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Issue #1494      23 March 2011

Bush bombed Iraq on March 19, 2003

Obama bombed Libya on March 19, 2011

HANDS OFF LIBYA

The Communist Party of Australia condemns in the strongest possible terms the military aggression against Libya by US, UK and French forces directed by the US Africa Command (Africom). We urge all Australians who oppose war and aggression to speak out against this declaration of war on Libya! Demand that the Federal Government refrain from all involvement in military action in Libya! Support a peaceful resolution to this crisis! Let the Libyan people settle matters themselves with a political solution.

US Navy ships and submarines and British Trafalgar submarines stationed off Libya have fired hundreds of missiles at Libyan command and control centres, radar installations and surface-to-air missile sites. French planes have bombed a military column and Gaddafi’s own compound in Tripoli has been attacked.

Libyan officials said the attacks were “barbaric” and causing civilian casualties.

The attacks followed last Thursday’s UN Security Council Resolution 1973, authorising the imposition of a “no-fly zone” on Libya and the use of “all necessary measures” short of an invasion – including naval blockades, bombardment and air strikes – against Gaddafi’s forces in order “to protect civilians and civilian-populated areas”. The resolution also imposes a ban on all air travel (including civilian flights) in Libyan airspace, toughens the arms embargo, and widens the freeze of offshore Libyan assets.

The political campaign to launch a military intervention in Libya succeeded at the United Nations as a result of US and UK bullying and with the backing of Arab League – for the most part a collection of frightened despots desperate to get the US military still more deeply involved in the region.

Following the UN resolution Libyan leader Gaddafi ordered a ceasefire. He did the same after the first missiles rained down on his country. The Western powers dismissed both as fraudulent as easily as they rejected Venezuelan leader Chavez’s offer of mediation. It is clear that they have never been interested in a peaceful solution to the conflict.

Five countries abstained from voting on the UN resolution, including China, Russia and Germany. Vitaly Churkin, the Russian.envoy to the United Nations, said:

“The responsibility for the inevitable humanitarian consequences of the excessive use of outside force in Libya will fall fair and square on the shoulders of those who might undertake such action. If this comes to pass, then not only the civilian population of Libya but also the cause of upholding peace and security throughout the whole region of North Africa and the Middle East will suffer.”

The military assault is already killing the civilians the UN resolution was supposed to protect. But the West does not care about the dead and maimed. The real aim is regime change, to replace Gaddafi with a more predictable and pliant puppet government.

The experience of Iraq underlines the futility of trying to impose “regime change”. Democracy and freedom cannot grow from aerial bombardment and foreign occupation.

The imperialist powers are bombing and killing to strengthen their control in North Africa and the Middle East where their economic interests, centred on control of the region’s oil resources, are increasingly threatened by the rising tide of democratic revolutions.

The region could well escape US control. Attacking Libya is their emergency solution, part of preparations for a counter-revolutionary offensive to stop the democratic upsurge spreading to the rest of the Middle East and Africa.

Humanitarian hypocrisy

The United Nations Security Council agreed to military aggression against Libya on “humanitarian grounds”, allegedly to protect civilians.

It is impossible to take these claims seriously. We are dealing here with classic spin and disinformation campaigns, with war propaganda.

Firstly allegations of “massacres” of civilians cannot be substantiated. In the Western media one day there is talk of 2,000 deaths, and the next day the count is revised to 300.

It has been claimed that Gaddafi was bombing his own people. There are official statements by the Russian army, which is observing the situation by satellite, which contradict that information.

Military action by Gaddafi has been targeted on armed opposition forces, not unarmed civilians.

Then there is the breathtaking, blatant hypocrisy.

Fidel Castro makes the point: “In Iraq, the innocent blood of more than a million Arab citizens was spilt when the country was invaded under false pretexts. Mission accomplished! proclaimed George W Bush.

“Nobody in the world would ever agree with the deaths of defenceless civilians in Libya or anywhere else. And I wonder: will the US and NATO apply that principle on the defenceless civilians that the unmanned Yankee planes and the soldiers of that organization kill every day in Afghanistan and Pakistan?”

