Libya: a focus of capitalist barbarity

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Libya has had regular media attention since 2011, the year of the liquidation by the imperialist powers of NATO (France, Britain, United States) of Muammar al-Gaddafi who led the country with a rod of iron for forty years.

"This unfortunate Libya, which the Franco-British war of 2011 has transformed into a paradise for the terrorists of Daesh and al-Qaida, has today inherited a civil war. The trafficking of arms, drugs and migrants proliferates and it rarely comes into conflict with the jihadists. That is to be expected; they are often business partners..."[1]

After the "Arab Spring" was over in Libya, where a part of the population rose up against the bloody and corrupt regime of Gaddifi, the western powers (in the name of the "humanitarian protection of the civilian population" that the ex-dictator had brutally repressed) declared war on the Libyan leader. After massacring numerous civilians under a barrage of bombs and liquidating Gaddafi, they left the country in the hand of multiple bloody groups who are still fighting over control of the moribund Libyan state.

Among the dozen or so groups and militias in the country, the two most important factions with pretences to privileged access to the major powers and the UN are: the "Government of National Accord" (GNA) based in Tripoli and led by Fayez el-Sarraj, and the "Libyan National Army" (LNA) led by Benghazi-based Khalifa Haftar who governs the region of Cyrenaica. Both of these "petty" gangsters benefit from a number of supporters, larger imperialist sharks that are more or less open about their support.

"At the heart of the tribes and the city states that Libya has become, the Kremlin sits in the same camp as the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and... France; whereas Italy, Qatar and above all Turkey give their support to the government of Fayez el-Sarraj. This support takes multiple forms as Russia is printing shipping-container loads of Libyan dinars for its protégé, whose rival controls the Libyan Central Bank, in exchange for cargos of oil. In this endless war, where Chinese and Turkish drones at two million dollars apiece are being fired by militias wearing T-shirts, jeans and trainers, the Kremlin is playing a game which is everything except stabilising.  But who outside of an African Union almost totally marginalised on this issue, really wants to see Libya rise from the ashes? ”[2]

On paper both groups formally confront each other on Libyan soil but the reality is that every man for himself dominates.

This barbaric spectacle reveals the abject and hypocritical attitude of the major powers in Libya who are all playing a double game: "The resurgence of conflict in Libya has shown numerous instances of manoeuvring behind the scenes that certain regional or global powers would have preferred kept in the shadows"[3]. Just like the French government for example when it was caught red-handed when it tried to deny the existence of missiles provided to Marshall Haftar by its secret services while affirming that "France is in Libya in order to combat terrorism".

As for the two Libyan war-lords, their objectives are equally villainous: "Standing face-to-face, the two camps do not dare to admit the real motive of their confrontation. Extreme language is used by them ('revolution' or 'anti-terrorism') but that cannot cover up the naked character of a rivalry around the appropriation of resources which takes on a very particular sense in the old oil Eldorado which is Libya. Despite some upsets caused by the post-2011 chaos, Libyan oil continues to generate revenue of 70 million dollars (62.5 million euros) a day. Also the management of distribution networks for the oil income further sharpens appetites" [4].

This is another aspect of the conflict that no-one talks about in the official speeches of the leaders of the capitalist world! This race for the oil "booty", opened up by the chaos of 2011, pits a large number of small and big gangsters, local and international, against each other on Libyan soil.

Turkish and Russian imperialism violently dispute the control of Libya "as friends"

Not content with the atrocities perpetrated in Syria, Russia and Turkey are imposing their presence in Libya with the declared aim of dislodging the rival existing mafias:

"While fighting has ravaged the periphery of Tripoli since 2019, Russia and Turkey are the new actors putting themselves forward as part of a future political solution in Libya. An edifying scene illustrates this great geopolitical turn around in the eastern Mediterranean:  a meeting up on January 8 in Istanbul between the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and the boss of the Kremlin, Vladimir Putin. On this day the two men ostensibly displayed their complicity when announcing the launch of the Turk Stream, a gas line linking Russia to Turkey via the Black Sea. More important, they launched a joint appeal for a cease-fire in Libya 'to come in on January 12' and, in a sign of their growing influence on ground, which they had been discrete about up to now, the truce was relatively respected by their local affiliates. In the current battle around Tripoli, Moscow supports the dissident Marshall, Khalifa Haftar, patron of the Libyan National Army (LNA), rooted above all in the Cyrene (eastern) region. On its side, Ankara supports the Government of National Accord (GNA) of Fayez Sarraj, based in Tripoli and formally recognised by the international community. Nine months after the assault unleashed by Haftar against the Libyan capital, Russia and Turkey have thus demonstrated that they were masters of tempo on this front, capable of alternating escalations and curtailments as they pleased"[5].

