The Truth About Libya

by J. Brett Whitesell/First published on Dandelion Salad

It would be impossible for anyone to discuss the ongoing revolution/war in Libya without talking about many of the events prior to February 17th. To say Greece, Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria, and Yemen have no influence over the Libyan revolt would be unimaginable. However, with Libya there are some major differences, specifically the new players involved. The U.S. along with France, Great Britain, and an Arab Coalition are involved under the auspices of a U.N. resolution for a “No-Fly Zone” over Libya to protect its citizens. Why would the West suddenly get involved now with Libya than with previous revolts? What then, was each about and how did they really affect the Libyan insurgency. Lastly, who, surprisingly, was not involved in the uprisings themselves?

During the violence in Athens the world watched, as protesters would drag a banker out of the building and beat him as others threw Molotov cocktails into commercial stores showing their frustration over the state’s handling of the financial crisis caused by the United States banking meltdown. Their frustrations were most likely misdirected.

In Tunisia, the “Jasmine” revolution, led by students (half of Tunisia is under the age of 25) and unemployed union workers, was brewing for some time. However it was the social media’s replaying of Mohamed Bouazizi setting himself on fire in front of the government building in Sidi Bouzid that started the peaceful protests by some of the people. Bouazizi was a 26 year-old fruit and vegetable street vendor (illegal in Tunisia) taking care of eight family members. When the police confiscated his cart Bouazizi went to the government offices but was not allowed in. He then poured two containers of paint thinner on himself and set it ablaze. This was immediately thrown into Facebook and Twitter sparking other street vendors and angry citizens to go to the government offices and protest. When brutally attacked by security forces the streets began to fill with angry students and union workers protesting the lack of work and opposition to the oppressive government of Ben Ali. This was followed by the published reports of Wikileaks showing how the corrupt regime of Ben Ali, and his wife Leila, lived a life of luxury while the people went jobless and hungry. Within weeks the protests expanded over hundreds of miles forcing other states to recommend Ben Ali and his wife to flee Tunisia.

Egypt would follow with protesters demanding the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak due to extremely high unemployment, skyrocketing food prices, and another oppressive government in what has been called the “25 January Revolution.” Again, and maybe even more prevalent, was the Egyptians insistence on a peaceful campaign of “civil resistance.” Not to say that there wasn’t violence, but the overwhelming crowds in Tahrir Square in Cairo were there to show that the people wanted drastic change in Egypt forcing the resignation of Mubarak. The speed at which the movement in Egypt evolved and the shear numbers to participate so quickly (500,000 “fans” in a few days) is attributed to the electronic media starting with Facebook, Twitter, Twitpic and then Youtube. The protesters ability to respond to the government shutting down the Internet, in hopes of staving off a full revolution, shone when the leaders of different groups took over office buildings in attempt to use the fax machines to coordinate the protesters. The restraint of the military to get involved kept the Egyptian revolution from becoming a bloodbath. Again, that’s not to say it went without resistance from pro-Mubarak supporters. The leader of Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh, is now facing similar circumstances.

It is the players that are NOT involved that are quite surprising. With all of the good intentions the United States may profess in forcing western Democracy on everyone, they weren’t involved at all. Osama Bin Laden and al-Qaeda, which want just the opposite but within the same means, don’t even, have a “bit-part” in any of these productions. Next, in all these revolutions, inspired by the boiling unrest with oppressive regimes, carried out by new social mediums, there is one desperate question to answer––what now? When asked many protesters never thought they could overthrow an incredibly strong regime as with Ben Ali. Much of the problems facing all the “winners” according to Onyango Obbo, Executive Editor of the Nation Media Group’s Africa and Digital Media Division, is that while the information, appeals, and coordination of these campaigns flew through the internet via social mediums, reaching hundreds of thousands of citizens, it did not deliver firm leaders in order to take over once peace was established. Obbo’s personal opinion concerning a world with shrinking resources, diminishing employment, and an exploding population is that, “I think we are headed for a ‘Leaderless World.