The West proclaims the necessity of military intervention in Libya. But it has not demanded any such intervention in Saudi Arabia or Bahrain. Here civilians have been shot but the leaders of those countries still receive honours from the West.

The US and NATO declare they must bomb Libya in order to protect civilians. Yes, they will intervene, sacrificing human lives – except when Israel attacks the “civilian population” in Gaza, or when US drones bomb ‘civilian populations’ in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and any other place where there is oil or gas. Then apparently there is no problem!

The hypocritical doctrine of “humanitarian interventionism” is dangerous because it provides a convenient pretext to override one of the most fundamental principles of the UN Charter –respect for the national and territorial sovereignty of all member-states – thus providing official sanction for wars of aggression and occupation by the imperialist powers under the cover of ‘international humanitarian relief’.

The Communist Party of Australia statement continues by looking at some of the forces involved in and the historical background to the Libyan crisis.

What has happened in Libya is different from the situation in Tunisia and Egypt. In these two countries the lack of freedom was flagrant. However, it was the appalling social conditions which really drove young people to rebel. The Tunisians and Egyptians had no hope for the future.

In Libya, Muammar Gadaffi’s regime is corrupt, monopolises a large part of the country’s wealth and has always severely repressed any opposition. But the social conditions of the Libyan people are better than in neighbouring countries.

Life expectancy in Libya is higher than in the rest of Africa. The health and education systems are good. Libya is one of the first African countries to have eradicated malaria. While there are major inequalities in the distribution of wealth, GDP per inhabitant is about $11,000 – one of the highest in the Arab world.

The “opposition”

There is of course a part of Libyan youth that is tired of the dictatorship and has been influenced by events in Tunisia and Egypt. But these popular sentiments are being taken advantage of by the opposition in the east of the country which is after its share of the cake, the distribution of wealth having been very unequal under the Gaddafi regime.

There have already been inter-tribal contradictions but they have never been so widespread. The US has been fanning the flames of these tensions in order to be able to intervene militarily in Libya.

From the very first days of the insurrection, the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, was suggesting arming the opposition, at one time asking Saudi Arabia to supply military equipment to the rebels.

Today the opposition have welcomed foreign military aggression against their country.

One group involved in the opposition is the “National Front for the Salvation of Libya”, an exile group which has demanded the NATO attack against Gaddafi. The Front has for decades been linked to the CIA.

Another group reported in the opposition is the Muslim Brotherhood.

A third group active in the insurrection is backing the return of the monarchy which was deposed by Gaddafi in 1969. But if this opposition really wants a democratic revolution, why have they resorted to the flags of King Idriss? If you are part of a country’s opposition, and as a patriot you want to overthrow your government, you do not cause a civil war in your own country and you do not put it at risk of Balkanisation.

The Libyan people deserve better than this opposition movement that is plunging the country into chaos. They need a real democratic movement to replace the Gaddafi regime and bring about social justice. They have the right to decide their own future. They do not deserve military aggression.

Historical background

In the last century, European colonial powers divided up sub-Sahara among themselves. Italy invaded Libya, gaining control of the Tripoli region in the west but meeting fierce resistance in the rest of the country, especially in Cyrenaica in the east. Finally, at the beginning of the 1930s, Mussolini took radical measures to wipe out the resistance. Repression became extremely brutal.

In 2008 Italy paid compensation to Libya for the crimes of the colonialists. While acknowledging the atrocities of the past, Italy’s president Berlusconi was mainly interested in creating the best climate in which to reach commercial contracts with Gaddafi.

Libya became independent in 1951. The three regions that made up Libya – Tripolitana, Fezzan and Cyrenaica – found themselves united in a federal system with a king, Idriss, installed as an imperialist puppet with the support of Britain.

The three regions had different cultures and histories and this, together with the size of the country and lack of roads and other infrastructure, meant that the colonial-imposed entity Libya was not a united nation.

In 1951 Libyan oil had not yet been discovered. But the West had military bases in the country because it occupies a strategic position from which to control the Red Sea and the Mediterranean.