As the press has underlined, in the new Libyan situation Europe and the United States are just extras as NATO is totally paralysed by its own divisions. The Russian and Turkish leaders can thus occupy the empty space and militarily confront each other through opposing acolytes, exporting to Libya the bloody atrocities that they have already perpetrated in Syria. Of course these two countries are emerging (or, in Russia’s case, re-emerging) powers with limited capacities[6].

But the two states have firmly decided to gulp down the "Libyan cake". For this reason they have already dispatched their respective mercenaries (2,000 "Wagner" Russians and 3,000 Syrian fighters, brigades in the pay of Erdogan) with a view to backing their local champions of the moment. Moreover each of these monsters is trying to "legitimise" their involvement, as when Erdogan affirmed: "We are on these grounds where our ancestors marked history because we have been invited there to resolve injustice". But the real motivation of the Turkish leader's move into Libya is the prospect of enticing contracts. For example, Erdogan hopes to re-justify the 25 billion dollars worth of contracts signed under the Gadaffi regime which went out of the window in 2011. Turkey is displaying its imperialist ambitions not only towards its close neighbours (Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Greece) but is also trying to implant itself in Africa and the Persian Gulf. In fact Libya constitutes a major prize for Turkey's imperialist ambitions and its deranged "New Ottoman Empire".

However, Erdogan has lit fuses and spread trouble everywhere he can, all the while knowing that Turkey hasn't the means to back up its political adventurism, neither at the military level (NATO doesn't want to follow it in its confrontation with Russia), nor on the financial level[7].

As to Russia, remember that the USSR was the first state to recognise the regime of Colonel Gaddafi after his military coup in 1969. It remained the principal provider of arms up to the assassination of the "Libyan dictator" in 2011. Putin has strongly insisted on the fact that Moscow has erased 4.6 dollars of Libyan debt that has been piling up since the time of the Cold War (in military materials), and that it intends to recuperate its "rights" weapons in hand, i.e., through its discrete mercenaries.

According to Le Monde, January 26, 2020: "In 2017, Marshall Haftar began to get Russian support, principally the sending of mercenaries linked to the ‘Wagner Group’ created at the beginning of the conflict in Ukraine in 2014, and which since has operated in Syria, Sudan, Central Africa and now in Mozambique (...). The Wagner connection has the advantage for Russia that it can always deny it: 'If there are Russian citizens there, they don't represent the interests of the Russian state and do not receive money from the Russian state', Vladimir Putin argued on January 11".

Putin is an extraordinary cynic, hardly surprising for an ex-member of the KGB, an organisation versed in lies and the falsification of history.

For a long time to come Libya will remain a battlefield of capitalist vampires, large and small, for whom anything goes in order to defend their sordid interests.

"Libya: small murders between friends"

"It's a report of fourteen pages counter-signed by a Ghason Salame (...). Published at the end of January by the United Nations mission in Libya, this is an autopsy of a mass murder committed six months ago, 20 kilometres west of Tripoli and has been swept under the carpet for one simple reason: the victims are Africans and the guilty party has relations in high places so the enquiry only suggests his identity without ever revealing it. We are in Tadjourah, a village of 50,000 inhabitants not far from the Tunisian border and more precisely in the detention camp of Daman. Guarded by a brigade of militias linked to the Interior Minister of the Government of National Accord (GNA) of Fayez el-Sarraf, Daman is one of 34 detention centres of north-west Libya in which ten thousand migrants and refugees are crammed and about which no-one knows what to do. The camp contains a workshop for the repair of military vehicles and, a hundred metres away are two hangers with tin roofs where the detainees are kept, with men and women separated. There were about 600 of them, with Africans in the great majority, their dreams of Europe having turned into a daily nightmare of privations, humiliations and exactions.

