Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire, served as Master of Ceremonies at the Doctors4Detroit public meeting on July 8, 2011. The event was held at the U-M Detroit Center. (Photo: Andrea Egypt), a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Despite US/NATO Bombing and Arming of Rebels, Imperialist War Remains Stalled in North Africa
France calls for negotiations to end the bombing and opens dialogue with Tripoli
By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
After four months of heavy bombing of the North African state of Libya, the US/NATO forces have failed to dislodge the government in Tripoli. The rebel forces fighting under the banner of the western-backed Transitional National Council (TNC) have remained confined to select areas in the east and west of the oil-producing country of approximately six million people.
Although the TNC and their imperialist supporters have claimed over the last four months that they are on the verge of a major breakthrough in taking the war to the capital of Tripoli, there is no concrete evidence that this is the case. Hundreds of thousands of people have continued to come out in Tripoli to demonstrate their opposition to the US/NATO war and the Libyan military forces have demonstrated their capacity to strike the rebels in areas around the port city of Misrata and in the Nafusa Mountains near the border with Tunisia.
According to a July 7 report in the Chinese news agency Xinhua, “Libyan government troops have shelled the western suburbs of Misrata, the third largest city of the country, leaving 16 people dead and 39 others wounded. The government troops fired four rockets on the area overnight Wednesday (July 6) and the 16 fatalities included three civilians, according to a hospital in Benghazi, the rebel’s stronghold.” (Xinhua, July 7)
The rocket launchers utilized by the Libyan military reportedly have a 40-km range. With the escalation of the fighting in Misrata, which is being used as a transport area for rebel forces and western humanitarian organization, the conditions among the civilian population has worsened over the last several weeks.
In efforts to support the rebels gaining a stronger presence in the western regions of Libya, the NATO warplanes have escalated their bombing campaign against the people in the area. On July 9 the western imperialist alliance’s forces struck Libyan army units stationed outside Misrata.
Nonetheless, the Associated Press was forced to admit on July 9 that “The civil war has fallen into a stalemate with rebels unable to make significant advances, even with NATO bombing Gaddafi’s forces to enforce a U.N. resolution protecting civilians.” In actuality the war has never been geared towards protecting civilians since the actions of the rebel TNC and their US/NATO supporters have created dire conditions for the population in Libya and those who have fled the country by land and sea. (Associated Press, July 9)
This same Associated Press assessment of the war notes as well that “Misrata’s rebels, struggling to advance on Tripoli, have faced stiff resistance from government forces.” The heavy attacks on the TNC rebels compelled the British military on July 9 to conduct air raids near Misrata against the Libyan forces.
NATO, TNC Rebels to Blame for Humanitarian Crisis
The beginning of the civil war in Libya on Feb. 17 prompted the worst humanitarian crisis in North Africa in modern times. Immediately the Benghazi-based rebel gangs set out to attack those perceived as supporters and allies of the central government in Tripoli.
Dark-skinned Libyans and migrant workers from neighboring African states were harassed, beaten and even murdered in an orgy of violence reminiscent of the lynchings carried out by racist mobs in the southern U.S. against African Americans during the late 19th and early to mid-20th centuries. Videos and photographs of these executions have been circulated broadly over the internet.
As a result of the vast oil reserves in Libya, reputed to be the largest on the African continent, the country had been able to achieve the highest standard of living and per capita income in the region. Anywhere between 1.5 to 2 million migrant workers were employed inside the North African state where they participated in oil, construction and service projects throughout various areas of the country.
As a result of the attacks on migrant workers and the disruption of the national economy caused by the attacks carried out by the TNC rebels and NATO, hundreds of thousands of these migrant workers have been forced to flee Libya. The International Organization for Migration (IOM), which monitors the dislocation of migrant workers as well as Libyan nationals, says that 150,000 people have already been removed from the country.
The spokesman for the IOM, Jean –Philippe Chauzy, said recently some 2,000 Chadian workers were left without transport to leave the country in the Libyan southern town of Sebha. “They are really very vulnerable migrants—children, women and the elderly—very weak and sick. They are those who didn’t make it further south than Sebha because they didn’t have the strength.” (Associated Press, July 9)
IOM officials also estimated that another 300,000 migrants who want to leave cannot due to the crisis caused by the US/NATO war. Nonetheless other migrant workers have decided to remain in Libya and wait out the war in consideration of the depressed economic conditions prevalent in many African, Middle Eastern and Asian countries from where they originate.
In a recent article in the New York Times, the political character of the rebel forces was clearly exposed. After the western-backed units overran the village of Qawalish, many of the residents evacuated the area.
