The current stalemate in Libya could last weeks, if not months. In that case, balkanization looms. Think of eastern Libya with Benghazi as capital, oil-rich and with a United States-installed puppet regime (a Libyan Hamid Karzai, like the Afghan president). It would be like a kind of northern Africa Saudi Arabia (the House of Saud would love it).
And think of a western Libya with Tripoli as capital, impoverished, angry and ruled by Muammar Gaddafi and sons. If that applies, we’re back to the 1950s; Libya as the new Korea. Or, more ominously, back to the 1960s; Libya as the new Vietnam.
Vietnam? No wonder a paranoid Anglo-American-French consortium will pull all stops to take out Gaddafi. They don’t want half a spring roll; they want the whole kebab.
The queen’s speech
The new Libyan government kingmaker is actually a queen: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Any doubts that the US State Department is now frantically setting up a new government peppered with English-speaking collaborators have been dismissed after the London conference on Libya.
The “official” Libyan opposition used to tautologically call itself “Interim Transitional National Council”. Now it’s Interim National Council (INC). Anyone running for cover to the sound of the acronym INC is excused; it does bring appalling memories of the Washington-propped Iraqi National Congress and its fabled “weapons of mass destruction” in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
And what about the INC’s new military commander, Khalifa Hifter – a former Libyan army colonel who spent nearly 20 years in Vienna, Virginia, not far from the Central Intelligence Agency in Langley? Progressives will love to learn that the romantic “rebels” are now led by a CIA asset.
At the London conference, the INC launched in style its slick political manifesto – “A vision of democratic Libya” – which makes all the right noises; freedom of expression, presidential and parliamentary elections, and crucially, the promise of “a state that draws strength from our strong religious beliefs in peace, truth, justice and equality”.
This is – extremely polite – code for Islam in post-Gaddafi Libya (so not to ruff Western feathers). Along with the impeccable English redaction, the whole thing screams, “slick Western PR stunt”. The council swears the platform was originally drawn up in Arabic. It definitely doesn’t feel like a Google Translate job.
So the INC says the gift to the West for the Tomahawks, Tornados and Rafales is going to be a secular democracy. Someone else might say a coalition of opportunists and military defectors climbed upon the wave of mass radicalization in northern Africa, profited from the absence of political leadership among the working class and middle class, and struck a military alliance with Western imperialism. Which is more plausible?
The INC now is being paraded for the whole world to see as a Western puppet – totally dependent on political and military support. Welcome to Libya as a Pentagon-style forward operating base (FOB) – to the benefit of the Pentagon itself (via Africom), Western oil majors, and all manner of shady Anglo-French-American business interests (see There’s no business as war business Asia Times Online March 30 ). Welcome to a new Libya hosting a US military base and NATO exercises, and not spending oil money in sub-Saharan African development projects.
As major players – the BRIC countries and Germany – had already warned, United Nations Security Council resolution 1973 is being twisted like a pretzel. Queen Hillary now openly says that arming the “rebels” is legal. Another one of the queen’s women combat squad, US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, said the US had “not ruled out” arming the rebels – mimicking the exact wording of President Barack Obama. Impressed, British Foreign Secretary William Hague agreed. So did Qatar.
Meanwhile, NATO is taking over. Literally. Starting this Thursday, NATO’s air strikes will be conducted out of the Combined Air Operations Center at Poggio Renatico base in Italy, 40 kilometers north of Bologna. But that’s just the start.
Admiral James Stavridis, NATO’s supreme allied commander for Europe, told a US senate hearing in Washington NATO was not considering ground forces in post-Gaddafi Libya – at least not yet. But as NATO had installed peacekeepers in the Balkans, added Stavridis, “the possibility of a stabilization regime exists”.
There you have it – the whole package; a Western puppet regime, Western boots on the ground, a squalid Western protectorate. Goodbye to Libya’s sovereignty. And this only a few hours after Obama passionately told the world this was just a humanitarian mission.
It requires major suspension of disbelief that an Obama administration that keeps unleashing drones and air strikes over civilians in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and – now and then – Somalia is now deeply concerned with protecting Libyan civilians. “Democratic” Israel may bomb 1,500 Lebanese civilians in 2006 or kill nearly 1,500 civilians in the winter of 2008/2009 in Gaza – and no way there will be a UN resolution, or Tomahawks flying, or righteous humanitarian imperialists invoking R2P (“responsibility to protect”) en masse.
In 1999, NATO almost destroyed Belgrade to “protect civilians” in Kosovo. Kosovo subsequently became an infinitely corrupt protectorate ruled by a drug mafia. Cue to echoes of neo-cons arguing that the real reason for Washington to invade Iraq was to “protect” Iraqis from the evil dictator Saddam by bringing democracy (by shock and awe).
The stark fact is that Washington – now with Anglo-French help – is bombing yet another Muslim/Arab capital. Miraculously – if one believes the Pentagon – with zero “collateral damage”.
And what about the Ivory Coast?
A true genocide is about to happen in the Ivory Coast. There are already one million internal refugees. The “international community” – which now seems to consist of the US, Britain, France, a few NATO countries and a few Arab autocracies, with Qatar as the superstar – has not emitted a peep.
Laurent Gbagbo lost a presidential election in the Ivory Coast but has refused to concede. He controls a huge militia armed to their teeth – and they’re going all guns blazing to snatch elected opposition figures, intellectuals and civil society leaders. Anyone who has supported the winner of the election, Alassane Ouattara, is fair game.
Shades of Gaddafi, anyone? Better yet; shades of Rwanda in 1994, Uganda in 2008 and Congo during the 1990s. Not a few thousand dead civilians but hundreds of thousands of dead civilians (and in the case of Congo, perhaps as many as four million). Not a R2P (responsibility to protect) squeak from the “international community”.
If the Anglo-French-American consortium really wanted to stop the violence in Libya the sensible solution would have been to dispatch an UN fact-finding commission to really analyze the facts on the ground. No one really knows how many civilians Gaddafi forces killed, or how many air strikes his regime conducted. No one really knows how many black Africans have been raped or murdered by the “rebels”, who assumed they were Gaddafi mercenaries.
Gaddafi himself agreed to an independent UN commission. The first measure of R2P is not to exercise the Tomahawk option; it is to mediate, call for a ceasefire and start negotiations.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is correct when he says this “humanitarian” war is fast becoming a “second Iraq” or “another Afghanistan”. He also said Turkey is talking to both Gaddafi and the INC. Sensibly – and as part of NATO – Turkey is about to take over the harbor and the airport in Benghazi to speed up humanitarian aid. If there is a ceasefire the credit must go to Turkey – which is working hard to establish a humanitarian corridor, with support from Italy. Neo-Napoleonic Arab liberator French President Nicolas Sarkozy won’t be amused.
Turkey is also linking up with the African Union (AU) – which has been totally marginalized by the Anglo-French-American consortium. France and Britain may be paranoid about the upcoming immigration waves from Africa, now that Libya – which was the cop on the beat for the Europeans – is not playing that role anymore. Italy – already coping with waves and waves of new arrivals at the isle of Lampedusa – at least is trying to work in the humanitarian front alongside Turkey.
There’s no guarantee Turkey’s mediation efforts will work. The Pentagon/Africom/NATO foreign intervention in Libya – “legitimized” by a dodgy UN cover – is shaping up as a counter-revolutionary master coup. Make no mistake as to what is the ultimate target; to squash the great 2011 Arab revolt momentum, to show who’s boss, and to present neo-colonialism with a facelift. To see how it develops, one just has to focus on Queen Hillary’s speech.