FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

What’s Really Going On in Libya?

It looks as though eastern Libya will slide into the Mediterranean under the sheer weight of western journalists assembled in Benghazi and Misrata.  A tsunami of breathless reports suggests that Misrata is enduring travails not far short of the siege of Leningrad in World War 2.  The reports have been seized on by Obama, Cameron and Sarkozy to raise the ante on Mission Odyssey Dawn. In their joint newspaper column published both sides of the Atlantic they now say that to leave Gaddafi in power would be an “unconscionable betrayal” and speak of Misrata as enduring “a medieval siege.” Not yet, surely. A medieval siege was something that usually lasted at least a year, in which the city’s inhabitants were reduced to eating rats, then each other, and the besiegers all succumbed to plague.

Maybe it will turn out that way, with reporters eying each other from a gastronomic perspective and wiring Ferran Adria, seeking recipes for preparing Haunch of Hack sous vide. “So long as Gaddafi is in power, Nato and its coalition partners must maintain their operations so that civilians remain protected and the pressure on the regime builds,” write the three leaders. This is not Mission Creep but, once again, Mission Leap, way beyond the UN mandate.

On closer inspection, the reports suggest something less than a medieval siege or Leningrad. Reuter’s man in Misrata could only come up with this:  “A local doctor told Al Jazeera at least eight people died and seven others were wounded in the second day of intense bombardment of Misrata, a lone rebel bastion in western Libya.” The UK Independent’s Kim Sengupta did better: “The attacks started early in the morning as the residents of this besieged and battered city were starting their hours of queuing for bread…. Even by the grim standards of Misrata, the most violent battleground of this savage civil war, what happened yesterday was a cause of deep shock….At least 16 people died, and 29 were injured, almost all of them civilians – including a mother and her two young daughters.”

It’s always a cause for dismay that any civilians die in such conflicts but again, 16 fatalities fall well short of medieval catastrophe. Sengupta noted that NATO is simultaneously bombing Tripoli, though no journalists seemed to be available to report what sort of damage or casualties had been inflicted. Meanwhile the hated leader appeared to have no qualms in touring the city in an open jeep.

It seems that the rebels might actually be under the overall supervision of the international banking industry, rather than the oil majors. On March 19 they announced the “[d]esignation of the Central Bank of Benghazi as a monetary authority competent in monetary policies in Libya and appointment of a Governor to the Central Bank of Libya, with a temporary headquarters in Benghazi.’”

CNBC senior editor John Carneyasked, “Is this the first time a revolutionary group has created a central bank while it is still in the midst of fighting the entrenched political power?  It certainly seems to indicate how extraordinarily powerful central bankers have become in our era.”

Ellen Brown, author of the terrific  Web of Debt: the Shocking Truth About Our Money System and How We Can Break Free, wrote recently about the rebels’ sophisticated financial operations in the following terms:

“According to a Russian article titled “Bombing of Lybia – Punishment for Ghaddafi for His Attempt to Refuse US Dollar,” Gadaffi made a similarly bold move: he initiated a movement to refuse the dollar and the euro, and called on Arab and African nations to use a new currency instead, the gold dinar. Gadaffi suggested establishing a united African continent, with its 200 million people using this single currency.  During the past year, the idea was approved by many Arab countries and most African countries.  The only opponents were the Republic of South Africa and the head of the League of Arab States.  The initiative was viewed negatively by the USA and the European Union, with French president Nicolas Sarkozy calling Libya a threat to the financial security of mankind; but Gaddafi was not swayed and continued his push for the creation of a united Africa.

“And that brings us back to the puzzle of the Libyan central bank.  In an article posted on the Market Oracle, Eric Encina observed: ‘One seldom mentioned fact by western politicians and media pundits: the Central Bank of Libya is 100% State Owned. . . . Currently, the Libyan government creates its own money, the Libyan Dinar, through the facilities of its own central bank. Few can argue that Libya is a sovereign nation with its own great resources, able to sustain its own economic destiny. One major problem for globalist banking cartels is that in order to do business with Libya, they must go through the Libyan Central Bank and its national currency, a place where they have absolutely zero dominion or power-broking ability.  Hence, taking down the Central Bank of Libya (CBL) may not appear in the speeches of Obama, Cameron and Sarkozy but this is certainly at the top of the globalist agenda for absorbing Libya into its hive of compliant nations.’”

I’d really like to see an objective account of Qaddafi’s allocation of oil revenues versus the US’s, in terms of social improvement.

KFF — Killed by ‘friendly fire’

The Libyan rebels are learning that ‘no-fly zone’ can translate in practice into lethal onslaughts in which Nato planes have killed or wounded their comrades. Civilians in Tripoli have also died in large numbers from aerial onslaughts by Nato planes.

There’s no evidence that the missions flown by Nato planes have been anything other than a plus for Gaddafi. As always, bombardment swiftly engenders loathing for the bombardiers. Relatives of the slain in Tripoli shake their fists at the sky; the rebels proclaim that they have been “betrayed” by their supposed protectors.