The Times noted that the shops were still well stocked with fresh fruits, vegetable and bread. However, almost immediately, “The rebels began helping themselves to the fuel in Qawalish’s only gas station. Then an armed rebel wheeled about the road on a children’s bicycle he had apparently taken from a home. A short while later rebels were shooting padlocks off the metal doors to shops, and beginning to sweep through them.” (New York Times, July 10)
This same Times article continues saying that by the next day “Houses that had not been burning the previous day were afire, and shops were being aggressively looted by armed men in rebel attire. Every few minutes, a truck would pass by on the road, headed back toward Zintan loaded with what seemed to be stolen goods.”
In summing up the situation in Qawalish, the article noted that “The town, in short, was being looted by the rebels, and vandalized, and worse. The destruction was not total—five of the town’s scores of houses were on fire. But what would their owners think? And what kind of message was being sent to the people of this town?”
What is interesting about this report is that it exposes the false propaganda by the imperialist forces and their allies in Libya that the so-called rebel army has mass support. After the NATO bombing of these villages and towns, the rebels move in to take nominal control, yet the majority of the population flees in fear of the violence that has been perpetuated in other areas of the country.
Even in the Nafusa Mountains where the rebels and the western corporate media has claimed that widespread support exist for the NATO bombing and the TNC rebel attacks, villages such a El Harabah “still flies the green flag of the Gaddafi government, for example,” the New York Times reported. This article then says that “there is a fair question here, after watching the rebels damage Qawalish and steal its residents’ possessions, about whether suspicions about villagers’ affiliations and tribes have given life to rebel crimes, which in turn have caused civilians to flee.”
In Qawalish by July 10, after being occupied by several days by the rebels, the Times article reported that “All of the shops in the town had been ransacked, several more homes were burned, and the town’s gas station, in fine condition when Qawalish fell, had been vandalized to the point of being dismantled. In building after building, furniture was flipped over, dishes and mirrors shattered, and everything torn apart. Except for a few rebels roaming the streets in cars and trucks, the town was deserted—a shattered, emptied ghost town decorated with broken glass.”
France Calls for Negotiations Amid Growing World Opposition to the War
On July 11 French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet called upon the TNC rebels to negotiate a settlement with the Libyan government. He emphasized that talks would be the only mechanism to end foreign intervention in the North African state.
Longuet was quoted as saying that “They have now to sit around the table…. We’ll stop the bombing when the Libyans talks to each other and the military forces on all sides return their barracks. They can talk to each other because we provide the proof that there is no solution by force.” (Xinhua, July 11)
This statement from the French government was accompanied by the announcement from Saif al-Islam, the son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, that the government in Tripoli is currently in negotiations with Paris. In an interview with the Algerian newspaper El Khaber, the Libyan official said that the government “was negotiating with France and not with the rebels. Our mediator met with President Nicolas Sarkozy. (El Khaber, July 11)
After four months of bombings and a naval blockade of Libya, the NATO forces have began to have serious disagreements over the continuation of the war. Norway announced several weeks ago that it would halt its operations by August. Italy, the former colonial power, called for a ceasefire during early July.
In a recent article published in the Philadelphia Tribune, it points out that “In the Netherlands, Defense Minister Hans Hillen complained last week of ‘mission creep’ and suggested that the campaign’s advocates were deluded to believe they could crush Gaddafi. ‘People who thought that merely by throwing some bombs it would not only help the people, but also convince Gaddafi that he could step down or alter his policy were a little bit naïve,’” Hillen told journalist in Brussels, Belgium. (Philadelphia Tribune, July 5)
Meanwhile in the United States, the International Action Center (IAC) is conducting a 12-city tour to build opposition to the war into a concerted campaign aimed at ending all funding for the attacks on Libya. Former U.S. Congressperson Cynthia McKinney is one of the key speakers for the tour.
McKinney recently returned from Libya and is travelling throughout the country to expose the war crimes committed against the North African state by the US/NATO forces and their rebel allies. Opinion polls in the U.S. indicate clearly that the overwhelming majority of people oppose the bombing of Libya.
Inside the U.S. Congress both the Republicans and Democrats, although expressing reservations about the war, have continued to support its funding. This comes at the same time that a proposed defense budget would provide another $17 billion in funding for the Pentagon.
U.S. forces have suffered an escalation in casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq. In Pakistan, the Obama administration is at loggerheads with the government and has suspended aid due to the Islamabad’s objection to military strikes that have violated the sovereignty of the country.
The escalation of the wars in Central Asia, the Middle East and North Africa are coming at a time when the economic crisis within the U.S. and throughout the capitalist world is intensifying. Growing unemployment, home foreclosures, school closings and the theft of healthcare, pension funds and educational programs are taking place while the government is threatened with default by August 2 due to disagreements over whether to increase the $14.6 trillion debt-ceiling.
The default of the federal government in August would send shockwaves throughout international financial markets. Anti-war and mass organizations are continuing to call for an end to the military campaigns internationally and for the adoption of a jobs program to re-employ the over 30 million unemployed and underemployed workers in the United States.