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Rome Contact Group, ICC

Further proof of Western aims in Libya

Published May 11, 2011 9:55 PM

In early May two significant developments occurred in the imperialist war against the oil-rich North African state of Libya: the various governments and economic interests that are attempting to overthrow the Libyan government convened a meeting of the so-called “International Contact Group” in Rome on May 5; and the International Criminal Court based in The Hague announced on May 4 that it would seek arrest warrants against high-level Libyan officials, including Moammar Gadhafi and his family members.

Italy is the former colonial ruler of Libya. Italian colonial troops killed or displaced nearly half of Libya’s population while repressing an anticolonial struggle in the first decades of the 20th century. That this European capitalist country, which is a large recipient of Libyan oil and natural gas, would host such a gathering speaks volumes about the blatant efforts by Western capitalist states to seize Libya and its natural resources.

The ICG announced the establishment of a fund to finance the counterrevolutionary rebel groups that are fighting at the behest of the Western states to overthrow the Libyan government. Under the banner of the Transitional National Council, the rebels are slated to receive hundreds of millions of dollars from the imperialist states.

Media reports indicate that the TNC requested $2 to $3 billion in funding. The Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said at the conference that the creation of a rebel fund would “permit funds to be channeled effectively and transparently” to the opposition forces in Libya. The British government has also been cited as a major proponent of the creation of the fund to finance the rebels. (BBC, May 5)

British Foreign Secretary William Hague claimed that the monies contributed to the fund would not be used for military purposes. Hague said: “This money will help them to keep basic services going … because in the east of Libya they still need to be educating people, to keep public services moving and they have to meet the expenses of all that and they don’t have much tax revenue at the moment.”

The British government has also placed special forces inside Libya in order to train the rebel troops as well as identify targets for NATO’s ongoing bombing campaign. Other reports have indicated that the British are placing military advisers inside Libya and on the border with Tunisia. According to the BBC, “The UK has already provided $21.5 million in aid to the rebels.”

The Obama administration has also pledged money to the rebels inside eastern Libya, including $53 million in so-called “humanitarian aid” and an additional $25 million to provide medical supplies, combat boots, rations and protective gear. Another shipment of U.S. aid is scheduled to arrive in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi during the second week of May.

Other pledges of assistance to the anti-Libyan forces came from the U.S.-backed monarchies in Qatar and Kuwait. Qatar said during the Rome gathering that it would supply $500 million to the rebels. Kuwait offered $180 million.

In addition to discussions about providing financial aid to the rebels, there were also deliberations on how to tighten the economic sanctions by the Western imperialist states against the Libyan government. The Rome meeting reiterated its aim of preventing the oil-rich North African state from exporting crude oil or importing refined petroleum, as well as using other means to isolate Libya from world trade markets. In addition, there were plans to take the Libyan government funds frozen by the U.S. and the European states, reputed to be over $50 billion, to finance operations in the war against the North African country.

The Rome meeting’s final statement emphasized: “The regime [Libyan government] must not be allowed any access to oil and gas revenues to support actions against the Libyan people.” Consequently the economic sanctions are designed to bolster the U.S./NATO military campaign of bombing from the sea and air, along with the sabotage attacks by the rebels on the ground.

The ICC’s role

Referred to by many as the “African Criminal Court,” the International Criminal Court based in The Hague has a reputation of only targeting and indicting states and individuals on the continent. The ICC has issued warrants against Sudan President Omar al-Bashir and other leading figures within that oil-rich nation. Most African and Arab states have opposed the ICC warrants against the political leadership in Sudan. President Omar al-Bashir has traveled to numerous African and Arab states and is welcomed with full diplomatic decorum.

ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo has already indicated that he will issue indictments against at least three Libyan officials.

In May 5 Moreno-Ocampo addressed the United Nations Security Council, which passed Resolutions 1970 and 1973 that provide the legal rationale for direct NATO military intervention in Libya. The ICC is claiming there was a “pre-determined plan” to attack antigovernment protesters.

