Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire, holding a leaflet at Cobo Conference Center in downtown Detroit. MECAWI won a federal court order related to its ability to distribute information on the foreclosure crisis. (Photo: Cheryl LaBash). a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Imperialists Launch War in North Africa: U.S./European Bombs Reign Down on Libya
U.N. Secretary-General attacked in Cairo as world protests mount
By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
Using United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973, the forces of the United States and several European states have initiated an all-out war aimed at overthrowing the Libyan government and occupying that North African state. On the 8th anniversary of the U.S. and British invasion and occupation of Iraq, the Pentagon bolstered by France, Britain, Italy, Canada and the U.K. began bombing Libya on March 19.
In an assault dubbed “Operation Odyssey Dawn”, there have been reported strikes carried out by fighter aircraft and missiles launched from war ships off the coast of Libya in the Mediterranean Sea. Areas inside Libya that have been bombed include Benghazi, Tripoli, Misurata and Ajdabiya.
On March 21, the Libyan government said that a three-storey building on the Bab al-Azizia in Tripoli was destroyed by war planes of the U.S. and European states carrying out the military offensive. A spokesman for the Libyan government conducted a guided tour of the compound for journalists and described the attack as a “barbaric bombing.”
Other bomb attacks were conducted in the capital of Tripoli on March 20. The compound that was destroyed is known to be used as a base of operations for the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
On March 19, three Air Force B-2s that set out from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, dropped forty-five 2,000-pound bombs on Misurata. In addition to the B-2s, fifteen Air Force and Marine fighter jets accompanied by aircraft from France and Britain bombed Benghazi.
Although several U.S. and European military officials have stated that the Libyan leader is not a target in these operations, it is clear that these western governments are out to assassinate the head-of-state. Nearly twenty-five years ago the U.S. military under Ronald Reagan bombed the Libyan cities of Tripoli and Benghazi, which also included an attempt on the life of Gaddafi, whose daughter was killed in the attacks.
In regard to the March 20 attacks on the compound where Gaddafi is often present, Libyan spokesman Mussa Ibrahim told journalists at the location of the bombing that “This was a barbaric bombing which could have hit hundreds of civilians gathered at the residence of Muammar Gaddafi about 400 meters away from the building which was hit.” (Herald Sun, Australia, March 21)
Ibrahim went on to point out the contradictory and deceptive language being utilized by the western countries that are now bombing Libya. He noted that “Western countries say they want to protect civilians while they bomb the residence knowing there are civilians inside.” (Herald Sun)
These same contradictions hold true in regard to the attempted assassination of Gaddafi on March 20. British Defense Secretary Liam Fox said on March 20 that Gaddafi was a “legitimate target” in the aftermath of the bombing in Tripoli. (The Australian, March 21)
Navy Vice-Admiral William E. Gortney, who is the staff director for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that no civilians had been harmed in the assaults that have included the use of stealth B-2 bombers, jet fighters, and more than 120 Tomahawk cruise missiles as well as other deadly U.S. weapons.
Gortney also said of the Libyan leader Gaddafi that “if he happens to be at a place, if he is inspecting a surface-to-air missile site and we don’t have any idea that he’s there or not, he will not be safe.” (Associated Press, March 21)
The Role of the “International Community”
Since the commencement of the bombing of Libya on March 19, the United States has said that it is not taking the lead in these operations but are a part of a coalition with limited objectives related to protecting civilians and imposing a “no-fly zone” over the North African state. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said that Gaddafi was not a target and that the allied forces need to remain steadfast in implementing UN Resolution 1973.
Gates pointed out that “If we start adding objectives, then I think we create a problem in that respect. I also think it is unwise to set as specific goals things that you may or may not be able to achieve.” (Australian, March 21)
Also Vice-Admiral Gortney said on March 20 that “The no-fly zone is now effectively in place. We are not going after Gaddafi. At this particular point, I can guarantee he is not on the target list.”
Yet since late February, the Obama administration has called for the removal of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. These calls have been repeated not only by the president but by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice.
