[Marxism] Charles Glass on Libya

Paul Flewers trusscott.foundation at blueyonder.co.uk
Sun Aug 28 06:51:36 MDT 2011

Veteran Middle East expert Charles Glass has a short piece on the
London Review of Books website on Libya <
http://www.lrb.co.uk/blog/2011/08/25/charles-glass/not-over-yet/ >.

Paul F


The Libyans are lucky that Muammar Gaddafi did not hold out longer. If
he had, there might not be much of the country left. Nato long since
ran out of military targets, and it had to hit something to get the
ragtag rebels into the royal palace before they ended up shooting one
another. ‘At present Nato is not attacking infrastructure targets in
Libya,’ General Sir David Richards told the Sunday Telegraph in May.
‘But if we want to increase the pressure on Gaddafi’s regime then we
need to give serious consideration to increasing the range of targets
we can hit.’ (UN Security Resolution 1973 grants no authority to
increase the range of targets, its stated intent being to protect
Libyan civilians from an onslaught on Benghazi.) The running total for
Nato air strikes is 7459. At about 2000 bombing runs a month, another
six months would have added 12,000 sorties. As bad as Libya looked
when the rebels at last forced the gates of Tripoli, it would have
looked a lot worse by next February. Diminishing military targets had
to be replaced by something.

In Vietnam, the Americans called the enemy’s non-military assets ‘Viet
Cong infrastructure’. In Afghanistan, they are ‘terrorist
infrastructure’. In Vietnam, it could mean a village that fed
insurgents. In Iraq, which the US and Britain bombed from 1991 until
their invasion of 2003, it meant the electricity system, water supply,
sewage treatment, television transmitters, bridges, oil storage
facilities, highways and houses. By the time Coalition troops rode
into Baghdad, there was not much of modern life left. Libya has been
spared that fate, apart from Nato’s blasting parts of its electricity

The other aspect of previous military humanism that Libya has avoided,
so far, is the arrival of a Jerry Bremer to take the country back to
Year Zero. Nato for the most part limited its presence to the airspace
above Libya, facilitating and directing rebel gains. On the ground
there were British and French trainers and advisers, the least covert
of history’s covert operations. One of them will some day write his
Andy McNab tale about leading reluctant teenagers into Bab al-Aziziah,
after which the British and French governments will go on pretending
the rebels were running their own war all along.

Whatever form the Transitional National Council (or National
Transitional Council, depending on which faction’s translation you
choose) takes, it should not emulate Baghdad’s Coalition Provisional
Authority. With Bremer at the helm, the CPA raided the Iraqi treasury,
doled out the locals’ cash to American contractors without contracts,
demobilised the army and police, eliminated the judiciary and decided
which companies deserved lucrative oil contracts.

Those who opposed the Nato intervention in Libya on legal or moral
grounds can be thankful, as can the Libyans, that it was not much
worse. On the plus side, a vicious and absurd dictator (who combined
Idi Amin’s brutality with Silvio Berlusconi’s buffoonery) is out of
power. His equally ruthless sons will not succeed him. However, many
of his henchmen will. Even Abdul Salam Jalloud, the country’s
poisonous enforcer when Libya paid for the murder of British hostages
in Lebanon and shot PC Yvonne Fletcher in London, joined the rebel
cause. The commitment of other Gaddafi security and political
personnel to freedom and democracy must be measured against the crimes
they committed until they scented power coming from another direction.

Most of the TNC’s military hierarchy served Gaddafi in suppressing
previous rebellions and in pushing his mini-imperial ambitions in
Chad. The word ‘opportunist’ comes to mind, and it remains to be seen
whether young idealists (including jihadists) prevail over the men of
sense who dealt for Gaddafi and now serve as interlocutors for the
West. An Arab journalist who interviewed the TNC chief Mustafa Abdul
Jalil told me he refused to answer questions he thought insufficiently
deferential and had an autocratic personality reminiscent of

Will Nato’s latter day Lawrences of Arabia go home and leave the
Libyans to govern themselves? Or will Nato planes land at the
Americans’ old airbase, Wheelus Field, from which a young Colonel
Gaddafi expelled them after he took power? Can the TNC prevent
Wheelus, which every Libyan I ever spoke to in Tripoli or Benghazi
detested as a symbol of foreign domination, from reopening as part of
Washington’s Africa Command? As rebuilding begins, advisers and
contractors from the facilitating countries – Britain, France and the
United States – will expect payback. One Nato spokesman, Colonel
Roland Lavoie, reminded reporters: ‘Our mission is not over yet.’ Uh

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