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Lessons from the Libyan intervention

‘If there was any uncertainty about the real mission of the United States, France, Britain and other members of NATO in Libya, these doubts were clarified with the nature of the military campaign against the people of Libya,’ writes Horace Campell.

When the idea of the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) was being discussed within the security circles in the United States, there were major debates as to the real purpose of this new combatant command. Was the mission one to advise and assist African militaries and work to build partnerships; was the mission the protection of US petroleum companies and agribusiness interests; would the United States be confronting China in Africa and if so where; or was the mission a new front for the global war on terror? When the new Obama administration took office in January 2009, there was a new language on ‘the overseas contingency operations’ of the United States and later in Congressional testimony it was made known that the US Africa Command was to be a development agency, concerned with development, democracy and security.

If there were any doubts about the real mission of the United States, France, Britain and other members of NATO in Libya, these doubts were clarified with the nature of the military campaign against the people of Libya that was orchestrated under a mandate of the United Nations Security Council. It was a new kind of war using third-party forces in order to silence the global peace movement that were opposed to further military intervention. A robust propaganda and disinformation campaign by the corporate media covered up the real content of what was happening. Most members of NATO were hesitant about this recolonization of Africa because the economic crisis inside the Eurozone was too deep. Nevertheless, France was desperate to get into the act of intensifying the plunder and looting of Africa. France had not been a big player in Libya, a former colony of Italy, which until recently was Africa’s fourth-largest oil producer, and which possessed one of the continent’s largest oil reserves of some 47 billion barrels, more than either Nigeria (37 billion) or Algeria (13.42 billion). After 2004 the National Oil Company of Libya opened up the country for new exploration rights in oil and gas, British and US companies were the main beneficiaries. In the negotiations, the Libyan leadership opened the economy to a wide spectrum of players in the oil game. As Duncan Clarke noted in his book on the struggle for Africa’s oil:

‘It has been a shrewd game, played by Libya with finesse and largely on its own terms. The outcome has been to establish the country as a major exploration destination not just in Africa but in the world.’

Libya produced sweet crude which is easy to refine and Libyan oil is close to European markets. More importantly, the establishment of the Libyan Investment Authority to invest the more than US$150 billion in reserves had benefitted US and British financial firms. Billions of dollars had flowed to Anglo-American financial services organisations and France wanted French houses to benefit from the same dalliance that Goldman Sachs had enjoyed with the resources of the Sovereign Wealth Fund of Libya.

France was also aware that Libya sits on the Nubian Sandstone Aquifer, which is an immensely vast underground sea of fresh water. The government of Libya had invested US$25 billion in the Great Man-made River Project, a complex 4,000km (approximately 2,485 miles) long water pipeline buried beneath the desert that could transport two million cubic metres of water a day.

The energetic activities of French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, in guiding the military intervention inside Libya took center stage, while the US military claimed to ‘lead from behind.’ When France called a celebratory conference of ambassadors to rally them for the new imperial vision, Mr Sarkozy said Libya proved ‘a strong contrast’ to past European weakness, and justified his decision to integrate France into NATO’s military command in 2009. The nature of this war organised from the air with proxy armies and private military contractors showed the way for dictatorships like Qatar and Saudi Arabia to fight for ‘democracy.’

This intervention clarified for many African military forces that their alliance with the United States and France will not spare them when it is in the interest of the NATO forces to dispense with former allies. Muamar Gaddafi had enabled the imperial forces by financing their governments, purchasing junk equipment as weaponry and cooperating with their intelligence agencies. The news about the cooperation of Gaddafi with British and US intelligence services along with their collaboration in relation to ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ (translated as torture), the exchange of information and the secret transfers of opponents and ‘terror’ suspects should clarify to all that Muammar Gaddafi was no anti-imperialist, but a enabler of the Western agenda. More damaging, has been the most recent news of the Gaddafi regime’s collaboration with human traffickers to use African immigrants as political football in his conflict with Europe. When the rebels were at the gates of Tripoli, the Gaddafi government worked with human traffickers to release African migrants who wanted to go to Europe. Hundreds left Libya and subsequently drowned in the Mediterranean Sea.

