Understanding the War in Libya (1/3) – Michel Collon – translation from the French

[Original version in French: http://www.michelcollon.info/Comprendre-la-guerre-en-Libye-1-3?lang=fr%5D

Part I: Some questions to ask oneself at the onset of each war

Part II: The objectives of the USA go far beyond oil

Part III: Avenues for action

Nobel Intervention

Some questions to ask oneself at the onset of each war

27 times. The United States has bombed some other country 27 times since 1945. Each time, we were told that these acts were “just” and “humanitarian”. Today, we are told that this war is different from the preceding ones. But they said the same thing the last time. And the time before that. They say it every single time. Isn’t it time we wrote down the questions one must ask oneself before a war in order to avoid being manipulated?

Is there always money for war?

In the most powerful country on the planet, more than 45 million people live below the poverty line. In the United States, schools and public services are falling into ruin because the State “has no money”. In Europe, too, “no money” for pensions or to create jobs. But when the greed of the bankers provokes a financial crisis – then, within a few days, they’re able to find billions to save them. Which enabled these same American bankers to distribute 140 billion USD in profit to their shareholders and speculative traders.

For war, too, it seems easy to find money. Furthermore, it’s our taxes that pay for these weapons and this destruction. Is it truly reasonable to burn hundreds of thousands of euros with every missile or fifty million euros an hour on an aircraft carrier? Surely war must be a good bargain for someone?

At the same time, a child dies of hunger every five seconds and the number of poor people only increases on our planet in spite of all the promises.

What is the difference between a Libyan, a Palestinian and a Bahraini?

Presidents, ministers and generals swear solemnly that their only goal is to save Libyans. But at the same time, the Sultan of Bahrain massacres protesters disarmed by the two thousand Saudi Arabian soldiers sent in by the United States. At the same time, in Yemen, the troops of the dictator Saleh, ally of the U.S.A., mow down 52 protesters with their machine guns. These facts are not contested by anyone, yet the US Secretary of War, Robert Gates, simply declared, “I do not believe that it is my role to intervene in the internal affairs of Yemen”. [1]

Why this “two weights, two measures”? Because Saleh docilely welcomes the US 5th Fleet and says yes to everything that Washington commands? Because the barbaric regime of Saudi Arabia is an accomplice of the multinational oil companies? Is it that there are “good dictators” and “bad dictators”?

How can the USA and France pretend to be “humanitarian”? When Israel killed two thousand civilians in their bombardment of Gaza, did they establish a “no-fly zone”? No. Did they impose sanctions? No. None. Worse, Javier Solana, at the time responsible for foreign affairs at the EU, declared in Jerusalem, “Israel is a member of the European Union without being a member of its institutions. Israel participates in all the programmes” of research and technology of the Europe of the 27, going on to add, “No other country outside the continent has the kind of relations that Israel enjoys with the European Union.” On this point, Solana speaks the truth: Europe and its arms manufacturers collaborate closely with Israel in the production of drones, missiles and other armaments that rain death down on Gaza.

Let us not forget that Israel drove out 700,000 Palestinians from their villages in 1948, still refuses to let them exercise their rights and continues to commit multiple war crimes. Under this occupation, 20% of the Palestinian population is, or has been, in Israeli prisons. Pregnant women are forced to give birth manacled to their beds and sent back to their cells with their babies! But these crimes are committed with the complicity of the USA and the EU.

The life of a Palestinian or a Bahraini is not worth the same as that of a Libyan? Is it that there are “good Arabs” and “bad Arabs”?

For those who still believe in humanitarian war…

In a televised debate that I had with Louis Michel, ex Belgian Foreign Minister and European Commissioner for Cooperation in Development, he swore to me – hand on his heart – that this war aimed to “bring into agreement the conscience of Europe.” He was supported by Isabelle Durant, leader of the Belgian and European Greens. Thus have the “peace and love” environmentalists mutated into war-mongers!

The problem is that we are given the same line of a humanitarian war each time and that these people “of the Left”, like Durant, let themselves be fooled each time. Wouldn’t it be better to read what American leaders really think instead of just listening to them on television?

