Veil of Lies: NATO’s “Humanitarian” Bombing of Africa

Veil of Lies: NATO’s “Humanitarian” Bombing of Africa

This article is based on a talk given by Andrew Castro at a public forum sponsored by the Party for Socialism and Liberation on Saturday, July 16. The forum was held at Peace & Cup of Joe (713 West Pratt Street Baltimore).

The vicious imperialist assault on Libya that began on March 19 by a coalition comprised of the United States, Britain and France and other NATO countries, will soon be entering its fifth month of daily bombings of the African nation.

  The possibility of military intervention into the sovereign nation of Libya and its civil war were paved by the U.N. Security Council resolution 1970, which first enforced sanctions banning all forms of arms and military equipment.[1]  As soon as the U.N. Security Council resolution 1973 passed a no-fly-zone over Libya[2], Western powers began the bombing war as the mainstream media distorted and outright ignored the on-the-ground reality of what the Western powers are really doing to the Libyan people.  Much confusion on the issue among the U.S. population is largely attributed to the capitalist media's demonization campaign and blockade of information, once again revealing itself as a ruling-class instrument for disseminating false propaganda to mobilize support for the bombing of our African sisters and brothers.

Despite the media’s attempt to distort the truth about what is happening in Libya, several polls show that U.S. public opinion opposes this new war at a 2-to-1 margin.  In a country full of people exhausted by 8 years of war in Iraq, an even longer war in Afghanistan with no end in sight, economic devastation with the lingering threat of even more attacks on the working poor, the United States government arrogantly threw itself into a new bombing campaign that is costing its taxpayers $10 million a day.[3]

On March 19th, the very first day of bombings, which also marked the 8th anniversary of the Iraq war, thousands across the country took to the streets to demand and end to the U.S. wars and occupations in the Middle East, and to stop the bombing of Libya. Days later, the ANSWER Coalition (Act Now To Stop War And End Racism) called for a nationwide week of actions, which led to protests in nearly 20 cities across the country, including one directly in front of the White House and another here in Baltimore.

Last month, ANSWER sponsored the Eyewitness Libya nationwide speaking tour, featuring former congresswoman Cynthia McKinney who has just returned from her second trip to Libya during the NATO bombing campaign as part of a fact-finding delegation. During her trip, McKinney visited several hospitals and conducted video interviews with many doctors and the wounded to gather personal accounts on what's taking place on the ground in Libya . The tour was an enormous success. It featured Akbar Muhammad of the Nation of Islam, Ramsey Clark, former U.S. attorney general, Brian Becker, national coordinator of ANSWER, and others, who drew over 1,000 people in 5 cities across the country. Following the tour, ANSWER called for the July 9 demonstration in front of the White House to demand: “Stop the bombing of Africa!”

At the demonstration, hundreds gathered under the blazing sun in front of the White House for a very disciplined, loud and militant display of opposition to the bombing of Libya.  The protest was strikingly multiracial and multinational. It began with a picket line accompanied by hours of spirited chanting and was followed by a march to a nearby auditorium for an indoor rally.

These actions, however, fall short of a revival of the anti-war movement against the recent imperialist ventures to conquer and plunder the continent of Africa. Unfortunately, major sectors of the U.S. left have been almost completely silent on the Libya war as the Western imperialist forces have continued to rain bombs down on Tripoli. Some have adopted the line of “Oppose the NATO intervention – Support the Libyan Opposition.” What makes this line absurd is the Libyan opposition not only supports the NATO intervention and calls for more, but also is completely dependent on imperialism – and happy to say so. When Senator McCain visited Benghazi, Libya, the opposition capital several months ago, the so-called “rebels” put up a huge billboard reading: “United State of America – You have a new ally in North Africa.”

One of our major tasks in the anti-imperialist movement is to effectively expose and combat the lie that the former colonizers and enslavers of Africa have any sort of moral or humanitarian interest in saving the Libyan people. Instead, the governments of the U.S., Britain and France – all loyal servants to their respective capitalist classes—are only motivated by the drive to maximize profits through appropriating key geostrategic and resource-rich territories. Libya is the country with the largest known oil reserves on the continent of Africa and the ninth largest in the entire world.

