Efforts underway to reverse uprisings toward a pro-U.S. direction
By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
(read also >> this one )
External and internal opponents of the government of Libya have escalated their efforts to overthrow the longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi and his government. The U.S. and international corporate media outlets are attempting to portray the conflict as a spinoff of the recent developments in Egypt and Tunisia. Yet the forces leading this campaign against the country are remnants of the monarchy that was overthrown by the Revolutionary Command Council headed by Gaddafi in September 1969. The opposition in Libya has been a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) financed and coordinated disparate group that has sought unsuccessfully to overthrow the government for decades.
What is unique about Libya is the vast oil and natural gas reserves and the country’s key role in supplying energy resources to European Union states. The country is estimated to have the largest oil resources on the continent of Africa, therefore, making it a coveted territory for capitalist states and their multi-national corporations.
Isolating Libya in the Mind of the Public
The effort to engineer regime-change in Libya is highly dependent upon corporate and western government-controlled media sources that portray Libya as a poor destitute country with a corrupt regime. These news reports over the recent period have resorted to the vilest forms of racism designed to isolate Libya from the rest of the African continent and the Arabian Peninsula.
Repeated claims of “African mercenaries” hired by Gaddafi to massacre the people of Libya is specifically geared towards making it appear as if Libya is not on the continent despite the fact that the country was a founding member of Conference of Independent African States in 1958, the Organization of African Unity in 1963 and the African Union in 2002. Libya served as the Chair of the African Union in 2008-2009, when Gaddafi came to the United Nations General Assembly in New York to represent his country and the continental organization in September 2009.
In regard to the economy of the country, the production of oil generates 95 percent of the export earnings. Even the CIA Factbook states that “Substantial revenues from the energy sector coupled with a small population give Libya one of the highest per capita gross domestic products in Africa.” (CIA Factbook, 2011, Economic Overview of Libya)
According to the CIA Factbook, the per capita income is estimated at $13,800, placing it far above most states on the African continent. Another source of economic data on Africa, NationMaster, places Libya at number five in per capita income on the continent.
However, the NationMaster ranking is based on per capita income being at $11,354, lower than that of the CIA Factbook. If the CIA Factbook figures are taken as accurate it would place Libya second in regard to per capita income ranking only below Equatorial Guinea, another oil-producing African state, at $16,507.
In addition to data supplied by the CIA Factbook and NationMaster, the Energy Information Administration says that “Libya, a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), holds the largest proven oil reserves in Africa, followed by Nigeria and Algeria. The Oil and Gas Journal (OGJ) says that Libya had total proven oil reserves of 43.7 billion barrels as of January 2009, up from 41.5 billion barrels in 2008. About 80 percent of Libya’s proven oil reserves are located in the Sirte basin, which is responsible for 90 percent of the country’s oil output.”
Over the last few years with the lifting of economic sanctions against the country, Libya has entered into extensive economic agreements with European states. The country supplies 20 percent of the natural gas utilized in Switzerland and has signed agreements with Spain and Italy to provide this same resource as well.
In May 2007, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair in a visit to Libya oversaw the signing of an exploration contract with the BP oil corporation for $900 million. The country’s stock of direct foreign investment is estimated at $18.64 billion at home and $15.56 billion abroad. Libya also has estimated reserves of $107.3 billion in foreign exchange and gold.
The vibrancy of the Libyan economy can also be judged by the large numbers of workers from outside the country who live and hold jobs in the North African state. It has been estimated that over one million people residing in the country are foreign nationals from other African states, Arab countries, Asian nations as well as Europeans and Americans.
As recent as Oct. 2008, Libya signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Bangladesh to supply tens of thousands of workers. According to Libya Online, “Libya signed an MoU with Bangladesh to recruit a large number of workers as Tripoli launched a $130 billion infrastructure development program that will require over one million foreign workers. Foreign Adviser Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury and visiting Libyan Labor Minister Maa'touq Mohammed Maa'touq signed the MoU after an hour-long official talk at the State Guest House Padma.
“Itekhar and Maa'toug termed the signing of the MoU as a historic occasion and a milestone in the development of bilateral relations between the two Muslim brotherly countries. Under the five-year development program that started this year, Libya will construct 300,000 housing units, 27 university complexes, over 10,000 kms roads and maintain 24,000 kms roads.
