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