Within the last month, Libyan partisans of Moammar Gaddafi have united with others who have grievances against the current government, but see the imperialist invasion as a clear violation of their national sovereignty and their right to self-determination.  On June 17, millions of Libyans gathered in Tripoli for a vibrant demonstration to condemn NATO’s bombings.[4] It marked the fourth month of the intervention. Another massive anti-NATO protest on July 1st brought together Africans in Green Square of Tripoli from around the region.[5] That such a high percentage of Libyans demonstrated in Tripoli, a city with a population of just over 1 million out of the country’s 6.5 million inhabitants, shows clearly the high level consciousness Libyan people have about the true nature of the intervention.

According to the Washington Post, millions of volunteers, including many women, have signed up for emergency combat training and are arming themselves to fight in the event of an escalated neocolonial intervention.

A July 1st article states, “Azia Abu al-Qasem, 43, said she had never fired a weapon until recently. The mother of eight, who wore a veil, spoke softly as she clutched a leather purse with one hand and an old rifle with the other. But like many women at the sessions, she spoke … about the importance of her new role.

“The colonialists came to us,” she said. “We didn’t come to them.”[6]

These sentiments have only spread among the Libyan population as U.S.-made cluster bombs and tomahawk missiles continue to slaughter the civilian population whose death toll now reaches over a thousand, according to the Libyan Health Ministry. In June, the Western “humanitarian” bombing hit al-Nasr University in the middle of Tripoli during broad daylight, with no sign of military personnel or infrastructure anywhere nearby.[7] During the early hours of June 20, NATO forces struck the city of Sorman, located west of Tripoli, where they killed eighteen civilians, three of whom were children. The towns of Khoms and Nalut had incidents where NATO targeted civilian checkpoints with unmanned predator drones.[8] In another incident a drone was shot down. But with the Obama administration’s authorization to use them to hunt down supposed Libyan troops, there will be more civilian casualties, as exemplified by the administration's murderous track record in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.

It is no surprise that the U.S., Britain and France, some of the wealthiest and most powerful countries, have targeted another country that has dared to deviate from the imperialist camp by seeking to use its natural resources as a source of wealth to benefit its own people. Two U.S. State Department cables from 2007 and 2009 released by Wikileaks express great concern over the Gaddafi government’s growing interest in “resource nationalism,”[9][10] which would make it too difficult for corporations like Conoco-Phillips, Exxon Mobil, Chevron and others to seize ownership and control over a sovereign country’s own natural resources.

In an opportunistic move, these Western powers vowed their support for the Libyan rebels, who are a group comprised of defected high-ranking Libyan military officers, reactionary Libyan monarchists with links to the CIA, jihadists and some working class elements who have legitimate grievances about society under the current Libyan system.[11] Despite this diverse mix of backgrounds, the rebel are fighting under the leadership of the National Transitional Council (NTC), whose leaders recently visited Washington DC to speak at the U.S.-Libya Business Association, with several big oil companies in attendance.

On Friday morning, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced in Turkey that the Obama Administration is joining over 30 countries to formally recognize the NTC as Libya’s only legitimate governing power. This strategic move bolsters the rebel forces and widens their ties to U.S. imperialism through official diplomatic leverage in the realm of global politics and billions in financial support to come directly from the frozen assets of the Gaddafi government. The freezing of those assets was also central to the two U.N. resolutions, thus making it clear that the Obama administration has used them to select who they wanted to have as their new proxy government in Libya.

Bombing missions over Tripoli have also strategically targeted Gaddafi and his family members, a violation of international law and a direct contradiction of the humanitarian reasons provided for public consumption by president Obama. In one mission NATO forces killed Gaddafi’s son and three of his grandchildren.[12]

At a June 29th White House news conference Obama also announced that the U.S. would take a back-seat role in the war, while NATO would assume more control over the operations. This was only meant to placate public opinion at home because, in fact, the U.S. is playing a more dominant role in the bombing of Libya with over 800 strike sorties on record.[13] It is also a fact that NATO was set up in 1949 and has been led by the U.S. ever since.

