The Western attack on Libya is motivated mainly by the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions taking those countries out of Washington's control. This created the need for a military base from which to contain those revolutions, which Libya is perfect for, since it borders both of these countries. Gaddafi has been ruling Libya as a dictator for 41 years, after overthrowing the U.S. puppet government of King Idris in 1969. Under Idris, Washington was able to set up its biggest military air base in the Middle East in Libya. Gaddafi closed the base and nationalized Libyan oil resources, ensuring that the country's people benefited from the wealth the oil generated. He redistributed this wealth widely, implementing progressive social welfare and employment policies that gave Libya the highest per capita income in Africa. He ended widespread illiteracy, made higher education free, created jobs and housing, and provided food subsidies. Under Gaddafi, Libya became the highest ranked among African countries in the United Nations Human Development Index, which assesses living conditions, life expectancy, and education.
Since 2003, however, these social gains have been eroded as Gaddafi started moving closer to the U.S., Britain, France, and Italy. Before this, Washington considered Gaddafi an enemy and had labelled him a terrorist. Blaming him for the bombing of a disco in Berlin, the U.S. bombed Gaddafi's residence in April 1986, killing Hanna, his adopted baby daughter, and 100 other people, most of them civilians. The U.S. and the U.N. had also imposed economic sanctions on Libya. In exchange for removal of these sanctions and normalized relations with the West, Gaddafi shut down Libya's nuclear weapons program, joined the U.S. "War on Terror," opened up Libya's oil sector to foreign investment, implemented regressive neoliberal reforms, and paid compensation for the bombing of a Pan Am airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland.
To further please the West, Gaddafi implemented neoliberal economic reforms, including launching a major privatization program. As one observer explained: "In September 2003, the United Nations lifted all economic sanctions against Libya, in exchange for an economic package which included plans to privatize 360 state enterprises, and in 2006 Libya even requested entry to the World Trade Organization." The neoliberal reforms also included cutting social programs and subsidies for the poor, which have increased poverty and inequality in Libya. Partly due to these regressive reforms, Libya's unemployment rate rose to 20% while the prices of rice, flour, and sugar have soared by 85% since 2008. At the same time, Libya's oil wealth was being given to foreign corporations.
Gaddafi was thus moving away from the progressive aspects of his rule and towards becoming a client of the Western countries. There was one crucial concession, however, that he was not willing to grant the West and that was making Libya a military base for the U.S., as Iraq, Bahrain, and Qatar had become. Since a military base in Libya was considered vital by Washington once the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions succeeded, Gaddafi therefore had to be removed, despite his extensive catering to the West since 2003. As another pro-Western dictator, Saddam Hussein, had earlier discovered, to maintain close relations with the West a local leader must comply with and support important Western objectives. Otherwise such an uncooperative leader can become a target for regime change.
Unlike the largely peaceful revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia, the revolt against Gaddafi started as an armed uprising. Its disorganized participants were a mixture of Islamic fundamentalists, monarchists who supported King Idris centred in the city of Benghazi, tribal groups (Libya has about 140 tribes and clans), disaffected military officers, and neoliberal privatizers (ones even more ardent than Gaddafi himself). A few CIA agents were undoubtedly also involved in the insurrection. The rebels do not offer a progressive alternative to Gaddafi and would probably be even more subservient to Western demands than he has been. They would certainly allow Libya to be turned into a U.S. military base. The rebels' calls for Western military intervention discredits them, as does the almost complete lack of public support from their fellow citizens.
The rebels' links to the CIA and U.S. involvement in the Libyan "uprising" have been noted by several commentators, including mainstream news sources. Discussing a March 30 New York Times article by reporters Mark Mazzetti and Eric Schmitt, Professor David Bromwich of Yale University pointed out on The Huffington Post website the next day that "One thing is clear, thanks to Mazzetti and Schmitt [who state that] 'Several weeks ago, President Obama signed a secret finding authorizing the CIA to provide arms and other support to Libyan rebels.' "The timing is interesting," Bromwich notes. "The order was signed just about the moment that President Obama was lauding the triumph of non-violence in Egypt… The upshot is this: An event that we Americans were led to believe was an autonomous rising on the model of Egypt turns out to have been deeply compromised from the start, and compromised by American meddling."
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Libya Would Make a Great Military Base
In this article, Asad Ismi provides more background as to the U.S.-Nato attack on Libya.