By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
Published Jul 17, 2011 6:55 AM
After four months of heavy bombing, the U.S./NATO forces have failed to dislodge the Libyan government in Tripoli. The Western-backed Transitional National Council contra forces remain confined to select areas in the east and west of the oil-producing country of 6.5 million people.
There is no concrete evidence that the TNC and its imperialist backers are on the verge of taking the war to the capital, despite their constant claims. Hundreds of thousands of people in Tripoli continue to publicly demonstrate their opposition to the U.S./NATO war. The Libyan military continues to strike the rebels in areas around the port city of Misrata and in the Nafusa Mountains near the border with Tunisia.
With the escalation of the fighting in Misrata, which is being used as a transport area for rebel forces and Western humanitarian organizations, the conditions among the civilian population have worsened over the last several weeks.
In efforts to help the TNC gain a stronger presence in western Libya, NATO warplanes have escalated their anti-people bombing campaign. On July 9, NATO forces struck Libyan army units stationed outside Misrata. Nonetheless, the Associated Press admitted on July 9: “The civil war has fallen into a stalemate with rebels unable to make significant advances, even with NATO bombing Gadhafi’s forces to enforce a U.N. resolution protecting civilians.”
Actually, the war has never been geared toward protecting civilians. The actions of the rebel TNC and their U.S./NATO supporters have created dire conditions for the population in Libya and those who have fled the country by land and sea.
NATO, TNC cause humanitarian crisis
The beginning of the civil war in Libya on Feb. 17 prompted the worst humanitarian crisis in North Africa in modern times. Immediately the Benghazi-based rebel gangs set out to attack those perceived as supporters and allies of the central government in Tripoli. Dark-skinned Libyans and migrant workers from neighboring African states were harassed, beaten and even murdered.
Videos and photographs of these executions have been circulated broadly over the Internet. They remind some of the lynchings racist mobs carried out in the southern U.S. against African Americans during the late-19th and early-to mid-20th centuries.
The vast oil reserves in Libya, reputed to be the largest on the African continent, allowed the country to achieve the highest standard of living and per capita income in the region. Anywhere between 1.5 million to 2 million migrant workers were employed on oil, construction and service projects throughout the country.
The TNC and NATO attacks forced hundreds of thousands of these migrant workers to flee Libya. The International Organization for Migration, which monitors the dislocation of migrant workers as well as Libyan nationals, reports that 150,000 people have already left the country.
IOM spokesperson Jean-Philippe Chauzy said some 2,000 Chadian workers were left without transport in the southern Libyan town of Sebha: “They are really very vulnerable migrants — children, women and the elderly — very weak and sick,” too weak to continue traveling. Another 300,000 migrants who want to leave cannot due to the crisis caused by the U.S./NATO war. (AP, July 9)
A July 10 New York Times article exposed the political character of the TNC forces. When the TNC overran the village of Qawalish, many of the residents evacuated the area.
The Times noted that the shops were still well stocked with fresh fruits, vegetable and bread. However, almost immediately, “The [TNC] rebels began helping themselves to the fuel in Qawalish’s only gas station. ... A short while later rebels were shooting padlocks off the metal doors to shops, and beginning to sweep through them.” The article noted, “The town, in short, was being looted by the rebels, and vandalized, and worse.”
This report exposed the imperialist lie that the TNC army has mass support. After the NATO bombing of these villages and towns, the TNC forces move in to take nominal control. Yet the majority of the population flees in fear of the violence perpetuated in other areas of the country.
This is true even in the Nafusa Mountains where the Western corporate media have claimed that widespread support exists for the NATO bombing and the TNC. The village of El Harabah “still flies the green flag of the Gadhafi government,” the Times reported.
France calls for talks
On July 11 French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet called upon the TNC rebels to negotiate a settlement with the Libyan government. He emphasized that talks would be the only mechanism to end foreign intervention in the North African state.
At the same time Saif al-Islam, the son of Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi, announced that the government in Tripoli is currently in negotiations with Paris. In an interview, the Libyan official said that Libya’s government “was negotiating with France and not with the rebels. Our mediator met with President Nicolas Sarkozy. (El Khaber, July 11)
After four months of bombings and a naval blockade of Libya, the NATO forces have begun to have serious internal disagreements over the war. Norway announced several weeks ago that it would halt its operations by August. Italy, the former colonial power, called for a ceasefire during early July.
A July 5 article in the Philadelphia Tribune reported, “In the Netherlands, Defense Minister Hans Hillen complained last week of ‘mission creep’ and suggested that the campaign’s advocates were deluded to believe they could crush Gadhafi. ‘People who thought that merely by throwing some bombs it would not only help the people, but also convince Gadhafi that he could step down or alter his policy were a little bit naive.’”
Inside the U.S. Congress both the Republicans and Democrats, although expressing reservations about the war, have continued to support its funding. This comes at the same time that a proposed defense budget would provide another $17 billion in funding for the Pentagon.