By Frances Thomas
The situation in Sirte is dire. Six weeks under siege after months of aerial attacks. Children and old people dead of hunger and thirst. Water supply hit. Hospitals without medical supplies to treat the ill and injured, and then bombed by NATO. The dead lying in the streets.
Constant ‘targeted’ nightly aerial bombardment by NATO air forces. Constant ‘fire at will’ daytime attacks from ill-disciplined NTC rebels using tanks, rockets, mortars and howitzers.
In their missile-launcher-laden graffiti-decorated pick-up trucks, the rebels drive into the city edges in the morn and back out by dark, hailed as ‘freedom-fighters’ by their embedded foreign press, they more resemble armed gangs.
Some are Libyan, dissatisfied with policies of their current government. Some have returned after years abroad with historical differences to settle. Others are LIFG veterans wanting to set up a stricter Islamic fundamentalism. Qatari forces, UK SAS and CIA are known to have been on the ground in Libya. The battle-hardened are Al Qaeda and mercenaries on the pay-roll of interested parties, who follow where wars lead them, so long as they are paid well to kill, or have licence to loot and rape.
How did this ever come to be?
The specific phrases in UNSC resolution #1973, which NATO nations say permit them to conduct and support this military action in Libya, are “no-fly zone”, “all necessary measures” and “to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack.”
That’s it. A few words. Innocuous enough until NATO twisted them beyond recognition.
With Orwellian duplicity, air strikes replace ‘no-fly’, war becomes a ‘necessary measure’, and killing civilians constitutes their ‘protection’. Seven months later, 25,280 NATO air sorties later, including 9,391 strike sorties, and more than 50,000 human beings are dead, civilian infrastructure is destroyed, and a sovereign nation is in crisis.
The distortion of those few words’ intended meaning was almost certainly a factor in the veto by Russia and China of the recent UN resolution against Syria. NATO’s actions in Libya are clearly seen to violate UNSC resolution #1973, and some member states are wary.
Oh, and the evidence that Libyan people needed protecting from imminent danger of their own government firing on them? Remembering that this pre-emptive NATO action was to “stop Gaddafi from launching a massacre of his own people.”
No evidence was ever produced.
On 1 March, two weeks after the accusations, when asked if he had seen any evidence that Gaddafi intended to fire on citizens, then U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said, “We’ve seen the press reports but we have no confirmation.” And U.S Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen added, “That’s right. We’ve seen no confirmation whatsoever.”
So did NATO attack Libya on the basis of a press report?
Secretary Gates knew there was no legal basis when he also stated that “the UN Security Council resolution provides no authorisation for the use of armed force.” Gates would be gone by June, replaced by ex-CIA director Leon Panetta.
On 31 March, as NATO strikes on Libya began, more questions were asked of Gates and Mullen by the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee. “Was al Qaeda involved in Libya?” Mullen answered, “We haven’t seen anything, other than aspirational, from al Qaeda leadership.” Gates said that Gaddafi was “trying to ‘gen’ up the narrative that the opposition is in fact led by al Qaeda.”
When asked “Do either one of you believe that the Libyan people would stand for an al Qaeda-led Libya?” “Absolutely no evidence to support that,” said Gates, and Mullen, “No, I don’t.”
Gates, in explanation, added that “the real power in Libya is in the hands of these tribes, and even Gaddafi realises (sic) that, and I just don’t understand how it would be possible for these tribes to want to cede any of that authority to some outside crowd like al Qaeda.”
Interesting. Here we have U.S. Secretary of Defense Gates supporting what Gaddafi, rather than merely ‘realising’, has always strongly stated. Which is that in Libya the real power is in the hands of the Libyan people, in the hands of the tribes.
This fact conflicts with the ‘Gaddafi as dictator’ storyline. It seems the journalists from US, UK, France, and Qatar, who were in Tripoli until August, had read the Obama/Clinton script, rather than U.S. Senate committee transcript. All year the foreign press have chosen to ignore the fact that the tribal peoples of Libya – what did Gates say? – “hold the real power in Libya,” and instead used any means to bolster their ‘Gaddafi as dictator’ narrative, and have thus distorted the news that has beamed into our living rooms since February. News that has formed the opinion of millions, deprived them of the truth, and so delayed the groundswell of dissent against NATO’s war on Libya.
And about al Qaeda. Gaddafi had said from the beginning that the rebels were al Qaeda led. Gates and Mullen dismissed that in March, though in vague terms.
It’s become apparent in recent months that Gaddafi was telling the truth again. More camera-shy than the gun-toting rebels, the al Qaeda contingent is nevertheless a huge presence. They are led by Abdel Hakim Belhadj, an al Qaeda affiliate and Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) leader who had “close relationships” and trained with al Qaeda in Afghanistan. The LIFG is still included on both UK and US lists of terrorist organisations. Belhadj is now the NTC’s new official chief military commander.
Rehabilitated in the western press and approved by NATO though Belhadj may be, Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen got one more thing right. The Libyan people don’t want a bar of anyone associated with al Qaeda leading them in any capacity. Nor do they trust Belhadj’s LIFG background. Libya is 97 per cent Islamic, and though other religions are allowed to practise freely (though not proselytize), one group not tolerated by law in Libya is militant Islamic fundamentalism.
Gates and Mullen’s take on Libya is, well, just not politically correct. Despite the evidence of ‘mission creep’, NATO leaders seem determined to bet against a future Nuremberg-style war crimes action against them, and continue to pound the city of Sirte by night, to ‘break the ground’ for their daytime sniper-fodder ‘relief team.’
During a two day so-called truce in early October the Red Cross tried to enter Sirte to provide humanitarian aid. On the first day they managed to visit a hospital on the southern outskirts, bringing in a few needed supplies, but the hospital came under NTC rebel attack, and they were not able to inspect the whole building let alone get into the city proper and visit other areas.
On the second day the Red Cross tried to take two large aid trucks into the city. But the rebels began firing and so the Red Cross backed up quickly and abandoned their attempt. Preventing access for aid, another war crime. Last Thursday they were finally able to deliver baby milk, diapers, and some other humanitarian aid.
Forever announcing their ‘final’ assault on Sirte, the NTC rebels have not yet quite managed to achieve it. They continue their murderous siege of 135,000 people, maybe more because people fleeing from other towns months ago sought harbour in Sirte, maybe fewer because many have died and thousands fled. Whatever the number, the people of Sirte are defending themselves and their city against NATO’s military force. And so, UN “protection of civilians” continues.
The United Nations community is being tested. On whether member nations have the moral courage to stand up to the powerful NATO nations, point out the illegality of the war on Libya, and insist that their ambassadors take that message to the UN. Meanwhile Gaddafi is proved right yet again, when he observed that the UN does not provide fair treatment for its smaller and less powerful member nations. On this matter, I’d rather he was wrong.
Gaddafi loyalists still control Bani Walid, Oct. 10 (Voice of Russia) http://english.ruvr.ru/2011/10/10/58455342.html
The human trafficking mafia is back in business in Benghazi, July 29 (Libya SOS)
Muammar Ghadafi addresses Libyans and World as Liberation gains Momentum, Oct. 6 (Dr Christof Lehmann)
Letter from Mutassim Billah Gaddafi, Oct. 8 (Al Fatah)
NATO: At Least 10,000 ‘Lost Missiles’ in Libya, Oct. 2 (AntiWar.com)