Tuesday, 23 August 2011


On 20  March 2011, I had written a brief piece entitled "LIBYA: THE DAY AFTER". Now that the pro-NATO rebels are in Tripoli and it seems that they will prevail, it is important to reflect on exactly what this means for the country and its people. I am re-submitting the posting because I would like the readers to reflect not just on the day after for Libya, but for Tunisia and Egypt where uprisings have resulted in new governments, but where there has been no structural political, social, or economic change. Moreover, in the case of Libya, it seems inevitable that the victory of the US, UK and France is a resounding setback for the sovereignty of Libya and a huge setback for the socioeconomic status of its people as they will soon discover under a new regime.

I can only imagine the tragedy of the Libyan rebels, and I can understand the desire to remove the corrupt and tyrannical Gaddafi clan from power. There is a story that when Brazilian doctors performed plastic surgery on Gaddafi's face, he would only accept local anesthetic and only in the presence of his armed guards. He did not trust the doctors to administer total anesthesia for fear he would not wake up. This is the sort of leader who brings to mind paranoid dictators from the past, including Joseph Stalin.Who would not wish to see an end to hostilities in Libya, installation of a regime that represents all the tribes and tries to govern by pursuing policies intended to promote the welfare of all people who are deeply divided during the civil war of 2011.

However, trying to legitimize use of force against an Islamic country by using the UN and the Arab League as 'legal fronts' is a hollow strategy that will not serve western interests and it will further open the chasm between Muslims and the Crusading West. This is why Russia and China have permitted the US and its NATO allies to proceed, while only Germany has covered itself from the US-UK-French policy, with France appearing to be in the forefront of military operations that started in the afternoon of 19 March 2011 against Libyan targets. It is no coincidence that US, UK, and France that are leading the war against Libya all have a oil interests - corporations want to renegotiate contracts on more favorable terms with the post-Gaddafi regime.

That Gaddafi offered a technical cease fire on 18 March 2011, while pushing ahead with ground combat in Benghazi could be seen as a temporary success for the US; and/or Gaddafi intentionally provoking NATO. He could decide to leave early on, given that US military sources give two weeks for these operations to have an impact sufficient enough to cripple the regime in Tripoli. If Gaddafi leaves quickly and few lives are lost, it would be a major political victory for the rebels who would be obliged to cooperate with NATO countries. If he stays and fights it out until he is injured or killed, who knows what will unfold if Pentagon estimates about a two-weeks operation does not hold true. After a day of operations, official sources in Tripoli report 48 dead and several hundred wounded, while Gaddafi has called on his supporters to be armed to defend against 'Crusaders'.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon applauded Security Council decision on 17 March 2011 to use “all necessary measures” in defense of Libya's people from the violence by the Gaddafi regime, as the international community demands. Along with India, Brazil and Germany, China and Russia, which have veto power, abstained. While the UN was voting on Libya, there was a massacre in Yemen where the uprising is on its third month, and major unrest in Bahrain. The question that arises is whether the UN Security Council should take action on the uprisings of those countries. It is a certainty that the US will do nothing in either Yemen, Bahrain or any of the Persian Gulf states because they are pro-West. This is well known throughout the Islamic world, and the hypocrisy of US-NATO policy will be exposed if and when the bombing starts against Libya.

It is true that the US, which needed the cover of Arabs to bomb yet another Islamic country, received it from the politically ineffective and irrelevant, and morally bankrupt and unpopular Arab League - in essence Saudi Arabia, although Egypt also wants a new regime in Tripoli. Let us assume that Arab League members also become militarily involved, and not just engage in boycott and interceptions of supplies to Gaddafi's forces. How will this reflect with the general population when a Muslim is helping in a Crusade against a fellow Muslim country? As French fighter planes were flying over Benghazi, Moscow repeated its reservations about NATO raids as flights were taking place over Libyan air space.

The problem that the US-NATO forces have is that Muslims know them very well by their actions in Iraq, Afghanistan, and of course in Palestine. Already Iraqis protesting Saudi interference in Bahrain have strongly condemned the US-NATO double standard and denounced the Saudi king as a tool of the US and Israel. That the otherwise pro-West Turkish Premier Erdogan criticized any military intervention in Libya is indicative that he recognizes the wave of Muslim opposition to such a move. Syria has also distanced itself from NATO's military solution, and has even been accused of backing Gaddafi, simply because Damascus has called for a cease fire and political solution. Nor is it a secret that the US, Israel and some EU members would love to destabilize Syria and spread the Islamic revolts to that country so a new regime can replace the Ba'ath one-party state.

The situation is more complicated because Gaddafi keeps insisting that al-Qaeda is behind the opposition. While his claim may appear absurd, there are the conspiratorial minded who believe that Gaddafi is telling the truth and the US is indeed helping the same side as al Qaeda. It is true that al-Qaeda has been against Libya for some time and commander Sheikh Abu Yahiahas has called for the fall of Gaddafi, as he had for the fall of regimes in Tunisia and Egypt. The issue of where Libyan rebels are getting their supplies also complicates the picture. Qatar is one of the sources, and the US has urged Saudi Arabia to help the rebels. Given the rebels' supply sources, is Gaddafi wrong to imply that the US-EU and al-Qaeda are on the same side?

A political solution to the Libyan civil war could have worked out assuming there was a political will on the part of the US, and it is still possible to drive Gaddafi out during military operations through back-channel diplomacy. A political solution would have required a credible NATO military threat behind it in order to force Gaddafi from power, if he resists. However, published sources indicate that the hardliners within the Obama administration - Clinton and Rice influenced by right wing and pro-Israel views - ruled out a political settlement and went right for the military solution reminiscent of the reckless foreign policy Bush followed and Obama criticized. At the same time, Sarkozy has really pushed for military solution, largely because he is in trouble at home owing to the rise of the far right led by Marine Le Pen. But what now? What is Gaddafi uses scud missiles
that can reach a number of EU targets; what if he uses mustard gas or other weapons in his arsenal; what if this 'little war' gets out of hand; what if...?

The question is whether rebels believe that their interests really converge with those of US and Europe once Gaddafi is out and a new regime is in place? And do the US and EU believe that the post-Gaddafi regime would be loyal to the West to the degree they hope, especially given Libya's historical tradition of anti-West sentiment? Cooperation out of necessity with strong undercurrents of antagonism is the only future between the post-Gaddafi regime and the West. 
And that would be a best case scenario. Meanwhile, we have to wait and see how many innocent people will die and sustain war injuries as a result of the US-UK-French campaign to deliver democracy to Libyans and oil contracts on better terms for their corporations - oh yes, defense contractors also stand to make a handsome profit, while the world economy will take another hit as oil price rises and makes all products and services more expensive amid a recession. 

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