One year on from “liberation” and Libya sinks into chaos

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At the time the papers said that “they came in triumph”; Cameron and Sarkozy went to Tripoli and Benghazi around a year ago in order to accept the cheers of a war-weary crowd and to “hail a new dawn for Libya”. This after supporting both anti and pro-Gaddafi factions of the Libyan state and shortly after killing an unknown number of Libyans as they “liberated” them from the grip of Gaddafi with bombardments from the air and their special forces on the ground. The war, contrary to early reports, was fully backed by American imperialism from the beginning, who, “leading from behind”, pushed the British and French to secure this vital oil region for their own interests while also opening up a further scramble among the other imperialist players to gain what influence they could. Germany, who played a back seat role during the war, seems to have done particularly well from Libyan contracts by dint of its economic clout and contacts; and German economic strength is a growing factor on the imperialist chessboard. The local and wider spread of imperialist barbarity goes beyond any possible economic advantages coming from the Libyan war. Another factor in pushing forward this war forward that must have weighed on the imperialist scales from the US point of view was the growing instability in the eastern Mediterranean with the post-Mubarak regime in Egypt suddenly ambiguous towards Israel and allowing Iranian warships to pass through the Suez Canal.

It's not that the first anniversary celebrations of such an important event have been muted; the one year on celebrations of the “triumph of liberation” from Cameron et al have been non-existent. Not surprising really. This was supposed to be the war where they finally learnt the lessons about Iraq in securing and rebuilding the nation after the fall of a tyrant. But, for the greater population of Libya, the “liberation” and its aftermath has brought nothing but more misery, with terror, intimidation, shortages, inflation and unemployment – one of the triggers of the original uprising – higher than it's ever been. The country itself is riven by various warring factions including a resurgent jihadist force linked to al Qaida. On August 27 the US State Department issued a statement warning US citizens against unnecessary travel in Libya adding: “Political violence, including car bombings in Tripoli and assassinations of military officers and alleged former regime officials in Benghazi, has increased. Inter-militia conflict can erupt at any time or any place in the country”. Simon Tisdall, who gave the quote in The Guardian on September 13, goes on to say about the breakaway army in Misrata controlling 30,000 small arms with “revolutionary brigades” controlling “more than 820 tanks, dozens of heavy artillery pieces and more than 2,300 vehicles equipped with machine-guns and anti-aircraft weapons”. Looking further afield in the region, the fallout of the war in Libya has spread more war and bloody instability throughout Mali and the Sahel giving a “new dawn”, if you like, to the Islamic fundamentalists of al-Qaida in the Maghreb. In Libya itself, the British Consulate in Benghazi had already been hit in June this year with the ambassador lucky to escape alive. It's these sorts of events that could well presage an Iraq-style breakdown along with an unremitting Afghan-type war. It's not a matter of America, Britain, etc., “learning the lessons” from their disastrous wars of the recent past, because imperialism generally, and these imperialisms in particular, can, whatever their intentions, only spread more chaos, instability and war.

Embassy killings

The killing of US ambassador Stevens and three other embassy staff in Benghazi, September 11, is being put down by the US administration to reactions to a now notorious film denigrating Muslim beliefs. But the date is the clue and the way the supposed secret US safe house in Benghazi was also targeted, as well as the previous unpublicised warnings from the US Bureau of Diplomatic Security, suggest a much deeper and more worrying plot for the Americans and their allies. The attack was thought to be a pre-emptive assault against a CIA operation, which then necessitated a large number of US personnel to get out of the country quickly – according to officials in Washington.

It's more or less established that the al-Qaida linked Islamist brigade of Ansar al-Sharia was responsible for the US killings. The acting president of Libya's parliament, Mohamed al Magriaf, said he would be considering action against the militants and went on to say that this, the fifth attack on diplomatic targets in Benghazi since April, was “part of a wider campaign to destabilise Libya” (The Guardian, September 17). Magriaf was a leader of the National Front for the Liberation (Salvation) of Libya since 1981. He has historic links to the American and British establishment and his group was reportedly funded by the CIA and Saudi Arabia. It had hardly any support in Libya and this victor of the liberation and friend of the western coalition is presently president of the National Transitional Council government – a clear indication of the extent of western implantation in this so-called liberated country. But while Magriaf was “considering” action against the Islamists a quite extraordinary uprising of the local population took things into their own hands on September 22. After a demonstration of over 30,000 people in the afternoon against the militias, many hundreds, mostly unarmed young men, took on the militia at their compound, resulting in about 20 of them being killed, but driving the hated militias out. It wasn't just the anti-American Ansar al-Sharia that was attacked but the pro-government, pro-American Islamist militiamen of Rafallah al-Sahiti which was licensed by the government and answered to the Libyan Ministry of Defence. Since the end of the war there have been a small number of strikes and demonstrations in the country against the appalling conditions and there's been particular anger against the Islamist militias (and other militias) with their check-points, searches, kidnappings, swaggering around pointing their guns at anyone. But while there was certainly a kernel of social discontent underlying this mass movement, it has already been recuperated as “support for the army and the government” and in the west, reported as a “pro-democracy movement” (Channel 4 News, 23.9.12). Jihadist militias were also attacked and driven out of Derna in the east by the local population. Derna has long been a hot-bed of Islamic fundamentalism, tolerated, perhaps encouraged by the Gaddafi regime with the idea of creating a problem that it can then be seen “dealing with” in order to curry favour with the Americans and British.