‘Whereas the conflict in Libya arose over the legitimate demand for increased democratization of the country in line with the mainly peaceful democratic revolutions sweeping across the world, it was quickly hijacked by an armed gang of rebels and metamorphosed into a civil war with the help of NATO countries that took military action in support of their sponsored UN resolutions 1970 and 1973 supposedly to protect civilian lives but inevitably killing Libyans and drowning hundreds of fleeing African refugees’. In this way the African Union gave their view of what was going on in Libya.

The true the nature of the relationship between Africans from Chad, Niger, Mali, Sudan and elsewhere from the sub-Sahara and the ‘rebel forces’ was on full display by the killing of Africans by the Libyan rebels on the premise that these Africans are or were mercenaries. These racist actions by the so-called Libyan rebels were reported from the start of this ‘humanitarian’ intervention but at the point when these hodgepodge forces (rebels, British and French special forces and military contractors with NATO air support) entered Tripoli, there was fresh evidence of the wanton killings of black Africans. Africans who escaped the pogroms reported the killings ensuring that this information was in the public domain from the very beginning. Now, it seems the world is finally paying attention after Amnesty International put out a report that Africans are being killed in racist attacks. So pronounced have been these racist killings that the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and other media outlets had to write an editorial or report on the killings. Yet, there has been no word from officialdom in the United States or the information section of AFRICOM, or from France; only low-profile stories appeared in the European press. When British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and other NATO celebrants made their victory visit to Libya, they were silent on the racial and ethnic attacks on the Africans but instead concentrated on shuttling back and forth between Tripoli and Benghazi trying to iron out how to cut French oil companies into the restructuring of the oil industry in Libya.

The 54-member state African Union has condemned the racist attacks and maintained that political negotiations are still necessary. Jean Ping, chairperson of the Commission of the African Union, decried the attacks on black Africans and reiterated the reasons why the African Union wanted to see an inclusive government in Libya. Jean Ping declared, the ‘Blacks are being killed. Blacks hare having their throats slit. Blacks are accused of being mercenaries. Do you think it's normal in a country that's a third black that blacks are confused with mercenaries?’ Ping continued:

‘There are mercenaries in Libya, many of them are black, but there are not only blacks and not all blacks there are mercenaries. Sometimes, when they are white, they call them 'technical advisors.’

This is a reminder for those forces who are celebrating the success of the NATO mission that Libya is an Africa nation and that a third of its population is black and thus, the celebrants must not protect Africans who kill Africans. This is why Africans do not consider the NATO mission a success. In fact, the NATO mission has been a disaster for peace and reconstruction in Africa. The Russians and Chinese do not consider this operation a success but the leaders of Africa and the leaders of the BRICS societies (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) have awoken too late to the new form of imperial intervention using Global NATO.

The two positive outcomes of this new imperial adventure were to send alarm bells among all of the military forces in Africa aligned to the West and to alert the popular forces to the reality that governments with big armies are literally ‘paper tigers.’ Proper organising, political education, and disciplined activity by the working people can shift the international balance of power and rid Africa of other long serving despots. There is a new scramble for Africa and the progressive forces will have to learn the lessons from the new multilateral imperial interventions that are now being planned by Global NATO.


The history of NATO and the history of Libya are intertwined in many ways. It was two years after the formation of the North American Treaty Organization that Libya became independent in 1951. However, for the Europeans, the strategic importance of Libya during the Second World War and the memory of the 1941 siege of Tobruk (a seaport city and peninsula on Libya's eastern Mediterranean coast, near the border with Egypt) was too fresh in their minds for NATO to give up Libya entirely. The compromise was that NATO and the United States would maintain a military base to sustain a military presence in Libya. The US established a United States Air Force base called Wheelus Air Base in Libya. This base was called ‘Little America’ until the United States was asked to leave after Gaddafi seized power in 1969, and ever since then, the US had been scheming for a way back into Libya. For a short while, Gaddafi was supported as an anti-communist stalwart, but later he became a useful nuisance shifting as friend and foe over the years. Former Secretary of State of State, Condoleezza Rice visited Libya in September 2008 and articulated with clarity that the United States has no ‘permanent friends in Libya, only permanent interests. ‘

