Imperialist states heighten war aimed at establishing beachhead in North Africa
Abayomi Azikiwe. Pan-African News Wire
Recent actions by the United States and NATO during late April indicates clearly that the ultimate objective of the war against Libya is regime change leading to full-scale military occupation of the North African state. As the humanitarian crisis worsens in the areas around the contested port city of Misrata, the imperialist states and their allies have announced actions that will only escalate tensions and result in more civilian displacements, injuries and deaths.
After announcing the deployment of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) programmed drones in the war against Libya, the Pentagon confirmed the first attack utilizing this dreaded weapon on April 23. The U.S. claimed that a rocket launcher outside the capital of Tripoli was struck by this unmanned weapon.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in announcing the Obama administration’s decision to send in drones advanced the false notion that these weapons provided a more precise method for eliminating Libyan military equipment that is being used against civilians. Nonetheless, the entry of this device for offensive purposes will only escalate the conflict on the ground.
U.S. military reports have already claimed that drones have been used for surveillance against the Libyan military now for several weeks. The U.S. and NATO have been bombing Libya on a daily basis since March 19 resulting in the deaths of many civilians and the destruction of the national infrastructure of the country.
Although the U.S. claims that the predator drones are precision guided weapons that can strike targets without harming civilians, the actual history of the use of these flying bombs prove that most people killed in the attacks are civilians. During the same period that the Pentagon announced the entry of drones into Libya, reports of many civilian deaths from drone attacks have emerged from northwest Pakistan where a whole movement has sprung up demanding that the use of this weapon be halted in the U.S./NATO war in Central Asia.
At the same time, more attempts against the life of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi have taken place in Tripoli. According to the New York Times on April 25, “NATO war planes struck Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s compound here early Monday and bombed a state television facility in an evident escalation of the air campaign to aid the rebellion against his four decades in power.” (New York Times, April 25)
Libyan government officials say that no one was killed in the April 25 bombings of the leader’s compound but 45 people were injured, with 15 being very serious. Press accounts revealed that there were no armaments located in the area and that two bombs had hit the compound sending cement and debris at least 50 yards around the area.
This attack on the compound of Gaddafi is the third reported strike against the Libyan leader since the beginning of the March 19 bombings by the U.S. and NATO. Another bombing of the same area around the Gaddafi headquarters took place just two days before on April 23.
In the April 23 strikes in Tripoli at Bab al-Azizia, a huge concrete bunker was hit twice penetrating the earth on top of the shelter as well as the reinforced steel. Libyan governmental officials say that three people were killed in the aerial bombardments against Tripoli on April 23.
One day prior to the Obama administration’s statement that it was sending drones to Libya, the White House announced that $25 million in “non-lethal assistance” was being provided to the rebel forces fighting the government in Tripoli. During the same immediate time period that airstrikes hit Tripoli, Republican Senator John McCain visited the rebel stronghold of Benghazi and made an appeal for the Obama administration to formally recognized the Transitional National Council (TNC), which is the name given to an umbrella group of opposition forces seeking, in partnership with the U.S. and NATO, to overthrow the Libyan government.
The escalation of the war against Libya has also been enhanced with the statements by Britain, France and Italy that they were sending military teams of advisors to assist the rebel groups. These claims come in addition to the ongoing presence of operatives from the Central Intelligence Agency, MI6, as well as British and Egyptian Special Forces who have been inside the country at least since February when the rebellion started in Benghazi.
Also one of the key allies in the imperialist war against Libya, the U.S.-backed government of Kuwait, was reported to have awarded the TNC $181 million. This was revealed in a statement by the TNC leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil.
In an article published by Bloomberg News, it states that “Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed Al-Sabah, speaking at a news conference yesterday with Abdel Jalil, didn’t immediately confirm the contribution. ‘Actions speak louder than words,’ he said when asked if Kuwait had officially recognized the transition council.” (Bloomberg, April 25)
The Battle for Misrata
Despite claims by the TNC that the western port city of Misrata, Libya’s third largest, had fallen to the rebels, fighting appeared to have intensified from April 23-25. The Libyan Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaim said on April 23 that the armed forces have ceased operations. Kaim said that the government would allow local tribal leaders two days to see if they could persuade the rebels to lay down their arms.
