Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire, appeared on Press TV World News on August 20, 2012 to discuss US foreign policy toward Syria. Azikiwe is a frequent contributor on world issues., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
U.S. Supports Destruction of Bani Walid
Militias reportedly used nerve gas and phosphorous bombs to enter city
By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
Amid claims of the usage of chemical weapons against the civilian population of the western hilltop city of Bani Walid, the United States State Department expressed support for the actions carried out by their surrogates in Libya. Bani Walid, described as a stronghold for loyalists of the former government of Col. Muammar Gaddafi, has been under siege for a month by militias from Misrata , known for their brutality and racism against the people of this North African state.
State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland told the international media that Washington is “watching the situation very closely.” She then said that the White House position on the actions of the General National Congress regime in Tripoli remains “absolutely clear.”
Nuland said “We support the efforts of the Libyan government to get control of militias and to provide security throughout the country, including Bani Walid, and to do so in a way that is respectful of the human rights of all citizens and allows humanitarian organizations to get in.”
However, there have been gross violations of international law and human rights in Bani Walid. After claiming victory over the people in this city of 70,000-100,000 people, many of the residents were denied the right to return to their homes after being told they could by the GNC regime in the capital.
Reports indicate that at least 25,000 residents were forced out of the city during the weeks-long blockade and bombardments by militiamen using high-powered missile launchers, some of which were laced with nerve gas and white phosphorous. In an effort to justify the blocking of residents from returning home, GNC army spokesman Ali Al-Shaikhi said that “We want to make sure there isn’t anything left over from the military operation. Services were destroyed.” (Gulf News, October 29)
Mohammad Al-Hrari of the Libyan Relief Agency noted that “After what happened in Bani Walid you can say almost all of the population fled. We will try to get them back to their homes with the help of the authorities.” (Gulf News, October 29)
GNC regime officials say that there is no water or electricity in the city. On October 28, army pick-up trucks mounted with heavy weapons continued the blockade of the northern entrance to the town.
International journalists have largely been denied entrance into the city. Nonetheless, reports have been sent out of Bani Walid by residents who have spoken with media sources.
According to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), thousands of people “left their homes with very few belongings and need help.” Many of the people who evacuated the city have taken refuge in the nearby towns of Tarhuna and Orban.
The Tripoli Post says that “In Tarhuna, displaced people receive assistance directly from the warehouses of the Libyan Red Crescent. In Orban, a collection of hamlets, most displaced people have likewise found shelter with host families.” (October 29)
U.S.-backed Militias Seek to Destroy Bani Walid and Its People
After the militias entered the city on October 24, widespread atrocities took place. Rebels fired rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) into homes and buildings. Houses were bulldozed and hundreds of people were taken into detention.
Rebels shouted “Today Bani Walid is finished.” Reuters quoted one rebel as saying “The Gaddafi fighters are out of Bani Walid, they have gone. Some people here still wanted Gaddafi, we have to show them that he is finished.” (October 27)
Other reports from the city were broadcast through Russia Today (RT) satellite television. One local woman was quoted as saying that “Bani Walid was invaded by militias from Misrata. They destroyed everything, brought chaos, death and destruction with them. When families wanted to return to their homes these militias directed their guns towards them, shot at them, and they were forced to flee.” (RT.com, October 26)
Although the so-called Libyan army and militias claim that they are targeting pro-Gaddafi supporters, most of the people impacted by the onslaught are women, children and the elderly. Photographs published in various international media agencies including RT and the Center for Research on Globalization suggests that unconventional chemical weapons were used by militias to enter the city.
Afaf Yusef, who is a resident of Bani Walid said that she could “confirm that pro-government militias used internationally prohibited weapons. They used phosphorus bombs and nerve gas.” (RT.com, October 26)
Yusef continued saying “We have documented all this in videos—we recorded the missiles they used and the white phosphorus raining down from these missiles. The whole world needs to see who they are targeting. Are they really Gaddafi’s men? Are the children, women and old men killed, Gaddafi’s men?”
The residents of Bani Walid have appealed to the United Nations and other international bodies for assistance but to no avail. The UN Mission in Libya has refused to even comment on why they have not sent observers or any other type of aid to the city.
When the Russian government attempted to introduce a resolution in the Security Council calling for a peaceful settling of the conflict, the effort was blocked by the United States mission headed by Susan Rice. It is quite obvious that the White House is behind the siege and this explains why the State Department’s website had not mentioned the situation in Bani Walid since the beginning of 2012.
Yusef bemoaned that “Our city is dying. The situation is very difficult. The city is almost completely destroyed. Residents are buried in the rubble. Many among the victims are children and the elderly. There are even more children than the elderly.”
Reports have also surfaced that many of the militiamen were not from Libya. RT quoted one man whose family remained in the city during the siege as saying that “They use foreign snipers, I think from Qatar and Turkey, with Qatar covering all the costs.” (Rt.com, October 28)
This same source alleged that a ship carrying guns and other military equipment had docked in the port city of Misrata. “There is no government in Libya. Groups of militia control everything,” the source revealed, claiming that the majority of the rebels have dual citizenships and passports from other nations.
US Imperialist Intervention Leaves Trail of Death and Destruction
The current situation in Bani Walid and throughout Libya is the direct result of the intervention of the Pentagon, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and NATO during 2011. For ten months during last year, rebels and their backers in the West laid waste to the country and the state.
26,000 sorties, 9,600 airstrikes, a naval blockade, the dislocation of two million people and the seizure of national assets have left the country in a deplorable condition. Nonetheless, this has not been enough to subdue the population therefore the world is witnessing the destruction of Bani Walid through blockades, the use of chemical warfare and large-scale displacements.
Although the attacks on U.S. interest in Benghazi on September 11 that resulted in the assassination of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other diplomatic personnel has been a strong focus in the presidential debates, the underlying causes of the instability in Libya is never addressed. The war against Libya is a war for oil and geo-political control which is extending to other areas throughout the region.
At present the imperialists are preparing for a major intervention in the West African state of Mali. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Algeria on October 29 in an effort to coordinate the coming invasion of Mali.
A senior State Department official told the New York Times that “One of the things that the secretary wants to talk about is how we would see this working. There is a strong recognition that Algeria has to be a central part of the solution.” (New York Times, October 29)
Algeria had expressed in the past a reluctance to participate in the Western efforts aimed at intervening in Mali. However, Algerian Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci said in an October 19 interview that “There is a Malian institutional crisis. The Algerians are ready to help.” (New York Times, October 29)
Nevertheless, these interventions will not stabilize the political situation in North and West Africa. It will ultimately be up to the African people themselves to resolve the internal problems within their countries which cannot be separated from the overall role and impact of imperialism on the entire continent.