The United States had intensified its activities in North Africa in the face of European trade and commercial activities. Jeremy Keenan, in his book, ‘The Dark Sahara: America’s War on Terror in Africa’ elaborated in detail the role of the US military in supporting repressive governments under the guise of fighting terrorism. Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Mauritania, Mali, Niger and Chad were able to strengthen their repressive apparatuses and to manipulate and use GWOT (Global War on Terrorism) for their own benefits and purposes. These countries exploited this so-called war on terror by cracking down on almost all forms of opposition, especially minority groups, and almost any expression of civil society democratisation. Keenan spelled out the reality that ‘with no terrorism (except state terrorism) in many parts of the region, notably in the Sahara-Sahel, before the launch of the GWOT, it has had to be contrived.’

As the United States exaggerated and fabricated the threat of al Qaeda in the Maghreb, cooperation was extended to these repressive leaders but Gaddafi was opposed to the establishment of US and French military bases in Africa. It is now known through the military gossip sheet Stars and Stripes that NATO was considering the establishment of an air squadron in Africa to assist African governments. According to the Stars and Stripes, ‘While not formally assigned to AFRICOM, the squadron has been formed to conduct missions primarily in Africa, with a focus on building the air mobility capacity of African militaries.’

The critical question posed by peace activists, and in particular, Grannies for Peace, was whether this intervention in Libya a prelude for the building of another AFRICOM and NATO facility in Africa?


When the North American Treaty was signed in April 1949 most of the founding members were colonial overlords. The organisation was dominated by the United States and constituted a system of collective defence whereby its member states agreed to mutual defence in response to an attack by any external party. The external party in question at that time was the USSR; insofar as NATO had been formed as an alliance ostensibly to defend Western Europe against ‘communist expansion’. Charles De Gaulle pulled France out of this alliance in 1966 after it became clear that this military organisation was dominated by the United States and Britain (supporting their military industries). Usually, when an alliance is formed for a specific purpose such as halting the spread of communism, that alliance is folded when the mission is complete. Hence, after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, it was expected by those seeking the ‘peace dividend’ that the mission of NATO would be scaled down.

Instead, NATO has expanded, seeking to encircle Russia by extending its membership to include former members of the Warsaw Pact countries. For over 79 days NATO bombed Kosovo in 1999 as it gave itself a new mission to expand US military power right up to the doorstep of Moscow. Gingerly, NATO expanded under US President Bill Clinton from 12 members to 16, then to 19, then to 26 by 2004 and by 2009 to 28 members. Despite vocal opposition from Russia, the discussion of expanding NATO now proceeded to develop the idea of Global NATO.
After Charles De Gaulle had left NATO in 1966, Nicolas Sarkozy rejoined in 2009. France had been working within Europe to challenge the dollar and the United States government on the world scale but after the reactions about ‘freedom fries’ during the Iraq war, French military planners retreated and decided to throw their lot in with the Crusaders in Washington. (For an in-depth discussion on who the Crusaders are, see Using the War on Terror and the wars in Afghanistan as justification, the rationale of the militarists for a global role of NATO began to take shape and the idea of GLOBAL NATO was debated in military journals. One of the writers on this concept was Ivo Daalder, the US Permanent Representative on the Council to NATO since 2009. Daalder was an ambassador with an understanding of the long history of financial and military cooperation between the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States. In an era when capital was truly transnational and hedge fund managers and oil companies had no loyalty to any particular state, international capitalists wanted a new military force, that was mobile and well equipped for the new scramble for African resources.

This call for a global role of NATO also came from NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen who pressed NATO leaders to expand their horizons beyond NATO’s traditional focus on the North Atlantic area.

