Africa: The Truth About the Libyan Conflict and Consequences for the Continent

Africa: The Truth About the Libyan Conflict and Consequences for the Continent

Charles Abugre

The invasion of Libya has little to do with protecting civilians, all to do with strategic interests and is a wicked blow to Africa; argues Charles Abugre.

The belief that time heals, hasn’t manifested itself in how a lot of Africans feel about the NATO-led invasion of Libya six-months into the Western siege of that country. Contrary to the false pretences of protecting civilians, it is now clear that the purpose of the invasion is regime change. The aim of the bombs that are killing people and laying Tripoli to waste is for one purpose only, to help a rebel group they formed and armed to overthrow the Colonel Gaddafi regime. The air bombardments were initiated in the false expectation that once bombs start falling in Tripoli, Libyans in Tripoli will rise up against Gaddafi and in this murky situation, the armed group will march in from Benghazi and take power. As time goes by, the strategy gets desperate. It has now become “anything to kill or oust Gaddafi and his sons will do”. This is reminiscent of the 1960s when the same actors used not so dissimilar tactics to overthrow governments they didn’t like. The plan failed, which is why six months into the carnage, Gaddafi still pops out of the hole he is hiding in to scream insults at his invaders.

The invasion was planned and the opportunity to execute it was highly propitious

The invasion was planned. In the case of the US involvement, as far back as George Bush Junior’s “war on the axis of evil”. In the case of the French, active planning may have been since October 2010. The planning most likely included, ensuring that weapons and forces were in the ready in Benghazi when the moment came. This is why the civil protest in Benghazi, which started in a similar manner as the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings of unarmed civilians turned into an armed rebellion in two days, and in less than a month, the NATO/French invasion had began. This incredible speed of events is far from spontaneous.

That there are British, Dutch, French and Italian Special Forces among others, on the ground not just in Benghazi but all over the country is neither debatable nor denied. We know that from the reports of the British media and from the clumsy ways in which The Netherlands and Britain sought to introduce their Special Forces days into the insurgency. Recall the helicopter full of British Special Forces that landed in the middle of the rebel troops who promptly captured and displayed them before realizing that they were “friendly forces”. Days later, the Dutch were even clumsier. They ended up being captured by the Gaddafi forces who, displayed them before the world’s media and then released them.

But the penetration of special forces into Libya, if we are to believe Franco Bechis, the Italian Journalist, writing in the 24th March edition of Libero (re-told in, may have been as far back as 16th November 2010 when a train load of French people landed in Benghazi carrying what were alleged to be businessmen seeking to invest in Libya’s agriculture. A large number of these “businessmen” were in fact soldiers. According to Franco Bechis, quoting the Maghreb Confidential, active planning for regime change by the French began on October 21st, 2010 when Nuri Mesmar, Gaddafi’s Chief of Protocol and his closest chum, arrived in Paris for surgery. However Mesmar was not met by doctors but by the French Secret Service and Sarkozy’s closest aides. Mesmar was also responsible for the Ministry of Agriculture. On the 16th of November, Mesmar agreed to a strategy to drop troops in Libya under the guise of a business delegation. Two days later, a plane load of people, including soldiers, landed in Benghazi where they met, among others, Libyan military commanders to encourage them to desert. One of them who agreed to desert was Colonel Gehan Abdallah, whose militia subsequently led the rebellion. Where did this information come from? The Italian intelligence service.

The role of Nuri Mesmar – using a close friend to stick the knife in the back of his friend in power – is as old as the story of Brutus and Caesar in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and reminds one of how Captain Blaise Campoare of Burkina Faso was used by the French to overthrow and execute his closest friend Thomas Sankara.

