Abayomi Azikiwe / Pan-African News Wire – 2011-08-16 00:32:08
(August 8, 2011) — Muslim countries and communities internationally began the celebration of the holy month of Ramadan on Aug. 1. Inside the North African state of Libya where the majority of the population is Islamic, the month began in the immediate aftermath of a series of NATO bombing raids on the capital of Tripoli.
In normal times, Ramadan, a 30-day period of fasting, prayer and the avoidance of conflict, is characterized with the slowing down of economic and other activity. However, this year Libya will continue to be put in a position of defending its sovereignty, which has been under attack since the US/NATO war started on March 19.
A whole month prior to March 19, a Western-backed armed rebellion was carried out against the central government in Tripoli from the opposition stronghold of Benghazi in the east. The opposition was driven out of the areas they had invaded in most of the east and west by the second week in March as the Gadhafi government was set to retake Benghazi.
It was at this point that the US/NATO forces began to bomb the oil-producing state under the guise of implementing United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973, which was ostensibly designed to protect civilians through the imposition of a “no-fly zone.” Nonetheless, the bombing of Libya has since been thoroughly documented as a grave crime against humanity.
The North African state of Libya has the largest known oil reserves on the African continent. Under the government led by Muammar Gadhafi since a revolution in 1969, the country has risen from one of Africa’s poorest to maintaining the highest standard of living among all countries on the continent. In addition to oil the country has substantial natural gas resources, and its geographical position is strategically located on the Mediterranean, which serves as a waterway to other nations in Africa, the Middle East, Southern Europe and Asia.
Since March 19, US/NATO forces have struck government buildings, civilian neighborhoods, hospitals, schools, communication satellites, ships and ports. The son and three grandchildren of Gadhafi were killed in one of the airstrikes on a civilian compound in Tripoli.
NATO headquarters in Brussels has for several weeks been weighing the political impact of continuing the bombing of a majority Muslim country during Ramadan. The fact that this is even considered is a clear indication of the miscalculation of the West in regard to its capacity to defeat the Libyan people since the war began.
According to the Tripoli Post, “The NATO alliance thought it could finish [the war] off before the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, in time for a new government to take shape. They failed and this month could become a perilous black hole threatening to undermine their whole campaign.” (Aug. 1)
Despite numerous attempts by the African Union to broker a ceasefire inside Libya, the US/NATO alliance and its ally, the Transitional National Council — also known as the Interim National Council — have categorically rejected a peace deal. The AU since March 11 has called for an immediate ceasefire, the beginning of negotiations, and the initiation of a process of national reconciliation, while the opposition forces and the imperialists have demanded regime-change.
Referring to the US/NATO military forces, the Tripoli Post stresses, “In the end they appear to have decided not to let up, and by virtue of the July 31 bombings they have decided to continue their aerial attacks on the Libyan regime in a war, that, when it sparked off on February 17, was predicted to last a few weeks. It has now dragged on to become a much lengthier campaign.”
This failure on the part of the US/NATO alliance has prompted a new round of bombings to terrorize the Libyan civilian population. In late July the imperialist military forces bombed Tripoli International Airport, a component of the Great Man-Made River, and a peaceful march calling for national unity in the west of the country.
This peaceful gathering, which marched from Al-Sabaa, was attacked in Gwaleesh by TNC forces with NATO air support. It was reported that Belgian FN rifles were used as well as anti-aircraft weapons.
Three activists were killed in the ambush, and 70 were injured. During the course of the shooting volunteers in support of the Libyan patriots from Al-Sabaa intervened in defense of the unity march, resulting in the deaths of 75 in the opposition forces. Following this event NATO attacked Al-Sabaa in retaliation.
Divisions among NATO & Opposition Forces
On July 28, one of the leaders of the TNC military wing was killed by assassins, along with at least two of his assistants. The obviously planned killing of Abdel Fatah Younis has starkly exposed the obvious divisions within the ranks of the rebels.
Younis had defected from the Libyan government in late February and was later said to be leading the war against Tripoli. He became an immediate rival of Khalifa Hifter, who had resided in Virginia at the behest of the Central Intelligence Agency since the early 1980s. When the rebellion erupted in the east of the country, Hifter was flown backed to Libya and proclaimed the leader of the opposition-armed wing.
Whether the assassination of Younis was the result of a factional dispute within the TNC remains to be seen. The former Minister of Interior for the Libyan government had been summoned back to Tripoli for consultation when he was murdered.
In the aftermath of the killing, the corporate media began to report the arrest of others who the opposition said were loyal to the Gadhafi government.
Most available evidence suggests that deep divisions are occurring within the Western-backed TNC in the aftermath of the Contact Group meeting of imperialist states and their allies in Turkey in mid-July which recognized the Benghazi-based armed opposition as the sole legitimate representatives of the Libyan people.
Claims of widespread support for the opposition have been refuted in recent months with the performance of the Libyan military against the rebel forces and the mass demonstrations that have brought millions of people into the streets in defense of the Tripoli government. A British Guardian article states, “The [government] controls around 20 percent more territory than it did in the immediate aftermath of the uprising on February 17.” (July 29)
In this same article Richard Seymour surmises, “If the Gadhafi regime is now more in control of Libya than before, then this completely undermines the simplistic view put out by the supporters of the war — and unfortunately by some elements of the resistance — that the situation was simply one of a hated tyrant hanging on through mercenary violence.”
At the same time as the divisions within the opposition are becoming more pronounced, NATO forces have been losing participants with the announced halt of air raids by Norway on Aug. 1 and the scaling back of participation by the former colonial power of Italy. The British military has stepped up its operations to fill the gap in the bombings by deploying four additional Tornado fighter planes that will carry on the air operations along with the US, France, Canada, Belgium, Denmark and Italy.
Alexis Crow, a security analyst for Chatham House in Britain, told the French Press Agency that the war against Libya is “turning into a complete shambles. The single greatest problem for the operation as a whole is this inability to match goals and means and match tactics with strategy.” (newsinfo.inquirer.net, July 30)
A CBS News poll several weeks ago reported that 60 percent of people in the US oppose the war against Libya. This is significant despite the biased reporting by the major news networks that limit coverage and distort actual developments inside the country.
Mass meetings held around the US, spearheaded by former Congressperson Cynthia McKinney, have emphasized the need to divert the hundreds of billions of dollars spent on war every year to address human needs. Money is sorely needed to provide jobs to tens of millions of workers, to maintain people in their homes, and to offer universal healthcare, public services and quality education.
Abayomi Azikiwe is the Editor of Pan-African News Wire
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