Less than a month later opposition groups in Libya, riding the rising tide of unrest in the north, would call for a “day of anger,” just two days after a lawyer/activist was arrested in what is now dubbed the “February 17th Revolution,” Libya would begin what appears to be a civil war, rather than a revolution, between Muammer Gaddafi in Tripoli and opposition troops based out of Benghazi in the east. The most pressing questions are what is the difference in the Libyan eruption and the rest of the northern African nations as well as along the Mediterranean? Who are the internal players, and more intriguing is why now is the West so interested? Finally, what possible outcome can there be? One obvious answer to many is oil. While the U.S. may not import much from Libya, American companies are now strong there. Tunisia produces about 87,000 barrels of oil per day, Yemen 300,000 barrels per day, Egypt 685,000 barrels, with Libya producing and exporting much of 1,800,000 barrels of crude oil, much of it to Europe across the Mediterranean, which in itself is now threatened by Gaddafi.

Richard Deaton of the Ottowa Citizen writes, “The West’s evolving military and diplomatic strategy to promote regime change in Libya, as repressive and dictatorial as Moammar Gadhafi’s regime may be, is based on oil politics, self-interest and hypocrisy. It also establishes a very dangerous precedent.” Deaton also questions, as others, why the West did not have a “conscience” with regard to changing the “murderous” regimes in South Africa, Uganda, or Rwanda, Haiti, or Chile. Others question why we stood by and watched during Tunisia and Egypt’s insurrections. Books will be written one day, but for now the truth in Libya is extraordinarily hard to find. Gaddafi claims the opposition is connected to al-Qaeda terrorists and wonders why the West is supporting them? So who are they really? They are not all students, nor union workers. They are not all crazy political extremists, and not everyone is a member of al-Qaeda. They are, however, some of each of these.

In a 20 March article in the Financial Times Andrew England writes, “Eager for the uprising to be seen as a nationwide and not just an eastern-led rebellion, officials said the council would have 30 members (later increased to 31) with representatives from across the country including Tripoli.” Why is that? They also named Mustafa Abdul Jalil, who was a judge in the town of al-Bayida, but regularly criticized the Gaddafi regime. This was another well thought political move. Unlike the other revolts in Tunisia and Egypt, this was much more organized and less spontaneous. This has been brewing since before the uprising Gaddafi snuffed out in 1990, using helicopter gun ships and cutting off power, water, and gas to Benghazi and other eastern cities known to harbor Islamic extremists trying to topple his regime. But this time when the opposition forces began the February 17 Revolution they had lawyers, businessmen, and academics set up committees to organize and run each town newly liberated. Some members of the opposition council went to France to plea their case to Nicolas Sarkozy, who has been struggling in the polls and desperately needed a cause to champion. Brilliant timing, albeit accidental, on the part of the opposition group. Sarkozy then spearheads a plan through a cautious Barack Obama and U.S. military, coming out as leading the charge to protect the citizens of Libya convincing the U.N. to put together, hastily, a “No-Fly Zone” resolution. Falling in behind would be Great Britain and then the Americans with the blessing of an Arab coalition of states.

One of Obama’s latest statements, directed to a subliminal audience, is quite specific and encrypted at the same time.

Gaddafi has a choice within the U.N. Resolution. The U.S., the United Kingdom, France, and a league of Arab states agreed that a ceasefire must be implemented immediately. All attacks must stop. Must stop troops from advancing on Benghazi, and pull back troops from all other areas. He must establish electricity, water, and gas supplies to all areas.

            Let me be clear these are not negotiable.

            We will not deploy ground troops in Libya. We will not use force to go beyond a well – defined goal specifically the protection of civilians in Libya.

