On Sunday July 10, France seemingly allied itself with Russia and China in calling on NATO to immediately stop its counterproductive and counterintuitive bombing, as more countries witness public demonstrations against NATO’s actions in Libya. French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet said in Paris that military action in Libya must end and Colonel Gaddafi be welcomed around the negotiating table. Continual bombing of the country is not working, and diplomacy is the only solution – even if Gaddafi retains limited power, In an apparent U-turn in policy, Mr Longuet said Gaddafi could remain in Libya ‘in another room of the palace, with another title.’
‘We must now sit around a table…
‘We will stop bombing as soon as the Libyans start talking to one another and the military on both sides go back to their bases.
‘They can talk to each other because we’ve shown there is no solution through force.’
NATO and the Obama administration can have no part of a dialogue because they will be the major losers if peace comes to Libya without Qadaffi leaving power.
No sooner had the French Defense Minister spoken than the US State Department issued a statement insisting that “the United States will continue efforts as part of a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) coalition to enforce a U.N. Security Council-authorized no-fly zone in Libya designed to protect civilians under threat of attack, the State Department said. The spokesman did not mention that the no-fly zone was achieved back in March in 48 hours and that no Libya aircraft have flown since. Mission accomplished 100 days ago.
Hillary Clinton repeated her earlier words, “Our efforts in Libya will take time, but let there be no mistake that the political, military, and economic pressure on Qaddafi continues to grow. The allies will continue to increase pressure until the Libyan people are safe, their humanitarian needs met, and a transition of power is fully under way.”
And so it goes.
In most of the other Arab countries Fridays are days of rage against the government du jour but in Tripoli Friday prayers are followed by massive pro-Qadaffi rallies. One of the jokes heard at this week’s big pro-government Friday post prayer rally at Green Square is about how each morning Libya’s leader, following early morning Fajr prayers, dons his formal uniform, complete with those huge epaulets, and salutes the small NATO flag he tapes to his bathroom mirror as he moves from place to place dodging NATO drones and assassins. “Our leader does this”, one young lady informed me first with a wide smile and then growing serious, “because the NATO bombing of Libyan civilians, which the US/NATO axis claims Qaddafi is doing, has caused his popularity to skyrocket among our proud and nationalist tribal people. I am one example of this. Yes, of course we can use some new blood and long overdue reform in our government. Which country cannot? But first we must defeat the NATO invaders and then we can sort out our problems among our tribes including the so-called NATO Rebels.”
Since the beginning of the NATO operation, March 31, the alliance has conducted nearly 15,000 sorties, including close to 6000 bombing missions according to NATO’s media office in Naples. The most recent attacks reported on July 9 included 112 sorties and 48 bomb/missile attacks, and that is about average.
The two most active Embassies in Libya these days are the Russian and the Chinese. On February 2, according to the Bulgarian Embassy staff, which was falsely rumored to be currently handing US consular services, the US Embassy essentially ordered all EU and NATO Embassies to pack up and join their chartered plane and boats. Libyan officials tell visitors that they were shocked by the fast exodus. “They did not even say goodbye. Suddenly they were on their way to the airport,” one Foreign Ministry advised during a meeting last week.
The Russian and Chinese leadership has grown increasingly critical of NATO’s actions in Libya and are demanding a immediate and permanent ceasefire. Some cynics here are pointing out that these countries, unlike NATO, knows exactly what they are doing and it includes the realization that they have an excellent chance to obtaining many billions of dollars in lucrative contracts. It is partly this realization that it’s “all of nothing” that keeps the US and its potent military asset, NATO, focused on assassinating Colonel Qaddafi and breaking his civilian support base. If Qaddafi lives, NATO loses and so do the current major oil industry contractors who are reportedly becoming depressed seeing reports of all the Russian and Chinese businessmen arriving in Libya.
As one student at Tripoli’s Al Fatah University commented, “What your American government has done in the region to destroy yourselves since 9/11 is amazing to Libyans. Now you are going to fight us? Why? You already had all our oil you wanted at a bargain prices; we stupidly put our sovereign funds in US banks and we did not even bother Israel much. Every day that NATO bombs it kills more Libyan civilians. We sacrificed nearly 1/3 of our population, or more than one million of our brothers and sisters, expelling the Italians 70 years ago. Doesn’t anyone in your government study history? We are not Bahrainis or Syrians. We are armed and will use our weapons.
Among the errors our leadership has made, one of the worst is that it believed the US agreements we made in 2004. The Iranians and North Koreans laugh at us for trusting you and giving up nuclear and biological weapons programs. Believe me, if Qadaffi leaves power you will miss him because the Libyan people will be tougher against your projects than he has been.”
On July 9, 2011, NATO claimed its aircraft carried out another “precision strike” on a pro-Qaddafi missile firing position near Tawurgha, south of Misrata. According to its media office, “NATO intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance were conducted over a period of time to ascertain the military use of the site. It was confirmed as being used to launch indiscriminate attacks on Libyan civilians in the area and a staging area by pro-Qaddafi villagers, including planning attacks on rebel’s forces near the port and city of Misrata.” The next morning, 7/10/11, local inhabitants denied that the farm had any military activity on the property and an examination of the farm buildings failed to discovery any.
NATO is getting hammered by critics, including during its press conferences, especially by reporters from such groups as Jane’s Defense Weekly who know a thing or two about weapons and war. Last week Jane’s ridiculed the NATO commander who claimed that seeing satellite dishes on roofs were evidence of a particular site being a “Command and Control Center.” Jane’s found that assertion silly.
As international pressure builds on the White House to call off the NATO bombing campaign, several proposals are being discussed within the African Union, the Russian and Chinese Embassy’s, and even between the “NATO rebels” and representatives of the Libya government in Tripoli.
One possible scenario might be for Libya to offer Obama and NATO a fig leaf which would include Colonel Qadaffi “retiring to his tent to write and reflect” while dialogue takes places among the Libyan people, including the tribes and 600 plus Peoples Congresses which of course should have been allowed to take place as Congressman Dennis Kucinich and others insisted back in February, 2011 before NATO invaded.
Franklin Lamb is reachable at email@example.com