In one such musing by the defence specialists we were alerted to the thinking, ‘The concept of a Global NATO is used above all in connection with two leitmotifs – on the one hand the idea of the alliance becoming a global strategic actor (functional globalization) and on the other the notion of a NATO whose membership is in principle global (institutional globalization).The two dimensions can, however, scarcely be separated from one another but instead are intertwined.’

This discussion under the idea of the ‘institutional globalization of NATO’ maintained that the security threats to capitalism were global and that NATO should consider itself as a ‘concert of democracies’ keeping order internationally. Within these journals the idea was floated that NATO should be expanded to include Australia, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea and possibly Brazil.

After encircling Russia, the new posture was for the encirclement of China.

The rationale was simply that the ‘operational level of NATO is the entire globe.’ In 2002, NATO had declared, ‘to carry out the full range of its missions, NATO must be able to field forces that can move quickly to wherever they are needed, sustain operations over distance and time, and achieve their objectives.’

Despite these lofty positions of the strategic planners, NATO was bogged down in Afghanistan. The prolonged crisis of capitalism inside the Western world meant that citizens had no appetite for an expanded imperial role, that is, until Gaddafi gave NATO the excuse to seek to operationalise the idea of Global NATO by promising to kill the citizens of Benghazi whom Gaddafi called rats and vermin.


After the embarrassment for its support of the genocidaires in Rwanda in 1994, the French military establishment had taken a low profile and sought to gain respectability for its military interventions in Africa by seeking international mandates. Long before the Rwanda debacle, for close to forty years, France had intervened militarily in Africa, because Africa was central to its entire military strategy. Without the wealth of Africa, France would be a minor power with as much influence as Austria. French imperialism was particularly aggressive in Africa. When the United States decided to compete with France by establishing the Africa Crisis Response Initiative (ACRI - the precursor to the US Africa Command) France objected. Soon, the French understood the hegemonic intentions of then US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney, motivating the French to cooperate with UN Peacekeeping forces in operations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, all the while seething that Rwanda had left the umbrella of a francophone country to become an anglophone one. By the time of the establishment of the US Africa Command in 2008, France was cooperating fully with the United States while stepping up its cultural and commercial presence in Africa.

One golden opportunity for France to put its image as defenders of those who committed genocide in Rwanda behind them came in the Republic of Côte D’Ivoire when France sought a United Nations mandate to maintain and sustain its 40-year military presence in the country. In 2011, Laurent Gbagbo became another enabler of overt French intervention by his intransigence over vacating the Ivorian presidency. Sarkozy eagerly went in to ‘restore democracy.’

As the self-declared gendarme of Europe in Africa, France was taken aback by the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt in January 2011. The French offered support for the leader of Tunisia, Ben Ali. Ms. Michèle Alliot-Marie, Sarkozy’s foreign minister had spent her Christmas holidays in Tunisia and when the uprisings began, France offered the expertise of the French security forces to a Tunisian police force that was beating and killing protesters. However, the removal of the Ben Ali dictatorship was too swift, and soon thereafter, the Egyptian revolution changed the military balance in world politics. NATO panicked and Sarkozy took the initiative to mobilise for the intervention in Libya when Gaddafi gave the Europeans the opening by his wild statements and actions. The Egyptian revolution had far reaching consequences for Israel and for other countries in Europe. The Libyan intervention by NATO served many purposes, but primarily more unlimited access to oil and water while standing poised to stab the Egyptian revolution in the back.

For decades, France had mooted the idea of the Union for the Mediterranean (a multilateral partnership that encompasses 43 countries from Europe and the Mediterranean Basin) to extend its power in North Africa. France had worked closely with the monarchy in Morocco to block the independence of Western Sahara because it coveted the wealth of the region. More importantly, French oil companies had been left behind after Gaddafi opened up the petroleum sector of Libya to other western firms. Italian, British and United States oil corporations were competing with Russian, Chinese, Indian and Turkish interests. German industrial and financial power was stronger in Libya than French. Sarkozy wanted to change all of that when faced with the most serious banking crisis in France.

