Despite reports that chemical weapons were used against the civilian population of Bani Walid in Libya, the U.S. State Department is supporting its surrogates’ takeover of the western hilltop city. Militias from Misrata, known for their brutality and racism, have held Bani Walid, a stronghold of loyalists allied with Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s government, under siege for a month.
The militias have committed gross violations of international law and human rights in Bani Walid. After claiming victory in this city of 70,000 to 100,000 people, the U.S.-backed General National Congress regime in Tripoli, the capital, first said residents could return and then prevented them from doing so.
Reports indicate that the militia forces used high-powered missile launchers, some of which were laced with nerve gas and white phosphorous.A blockade of severalweeks followed by bombardments forced at least 25,000 residents out of the city.
Mohammad Al-Hrari,of the Libyan Relief Agency, noted: “After what happened in Bani Walid, you can say almost all of the population fled.” (Gulf News, Oct. 29)
GNC regime officials admit there is no water or electricity in the city. On Oct. 28, army pickup trucks equipped with heavy weapons continued the blockade of the northern entrance to the town.
International journalists have largely been denied entrance into the city. Most media reports come from Bani Walid residents themselves.
Militias seek to destroy Bani Walid
After the militias entered the city on Oct. 24, their fighters fired rocket-propelled grenades into homes and buildings, bulldozed houses and arrested hundreds of people.
The militia fighters shouted, “Today Bani Walid is finished.” One added, “The Gadhafi fighters are out of Bani Walid, they have gone. Some people here still wanted Gadhafi, we have to show them that he is finished.” (Reuters, Oct. 27)
Russia Today satellite television showed one local woman saying, “Bani Walid was invaded by militias from Misrata. They destroyed everything, brought chaos, death and destruction with them. When families wanted to return to their homes, these militias directed their guns towards them, shot at them, and they were forced to flee.” (Oct. 26)
Afaf Yusef, a resident of Bani Walid, said she could “confirm that pro-government militias used internationally prohibited weapons. They used phosphorus bombs and nerve gas.”
Yusef continued, “We have documented all this in videos — we recorded the missiles they used and the white phosphorus raining down from these missiles. The whole world needs to see who they are targeting. Are they really Gadhafi’s men? Are the children, women and old men killed, Gadhafi’s men?”
The residents of Bani Walid have appealed to the United Nations and other international bodies for assistance but to no avail. The U.S. Mission to the U.N. blocked the Russian government’s attempt to introduce a resolution in the Security Council calling for a peaceful settlement of the conflict, indicating that the White House is behind the siege.
Yusef bemoaned, “Our city is dying. The situation is very difficult. The city is almost completely destroyed. Residents are buried in the rubble.” (rt.com, Oct. 28)
Some sources claim that a majority of the militia fighters have dual citizenships and passports from other nations.
U.S. imperialism leaves trail of death
The current situation in Bani Walid and throughout Libya is the direct result of the intervention of the Pentagon, the CIA and NATO during 2011. For 10 months last year, rebels and their backers in the West laid waste to the country and the state, with NATO’s armed forces carrying out 9,600 air strikes, a naval blockade, the dislocation of 2 million people and the seizure of national assets, leaving Libya in a deplorable condition.
Nonetheless, this failed to subdue the entire population. Thus the reactionaries are carrying out the destruction of Bani Walid through blockades, the use of chemical warfare and large-scale displacements.
While they bring up tactical questions involving the defense of U.S. representatives in Benghazi, both U.S. presidential candidates have failed to debate the underlying causes of the instability in Libya. The war against Libya is a war for oil and geopolitical control which is extending to other areas throughout the region.
At present the imperialists are preparing for a major intervention in the West African state of Mali. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton visited Algeria on Oct. 29 in an effort to coordinate the coming invasion of Mali. Algerian Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci had said in an Oct. 19 interview, “There is a Malian institutional crisis. The Algerians are ready to help.” (New York Times, Oct. 29)
Such interventions involving the imperialists will not stabilize the political situation in North and West Africa. It will ultimately be up to the African people themselves to resolve the internal problems within their countries. These problems cannot be separated from the overall role and impact of imperialism on the entire continent. n