Swans Commentary » swans.com November 4, 2013  



Libyan Mayhem: An Assessment


by Gilles d'Aymery





"For me there are no answers, only questions, and I am grateful that the questions go on and on. I don't look for an answer, because I don't think there is one. I'm very glad to be the bearer of a question."

—P. L. Travers (1899-1996)


(Swans - November 4, 2013)   Former vice president Dick Cheney has been touring the country to promote his latest book, Heart: An American Medical Odyssey. Sunday, a week ago, he was on ABC's "This Week" with George Stephanopoulos. Besides talking about the book, Stephanopoulos asked Cheney a few political questions in regard to foreign affairs, Iraq, and Obama policies in the Middle East. Cheney reiterated his well-known stand that the Iraq War had been a great success -- a dangerous dictator was gone, the country was a democracy, etc. On Obama, Mr. Cheney, who has rarely spoken positively about the president, felt that he was not managing Iran properly, that he was mishandling the Syrian civil war, but he gave him credit for the NATO accomplishment in Libya, which could not have happened without American involvement. Here too, a dictator was gone and freedom and democracy were on the march. For someone who has been, on the record, strongly opposed to the war in Iraq (actually both wars, plus the sanctions) and against NATO intervention in Libya, though I admitted that I did not fully understand what was going on there at the time -- but I am against these so-called military interventions based on humanitarianism and the "responsibility to protect" (R2P) -- let me make a short assessment of this Libyan gunboat wicked action.

This war is becoming a disaster. The country is disintegrating; violence, far from having abated, is increasing; food and water are becoming scarce; the government is powerless; militias are roaming the land and looting its riches; the infrastructure is falling apart -- all this in a country that once had the highest GDP per capita in the Middle East and Africa, free education, free water, free health care, subsidized housing, etc. (more below). Meanwhile, hard-core Islamic militants have moved to Egypt, Syria, Niger, Somalia...and have begun to destabilize Algeria. Once the current situation is assessed I shall review the actual reasons that made the Western powers decide to decapitate the Gaddafi regime. It had nothing to do with freedom, democracy, and R2P. But first, here is a reminder that I was able to stitch together from many sources and summarize.

About two years ago, on October 20, 2011, a convoy of 75 to 100 vehicles (according to imprecise reports) left District #2 in Syrte, Libya, at high speed trying to escape toward the south of the country. Syrte had been besieged by rebels from Misrata and continually bombed by NATO warplanes for several days. Water, food, and electricity were in short supply. The situation had become untenable. In the convoy sat Muammar Gaddafi, his fourth son Mutassim, several close aides, and other loyalists, civilians, and bodyguards. NATO forces had intercepted a mobile phone call made by Gaddafi. A British Tornado fitted with reconnaissance equipment immediately spotted the convoy and within minutes a US Predator drone -- its operator located in Las Vegas, Nevada -- shot a hellfire missile on the convoy, apparently hitting the car preceding Gaddafi's. The convoy managed to start again until two French Rafale jets dropped laser-guided GBU-12 bombs on it, destroying many cars and killing tens of people. Gaddafi and a few bodyguards escaped and eventually found refuge in a concrete storm drain. He was already wounded. He was captured, his bodyguards executed. Gaddafi still held his famous gold-plated pistol before being thrown to the dirt, lynched, and killed. It is said that someone forced a stick or a knife in his anus. He was brutally beaten, his hair pulled out, and eventually shot in the stomach and in the head. His lifeless body was driven to an industrial freezer in Misrata, where for four days it laid on the floor (an anathema in the Muslim religion, which specifically directs that a body be buried within 24 hours of a person's death) next to the body of his son Mutassim who had also been caught alive, then killed by a bullet, with a wide open wound in his throat. It is also said that Gaddafi was actually shot by a French spy who had infiltrated the Misrata militia. We may never know; however, simply put, NATO wanted Gaddafi dead. Period. (Remember that the UN resolution was about the protection of civilians, not regime change).


Present state of affairs

The present cannot be looked at in a vacuum, or just in the last two years. Much happened in the past 40-some years. I erroneously (and poorly) stated in my Blips #106 (March 14, 2011) that Gaddafi was not a socialist. He may not have been one in a Western meaning (Marxist), but early on he definitely attempted to put in place what he called an Islamic socialism. His hero was Nasser of Egypt. But above all, he was an anti-colonialist, an anti-Zionist, and anti-USA (due to the US support of Israel). Thanks to the oil production and the relatively high price of oil, his administration was able to develop various social reforms. As already said, many free social services, bank loans without interest, subsidies to higher education abroad, etc. All these goodies were wholly dependent on oil exports, which accounted for more than 50 percent of GDP and 95 percent of export. In the 1980s, with oil prices falling as low as $10 a barrel, and being subjected to increased economic sanctions from the U.S. and the EU, the Libyan economy began to contract, unemployment to rise to alarming levels, and discontentment to simmer. It's a time when his detractors accused him of megalomania and his followers looked at him as a father-like philosopher (the green books).