The Germans had not been passive in this inter-imperialist rivalry. A German led initiative called, the Desertec Industrial Initiative, was being orchestrated to tap solar energy from the Sahara to supply Europe with 15 per cent of its energy needs by the middle of the century. Hence, far from acquiescing to the French led Mediterranean Union, Germany had been pursuing its own interests in North Africa and the Middle East, and these interests clashed with those of France. To articulate German interests, the German Institute for International and Security Affairs published a study on ‘German Middle East and North Africa Policy’. It stated, ‘Well into the 1990s the Maghreb still occupied a marginal position in German foreign policy, with no sign of a clear formulation of German interests. However, in the past decade the region’s importance for German foreign policy has grown steadily. ‘

France was not happy with this growth of German interest in North Africa.

When the 17 February 2011 uprisings erupted in Libya, French intelligence was alert and Sarkozy mobilized the British and later the US Africa Command to intervene using the United Nations formulation of Responsibility to Protect, under the cover of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973. China, Russia and Brazil acted irresponsibly by either abstaining in the vote or sanctioning the vote with their silence. South Africa and Nigeria (under heavy pressure from the Obama White House) voted for the resolution to establish a no-fly zone. South Africa later backtracked opposing the bombing of Libya claiming that the NATO forces had gone beyond the mandate of the UN Security Council Resolution. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of South Africa maintained a principled position and led the position that the roadmap of the African Union was the only way forward for a resolution of the internal political problems in Libya. The roadmap was a five-point plan, demanding the following: A ceasefire; the protection of civilians; the provision of humanitarian aid for Libyans and foreign workers in the country; dialogue between the two sides, vis-à-vis the Gaddafi regime and the Transitional National Council, leading to an ‘inclusive transitional period'; and political reforms which ‘meet the aspirations of the Libyan people.’

More than 200 African intellectuals and leaders called for the end of the bombing campaign noting correctly that the West wanted to marginalise and weaken the African Union. France and Britain were salivating on a re-division of the oil resources of Libya. After the visit of Condoleezza Rice in 2008, the Libyan National Oil Company had allocated 11 out of 15 new oil and gas exploration concessions to American oil companies. US petroleum interests were such that it would not allow France and Britain to control the spoils.

Now that the Libyan intervention was under the umbrella of the United Nations this was another foray of Global NATO, with some militarists openly claiming that the UN would become an instrument of Global NATO. Yet, most NATO members understood the reasons for Sarkozy’s energy. Of the twenty-eight members of NATO, the majority refused to participate in this attack. The Prime Minister of Poland declared that the attack on Libya was for oil. There were only 8 members (Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, Norway, Spain, UK and the United States) that participated in this operation (called Operation United Protector). The members could not agree on a command structure so the United States put up its Africa Command as the front and called their operation, Operation Odyssey Dawn. The French called their action, Opération Harmattan. The British called their involvement Operation Ellamy while the Canadians termed theirs, Operation Mobile.

The simmering differences between Germany and France over economic and financial matters within the European Union spilled over into NATO and became open to the point where the French were jealous of the success of the German economy which was thriving. The Germans understood the double-dealing of Nicolas Sarkozy and Germany even pulled its crews out of NATO support aircraft. Turkey was opposed to the NATO operation in Libya and the dysfunction of this operation became evident after one month. Recriminations started between these ‘partners’ with some members claiming that others were not pulling their weight. Other NATO members opposed the military engagement arguing correctly that NATO was exceeding its mandate by the bombing of Libya. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu argued that air strikes launched by France had gone beyond what had been sanctioned by a UN Security Council resolution.

‘There are UN decisions and these decisions clearly have a defined framework. A NATO operation which goes outside this framework cannot be legitimied.’