Reports in the Tripoli Post indicate that large numbers of foreign nationals have been employed in Libya for years. The recent unrest inside the country and the appeals for military intervention and sanctions has prompted a large-scale exodus from the North African state. (Tripoli Post, Feb. 28)
Some of the numbers reported include 8,000 workers from 89 nationalities have arrived in Malta, 2,800 Chinese are currently hold up in Crete, an estimated 25,000 Turks employed in the construction industry have began to flee with hundreds being airlifted to Greece.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the Security Council on Feb. 26 that 22,000 workers have crossed the border with Tunisia and another 15,000 have entered Egypt. Overall around the border with Tunisia, it is reported that 60,000 workers are waiting for transport and relief.
U.S. and European Union Seek to Foster Chaos in Region
Amid the growing unrest in North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, where U.S. and European-backed regimes have faced mass protests and rebellions, the situation in Libya provides an excellent opportunity for the imperialists to attempt to reverse the course of the revolutionary uprisings throughout the region. On Feb. 26, the Obama administration called for the imposition of economic sanctions, the ouster of the Libyan government and pledged whatever assistance was necessary to bring about regime-change.
In an article published on the David Rothscum Reports website, “Before chaos erupted, Libya had a lower incarceration rate than the Czech republic. It ranked 61st. Libya had the lowest infant mortality rate of all of Africa. Libya had the highest life expectancy of all of Africa.” (Feb. 23)
This report continues by pointing out that “Less than 5 percent of the population was undernourished. In response to the rising food prices around the world, the government of Libya abolished all taxes on food.”
The imperialists and their allies are attempting to justify economic sanctions and military intervention by claiming that the response of the Libyan government to protests have been harsher there than in Tunisia and Egypt. In both neighboring North African states hundreds of people were killed in protest demonstrations starting in December 2010 where demonstrations brought about the resignation of the heads-of–state Ben Ali and Mubarak, but the neo-colonial western-backed regimes have remained largely intact.
Rothscum’s report refutes this premise by noting that “The building of the general people’s congress, the parliament of Libya, was put on fire by angry protesters. This is comparable to protesters putting the United States Capitol on fire. Do you think that for even a moment the U.S. government would sit idly by as protesters put the U.S. capitol on fire?
This report also points out that “A group calling itself ‘Islamic Emirate of Barka’, the former name of the North-Western part of Libya, has taken numerous hostages, and killed two policemen. On Feb. 18, the group stole 70 military vehicles after attacking a port and killing four soldiers.”
The opposition group National Front for the Salvation of Libya is well armed and financed by the CIA. In 1996 this same organization tried to foment a rebellion in order to seize control of the oil-rich nation. The flag seen flown over crowds in Benghazi and other cities under the control of the anti-government forces is that of the monarchy which was overthrown by the Revolutionary Command Council in 1969.
The Libyan government has been a strong advocate for the creation of a United States of Africa, the same plan advocated by the early Pan-Africanist and Socialist leaders on the continent who led the anti-colonial struggle in the 1950s and 1960s such as Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana and Sekou Toure of Guinea.
A U.S./NATO supported seizure of power in Libya would undoubtedly be used to place further impediments to any genuine revolutionary movements taking power in Egypt and Tunisia. It would serve as a base against Algeria, another oil and natural gas producing state in North Africa, that is currently undergoing demonstrations that are heavily influenced by neo-liberal and pro-western political forces.
Louisa Hanoune, the general secretary of the Workers Party of Algeria, wrote in an essay entitled “Orange Revolution in Algiers?”, published on Feb. 10 in regard to the situation in neighboring Egypt, that “the revolutionary process in still in search of leadership.” Hanuone, a former presidential candidate in Algeria pointed out that “the illusions in the army in Egypt have weighed heavily in the unfolding revolutionary process. The Egyptian army has been the backbone of the Mubarak regime.” (Fraternite, newspaper of the Workers Party of Algeria)
Another essay published in the Zimbabwe Sunday Mail on Feb. 27 stated that “What we have in Egypt today is a military coup supported by the U.S. and its European allies who continue to keep our country (Zimbabwe) under the sanctions terror with duplicitous claims that our national security sector has militarized politics.”
This article continues by saying that “This is why in Libya the U.S. and the E.U., with treacherous support of one of the worst secretary generals of the UN has ever had, have incredulously redefined ‘peaceful demonstrations’ to include protestors who raid the armories of police stations and military barracks to arm themselves to the teeth and takeover towns and cities with the view to overthrowing a sitting government outside an electoral or constitutional process.”
Anti-war and anti-imperialists organizations in the United States, irrespective of their perspectives on the political system in Libya, must on principle oppose western military intervention in North Africa. The worsening economic crisis in the U.S. is compelling the imperialists to engage in even more expansive and aggressive operations in this region and throughout the world.