Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire, during a speaking tour in Virginia on April 24-25, 2010. (Photo: Ana Edwards), a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
NATO Pounds Libya While State Department Advances Imperial Aims in Africa
Gates questions the capacity of alliance as Clinton tours the continent to pressure AU
By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
After nearly three months of US/NATO bombing operations over Libya, the North African state has remained defiant in the face of one of the most intense military operations by the imperialist countries of North America and Western Europe in recent months. Official NATO sources say that over 10,000 sorties have been flown over the oil-rich nation resulting in large-scale destruction of the country’s infrastructure and the reported deaths of between 10,000-15,000 people.
On June 7 NATO escalated its attacks on the capital of Tripoli striking government buildings and making additional attempts on the life of leader Muammar Gaddafi. These bombing operations were designed to further boost the morale of the NATO forces ahead of yet another so-called “Contact Group” meeting on Libya that took place in the United Arab Emirates on June 9.
In response to the stepped-up bombing by NATO, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi issued a statement saying that “martyrdom is a million times better than surrender.” Gaddafi continued by stressing that “We have one option and that is the protection of our country. We will remain in it till the end. Dead, alive, victorious, it doesn’t matter.” (Gaddafi audio released on June 7)
The meeting in Abu Dhabi, UAE on June 9 witnessed continued provocations by the imperialist states and their allies aimed at toppling the government in Libya and installing a client regime. The rebel western-backed Transitional National Council (TNC) continued to request funding from the Contact Group countries claiming they were out of money.
Yet no explanation was given in regard to the usage of the hundreds of millions of dollars that have already been pledged to the rebels by the United States and other governments involved in the war against Libya. Neither was there any mention of the status of over $50 billion in Libyan government assets that have been frozen in the western states.
The conservative government of Germany headed by Chancellor Angela Merkel had maintained that it would not enter the NATO operations that have targeted Libya for destruction and seizure. Yet in a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington during early June, Merkel called for the removal of the Libyan government.
In further developments the German government on June 13 sent Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle to the rebel stronghold of Benghazi and western media reports indicated that he formally recognized the TNC as the supposed “legitimate government” in Libya despite the fact that the group has done nothing to demonstrate that it is representative of the will of the people of this besieged state.
The TNC’s leadership has been supported for decades by the U.S. ruling class through the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). There have been no elections to gage the democratic character of the rebels who have been propped-up by the CIA, MI-6, British special forces, Egyptian special forces, the Tunisian military as well as the NATO states carrying out the large-scale bombing operations over the country and a naval blockade in the Mediterranean.
In a statement issued by Westerwelle on June 13, he said that Germany would support the rebels in creating a “democratic and constitutional” Libya. Yet whether this constituted a firm recognition of the TNC remained to be fully confirmed.
Westerwelle reiterated the call by Merkel for the Libyan government to be removed, stating that “The people of Libya want a peaceful and free future without Gaddafi. That is also our goal. Germany is a friend and partner of the democratic forces in the country.” (Reuters, June 13)
It was also reported that the German International Development Minister Dirk Niebel said that the European government would contribute another 7 million Euros ($US10 million) for what he described as “emergency and interim aid to assist in stabilization efforts.” (Reuters, June 13)
State Department Seeks to Pressure African Union on Libya
Yet despite the claims by Germany and other western states that its aims in Libya are to protect civilians and stabilize the country based upon the supposed mandate of UN Security Council Resolution 1973, the African Union has maintained its call for an immediate ceasefire that includes the halting of the US/NATO bombing. The AU also wants the territorial sovereignty of Libya honored, the protection of African migrant workers along with Libyan civilians and the beginning of negotiations between the rebel TNC and the government in Tripoli.
Malian President Amadou Toumani Toure, a member of the AU negotiating team on Libya, emphasized that the majority of governments on the continent wanted the bombing to stop. In a press conference held in the capital of Bamako, Toure stressed that “Like the African Union, we wish for the bombardments to stop and the opening of political talks to find a way out of the crisis.”
Nonetheless, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a June tour of several African countries continued to call for the toppling of the Libyan government and demanded that the AU reverse its policy on the North African state. Clinton in visits to Zambia, Ethiopia and Tanzania demanded that the AU support the NATO plans to seize Libya.