With so many bombs being dropped around the clock on Libyan soil – supposedly to save Libyans – one would think there would be a major advancement by the rebels. After all, the UN-approved no fly zone was supposedly enacted to stop anti-Gaddafi civilians from being massacred by troops and aircraft in eastern Libya where they had allegedly slaughtered scores of peaceful protesters.

But months into the so-called “humanitarian” bombing of Libya and there is still not a single trace of any hard evidence showing any targeted bombing of civilians by the Libyan military. In fact, several human rights groups including Human Rights Watch—an organization with imperialist leanings —have found no evidence of Libyan troops targeting civilians in the eastern Libyan city of Misrata, a frontline city of the battle between the two forces. Data gathered from the conflict actually reveals that the military is narrowly targeting armed fighters and cautiously taking measures to prevent civilian casualties.[14]

Even though President Obama continues to defend the Libyan bombing as a necessary measure to prevent a so-called genocide, there is no evidence at all for such an assertion. The human rights groups, however, found plenty of video evidence of the imperialist-backed rebel fighters lynching, shooting, and burning the bodies of pro-Gaddafi Black Libyans.[15]

To the United States government, this sort of activity is perfectly acceptable because, according to the myths propagated by their reactionary Libyan rebel allies, Gaddafi hired these supposed Black migrants as mercenaries. This is, however, another baseless claim of which neither Amnesty International nor any other source have found any evidence to support.[16]

Amnesty International’s findings also discredited Hillary Clinton’s assertion that a government mandate required Libyan troops to take Viagra and engage in the mass rape of Libyan women as a strategy of war.[14]

Just weeks ago, the International Criminal Court (ICC), issued an arrest warrant for Muammar Gaddafi for “crimes against humanity” and the “pre-meditated murder” of peaceful protesters. In a clear attempt to bring down Gaddafi, the imperialists have looked to the ICC as an instrument for regime change. It is noteworthy to include that the ICC has never issued warrants for anybody in the Bush or Obama administrations for the numerous crimes against humanity in the Middle East, Abu-Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay or the numerous CIA Black Sites around the world where the torture of defenseless individuals is as routine as inhaling and exhaling all while under the direct supervision of the United States government. Every single case investigated or prosecuted by the ICC is oriented towards African states, exposing the hypocritical, illegitimate and racist character of the so-called “international” legal institution. U.S. leaders use the ICC for their political aims, while at the same time the U.S. has itself refused to join the ICC on grounds that by doing so U.S. soldiers and leaders could be charged with war crimes. The international “justice” system is like the domestic “justice” system: The rich administer what they call “justice” against the poor, while they themselves are exempt from prosecution no matter how many they kill and maim.

Since the arrest warrant was issued against Gaddafi, numerous world leaders including many from several African countries, have openly condemned the ICC’s racist attack, and have called on the international community to show their solidarity with the Libyan people and government. The African Union outright rejects the ICC’s demands on Libya and their message is gaining broad support in the face of a growing imperialist assault on Africa.[17]

There is growing frustration as failed attempts at regime change become more overt, and the leading NATO powers have splintered while scrambling to find new strategies to overthrow the Gaddafi government. French defense minister Gerard Longuet revealed the defeatist tone of the imperialist forces by admitting in an interview on French television that the campaign had failed and that the bombing mission would have to be abandoned for peaceful negotiations between the two sides.[18] The U.S. and Britain stood firmly against talks with Gaddafi and asserted the position of prolonged bombing to forcefully remove the leader from power.

The reality is that if the U.S., France, and Britain had any real humanitarian interest in Libya, they would immediately put an end to the bombing. Being modern imperialist forces, this would be contrary to the laws of imperialism as the highest stage of capitalism, where the unending global quest for natural resources, cheap labor and markets is an inherent characteristic of the system.

