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Libya defiant as NATO widens war

Published Jun 15, 2011 9:53 PM

After nearly three months of U.S./NATO bombing operations over Libya, the North African state has remained defiant in the face of one of the most intense military operations in recent months by the imperialist countries of North America and Western Europe. Official NATO sources say that more than 10,000 sorties have been flown over the oil-rich nation resulting in large-scale destruction of the country’s infrastructure and the reported deaths of 10,000 to 15,000 people.

Editor’s note: On June 14 Congress sent a letter to President Barack Obama that warned he would be in violation of the War Powers Act if he did not get Congressional approval for the war on Libya by June 19. A June 3 House vote on the Republican initiative challenging the president got support from both Democrats and Republicans, which reflected the growing mass displeasure with the U.S.-NATO attack on Libya.

On June 7, NATO escalated its attacks on the capital of Tripoli, striking government buildings and making additional attempts on the life of leader Muammar Gadhafi. These bombing operations were designed to further boost the morale of NATO forces before yet another so-called “Contact Group” meeting on Libya that took place in the United Arab Emirates on June 9.

In response to the stepped-up bombing by NATO, Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi issued a statement saying that “martyrdom is a million times better than surrender.” Gadhafi continued by stressing, “We have one option and that is the protection of our country. We will remain in it till the end. Dead, alive, victorious, it doesn’t matter.” (Gadhafi audio released June 7)

At the meeting in Abu Dhabi, UAE, the imperialist states and their allies discussed continued provocations aimed at toppling Libya’s government and installing a client regime. The rebel Western-backed Transitional National Council, claiming it was out of money, continued to request funding from Contact Group countries.

No explanation was made regarding the use of hundreds of millions of dollars that the U.S. and other governments supporting the attacks on Libya have already pledged to the rebels. Neither was there any mention of the status of more than $50 billion in Libyan government assets that have been frozen in Western states.

Germany’s conservative government, headed by Chancellor Angela Merkel, had earlier maintained that it would not enter the NATO operations targeting Libya for destruction and seizure. Yet in a meeting with President Barack Obama in Washington during early June, Merkel called for the removal of the Libyan government.

On June 13 the German government sent Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle to the rebel stronghold of Benghazi. Western media reports indicated that Westerwelle formally recognized the TNC as the supposed “legitimate government” in Libya despite the fact that the group has done nothing to demonstrate that it is representative of the people’s will in this besieged state. (Reuters, June 13)

Through the CIA, the U.S. ruling class has supported the TNC’s leadership for decades. There have been neither elections nor any other way to gauge if these “rebels” have any popular support. Yet they have been propped up by the CIA, MI-6, British and Egyptian special forces, the Tunisian military and the NATO states carrying out the large-scale bombing operations over the country and a naval blockade in the Mediterranean.

In Westerwelle’s June 13 statement, he said that Germany would support the rebels in creating a “democratic and constitutional” Libya. Yet whether this constituted firm recognition of the TNC remains to be confirmed.

Westerwelle reiterated the call by Merkel for the Libyan government to be removed, stating, “The people of Libya want a peaceful and free future without Gadhafi. That is also our goal. Germany is a friend and partner of the democratic forces in the country.”

Reuters also reported that the German International Development Minister Dirk Niebel said the European government would contribute another 7 million euros ($10 million) for what he described as “emergency and interim aid to assist in stabilization efforts.”

State Department seeks to pressure African Union

While the Western states, including Germany, claim their aims in Libya are to protect civilians and stabilize the country based upon the supposed mandate of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973, the African Union has maintained its call for an immediate ceasefire. The A.U. insists that U.S./NATO bombing be halted and demands respect from all parties for the territorial sovereignty of Libya, the protection of African migrant workers along with Libyan civilians, and the beginning of negotiations between the rebel TNC and the government in Tripoli.

Malian President Amadou Toumani Touré, a member of the A.U. negotiating team on Libya, emphasized that the majority of governments on the continent wanted the bombing to stop. In a press conference in the capital of Bamako, Touré stressed, “Like the African Union, we wish for the bombardments to stop and the opening of political talks to find a way out of the crisis.” (www.afriquejet.com, June 12)

Nonetheless, in a June tour of Zambia, Ethiopia and Tanzania, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton continued to call for the toppling of the Libyan government and demanded that the A.U. reverse its policy on the North African state and support NATO’s plans to seize Libya.