Two years after the assassination of Gaddafi and part of his family, oil production was down to zero this summer and is up to about 600,000 barrels a day (compared to 1.8 million a day before the revolution) currently. The government does not control production -- it's in the hand of militias. The country had practically no international debt (about 3 percent of GDP). Now, they are depending on the West to import food and people are going hungry.

The destabilization of the entire region is going full speed ahead. The Gaddafi regime was in control of the borders. With the uprising, those borders became porous. Huge amount of arms pilfered from Libyan depots found their way into Mali with Islamic militants and Tuaregs. Soon enough, more than half of Mali was taken over by these militias that began to implement sharia. Civilians fled en masse. Then, all at once, the rebels decided to move toward the south, its capital, Bamako, and at the same time slowly invade Niger. This led to a very rapid French military intervention (with the logistical and military help from many NATO countries, including the U.S., and African countries) -- Operation Serval. The rebels were pushed back, some say defeated, or they simply retreated and disappeared into thin air. The main reason for French intervention was the defense of Niger uranium mines that are being managed by the French nuclear giant Areva. Last month, the French military had to send again its soldiers in Northern Mali, around Kidal. As a sideshow, the business of hostage taking is a wonderful bargain. (Just this Saturday, two French journalists were kidnapped and immediately assassinated near Kidal.) Under the Gaddafi regime most of this was not happening as the relations between the two countries were very close and the borders kept in check.

Recently, the Algerian military found a huge cache of weapons in provenance of Libya containing an entire arsenal of war (hundreds of antiaircraft missiles, rocket-propelled grenades, rockets specifically targeting helicopters, heavy guns, and ammo), all this in Southern Algeria (Illizi), about 125 miles from the huge gas field at In Amenas, which was attacked last January by militants coming from...Libya. As said, Algeria is the next target of our freedom and democracy, R2P, caravan.

Another human cost, which is mostly kept under the radar screen in our humanitarian lands, is that of migrants' loss of life. Here again, the decomposing bodies of 92 migrants were discovered near Arlit in northern Niger (Arlit = uranium). Many had come from Agadez, a major transit city for refugees from West Africa. According to the UN, 30,000 migrants went through Libya between March and August 2013. From there, these wretched of the earth board overcrowded embarkations, and pay smugglers to bring them to the Italian island of Lampedusa. Under the Gaddafi regime, borders were in control; agreements with mostly Italy had been reached that no migrants would be able to leave the Libyan shores. Well, see what the freedom and democracy crowd has achieved. Not convinced? Take a tour of the Greek Lesbos Island where Egyptians are debarking in droves, or look at the ports in Tunisia, another deadly gateway toward the EU.

Yes, two years after the barbaric lynching of Gaddafi, a spectacle that any normal, sensitive (and sensible) human being would make ill at ease, disgusted, ashamed, and wanting to puke, chaos reigns. Great result indeed.


A few words about freedom and democracy

They will have to be a very few words. A teacher of political economy decades ago kept repeating that it was hard to think when one had an empty stomach. He used to joke that some physicist or mathematician ought to come up with an equation measuring the degree of thinking process and the duration of a hungry stomach. I thought that it was a sound reflection; but, of course, I was young and ignorant. My ignorance led to what I think is another sound reflection. On May 8, 2007, opinion-maker Anne Applebaum had a column published in The Washington Post in which she did a typical hatchet job on anything French, this time former president Jacques Chirac. She belittled him when he asserted, for instance, that "the most important human rights are the rights to be fed, to have health, to be educated, and to be housed." It may be anathema to many Americans for whom freedom is a relatively vague concept, a mixture of economic laissez faire and minimum interference from the state. Whether the U.S. is the most inequitable country in the Western world with the highest percentage of poverty is rarely taken into consideration; what counts is the principle and the ideology. Reality does not matter. At least in the past few decades, Americans create reality. I happen to stand by Jacques Chirac's consideration: Health, food, education, housing... Then, we'll talk about political rights (I for one enjoy the relative freedom of the press and our democratic system, however imperfect it may be). Notwithstanding his authoritarianism, weaknesses, and possibly, over time, his megalomania, Gaddafi tried to provide food, health, education, and housing to the Libyans, all the while attempting to cut the umbilical cord with the former colonialist nations and refusing to have Libya (MENA and Africa) be kept under the leash of Western economic and financial interests.


