August 26, 2011

Not yet over

One thing stands out in the six-month military campaign of the US and NATO to overthrow the Libyan government, assassinate or capture Strongman Moammar Kadhafi, install a puppet regime, take control of substantial oil and gas deposits, and carve out a strategic sphere of influence directly under imperialist control in Africa. It is how three global institutions - the United Nations, the International Criminal Court and the international media - have been transformed into instruments and willing accomplices to justify war crimes against a sovereign state and people.

Soon after the outbreak of armed clashes between government and anti-government forces, UN Security Council Resolution 1970 (2011) imposed a travel ban and asset freeze on Kadhafi, his family members and high government officials; this included the freezing of the assets of the Libyan state itself and an arms embargo on Libya. This was followed by Resolution 1973 (2011, authorizing all UN member states to undertake "all necessary measures" for the protection of civilians and for the enforcement of a "no fly zone" in Libya’s airspace.

What we are seeing is how the US and NATO have cynically used and even blatantly violated these same resolutions to justify the bombardment of non-military targets like television stations and communications towers, highly populated residential areas, even schools and hospitals, causing untold civilian casualties and destruction of civilian infrastructure.

NATO’s arming and training of anti-government groups, its use of drones, helicopter gunfire and special commando forces on the ground in the final assault on Tripoli, together with continuous bombings in order to batter and eventual overwhelm the defenses of the Kadhafi bastion can by no stretch of the imagination be called “protecting civilians”.

In fact, the hospitals in Tripoli are bursting at the seams with maimed and dying civilians and the damage to water and electricity systems have further compromised the capacity of these medical facilities to cope with the humanitarian crisis.

The National Transition Council - a hodge-podge of monarchists, defectors from the Kadhafi regime (who should be held responsible as much as Kadhafi for the sins of the past dispensation), Islamist groups with proven links to Al Qaeda, ex-Libyan soldiers caught in Kadhafi’s war against Chad and organized by the CIA and MI-6 to undertake assassination missions against Kadhafi, and Libyan exiles in Britain and elsewhere - was held up by Britain, France, the US and other NATO countries as the legitimate opposition in Libya not long after the bombardments began.

The NTC provided the thin façade of a politically valid and viable Libyan opposition to which the US and NATO could relate to and shortly recognize officially as the successor government to the Kadhafi regime even when the anti-government forces had yet to succeed in toppling it.

The International Criminal Court’s issuance of warrants of arrest for Kadhafi, his sons and other government officials who had not broken with Kadhafi for alleged “crimes against humanity” despite meager basis helped give a legal patina to the incessant campaign by Britain, France, the US and eventually other NATO countries to demonize Kadhafi and delegitimize the Libyan government. At the same time, it merely added Gadhafi to its growing list of alleged "rogues" charged with war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide and ordered arrested - the common denominator being persons whom the US and its allies dislike.

The ICC in no small way contributed to politically and diplomatically isolating the Kadhafi regime. At the height of the NATO assault on Tripoli, the ICC even allowed itself to be utilized in spreading anti-government disinformation calculated to break the morale of pro-government forces and Tripoli residents. It announced that Seif al-Islam, Kadhafi’s son, had already been arrested by the insurgent groups and would be turned over to the ICC but this was later proven to be false. A rebel leader had admitted that this false report had contributed considerably to the collapse of government defenses.

The US ruling elites have learned valuable lessons from the Vietnam War about how to keep the painful truth about war from the American people. US public opinion turned against the war after the Tet offensive, which the US won militarily, but proved to be a propaganda debacle with countless body bags containing dead US servicemen being shown on US television.

Mass media coverage of the My Lai massacre and other gross violations of human rights and international humanitarian law by the US military also fueled anti-war sentiment, protests and the “conscientious objectors” movement of Americans who evaded having to serve in Vietnam.

Thus international media coverage of the Iraq War in 2003 was strictly confined to “embedded journalists” who reported on the war from the vantage point and under the supervision of the invading US army.

In the case of the foreign-backed insurgency in Libya and the US-NATO war of aggression, international media were allowed by the Libyan government to cover what was happening. The reporters were free to cover both sides of the conflict and the so-called US-NATO “humanitarian intervention”.

Instead, those from the big media outlets such as CNN, BBC, Reuters and even the Qatari-based Al Jazeera chose, as one analyst put it, “to obfuscate the casualties and human suffering of the Libyan people and uphold the humanitarian fiction of NATO’s R2P (responsibility to protect) mandate.”

According to an eyewitness form the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG), after a particularly devastating bombing that killed many people and leveled houses, the only members of the international press that reported the damage of the bombings in detail were Russia Today (RT), TeleSUR, Chinese Central Television (CCTV), and independent journalists.

When the mainstream press reported on NATO’s military operations in Libya as well as mounting casualties there is scant mention about who are to blame for the civilians killed. NATO claims that their military strikes are pinpoint and their targets highly select are accepted with hardly any question despite evidence to the contrary.

There is wide coverage of so-called rebel forces who are positively described as “freedom fighters” (the way the US government used to call the counter-revolutionary forces in Nicaragua that they had set up to fight the Sandinista government that had toppled the dictator Somoza) obscuring the fact that many of them were organized, funded, armed, trained and even commanded in the field by NATO.

Pro-government forces and ordinary Libyans supportive of Kadhafi and opposed to the NATO invasion are depicted as few and dwindling, paid mercenaries, or simply brainwashed by government propaganda.

This kind of selective, biased and even in some cases, outright fabrication of news, that the mainstream media has dished out on the Libyan situation is no doubt largely responsible for the relatively weak anti-invasion protest movement in the US, Europe and elsewhere.

In due time it will be shown that Kadhafi, just as Saddam and the Taliban, was not the evil tyrant ripe for “regime change” that the US and its fellow imperialist powers in Europe together with the international media painted him to be.

The US-NATO invasion and likely occupation of Libya (to be justified as a means to stabilize the post-Kadhafi situation and allow the oil rigs to start pumping again) will invariably be met by prolonged armed opposition as in Iraq and Afghanistan. Another quagmire for the aggressors.

With institutions like the UN, ICC and media losing their credibility and ability to serve as deterrents to foreign aggression and the wanton commission of war crimes, it appears armed resistance emerges as the only weapon and defense for the victims of imperialist aggression and armed intervention. #

Published in Business World
26-27 2011


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