Moreover, the so-called rebellion in Libya that began in Benghazi on Feb. 17 has been supported by the U.S. and other western imperialist states. Several of the groups involved in the attempts to overthrow the Libyan government have long been financed, armed, trained and coordinated by the U.S.
France, prior to the bombing operations, recognized the rebels as the legitimate government of Libya, despite the fact that the country is a member of several international bodies including the United Nations, the Arab League, the African Union and the Organization of the Islamic Conference. At least two major peace proposals that were put forward by several Latin American states as well as the African Union Peace and Security Council were rejected outright by the imperialist states now bombing the country as well as the rebels.
Evidence of the real objectives in the bombing of Libya is the cover being provided by the western states for the rebels fighting against the government. In the aftermath of the defeat of the rebels in the western and eastern section of Libya, the U.S. and European bombing campaign has been carried out in a manner that supports the attacks by the rebels on key cities under government control.
Another important political aspect of the bombing of Libya has been the notion advanced in western and allied media sources that the Arab League is in support of the attacks against the North African state. Amr Moussa, the general secretary of the Arab League said several weeks prior to the bombings that he would support a no-fly zone over the country.
Nonetheless, the Arab League vote on the support for UN Resolution 1973, was done in a closed door session with only half of the member-states present. Also both Syria and Algeria objected to the purported support by the Arab League for the Security Council resolution.
On March 20, Moussa expressed reservations about the military operations being carried out by the imperialist states against Libya. The Arab League leader said that “What happened differs from the no-fly zone objectives. What we want is the protection of civilians. Protection, not shelling more civilians.” (abc.net. au, March 21)
The African Union, a 53-member state organization for the continent, issued a communiqué on March 11 expressing solidarity with Libya and opposing foreign military intervention. The Peace and Security Council of the AU that issued the communiqué called for the negotiated resolution to the current civil war in Libya and appointed a fact-finding mission to visit Libya to work on ending the fighting.
Nonetheless, the AU communiqué was totally ignored by the U.S., Canada, France, Italy and Britain, along with the rebels fighting the Libyan government. A delegation from South Africa that was scheduled to travel to Libya on March 21 was cancelled due to the imposition of the no-fly zone by the western states.
Opposition Grows to the Imperialist War Against Libya
There has been outrage expressed throughout the world over the launching of a war by western imperialist governments against the North African state of Libya. Inside of Libya itself, thousands of citizens have participated in the resistance to the rebel forces that are backed by the U.S. and other former colonial countries such as France, Britain and Italy, which had colonized Libya for many decades during the 20th century.
Thousands of Libyans have flocked to government buildings to act as human shields against the bombs being dropped by the western military forces attacking the North African state. Gaddafi on March 21 called for a civilian march on the city of Benghazi where the rebels remained under the protection of the bombs being dropped by the U.S., France and Britain.
Perhaps the most dramatic protest against the attacks on Libya took place in Cairo, Egypt on March 21, when United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon arrived in the country to hold talks with Amr Moussa of the Arab League. Several hundred anti-war demonstrators attacked his vehicle and attempted get at the U.N. leader.
Ban had attempted to visit Tahrir Square, the center of protest for the pro-democracy movement in Egypt, but was prevented from doing so by the demonstrators. His vehicle was pelted by rocks and Ban was drove away by guards.
There were other demonstrations held in Manilla, Philippines where U.S. flags were burned amid denunciations of the western bombing attacks on Libya. In Russia, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin slammed the bombing of Libya saying “the (UN) resolution is defective. It allows everything. It resembles medieval calls for crusades.” (Ynetnews.com, March 21)
In the Republic of South Africa, the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) condemned the ruling party’s governmental vote in support of U.N. Resolution 1973. The ANCYL said that “it is evident that certain powers, particularly the U.S., UK and France want to impose a puppet government in Libya so that they can have access to its oil reserves.” (timeslive.co.za, March 21)
The youth organization for the ruling-party ANC government went on to note that the UN resolution “did not advocate for a peaceful solution or an African led solution to the political challenges confronting Libya.” The ANCYL stressed that it was a mistake for the South African government to vote in favor of the UN resolution noting that its allies of Brazil, China, India and the Russian Federation abstained “because they noticed the inconsistencies being applied to Libya.”
