Like all such scholarly books written about the 2011 NATO war against Libya, this contains some valuable insights and elements of truth, but the story is told entirely from a Eurocentric perspective, wherein lie its predictable and inevitable weaknesses and limitations.
By Paolo Sensini
Foreword By Cynthia McKinney
In early 2011, Libya came under attack. The anti-Libya coalition included France, the United Kingdom, the feudal Gulf monarchies, the United States and other NATO countries. Although during the previous months, Muammar Gaddafi had visited the nations of Europe where he was welcomed as the head of a friendly State, the United Nations swiftly approved the coalition- sponsored U-turn, undertaken in the guise of humanitarian intervention to protect the Libyan people. Gaddafi was branded “a bloodthirsty, crazed dictator”, intending and carrying out war crimes to suppress a legitimate domestic revolt.
This narrative was part of a larger-scale Western strategy adopted to redesign the entire Middle East in accordance with its interests. Immediately after the start of the NATO campaign of air strikes, Paolo Sensini visited Tripoli as a member of the “Fact Finding Commission on the Current Events in Libya”. He then wrote a fully detailed account of the real reasons for the attack on Libya, and the outcome. This book outlines the historical background of the last hundred years and more, from the main phases of the Italian military occupation (1911-1943) to the dramatic events of our own times, including an account of the post-war monarchy and Qaddafi’s rise to power, the air strikes on Tripoli and Benghazi ordered by Reagan in 1986, and the Lockerbie affair.
Sensini exposes the falsehoods propagated in 2011 of the alleged “mass graves” and “10,000 deaths”. He takes a close look at the “rebels in Benghazi” – goaded on by Islamic fundamentalists but organised, armed and financed by the West. The “rebels” provided the pretexts that West needed for approval of UN Resolution 1973 – the myth of ‘humanitarian’ intervention as embodied in the so-called “responsibility to protect” (R2P) doctrine. This criminal intervention devastated Libya, unleashing chaos and a civil war unlikely to cease in the near future.
Sensini addresses what has followed in its wake: the 11 September 2012 murder of American Ambassador Chris Stevens, the role of Hillary Clinton, and the plight of untold waves of migrants seeking to flee the continental chaos that R2P has unleashed, resulting in thousands of deaths and drownings across the Mediterranean, and the potential destabilization of European states struggling to cope with the mass influx.
WHO WERE LIBYA’S ‘REBELS’? WHO BACKED THEM?
Let us now return to the key events and developments of the so called “Arab Spring”. While the top brass in the West were wary of the political, economic and military implications of the Tunisian and Egyptian “Springs”, the French, Americans and British immediately and unreservedly supported the Libyan rebels both in Cyrenaica (where most of the country’s oil wealth is to be found) and in Fezzan. The ‘rebels’ included many Sanusi Islamists, Egyptians from the Muslim Brotherhood and jihadists from Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Jordan, Qatar, Afghanistan and elsewhere.1 These men were headed by two leading members of the ousted government of Libya, the former Justice Minister, Mustafa Abdel al-Jalil, and the former Minister of the Interior, General Abdel al-Fattah Younis (assassinated on 28 July 2011 by Islamist members of the National Transitional Council). The monarchical conservatives, who wanted to restore the dynasty of King Idris I, joined al-Jalil and Younis in this venture.2
Colonel Gaddafi, however, in speech after speech, insisted that the 2011 revolt was dominated by “Al-Qa’ida” elements. It had also come to light that tens of British MI6 agents, Special Air Services (SAS) and Special Boat Services (SBS) operatives, the CIA and the French Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure (DGSE) were secretly on the ground in Libya, working as military trainers and organisers for the rebel cause.3 “London had actually sent its special forces to Libya just days before the Cyrenaica revolt erupted, a fact that raises many questions as to the role of the British in detonating the tribal revolt against Gaddafi”, wrote one observer.4 It has also been reported that the French and British provided the insurrectionists with arms and motor vehicles to enable the triumphant march on Tripoli.5
So, many military and intelligence operatives were in Libya even before the United Nations passed the no-fly zone order. Governments that authorise deployment of operatives in this manner clearly violate international law.6
Although, during those early days, the information reaching the media from the field was anything but clear, “Paris decided to initiate air raids over Benghazi the very night Resolution 1973 had been approved”.7 France thus managed to steal a march on the Coalition of the Willing, made up of the USA and Great Britain (soon to be joined by Norway, the Netherlands, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Denmark, Canada, Spain, Belgium, Turkey and Italy).8
