Stop Imperialist Aggression on Libya

SArindam Sen

(with inputs from Arvind) 

With the Western powers and their allies including the Saudi monarchy launching a military intervention in Libya, the people’s ongoing movement to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi’s regime has entered a new, more complex phase. Now in addition to their struggle against the domestic tyrant comes the new challenge of foreign imperialist intervention. At least forty eight people are reported dead in aerial bombardments and missile attacks on the first day itself, and this is just the beginning.
The NATO forces claim that the intervention is aimed at protecting the Libyan people and restoring peace. Well, it’s like "putting out fire with gasoline", as Nicaraguan leader Ortega commented. If they are so concerned about the safety of civilians, why did they not raise a finger in Gaza in 2008-09, when hundreds of noncombatants were being killed by Israeli warplanes in furtherance of an illegal occupation? And why does the US today allow its client regime in Bahrain, where it has a major naval base, to violently repress the popular and peaceful uprising with the help of vassals like Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait?
So this is only another instance of the pretexts and double standards the Western powers are known for. What is happening in Libya is evidently a gross violation of her sovereignty, an act of aggression aimed at regime change and possession of her huge oil reserves. Moreover, as Chavez pointed out, the freezing of Libyan accounts in American and European banks -- an amount he said he believed to be nearly $200 billion -- is effectively "a robbery, it's looting, taking advantage of Libya's internal conflict."
It is not for the first time that US and its allies are resorting to armed intervention in Libya. Washington carried out numerous unsuccessful attempts to eliminate and assassinate Gaddafi since 1981, when National Front for Salvation of Libya (NFSL) was founded with CIA funding with its offices in the US capital Washington, D.C. NFSL maintained a fully fledged military troop called Libyan National Army in Egypt on bordering areas of Libya. On 15 April, 1986 some 66 US jet flights bombed the Libyan capital of Tripoli and its second largest city, Benghazi. Gaddafi’s home was bombed, killing hundreds including his daughter. US also succeeded in isolating Libya through severe economic sanctions and left no stone unturned to sabotage the Libyan economy. The country was thus forced to fall in line -- to accept IMF prescriptions and tread the neoliberal path characterised by privatisation, withdrawal of subsidies, and the like – as a price for lifting US sanctions. Gaddafi has also offered to assist the US in its ‘war on terror’ in post 9/11 era.
Whatever progressive measures Gaddafi may have adopted after coming to power in 1969 – such as closing down the US and British air bases, nationalizing the oil-industry and many other commercial interests that had been under foreign control, subsidizing the basic necessities like food, housing, healthcare, education, fuel etc -- there was nothing left of progressivism or anti-imperialism in his regime in the last phase. More important, he has been a typical dictator all through, and the most cruel, vengeful one at that. With the air of democracy and freedom sweeping the Arab street, large sections of the Libyan population rose up against Gaddafi in one city after another:  notably Benghazi, Ajdabia, Ras Lanuf and Misrata. The rapid pace of the movement indicates the severe erosion of Gaddafi’s legitimacy.
However, unlike Mubarak and Ben Ali, Gaddafi does continue to enjoy the support of sizeable sections of the Libyan population. Libya’s society and polity is marked by complex relationships between tribes. While Gaddafi has lost his hold over many of tribes, he does continue to get considerable support from some major tribes such as the Warfalla and Gaddafi’s own tribe, the Gaddafa, both tribes commanding support in the region around the capital, Tripoli. Gaddafi also enjoys support in southern Libya; Sebha, the capital of Libya’s southern region is yet to witness any major popular protests against the regime. Gaddafi also enjoys the support of sizeable sections of the army, the best-equipped elite brigades in particular. On the strength of that he retained control over Tripoli and then launched a violent onslaught to reclaim some of the lost ground and recapture the rebellious cities. But the protestors were in no mood to surrender without a fight. What the imperialist intervention at this juncture managed to do was to weaken the democratic uprising politically, not the least by helping Gaddafi project himself as a defender of the nation against the imperialist attack. 