This statement by the ANCYL continued pointing out that “UN Security Council Resolution 1973 is inconsistent, but also rushed because there was no exhaustion of a peaceful process to resolve the political situation in Libya.” The youth organization went on to say that it will “strongly raise its concern over South Africa’s foreign policy and outlook within ANC structures and with the department of international relations and cooperation.”
Such a response by the ANCYL and the impact of the bombing missions over Libya prompted South African President Jacob Zuma to express concern over how the no-fly zone was being implemented. “We call for an immediate ceasefire in Libya and an end to attacks on civilians,” Zuma said. (timeslive.co.za)
In a report issued by the South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Maite Nkoana-Mashabana, in the ANC Today newsletter published on March 11, she says that “We would like to reiterate that South Africa has supported the positions taken by the African Union and the United Nations on Libya—and this included statements and resolutions imposing sanctions on Libya. “ (ANC Today, March 11-17, 2011)
In addition, Minister Nkoana-Mashabana continues reporting that “South Africa has openly condemned the loss of life and attacks on civilians and reported violations of human rights in that country. So there has never been any ambiguity on our part on this matter of resolving the crisis in Libya.”
Nonetheless, the western imperialist countries engaged in waging war on an African state that is the former chair of the continental body, the African Union, would warrant the primary attention of the governments in Africa. Actions that could in any way appear to grant authority to the imperialist states to wage war anywhere in the world should not be taken without serious consideration.
These same countries that are now bombing Libya, i.e., the U.S., France, Britain, Canada and Italy all have a history of not only colonizing oppressed peoples, but being involved in recent years in horrendous wars of aggression in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Haiti and Somalia.
Although President Zuma of South Africa stated at a Human Rights Day event in Athlone, outside Cape Town, that “Operations aimed at enforcing the no-fly zone and protecting civilians should be limited to just that. They should not harm or endanger the civilians that Resolution 1973 sought to protect.” (Mail & Guardian, March 21)
Yet the Mail & Guardian newspaper points out that “The UN resolution permits ‘all necessary measures’ short of an occupation to protect Libyan civilians. British Foreign Secretary William Hague on Monday refused to rule out the possibility of deploying special forces, merely saying there would be no occupation of Libya.”
In the United States there have been scattered demonstrations opposing U.S. and NATO attacks on Libya. In Detroit on March 11, the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice (MECAWI) held a demonstration at the federal building calling for an end to the war build up.
Another demonstration was held on March 21 in downtown Detroit on the 8th anniversary of the Iraq war that also denounced the beginning of the bombing of Libya. MECAWI issued a statement ahead of both the March 11 and 21 demonstrations in downtown Detroit.
The MECAWI statement noted over a week before the actual beginning of the bombing that “Once again the United States government is involved in a military intervention this time in the oil and natural gas producing North African state of Libya, where Washington is supporting a collection of rebel groups that have declared war on the government of Muammar Gaddafi demanding his resignation. Although the Pentagon is directly entangled in three other wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, there are elements within the Obama administration and the U.S. Congress that are advocating the imposition of a no-fly zone that would require the massive bombing of Libya, killing hundreds if not thousands of people.”
This same statement goes on to point out that “Libya has the largest oil reserves on the African continent and is also a huge supplier of natural gas to several European states. We strongly believe that Wall Street and the Pentagon's designs on these resources are at the root of U.S. efforts aimed at destabilization and regime-change in Libya.”
A demonstration was held in New York the day before, March 18, called by the United National Anti-War Committee, which had issued a statement opposing U.S. and NATO threats against Libya.
The “Black is Back Coalition” also held a demonstration in Washington, D.C. on March 20 opposing the U.S. and European attacks against Libya. This coalition has been a strong critic of the Obama administration from its beginning in 2009.
The International Action Center and other organizations have issued statements opposing the attacks on Libya. On April 9 there will be two national anti-war demonstrations in New York and San Francisco whose demands include the halt to U.S. and European aggression towards Libya.