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 Escalates Bombing Operations on Libya
U.S. and other imperialist states recognize rebels amid mounting defeats on the ground
By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
NATO planes reigned down bombs over the capital city of Tripoli on July 17 for approximately two hours. It was estimated that 60 to 75 ordinances hit targets in the areas of Tajura and Seraj.
One of the explosions created a mushroom cloud resulting in the speculation that a so-called “bunker-busting bomb” was utilized. Libyan television confirmed that “NATO crusader forces” had struck civilian and military sites in the eastern suburb of Tajura.
According to eyewitness reports from Tripoli published by the Center for Research on Globalization in Toronto, “In the vicinity of the bombing, it was like an earthquake. Large buildings as far away as Al-Fatah Street on the Mediterranean coast were shaking. Dogs began howling in alarm and panic all over the city.” (July 17)
This same report continued noting that “Other animals, including birds and cats, also began to make noises in panic as the bombings took place. Usually after the bombings dead insects and birds litter some of the streets.”
Raising further suspicions about the character of the weapons used against the Libyan people in these recent attacks, the report said “The smell of burning and a strange smoldering filled the air. The smell lingered in the air. It even remained on the skin in the wake of the bombings.”
The bombings on July 17 seemed to indicate a further escalation in the imperialist war against this oil-producing North African state which has been under siege by western-backed rebels since Feb. 17 and US/NATO fighter jets and warships since March 19. The bombings on July 17 sounded different and the plumes of smoke were distinct from previous attacks.
The Center for Research on Globalization said that “In previous bombings the smoke would usually go up vertically like a fire, but tonight the smoke plumes were horizontal and hovering above Tripoli with a white cloud in the horizon. People who were not directly affected by the bombs, within a radius of 15 kilometers experienced burning eyes, lower back pain, and headaches.”
Just three days prior to the new round of bombings in Tripoli, NATO Secretary General Anders Gogh Rasmussen called upon member states to supply additional warplanes in order to attack targets inside the country. In a meeting with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Ruttle on July 14, he requested that NATO countries re-evaluate their contributions to the war in Libya and stressed the need for more air-to-ground strikes.
Rasmussen said in The Hague that “I encourage all allies that have aircraft at their disposal to take part in that operation as well. I hope the Dutch government, like all other governments, will continuously consider adaptations of the strategy.” (Reuters, July 14)
Although The Netherlands has recently renewed its support for the war on Libya, its air force has stated that it will not take part in further bombing operations. The withdrawal of direct involvement in the bombing represents the ongoing differences within the imperialist military alliance in regard to the Libyan war.
The Dutch announcement followed the same course as Norway which is winding down its participation with an August 1 deadline for the involvement of its air force. This growing reluctance on the part of several NATO states prompted British Defense Secretary Liam Fox on July 13 to accuse these governments of not providing enough air power in the overall campaign.
This escalation in the bombing of Libya came in the aftermath of a meeting of the so-called “Contact Group” in Istanbul, Turkey on July 14 where the United States and 30 other imperialist countries and their allies provided recognition to the western-backed rebel Transitional National Council (TNC) as the supposed legitimate government for the country. This move was dismissed by the Libyan government as having very little impact on the concrete conditions prevailing on the ground inside country.
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi addressed a demonstration in support of the government in Zawiya on July 16 saying “They are asking me to leave. That’s a laugh. I will never leave the land of my ancestors or the people who have sacrificed themselves for me.” (presstv.ir, July 17)
Gaddafi went on to say that “After we gave our children as martyrs, we can’t backtrack, or surrender or give up or move an inch.”
International Condemnation and Protest Grow Amid Rebel Defeats
The recognition of the TNC by additional imperialist states and their allies has drawn condemnation internationally. Many view this latest maneuver by the US/NATO forces as further proof of its desperation in an air campaign that has lasted for over four months and failed to dislodge the government in Tripoli.
In an article published in the London Morning Star on July 17, it points out that “The decision of the US-led Contact Group to recognize the National Transitional Council as Libya’s legitimate authority is a provocative self-serving development. It short-circuits the necessary process of bringing political forces in the country together to negotiate a lasting solution in favor of imposing its own nominees.” (July 17)
This same article goes even further observing that “US banks alone have $30 billion in Libyan assets, which will be made available to pay for arms and other supplies for the Benghazi-based TNC opposition. Those assets belong to the Libyan people as a whole, not a body that is not so much self-appointed as anointed by Washington.”
Following this same trend of thinking, the Russian Foreign Secretary Sergei Lavrov said on July 18 that Moscow would not recognize the TNC as the legitimate force in Libya. Lavrov told the Interfax news agency that “If it comes to recognition of the TNC and other opposition groups as a side in the talks, then unconditionally the TNC is such a side. However, if it refers to recognition of the TNC as the sole legitimate representative of the Libyan people, as the so-called Contact Group stated in Istanbul, we don’t share that position.” (xinhuanet.com, July 17)
Lavrov indicated that the latest declaration by the Contact Group is designed merely to isolate the Libyan government. He repudiated such an approach and told the press that “Russia traditionally rejects isolation as a way to resolve any problem in any conflict.”
Canadian columnist Scott Taylor raised critical questions about Ottawa’s involvement in the NATO war against Libya. The putative commander of the war is a French-Canadian General Charles Bouchard who has attempted to justify this genocidal military campaign in North Africa.
Taylor pointed out the use of disinformation by the Canadian and western media outlets as a key strategy in the war. He noted that on July 1 and 8, millions of Libyan turned out for rallies in defense of the government and leadership of Muammar Gaddafi.
“Almost no media coverage was given to these events in Canada. It seems we are quite content with our air force bombing a hated dictator in the name of a humanitarian intervention. Those international media outlets that did cover the pro-Gaddafi rallies suggested that this was a propaganda stunt by the president, an attempt to demonstrate his continued popularity.” (The Chronicle Herald, July 18)
Nonetheless, Taylor says that this argument is absurd on its face. He argues that “This suggestion, of course, flies in the face of all known logic. If the vast majority of Libyans in Tripoli were simmering with hatred for Gaddafi, the last thing security forces would do is herd them en masse into a central square. One of the first rights removed when martial law is imposed is that of public assembly for the obvious reason that mob mentality can quickly degenerate into senseless violence.”
Capitalist Economic Crisis Breeds War and Occupation
These intensified efforts on the part of the imperialist states reflect the growing crisis within the world capitalist system. Governments throughout Europe are facing panic with the possible default of Greece and other states for their failure to met financial obligations to the International Monetary Fund and the various financial institutions.
Inside the United States, the government is split over the severity of the attacks to be imposed on the workers and oppressed. The debate within Congress and between the White House and Conservative Republicans is designed to mask the differences over how much more austerity can be dumped on the masses without the eruption of a political response from broad sectors of the population.
These wars of aggression and occupation in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, Palestine and Libya only further aggravate the existing contradictions within the capitalist and imperialist system. Workers are forced to take pay cuts, lay-offs, the dissolution of healthcare and pension plans, while the gap widens between the ruling class and the proletariat.
The increased failures in these wars on the part of imperialism will only bring greater misery to the majority of people inside the U.S. and around the world. This is why there needs to be a global effort to end imperialist militarism in order to seriously address the worsening conditions of working people and the oppressed throughout the planet.