What’s really at stake in Libya
Way beyond the impenetrable fog of war, the ongoing tragedy in Libya is morphing into a war of acronyms that graphically depicts the tortuous “birth pangs” of a possibly new world order.
On one side there’s NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) and AL (the Arab League; on the other side, the African Union (AU) and the BRICS group (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa). Alternatively, this may be seen as the Atlanticist West and its counter-revolutionary Arab allies, against Africa and the emerging global economic powers.
Lies, lies and more lies
Much rumbling has emanated from the US Congress on Libya – centered on technicalities around the War Powers Act. Essentially, US lawmakers are so far refusing to authorize what walks like a war and talks like a war (and, according to the White House, isn’t a war). There will be no more funds for increased US involvement in this NATO adventure; but funds will keep flowing anyway.
As the semantic contortions involved in the Libya tragedy have already gone way beyond newspeak, this means in practice US drones will keep joining NATO fighter jets in bombing civilians in Tripoli.
Unlike the irrepressible Vijay Prashad from Trinity College in Connecticut, few in the West may have noticed what Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has had to say about all this. In a June 23 op-ed for the Financial Times titled “How China Plans to Reinforce the Global Recovery”, Wen states that China is ready to exercise its political muscle in MENA (Middle East/Northern Africa) via the BRICS.
Beijing is not exactly happy that it has been elbowed out of its sizable energy investments in Libya – over 30,000 workers evacuated in a matter of only two days; it wants to make sure it remains a major player whatever happens in Libya.
The Russian Foreign Ministry, for its part, has already stressed the “physical destruction of [Muammar] Gaddafi and members of his family raise serious doubts”. Gaddafi’s daughter, Aisha, is suing NATO in Brussels for the killing of her daughter, Mastoura, her brother and Gaddafi’s two other grandchildren.
Donatella Rovera, senior crisis response adviser for Amnesty International, has reported after spending three months in Libya that there’s absolutely no evidence Libyan troops on Viagra engaged in mass rape of women (that is a fact as far as the International Criminal Court is concerned).
Amnesty also found no evidence of mercenaries from Central and West Africa fighting the “rebels”. According to Rovera, “those shown to journalists as foreign mercenaries were later quietly released … Most were sub-Saharan migrants working in Libya without documents.”
Some though were lynched and even executed. Cyrenaica has historically been prejudiced against black Africans.
Civilians have been bombed by both the Libyan army and by NATO. Yet there’s no evidence the Libyan Air Force bombed “rebel” towns wholesale; and no proof of mass killing of civilians on the scale of Syria or Yemen. In a nutshell; the Gaddafi regime may hold a record of brutal repression against any sort of opposition. But it has not committed genocide. That buries the humanitarian hawks’ rationale for war six feet under.
Hypocrisy rules. The International Criminal Court accuses Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam – the one who used to be a darling of the London School of Economics – and intelligence czar Abdallah al-Senoussi of “crimes against humanity” while the ghastly dictatorship in Burma/Myanmar and the al-Khalifas in Bahrain walk away.
When in doubt, balkanize
One must be privy to the cavernous NATO halls in Mons, near Brussels, to gauge how much this swarm of military bureaucrats is impermeable to reality. NATO still believes that it “won” the war against Slobodan Milosevic by bombing Serbia for 78 days in 1999. What in fact “won” that war was Milosevic losing political support from Russia.
After more than 100 days of bombing Libya, with 12,000 sorties and 2,500 targets, NATO continues to spin that it is “winning”. Yes, just like it is “winning” in Afghanistan.
Newspeak rules – in the context of a relentless disinformation war. NATO refuses to admit straight away it is engaged in humanitarian liberation of Libya via regime change – which by the way is not authorized by UN resolution 1973.
The US for its part cut off Libyan TV from the ArabSat satellite – of which Libya is a shareholder. The new Libyan representative to the United Nations was refused a US visa. This means only the dodgy motley crew of “rebels” is allowed a forum in global English-language media.
Even with much-lauded “precision bombing” NATO loses at least one missile in 10. This accounts for the increasing rate of “collateral damage”. Targets are not only military; they are increasingly economic, such as the Libyan Mint, which prints dinars.
There is no national uprising against the regime. Tripolitania – Western Libya – has rallied behind Gaddafi; after all he is regarded as defending the country against a neo-colonial foreign attack.