There is no reference to the U.S. CIA’s decades-long plans to assassinate and overthrow the Gadhafi-led government. The ICC has never taken any action against the U.S. and British imperialist states for their crimes committed against the peoples of Iraq, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Palestine.

One U.S.-based organization, Human Rights Watch, has urged the Security Council to declare its support for the ICC indictments against Libyan officials. But HRW has not opposed the U.S./NATO intervention and bombing of Libya and routinely ignores the Pentagon’s use of depleted uranium weapons and the killing of civilians and other people inside Libya.

HRW also neglects the gross human rights violations taking place daily within the U.S. Instead, this organization almost exclusively focuses on alleged human rights violations in postcolonial and developing countries that the imperialist states have targeted for regime change.

The indictments by the ICC and the HRW appeal to the Security Council to take further actions against Libya are clearly designed to coincide with the stated aims of the U.S., Britain, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Canada and their allies within NATO and other geopolitical regions. These imperialist governments and the other U.S.-backed Middle Eastern states, in conjunction with the rebels, have maintained that they do not want a negotiated settlement but that the country must be totally transformed into an outpost for Western military and economic interests.

In her May 6-8 Counterpunch article, Diana Johnstone pointed out: “The United States and its citizen are immune to prosecution, first of all because the United States has used its unprecedented economic and political clout to pressure countries into signing Bilateral Immunity Agreements (BIAs) that exempt Americans from prosecutions. One hundred and two countries have signed BIAs with the United States.”

Libya resists military assault

Despite the NATO onslaught and the arming and financing of the rebels, who are assisted by various intelligence agencies and Special Forces, the Libyan government is defending its territory and state and has prevented the arming of the rebels through the port at Misrata, where Libyan forces have been targeted by NATO bombing raids. The Libyan military is also hampering weapon smuggling across the Tunisian border to areas around Misrata.

On May 8 NATO bombed western Tripoli and the city of Zintan southwest of the capital. On the previous day in Misrata, Libyan military forces took out oil refueling facilities used by the rebels in their campaign against the central government.

Conditions for people inside the country have worsened since the beginning of the NATO bombing on March 19. The bombing has imposed great hardship on the Libyan people as well as on the two million guest workers who relied on Africa’s most vibrant economy for their livelihoods. Tens of thousands of Libyans and guest workers have fled the country.

Many others have been seriously injured and killed in unsafe boats, which were supposed to take them to safety in other parts of the country or to Europe. A May 8 report in the Guardian asserted that NATO left 70 African migrant workers to die: “All but 11 of those on board died from thirst and hunger after their vessel was left to drift in open waters for 16 days. International maritime law compels all vessels, including military units, to answer distress calls from nearby boats and to offer help where possible.”

These incidents are coming to light daily. Finding a just peace will be crucial in any reconstruction and national reconciliation process.

As the 53-member African Union has emphasized repeatedly, the peace plan advanced by the continental organization on March 11 must be implemented. The AU plan calls for an immediate ceasefire, the withdrawal of foreign military forces, respect for the territorial sovereignty of the country, the protection of civilians and migrant workers, and the beginning of serious negotiations between the warring parties.

AU Commissioner Jean Ping told the Rome Contact Group on May 5 that the failure of the gathering to move toward negotiations, as opposed to aerial bombardments, business deals and support for the rebels, would only create further problems for Libya and its regional neighbors. Ping noted, “The AU has no agenda in Libya other than to facilitate the resolution of the crisis and a democratic transition in that country.” (Afrique en ligne, May 9)

At the same time, high-level meetings between Russia and China have taken place, and a joint statement on the situation in Libya was released. It points out, “Every nation should determine its future independently without outside interference.” (Asia Times, May 9) A People’s Daily editorial several weeks ago stated: “Libya was at a stalemate; the Moammar Gadhafi regime had proved resilient; and the Libyan opposition was overrated by the West.”

All of the major Western military interventions are exposing these countries to extreme economic crises as well as growing political opposition, both domestically and internationally. There is no solution for the workers and oppressed in the capitalist countries except by ending the imperialist wars of occupation.