Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire, speaking at the Black August commemoration in Detroit. The event honored the legacy of rebellion inside the United States. a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
U.S./NATO and the Attacks Against Libya
African Union, Turkey maintain principled position on western intervention
By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met in Paris on March 14 with representatives of the western-backed rebels fighting the Libyan government. The presence of the U.S. top diplomat in France for a meeting with foreign ministers of the G8 countries of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia, that will also include talks with opposition forces fighting the recognized government of an African state, illustrates the extent to which the foreign policy of Washington has not fundamentally changed its course under successive administrations.
Since the beginning of the attempts to topple the government of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya on Feb. 17, the Obama administration has taken a position demanding regime-change. Such a view from the onset of the conflict between opposition forces and the Libyan government indicates that U.S. is involved in a plot to overturn the government of this country.
The White House and its representatives have consistently called for the removal of the Libyan government and refused to acknowledge the right of the leadership to take action to protect the security, unity and sovereignty of the country. In addition, the Obama administration and the U.S. Congress have failed to recognize the peace proposals put forward by the Latin American alternative states, ALBA, led by Venezuela.
These peace proposals were dismissed by the U.S., France and the opposition rebel forces that are fighting the Libyan government. The fact that the leading imperialist states, the rebels and their allies can refuse to engage in diplomacy surrounding a major conflict within a resource-rich North African states points to the political character of the push to remove Gaddafi from power.
According to the Associated Press “Clinton will meet with Libyan opposition figures and meet several European counterparts to discuss military intervention in Libya. France has already recognized the Libyan opposition interim council and, together with Britain, is drafting a no-fly zone resolution to put forward at the United Nations Security Council.” (Associated Press, March 14)
Clinton noted that the State Department mission to France would also move on to Tunisia and Egypt. The Secretary of State was quoted as saying that “We have an enormous stake in ensuring that Egypt and Tunisia provide models for the kind of democracy that we want to see.” (Associated Press, March 14)
Consequently, U.S. policy in North Africa is designed to control and direct the political processes in Tunisia and Egypt toward upholding a system that is compliant with imperialist aims and objectives in the region. At the same time, the overthrowing of the Libyan government and the bringing of this state into the U.S. sphere of influence and control is part of the same overall program for the area.
Libya has the largest known oil reserves on the continent of Africa. The country is also a large producer of natural gas that is supplied to several European states. It is the resources of this country that the U.S. imperialists want to control and this can only be done by the continued dominance of the entire region of North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.
The fact that billions of dollars in Libyan assets have been confiscated by the governments of imperialist states is a clear indication of what the real motivations are behind the current regime-change strategy in Libya. U.S. and European economies are by no means stable irrespective of what the corporate and government-controlled media reports.
With large-scale pressures on the euro and the dollar, the persistent high unemployment rates and austerity measures implemented in the western capitalist states, the failure of military adventures in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, the imperialist governments are debating the way forward to address the worse world economic crisis in seventy years.
While Obama tells the corporate media in regard to Libya that “Anytime I send United States forces into a potentially hostile situation, there are risks involved and there are consequences…And it is my job as president to make sure that we have considered all those risks,” (Christian Science Monitor, March 14), his administration does not provide a military or political assessment of the impact of the Pentagon’s efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Moreover, looking back on what was interpreted by Obama’s speech in Cairo early on in his administration, asserting that the U.S. would work to improve its image in the Muslim world, the impact of the ongoing wars and the intelligence community’s posture towards Islam inside the U.S. has altered the public perception of the Obama administration both domestically and within the international community.
The U.S. is still an imperialist state and the current situation in Libya is a manifestation of such policy in North Africa. With the refusal to engage in diplomacy, the machinations geared toward regime-change in Libya and the attempts to re-direct the rebellions in the region toward a series of pro-western orange or velvet revolutions, illustrates clearly that there has been no fundamental shift in U.S. foreign policy toward Africa.
Libya Makes Advances Against Rebels
In viewing the corporate, western governmental and even Arab satellite channel coverage of the civil war in Libya, it was quite obvious that there was a conspiracy to topple the Libyan state and remove its leader, Muammar Gaddafi. The almost complete one-sided, biased and pro-rebels character of the reporting raises serious questions about how the political developments in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Oman, Algeria and other states in the region are being portrayed.
Can the peoples of North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula effectively address neo-colonial puppet regimes and the growing exploitation and impoverishment of the working class and poor without taking on directly U.S. and European imperialism in all of its forms? For it is the fundamental crisis of world capitalism that has worsened the conditions of the peoples of the developing countries as well as the workers inside the industrialized states, i.e. Western Europe and North America.
The rebel forces fighting the Libyan military represent a tenuous coalition of disaffected bourgeois politicians and army officers, Islamists, and the Central Intelligence Agency supported National Salvation Front, which has for several decades been involved in subversive activities against the government. The flag of the opposition is symbolic of the ousted monarchy which was overthrown by Col. Gaddafi and his comrades in 1969.