A more accurate motive for regime change

A correspondent wrote, citing the French philosopher Raymond Aron, that one had to choose between the preferable and the detestable in politics, a reasonable stance. However, the question remains: Who is in charge of making the political choice and according to what criteria? Why Libya, but not Bahrain, or Syria, etc.? It appears that it's always the strong that imposes its will on the weak, and the instrument used for such an imposition is the military -- that is pure and violent force. How could Mr. Aron's stance apply to Iraq and many other "interventions"? Wael Ghonim, the young Internet professional and a Google manager, famous for his role in the Egyptian uprising, was interviewed by London-based journalist Faisal J. Abbas in early 2012, in the wake of the publication of Ghonim's memoir, Revolution 2.0. "Would the Egyptian revolution have happened without the Internet?" he was asked. His answer: "Probably yes, but it might have taken a different path." Ghonim goes on explaining that "2010 witnessed the largest number of strikes (in Egypt) due to economic reasons" -- a fundamental point that I have constantly been underscoring since the eruption of the Arab Spring and about which I have written time and again. It's all been about resource scarcity, high unemployment, lack of food and repetitive price hikes, shortage of water, immiseration -- what I have called the rotten socioeconomic system. Except for the Western media, the PR firms, and the gullible polity, it had very little to do indeed with freedom and democracy.

But then, if it had little to do with these two wonderful notions (however one wants to define them), then what is it all about? Certainly, the economic conditions had gravely deteriorated in Libya (like almost everywhere else in the world, including the beacons of freedom and democracy). Infrastructure was amiss, mismanagement deleterious, corruption rampant, etc. -- what's new under the sky? Was there something different in Libya and Gaddafi from many other countries? Obviously, one may not have liked Mr. Gaddafi, but remember what Spinoza (1632-1677) once wrote: "...For the perfection of things must be measured by their inner nature, and things are not more or less perfect because they please our senses or they offend them." And it may be worth keeping in mind the words of Lord Palmerston (1784-1865): "We [England] have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow."

So, if it were not about freedom and democracy (we should coin the acronym F&D), what interests caused the military intervention in Libya, interests that did not exist in the other countries of MENA except the usual geopolitical 21st century redux of the Great Game? Here we go.

First, Gaddafi was willing to finance the first African communication satellite, with more in the pipeline, with Russian and Chinese technological skills, until African nations could develop their own technology. A consortium of 45 African countries came on board with the project. Instead of having to pay $500 million a year to Western-owned satellite companies that control African communications in their entirety, these countries would pay a one-time fee of $400 million. The West would loose a very profitable yearly rent. The Gaddafi administration organized the entire funding until the U.S. confiscated billions of Libyan money.

Second, Gaddafi was working on the creation of the USA -- that is the United States of Africa. To that end he wanted to create an African Monetary Fund (a bit like the IMF, but without the participation of non-African countries). He was laying the foundation of an African Central Bank, an African Bank for Development (to bypass the World Bank), and the creation of an African currency (golden dinar) that would dethrone the CFA franc, which has allowed France and the West to keep Africa in shackles for so long. He also created an African airline that cut into Western monopolies at amazingly low prices.


This would deserve much more careful attention from open-minded people.

We tend to forget, or to ignore, that the African continent possesses more raw resource materials than anywhere else in the world, even Eurasia. Yet, Africans remain the poorest among the poor and their resources, their commerce, their financial system, and many of their politicians are controlled, owned, and kept under the thumb of the Western World. This is what Gaddafi, with his warts and all, spent a lifetime to combat. He was slowly, incrementally, reaching his goals. He had to go.

These are the real reasons behind his barbarian killing, not the PR-driven F&D BS. I wish people would shy away from oriental studies -- not look from inward out, but from outward in. Once again, the Western world has caused mayhem for the benefit of the few and to the detriment of the many. Another success story, would affirm Dick Cheney.


Recommended reading:

Death of Gaddafi on Wikipedia.

Mutassim Gaddafi on Wilipedia.

The killing of Gaddafi. On the French magazine Jeune Afrique. From there, one can find videos posted on YouTube showing the gory details of that obnoxious lynching, and many testimonies of what really happened, for instance, that of this British reporter. On YouTube, one can find quite a few narratives that never made the MSM.

An English journalist speaks out.

Gunboat diplomacy.

Patrick Cockburn on how the MSM peddles PR.

Patrick Cockburn on the consequences of Libyan "liberation."

Anne Applebaum on Jacques Chirac.

And, of course, all the writing from the author on this topic, starting with his March 14, 2011 Blips (scroll down) will be informative. See the Greater Middle East archives.


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Published November 4, 2013