[Marxism] Imperialist hunt for missiles in Libya (and broader comments y moi)

Fred Feldman ffeldman at verizon.net
Thu Sep 29 16:15:47 MDT 2011

Introductory comment on NATO search for surface-air missiles in Libya

I want to restate some basic positions of mine, as an

As comrades should know by now, I hold no brief for Gadhafi, and have not
supported him for a long time. However, I place opposition to the
imperialist war against Libya on the FRONT burner, whereas (as I see it)
most others place ousting Gadhafi first and foremost.

Most anti-anti-anti-Gadhafi people on this list (like Gary McLennan, who has
read my stuff for a long enough time to know better) simply automatically
take for granted that in opposing the imperialist war and its consequences
(which do not equate at all to me so far with a "thoroughgoing popular
revolution," quoting the letter to Socialist Worker about Tripoli) I am
calling on them to fall on their knees before the anti-imperialist hero
Gadhafi. This is bizarrely out of touch with anything I have said. However,
I can't deny that, in aiming at people who are not over-impressed with
Gadhafi's anti-imperialist credentials (myself included), it is a pretty
good tactic. 

What is my opinion on this weapons search? Well, in the first place, I don't
think the imperialist powers have any right to search for such weapons in
Libya, Iraq, Iran, or any other oppressed nation. I think that these weapons
belong to Libya, not the imperialists, and the imperialists have no right to
deny them to Libya. Finally, the imperialist decision to strip Libya of
anti-aircraft weapons, even inadequate ones, has no justification even in a
context where they were inadequate against stealth weapons. It is not
certain that more intense and popular anti-imperialist wars will not require
the use of less "advanced" aircraft, piloted by more conscious subjects.
Time will tell.

Will the new government be able to assert the country's sovereignty on this
question? That is realistically excluded. They are utterly unable to win
Sirte, Bani al Walid, and other towns where Gadhafi supporters may be
dominant. They are simply too dependent on NATO (and above all on
Washington) to give them any weight if they raised such question. 

And raising such an issue would merely convince Nato capitals that they are
not truly 100 percent US-NATO patriots, and to seek more amenable leaders
for "democratic" Libya. It would spur suspicion that some of them may doubt
that US-Britain-France represent the ne plus ultra of democracy. It is clear
to me that no section of the opposition (so far, not even the Islamists) are
willing to take such a risk.

I reiterate: I am for the defeat of the imperialist powers wherever they
fight, and that includes Sirte, Bani al Walid, the areas of the apparently
wicked Tuareg tribe along the Algerian border, and anywhere else in Libya
(or Algeria and Niger, if the conflict extends there, which is within the
realm of possibility.

At the same time, I think the anti-Gadhafi forces have become predominant in
the country, and I expect them to emerge on top (with a great deal of
assistance from NATO bombers in Sirte et al and along the Algerian border,
although that appears to require continual NATO bombing.

I question the ability of the current NTC leadership, and even their
Islamist, Misrata, and other opposition to form a government that can act
independently of NATO, given their profound and unquestionable military
dependence, even without boots on the ground. (Boots on the ground seem
likely to arrive only when NATO-neoliberal dominance comes under decisive

I also favor defense of Algeria or Niger against any attacks that arise from
this conflict (yes, despite the charact
eristics of both governments).

I oppose unconditionally and regard this as a CENTRAL concern for
revolutionaries in imperialist countries, NATO Liberation Bombing of Libya,
Algeria, Niger, Syria, or Iran. This is not simply a point of principle that
I put forward against those like Juan Cole or Gilbert Achcar, who go JUST A
BIT TOO FAR along the supposedly correct axis of opposition to Gadhafi as
the political axis (or Assad, Bouteflika, or Ahmadinejad, even in the face
of NATO Liberation Bombing of these countries in support of seemingly more
democratic oppositions who decide to throw in their lot with NATO.)


By BRIAN ROSS (@brianross) and MATTHEW COLE 
Sept. 27, 2011 
The White House announced today it planned to expand a program to secure and
destroy Libya's huge stockpile of dangerous surface-to-air missiles,
following an ABC News report that large numbers of them continue to be
stolen from unguarded military warehouses. 

Currently the U.S. State Department has one official on the ground in Libya,
as well as five contractors who specialize in "explosive ordinance
disposal", all working with the rebel Transitional National Council to find
the looted missiles, White House spokesperson Jay Carney told reporters. 

"We expect to deploy additional personnel to assist the TNC as they expand
efforts to secure conventional arms storage sites," Carney said. "We're
obviously at a governmental level -- both State Department and at the U.N.
and elsewhere -- working with the TNC on this." 

