
revert to the parable of the good policeman, stretching the analogy
beyond the point of satire in the process.
We can live in hope, of course. The proletariat, introduced into these arguments as a deus ex machina
that will guarantee against any sell-out, betrayal, shoddy deal or
undemocratic imposition, is the repository of this hope. But the
workers of the eastern coastal cities and towns, having shown
considerable courage in fighting [Gaddafi]'s forces, were unable to defeat
them. And they have not been able to prevent the former regime
elements from asserting control of the revolt, or from cutting a deal
The number of rebels who are actually armed and in control
is numerically small. As of late March, there were only about 1000
trained fighters among the rebels. There are estimated to be about
17,000 volunteers, but they are untrained, poorly armed and themselves a
minority of the populations in which they operate. The Libyan working
class -- set aside the fact that much of the actual working class resides
in areas beyond rebel control -- is not in control of this process.
General Abdel Fatah Younis, the former interior minister, is not even in
control of this process.
The opposition leaders are now adjuncts to a
NATO strategy which may not even have been disclosed to them. Let's at
least give credit where it's due. This is NATO's war. And that means,
this is Washington's war.
[This article first appeared at Richard Seymour's Lenin's Tomb. Seymour is a member of the British Socialist Workers Party and author of the Liberal Defence of Murder.]
'Angry Arab': It is no more a Libyan uprising
April 4, 2011 -- I was as excited as
anyone to see the Libyan people revolt against the lousy dictator, [Gaddafi]: a tyrant who one should hate with an extra measure of
eccentricity because -- like Saddam [Hussein] -- he is particularly obnoxious and
repugnant as far as tyrants are concerned. But I can't say now that I
support the Libyan uprising: it is no more a Libyan uprising. The
uprising has been hijacked by [Gaddafi] henchmen, Qatar foreign policy
agenda and the agenda of Western governments. Count me out.
[As'ad AbuKhalil's Angry Arab blog is an influential and essential source of information on struggles in the Middle East.]
Vijay Prashad: America's Libyans
By Vijay Prashad
March 31, 2011 -- Counterpunch -- Libya was not fated for an
Arab Spring. As Aijaz Ahmad once put it, “every country gets the
fascism it deserves”. In that spirit, every country gets the rebellion
it deserves. Libya did not deliver the uplifting spactacles of Tunisia
or Egypt. Its rebellion had a history that stretches back a hundred
years, and one that was not so easy to shake off. That east-west divide
smothered any attempt by the working class in the western cities to rise
to their full potential. Zintan was lost to [Gaddafi] briefly, but he
took it back easily and then crushed the rebellion.
The upsurge from below enthused the lower orders of [Gaddafi]’s army in the east. They defected to the Benghazi rebels.
Popular councils emerged in the cities and towns of the east. The east
had sent a disproportionate number of its young to fight in Iraq. They
did not go solely for the purposes of jihad, or only because they had admiration for al Qaeda.
A US embassy official reported in 2008 (thank you Wikileaks) that
the young men who went to Iraq did so in part because they could not
effectively protest against [Gaddafi]. The official went to Derna. Upon
his return to Tripoli, he filed [a] memorandum for his superiors
[It reported that] the Benghazi council chose as its leader the
colourless former justice minister Mustafa Abdel Jalil. Jalil’s brain is
Mahmoud Jibril, a former head of the National Economic Development Board
(NEDB). A US embassy cable from May 11, 2009 (09TRIPOLI386)
describes Jibril as keen on a close relationship with the US and
eager “to create a strategic partnership between private companies and
the government”. Jibril’s NEBD had collaborated with Ernst & Young
and the Oxford Group to make the Libyan state more “efficient”. Jibril
told the ambassador that “American companies and universities are
welcome to join him” in the creation of new sectors outside hydrocarbons
and that “we should take him up on his offer”. His PhD in strategic
planning from the University of Pittsburg is useful in this context.
With Jalil and Jibril are the February 17 movement’s
men. They take their name from an uprising in Benghazi on February 17,
2006, that was crushed by [Gaddafi]. These men (Fathi Boukhris, Farj
Charrani, Mustafa Gheriani and All Ounes Mansouri) are all
entrepreneurs. Gheriani told Jon Lee Anderson that they are
“Western-educated intellectuals” who would lead the new state, not the
“confused mobs or religious extremists”.
