NATO War Crimes in Libya Spark Anger
November 9, 2011
Abayomi Azikiwe / Pan-African News Wire
After Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi was brutally murdered and his hometown of Sirte destroyed, the UN Security Council voted to end its so-called "No Fly Zone" over this North African state. NATO's bombing campaign -- which had exacted 26,000 sorties and nearly 10,000 airstrikes -- is believed to have killed thousands and caused tens of billions of dollars in damages. Victims of NATO's bombardment are now filing charges with the International Criminal Court.
Imperialist War Crimes in Libya
Spark Anger and Resistance
(November 3, 2011) -- After Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi was brutally assassinated and his hometown of Sirte destroyed, the UN Security Council voted unanimously to end its so-called "No Fly Zone" over this North African state. Its March vote imposing an arms embargo and "No Fly Zone" resulted in a massive naval blockade and aerial bombardment that killed thousands and caused tens of billions of dollars in damages.
After the Security Council's resolution ending the "No Fly Zone," the North Atlantic Treaty Organization announced it was suspending its bombing campaign over Libya, which had exacted 26,000 sorties and nearly 10,000 airstrikes. Russia introduced the resolution to end the bombing even though it did not participate in it.
The Voice of Russia stated, "Foreign Minister Segei Lavrov has called for an international inquiry into the circumstances of Colonel Gaddafi's death. [His] relatives are planning to file a lawsuit against NATO with the International Criminal Court.... Lawyer Marcel Secaldi [said] Colonel Gaddafi was killed during a NATO raid on his convoy. But since NATO's mandate in Libya did not allow for strikes against civilian targets, the incident could be classified as a war crime." (Oct. 31)
Russian legal commentator Boris Dolgov says, "The lawsuit could shed light on the circumstances of Gaddafi's death and draw international attention to the fact that NATO's forces had sided with the opposition in Libya's civil war," but that the action will face formidable obstacles. Other analysts say that such an action will be an exercise in futility in light of the prevailing international situation.
Vasily Belozerov, co-chairperson of the Russian Military Political Analysts Association, said of this bid to seek legal redress for UN and NATO crimes before the ICC: "The court's judgment will be politically motivated. It won't be directed against 'the powers that be,' like NATO, or against the current government in Libya."
The article continues: "The reason is crystal clear. Even though the legitimacy of NATO's operation in Libya was questionable from the very beginning, the international community kept quiet. They won't have a chance. They won't be able to sue anyone since there will be no one to sue. The world's most powerful military and political alliance had resolved to overthrow a politically stable regime."
Despite NATO's proclamation that it stopped bombing Libya on Oct. 31, its Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen's presence in Tripoli that day indicates that the imperialists are not leaving the country. Days before Rasmussen's visit, a new coalition -- "Friends of Libya" -- was announced. It would be formed to help consolidate the country under neocolonial rule.
Qatar, a Gulf state with strong US ties, will head this alliance. This configuration has the same name as the imperialist-hosted conferences held during the bombing campaign. It will include the US, France and Britain.
The Voice of Russia notes, "Other countries had joined NATO in taking sides with the rebels fighting against Gaddafi. Among [Transitional National Council] fighters were hundreds of Qatari service members. The commander of Qatar's army [said] that Qatari aviation would be safeguarding air space over Libya because Tripoli had no planes left." (Oct. 31)
Rasmussen said that in Libya he discussed the NTC's "expectations as regards possible NATO assistance in the future." He said that the war against Libya, "Operation Unified Protector," was "one of the most successful in NATO's history." (BBC, Oct. 31)
Imperialist Destruction and Theft
Despite claims by the US and NATO that the war against Libya was "successful," the reality on the ground has proved otherwise. The war aimed to destroy the accomplishments of the 1969 Al-Fateh Revolution and to remove Gadhafi's government.
The US ambassador to NATO, Ivo Daalder, and the alliance's chief operations commander, Admiral James Stavridis, also claimed success in a New York Times editorial on Oct. 31. Despite President Barack Obama's pronouncements early in the war that the US role would be limited, Daalder and Stavridis stressed that the Pentagon "played a leading role in destroying Libya's air defense system and providing critical resources, including the vast majority of intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and the aerial refueling assets." (Reuters, Oct. 31)
Reuters says, "Fourteen NATO members and four other states provided naval and air forces, but only eight NATO nations took part in combat missions. Daalder and Stavridis said US planes flew a quarter of all sorties over Libya, France and Britain a third of all missions -- most of them strike operations -- and the remaining participants flew roughly 40 percent." (Oct.31)
The war resulted in Libya losing 50 percent of its Gross Domestic Product. The International Monetary Fund noted that Libya's GDP was $71.3 billion in 2010 -- suggesting eight months of conflict cost the country's 6.5 million people around $35 billion. Bank payment systems broke down, and the country had difficulty financing imports, the IMF said. (Reuters, Oct. 26)
In addition to the US-NATO bombing's impact and the NTC "rebels'" attacks on the ground, the imperialist states froze between $160 billion to $170 billion in Libyan assets. Other losses include the theft and destruction of government property that was orchestrated by the imperialists and their rebel allies.
In Benghazi, the Tripoli Post reports, "A priceless collection of nearly 8,000 ancient gold, silver and bronze coins, much of which dates from the time of Alexander the Great, was stolen by robbers who broke into a bank vault." Benghazi is the center of the NTC rebellion that began in February. (Oct. 31)
The theft involved drilling through the concrete floor of an underground vault in the National Commercial Bank of Benghazi. An expert called it "one of the greatest thefts in archeological history." The heist removed untold wealth from the country.
The Tripoli Post article reports, "The treasure included more than 10,000 pieces, with 7,700 coins dating back to Greek, Roman, Byzantine and early Islamic times. Several artifacts, including monuments and figurines of bronze, glass and ivory, as well as jewelry ... are also believed to have been stolen by the thieves."
Anger and Resistance Mount
Although the imperialists and their allies have wrought massive destruction in Libya, anger is escalating over the attempts to return the country to neocolonialism. On Oct. 25, five days after Gadhafi's assassination, a fuel tanker facility explosion in Sirte reportedly killed more than 100 people.
The NTC rebels quickly declared it an accident, although suspicions were that it might have resulted from sabotage. Sirte has been a stronghold of Gadhafi loyalists. Residents of the coastal city fiercely resisted the US-NATO bombardment for months.
Whether the explosion was accidental or intentional, the NTC rebels were unable to adequately respond. Near Sirte, area resident Ali Faraj said, "The explosion happened yesterday at around noon. It was very strong. I live 25 kilometers away and I heard it." (AFP, Oct. 26)
Faraj complained that after the explosion, "There were no ambulances for the wounded, no trucks for the firefighters, and we couldn't put out the fire ... because the rebels stole all the vehicles."
Anger is escalating. Reuters reported, "The war is not yet over for Libya's new rulers in the desert town of Bani Walid, where Gaddafi loyalists vow to fight on for their fallen leader and other residents are angry over violence and looting."
People are "enraged by what they see as acts of retribution by forces loyal to Libya's new government" and "tribesmen say their men are already trying to regroup into a new insurgency movement ... around the strategic desert town south of ... Tripoli." (Oct. 26)
Libya's current situation is representative of the role of US imperialism and its allies in other parts of the world. In Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen -- US military operations in these countries have worsened the masses' conditions.
The NTC forces attempting to rule the country will be beholden to Washington, London, Paris and Rome for their security and meager resources. Only when the Libyan people can rise up and retake control of their land, resources and waterways will the potential exist for genuine independence and development inside this North African state.
Abayomi Azikiwe is the editor of Pan-African News Wire.
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