A senior U.S. government official traveling with Clinton told the media that “We know that there is hesitation on the part of a number of African states, in large measure because of the enormous influence that Gaddafi has wielded across Africa for such a long time, and they have shown some reluctance. African countries are very deeply divided and conflicted over Libya.” (Reuters, June 13)
Yet there are only three countries that have openly supported the U.S. calls for Gaddafi to step down and they are the states of Gambia, Mauritania and Senegal in West Africa, all of which are largely dependent upon U.S. and French economic assistance. The official position of the African Union has remained firm and opposition among the population groups throughout the continent has intensified against the US/NATO war against Libya.
In addition to pressure by the State Department on the African countries to support the imperialist agenda in Libya, Clinton also continued the U.S. hostile rhetoric against Sudan, Africa’s largest geographic nation-state. Clinton in representing the U.S. position of further balkanization of Sudan which is poised to split with the south in July, called for the withdrawal of Khartoum’s military forces from the disputed border area of Abyei.
In a press conference in the Tanzanian capital of Dar Es Salaam, Clinton said that “The United States strongly believes that a strong peacekeeping presence should be a central part of the security arrangements in Abyei. The government of Sudan should urgently facilitate a viable security arrangement, starting with the withdrawal of Sudanese armed forces.” (Reuters, June 13)
The first stop on Clinton trip was in the Southern African nation of Zambia where at a conference of African governments the Secretary of State attacked China’s growing economic partnerships with various states on the continent. She then encouraged greater trade with the U.S. and promoted the so-called Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), a Clinton-era administration measure that seeks to further the penetration of highly-exploitative light industrial production on the continent.
Libyan Government Refutes Claim of Rebel Advances in the West
During the same period that Clinton intensified the provocations against Libya in various African states, the rebel TNC made claims that it had broken out of the western port city of Misrata where the counter-revolutionaries have attempted to establish a beachhead in this region of the country. The TNC also stated that it had taken parts of the coastal oil-producing area of Zawiya also in the west.
However, these reports were immediately dismissed by spokespersons for the government in Tripoli. Moussa Ibrahim, a representative of the Libyan government based in Tripoli, said that the military forces of the state had driven off the rebels from Zawiya.
Ibrahim said that “The wishful reporting of some journalists that rebels are gaining more power and more control of some areas is not correct.” Of the fighting taking place in these areas, Ibrahim noted that “It is pockets of resistance.” (The Tripoli Post, June 13)
Ibrahim also pointed out that “The rebels there (Zawiyah) are no more than a hundred. The army has killed some of them, captured others and is negotiating the surrender of others.”
The Libyan governmental spokesman also emphasized that Tripoli rejects any notion of the resignation of Gaddafi. Ibrahim said that “No one has the right to demand that the leader stand down. No one can come here with a plan that includes his departure and this idea is immoral, illegal and makes no sense.”
Meanwhile Gaddafi was shown on Libyan TV on June 12 playing a game of chess with visiting International Chess Federation President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, who is in Libya in his official capacity as leader of the world agency. Gaddafi met with Ilyumzhinov for two hours and stated after the discussions and games that “I am neither premier nor president nor king. I do not hold any post in Libya and therefore I have no position which I should give up.”
These developments are taking place amid the pronouncements of the outgoing U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates who accused NATO of ineptitude that has been revealed in the current war against Libya. Gates said that other imperialist states outside the U.S. must contribute more to the alliance and that the continuing war against Libya was a good indication of NATO’s lack of effectiveness.
Inside the United States opposition to the war against Libya is escalating with more questions being raised by representatives within both the U.S. Senate and the Congress. The House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair, Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen spoke out against the ongoing U.S. involvement in Libya and demanded answers from the State Department on the aims of the mission and its legality within the context of constitutional law.
A recent CBS News poll indicated that 60 percent of people in the U.S. opposed the bombing of Libya. The same survey revealed that only 30 percent supported the mission and among this group it would not be surprising that these views are based on a lack of information.
The Obama administration and the corporate media have consistently refused to hold open discussions and debates on U.S. policy toward Libya. The anti-war movement must continue to stress the imperialist aims of the war and demand the immediate withdrawal of all imperialist forces from the airspace of Libya as well as its waterways.