Over the last two weeks the Libyan military forces have driven out the rebels from several areas in the west, central and east of the country. The expulsion of the opposition from the oil port at Ras Lanuf was a key development in the campaign by the government to protect the resources of the country. Other retreats by the rebels from Zawiya and Brega played an instrumental role in breaking the propaganda onslaught on the part of the dominant western and regional satellite channels and media outlets.
The opposition stronghold at Benghazi in the east is the next major dilemma for the U.S. and its allies. If the present course of the war continues in favor of the Libyan government the Pentagon will be pressured to evacuate thousands of civilians and defeated rebels from the area to Europe.
A correspondent for Al Jazeera, which has provided almost no objective news coverage of the war in Libya, noted on March 14 that “As Muammar Gaddafi’s forces ratchet up their military offensive against the rebels, shells have fallen six kilometers west of the key Libyan town of Ajdabiya, which the rebels have vowed to defend against government forces.” Al Jazeera, like the western-based corporate and governmental news sources, have backed the rebels that are fighting against the Libyan state.
Nonetheless, Al Jazeera correspondent Tony Birtley was forced to admit that the “Rebels said there had been no casualties, but the attack on Ajdabiya is seen, from the rebel’s viewpoint, ‘as the last line of defense.’” Another Al Jazeera correspondent, Anita McNaught, said to be writing from the capital of Tripoli, pointed out that “There is an enormous degree of anxiety (among the rebels and their supporters). It’s an all or nothing game now.” (Al Jazeera, March 14)
The Libyan government has offered amnesty to the rebel fighters who agree to lay down their arms and surrender to the authorities. Yet the self-proclaimed leaders of the rebellion, such as General Abdel Fatah Yunis, the former Libyan interior minister, said of Abdabiya that “It’s on the route to the east, to Benghazi and Tobruk and also to the south. Ajdabiya’s defense is very important…We will defend it.” (Al Jazeera, March 14)
Nontheless, Birtley says that the “Gaddafi forces are advancing and it seems that fighting is carrying on and coming close to Benghazi. It seems like we are entering the final phase of the conflict….”
African Union, Turkey Oppose Imperialist Intervention
In a major development on March 11, the African Union Peace and Security Council headed by Zimbabwe issued a communiqué in the aftermath of a two-day meeting opposing any foreign military intervention in Libya. The AU meeting, which was held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, went on record as recognizing the unity and territorial sovereignty of the North African state of Libya.
According to the AU communiqué, the continental organization representing 53-member states, concluded that “the current situation in Libya calls for an urgent African action for the immediate cessation of all hostilities, the cooperation of the competent Libyan authorities to facilitate the timely delivery of humanitarian assistance to the needy populations, the protection of foreign nationals, including the African migrants living in Libya and the adoption and implementation of the political reforms necessary for the elimination of the causes of the current crisis.”(AU Communique of the 265th Meeting of the Peace and Security Council)
This meeting took note of the “statements made by the Chairperson of the Commission (President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe), as well as by the representative of the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya.” In a statement issued by Libyan state television on March 13, it said that “The Libyan authorities will take all steps to welcome its members and offer all facilities for the accomplishment of the mission.”
This same television report from Libya criticized the Arab League position on the current crisis which calls for the imposition of a “no-fly zone” and the resignation of Gaddafi. According to Libyan television, the Arab League resolution was “based on false claims and clear distortion of the facts” and encouraged the organization to send a fact-finding mission to the country. (Reuters, March 14)
Additional reports indicate that both Syria and Algeria objected to the Arab League resolution that purportedly supported the imposition of a no-fly zone. These issues will become clearer in the days and weeks to come.
Also the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on March 14 came out in opposition to NATO intervention in Libya. Erdogan was quoted in the Anatolia news agency as saying that “Military intervention by NATO in Libya or any other country would be totally counter-productive.” (AFP, March 14)
Meanwhile Gaddafi met on March 13 with ambassadors from China, Russia and India and encouraged these states to increase their economic cooperation with Libya. Jana news agency said that “The leader of the revolution met on Sunday (March 13) the ambassadors of China, Russia and India, with whom he discussed the progress of bilateral relations and an invitation to firms from these countries to exploit Libyan oil.” (Jana, March 14)
The Importance of an Anti-Imperialist Outlook
U.S. and NATO military involvement in Africa and the Arabian Peninsula will be a serious option for imperialism in the efforts to maintain control of the petroleum and mineral resources within the region. The current political and economic arrangement between the former colonial countries, the U.S. and the developing states is unsustainable.
The recent wave of unrest in Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Jordan, Oman and Djibouti represent the failure of the present world system to provide even the basic necessities of life for the majority of the populations within these countries. With the exception of Algeria, all of the states where demonstrations and rebellions have erupted have regimes that are largely subservient to the western imperialist countries.
In Algeria, although legitimate grievances exists related to political reforms and economic equality, a section of the opposition is advocating the adoption of even more compliant neo-liberal domestic policies in order to address the economic crisis. However, a move to the left on the part of the government in Algeria would further alienate it from the imperialist states in Western Europe and the United States.
As far as Libya is concerned, the effort to normalize relations with the Gaddafi government on the part of the West between 2003-2009 was apparently done in an effort to disarm the North African state in military and political terms. The lesson for these developments is that the desire to maintain political and economic control of the region by imperialism supersedes the willingness on the part of developing states to have normal relations with the capitalist countries.