Kaim went on to say that “The tactics of the army was to have a surgical strike but, with the NATO air strikes, that doesn’t work. The leaders of the tribes decided to do something to bring normal life back. Their main demand is that foreign fighters leave the town or surrender themselves to the army.” (Guardian-UK, April 24)
The Deputy Foreign Minister also pointed out that the port at Misrata has been under the control of the rebels for several weeks and that the local traditional leaders want to reopen the area. Kaim noted that the local leaders could mobilize a force of 60,000 in order to retake the city. He also claimed that this type of military solution would be ruthless.
On April 24 it was reported by medical personnel working at the Hikma hospital in Misrata that at least 36 people had been killed within a 24-hour period. NATO planes have been flying over Misrata providing air cover for the rebels while they regulate sea traffic between Misrata and Benghazi along the Mediterranean.
At the border crossing with Tunisia in Dehiba, the rebels have taken control of the area. The rebel presence in the town is reported to be quite small and the government has pledged to retake the area soon.
The Struggle for Peace Remains Elusive
It is quite obvious that the rebels and their backers in the imperialist countries do not want any negotiated settlement of the war without the total overthrow of the Libyan government. Several attempts by the Latin American states, the African Union and the Arab League have been rejected by the U.S. and the NATO countries involved in the war.
A series of meetings between the African Union Commission Chair, Jean Ping, and U.S. State Department officials on April 20-21 could not reach agreement on bringing about a ceasefire in Libya. The Obama administration is demanding that the Libyan government be replaced by the western-backed TNC while the AU maintains that the people inside the country have the right to determine their own political future.
The Obama administration stated after the AU-U.S. meetings in Washington, D.C. that “Any ceasefire should pave the way to an inclusive political process in Libya, an essential element of which is that Gaddafi must leave power and Libya.” However, Ping “stressed that the determination of the participants in the process as well as the issue of political leadership is one that only the Libyans themselves can resolve.”
The AU since March 11 has called for the non-interference by foreign military forces, the adoption of an immediate ceasefire, the protection of migrant workers from other parts of the continent and the swift distribution of humanitarian relief to the people in need of medical services, food, water and safe passage inside and outside the North African state.
Uganda, which is one of the five members of the AU’s ad-hoc High-Level Committee on the Libyan crisis, categorically rejected the use of military force by the western states. President Yoweri Museveni stated in a press conference on April 16 that “Foreign troops coming into Africa without the permission of the AU is not acceptable. It is still a new phenomenon we are going to deal with…we will not allow it and if they want another Vietnam, they will get it.” (Daily Monitor of Uganda, April 24)
Even though the U.S. and NATO have superior air power and cannot be effectively challenged military by the Libyan government in the skies over the country, the deployment of large-scale units of western ground troops would serve as a rallying point for people all over Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. Africa has a history of fighting protracted guerrilla and conventional wars against European colonial and settler-colonial regimes.
The war in Angola for the total liberation of Southern Africa between 1975-1989 resulted in the defeat of the U.S.-backed South African Defense Forces under the racist apartheid regime. Liberation movements in other states such as Zimbabwe, Namibia, Guinea-Bissau, Algeria, Mozambique, South Africa and Somalia have defeated the military forces from various European capitals as well as the U.S.
The ongoing war in Libya compounded by the escalating military actions of the resistance forces in Afghanistan and Iraq will prove disastrous for the Obama administration which is facing rapidly declining approval ratings. Irrespective of whether the Republican or Democrats are in power, the war machine has continued to severely hamper the ability of the country to resolve the burgeoning economic and social crises that have left millions jobless and without basic public services.
Workers and oppressed people inside the U.S. are continuing to demand an end to all the wars and the utilization of the Pentagon budget to rebuild the cities, suburbs and rural areas in order to guarantee health care, quality education, public services and housing for all people living inside the country.