The heat was suffocating on the night of the 2nd to the 3rd of July, 2019, when the inhabitants heard the bombardments from a drone which flew above the base at high altitude. The guards were nervous and the prisoners worried. In May, a similar appearance preceded a brief bombing of Daman by a small enemy device of the National Libyan Army of Khalifa Haftar, the Marshall of Benghazi. Some were left with a few injuries and there was great fear. But at 23h30 this night it was the howling of an engine of a fighter-bomber which sent everyone to the ground. Precision-guided, a bomb pulverised the workshop which was empty of occupants. What happened then in the course of the next ten minutes was a tragedy. Panicking, the migrants fled the hangers for shelter outside the camp. Led by an over-excited commander, the brigade militias fired their Kalashnikov's in the air in order to hold them back. Then in the chaos, three inmates collapsed, the rest of them ran back in disorder into the warehouses, where they were locked up. At 23:40, a second plane identical to the first dropped a 300 kg bomb on the hanger crowded with men which pierced the roof and exploded on the ground, digging out a crater four metres wide and three deep. It’s a shambles. The Daman guards hastily counted at least 57 shredded bodies, 96 missing, unknown whether they are dead or on the run, and 80 seriously injured. All anonymous. [...]

Just following the carnage, Khalifa Haftar's spokesman trumpeted the air attack as coming from 'the air-force of the Libyan National Army on the Daman camp', which was qualified as a 'military target' whose defenders used the migrants as human shields. Observers smiled at the announcement: everyone knew that the Marshall's tiny air-force had neither the means nor the pilots to carry out nocturnal raids with GPS/laser-guided bombs. On the other hand, as the UN reported with diplomatic prudence, 'a foreign state', sponsored and allied to the Marshall, had 'a certain number of planes' positioned at bases in Jufra and Al-Khadim which could have easily carried out this type of operation. According to some specialists these semantics hid an open secret: the state was the United Arab Emirates of Prince Mohammed Ben Zayad (MBZ), and the planes, Mirage 2000-9's, were sold to Abu Dhabi by France"[8].

In other words, it's really France which is behind this horrible massacre of migrants perpetrated by the UAE, big clients and allies of Paris in this zone. The criminal responsibility of France is so clear that the bourgeois press speaks openly of a war crime implicating the French government from the fact that Abu Dhabi's and Dassault Aviation signed a modernisation process of the Mirage 2000-9's November last, exposing Paris to the accusation of "complicity in war crimes by virtue of an arms treaty of which France is a signatory". The UN was equally aware of what went on in this abominable carnage. Its report shows that it knew perfectly well the identity of the real assailants on the refugee camps and kept it to itself.

"Alongside the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Saudi Arabia (the real allies of the LNA), Russia today has taken the place of France in the list of principal protectors of Haftar, notably on the Security Council of the UN. But while waiting on the taking of Tripoli, French support is still wanted by the Benghazi clan"[9]. In fact French imperialism finds itself in "good company" at the heart of the bloody chaos of Libya. But its criminal responsibility doesn't stop there: it shares with its European partners the responsibility for the monstrous "welcome camps" for migrants fleeing repression or on a deadly journey towards Europe.

The disgusting policy of the European Union in Libya

As part of the bloody chaos provoked by the major imperialist powers, Libya has become a real "market" and cemetery for migrants, a situation for which the EU is largely responsible. 

Images of a slave market in Libya were broadcast by CNN on November 14 2017, showing human beings auctioned off and sold like beasts. The migrants, whose numbers vary between 700,000 and one million, fall into the traps of the criminal networks and traffickers, whose accomplices are the European and African states.  According to a report published by UNICEF: "The detention centres run by the militias are nothing other than forced labour camps, prisons where everyone is robbed under armed force. For the numbers of women and children, life in prison consists of rape and violence, sexual exploitation, hunger and endless abuse". All this illustrates the breadth of the capitalist barbarity that directly implicates the major imperialist powers which, through their policies, throw the migrants into the arms of slave-traders from another age.

The EU effectively demands that failing and totally corrupt neighbouring states (Niger, Nigeria, etc.,) enact anti-migrant policies through subsidies to build walls and erect death-camps. The EU also takes part in Mafia-type activities and trade between bandits by providing funds and material to the coastguards who are responsible for intercepting migrant vessels and taking them to the monstrous detention camps. The great European democracies are undertaking an abominable and terribly inhuman policy!

