NATO Escalates War Crimes in Libya
Thousands reported dead as fighting continues for control over oil-rich North African state
By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
While the United States and the other NATO countries express their satisfaction over the destruction they are engineering against the North African state of Libya, thousands of people have been reported killed in the assault on Tripoli and other parts of the country since August 20. Rebel units operating under the banner of the Transitional National Council (TNC or NTC) after being transported into the capital of Tripoli are engaging in widespread abuse that includes looting, the destruction of public property and the killing of government loyalists and civilians.
On August 23 the Bab al-Aziziyah compound that was formerly inhabited by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and his family was bombed again by the NATO forces. After severe damage was done to the massive structure and its surroundings, the TNC rebels entered the area where they were filmed by international media outlets breaking up and destroying everything in sight and later carting away ornaments, consumer goods, furniture and art work.
Although this orgy of destruction and theft was portrayed in the West as symbolic of the fall of the Libyan government, this compound had been bombed repeatedly by the U.S. and NATO warplanes for months. It was the scene of numerous assassination attempts against Muammar Gaddafi and other government officials earlier on in the war which has been characterized by large-scale air strikes since March 19.
These acts of criminality have been carried out jointly between the NATO fighter jets, special forces and intelligence units from the U.S., Britain, France, Canada, Qatar as well as the western-backed rebels. Government personnel and other citizens and residents of Tripoli are being targeted by the rebels and their imperialist financiers and coordinators.
Humanitarian Crisis Spreads Throughout Libya
Since March 19 the U.S. and NATO forces have executed approximately 20,000 sorties over the country that resulted in at least 7,500 air strikes. As a result of this massive bombing that has been accompanied by sabotage, theft and murder by the rebels beginning on February 17, the humanitarian situation in Libya and its neighbors has reached critical proportions.
The country’s oil industry, factories, water supply systems, food storage facilities, communication installations and hospitals were targeted during the ongoing war that has lasted for over six months. As a result the country has suffered growing shortages of medicines, food, technical supplies and potable water.
In an article published on the Middle East North Africa Financial Network website, the impact of the bombing and the marauding attacks by the rebels led by the special forces and intelligence operatives from the NATO countries, has created the worst social conditions in Libya since the Al-Fatah revolution led by Gaddafi in 1969. This website quoted Ali Hamed, who is described as a supporter of the attacks against the government, still revealed that in Tripoli “For nearly four days, we have no water, no electricity, no petrol…. We worry especially about the water.” (menafn.com, August 29)
The article goes on to admit that “The few open stores here have mostly bare shelves. People stand in line for bread, pay greatly inflated prices for black-market fuel and scrounge for water to drink or bathe. They still hear daily bursts of gunfire.”
In addition, “Throughout Tripoli, gas stations are closed. Piles of trash are being cleared in some areas…. At a supermarket in the capital’s upscale Hay al-Andalus section, empty produce boxes are piled outside as men and women search inside for food; a small pan of ground beef is the only meat in the butcher section.”
Many residents within the capital fear that the city could be completely without water in a few days. Many neighborhoods in and around Tripoli are already bereft of water and electricity and the rise of sickness and deaths are reaching critical proportions.
Illustrating the incompetence of the rebel forces that have moved into the capital by the NATO, the Guardian of Britain quoted a TNC official as saying that “We don’t know the electricity problem, we don’t know the water problem, we don’t know the communication problem. In the next few days we will have answers.” (Guardian, UK, August 27)
Meanwhile one of the most gruesome scenes resulting from the NATO bombing and the TNC rebel onslaught against the capital of Tripoli was the discovering of hundreds of bodies at the Abu Salim hospital in the south of the city. The hospital was attacked by the invading opposition forces leaving people to die amid the lack of medical assistance and the overall horrendous conditions.
Even the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), the government-owned world news service, reported on the mass deaths discovered at Abu Salim hospital. The British government played a major role in the bombing of Tripoli and surrounding areas over the last several weeks where hundreds have been killed and made homeless.
The BBC report stated that “More than 200 decomposing bodies have been found abandoned at a hospital in a district of the Libyan capital Tripoli that has seen fierce fighting. A BBC correspondent found corpses of men, women and children on beds and in the corridors Abu Salim’s hospital.” (BBC, August 26)
This same article continues noting that “Our correspondent says the stench was appalling. People were trying to clean up some of the mess and return the hospital to normality, but that was an impossible task because of the sheer number of bodies, he adds.”
Other reports of massacres are surfacing throughout the country. The TNC forces and NATO are trying to blame the supporters of the Libyan government under Gaddafi of committing atrocities yet these claims remain largely unsubstantiated.
However, what is clear is the central role of the U.S. and NATO in the destruction of the state of Libya. A country which enjoyed the highest standard of living in Africa had achieved tremendous gains in the technical and scientific fields over the last four decades. Today the country has been tremendously setback through western-imposed sanctions, a naval blockade, blanket bombings and media vilifications.
Fighting Continues for Control of the Country
Although the TNC rebels and their NATO backers have been proclaiming victory over the government and people of Libya since August 21, fighting still rages on throughout the country. In Tripoli, the security situation remains unsettled as loyalist forces remain in defensive postures against the rebel units.