The tiny number of planes now deployed by France and Italy, after the Americans withdrew their attack aircraft and handed off the mission, displays the half-hearted nature of the intervention. (This could be the reason why the Pentagon is now saying that U.S. aircraft are again flying missions over Libya.)

As the leader of the A-10 and F-16 design teams, Pierre Sprey, points out to me, “Thirty-three French and 17 British planes is a laughably miniscule force – the inevitable consequence of designing and buying $100 million hyper-complex fighters. In October of 1935, the Italians deployed 595 airplanes to launch their gallant invasion of Ethiopia.”

The deputy commander of Nato’s operation in Libya caused further outrage among the rebels by bluffly refusing to say he was sorry for the screw-ups.

Rear Admiral Russ Harding, a British officer, said: “It would appear that two of our strikes yesterday may have resulted in [rebel] deaths. I am not apologising. The situation on the ground was and remains extremely fluid and until yesterday we did not have information that [rebel] forces are using tanks.”

It turns out that ‘friendly fire’ is one of war’s really big killers. An amazing essay on ‘friendly fire by Lt Col Michael J. Davidson ran in the Naval War College Review this last winter. Davidson was chiefly concerned with the performance (lamentable) of the military justice system in connection with episodes of friendly fire, which he defines as the accidental killing in a combat setting of one soldier by another of the same or an allied force”.

He notes that the concept of friendly fire is similar in many respects to the accidental killing of civilians, but such accidental killings appear to be treated differently and are often referred to as “civilian casualties” or by more sterile terms like “collateral damage”.

The colonel adds dryly: “Reported cases of courts-martial involving the accidental deaths of civilians are rare.” He notes: “The most famous court-martial involving an accidental attack on civilians occurred during World War II, and its fame was generated less by the nature of the alleged misconduct than by the identity of the president of the court – a movie star, Col Jimmy Stewart.”

Davidson cites some numbers which could swiftly instruct the Libyan rebels that the deaths of their comrades at the hands of Nato planes is nothing out of the ordinary: “The number of casualties [ie. killed and wounded] associated with friendly fire has often been stunning. One French general estimated that approximately 75,000 French casualties in World War I were caused by French artillery fire.

“An estimated five per cent of [US] Vietnam casualties were attributed to friendly fire. During the first Persian Gulf War, Operation Desert Storm, 23–24 per cent of US fatalities and 77 per cent of American vehicle losses were attributed to friendly fire.”

Another military military scholar, Kenneth K. Steinweg, wrote a paper, Dealing Realistically with Fratricide (Parameters, Spring 1995), estimating that 10 to 15 per cent of US casualties during the 20th century were caused by friendly fire, which equates to between 177,000 and 250,000 casualties.

Historical examples of friendly fire are so prevalent as to be characterized as normal rather than exceptional. In some cases, friendly fire was the result of inexperience and inadequate training.

For example, in 1643, during the English Civil War, poorly trained and inexperienced parliamentary infantry organised in three lines attacked a heavily fortified building held by royalist troops. Instead of the forward line firing first and then retiring to the rear to re-load while the next line in turn fired, all three fired simultaneously, effectively eliminating the front rank.

A particularly bitter case came right at the end of World War Two when RAF pilots flying Typhoons attacked four German ships in the Bay of Lubeck in the Baltic Sea, believing them to be carrying escaping SS officers.

The Typhoons sank the ships and then, under orders to spare no one, spent an hour strafing the survivors in the water, only to find later that they had machine-gunned about 10,000 Jews from the Neuengamme Camp in northern Germany.

A Medal for Shaukat

On March 11  the New York Times gave top billing to a story by Jane Perlez and Ismail Khan, headed “Pakistan Tells U.S. It Must Sharply Cut C.I.A. Activities. The second paragraph told NYT readers that “Pakistani and American officials said in interviews that the demand that the United States scale back its presence was the immediate fallout from the arrest in Pakistan of Raymond A. Davis, a C.I.A. security officer who killed two men in January during what he said was an attempt to rob him.”

The story was interesting but would have been somewhat familiar to readers of this site. Our intrepid correspondent in Lahore, Brigadier Shaukat Qadir (late of the Pakistan armed forces) had an infinitely better and more detailed story on March 22, detailing the deal struck between the top military officers of the US and Pakistan, to prompt Davis’ release.

Our Latest Newsletter

A new edition of our newsletter goes out to subscribers across the next 72 hours. Guy Rundle lays out in fascinating detail exactly how  Julian Assange got trashed by the newspaper he propelled to world fame and fortune with the Wikileaks files – the Guardian. It was the Guardian  that took the file on the sex investigations by the Swedish police  against  Assange and gave to the English-speaking world a version that was prejudicial to Assange and deeply damaging.  What did Anna Ardin and Sofia Wilen actually allege? Read the specifics and the distortions.

