By Hugh Roberts
November 15, 2011
The overthrow of Gaddafi & Co was far from being a straightforward revolution against tyranny, but the West’s latest military intervention can’t be debunked as being simply about oil. Presented by the National Transitional Council (NTC) and cheered on by the Western media as an integral part of the Arab Spring, and thus supposedly of a kind with the upheavals in Tunisia and Egypt, the Libyan drama is rather an addition to the list of Western or Western-backed wars against hostile, ‘defiant’, insufficiently ‘compliant’, or ‘rogue’ regimes: Afghanistan I (v. the Communist regime, 1979-92), Iraq I (1990-91), the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (over Kosovo, 1999), Afghanistan II (v. the Taliban regime, 2001) and Iraq II (2003), to which we might, with qualifications, add the military interventions in Panama (1989-90), Sierra Leone (2000) and the Ivory Coast (2011).An older series of events we might bear in mind includes the Bay of Pigs (1961), the intervention by Western mercenaries in the Congo (1964), the British-assisted palace coup in Oman in 1970 and ~ last but not least ~ three abortive plots, farmed out to David Stirling and sundry other mercenaries under the initially benevolent eye of Western intelligence services, to overthrow the Gaddafi regime between 1971 and 1973 in an episode known as the Hilton Assignment.
Gaddafi’s African policy gave Libya a firm geopolitical position and consolidated its strategic hinterland while also benefiting Africa. That many African countries appreciated Libya’s contribution to the continent’s affairs was made clear by the AU’s opposition to Nato’s intervention and its sustained efforts to broker a ceasefire and negotiations between the two sides of the civil war.
That the Arab League, whose support for a no-fly zone was invoked by London, Paris and Washington to claim Arab legitimation of Nato’s intervention, had a membership almost entirely confined to Western powers’ client states was never mentioned.
In his Green Book, however, Gaddafi scandalized people by his refusal to be a hypocrite: he elevated his rejection of representation into an explicit constitutive principle which he called the State of the Masses.
The Jamahiriyya lasted 34 years (42 if backdated to 1969), a respectable innings. It did not work for foreign businessmen, diplomats and journalists, who found it more exasperating to deal with than the run of Arab and African states, and their views shaped the country’s image abroad.But the regime was not designed to work for foreigners and seems to have worked fairly well for many Libyans much of the time. It achieved more than a tripling of the total population (6.5 million today, up from 1.8 million in 1968), high standards of healthcare, high rates of schooling for girls as well as boys, a literacy rate of 88 per cent, a degree of social and occupational promotion for women that women in many other Arab countries might well envy and an annual per capita income of $12,000, the highest in Africa.
It was the fashion some years ago in circles close to the Blair government ~ in the media, principally, and among academics ~ to talk up Saif al-Islam’s commitment to reform and it is the fashion now to heap opprobrium on him as his awful father’s son.
The hypothesis that Libya and Gaddafi and al-Megrahi were framed is to be taken very seriously indeed.
a rapid collapse of the regime as the popular uprising spread;the crushing of the revolt as the regime got its act together;or ~ in the absence of an early resolution ~ the onset of civil war.
The claim that the ‘international community’ had no choice but to intervene militarily and that the alternative was to do nothing is false.
(i) The formation of a contact group or committee drawn from Libya’s North African neighbours and other African states with a mandate to broker an immediate ceasefire;(ii) Negotiations between the protagonists to be initiated by the contact group and aimed at replacing the current regime with a more accountable, representative and law-abiding government.
The imposition of a no-fly zone would be an act of war: as the US defense secretary, Robert Gates, told Congress on 2 March, it required the disabling of Libya’s air defenses as an indispensable preliminary. In authorizing this and ‘all necessary measures’, the Security Council was choosing war when no other policy had even been tried. Why?
From the attitudes struck by the Western powers in the run-up to the Security Council debate, it was evident that the cleverly drafted resolution tacitly authorized a war to effect regime change.
In this way it was arranged that any state might supply arms to the rebels while none might do so to the Libyan government, which by that time had been decreed illegitimate by London, Paris and Washington. Scarcely anyone has drawn attention to the second violation.
[The Security Council …](1) Demands the immediate establishment of a ceasefire and a complete end to violence and all attacks against, and abuses of, civilians;(2) Stresses the need to intensify efforts to find a solution to the crisis which responds to the legitimate demands of the Libyan people and notes the decisions of the secretary-general to send his special envoy to Libya and of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union to send its ad hoc High Level Committee to Libya with the aim of facilitating dialogue to lead to the political reforms necessary to find a peaceful and sustainable solution.
Gaddafi’s first ceasefire offer came to nothing, as did his second offer of 20 March.
London, Paris and Washington could not allow a ceasefire because it would have involved negotiations, first about peace lines, peacekeepers and so forth, and then about fundamental political differences. And all this would have subverted the possibility of the kind of regime change that interested the Western powers.The sight of representatives of the rebellion sitting down to talks with representatives of Gaddafi’s regime, Libyans talking to Libyans, would have called the demonization of Gaddafi into question. The moment he became once more someone people talked to and negotiated with, he would in effect have been rehabilitated. And that would have ruled out violent ~ revolutionary? ~ regime change and so denied the Western powers their chance of a major intervention in North Africa’s Spring, and the whole interventionist scheme would have flopped.
But in retaking the towns that the uprising had briefly wrested from the government’s control, Gaddafi’s forces had committed no massacres at all; the fighting had been bitter and bloody, but there had been nothing remotely resembling the slaughter at Srebrenica, let alone in Rwanda.
What was decided was to declare Gaddafi guilty in advance of a massacre of defenseless civilians and instigate the process of destroying his regime and him (and his family) by way of punishment of a crime he was yet to commit, and actually unlikely to commit, and to persist with this process despite his repeated offers to suspend military action.
But what interested me most was his statement that ‘despite ubiquitous cell phone cameras, there are no images of genocidal violence, a claim that smacks of rebel propaganda.’
The story was untrue, just as the story that went round the world in August 1990 that Iraqi troops were slaughtering Kuwaiti babies by turning off their incubators was untrue and the claims in the sexed-up dossier on Saddam’s WMD were untrue.
It is tendentious and dishonest to say simply that Gaddafi was ‘killing his own people’; he was killing those of his people who were rebelling. He was doing in this respect what every government in history has done when faced with a rebellion.
The idea that Gaddafi represented nothing in Libyan society, that he was taking on his entire people and his people were all against him was another distortion of the facts. As we now know from the length of the war, the huge pro-Gaddafi demonstration in Tripoli on 1 July, the fierce resistance Gaddafi’s forces put up, the month it took the rebels to get anywhere at all at Bani Walid and the further month at Sirte, Gaddafi’s regime enjoyed a substantial measure of support, as the NTC did.