Let us listen to the famous Alan Greenspan, long time director of the US Federal Reserve, on the subject of the US bombardment of Iraq: “I am saddened that it should be politically incorrect to recognize what everyone knows: the war on Iraq was essentially for the oil” [2]. He adds, “The officials of the White House responded, ‘Well, unfortunately, we cannot talk about the oil.'” [3]

Let us listen to John Norris, director of communications of Strobe Talbott, at the time the Deputy US Secretary of State, responsible for the Balkans: “What best explains the NATO campaign is that Yugoslavia resisted the larger political and economic reforms [he means refused to give up socialism], and not our duty to the Albanians of Kosovo.” [4]

Let us listen to the former US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, on the subject of the bombing of Afghanistan: “There are tendencies, supported by China and Japan, to create a free-trade zone in Asia. A hostile Asiatc bloc combining the most populous countries of the world with huge resources and some of the most important industrialized countries would be incompatible with the American national interest. For these reasons, America must maintain a presence in Asia…” [5]

This confirmed the strategy put forward by Zbigniew Brzezinski, the man responsible for external politics under Carter and the Obama’s inspiration: “Eurasia (Europe + Asia) remains the chess-board on which the fight for global supremacy is played out […] The manner in which the United States ‘manages’ Eurasia is crucially important. The biggest continent on the surface of the globe is also its geopolitical axis. The power that controls it, controls two of the three most developed, most productive regions. 75% of the world population, the majority of material resources, either as enterprises or mines of primary materials, around 60% of the world total.” [6]

Have we in the Left not learned anything from the humanitarian media-lies of the preceding wars?

When Obama says it himself, you don’t believe even him?

The 28th of March, Obama justified thus the war against Libya: “Conscious of the costs and risks of military action, we are naturally reticent to use force to resolve the numerous challenges of the world. But when our interests and our values are at stake, we have the responsibility to act. Given the costs and the risks of intervention, we must every time consider our interests in the face of the necessity to act. America has an important strategic interest in stopping Qaddafi from defeating those who oppose him.” Isn’t it clear? Some say, “Yes, it’s true, the United States only act where it is in their interest as well. But, at least, even though we can’t intervene everywhere, we would have saved these people.”

Wrong. We will have demonstrated that only interests are defended. Not values. First of all, every war that the US wages claims more victims than ever before (in Iraq, one million direct or indirect victims!) Secondly, the intervention in Libya prepares the ground for many more…

Who refused to negotiate?

But as soon as you express your suspicions about the opportunity of this war against Libya, you are made to feel guilty, “So you refuse to save the Libyans from the massacre?”

Badly framed question. Supposing that all that we have been told really took place. First of all, do we stop a massacre with another massacre? We know that our bombing will kill many innocent civilians. Even if, as in every war, our generals promise that this one will be “clean”, we have become used to this propaganda.

Secondly, there was a much simpler and more effective way of immediately saving lives. All the countries of Latin America proposed to immediately send a mediation mission, led by Lula. The Arab League and the African Union supported this démarche and Qaddafi had accepted (proposing also that international observers be sent to verify the cease-fire). But the Libyan rebels and the Westerners refused this mediation. Why? “Because Qaddafi is not sincere”, they say. Possible. Whereas the rebels and the Westerners have always been sincere? As for the United States, it is useful to remind oneself of their behaviour in all preceding wars every time a cease-fire was possible…

In 1991, when Bush senior attacked Iraq because it had invaded Kuwait, Saddam Hussein proposed to retreat if Israel also pulled out of theillegally occupied territories in Palestine. But the USA and the Europeans refused six negotiation proposals. [7]

In 1997, when Clinton bombed Yugoslavia, Milosevic had accepted all the conditions imposed at Rambouillet, but the USA and NATO added another, impossible to accept voluntarily: the total occupation of Serbia. [8]

In 2001, when Bush junior attacked Afghanistan, the Taliban had proposed to hand Bin Laden over to an international tribunal if proof of his complicity were furnished, but Bush refused to negotiate.

In 2003, when Bush attacked Iraq on the pretext of weapons of mass destruction, Saddam Hussein proposed the sending in of inspectors but Bush refused because he knew that the inspectors would not find anything. This was confirmed by the leak of a memo of a meeting between the British government and the heads of the British secret services in July 2002: “The British leaders wanted the ultimatum to be drafted in inacceptable terms so that Saddam Hussein would reject it immediately. But they were far from certain that this would work. So there was a Plan B: the planes patrolling the no-fly zone would do some extra bombing in the hope that this would provoke a reaction that would give an excuse for a big bombing campaign.” [9]

So, before affirming that “we” always speak the truth and “they” always lie, and that “we” always look for peaceful solutions while “they” are never ready to compromise, one must be more prudent… Sooner or later, the public will learn what really happened during the negotiations held backstage, and will find, once again, that it has been manipulated. But it will be too late, and one does not revive the dead.