Space does not allow for a full examination of the thousands of sorties of NATO in Libya after seven months. The full day-to-day roster of their military and naval operations to oust Gaddafi is in the public domain on the internet. African popular leaders can read the daily strategic operations to see the full weakness of NATO. Professor Michael Clarke, director-general of the Royal United Services Institute, in an article argued that the military operation itself created an image of NATO's limitations rather than its power.

The Chinese have written on the dysfunction of NATO and one particular writer An Huihou wrote in the China Daily, that the operation in Libya was ‘Not a Real Success for NATO.’ This Chinese writer called for negotiations between the former regime and the ‘rebels’ but the Chinese political leadership did not publicly support the position of the African Union. More importantly, while the Chinese pulled their citizens out of Libya, no Chinese writer articulated a word of protest over the killing of Africans by Africans. In order to pacify the Chinese leadership, the obdurate Sarkozy flew to Beijing, promising that Chinese contracts would be honoured.


It must be stated that the mobilisation of the international peace forces against NATO have always been a consideration for the planning of Operation United Protector. Within the United States, sections of the Congressional leadership had called on President Obama to invoke the War Powers Act in order to receive Congressional support for US participation in this war. However, the White House and the Pentagon did not want an open discussion of the role of the US military in this operation. The Pentagon had moved to a new form of warfare where special forces were linked to private military organisations. The Washington Post has reported that the United States had deployed special operations forces in 75 countries, from South America to Central Asia. It is now time to place the opposition to militarism with clear focus on these special forces and especially the private military corporations who act outside of the law. Inside the United States, the former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told West Point cadets in March 2011 that, ‘In my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should ‘have his head examined.’ The Pentagon was afraid of being bogged down in another war. With memories of the lack of popular support for the military during the war against the people of Vietnam, the top military planners wanted to limit opposition to the financial /military/industrial complex. Although the peace movement had the Obama administration on the defensive, some sections of this movement did not distance itself from Gaddafi and Libyans slaughter of sub-Saharan Africans, while they condemned the killing of innocent civilians by NATO jets.

European workers, faced with the double dip recession where the banks were calling on the governments to impose austerity measures, were lukewarm toward the Libyan operation, so the invaders had to find a novel way for intervening. This intervention then took the form of bombings by NATO, on the ground special forces from the French and British commandos with air and ground support from Qatar.

The New York Times reported the coordination in this way, ‘The United States provided intelligence, refueling and more precision bombing than Paris or London want to acknowledge. Inevitably, then, NATO air power and technology, combined with British, French and Qatari ‘trainers’ working ‘secretly’ with the rebels on the ground, have defeated the forces of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.’ ( Reuters news service reported that ‘former soldiers from an elite British commando unit, the Special Air Service, and other private contractors from Western countries were on the ground in the Libyan city of Misrata.’

In this same Reuters piece, it indicated that according to The Guardian, private military contractors were helping NATO identify possible targets in the heavily contested city and passing this information, as well as information about the movements of Gaddafi’s forces, to a NATO command center in Naples, Italy. The newspaper reported that a group of six armed Westerners had been filmed by the Al Jazeera TV network talking to rebels in Misrata; the men fled after realizing they were being filmed.

Initially, the United States Africa Command took credit for the NATO operations in Libya, but when it seemed as if the entire operation was bogged down, there were efforts to bring in special forces and private security personnel using Qatar as the front and paymaster. Indeed, the use of fronts such as the Emir of Qatar pointed to a new form of global militarism. Blackwater (now called Xe), the American private military firm for hire, had moved to establish its headquarters in the United Arab Emirates, specifically Abu Dhabi. In a compilation of articles on, entitled, ‘Blackwater Worldwide’ , new information was provided on the various front companies of Blackwater and the integrated nature of the CIA/Blackwater operations. The compilation further informed that Blackwater did not want to recruit Muslims because Muslims would be reluctant to kill other Muslims. When the rebels entered Tripoli, the same talking heads in Washington that were opposed to the intervention were now praising this new kind of cooperation between the US military and Global NATO.