The western press endlessly touts the rivalry between Putin and Medvedev. It’s a running burlesque. But what is really going on in Russia? What forces are really in contention? In a highly informed report, Israel Shamir lays out the basic conflicts, in which Russia’s president and prime minister are effectively on one side, against the real Russian opposition.

Finally Larry Portis reports from France on the rise of Marine Le Pen and traces the evolution of the French right and the collapse of the French left, pending the upcoming elections in 2012. Is fascism looming? Or a more complex evolution amid the discrediting of the traditional right and left?

Three brilliant reports. Where else but in our subscriber-only newsletter?

Subscribe now!

And once you have discharged this enjoyable mandate I also urge you strongly to click over to our Books page, most particularly for our latest release, Jason Hribal’s truly extraordinary Fear of the Animal Planet – introduced by Jeffrey St Clair and already hailed by Peter Linebaugh, Ingrid Newkirk (president and co-founder of PETA) and Susan Davis, the historian of Sea World,  who writes that “Jason Hribal stacks up the evidence, and the conclusions are inescapable. Zoos, circuses and theme parks are the strategic hamlets of Americans’ long war against nature itself.”

ALEXANDER COCKBURN can be reached at alexandercockburn@asis.com.

More articles by:

Alexander Cockburn’s Guillotined! and A Colossal Wreck are available from CounterPunch.

Weekend Edition
July 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Atwood
Peace or Armageddon: Take Your Pick
Paul Street
No Liberal Rallies Yet for the Children of Yemen
Nick Pemberton
The Bipartisan War on Central and South American Women
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Are You Putin Me On?
Andrew Levine
Sovereignty: What Is It Good For? 
Brian Cloughley
The Trump/NATO Debacle and the Profit Motive
David Rosen
Trump’s Supreme Pick Escalates America’s War on Sex 
Melvin Goodman
Montenegro and the “Manchurian Candidate”
Salvador   Rangel
“These Are Not Our Kids”: The Racial Capitalism of Caging Children at the Border
Matthew Stevenson
Going Home Again to Trump’s America
Louis Proyect
Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders and the Dilemmas of the Left
Patrick Cockburn
Iraqi Protests: “Bad Government, Bad Roads, Bad Weather, Bad People”
Robert Fantina
Has It Really Come to This?
Russell Mokhiber
Kristin Lawless on the Corporate Takeover of the American Kitchen
John W. Whitehead
It’s All Fake: Reality TV That Masquerades as American Politics
Patrick Bobilin
In Your Period Piece, I Would be the Help
Ramzy Baroud
The Massacre of Inn Din: How Rohingya Are Lynched and Held Responsible
Robert Fisk
How Weapons Made in Bosnia Fueled Syria’s Bleak Civil War
Gary Leupp
Trump’s Helsinki Press Conference and Public Disgrace
Josh Hoxie
Our Missing $10 Trillion
Martha Rosenberg
Pharma “Screening” Is a Ploy to Seize More Patients
Basav Sen
Brett Kavanaugh Would be a Disaster for the Climate
David Lau
The Origins of Local AFT 4400: a Profile of Julie Olsen Edwards
Rohullah Naderi
The Elusive Pursuit of Peace by Afghanistan
Binoy Kampmark
Shaking Establishments: The Ocasio-Cortez Effect
John Laforge
18 Protesters Cut Into German Air Base to Protest US Nuclear Weapons Deployment
Christopher Brauchli
Trump and the Swedish Question
Chia-Chia Wang
Local Police Shouldn’t Collaborate With ICE
Paul Lyons
YouTube’s Content ID – A Case Study
Jill Richardson
Soon You Won’t be Able to Use Food Stamps at Farmers’ Markets, But That’s Not the Half of It
Kevin MacKay
Climate Change is Proving Worse Than We Imagined, So Why Aren’t We Confronting its Root Cause?
Thomas Knapp
Elections: More than Half of Americans Believe Fairy Tales are Real
Ralph Nader
Warner Slack—Doctor for the People Forever
Lee Ballinger
Soccer, Baseball and Immigration
Louis Yako
Celebrating the Wounds of Exile with Poetry
Ron Jacobs
Working Class Fiction—Not Just Surplus Value
Perry Hoberman
You Can’t Vote Out Fascism… You Have to Drive It From Power!
Robert Koehler
Guns and Racism, on the Rocks
Nyla Ali Khan
Kashmir: Implementation with Integrity and Will to Resolve
Justin Anderson
Elon Musk vs. the Media
Graham Peebles
A Time of Hope for Ethiopia
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Homophobia in the Service of Anti-Trumpism is Still Homophobic (Even When it’s the New York Times)
Martin Billheimer
Childhood, Ferocious Sleep
David Yearsley
The Glories of the Grammophone
Tom Clark
Gameplanning the Patriotic Retributive Attack on Montenegro
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail