Libya: From dictatorship to puppetship

The situation in Libya is still fluid, despite claims that the rebels have seized control of the capital Tripoli and that Muammar Gaddafi has gone into hiding.

However, going by the claims of the embedded media, al-Jazeera included, Gaddafi’s rule is history now, though his loyalist fighters still offer pockets of resistance in the capital and in the dictator’s home base of Sitre and the south of the country.

With the media coverage apparently lacking objectivity, the real picture appears murky. The embedded media carefully choreograph their coverage of events and cover up the excesses committed by the new rulers of Libya. The news about rebels involved in harassing Tripoli residents and large-scale looting appeared in some reports, but no sooner had such reports surfaced than they were hushed up.

However bad Gaddafi was, he fought a one-sided battle against the might of NATO backed by a section of his own people. If NATO had not interfered, Gaddafi would have brought the unrest in Benghazi to an end either by military means or by offering political concessions. He was not allowed to do so by the West which seized on the opportunity to implement its regime-change plan even though the Libyan leader had mended his ways to please the United States and European powers. But the West felt Gaddafi was more an irritant than a friend. This was because of three main factors.

= He opposed western oil companies making huge profits at the expense of revenue to the Libyan government.

= He wanted to create an African monetary union – a move that could have undermined the status of the dollar as the global currency.

= He resisted moves by the United States African Command (AFRICOM) to expand its military presence in Africa.

Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe may be a worse dictator than Gaddafi, but he did not commit any of these crimes which Gaddafi had committed. So there was no attempt to overthrow his regime by military means or by NATO bombing. Mugabe must be counting his luck in addition that his country does not have oil.

If the level of atrocity Gaddafi is said to have committed was what prompted the West to take military action against Libya with a highly-politicised United Nations Security Council giving legitimacy to it, then much more severe military action is warranted to protect civilians in Bahrain, Yemen and Syria.

That there are only spit bombs to protect the civilians in these countries speaks of the Western duplicity and underscores the servility of the UN.

In comparison to what is happening in Bahrain and Syria, Gaddafi’s measures to crush the rebellion in Benghazi in February-March — a rebellion that arose against the backdrop of the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions — paled into insignificance. There was little or no evidence to show that Gaddafi committed mass-scale massacres. If any, they were largely the creation of the embedded media.

The capture of Tripoli and the defeat of Gaddafi could not have come about if the Western boots had not been on the ground. Special Forces from the United States, Britain and France had not only been training and advising rebels and directing military operations while NATO carried out its air attacks backed by US military satellite intelligence, but they had also taken part in the final assault on Tripoli. Qatari Special Forces fighting along with the rebels made a visit to their embassy in Tripoli on Tuesday.

In the past few weeks, the West increased its military supplies to the rebels who had by then become a well-trained outfit. Television coverage showed the rebels wasting millions of dollars worth of anti-aircraft ammunition in celebratory gunfire. After all, it came free, though many of them probably do not know that the price for the Western support is Libya’s sovereignty which Gaddafi, four-decades ago, restored by ousting the pro-West King Mohammed Idrees al-Sanousi and closing down the Wheelus air base which was the then biggest US military base outside America.

The script of the Libyan rebellion came from Washington, Paris and London. The setting up of the so-called National Transitional Council, which is expected to run post-Gaddafi Libya, of course with Western advice, was part of the script. It is headed by people who are made of the same bad stuff that Gaddafi is made of. Its leaders Mustafa Abdul Jalil and Mahmoud Jibril were not so long ago part of the Gaddafi regime. They were so desperate that they had to draw in the support of pro-al-Qaeda militants and anti-Gaddafi tribes to prop up their strength. As a result, the NTC is today a motley group with all sorts of agendas. They were united only by their common hatred of Gaddafi. Ironically, the war on Libya saw the United States, Iran and Saudi Arabia on one side.

Libya is a country where stability largely depends on relations between tribes. As the regime collapsed the tribes shifted their loyalties to the rebels.

The post-Gaddafi era is beginning with a big problem. The NTC, which touts itself as a friend of the United States and the West, is likely to see cracks in the coming weeks with Islamists insisting on Shariah rule. The Islamists oppose US military presence not only in Libya but also in Iraq and Afghanistan. Meanwhile, both pro-Gaddafi and anti-Gaddafi tribes in the west and the south of the country do not savour the emergence of a leadership from Benghazi.

The possibility that Libya will move from dictatorship to pro-West puppetship cannot be ruled out. The country may even end up as Iraq with missing Gaddafi and his forces being blamed for mystery bombs and suicide attacks which will warrant a permanent NATO presence in Libya.

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