After six months of fighting, the Libyan ‘rebels’ are celebrating their victory over the once all-powerful Gaddafi, who for 42 years had been flouting the western democracies, and playing cat and mouse with their leaders. He was also a member of the Socialist International. The democracies, in fat years and lean, had made every effort to get into the good books of Libya’s Guide, but from the moment when a real popular revolt against the Libyan dictator’s Jamahiriya regime was turned into a sinister struggle between factions of the bourgeoisie (see https://en.internationalism.org/wr/342/libya), they have been giving their active support to the Transitional National Council (TNC).
The western powers, led by France and Britain, orchestrated all the operations of the ‘rebels’. How many dead and wounded and maimed for life in this capitalist war which the obedient media have tried to pass off as the continuation of the ‘Arab spring’? For months we have seen no clear figures showing the number of victims, and yet to justify the NATO intervention the press has given us plenty of details about the massacres committed by Gaddafi’s forces. Since the first Gulf War, we have been fed the cruel lie about ‘targeted strikes’ which only kill bad guys and not civilians, even though there are thousands of examples to the contrary.
According to its own estimates, NATO has carried out 20,000 air raids and 8,000 ‘humanitarian’ strikes since 31 March. And even though NATO was bombing towns to ‘prepare the way for the rebels’, only nine deaths were officially recognised. But despite this black-out, whole villages and neighbourhoods were pulverised in the various battles, as in Tripoli and other ‘liberated’ towns, ‘guilty’ of the fact that the loyalist army or even Gaddafi himself were holed up in them. It’s not unlike what Assad’s army is doing with its ruthless bombardments of the Syrian population, which is currently being subjected to a real massacre. On top of this, a humanitarian disaster is taking shape: in Tripoli, there is no water, no electricity, no food supplies, while bodies are rotting in the streets. This is the face of ‘liberation’ in Libya.
The NATO forces have not limited themselves to bombing with the aim of ‘giving cover’ to the rebels. They have also sent out ground forces: 500 British special service personnel and hundreds of French commandos. And they have also armed the anti-Gaddafi military forces. France has acknowledged supplying ‘self-defence’ weapons such as rocket-launchers, assault rifles, machine-guns and anti-tank missiles. Not counting the presence of CIA forces, even though the USA has supposedly withdrawn from direct military intervention.
In this war where lies, generalised disinformation, inhumanity and contempt towards the population have been ever-present, the murderous hypocrisy both of the tribal chiefs in Libya and of the big and medium powers is going to be a trademark of the post-Gaddafi order. Obviously, few will regret the downfall of this odious and bloody dictator, who for months has been exhorting the population to sacrifice itself while using it as a human shield. But behind the speeches of the opposition and their international backers, there has been a real clash of interests and this is now going to become more and more dominant. After Iraq, ex-Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Ivory Coast etc, ‘international aid to the oppressed’ is the royal road to a situation of endless chaos. Never in history have so many countries and regions been the permanent prey of wars, terrorist attacks, and human and material destruction. Libya has just joined this world-wide concert.
We are being told that the ‘freedom fighters’ of the TNC are now going to work towards a regime of ‘stability, democracy and respect for human rights’, with the support of an ‘international community’ ready to unfreeze Libyan assets in order to finance the new regime. The coalition government (which envisages elections in...20 months) is a mish-mash of tribal chiefs, militant Islamists and former eminent members of the Gaddafi regime. The head of the TNC’s military council is himself a former jihadist, close to al-Qaida, with a murky past in Afghanistan. The president of the TNC was up till recently the justice minister of the hated Gaddafi regime – the same man who condemned the Bulgarian nurses to death. The prime minister was a childhood friend of the deposed dictator....
The short history of the TNC has already shown its shadowy side. Younes, a military head and leader of a powerful tribe, was killed at the end of July in very obscure circumstances. These ingredients, to which you would have to add the ancestral tribal rivalries which the ‘Leader’ managed to keep under wraps, are combining to make sure that there will be a general free for all. And if that wasn’t enough, the rush by the European, American and Arab raptors (like Qatar, Jordan, Algeria, etc) to grab their piece of this oil-producing cake will only further aggravate instability.
France, whose head of state is strutting around more than ever, is posing as the saviour of the Libyan people. Together with Britain it organised an “international conference in support of the new Libya” in Paris on 1 September. A pretty but deceptive spectacle: behind the facade of unity among the 60 delegations representing the ‘friends of Libya’ a stormy future is taking shape. At stake above all is the prize of Libyan oil. Paris and London, advertising their active support for the rebellion, are seeking preferential contracts from the new government, as is the USA, which is already set up there with two oil companies. Sarkozy seems to have negotiated for the French state a 35% share of Libyan crude in exchange for its good and loyal services to the TNC.
But countries like Italy, Germany, and Russia are also queuing up. Whether before or during the conflict, we saw these countries mounting a more or less open opposition to the intervention. Italy, 21% of whose exports went to the former Libyan government (as opposed to 4% for France), and which is worried about seeing its present oil agreements revised downwards, consistently tried to counter the intervention (‘for humanitarian reasons’), both before and after UN resolution 1973 on 31 March, although it was in the end obliged to participate rather than risk losing everything. As the TNC spokesman said to the conference: “the Libyan people know who supported its fight for freedom and those who did not”. The message towards Russia and China is clear, but the game is far from over.
The Libyan territory is important not only for its oil but also as regards strategic control of the region. The NATO mission is supposed to finish at the end of September, and it’s clear that that Gaddafi’s departure has to be speeded up (or his capture dead or alive – there is already a high price on his head) so that the military forces of the powers that took part in the operations can have a pretext for installing themselves in the country: the story about ‘stabilising’ the country. A UN document officially envisages sending a military and police force “for disarming the population” and “establishing a climate of confidence”. It’s clear that the countries of the UN are not going to let go of this morsel: “The mandate of protecting civilians coming from the Security Council and applied by NATO forces will not end with the fall of the Gaddafi government”. If a free-for-all between the bandits of the TNC is a certainty, this is no less the case for the big powers who will step in and stir up the tensions even more. The last 40 years, and especially the last 10, have shown us what all this means: grab what you can, play on the dissensions between the various factions, of which there are many in a country which has remained largely tribal. But the old imperialist powers like France and Britain, just like the USA, have a long experience in sowing discord and in the strategy of divide and rule. Except that here, there won’t be anyone really ruling, just an explosive struggle of each against all.
The permanent instability taking shape in Libya is the latest example of the madness of the capitalist system.