ABC News reported today U.S. officials and security experts were concerned
some of the thousands of heat-seeking missiles could easily end up in the
hands of al Qaeda or other terrorists groups, creating a threat to
commercial airliners. 

"Matching up a terrorist with a shoulder-fired missile, that's our worst
nightmare," said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D.-California, a member of the Senate's
Commerce, Energy and Transportation Committee. 

Human Rights WatchIn the wake of the popular uprising that... View Full Size

Though Libya had an estimated 20,000 man-portable surface-to-air missiles
before the popular uprising began in February, Assistant Secretary of State
Andrew Shapiro told ABC News today the government does not have a clear
picture of how many missiles they're trying to track down. 

"We're making great progress and we expect in the coming days and weeks we
will have a much greater picture of how many are missing," Shapiro said. 

The missiles, four to six-feet long and Russian-made, can weigh just 55
pounds with launcher. They lock on to the heat generated by the engines of
aircraft, can be fired from a vehicle or from a combatant's shoulder, and
are accurate and deadly at a range of more than two miles. 

Peter Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch first warned about the problem after a
trip to Libya six months ago. He took pictures of pickup truckloads of the
missiles being carted off during another trip just a few weeks ago. 

"I myself could have removed several hundred if I wanted to, and people can
literally drive up with pickup trucks or even 18 wheelers and take away
whatever they want," said Bouckaert, HRW's emergencies director. "Every time
I arrive at one of these weapons facilities, the first thing we notice going
missing is the surface-to-air missiles." 

The ease with which rebels and other unknown parties have snatched thousands
of the missiles has raised alarms that the weapons could end up in the hands
of al Qaeda, which is active in Libya. 

"There certainly are dangerous groups operating in the region, and we're
very concerned that some of these weapons could end up in the wrong hands,"
said Bouckaert. 

"I think the probability of al Qaeda being able to smuggle some of the
stinger-like missiles out of Libya is probably pretty high," said Richard
Clarke, former White House counterterrorism advisor and now a consultant to
ABC News. 

Tommy Vietor, spokesman for the National Security Council, told ABC News in
a statement similar to Carney's remarks that, "Since the beginning of the
crisis, we have been actively engaged with our allies and partners to
support Libya's efforts to secure all conventional weapons stockpiles,
including recover, control, and disposal of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft

Boxer: U.S. Passenger Jets at Risk
Adding to the urgency is the fact that America's passenger jets, like those
of most countries, are sitting ducks, despite years of warning about the
missile threat. Since the 1970s, according to the U.S. State Department,
more than 40 civilian planes around the world have been hit by
surface-to-air missiles. In 2003, Iraqi insurgents hit a DHL cargo plane
with a missile in Baghdad. Though on fire, the plane was able to land
safely. Four years later, militants knocked a Russian-built cargo plane out
of the sky over Somalia, killing all 11 crew members. 

Now there are calls in Congress to give jets that fly overseas the same
protection military aircraft have. 

"I think we should ensure that the wide-bodied planes all have this
protection," said Sen. Boxer, who first spoke to ABC News about the
surface-to-air security threat in 2006. "And that's a little more than 500
of these planes." 

Boxer sent a letter today to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Secretary
of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano urging the two to establish a joint
program "to protect commercial aircraft from the threat of shoulder-fired

According to Boxer, it would cost about a million dollars a plane for a
system that has been installed and successfully tested over the last few
years, directing a laser beam into the incoming missile. 

"For us to sit idly by and not do anything when we could protect 2 billion
passengers over the next 20 years [with] a relatively small amount of money
[from] the Department of Defense, I think that's malfeasance," said Boxer.
"I think that's wrong." And it could be more practical than trying to round
up all the missing Libyan missiles. 

"Once these missiles walk away from these facilities, they're very difficult
to get back, as the CIA realized in Afghanistan," said Bouckaert. 

When the Afghan mujahideen were fighting the Soviets more than two decades
ago, the CIA supplied the Afghans with 1,000 Stinger surface-to-air
missiles, which had a devastating effect on Soviet military aircraft. After
the Soviets had retreated, however, the CIA spent millions of dollars trying
to buy back the remaining missiles from the Afghan fighters. 

According to Bouckaert, the CIA spent up to $100,000 a piece to reacquire
the Stingers. 

"In Libya we're talking about something on the order of 20,000
surface-to-air missiles," said Bouckaert. "This is one of the greatest
stockpiles of these weapons that has ever gone on the loose." 

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