The attacks on the U.S. Consulate and another compound in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, resulting in the deaths of Ambassador Christopher Stevens, two ex-Navy Seals and another diplomat, have opened up a new phase in the struggle over Libya.
On one side is the U.S.-backed puppet government that replaced the government of Moammar Gadhafi, along with various militias that are its allies. On the other side are armed groups that were anti-Gadhafi for reactionary reasons and that the U.S. and NATO also used against the Gadhafi government. These groups are ideologically reactionary but oppose Western hegemony and thus the U.S. puppets.
On Sept. 25, President Mohamed Magariafis of the U.S.-installed General National Congress government based in Tripoli ordered all militias in the eastern region of the country around the major cities of Benghazi and Darna disbanded.
Earlier, on Sept. 21, several hundred people trashed and burned the headquarters of the Ansar al-Sharia group — which had been a close U.S. ally against Gadhafi — killing several of its members. Though they were blamed for the attack on the consulate, Ansar al-Sharia’s leader, Mohammad Ali al-Zahawi, had indicated just two days earlier that the group had no involvement in the deaths of the diplomats. He denied that the brigade was an al-Qaida affiliate but expressed admiration for al – Qaida. (BBC, Sept. 24)
A crowd estimated at 30,000, backed by the GNC government, marched Sept. 21 through the streets of Benghazi shouting, “No to militias.” (Associated Press, Sept. 21) Signs in the crowd reflected the pro-U.S. influence, mourning the deaths of the Consulate staff and reading, “The ambassador was Libya’s friend” and “Libya lost a friend.”
Stevens had been in Benghazi since the early days of the revolt against the Gadhafi government in 2011. He was considered the U.S. government’s point man in the center of its regime-change efforts against Libya.
Many of the militias now under attack had been an integral part of the U.S.-imposed political situation in Libya. These groups were armed, financed and given authority over various sections of the country.
According to the Associated Press article, “The unprecedented public backlash comes in part in frustration with the interim government, which has been unable to rein in the armed factions.”
In Darna, which has been a stronghold of Islamists for many years, the militias operate openly and with impunity. The former government of Gadhafi during 2011 warned that the city, which is located north of Benghazi in the mountains near the Mediterranean coast, would attempt to break away from Libya and form an Islamic state.
Eyewitness accounts raise questions about source of attacks
For several days in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, the Obama administration argued that the killing of Stevens and the others sprang from the worldwide demonstrations sparked by the release of an anti-Islam film entitled “Innocence of Muslims.” Spokespersons for the administration claimed that the armed attacks were largely spontaneous and that the targeted militia group took advantage of a chaotic situation.
However, during the following week, the State Department was forced to change its line. Evidence emerged that there were no demonstrations at the location and that the consulate was attacked by more than 125 armed men without warning.
In addition to concerns regarding his safety expressed by Stevens in his diary, Gen. Carter Ham, the head of the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), had also warned of possible attacks on diplomatic and intelligence personnel in Libya, perhaps including a role for al-Qaida. Gen. Ham’s questions indicated that the U.S. was having problems transforming the various militia “into border police, into national police, into maritime police” where they can serve the central government — and thus U.S. hegemony. (CNN Security Blog, Sept. 24)
In the immediate aftermath of the attacks on the consulate, the Obama administration ordered at least 50 Marines into the country and the deployment of warships and drones.
U.S. foreign policy failures mount
The New York Times reported Sept. 23 that the destruction of the U.S. base of operations in Benghazi and the killing of Stevens and the other personnel was a major blow to CIA operations there. “Among the more than two dozen American personnel evacuated from the city after the assault on the American mission and a nearby annex were about a dozen CIA operatives and contractors, who played a crucial role in conducting surveillance and collecting information on an array of armed militant groups in and around the city.” This article goes on to say about the U.S. Consulate and annex, “From these buildings, the CIA personnel carried out their secret missions.”
These recent developments in Libya and the massive anti-U.S. demonstrations around the world illustrate the flaws in Washington’s foreign policy, at the same time the Western imperialist powers face a protracted economic crisis.
Groups the U.S. manipulated to overthrow the Libyan government in 2011 and similar efforts now in Syria — not to mention the 11-year war in Afghanistan — show that many of these forces will turn against U.S. control.