Oil was discovered in Libya in 1954. At the time Arab oil was being sold at around 90c a barrel. But Libyan oil was bought for 30c because the country was so backward. It was perhaps the poorest in Africa.


Gaddafi brought about positive changes in Libya.

1969 revolution

The three army officers, including Gaddafi, who overthrew King Idriss in September 1969 were influenced by Nasser in Egypt. Inspired by socialism, Nasser was opposed to the interference of colonialism and preached the unity of the Arab world. He nationalised the Suez Canal, which until then had been controlled by France and the UK. This attracted the hostility of the West and bombing in 1956.

King Idriss had welcomed the large US Wheelus Air Base but the revolution promptly ended any US military presence in Libya. Gaddafi also nationalised Libyan oil, greatly angering the imperialists.

The revolution used the oil riches to improve the social conditions of the Libyan people; to eradicate widespread illiteracy, to provide jobs and housing, to develop free higher education; and to ensure better nutrition through food subsidies.

Gaddafi ordered the nationalisation of land and the burning of all land titles.

Under Gaddafi, Libya became the highest ranked among African countries in the Human Development Index – which includes such factors as living conditions and life expectancy.

Contradictory

Gaddafi’s revolution was a bourgeois national revolution.

His “Third Universal Theory” is a strange mix of utopian socialism and Islam – of non-class anti-capitalism and virulent anti-Communism. Communist advocacy was suppressed and the role of trade unions marginalised in Libya.

In 1971, for example, he sent back to Sudan an aeroplane which was carrying Sudanese communist dissidents who were immediately executed by President Nimeiri.

Gaddafi did oppose imperialism and colonialism and supported various liberation movements throughout the world. However the international anti-imperialist movement he claimed to be leading was in reality mainly composed of anti-communist ultra-left and fundamentalist Islamic groupings.

While vociferous in his anti-imperialist rhetoric and antics –which drew sanctions from imperialist countries – he was objectively sowing divisions within anti-imperialist movements, as well as within the anti-Zionist national liberation movement of the Palestinian people.

Changes

Gaddafi overthrew the monarchy, nationalised oil, opposed the imperial powers and brought about positive changes in Libya. Nevertheless, 40 years later, he is a corrupt dictator who has suppressed opposition and opened his country to Western companies.

How can we explain this change?

One factor was the sharp fall in oil revenues during the 1980s. In 1973, at the time of the Israeli-Arab war, the oil-producing countries decided to impose an embargo that caused the price of a barrel of oil to shoot up. This embargo brought about the first great transfer of wealth from the North in the direction of the South.

But during the 1980s US President Reagan and the Saudis orchestrated an oil “counter-revolution”. Saudi Arabia increased its production considerably and flooded the market, causing a massive drop in prices. The barrel went down from $35 to $8.

This happened only ten years after Gaddafi came to power and the Libyan leader saw the only means he had to build anything disappear as the oil money dwindled.

A second major factor was the shift in the world balance of forces.

With the disappearance of the Soviet Union and other socialist countries, Libya lost its major source of political support and found itself isolated on the international scene.

The Reagan administration put Libya on its list of terrorist states and the country was subjected to a series of sanctions.

After the US “shock and awe” onslaught on Baghdad and its occupation and brutalisation of Iraq, Gaddafi tried to make an accommodation with imperialism with major economic and political concessions. In 2003 he dismantled Libya’s nuclear program and paid compensation to the victims of the Lockerbie bombing.

Gaddafi accepted IMF demands for structural adjustment, privatising many state enterprises and cutting state subsidies to necessities like food and fuel. The neo-liberal reforms resulted in growing inequality, with social programs for the poor being cut, and the country’s oil wealth increasingly being given to foreign corporations.

The Libyan revolution had become a one-man project. Everything revolved around this charismatic leader with a contradictory philosophy and policies. A gulf opened up between the leader and his people. Force and repression filled the void, corruption expanded and tribal differences crystallised. Today these divisions have come to the forefront in the Libyan crisis.  

 

Next article – Editorial – The Brotherhood – capitalist business as usual

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