I think it was Seymour Hersh that said, “It’s not what the president says in his speech, but what he doesn’t say that is important.” President Obama has been taking flak from all sides on this issue. Half of the right is condemning him for waiting in a show of weakness; the other half waited and then crucified him for acting all together when the first Tomahawk missile was fired, along with some from the left calling for impeachment. So why did Obama wait so long? Why then, after waiting, did Obama limit our involvement; why not stay out all together as did Germany, China, and Russia? What are France and Great Britain’s motives, as well as the Arab Leagues? Some of the answers lie in the oil fields of course, except the U.S. doesn’t get much from Libya. Gaddafi just became a pal of late because of his help with fighting terrorism and his anti-al-Qaeda sentiments. For Obama he has a great many fronts to contend with. He has to do something to help or look weak as a president. He made campaign promises not to get involved in mid-east issues and swore to get out of Iraq and Afghanistan. This doesn’t help any of that.             The real answer may lie in the Sinjar Records, part of an analysis of the Combating Terrorism Center of West Point. In this report, obtained by the Asian Tribune, it reveals completely new information about the “demographics” of foreign insurgents infiltrating Iraq. Initially, several years ago, it was reported by both ABC News and the Los Angeles Times that Libya had very little to do with any al-Qaeda effort in Iraq. This is probably due to American oil companies and corporations looking to expand their interests and needed the blessing of the state, without negative press that might haunt them later.

The Sinjar Records is information “collected by al-Qaeda’s Iraqi affiliates, first the Mujahidin Shura Council (MSC) and then the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI).” Coalition forces captured these records in October of 2007 along the Syrian border with Iraq. Within these documents, and these were just a sampling, was most of the personal information of foreign jihadists, approximately 700 in this list from August 2006 to August 2007, entering Iraq in the fight against Coalition Forces there. These lists included name, country of origin, hometown, age, occupation, and name of recruiter. Sometimes it even included the route the insurgent took to get to Iraq. In almost every case they entered through Syria––no surprises there. What is mind-blowing is that while the number 1 country of origin was Saudi Arabia at 41%, Libya was number 2 at almost 19% and in almost every case the hometown’s listed were Darnah, and Benghazi, both known for their growing Islamic populations.

            “Libyans were more fired up to travel to Iraq to kill Americans than anyone else in the Arabic-speaking world,” Andrew Exum, a counterinsurgency specialist, and former Army Ranger noted recently. “This might explain why those rebels  from Libya’s eastern provinces are not too excited about U.S. military intervention. It might also give some pause to those in the United States so eager to arm Libya’s rebels.”

Now it makes sense. As bad as the press is, with the republican rhetoric, “talking heads” making up news as they go, Obama can’t be caught dead assisting al-Qaeda jihadists that have been fighting in Iraq trying to kill Americans, nor should the United States involve themselves in any part of this “benevolent intervention” any more than Germany did. Apparently John McCain hasn’t read the report.

“Interventions are never justified,” says Balkans expert Marco Gasic on Russia Today (RT) comparing Kosovo now with Iraq and Libya. “Look at Afghanistan, since its first intervention in 1979––30 years and counting of instability. The U.S. and the U.N. left Kosovo in 1999 under desperate poverty with massive crime in the entire region.” It is Gasic’s thoughts on the purpose of interventions that are worth noting. “There are huge investments on those intervening. They only justify themselves in terms of the ability to achieve the aims of the interveners, which are always strategically designed to position themselves into occupation positions in strategically vital areas of the world. In every case, in the end there are always negative benefits to the population.”

This now leaves us with Gaddafi himself. The world considers him a madman naming Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda as the true instigators in the revolt, one who murders his own people, a terrorist involved in the Lockerbie bombing, a complete lunatic claiming the rebels were “fueled by milk and Nescafe’ spiked with hallucinogenic drugs,” at the very least a clown. But is he right? Let me rephrase that, is he correct in stating Islamic extremists have been responsible before, as in 1990, and al-Qaeda is behind the uprising today? Well, for the U.S., the Sinjar Records may vouch for that, but why is the U.N. involved, France, Great Britain? Why, after a half dozen revolutions, is the West getting involved now?  If the Sinjar Records are correct, if Gaddafi is correct, if over 20 years growth of Islamic extremists in the eastern part of Libya attest, than the idea of these rebels defeating Gadaffi without the rest of the world intervening, with hopes of occupying Libya and controlling the regime change, is far more frightening.