As for those in Benghazi who believe opportunist neo-Napoleonic Nicolas Sarkozy loves them so much he wants to “liberate” them the Rafale way, they are regarded as patsies – if not traitors.
Northern African al-Qaeda jihadis for their part are having a ball manipulating NATO to reach their ends – performing the odd lynching or amputation in selected “liberated” environment.
NATO’s mix of arrogance and incompetence is inevitably leading towards a balkanization of Libya – a scenario Asia Times Online has already predicted. Considering almost two million machine-guns have already been distributed among the population, and assuming NATO will end up daring to put boots on the ground – the only way to win a decisive “victory” – one may imagine the absolutely dire consequences in terms of very bloody urban combat.
A new NATO protectorate
Libya is already a graphic case of post-modern neo-colonial plunder.
NATO “winning” means in practice Cyrenaica as an independent republic – although the “rebels” would rather restore the monarchy (the candidate can barely conceal his impatience in London). That also happens to be what Saudi Arabia and Qatar – major backers of regime change – want.
This “independent” eastern Libya would-be emirate is already recognized by a few countries, Sarkozy’s France included. No wonder; it is already configured as a NATO protectorate. The ultra-dodgy Transitional Council cannot even let its members – opportunist defectors, US Central Intelligence Agency assets, jihadi-linked clerics – be known.
Moreover, billions of dollars of Libyan assets have already been – illegally – seized by the US and the European Union. And part of the national oil production is being commercialized by Qatar.
This mongrel NATO war now has absolutely nothing to do with R2P (Responsibility to Protect) – the new gospel of humanitarian hawks that has turned international law on its head. Civilians are not being protected but bombed in Tripoli. There’s a refugee crisis – a direct consequence of this civil war. Against repeated pleading by Turkey and the AU, the humanitarian hawks didn’t even bother to organize a humanitarian corridor towards Tunisia and Egypt.
The only feasible way out is a ceasefire – with NATO out of the picture. The monitoring on the ground would fall to UN blue helmets – preferably composed by Africans. The West has absolutely no credibility to act as a mediator; Africans would be the first to oppose it. So what’s left would be the Arab League and the AU.
The Arab League is pro-Benghazi. In fact a fake Arab League vote (only nine out of 22 countries, six of them part of the Gulf Counter-Revolution Club, also known as GCC), manipulated by Saudi Arabia, allowed the Arab endorsement of what became UN resolution 1973; in fact this was a trade-off for the House of Saud having its hands free to repress pro-democracy protests in Bahrain, as Asia Times Online has reported (see Exposed: The US/Saudi deal, Asia Times Online, April 2).
The AU has been repeatedly scorned by the Anglo-French-American regime change consortium – even after it got a commitment from Gaddafi to enter negotiations. The AU is meeting again this Thursday in Equatorial Guinea. The AU Libya panel’s chair – the President of Mauritania, Mohamed Abdel Aziz – has already said on the record that Gaddafi “can no longer lead Libya”, which is a considerable step beyond for the AU.
But that does not mean that the AU – unlike NATO and the “rebels” – wants regime change right here, right now. Gaddafi relinquishing power will have to be a natural outcome of detailed negotiations. In a nutshell; the AU has a road map towards a solution; NATO has bombs. And the BRICS, especially via China, Russia and South Africa, privilege the AU strategy.
Expect the US/NATO consortium to fight to the death. For obvious reasons – all linked to the Pentagon’s eternal, irremovable full-spectrum dominance doctrine plus a crucial subplot, NATO’s new strategic concept adopted in Lisbon in November 2010 (see Welcome to NATOstan Asia Times Online, November 20, 2010).
NATO’s definition of “winning” implies Benghazi as the new Camp Bondsteel – the largest US military base in Europe, which happens to double as an “independent” state under the name of Kosovo. Cyrenaica is the new Kosovo. Balkanization rules.
This is a sort of dream scenario for the compound NATO/Africom. Africom gets its much-wanted African base (the current headquarters is in Stuttgart, Germany) after participating in its first African war. NATO extends its crucial agenda of ruling over the Mediterranean as a NATO lake. After Northern Africa there will be only two Mediterranean non-players to “take out”: Syria and Lebanon. The name of this game is not Libya; it’s Long War.
Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His new book, just out, is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).
He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.