Over the entire post-colonial period since the 1950s, there has never been a period of actual normal relations between Africa and the Arab states as a whole and the western imperialist countries, including the United States. The same contradictions of political and economic domination and the subordination of the developing states to the interests of the West has manifested until the current period.
Yet Africa is the most resource-rich and diverse continent on the planet but remains in a largely underdeveloped state. It is in fact the aims of imperialism and neo-colonialism to maintain this state of underdevelopment which will perpetuate the dominance of the western capitalist countries.
Kwame Nkrumah, the founder of the Convention Peoples Party of Ghana and the leader of the African Revolution of the post-World War II period, stated in his 1963 book entitled “Africa Must Unite,” that “The greatest danger at present facing Africa is neo-colonialism and its major instrument, balkanization. The latter term is particularly appropriate to describe the breaking up of Africa into small, weak states, since it arose from the action of the great powers when they divided up the European part of the old Turkish Empire, and created a number of dependent and competing states in the Balkan Peninsula.” (Africa Must Unite, 1963, p. 173)
Nkrumah continues noting that “The effect was to produce a political tinderbox which any spark could set alight. In fact, the explosion came in 1914 when an Austrian archduke was murdered in Sarajevo. Because the Balkan countries were so closely tied up with the great powers and their rivalries, the murder resulted in the First World War, the greatest war which had been fought up to that time.”
What are the lessons of this period in Europe, one century ago, for the events in Africa during the 21st century? Nkrumah points out that “the same way as alliances by the Balkans states with rival powers outside the Balkans resulted in world war, so a world war could easily originate on our continent if African states make political, economic and military alliances with rival powers outside Africa. Already political commentators have referred to Africa as a vast new battleground for the cold war.”
Although the cold war was considered over with the collapse of the COMECON sector and the Soviet Union during the late 1980s and the early 1990s, culminating with the dismemberment of Yugoslavia with outcome of the Balkans war at the conclusion of the 20th century, there is still the desire and drive on the part of the imperialist states to control and dominate the resources of the post-colonial states. In addition, the concern over the enhancement of relations between the People’s Republic of China and the African states is compelling the U.S. and the Western European states to escalate their destabilization efforts on the continent.
The insatiable desire for profit maximization on the part of the multi-national corporations will inevitably lead to greater levels of labor and resource exploitation and the suppression of the social aspirations of billions throughout the world. With this rising tide of exploitation and oppression will also come the ever increasing numbers of people living in poverty both within the developing countries and among the working class and oppressed within the capitalist states.
This unsustainable nature of capitalist relations of production in the modern period holds true as well within the western industrialized states. The conservative and moderate administrations that dominate the governments in Western Europe, Japan and North America, present no plans for the realization of full employment, the maintenance of the standard of living among the workers and the putative middle-class and the existence of any type of social safety net for the poor and economically marginalized.
Consequently, the imperialist states will rely even more heavily upon military force to divide and maintain control of the world political economy. It is this reality that is at the root cause of the civil war in Libya. Since the imperialists cannot control Libya through diplomacy and trade, it must seek to overthrow the government that insists upon independence from the neo-colonial designs of the western states.
Nkrumah wrote in “Class Struggle in Africa” in relationship to the forces behind right-wing coups and regime-change strategies, that “In the face of growing political awareness of the masses, reactionary governments either attempt to contain it by introducing bogus socialist policies, to suppress it by force, or to carry out a military coup. Whichever method is adopted, they proclaim that they are serving the interests of the people by getting rid of corrupt and inefficient politicians, and that they are putting the economy in order. They are, in fact, safeguarding capitalism and protecting their own bourgeois interests and the interests of foreign monopoly finance capital.” (Class Struggle in Africa, Nkrumah, p. 54)
According to Nkrumah, “The rash of military coups in Africa reveals the lack of socialist revolutionary organization, the need for the founding of an all-African vanguard working class party, and for the creation of an all-African people’s army and militia. Socialist revolutionary struggle, whether in the form of political, economic or military action, can only be ultimately effective if it is organized, and if it has roots in the class struggle of workers and peasants.”
Consequently, divisions among and within African states can only bolster neo-colonialism. The struggle for the territorial integrity and independence of Libya from imperialism is pivotal in the overall objectives for the realization of African unity and socialism.
Although the western imperialist states advocate unity among themselves within Europe and North America, their foreign policy toward Africa and the developing countries promotes balkanization and economic dependency on the industrialized capitalist countries. Anti-imperialism in the United States must recognize the necessity of maintaining the unification and sovereignty of the oppressed nations as an act of solidarity and greater consciousness as it relates to the conditions prevailing under neo-colonialism.
As Nkrumah noted “The world struggle, and the cause of world tension, has to be seen not in the old political context of the cold war, that is, of nation state and power blocs, but in terms of revolutionary and counter-revolutionary peoples. It cuts right across territorial boundaries and has nothing to do with color or race. It is a war to the finish between the oppressed and the oppressors, between those who pursue a capitalist path, and those committed to socialist policies.” (The Struggle Continues, pp. 76-77)