The Financial Times has reported that the Lybian Central Bank, now totally under Gaddafi’s control, holds almost 144 tonnes of gold which at current market prices would net the depositor somewhere between $6 to $7 billion, enough to support Gaddafi forces or al-Qaeda, whoever wins the spoils, for a very long time. In the hands of al-Qaeda that would be enough to purchase any form of nuclear device that may be on the market, say from Pakistan. The world can’t afford to allow Gaddafi to remain in power; the masses don’t want him there. However, they can’t possibly allow al-Qaeda to control the oil fields and be financial independent with Libyan gold, as well as have their own legitimate state.  If you think this is a quagmire, the final frightening question is if the West, specifically the U.S., is seen supporting the insurgency overthrowing Gaddafi, will they support the same people who may decide to overthrow King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, or will we call them “al-Qaeda terrorists hopped up on hallucinogenic spiked milk?”

“We needed dialogue. We needed ceasefire, we got bombs instead. Bombs are not necessary for peace.”       Amr Moussa

One Dead bin Laden is Better Than Yoo in a Bush

J. Brett Whitesell

Whatever you thought you knew about the relationship between the United States and Pakistan, whether it was accurate or not, cannot possibly remain the same now since Sunday, 1 May 2011. It is not necessarily the death of Osama bin Laden that is meeting such scrutiny from government officials, congress, and the American public so much as the process in finding him. Two weeks before, the press was filled with birth certificate allegations, Arab Spring, and how much money the U.S. is spending. One mission with a handful of helicopters and a small group of highly trained and expert Navy Seals (and apparently one dog) not only killed the most wanted man in America, but opened a Pandora’s Box filled with more information concerning Pakistan, the War on Terror, torture, and the process of how the United States and much of the world deals with terrorism than most intellectuals can handle much less ordinary citizens.

First, let’s begin with what everyone now knows, and truly everyone. Over 50 million Americans stayed up, after being teased for an hour or so, to watch President Barack Obama tell the world Osama bin Laden had been killed in a highly secretive military strike on bin Laden’s million dollar compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Where? Yeah, Abbottabad, an upper scale, low crime, relatively safe city in northern Pakistan. One neighbor interviewed said it was as close to Britain as you could get and still be in Pakistan. It was obvious Bin Laden wasn’t curled up in the fetal position in a dark cave squirreled back in the mountains between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Although hidden from view he was obviously living large without fear of being seen or caught. How did this happen? It appears he even had the house and compound built for him. Reports today reveal that the C.I.A. had found bin Laden’s trusted courier’s name through standard investigating procedures. The N.S.A. then came up with his real name; informants in Pakistan on the lookout photographed a truck license plate and found where the courier was going. The C.I.A. then set up a secret location in Abbottobad sometime last summer for surveillance that led to Sunday’s successful attack.

Out of this came allegations of whether he was really dead or alive, and whether “enhanced” interrogation methods (torture) led to the mission that would kill the most wanted man in the Western World? John Yoo, for those who can’t remember, was the government lawyer under George Bush that turned international law and the Constitution into an abortion in order to write a piece of law allowing Bush, Cheney, and the C.I.A. to extract answers from prisoners, or “Renditions,” at any cost including ignoring the Geneva Convention and simple human morals. Barely escaping prosecution, not only is Yoo standing up defending his, and the Bush Administrations actions, but he is now trying to take credit for the extraordinary events that unfolded on May 1st. Andre Cohn could not have said it better than in his commentary on May 5th in the Atlantic, “Former government lawyer John Yoo taking credit on behalf of the Bush Administration for Sunday’s strike against Osama bin Laden is like Edward John Smith, the captain of the Titanic, taking credit for the results of the 1998 Academy Awards. It appears that Yoo wants to transfer credit from the White House team that actually got bin Laden to the White House team that famously did not.”

