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How Italy Forced NATO’s Hand on Libya
Silvio Berlusconi has come out on top once again as Gadaffi’s closest and largest trading partner has forced NATO’s hand into taking the lead in the military intervention in Libya. Libya supplies 1/3 of Italy’s oil and almost 15 % of Europe’s. They are one of the gateways of immigrants to the Italian island of Lampedusa. This NATO military intervention, like the one in Afghanistan, will be using the "humanitarian" cover to seize control of key resource rich and geopolitical areas. This intervention will also provide a foothold to the Western powers for the strangling of a true peoples revolution in the Middle East and North Africa. The hypocrisy of the U.S.’s foreign policy was made clear on Thursday March 24th by the U.S. defense minister Robert Gates as he called Israel’s resumed bombing of the civilian population in Gaza a legitimate use of force. In regards to Libya, Italy’s cooperation with a NATO led intervention is beyond the pale of hypocritical.
Berlusconi’s Italy has much more to preserve than any of its western allies from the latest so-called "humanitarian mission" in Libya. Over the past decade Berlusconi has worked to solidify his relationship with Gadaffi and to create a close-knit economic and political partnership between Italy and this former colony of Mussolini’s fascist regime. Gadaffi and Berlusconi have been, until very recently, close friends. As well as being business and political partners, they share the common practice of being surrounded by harems of young women. They also share joint interest in media and ownership of a satellite TV station in Libya.
Fearing reprisals from their former colony and more recently closest business partner, Italy has managed to force the NATO takeover of military operations in Libya. This provides Italy the cover they so desperately needed as they have allowed usage of seven Italian bases for sorties being flown by France, Britain and the United States. After making threats to halt their cooperation with the mission, the Italian neo-fascists now have the Alliance poised to do their dirty work in blocking immigrants at the North African coast from fleeing to the Italian island of Lampedusa off the coast of Sicily. Lampedusa has become destination number uno for immigrants seeking a safe-haven and larger economic crumbs in fortress Europe as they attempt their journeys from North Africa by Sea. Italy’s xenophobic anti-immigrant fervor has been at a fever pitch as the North African uprisings have opened the floodgates of migrants desperately seeking survival in trying to reach Europe’s shores. Those that have reached the shores of Lampedusa are now being housed in horrid conditions in refugee camps on the island.
In 2008 Berlusconi and Gadaffi signed the Italy/Libya treaty on Friendship, Partnership and Cooperation in Benghazi with much fanfare. This treaty created an exclusive partnership between Italy and Libya on the agreement that Italy would pay the Libyan government 5 billion dollars that would be largely spent on business partnerships with Italian firms for construction and infrastructure projects. The agreement also ensured that Gadaffi would hold African immigrants trying to reach Italy in horrid refugee camps on the Libyan coast. In 2009 the colonel showed up to Rome in one of his more flamboyant military uniforms to mark the one year anniversary of this historic agreement. Gadaffi donned a colorfully decorated uniform with a large photo of the Libyan resistance leader Omar Mukhtar pinned to his lapel when he arrived. Berlusconi and Gadaffi had a good time during the visit with late night extravagance fitting of the hedonism for which Rome is famed. Gadaffi pitched his tent in one of Rome’s beautiful parks, Villa Pamphilli, and was provided an audience of 1000 women by the premier that he tried to convert to Islam. They put on a flamboyant show for the cameras as these business partners worked out their slimy deals to enrich themselves and closest partners.
Berlusconi and Gadaffi have shared investments in the media company called Quinta communications which owns a recently launched satellite tv station in Maghreb called Nessma TV. Through a variety on investment firms Gadaffi had about ten percent interest and Berlusconi about 40 % in this media venture. When Berlusconi visited this station on his trip to celebrate the second anniversary of the Italian/Libyan friendship agreement he visited one of the satellite station’s outlets. Most so called democratic countries would call this a conflict of interest, in Italy it was barely reported in the media.
Headlines across Italy are now decrying an end to Berlusconi’s and Gadaffi’s bunga bunga, relationship in reference to the wild parties the two shared and their keen interest in younger women. Berlusconi is due to be facing charges for his alleged paying of a 16 year old Moroccan prostitute to attend wild sex parties at one of his Mansions. Berlusconi has voiced dismay over the uncomfortable situation he has been forced into with his friend and colleague stating that "this hits him on a personal level." Gadaffi has said that he is deeply hurt and dismayed by his good friend and partner in crime turning his back on him and that all deals with Italy are off until Berlusconi is gone. Italy’s defense minister and member of the racist Northern League, Ignazio La Russa, announced a little over a week ago that the Italy/Libya friendship deal was off until further notice leaving Italian contractors poised to profit from the deal with some unforeseen economic misfortune.
On February 21st just after the uprisings in Libya began, the Italian stock market lost 3.6 percentage in a veritable free fall. A "coincidental technical glitch" shut down the Italian markets on the 22nd of February for seven hours halting a more devastating crash. The Libyan’s hold a 40 billion dollar investment in one of Italy’s largest banks, Unicredit so it is not just oil, construction, and immigration where the countries’ economic interests have been intertwined. Now it is Italy’s hope that NATO will preserve their investments and thus work to uphold these criminal assets of the European economy, if not it could only spell trouble for all.
This conflict is being seized upon to grab geopolitical and economic turf. Italy and Libya have a despicable economic partnership and the benefits from it are what Berlusconi is interested in preserving, nothing else. Many Libyans too want a piece of this destructive and racist pie. The United States, France and Britain share similar goals as the release of the Lockerbie bomber to ensure a deal for British Petroleum prove. Hopefully it is becoming common knowledge that British Petroleum is set to construct the largest and deepest offshore oil rig in the Mediterranean, much like "deep horizon", in Libyan waters off the coast of North Africa. Gadaffi will have a very hard surviving and would have without this military expansionism in the Mediterranean. This military expansion is only going to ensure profits for Berlusconi’s cronies, British Petroleum and other factions of Libyan capitalists that will plunder in place of Gadaffi.
The hypocrisy is glaring, almost blinding. Companies like Haliburton, British Petroleum, the Italian energy giant Eni, and a host of others will have plenty of jobs to dole out to middle and upper middle class Libyans that have benefited from slimy recent dealings between Gadaffi and Berlusconi, now they’ll have direct bidding to European and American corporate colonialists and maybe a little larger slice of the pie. British Petroleum drilling in the Mediterranean, wouldn’t it be better to see British Petroleum eliminated completely from the face of the earth? Wouldn’t it be great to see Libya develop sustainably and not be run by corporate parasites, to me that is what real revolution would look like, and it is definitely not going to happen now with NATO leading this "humanitarian" mission to protect the innocent civilians.
MICHAEL LEONARDI is currently living in Toledo, Ohio and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org