Future researchers on the ‘special operators on the ground’ in Libya will be able to list the names of the Private Military Contractors who were involved in this war. When the leaders of the National Transitional Council of Libya (the political body formed to represent Libya by anti-Gaddafi forces during the 2011 Libyan civil war) needed money to pay the private contractors and to bribe regional leaders, the Global NATO diplomats promptly called for the unfreezing of the assets of Libya, even while the African Union was protesting the killing of black Africans.


In less than a week, the General Assembly of the United Nations will meet and the leaders of Global NATO will seek to silence the members of the African Union. The African Union has been lobbying the Group of 77 as they seek to bring to the attention of the world to the reality that the UN Security Council mandate of responsibility to protect did not extend to black Africans. The G77 ‘is the largest intergovernmental organization of developing countries in the United Nations, which provides the means for the countries of the South to articulate and promote their collective economic interests and enhance their joint negotiating capacity on all major international economic issues within the United Nations system, and promote South-South cooperation for development.’

The National Transitional Council of Libya refused to consider the roadmap of the African Union for negotiations but even at this late moment, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in South Africa is correct to stick to the call for the African Union roadmap for Libya. With the fall of the government in Tripoli, it is even more urgent that there is an inclusive government to forestall a long insurgency campaign which leaves the entire region at war. When the Italians believed they had pacified Libya by 1921, there had been armed opposition in differing parts of the country for decades afterwards. In order to avoid a long term war of insurgency in Libya the new government mus include all sectors and representatives of all the regions that complete Libya.

Experience elsewhere in Burundi and Uganda after wars of intervention showed that it is only the long term and pedantic work for peace that can end the fighting. There must be negotiations with an international peacekeeping force that excludes the eight NATO countries (Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, Norway, Spain, UK and the United States) that violated the mandate of the Security Council. The National Transitional Council is deeply divided and negotiations will be needed so that they do not kill each other as was the case with the murder of Gen. Abdel-Fattah Younis. Fattah Younis was a senior military officer and former Minister of Interior in Libya who defected to the rebel side during the 2011 Libyan Civil War. In July 2011, he was killed under mysterious circumstances. It is only a matter of time before it becomes clear how Abdelhakim Belhadj, of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), graduated from detention at Guantanamo Bay to be one of the ‘rebel’ leaders and leader of the Tripoli Military Council. Ultimately, it is not in the interests of Global NATO for the fighting to end in Libya.

This thinking was revealed when the British Daily Mail newspaper reported on 23 March 2011 that some UK ministers have admitted the intervention in Libya could last for up to ‘30 years.’ Indeed this thinking reflected the high stakes not only for the resources of the region but also because the lack of clarity on the future of the Egyptian revolution will require imperial forces to stab the revolution in the back. This is where Qatar and Saudi Arabia have proven their use for the western ‘concert of democracies.’ Qatar in Libya and Saudi Arabia in Bahrain has shown the world that the intervention of the West was not for humanitarian reasons.

Muammar Gaddafi had enabled the imperial intervention by his close collaboration with British and US intelligence services. These intelligence forces used their closeness to fight and remove his family from power after 42 years. During the initial stages of the integrated Qatar/special forces/private military contractors assault on Tripoli, the spokesperson for Gaddafi boasted that the regime had 65,000 armed personnel ready to defend Tripoli. Yet, when the special forces of NATO and Qatar showed up in Tripoli, the Gaddafi forces were nowhere to be seen. This is because the paramilitary forces of Libya under Gaddafi were better at internal repression than in dealing with foreign threats. Libya had a number of paramilitary forces and security services. They acted as a means of controlling the power of the regular military and providing Gaddafi and his family with security. Gaddafi was a leader who did not know how to buy weapons and maintain them. Thus, when a real war emerged, Gaddafi who had been spending about a billion dollars per year on weapons was full of bluster but had no real army. Western military analysts who had studied Gaddafi very closely, such as Anthony H. Cordesman, had said in his book, ‘The Military Balance in the Middle East’ that:

‘Libya had to keep many of its aircraft and over 1,000 of its tanks in storage. Its other army equipment purchases require far more manpower than its small active army and low quality reserves can provide. Its overall ration of weapons to manpower is absurd, and Libya has compounded its problems by buying a wide diversity of equipment types that make it all but impossible to create an effective training and support base.’

