Saturday, 3 September 2011

Gaddafi's Greatest Hits?

After Gaddafi reaffirmed his position in the mid 1970s the Libyan government continued to embark upon an interventionist path abroad. In the 70s the regime stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Idi Amin in Uganda as it propped up the ANC in South Africa. Repeatedly Gaddafi interfered in the politics of other Arab states, holding that the Arab people are for unity and the rulers stand in the way. A series of plots against leaders in other countries were uncovered, including in Egypt and Tunisia. Gaddafi played the part of a revolutionary looking to liberate the masses of the Arab world and to unite the Arab states carved out in colonial times. The Colonel argued that it is a moral duty to support every movement that stands for the liberation of the exploited and oppressed. This is where Gaddafi comes across as a strange parallel of a liberal interventionist, perhaps one of those self-proclaimed "democratic revolutionaries" who fought to bring American pornography to Russia. Gaddafi has also acted to mediate disputes in African countries such as Mali, specifically between the government and rebels. He has even sent peace keeping missions to countries.

By 1980 it was clear that there was dissent within Libya which the Colonel acted to suppress. There was a mutiny in the Libyan army at Tobruk which Gaddafi crushed. There were numerous assassination attempts over the years and the self-proclaimed "Brother Leader of the Revolution" had survived a coup attempt thanks to the CIA. Rocky times lay ahead as Libya went to war with Chad, with the US, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel supporting Chad. Around the same time the Libyan government was looking to align itself with the Soviet Union as it saw the writing on the wall from the US. Even though just the year before Billy Carter attended the 10th anniversary celebrations of the Gaddafi's ascent to power. By which point the CIA had definitely abandoned its' pragmatic position on the Libyan government. There was soon little tolerance for Gaddafi as he lent support to the Sandinista movement that had deposed the vile Somoza in Nicaragua. The Americans were looking to keep their "backyard" in order.

In 1981 the Reagan administration declared the "War on Terrorism" and shot down two Libyan fighter jets in disputed waters before Reagan ordered US citizens to leave Libya and then refused US passport holders to travel there. Before the year was out the Reaganites were claiming that the Colonel had sent hit-men to assassinate the President and would target senior officials if Reagan couldn't be got. The line was played to deliberately invoke the assassination attempt that Reagan survived. It was a well crafted campaign of fear on the part of the American government and actually originates as a piece of Israeli secret service disinformation. Similarly in Britain The News of the World ran a story that the Libyan government was "masterminding a secret plot to arm black revolutionary murder squads" in the country. The British press has been jingoistically faithful to the cause of bombing Libya for quite some time. The source turned out to be a notorious con artist, who had squeezed £3,000 out of the paper for the story. Around the time that there were meant to be Libyan hit-men hiding under the President's bed a CIA plot to overthrow Gaddafi was leaked to the press.

In 1982 the CIA installed Hissène Habré in Chad as the war still raged with Libya. The aims of this were clear as Alexander Haig wanted to "bloody" Gaddafi's nose and it was the first operation carried out by new CIA chief William Casey. The National Front for the Salvation of Libya received $7 million from the Saudi Royals, as well as support from the CIA and the French. A plan to assassinate Gaddafi and overthrow the government was crushed in May of 1984. For the British the death of police officer Yvonne Fletcher in April of 1984, at the hands of a gunman inside the Libyan embassy, was enough to pin Colonel Gaddafi as the "Mad Dog" leader of a rogue state. There wasn't such fuss over the fate of Musa Sadr, who disappeared mysteriously on a trip to Libya in 1978. The Lebanese Imam had a significant following amongst Shi'ite Muslims, but had a reputation as politically unreliable though it remains a mystery precisely why Gaddafi would have killed him. Then in 1985 came the plan for an Egyptian invasion of Libya aimed at the removal of Gaddafi from power. Mubarak refused to carry out the invasion for Washington.

Finally in 1986 the US bombed Libya on the grounds that the Gaddafi regime was supporting international terrorism. It was the first military assault on a country that was staged for prime time television. No European country, except for Britain, would allow the US to launch the attack from its military bases. Thatcher was looking for a boost in the polls and hoped that the attack on Libya might propel her to victory in '87 as the Falklands war had in '83. The airstrikes failed to hit some major targets, the Colonel survived the attack, even cabinet ministers questioned the bombing and the British public were not impressed. Out of the 18 jets sent to bomb Libya 9 had been given the order to takeout the "Mad Dog". The attack on the compound was a military failure, Gaddafi was in a bunker at the time and only the windows on the administration building where he lived were blown out by the bombs. Though the tennis courts sustained two bombs and it only took one blast on the building where Gaddafi's family lives to injure two of his sons and kill his adopted daughter. Can you imagine the outrage of the commentariat had Reagan's daughter been killed in a Libyan air-raid on the US?