The market of slaves alongside the march of soldiers

"There are Chadians or Sudanese buying a mouthful of bread at the 'great bazaar of the mercenaries' (...). The human goods are thus shown off early in the morning on the pavements (dozens of Africans waiting in slippers, their feet as dusty as their lives, their future as black as their skin), and those who pass through in pick-ups stop a while, examine the workers for sale, giving orders: Today we want someone who can push a wheelbarrow, plaster with lime, unload some lorries. At least they weren't looking for someone to fight in their war; preparing weapons for the militias is OK; stay at the back if you can't do anything else. Some accept to fight because at least there's 300 euros a month, food lodgings -  the job pays. Others declined the offer, refusing to pay with their lives"[10].

In Libya migrants are more than ever in the same situation of misery, of distress in the middle of the perils which have led thousands to their death while trying to cross the Mediterranean, as this quote shows: "On the beach of Aghir on the island of Djerba, north of Tunisia, there were more bodies than bathers at the beginning of the month. On Monday July 1, a boat sank, after leaving the Libyan town of Zuwara, 120 km west of Tripoli, with 86 people on board. Three were pulled out alive but the sea took the rest of them.

‘I can't do this any longer. It's just too much.’ Chemseddine Marzog, a fisherman who for years has provided a last resting place for the bodies that the sea has thrown up, stated through his anger. ‘I have buried close to 400 bodies and dozens more will arrive in the days to come. It is impossible, it is inhuman and we can't manage alone’, said the desperate guardian of the migrant's cemetery at the town of Zarzis in Tunisia close to the Libyan border"[11].

During this time the "western democracies" firmly closed their eyes and turned up their noses at this cruel barbarity and continued their policy of the "securitisation" (closure) of their borders against "illegal immigrants" while proclaiming from the rooftops their "human universality".

But it's not only the EU which undertook this barbaric policy towards migrants, there's also their "great friend and client" Saudi Arabia. In fact Riyadh beats, imprisons and expels the "undesirable" migrants that it finds on its territory. "10,000 Ethiopians have been expelled from Saudi Arabia every month since 2017, the date on which the authorities of this country have intensified their merciless campaign to send back migrants without papers. About 300,000 have been returned since March of that year, according to the latest figures from the International Organisation for Migrants (IOM), and special flights full of the deported arrive each week at Addis Ababa. (...) Some hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians have been deported following an unprecedented wave of chaotic repression in force between 2013 and 2014"[12].

Here is a work of cold criminality from the grand buyer and supplier of the European countries, and Britain and France in particular, which finds itself in Libya in the same camp as Paris in order to sow terror. To tell the truth, this is business with a band of "big" and "small princes" of the Gulf, newly-rich capitalists (thanks to black gold), stuffed with blood and power and permanently looking for imperialist influence elsewhere.  First and foremost this is what we are seeing in Libya, in Syria, Yemen, etc., in all the massacre zones: the blood-soaked states who fuel the conflicts.

Taking account of the importance of the "Libyan cake", none of these bandits want to give up their share to any of the others. In fact the situation here resembles, with all its terror, that of Syria with its destiny of permanent murder and destruction without any possible reconstruction.

Against the bloody chaos and the capitalist barbarity in Libya and elsewhere, only the united international class struggle, led by the most experienced fractions of the working class, can stay the bloody hand of capitalism.

D. March 22, 2020.

[1]  Le Canard enchine (April 24, 2019).

[2]  Jeune Afrique (17-23 November, 2019).

[3]  Courrier international (14-21 November, 2019).

[4]  Le Monde (May 3, 2019).

[5]  Le Monde (January 26, 2020).

[6]  Russia's GDP is hardly equal to that of Texas and Turkey's resources are even more limited.

[7]  Hence its blackmail against the European Union on the question of refugees and more particularly against the Greek government.

[8]  Jeune Afrique, February 9-15, 2020. The BBC also reported on July 10, 2019 that anti-tank Javelin missiles provided by France were found at Haftar's Tripoli camp in breach of a UN arms embargo.

[9]  Jeune Afrique, March 15-21, 2020.

[10]  CI, February 6-12, 2020.

[11]  Le Monde, July 10 2019.

[12]  The Guardian, August 2019.


Imperialist decomposition