In order to protect the civilian population of Benghazi and Tripoli from Gaddafi the bloodthirsty dictator and madman, the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, imposed the no-fly zone. Of course, the political reasons for all this, the ousting of a ‘dictator’, were left unmentioned. This was a humanitarian mission, after all! France thus became the leader of Operation Odyssey Dawn, to then be replaced by Operation Unified Protector (thus implementing the military embargo on Libya).9
US Admiral William Gortney’s first concern was Gaddafi’s physical safety and wellbeing. It goes without saying that Gaddafi was not on the coalition’s list of targets, although someone might accidentally kill him… Britain’s Chief of the Defence Staff, Sir David Richards, was equally insistent that Gaddafi was not to be targeted. Killing Gaddafi was not a bad thing in itself, but UN law would not permit it.10
The coalition was ‘willing’ to do some things, but less ‘willing’ to do other others. Less willing to admit, for example, that the aim was precisely to assassinate Gaddafi. The coalition was unwilling to admit that it hoped to bury his death under Resolution 1973’s ‘collateral’ carnage. However, in a joint letter, Obama, Sarkozy and Cameron did publicly admit that the Libya mission would not be over until Gaddafi had been removed (he had to “go and go for good”).11 Hence, the repeated targeting of Gaddafi’s Bab al ‘Aziziyah residential compound (Gaddafi normally resided there with his family).12
Too cowardly to admit what this humanitarian mission was really all about, the assassins hoped they might present Gaddafi’s death to the world as something ‘incidental’, prevention of which was beyond the powers even of the world’s leaders. Carpet-bombing was once euphemistically termed use of smart bombs. We heard of an excess of bombs raining down on Libya (as though they were part of the weather or climate…). If somebody dies… well… they probably deserved it anyway… Seeing itself as the superior player because its arms technology is more advanced, and its resources and power are greater, the West has the power to decide who’s to live and who’s to die. In the name of human rights, it has the power to decide who is to enjoy these rights and who must do without. Principles don’t come into this picture. Today, as in the past, tyrants are often greeted with open arms and welcomed into western countries. Others are rubbed out, and the cities of their peoples are bombed.13
Among the coalition’s members there was a diplomatic row as to who was to lead the Libya operation. It was decided that it should be NATO. Having performed more than 15,000 aerial bombing and naval shelling missions—causing countless civilian deaths, and often using arms with depleted uranium—NATO was the ideal candidate. It had the experience required for missions of this kind.14
To assuage any possible public outbreak of conscience, the international media repeatedly told us that Gaddafi ordered the Lockerbie massacre that took place on 21 December 1988 (270 victims).15 Gaddafi was a “terrorist”. If we read the Lockerbie trial records, we learn that on 31 January 2011, the British justice system acquitted one of the two accused, Ali Amin Khalif Fhimah, due to insufficient evidence.16 The other, ‘Abdel Baset Ali Mohamed al-Megrahi, imprisoned for years, was then extradited to Libya in August 2009.17 The charges against al-Megrahi remain unsubstantiated. In February 2011, Robert Black, the Scottish law professor who devised the format of the Netherlands-based trial, was quoted as saying he was ‘absolutely astounded’ that Al Megrahi had been found guilty. Mr Black said he believed the prosecution had ‘a very, very weak circumstantial case’ and he was reluctant to believe that Scottish judges would ‘convict anyone, even a Libyan’ on such evidence.18
Black was not alone. A major Scottish newspaper that had followed the affair over the years concluded on 28 August 2005 that the evidence against al-Megrahi had been fabricated.19 Amid the various claims and counterclaims, the Libyans paid a high price: an embargo lasting ten years, with Gaddafi making payments in damages in the order of 10 million dollars for each Pan Am passenger who died in order to break the siege. The former Libyan Justice Minister, Mustafa Abdel al-Jalil, felt obliged to draw “the entire world’s attention once more to the responsibilities of Gaddafi over Lockerbie”.21 Mustafa Abdel al-Jalil was Justice Minister until 21 February 2011, when he passed directly into the ‘rebel’ camp.22 From his point of view, if it would galvanise public opinion and justify the upcoming massive attack on Libya, it made perfect sense to point to Libyan responsibility for Lockerbie.23
The Benghazi ‘rebels’ were the West’s new ally. Benghazi was a stronghold of tribal and religious traditionalist tendencies. The ‘rebels’ were to be encouraged. Photo ops were arranged. For the benefit of visiting TV journalists, the rebels shot their guns into the air and charged around on pickup trucks fitted out with heavy machine guns.24 Poster boys perhaps they were, but they were not very popular in Libya.