The recent history of British imperialism's manoeuvres in Libya is marked by its particular low cunning and ruthlessness in dealing with the “Arab World”. Britain welcomed and sheltered anti-Gaddafi terrorists in the 1990's and paid large sums of money to an anti-Gaddafi al-Qaida cell in Libya in 1996. Then after Tony Blair's embrace of Gaddafi in 2004 the former British terrorist allies were delivered up, rendered in fact, to the Libyan regime's torturers. The deadly imperialist circus lurches around and once again the western powers backed the fundamentalists in the war against Gaddafi and now begin to reap the whirlwind. There's nothing new about this, it's just that it get progressively worse and more dangerous. It was the CIA and MI6 that set up the fundamentalists and the Taliban for the war across the AfPak border. The Americans and British in Iraq worked alongside the forces of Islamic fundamentalism in order to pursue their own aims and protect their own backs. In Basra particularly, the British used the Shia fundamentalists for both self-protection and to keep the local population under control. It was the Americans that funded, trained and armed the Chechen jihadists for their war in Bosnia in the 90s. And today, in Syria, the Americans and British are once again using the forces of Islamic fundamentalism to further their own aims. There have already been links here between the Foreign Office and the Muslim Brotherhood and the US has transported Libyan elements, some religious, through Turkey and into Syria. It's not that they keep on making the same mistakes, or that they don't learn from their mistakes – it's that imperialism has nowhere else to go except to arouse and utilise the forces of reaction, death and destruction. Imperialism is itself the condemnation of the impasse of decadent capitalism. And the forces of Islamic fundamentalism are particularly useful to the major imperialisms. There's something distinctly ironic in that while a large number of mainly peaceful protests by Muslims are taking place against another crap movie, the activities of the governments of Britain and America have been engaging in the financial, military and political support of the worst kind of Islamic fanatics across the most sensitive regions of the world. We have the Orwellian vision writ large of the bourgeoisie actively promoting the very forces of destruction that we are supposed to be at war with.

The famous film, or rather the clip of it, debasing the prophet Mohamed, has been used by all sides. It's been used by local religious and political leaders to shore up their support base by mobilising demonstrations and in one case a Pakistani minister offered a bounty on the film-makers' head. Over twenty people were killed in Pakistan in demonstrations against the film and the perceived insult. It isn't too difficult to raise a demonstration against the US in Pakistan given the pounding the country is receiving from the US military[1]. On the other hand, in the west, the issue around the film (or its trailer) has been turned into one of the defence of “our way of life”, “freedom” and “defence of free speech” with Salman Rushdie and various other artistic personalities wheeled out to testify in favour of democracy.

There is another, growing, factor of the decomposition of capitalism here that the ICC has long analysed: the historic weakening of US imperialism following the collapse of its Russian adversary and the appearance of the “New World Order” of 1990. The centrifugal tendencies of an imperialist free-for-all are increasing as are the challenges posed to US domination. Relations between the US and Israel are growing ever more estranged and bitter, and with a US ally like Pakistan who needs enemies? Despite their apparent rapprochement, there are tensions between the US and Turkey and its role in the region. The governments, such as they are, of Iraq and Afghanistan tend to go their own way and despite a $1.2 billion “grant” to it every year, a week ago Obama refused to describe Egypt as an “ally”. And despite enormous, sustained, high-level diplomatic efforts, the USA's “Asia/Pacific Vision” is already being seriously undermined by the actions of Chinese imperialism. As the “triumph of the liberation of Libya” turns rancid, it offers one more example of the weakening of US imperialism and its British and French allies – for now - and a further twist down in the spiral of imperialist chaos, instability and war.

Baboon. 25/ 9/12



[1]There was a report out yesterday from Stanford and New York Universities that US drone attacks on the Pakistani tribal areas have a “militant kill rate” of just 2% and the latest wheeze is to send  in another Hellfire missile some time after the first attack. This was originally a terrorist tactic to get the rescuers, emergency services, relatives and concerned passers-by. These are a real weapon of terror beyond the scale of the Nazi V-I rockets. They are visible in the air all day and can be heard all night. Any gathering, wedding, party, whatever, is a potential target. This is another example of the Obama administration going beyond the Neocon's wildest dreams. The British currently have an advertisement running on TV for the air force telling the lie that there are no civilian casualties. Otherwise the British military and media remain very quiet about the increasing number of British drone attacks.

 

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