Al-Ahram Weekly Online   31 May - 6 June 2012
Issue No. 1100
Region
 
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Libya: the ongoing disaster

NATO's destruction of Libya as an independent regional power has paved the way for the military re-conquest of Africa,writes Dan Glazebrook*

The scale of the ongoing tragedy visited on Libya by NATO and its allies is becoming horribly clearer with each passing day. Estimates of those killed so far vary, but 50,000 seems to be a low estimate. Indeed, the British Ministry of Defence was boasting that the onslaught had killed 35,000 as early as last May, and this number is constantly growing, as the destruction of Libyan state forces by the British, French and American blitzkrieg has left the country in a state of total anarchy.

Having nothing to unite them other than their former willingness to act as NATO's foot soldiers, Libya's former "rebels" are now turning on each other. 147 people were killed in in-fighting in southern Libya in a single week earlier this year, and in recent weeks government buildings including the prime ministerial compound have come under fire from rebels demanding cash payment for their services.

$1.4 billion has already been paid out, demonstrating that it was the forces of NATO colonialism, and not former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, who were reliant on "mercenaries". However, these payments were suspended last month due to widespread nepotism. Corruption is becoming endemic in Libya, with a further $2.5 billion in oil revenues that was supposed to have been transferred to the national treasury remaining unaccounted for.

Libya's resources are now being jointly plundered by the oil multinationals and a handful of chosen families from among the country's new elites: this is a case of a classic neo-colonial stitch-up. The use of these resources for giant infrastructure projects such as the Great Manmade River project, and the massive raising of living standards over the past four decades that came about as a result -- Libyan life expectancy rose from 51 to 77 after Gaddafi came to power in 1969 -- sadly look to have become things of the past.

However, woe betide anyone who mentions that now. It was decided long ago that no supporters of Gaddafi would be allowed to stand in the upcoming Libyan elections, but recent changes have gone even further. Law 37, passed by the NATO-imposed Libyan government last month, has created a new crime of "glorifying" the former government or its leader, subject to a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Would this include a passing comment that things were better under Gaddafi? The law is deliberately vague enough to be open to interpretation. It is also a recipe for institutionalised political persecution.

Even more indicative of the contempt for the rule of law amongst the members of the new government -- a government, remember, which has yet to receive any semblance of popular mandate and whose only power base remains foreign armed forces -- is Law 38. This guarantees immunity from prosecution for anyone who committed crimes aimed at "promoting or protecting the revolution".

As a result, those responsible for the ethnic cleansing of the town of Tawergha -- such as the self-proclaimed "brigade for the purging of black skins" -- can continue hunting down refugees in the full knowledge that they have the new law on their side. Those responsible for the massacres in the town of Sirte and elsewhere also have nothing to fear. Those involved in the widespread torture of detainees can continue to do so without any repercussions -- so long as their torture is aimed at "protecting the revolution" -- i.e. maintaining the NATO-Libyan Transitional National Council dictatorship.

This is the reality of the new Libya: civil war, squandered resources, and societal collapse, where voicing a preference for the days when Libya was prosperous and at peace is a crime, but lynching and torture are not only permitted, but also encouraged.

Nor has the disaster remained a national one. Libya's destabilisation has already spread to Mali, prompting a coup, and huge numbers of refugees, especially amongst Libya's large black migrant population, have fled to neighbouring countries in a desperate attempt to escape both aerial destruction and lynch mob rampage, putting pressure on resources and stoking tensions elsewhere. Many Libyan fighters, their work done in Libya, have now been shipped to Syria to spread their sectarian violence there also.

Most worrying for the African continent, however, is the forward march of AFRICOM -- the US military's African command -- in the wake of the aggression against Libya. It is no coincidence that barely a month after the fall of Tripoli, and in the same month that Gaddafi was murdered in October 2011, the US announced it was sending troops to no fewer than four more African countries -- the Central African Republic, Uganda, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. AFRICOM has now announced the unprecedented number of 14 major joint military exercises in African countries for 2012. The military re-conquest of Africa is rolling steadily on.

None of this would have been possible when Gaddafi was still in power. As founder of the African Union, its biggest donor, and its one-time elected chairman, Gaddafi wielded major influence on the continent. It was partly thanks to him that the US was forced to establish AFRICOM's HQ in Stuttgart in Germany when it was established in February 2008, rather than in Africa itself, as Gaddafi offered cash and investment to African governments that rejected US requests for bases.

Libya under Gaddafi's leadership made an estimated $150 billion of investments in Africa, and the Libyan proposal, backed with 30 billion in cash, for an African Union Development Bank would have seriously reduced African financial dependence on the West. In short, Gaddafi's Libya was the single biggest obstacle to AFRICOM penetration of the continent.

Now that Gaddafi has gone, AFRICOM is stepping up its work. The invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan showed the West that wars in which its own citizens get killed are not popular. AFRICOM is designed to ensure that in the coming colonial wars against Africa, it will be Africans who do the fighting and dying, not westerners. The forces of the African Union are to become integrated into AFRICOM under a US-led chain of command. Gaddafi would never have allowed this, which is why he had to go.

If you want a vision of Africa under AFRICOM tutelage, look no further than Libya, NATO's model of an African state. This has now been condemned to decades of violence and trauma and has been made incapable either of providing for its people, or of contributing to regional or continental independence. This new military colonialism should not be given another inch of African support.

* The writer is a political analyst.

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