But it was not only from France that the armed rebellion was planned. The head of the Libyan National Council, Colonel Khalifa arrived from the USA on March 14th to lead the armed rebellion a month after it began. Colonel Khalifa has been living in the United States since the 80s apparently working as an agent for the CIA. This fact was contained in a book published in 2001, titled “the African Handling” by Pierre Pean according to The 31st March edition of the Wall Street Journal carries a story which says that “The CIA officials acknowledge that they have been active in Libya for several weeks, like other Western Intelligence Service”. Khalifa, Mesmar and others will be joined in the leadership of the Provisional Government by some of the most murderous individuals in the Gaddafi regime including Jalil Mustafa Abud, who until the uprising was the Minister for Justice and on the list of Amnesty International’s most egregious human rights violators.

Ludicrous false pretences

I used the phrase “ludicrous false pretences” to describe the excuses publicly sold to a gullible press, decidedly. Why? The core of UN Security Council Resolution 1973 claims to have the aim of “protecting civilians”. There are two sets of principles which the need to protect civilians could have been drawn from. One is the principle of holding all combatants responsible in respect of the Geneva Convention. This principle is covered by UN Security Council Resolutions 1265, 1296, 1820 among others. Armed combatants from both sides who violate the Geneva Convention will be held liable, under these resolutions, and could suffer sanctions and by extension liable to face the International Criminal Court (ICC) if the extent of the violations qualified as crimes against humanity or are genocidal. These resolutions however do not legalize external military intervention.

The second is the principle of the “responsibility to Protect” (R2P). This is based on the concept of “borderless” security which was the title of the report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) released in December 2001 and subsequently adopted as an operative principle by the UN. This Commission, chaired by Gareth Evans and Mohamed Sahnoun, undertook to study the relationship between (a) the rights of sovereign states, upon which the greater part of international relations has been built, and (b) the so-called “right of humanitarian intervention” which has been exercised sporadically – in Somalia, Bosnia, and Kosovo but not Rwanda – and with varying degrees of success and international controversy. The report addressed “the question of when, if ever, it is appropriate for states to take coercive – and in particular military – action, against another state for the purpose of protecting people at risk in that other state.

The conclusion was that the priority should be the protection of human beings not state sovereignty, therefore if human security – physical safety and dignity – was threatened by the state or its severe inability to address, the international community had the responsibility to act including armed intervention. R2P places humanitarian law above that of sovereignty. The R2P was heavily lobbied for especially by western humanitarian organizations. However, others have warned against the danger of this principle for a number of reasons. First to supplant humanitarian law over sovereignty means supplanting humanitarianism over rights for the latter is based on citizenship which in turn rests on sovereignty. Secondly, the R2P principle opens the door for selective interventions and selective justice by those who control the Security Council. It also creates legal and political dependence on the UN Security Council and militarily powerful countries, thereby undermining the very foundations for long-term justice and peace which rests on domestic political processes. Resolution 1973 was crafted on the basis of R2P, and effectively “legalized” the invasion. Indeed, what the NATO countries wanted was not simply to minimize harm to civilians by Gaddafi’s forces but for regime change.Was an invasion necessary on humanitarian grounds? This is debatable because the answer lies in the counter-factual which is the issue of whether or not Gaddafi’s forces would have bombed Benghazi to bits, as claimed. What we now know is that the Gaddafi air force did not target civilian settlements in Benghazi when they flew and according to Amnesty International, the claim of mass rape by Gaddafi’s forces could not be verified on the ground. We also know that the suppression of the February 15th civilian uprising by Gaddafi was not the first. The last major suppression of this sort was in 2006. Like other North African and Middle Eastern dictators, Gaddafi put down the 2006 uprising violently, shooting a few and arresting others. There were no mass murders and at the time his actions received the tacit support of America in particular, seen as a legitimate response to a growing Al Qaeda influence. But plain truth is that in the current case, the situation quickly ceased to be a civilian uprising after two days. It became an armed insurgency and in such cases, every state has the right to confront armed insurgency with arms. We have seen this time and again in the Unites states whether they are responding to religious fanatics or drug gangs in black neighborhoods.



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