Perhaps they were well armed and trained, but they were still at the ‘rag tag army’ stage. The insurgents repeatedly fell back when faced by the loyalist army, and they received little support from the people of Libya. It required an effort of imagination to see these people, who lacked popular support, as having anything to do with a popular revolt.25 “It is very likely,” concluded Thierry Meyssan, “that there are more NATO Special Forces commandos on the ground than the number of Libyan combatants they are supposed to oversee”.26 The government appointed itself at the request of these ‘rebels’. It called itself the National Transitional Council. Its existence was announced on 27 February 2011, but it was not clear how it was composed. Mahmud Jibril was appointed executive president.27 Jibril, who was once Gaddafi’s right hand man and the former director of the National Economic Development Board (NEDB) (since 2007), made the arrangements for key operatives from the armed forces of various Western States to come in and train the insurgents.28
French President Nicolas Sarkozy was the leader who showed the greatest determination in demanding military intervention against Gaddafi’s Libya. He is said to have frankly admitted that “We were the ones who created the rebels’ Council [in Benghazi], and without our support, our money and our arms, the Council would not exist”.29
The opposition forces needed greater credibility. So the media ran stories about the Libyan dictator’s tremendous cruelty and brutality. It was claimed (with considerable clamour) that he had hired black mercenaries who committed the most terrible acts of violence. Bernard-Henri Lévy (the famed à la carte French ‘philosopher’ also widely known as BHL) was the first to reveal to a stunned world how the tyrant had hired many low cost mercenaries from Sub-Saharan Africa.30 No one thought to remind BHL that the tribes of southern Libya are mainly black, or that blacks were to be found at the time at all administrative levels in Libya. Various Libyan functionaries and ambassadors were black.
BHL’s misconceptions (if we may call them that…) arise out of his racist mindset, according to which Africans of Arab origin and Negroes must know their respective places within the cultural hierarchy. BHL absurdly claimed on television that “Gaddafi’s army is a rag tag affair made up of 300 poorly equipped wretches” . Did BHL convince monsieur le president that the war would be over in three days?
The myth of the Negro mercenaries caused quite a stir in the West. Journalist Fausto Biloslavo, an eyewitness,commented,
“There surely are mercenaries, but I think very few are professionals or true warriors. I think, and as I personally saw, quite a few were in the area because they were immigrants looking for a job, frequently illegal immigrants and with no embassy to protect them. They were forced to join the ranks of the combatants and were probably never even actually paid. So I wouldn’t really call them mercenaries. I’d call them wretched souls who kill so as not to be killed, under the threat of a bayonet behind their backs. In Tripoli, a number of columns of these illegal immigrants who were attempting to leave Libya were blocked, and basically the ‘rebels’ gave them a choice. They might be considered mercenaries and therefore summarily executed, or they could join the rebels. When I was at the anti-Gaddafi strongholds, as in Zawiya, which has now been wiped out, I saw a black skinned soldier, because he came from the Fezzan region in southern Libya. He was paraded in front of the TV cameras as though he was a foreign mercenary, when in actual fact he was a Libyan policeman. Believe me, in Libya today, they’re all mad dogs, and that includes the best among them.”
As time went by, various international investigations were conducted to verify the Libyan government’s alleged use of ‘mercenaries’. According to a number of African governments, black immigrants in Libya, and witnesses interviewed by humanitarian organisations such as the Féderation internationale des droits de l’homme (FIDH),
in eastern Libya—controlled by the rebels—innocent migrant workers were accused of being ‘Gaddafi mercenaries’ and were lynched, tortured, killed or in any case subject to racist attacks and theft. The rebels, as a number of videos confirm, executed and tortured Libyan soldiers, especially blacks” .
Over and above the question of the existence of these government mercenaries during the early stages of the war, we should remember that the Anglo-Americans had already imported this ignoble practice into Afghanistan and Iraq. It is well known that top officials in the United States believe that the deployment of mercenaries has led to progress in management of the war theatres of the twenty-first century.