Libya is like Tunisia and Egypt?

In his excellent interview, published a few days ago in Investig’Action, Mohamed Hassan asked the right question, “Libya: popular revolt, civil war or military aggression?” In light of some recently conducted research, it is possible to reply: the three, in fact. A spontaneous revolt, rapidly controlled and transformed into civil war (which had been prepared), all of which served as the pretext for military aggression. Which, also, had been prepared. Nothing falls from the sky in politics. Some explanation is required…

In Tunisia and in Egypt, the popular revolts grew progressively over some weeks, becoming gradually more organised and coming together on certain clear demands, which permitted them to throw out the tyrants. But when one analyses the ultra-rapid chain of events in Benghazi, one is intrigued. February 15th, demonstration of the relatives of the political prisoners from the 2006 revolt. Demonstration harshly repressed, as has always been the case in Libya and in the other Arab countries. And, just two days later, another demonstration, except that this time, the demonstrators are armed and immediately escalate the struggle against Qaddafi to the next phase. In the space of two days, a popular revolt becomes a civil war! Totally spontaneously?

To know this, one must closely examine what the rather imprecise term “Libyan opposition” hides. In our opinion, four components, with very different interests. 1) A democratic opposition. (2) Dignitaries from Qaddafi’s regime, “turned” by the West. (3) Libyan tribes, discontented with the division of the spoils. (4) Combatants with Islamist tendencies.

Who are in this “Libyan opposition”?

In this entangled mess, we need to know who we are dealing with. And especially, which faction was integrated into the strategies of the big powers…

1) Democratic opposition. It is perfectly legitimate to demand change from the Qaddafi regime, dictatorial and corrupted like the other Arab regimes. A people has the right to want to replace an authoritarian regime with a more democratic system. Yet, up until now, these demands are not clearly organised and lack a precise programme. Also, there are various Libyan revolutionary movements in exile, equally disparate, but all opposed to foreign interference. For various reasons that we will clarify, today
these democratic elements do not have much say under the banner of the USA and France.

2) “Turned” dignitaries. In Benghazi, a “provisional government” has been established and is led by Mustapha Abu Jalil. “This man had been, until February 21, Qaddafi’s Minister of Justice. Two years ago, Amnesty had included him in the list of the most terrifying violators of human rights in North Africa.” [10] It is this individual who, according to the Bulgarian authorities, had organised the torture of the Bulgarian nurses and the Palestinian doctor detained for a long time by the regime. Another “strongman” of this opposition is Abdul Fatah Younis, Qaddafi’s ex-Interior Minister and before that, the chief of the political police. We understand thus why Massimo Introvigne, representative of the OSCE (Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe) for the fight against racism, xenophobia and discrimination, would say that these personalities “are not the ‘sincere democrats’ of Obama’s discourse, but count among the worst instruments of Qaddafi’s regime, aspiring to drive out the Colonel to take his place.” [10]

3. Discontented tribes. Mohamed Hassan was correct in underlining the fact that Libya’s structure has remained strongly tribal. During the colonial period, under the regime of King Idriss, the eastern tribes dominated and profited from the oil riches. After the revolution of 1969, Qaddafi found support among the western tribes and this time, it was the eastern tribes who suffered. Regrettable, since a democratic and just power must fight against discrimination between regions. One may also wonder if the former colonial power did not encourage the discontented tribes in sapping the unity of the country. It would not be the first such case. Today, France and the USA intend to use the eastern tribes to take control of the country. Divide and conquer, an old classic of colonialism.

4. Al-Qaeda elements. Some cables published by Wikileaks warned that the East of Libya was, proportionally, the largest exporter in the world of “fighter-martyrs” in Iraq. Pentagon reports described an “alarming scenario” with respect to the Libyan rebels in Benghazi and Derna. Derna, a city of no more than 80,000 inhabitants, is supposed to be the biggest source of jihadis in Iraq. Furthermore, Vicent Cannistraro, former CIA chief in Libya, indicates that among the rebels, there are “many extremist Islamists capabale of creating problems” and that “there is high probability that the most dangerous individuals become influential in the event that Qaddafi should fall.” [10].