Reuters also reported on June 13 that a senior U.S. government official traveling with Clinton said, “We know that there is hesitation on the part of a number of African states, in large measure because of the enormous influence that Gadhafi has wielded across Africa for such a long time, and they have shown some reluctance. African countries are very deeply divided and conflicted over Libya.”

Only three African countries have openly supported U.S./NATO calls for Gadhafi to step down: Gambia, Mauritania and Senegal in West Africa, all largely dependent upon U.S. and French economic assistance. The official position of the African Union has remained firm, and popular opposition throughout the continent has intensified against the U.S./NATO war against Libya.

In addition to pressure by the U.S. State Department on the African countries to support the imperialist agenda in Libya, Clinton also continued hostile rhetoric against Sudan, Africa’s largest geographic nation-state. Clinton represented the U.S. position of further balkanization of Sudan, which is poised to be split from the South region in July. She called for the withdrawal of Khartoum’s military forces from the disputed border area of Abyei.

The same Reuters article reported that at a press conference in the Tanzanian capital of Dar Es Salaam, Clinton said, “The United States strongly believes that a strong peacekeeping presence should be a central part of the security arrangements in Abyei. The government of Sudan should urgently facilitate a viable security arrangement, starting with the withdrawal of Sudanese armed forces.”

The first stop on Clinton’s trip was in the Southern African nation of Zambia where at a conference of African governments the Secretary of State attacked China’s growing economic partnerships with various states on the continent. She then encouraged greater trade with the U.S. and promoted the so-called Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, a Clinton-era administration measure that seeks to further the penetration of highly exploitative light industrial production on the continent.

Libyans refute claim of rebel advances

At the same time, the rebel TNC claimed it had broken out of the western port city of Misrata where these counterrevolutionaries have attempted to establish a beachhead in this region. The TNC also stated that it had taken parts of the coastal oil-producing area of Zawiya, also in western Libya.

Libyan government spokespeople in Tripoli immediately dismissed these claims. Moussa Ibrahim, a representative of the Libyan government, said that state military forces had driven off the rebels from Zawiya. (Tripoli Post, June 13)

Ibrahim said, “The wishful reporting of some journalists that rebels are gaining more power and more control of some areas is not correct.” Of the fighting taking place in these areas, Ibrahim noted, “It is pockets of resistance.”

Ibrahim also said, “The rebels [in Zawiyah] are no more than a hundred. The army has killed some of them, captured others and is negotiating the surrender of others.” He also emphasized that Tripoli rejects any notion that Gadhafi will resign. Ibrahim said, “No one has the right to demand that the leader stand down. No one can come here with a plan that includes his departure and this idea is immoral, illegal and makes no sense.”

Meanwhile, Gadhafi was shown on Libyan TV on June 12 playing a game of chess with visiting International Chess Federation President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, who is in Libya in his official capacity as leader of the world agency. Gadhafi met with Ilyumzhinov for two hours and stated after the discussions and games, “I am neither premier nor president nor king. I do not hold any post in Libya and therefore I have no position which I should give up.”

These developments are taking place amid pronouncements by outgoing U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates that other NATO-member states must contribute more to the alliance and that the continuing war against Libya was a good indication of NATO’s lack of effectiveness.

Inside the United States, opposition to the war against Libya is escalating with more questions being raised by even some of the more reactionary representatives within both the U.S. Senate and the House. The House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair, Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen — known for her vicious hostility toward revolutionary Cuba — spoke out against ongoing U.S. involvement in Libya and demanded answers from the State Department on the aims of the mission and its legality within the context of constitutional law.

A recent CBS News poll indicated that 60 percent of people in the U.S. opposed the bombing of Libya. The same survey revealed that only 30 percent supported the mission, and among this group it would not be surprising that these views are based on lack of information.

The Obama administration and the corporate media have consistently refused to hold discussions and debates on U.S. policy toward Libya that are open to the public. The anti-war movement must continue to stress the imperialist aims of the war and demand the immediate withdrawal of all imperialist forces from the airspace of Libya as well as its waterways.