The rebels are facing formidable resistance in their efforts to advance on the city of Sirte, which is the home of Muammar Gaddafi. The TNC officials said that they were forced to retreat from positions near Sirte amid a barrage of rockets fired by the Libyan military operating in the region.
Even the BBC admitted that the TNC chairman, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, and other leaders of the rebel formation, are remaining in the east of the country due to continued resistance by loyalist forces in Tripoli and the west of the country. This situation is unlikely to change for some time to come.
According to the Telegraph in London in regard to the situation around Sirte, “Guerrilla fighters from the rebel stronghold of Benghazi in eastern Libya have been advancing towards the city in recent days, but have so far got only as far as the edge of Bin Jawad, a town around 100 miles away. Fawzi Bukatif, a rebel commander, said attempts to persuade the Sirte loyalists to surrender had so far been fruitless. ‘We are waiting for people in Sirte to come out and talk but we’ve got no answer up to now.’” (Telegraph, UK, August 29)
In addition to the resistance against the NATO and TNC rebel forces in Tripoli and Sirte, the western-backed rebels are still unable to reopen the main highway between Tripoli and neighboring Tunisia, which is an essential supply route for oil and food. Although it has been announced that the border-crossing post at Ras el-Jedir is under TNC control, the loyalist forces are heavily shelling the road at Zawara some 35 miles east of the frontier.
The rebels have again called upon the NATO fighter jets to intensify their bombing operations over Sirte in order for them to advance toward the city. From inside Sirte, there have reports of missiles launched at rebel positions as far away as Misrata.
Inside Misrata itself there have been demonstrations against the TNC rebels for their appointment of a former Libyan governmental official who defected from Gaddafi as the security administrator for the port city which has been the scene of heavy fighting over the last several months. The TNC is by no means a cohesive alliance and without the backing of the U.S. and NATO, their poorly-trained units would have been defeated by late March.
Further evidence of the total reliance upon NATO by the TNC rebels was revealed when their chairman Abdel Jalil was quoted on August 29 from Qatar as saying that “Even after the fighting ends, we still need logistical and military support from NATO. Backing up this line of thinking, U.S. Admiral Samuel Locklear, who heads the NATO joint operations command, told a news conference in Doha that “We believe the Gaddafi regime is near collapse, and we’re committed to seeing the operation through to its conclusion.” (Financial Times, August 29)
As the fighting continues inside of Libya, the United Nations has drawn up plans to intervene with a so-called peacekeeping force in North Africa. A leaked document entitled “United Nations Post-Conflict Deployment to Libya” says that “The priorities of the mission will be to assist the transitional authorities in their efforts to manage a peaceful, orderly and democratic transition process to meet the aspirations of the Libyan people.” (UN Document on Libyan Intervention)
African Union Refuses to Recognize Rebels
Despite the enormous pressure coming from the United States and NATO countries, the 54-member African Union has refused to recognize the rebel TNC forces as the legitimate rulers of Libya. In a meeting held recently at AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the continental organization, which was headed by Muammar Gaddafi in 2009, is still demanding that a government of national unity by established in Libya that would include loyalists from the Gaddafi government.
The African Union since March 11 has called for a ceasefire, the removal of foreign forces from the country, a halt to the bombing by the U.S. and NATO and the holding of internationally supervised elections. The rebels have not been elected by anyone inside of Libya and therefore their presence in the capital is not considered legitimate by the AU.
In a August 26 statement from the AU it says that “the Peace and Security Council calls for the formation of an inclusive transitional government, the establishment of a constitutional and legislative framework for the democratic transformation of Libya as well as for support toward the organization of elections and a national reconciliation process.” Yet the U.S.-NATO military alliance and the rebels have rejected all overtures by the AU to intervene in the Libya crisis.
In Zimbabwe the government has ordered the expulsion of an envoy who says that he represents the TNC in Harare. An interview with the National Army Commander Lieutenant-General Philip Valerio Sibanda he stated that “Certain things have happened. There are threats of divisions within the African Union over events in Libya where people are fighting to further their own interests.” (Bulaway 24 News, August 29)
Lieutenant-General Sibanda also said that “It is such events that show the weakness of organizations like the AU when they fail to deal with rebels with one voice and with a common goal as a continent. The country is secure only as far as we make it, but if we decide to invite foreigners then we will have challenges.”
Cynthia McKinney National Tour Demonstrates Widespread Opposition to Libya War
Former U.S. Congressperson and presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney wrapped up a 21-city tour in Denver on August 28. She spoke in Detroit on August 27 to over 200 people at the University of Michigan Center located in the heart of the city.
McKinney’s tour drew hundreds of activists in each location throughout the country. At the Detroit meeting, solidarity statements were made by Mark Fancher of the National Conference of Black Lawyers, Maureen Taylor of the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, Fred Vitale of the Detroit and Michigan Green Party, the Freedom Road Socialist Organization and the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice, which organized the meeting, as well as Workers World Party.
The event also featured the youth band Siaire Reign and Black Reign who opened the program with revolutionary songs of resistance and struggle. Former Congressperson McKinney, who visited Libya in June, reported on the bombing of civilian areas inside the country and the need for people in the U.S. to oppose the imperialist war drive that is spreading throughout Africa and the Middle East.