Once Osama bin Laden was dead and the operation revealed, the lid on the box flew open with a firestorm of questions, accusations, threats, and introspections. If Pakistan and their Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency was so deeply entrenched in helping the United States battle terrorists, al Qaeda, and the Taliban, how is it possible Bin Laden, founder of al Qaeda, was living (quite comfortably) right under their noses, a mile from one of their military academies in a retirement community? Was it possible ISI knew? Could they have been helping Bin Laden? Pakistan officials went ballistic from the accusations. The initial shock that they didn’t get an invitation to the party made them look untrustworthy, completely embarrassed, and then infuriated. CIA director Leon Panetta said their consensus was “Pakistan might alert the targets.” Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir warned the U.S., “There would be disastrous consequences if it carries out any other unilateral raids.” With aid somewhere in the neighborhood of at least $20 billion in the last ten years the U.S. should have an “All Access” pass to Pakistan.

Congress, the media, and the American public, went from jubilation immediately to “How is it possible Bin Laden was living in luxury in Pakistan without anyone knowing? They weren’t alone. By midweek the Pakistani counterparts to the same aforementioned American list, were asking the same questions albeit in a different light; how could the Americans find Osama bin Laden, set up a secret base, fly into Pakistan, kill the head of al Qaeda in Abbottobad and fly out undetected? Many are questioning whether or not the strongest and most powerful organization in Pakistan can defend a nuclear-armed nation from India or even the United States? Zafar Hilaly, a Pakistani newspaper columnist, is quoted in the New York Times Wednesday by Jane Perlez as saying, “If these people are found to be incompetent, heads should roll.” A day later Perlez quotes Kamran Khan, normally a supporter of the military, “They have no answer, we have become the biggest haven of terrorism in the world and have failed to stop it.”

Pakistan Prime Minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, trying to shield off questions concerning bin Laden’s hideout, claims that the “intelligence failure was made by the whole world, not Pakistan alone.” General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, head of Pakistan’s army, said that he would not tolerate a repeat of the American operation. Other government officials called it “unauthorized unilateral action,” “this event of unauthorized unilateral action cannot be taken as a rule,” and “The Government of Pakistan further affirms that such an event shall not serve as a future precedent for any state, including the U.S., such actions sometimes constitute a threat to international peace and security.” So exactly whom are they trying to impress? They have been handed $20 billion (American) and then when the C.I.A and the N.S.A. along with the Obama Administration have to work without the Pakistanis in order to pull off the greatest mission in decades, they cry foul instead of applaud. These few days of condemnations threw up red flags all over the United States. Along with the fact that bin Laden was living the life of a diplomat on holiday was the C.I.A. had concerns over including the ISI. The Raymond Davis case should have clued everyone in on that. He was running C.I.A. operations the ISI knew nothing about. But when the most wanted target on the planet is eliminated they are not just caught off guard but furious. Something doesn’t look quite right.

Now we come to the real story. Whatever you thought you knew about the relationship between the United States and Pakistan probably wasn’t even close. In the next few days after the killing of bin Laden, everyone including the media, the public and those in Washington left out of the loop for the past eight to ten years, wanted answers about the contents of that Pandora’s Box whose lid flew wide open that night in Abbottabad releasing a plethora of information few were prepared to consume. It was obvious someone knew and now, with reactions that don’t fit the script, everyone is demanding an explanation. What is now surfacing for all to see is that the relationship with Pakistan is nothing like the foreign policy that both legislators and citizens can even comprehend, much less believe? How, now that we know, can we deal with Pakistan as status quo? For as much as Americans should, they won’t. Even as leaders try to soften the shock of what the box released, as in Rep. John Boehner’s statement, “I think it is premature to talk about cutting off aid to Pakistan” (AP). At a time when the budget is strapped and Republicans are threatening food for low-income families in America, $1.3 billion in aid a year to a country throwing out threats concerning an operation they should have executed five or six years prior, seems a bit bizarre. And yet that is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