The same military analysts who were writing on the absurdity of the military planning and arms purchases of Gaddafi came from countries that were competing to sell Gaddafi new weapons. Today we are told that that National Transitional Council needs new weapons.

In another article, it will be necessary to fully examine the lessons of the NATO intervention for the African freedom struggle. It will be necessary, then, to sum up the Gaddafi role in Africa and the African Union. Until that time, it is sufficient to say that the operations of Global NATO has awakened many leaders to the reality of the ways in which third parties and private military forces will be used to invade Africa.

More than 200 African leaders and intellectuals signed a statement condemning the NATO bombing in Libya as part of a plan for the recolonisation of Africa. Professor Chris Landsberg from the University of Johannesburg spoke for the group when he argued that NATO had violated international law. Even the former President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, has had to speak out forcefully against NATO in Libya. While these leaders are speaking, the rank and file in Africa are noting the fact that France, Britain and the United States will go to all lengths to invade Africa in the new scramble for resources. General Carter Ham of AFRICOM has already travelled to Nigeria to enact the drama on the stage that had been set up by former United States ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell, who predicted that Nigeria will break up within 16 years. General Ham urged partnership between the government of Nigeria and AFRICOM knowing full well that such a partnership would be to fulfil the wishes of those who do not want to see the unity and peace of Nigeria and Africa.

There is a capitalist crisis, even if the media does not want to spell out the full dimensions of this crisis. This is how Will Hutton, a columnist for the Observer summed up this crisis:

‘Eighty years ago, faced with today's economic events, nobody would have been in any doubt: we would obviously be living through a crisis in capitalism. Instead, there is a collective unwillingness to call a spade a spade. This is variously a crisis of the European Union, a crisis of the euro, a debt crisis or a crisis of political will. It is all those things, but they are subplots of a much bigger story: the way capitalism has been conceived and practised for the last 30 years has hit the buffers. Unless and until that is recognised, western economies will be locked in stagnation which could even transmute into a major economic disaster.’

In the argument that the capitalist system is near meltdown, one of the unspoken option for Europe is for the recolonisation of Africa. The invasion of Libya under the guise of protecting civilians is part of a larger process that involves land grabs, new oil contracts and competition between allies within NATO. But Africa will not be recolonized. The people have the experience of removing colonialism and apartheid and there will be new forms of struggle against this new scramble for Africa.

Brazil, Russia, India and China will have to make a choice. South Africa has taken a clear position against the NATO operations and the other BRICS countries will have to decide whether this new alliance is a serious one. The other BRICS members will either be integrated into the spoils of the current scramble for land, oil water and seeds or will join with the people of Africa to democratize the United Nations and support the forces of peace and reconstruction.

China has already sent one signal of its position on this matter by becoming the principal paymaster for Europe and being the stopgap for the crisis in the Eurozone.

Africans may believe in Ubuntu, an African ethic or humanist philosophy focusing on people’s allegiances and relations with each other, but they will never forget. The forms of opposition to the bombing of NATO must be accompanied by opposition to longstanding dictators in Africa. Gaddafi had manipulated the ideas of Pan-Africanism and African revolution in order to maintain himself and his family in power. In a strange twist of history, this removal of Gaddafi will strengthen the hand of the progressive forces within the continent who are working for an African Union that is based on the desire of the people for a better standard of living. Progressive Africans must learn the important lessons of a NATO supported intervention that remains silent on the killing of innocent Africans.


* This article was updated and extended on 26 September 2011 (13:23 BST).
* Horace Campbell is currently a visiting professor in the Department of International Relations at Tsinghua University in Beijing. He is a tenured professor of African-American Studies and political science at Syracuse University. He is the author of ‘ Barack Obama and 21st Century Politics: A Revolutionary Moment in the USA’. See
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