March 19, 2011

U.S./NATO War on Libya

Calgary, April 9, 2011.

NATO's criminal war against Libya was carried out in the name of the imperialist doctrine of "Responsibility to Protect." The aggression occurred in the context of what was called the "Arab Spring," in which protests took place against various governments in North Africa and the Middle East, in many cases instigated or co-opted by outside forces to engineer regime change in the service of imperialist interests.

The NATO operation, designated as a "no-fly zone" over Libya, officially took place between March 7 and October 31, 2011. War was declared shortly after the vehicles of Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi and other Libyans were bombed by NATO, and Qaddafi was captured and brutally murdered by NATO militia forces on the ground on October 20, 2011. What had been described as a "no-fly zone" turned out to be a ruthless bombing campaign against the Libyan army, whole cities and patriotic Libyan civilians who took up arms to defend themselves.

After this crime, the fraud that NATO was killing Libyans to defend protestors or promote freedom and democracy was forgotten. After a 24/7 monopoly media bombardment promoting the wildest tales to justify imperialist aggression, and then lionizing the brutal activities of NATO and its allies on the ground, Libya disappeared from the news save for occasional mentions of the dysfunctional state of the country and the ongoing crimes against the people committed by those NATO put in power. These included genuine instances of slaughter of protestors which were now no cause for alarm for NATO or the U.S. and Canadian ruling circles.

Houses hit by NATO air strikes in the village of Majer, August 9, 2011.

Libya only reappeared in the news again in the context of atrocities committed against Coptic Christians by NATO-aligned forces who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS, also known as Daesh), complete with calls from Egypt and others for another military intervention in the country. No warranted conclusions were drawn by those who promoted and enabled the aggression that destroyed the Libyan state, devastated its cities and put hooligans in positions of power.

To block the peoples' opposition to aggression in Libya, U.S. imperialism undertook a total mobilization of its retinues in the media, politics, academia and NGOs an unholy alliance which became a chorus insisting that the Libyan authorities were carrying out merciless slaughter and that genocide was impending if NATO did not launch a war. All but one of Canada's Members of Parliament supported the mission. Opposition to the war was deemed impossible. Unlike in Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam and other U.S. wars, imperialism was responding to urgent humanitarian needs, the people were told, while Qaddafi was portrayed as a madman. The confusion and hesitation sown among the people was coupled with a failure to take account of reality after the fact and make amends for the war propaganda in breach of the Geneva Convention.

Protest outside the London Conference on Libya, March 29, 2011, where 40 countries and organizations, including the UN, NATO and the Arab League plot war and regime change.

The reality of the situation in Libya, which was not in fact a mystery at the time it took place, was further clarified by some academic and other studies which went unreported and unheeded. A policy brief entitled "Lessons from Libya: How Not to Intervene," published in September 2013, by the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University, underscored the fraudulent pretext for the war:

"[C]ontrary to Western media reports, Qaddafi did not initiate Libya's violence by targeting peaceful protesters. The United Nations and Amnesty International have documented that in all four Libyan cities initially consumed by civil conflict in mid-February 2011 Benghazi, Al Bayda, Tripoli, and Misurata violence was actually initiated by the protesters. The government responded to the rebels militarily but never intentionally targeted civilians or resorted to 'indiscriminate' force, as Western media claimed. Early press accounts exaggerated the death toll by a factor of ten, citing 'more than 2,000 deaths' in Benghazi during the initial days of the uprising, whereas Human Rights Watch (HRW) later documented only 233 deaths across all of Libya in that period.

"Further evidence that Qaddafi avoided targeting civilians comes from the Libyan city that was most consumed by the early fighting, Misurata. HRW reports that of the 949 people wounded there in the rebellion's initial seven weeks, only 30 were women or children, meaning that Qaddafi's forces focused narrowly on combatants. During that same period, only 257 people were killed among the city's population of 400,000 a fraction less than 0.0006 providing additional proof that the government avoided using force indiscriminately. Moreover, Qaddafi did not perpetrate a 'bloodbath' in any of the cities that his forces recaptured from rebels prior to NATO intervention including Ajdabiya, Bani Walid, Brega, Ras Lanuf, Zawiya, and much of Misurata so there was virtually no risk of such an outcome if he had been permitted to recapture the last rebel stronghold of Benghazi."

"... Evidence reveals that NATO's primary aim was to overthrow Qaddafi's regime, even at the expense of increasing the harm to Libyans. NATO attacked Libyan forces indiscriminately, including some in retreat and others in Qaddafi's hometown of Sirte, where they posed no threat to civilians. Moreover, NATO continued to aid the rebels even when they repeatedly rejected government cease-fire offers that could have ended the violence and spared civilians."

In fact, the article in the journal International Security entitled "A Model Humanitarian Intervention? Reassessing NATO's Libya Campaign," clarified these matters in order to advocate for more "effective" military intervention that does not "backfire" as in the case of Libya. NATO's intervention was effective in achieving its aims, particularly the destruction of Libya's independent nation-building project, and to increase the hold of U.S. imperialism over the African continent and the Middle East.

The Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) pointed out on the fourth anniversary of the war: "The war propaganda was so deceptive as to turn all the old terms and definitions from the 20th century into their opposite. Those terms became weapons in the hands of the imperialists to launch their aggressions and trample on public right.

"On the anniversary of the aggression against Libya it is more urgent than ever for the people to follow their own thinking and analysis of the objective conditions and not follow the emotive terms from the past with vague and distorted definitions that can suit monopoly right and imperialist war.

"Modern definitions of human rights, democracy, socialism, trade unionism and economic development can only be articulated in the fight against imperialism in defence of the rights of all, in actions with analysis to serve the people's interests in opposition to monopoly right. Even the defining of the people's interests and the struggle to fulfill those interests and control one's own destiny must be the work and creation of the people themselves and their own organizations."

Libya once had the highest standard of living in Africa and a wide range of social programs provided free of charge. The anarchy and violence and massive refugee crisis which accompanied the destruction of Libya are tragedies. The crime lies squarely at the feet of the U.S. imperialists and the NATO countries, including Canada. This destabilization spread to other countries surrounding Libya. It makes clear that the so-called human security agenda/responsibility to protect doctrine is just another brutal example of the irrational and bankrupt imperialist doctrine coined during the Vietnam War: "We had to destroy the village in order to save it."

CPC(M-L) pointed out in 2011 the need to reject aggression against Libya and urged Canadians to oppose the manipulation of these events by the U.S., NATO and others who do not have the interests of the peoples of their countries and the world at heart. CPC(M-L) called on the Canadian working class and youth to lead the anti-war and peace movements to take unequivocal stands against the preparations to carry out an invasion of Libya and to oppose the attempt to get Canadians to join a bandwagon to call for the invocation of the imperialist "Responsibility to Protect" doctrine in the name of "stopping the killings" in Libya. CPC(M-L) called on the people to take an unequivocal stand against jumping on the bandwagon of providing unsubstantiated claims as a pretext to invade Libya and achieve the self-serving aims of the U.S. and other enemies of the peoples.

CPC(M-L) pointed out at that time: "No matter the high ideals used to justify these activities, they are violations of international law and crimes against the peace, the most serious of all crimes on the international scale. These laws were established following the tremendous losses in World War II, to ensure that such a war would never again occur. The magnitude of the crime against the Libyan people underscores the urgent need for Canadians to take up the cause of their own political empowerment so as to bring into being an anti-war government that embodies Canadians' desire for Canada to be a genuine force for peace in the world."

This article was published in
Volume 53 Number 2 - March 2023

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