Pakistan has allowed the northwest corner bordering Afghanistan to be a haven for Taliban insurgents as well as al Qaeda extremists. Most everyone somewhat believes that even if they don’t want to. However, they also think this is small area of the world in some remote mountains no human can live long that has very little consequence in their everyday lives. While it is indeed remote and would appear uninhabitable, many outlaw organizations rely on this lawless land. It is most of the American official’s understanding that for the aid sent to Islamabad they would help in the war on terror and fight the Taliban as well as al Qaeda. Coming to light, just recently, is the fact that Pakistan refuses to send their army into this region. They fight terrorists in other parts of the country but not there. The reason Davis was working in Pakistan on his own was because he was going after Lashkar-i-Taiba, a terrorist group in Pakistan that their spy agency, ISI, uses for attacks on India. The drone strikes by the Obama administration General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani is protesting about wasn’t against Lashkar-i-Taiba but Tehrik-e-Taliban hiding in Pakistan and running raids killing American troops in Afghanistan. These are just a few of the groups either helping the ISI or the ISI is helping them. In some cases they are not a threat to Islamabad itself only to Americans in Afghanistan, in others they are actually helpful in the determent of India whom Pakistan considers their real threat.

So, is this new information just now coming to light? Hardly, it is though, just now getting to the mainstream media that is trying to make sense of it all and report back to an information-starved public. What Americans are coming to realize is that they need Pakistan in order to fight the Taliban in Afghanistan. Pakistan needs the aid but doesn’t necessarily need it from the United States. This is where it gets sticky. During all this information building and threats of reducing or eliminating aid, one writer asks (unnoticed) if China might pick up the difference in aid if the United States does indeed get frustrated with Pakistan’s tactics? That is when you saw an immediate, although uninformed, response from Boehner. The U.S. needs a bit more time to figure out how to deal with Afghanistan. So far it has only been able to put out a few fires from the onset after pushing out, not extinguishing, the Taliban. Cutting off aid to Pakistan will only bring in the possibility of China or Russia, which terrifies India. A nuclear-armed Pakistan with loose backing from China, India’s other invading neighbor in the past, would absolutely threaten the stability of the entire region. On top of this Afghanistan can’t be won, the Taliban returns without resistance from Kabul and both the Taliban and al Qaeda form their own sovereign state, the ultimate insult to those lives lost on September 11th, 2001.

There is a teeny, tiny bit of good news though in Pakistan. While the media is showing groups of bin Laden supporters burning the U.S. flag, which they would have been doing anyway, it is reduced to hundreds of protesters in the streets and not hundreds of thousands. The good news is the condemnations by the general public concerning fears of whether or not the government can protect Pakistanis from outside invasions, particularly from India, and how or why it is allowing terrorists to live in their neighborhood, if for no other reason than from a crime standpoint. This could lead to an overhaul in the ruling parties. In stark contrast to the anti-American al Qaeda supporters, are the new voices possibly sparked by the Arab Spring.  Two days after the killing of bin Laden in the city center of Abbotabad young women protesting in the streets were heard chanting, “Shame, shame Pakistan Army, go to hell if you can’t defend.” Also heard was “Generals should resign!” “The Generals should wear our bangles and hand us over their weapons if they cannot guard the neighborhood of the Pakistan Military Academy.”

It has become quite obvious to not only the United States and the West concerning the intelligence failures of the ISI and Pakistani Army, or their covert benevolence toward Osama bin Laden, but also the people, in particular the young educated people of Pakistan that its out now. The lid flew open on Pandora’s box and it doesn’t appear anyone knows how to put it back.