The only thing that can stop this war on Africa and the wars in Middle East is continued mass opposition to the U.S. government’s imperialist objectives in these oil-rich regions. At a time when the capitalists are drooling over the prospect of conquering new oil-rich territory through the establishment of a reliable client-state, the U.S. working class, too, must unite and resist these wars that only benefit the few. The recent demonstration on July 9th against the bombing of Libya is only the initial stage of a reviving anti-war movement. This can only grow into an effective fighting force if we all act now to build the movement against the imperialist re-colonization of Africa.

 

NOTES:

[1] For U.N. Security Council Resolution 1970, visit: http://daccess-ods.un.org/TMP/9545002.57968903.html or http://www.un.org/Docs/sc/unsc_resolutions11.htm

[2] For U.S. Security Council Resolution 1973, visit: http://daccess-ods.un.org/TMP/2953414.02292252.html or http://www.un.org/Docs/sc/unsc_resolutions11.htm

[3] Stephen L. Carter, “Congress Is Too Timid To Fight Its Libya War,” Bloomberg, June 23, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-06-23/congress-is-too-timid-to-fight-...

[4] Video: “Protests in Tripoli Reach Fever Pitch,” msnbc.com, June 17, http://video.tvguide.com/June+17+2011/Protests+in+Tripoli+reach+fever+pi...

[5] “Huge Rally in Tripoli as Gaddafi Warns Europe,” Sky News, July 2 http://news.sky.com/skynews/Home/World-News/Libya-Video-Gaddafi-Warns-Fo...

[6] Ernesto Londono, “In Libya, women brace for battle,” Washington Post, July 1, http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle-east/in-libya-women-brace-for...

[7] “Libyan majority in support of Gaddafi,” Press TV, June 21, http://www.presstv.com/detail/185602.html

[8] “NATO Planes Bomb West Libya,” Prensa Latina, June 22, http://en.cubadebate.cu/news/2011/06/22/nato-planes-bomb-west-libya/

[9] U.S. State Department Cable from 2007, Wikileaks Ref. ID 07TRIPOLI967, www.wikileaks.ch/cable/2007/11/07TRIPOLI967.html

[10] U.S. State Department Cable from 2009, Wikileaks Ref. ID 09TRIPOLI71, http://wikileaks.org/cable/2009/01/09TRIPOLI71.html

[11] Mark Mazetti & Eric Schmitt, “C.I.A. Agents in Libya Aid Airstrikes and Meet Rebels,” New York Times, March 30, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/31/world/africa/31intel.html?_r=3&ref=africa

[12] Robert Verkaik, “Bombs hit Gaddafi home: Nato strikes kill son and three grandchildren…but tyrant narrowly escapes unharmed,” Mail Online, May 1, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1382341/Libya-Nato-strikes-kill-...

[13] Dave Majumdar, “AFRICOM: AF, Navy still flying Libya missions,” Air Force Times, June 30, http://www.airforcetimes.com/news/2011/06/defense-africom-air-force-navy...

[14] Patrick Cockburn, “Amnesty questions claim that Gaddafi ordered rape as weapon of war,” The Independent, June 24, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/amnesty-questions-claim-t...

[15] “Libyan rebel ethnic cleansing and lunching of black people,” Human Rights Investigations, July 7, http://humanrightsinvestigations.org/2011/07/07/libya-ethnic-cleansing/

[16] David Zucchino, “Libyan rebels accused of targeting blacks,” Los Angeles Times, March 4, http://articles.latimes.com/2011/mar/04/world/la-fg-libya-mercenaries-20...

[17] “African Union Opposes Warrant for Qaddafi, Associated Press, July 2, ”http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/03/world/africa/03african.html?_r=1

[18] Ruth Sherlock & Richard Spencer, “Libya: France risks Nato split over call for Gaddafi talks,” The Telegraph, July 11, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/libya/863...