In December 23, 2010, before the Tunisian uprising,
Boukhris, Charrani and Mansouri went to Paris to meet with [Gaddafi]’s
old aide-de-camp, Nuri Mesmari, who had defected to the
Concorde-Lafayette hotel. Mesmari was singing to the [French secret service] DGSE and Sarkozy
about the weaknesses in the Libyan state. His man in Benghazi was
Colonel Abdallah Gehani of the air defence corps. But Gehani would not
be the chosen military leader. The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) already had its man in mind. He
would soon be in place.
By March 14, the military wing of the Benghazi
rebellion had been turned over to an ex-colonel of the Libyan army,
Khalifa Hifter and to the former interior minister, General Abdel Fateh
Younis. Heftir made his name in [Gaddafi]’s war against Chad in the 1980s.
At some point in that conflict, Hifter turned against [Gaddafi], joined
the Libyan National Salvation Front, and operated his resistance out of
Chad. When the US-supported government of Chad, led by Hisséne Habré
fell in 1990, Heftir fled Chad for the United States. It is interesting
that an ex-colonel of the Libyan army was able to so easily gain entry
into the United States. Also of interest is the fact that Hifter took up
residence in Vienna, Virginia, less than seven miles from Langley,
Virginia, the headquarters of the CIA.
Virginia, Hifter formed the Libyan National Army. In 1996, Hifter’s army
attempted an armed rebellion against [Gaddafi] in the eastern part of
Libya. It failed. But that did not stop his plans. History called him
back 15 years later. In March 2011, Hifter flew into Benghazi to
take command of the defecting troops, joining Younis whose troops had
been routed from Ras Lanouf on March 12. They faced the advance of [Gaddafi]’s forces toward Benghazi.
It was in this context, with the
uprising now firmly usurped by a neoliberal political leadership and a
CIA-backed military leadership, that talk of a no-fly zone emerged
(Resolution 1973 went through the United Nationa Security Council on March 19, and the bombing
began immediately). The US and France provided crucial air support
for the rebels.
With the hands on the political and military tiller
firmly in the US camp, it is no surprise that the armed response has
escalated. UN Resolution 1973 created a no-fly zone to
protect civilians. Within hours it was clear that the no-fly zone was
used to provide air support for the rebel army. The US and France
said that no ground forces would be used. Technology has rendered the
idea of “ground forces” redundant. The US brought its AC130 gunships
and A10s into operation over the skies of Libya. These are not designed
to help patrol the sky, but are capable of hovering in the sky and
firing at ground troops and at heavy machinery with its cannons
(including a 40 mm Bofors cannon) and machine guns. The AC130 is
essentially “boots in the air” and its presence shows that the US
arsenal (even under NATO command) is no longer patrolling the skies, but
is actively engaged against the [Gaddafi] forces on the ground. In
addition, the US inserted a phrase in Resolution 1973 that opened the
door to eventual arms provision to the rebels (the phrase is notwithstanding paragraph 9 of 1970,
which essentially means that Resolution 1973 will allow member states
to “take all necessary measures” including arms delivery,
notwithstanding the arms embargo of Resolution 1970).
On March 26, White House spokesperson Jay Carney
told the press that the resolution provided the US with “flexibility
within that to take that action [supply military equipment] if we
thought that were the right way to go”. In other words, the arms embargo
is flexible. On March 27, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told
NBC’s David Gregory that on the question of arms supply, “No decision
has been made about that at this point”. Escalation is on the horizon.
The troops of [Gaddafi] and of the rebels swing back
and forth between Ras Lanuf and Ajtabia like a pendulum. US and
French air strikes have degraded the forces of the regime, but they have
not yet destroyed them. The civil war continues. If the US and
France start to supply the rebels, it is likely that in the long haul [Gaddafi]’s troops will dissolve into an insurgency. In which case, Libya
is likely to enter a protracted period of deep instability.
in place in Benghazi from the political and military side would hope to
ride into Tripoli on their own tanks, but under NATO air cover. They
have many to whom they owe much. People like Mahmoud Jibril and Khalifa Hifter will be more accountable to their patrons in Paris and Washington
than to the people of Libya, whose blood is being spilled on both sides
for an outcome that is unlikely to benefit them.
[This article first appeared at Counterpunch. Vijay Prashad is the George and
Martha Kellner chair of South Asian History and director of
International Studies at Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut. His most recent
book, The Darker Nations: A People's History of the Third World, won the Muzaffar Ahmad Book Prize for 2009. The Swedish and French editions are just out.]