Of course, for the US and its new ‘coalition of the willing’, democracy has never been anything more than a pretext for launching aggressions. The present invasion, they expect, would serve the same corporate interests as the invasion and occupation of Iraq eight years ago. The basic purpose seems to be taking possession of Libya's oil reserves, destabilizing the National Oil Corporation (NOC, ranked 25 among the world’s top 100 Oil Companies) and eventually privatize the country's oil industry, i.e., transfer the control and ownership of the country's oil wealth into foreign hands.
The aggressors are so adamant that even before the United Nations Security Council resolution 1973 (sanctioning a no-fly zone over Libya) was passed with five abstentions, Western sleuths were on the ground in the eastern part of the country.  This came to light when British SAS Special Forces commandos, who were secretly sent to the country to act as military advisers to the opposition, got arrested in the Benghazi region by none other than rebel forces. The commandos were sent despite the fact that the opposition in Libya had already turned down the arms offer.
It is apparent that Libyan opposition leaders are wary of appearing welcoming of foreign intervention. Abdel Hafidh Ghoga, leader and spokesperson of the recently formed Libyan National Transitional Council, had specifically said: “We are against any foreign intervention or military intervention in our internal affairs…this revolution will be completed by our own people ....” Hailing Ghoga’s position of rejecting the US offer of arms a former Libyan General Ahmed El-Ghatrani (now with the opposition to Gaddafi’s regime) added:  “We don’t need foreign help as we moved on our own, on the orders of no one outside.” (The Hindu, 1 March, 2011). The calibrated response of the Libyan protestors to Western intervention can be seen by the fact that even as late as the moment when the rebellious people’s assembly in Benghazi cheered the passage of UN resolution 1973, they hoisted a big billboard saying (in Arabic) "No to foreign intervention". Libyans make a distinction between "foreign intervention" by which they mean troops and/or bombardments on the ground, and a protective no-fly zone in the sky and staunchly oppose the former. The marauding French, British and American forces have brutally trampled upon this sentiment.
The countries which abstained during the voting in the UN Security Council (Russia, China, Germany, Brazil and India) and the African Union have already expressed 'regret' over the military strikes against Libya. Concerned over a likely hike in oil prices that continuing hostilities would bring along, some of them have also called for a ceasefire. Significantly, the Arab League supported the UN resolution authorizing the no-fly zone over Libya, but with reports of civilian casualties on the rise, they were quick to condemn the massive air strikes by NATO forces.  “What is happening in Libya differs from the aim of imposing a no-fly zone, and what we want is the protection of civilians and not the bombardment of more civilians,” insisted Arab League chief and Egyptian presidential hopeful Amr Moussa.
Opposition is growing in Europe and America too. NATO members Turkey and Germany have come out strongly against the air strikes. Russia too has condemned the strike. Still licking the wounds inflicted by the Iraq and Afghan misadventures and mindful of the need to lend some credibility to the President’s democratic pretensions, even Washington has sounded a cautious note. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has warned against widening the goals of the mission beyond what was spelled out in the United Nations Security Council resolution.
New Delhi too has expressed “grave concern” over “the continuing violence, strife and deteriorating humanitarian situation in Libya” and urged all parties to resolve their differences through peaceful means, abjuring the use of force. Incidentally, this was what Hugo Chavez, with the support of like-minded Latin American leaders, proposed well before the aggression began. He also offered to mediate between the Libyan ruler and the opposition and the former welcomed the proposal. The Euro-American war-mongers, however, were in no mood to give peace a chance; they did what their narrow self- interest prompted them to do.

We strongly condemn the military aggression and express warm solidarity with the people of Libya in their struggle for democracy and freedom from all kinds of tyranny. We must build a new anti-war movement to stop the aggression now and in India we must pressure the government to go beyond rhetoric and play a more proactive role, as a member of the Security Council, to stop the invasion of a friendly Third World country.