The term, ‘mercenaries’, has been euphemised. As ‘contractors’, they do exactly what we traditionally expect from mercenaries (they are paid to fight or to conduct intelligence operations). The advantage of hiring mercenaries is that one need no longer abide by, or have anything to do with, the rules of military conduct. ‘Contractors’ is a politically correct term, and the Anglo-American warmongers know how important image and media discourse is. It was also officially announced that the ‘rebels’ received arms and other equipment from Qatar, with oil as the medium of exchange. These arms and equipment had previously been shipped to Libya secretly . Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani was the first Chief of State to officially recognise the Libyan ‘rebels’. He was the first member of the GCC to provide NATO with support, deploying French Mirage F1 fighters and American C-17 Globemasters. He also installed the satellite channel Ahrar TV on behalf of the Transitional Council, shipped in many MILAN missile-launchers, and (not least) he immediately engaged in the overseeing of oil exports from Cyrenaica. Such behaviour was entirely illegal: the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) and UN Resolutions 1970 and 1973 explicitly prohibit the arming of groups such as the ‘rebels’, who do not represent the legal government of Libya . The governments of the West also felt free to ignore these provisions. They recognised the NTC (then renamed National Liberation Army, NLA) as the only legal government of Libya . American government officials told the Washington Post (30 March 2011) on condition of anonymity that, “President Obama has issued a secret finding that would authorize the CIA to carry out a clandestine effort to provide arms and other support to Libyan opposition groups” .
Public opinion in the USA is familiar with the illegal wars of the infamous Bush era. Obama’s bandit war came into being on 21 March 2011. According to the War Powers Act (WPA)—passed in 1973 over Nixon’s veto −, unless he/she receives approval from Congress, the President must order that all military intervention that has commenced cease within sixty days (the limit rises to ninety days if the President determines and certifies to the Congress in writing that unavoidable military necessity respecting the safety of United States Armed Forces requires the continued use of such armed forces in the course of bringing about a prompt removal of such forces”).
On 28 May the conservative intellectual, George F. Will, slammed the Obama’s intention to “degrade the rule of law”. The opinion piece appeared in the Washington Post and was republished by other newspapers such as
“The New York Post”. At that very time, Dennis Kucinich, a leftist Congressman, submitted a motion to the House demanding that the government cease its operations against Tripoli. Senator Richard Lugar, heading his party delegation on the Foreign Affairs Committee, also wrote Obama a letter reminding the White House of its obligation to consult Congress and to act consistently with the War Powers Resolution (WPR). Lugar complained that Obama had cancelled without explanation a Foreign Affairs Committee briefing on Libya with the chief of the White House military staff. He complained that the government was obstructing all debate . Congress was concerned over the costs involved and the irresponsible manner in which the war on Libya was being conducted (outside the legal framework set forth in the War Powers Act). Under pressure, Obama sent to John Boehmer (the Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives) a 32-page document in which he claimed that the White House did not require Congress approval. “Business Insider” summed up the White House response as follows—“We don’t need Congressional approval because this is not technically a hostile action (because we don’t have ground troops in Libya)” . A close observer of Washington practices remarked, “Obama’s flagrant violation of the War Powers Act in Libya would make him subject to impeachment, and this possibility might become more likely if the US economy continues to deteriorate” .
Through its indifference toward questions of constitutional legality, the Obama administration showed it was uninterested in the kind of “change” that had been promised after Bush jr.’s tragic double mandate. Indeed, Obama sent Chris Stevens to Benghazi. Stevens, formerly second-in-command at the US embassy in Tripoli, was instructed to “work with the opposition, get a clear idea of what they needed, work out how we can help them and fill in the gaps in what we know about them” . While there were many “gaps” in what Western public opinion knew about the Libyan opposition, the American government knew very well who it was dealing with.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
PART I FALL OF THE OTTOMANS, WARS AND MONARCHY
1. 2011: The first centenary of Italy’s attack on Libya
2. ‘Liberal’ Italy girds for war
3. The Sanusis
4. The landing forces reach the coastal cities
5. Coming to terms with the Sanusis
7. The colonization policy in Libya during the era of fascism
8. The era of Italo Balbo
9. The war ends: British military administration of Libya and the
coronation of King Idris
10. The Free Officers seize power and expel the Italians from Tripoli
11. The Jamahiriyya Green Book
12. Covert ops, and tales of ‘terrorism’…
PART II JAMAHIRIYYA
1. “Arab Spring”
2. UN Resolutions 1970 and 1973 against Libya, and the
‘new international law’
3. Who were Libya’s ‘rebels’? Who backed them?
4. The role of the Sanusis in the Libyan revolt
5. Timeline to UN Resolution 1973
6. Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya, and their part in Gaddafi’s downfall
7. What we saw with our own eyes in Libya
8. Gaddafi’s Jamahiriyya—Facts and figures
9. The real reasons for going to war
10. The curtain drops
11. Once upon a time… Libya
PART III RECIPE FOR DISASTER
1. The Unending Transition Begins
3. The Blame Game
4. The Insoluble Disorder