One of the specific charges against the Colonel was that he had sent advisers and arms to the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. Interestingly it would not be acceptable for Libya to bomb the US for the weapons and funds it gave to the Contras to bring down the Sandinista government by any means necessary. This is where Gaddafi acted as a mirror-image of an American neoconservative. He saw the same moral obligation to intervene where necessary on the side of the victim, preferably a victim valuable in some geopolitical sense. So Gaddafi supported the Sandinistas against the US, the Palestinians against the Israelis and the Irish against the British. This is the same reason Gaddafi would use to defend sending Libyan agents to subvert the Sadat government in Egypt. Then came the charges of terrorism, there was the Berlin Disco Bombing in 1986 which was immediately linked to the Libyan regime. The American neoconservatives jumped at the opportunity to "liberate" the Libyan people from the police state Gaddafi had built. Even though there was no evidence, at the time, that the bombing had anything to do with Gaddafi. It had been suggested that the attack might have been orchestrated by Iran or Syria.

After the airstrikes the CIA went on to launch an extensive effort to launch a coup in Libya, a secret army was put together from the Libyans captured in border battles with Chad. Then came the Lockerbie Bombing in December of 1988 which sent Pan Am Flight 103 down in flames, leaving 270 people dead. In August of the same year the USS Vincennes shot down an Iran Air Flight 665 over the Persian Gulf and 290 people were killed. It was written off as an "accident" in the US, though that is disputed by Tehran. It seems plausible that the bombing was orchestrated by a Palestinian group hired by the Iranian regime to take revenge against the US. But this is just a theory which has yet to be proven because of the absence of a serious investigation into the shooting down of Pan Am Flight 103 and Iran Air Flight 665. The indictments for Abdelbaset al-Megrahi and Khalifa Fahimah were handed down after Libya opposed the Gulf War. Fahimah was acquitted but al-Megrahi was convicted on the testimony of two witnesses, who received around $7 million from the Rewards for Justice programme at the Justice Department. One witness testified that he sold clothes to al-Megrahi, which were later recovered from the wreckage, the other (a CIA informant) claimed he saw Fahimah carrying the bomb onto the plane.

By this point sanctions had been deployed against Libya for a number of years. Britain had resorted to funding various opposition groups in Libya. Then MI6 put together a plan to kill Gaddafi in 1996 and saw to it that his motorcade was attacked by Islamists (who had been paid £100,000 to kill the Libyan leader). Gaddafi got away with his life but six bystanders were left dead. No surprise given that the weapons used included Kalashnikovs and rocket-propelled grenades. This was the same year that the Colonel connived to slaughter around 1,200 political prisoners at Abu Salim Prison. The majority of which were Islamist and stood in opposition to the secular model Gaddafi favoured even as he introduced 'purification laws' that were based on Islamic scripture. The relatives of the prisoners were the backbone to the demonstrations held in Benghazi earlier this year. Gaddafi moved to crush the demonstrations and the rebellion was sparked. In the end it was the brutal nature of the regime that led to the uprising and not the decisions made in Washington. Now there are even rumours that the rebels have seized the prison and began releasing prisoners.

Colonel Gaddafi was aligned with Charles Taylor in the late 90s, just as he had backed monsters like Slobodan Milošević. This is the same man who had supported the ANC at a time when the British and the Americans attacked Nelson Mandela as a "terrorist". Gaddafi sought to invest millions in Liberia in order to maintain the stability of the Taylor government that was established through terror. As Liberia became embroiled in the bloodbath in Sierra Leone so did Libya to the extent that there was an attempt to indict Colonel Gaddafi as well as Charles Taylor. The charges amounted to the role Gaddafi had played in the mutilation, maiming and murder of 1.2 million people. The attempt to extend the trial to Gaddafi was blocked by the US and Britain in March of 2011. When asked "Why?" the chief prosecutor David Crane simply said "Welcome to the World of Oil." The support that the British and the Americans lent to Libya was extreme and embarrassing. Even the economic sanctions imposed against Libya specified a convenient exemption for Libyan banks. The aim being to reconstitute the regime along new lines which fit into Western interests in controlling the oil spicket of the region.

Once the Soviet Union had collapsed it was inevitable that the Gaddafi regime would open up to Britain and the US. The terrorist attacks on September 11th 2001 provided an opening for such negotiations with Blair. In the 1980s the economy had began to be deteriorate, as had the welfare state, which the sanctions imposed on the country only exacerbated further in the 1990s. So the Colonel looked for a normal relationship with the West and the regime began to slowly initiate neoliberal reforms. The welfare state and social services began to crumble as a result. At the same time corruption and unemployment spun out of control. Many of the reformists in the Libyan government, including those who have been linked to embezzling and corruption in the past, have since defected to the rebels. Perhaps then we know where the 200 million Libyan Dinars flown in from London will end up. In the meantime the Gaddafis will join the growing list of scum deposed this year and the corporate vultures will finally land to pick the bones clean. The reformists were behind agreements with the West over neoliberal reforms and no doubt we'll see plenty of that in days to come.

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