Evidently, all of this was written when Qaddafi was still “a friend”. But it shows the total absence of principles among the leaders of the USA and of its allies. When Qaddafi suppressed the Islamist revolt of Benghazi in 2006, it was with the arms and support of the Westerners. Sometimes, we are against Bin Laden-style fighters. Sometimes, we use them. One should have known.

Which element, from amongst these diverse “oppositions”, will win out? It is also, perhaps, an aim of the military intervention of Washington, Paris and London: ensuring that the “good ones” win? The good ones, from their point of view, naturally. Later, we will use the “Islamist menace” to install ourselves for good.

In any case, one thing is certain: the Libyan scenario is different from the Tunisian or Egyptian ones. There, it was, “a people united against a tyrant.” Here, we are in a civil war with Qaddafi supported by a section of the population. And in this civil war, the role played by the US and French secret services is no longer all that secret…

What has been the role of the secret services?

In reality, the Libyan affair did not start in Benghazi on February 21, but in Paris on October 21, 2010. According to the exposé of the Italian journalist, Franco Bechis (Libero, March 24), it was that day that the French secret services prepared the revolt of Benghazi. It was then (or perhaps even earlier) that they “turned” Nuri Mesmari, Qaddafi’s chief of protocol, practically his right arm, the only one who entered the home of the Libyan leader without knocking. Arriving in Paris with his whole family for a surgical procedure, Mesmari did not meet a single doctor. He did meet with several functionaries of the French secret services and with close collaborators of Sarkozy, according to the web-based bulletin Maghreb Confidential.

On November 16, at the Hotel Concorde Lafayette, he prepared an imposing delegation that would visit Benghazi two days later. Officially, it included officials from the Ministry of Agriculture and directors of the firms France Export Céréales, France Agrimer, Louis Dreyfus, Glencore, Cargill and Conagra. But, according to the Italian services, the delegation also included several French military men camouflaged as businessmen. In Benghazi, they would meet Abdallah Gehani, a Libyan colonel whom Mesmari had indicated as willing to desert.

Mid-December, Qaddafi, suspicious, sends an emissary to try and contact Mesmari. But the French arrest him. Other Libyans visit Paris on December 23, and it is they who will lead the revolt of Benghazi with the militias of Colonel Gehani. Also, Mesmari supplied the French with numerous  secrets of the Libyan defence. From all this, it becomes clear that the revolt in the east is not as spontaneous as we have been told. But this is not all. The French are not the only ones…

Who currently directs the military operations of the anti-Qaddafi “Libyan National Council”? A man just recently arrived, on March 14, from the USA, according to Al Jazeera. Described as one of the “stars” of the Libyan insurrection by the right-wing British newspaper, the Daily Mail, Khalifa Hifter is a former colonel of the Libyan army who moved to the United States. The man who, until the disastrous expedition into Chad in the late 80’s, was one of the principal military commanders of Libya, emigrated to the United States and lived his last twenty years in Virginia. Without any source of income, but at a short distance from the offices… of the CIA. [11] It’s a small world.

How could a high-ranking Libyan military official enter the United States in utter tranquility, a few years after the Lockerbie terrorist attack, for which Libya was convicted, and live calmly next to the CIA. He must have offered something in exchange. Published in 2001, Pierre Péan’s book Manipulations africaines (African Manipulations) traces Hifter’s connections with the CIA and the creation, with its support, of the Libyan National Liberation Front. The only exploit of said Front being the organisation in 2007, in the USA, of a “national congress” financed by the National Endowment for Democracy [12], traditional intermediary of the CIA for watering organisations working in the interest of the United States…

In March of that year, on a date not communicated, President Obama signed a secret order authorising the CIA to conduct operations in Libya to overthrow Qaddafi. The Wall Street Journal, in which this news was published, adds, “CIA officials acknowledge having been active in Libya since several weeks, just like other Western services.”

All of this is no longer very secret – it has been around on the Internet for quite some time, and what is astonishing is that the mainstream media should not have said one word about it. Yet, we already know of several “freedom fighters” thus armed and financed by the CIA. For example, in the 80’s, the Contras, terrorist militias created by Reagan to de-stabilise Nicaragua and overthrow its progressive government. Haven’t we learned anything from History? This European “Left” that applauds bombings doesn’t use the Internet?

Should we be surprised that the Italian services “expose” thus the exploits of their French brothers and that they “expose” their US colleagues? Only if one believes in the pretty tales of friendship between the “Western allies”. We’ll come to that…

To follow:

2. The objectives of the USA go far beyond oil

3. Avenues for action

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