Sirte – the Apotheosis of “Liberal Intervention” 217

There is no cause to doubt that, for whatever reason, the support of the people of Sirte for Gadaffi is genuine. That this means they deserve to be pounded into submission is less obvious to me. The disconnect between the UN mandate to protect civilians while facilitating negotiation, and NATO’s actual actions as the anti-Gadaffi forces’ air force and special forces, is startling.

There is something so shocking in the Orwellian doublespeak of NATO on this point that I am severely dismayed. I suffer from that old springing eternal of hope, and am therefore always in a state of disappointment. I had hoped that the general population in Europe is so educated now that obvious outright lies would be rejected. I even hoped some journalists would seek to expose lies.

I was wrong, wrong, wrong.

The “rebels” are actively hitting Sirte with heavy artillery and Stalin’s organs; they are transporting tanks openly to attack Sirte. Yet any movement of tanks or artillery by the population of Sirte brings immediate death from NATO air strike.

What exactly is the reason that Sirte’s defenders are threatening civilians but the artillery of their attackers – and the bombings themselves – are not? Plainly this is a nonsense. People in foreign ministries, NATO, the BBC and other media are well aware that it is the starkest lie and propaganda, to say the assault on Sirte is protecting civilians. But does knowledge of the truth prevent them from peddling a lie? No.

It is worth reminding everyone something never mentioned, that UNSCR 1973 which established the no fly zone and mandate to protect civilians had

“the aim of facilitating dialogue to lead to the political reforms necessary to find a peaceful and sustainable solution;”

That is in Operative Para 2 of the Resolution

Plainly the people of Sirte hold a different view to the “rebels” as to who should run the country. NATO have in effect declared being in Gadaffi’s political camp a capital offence. There is no way the massive assault on Sirte is “facilitating dialogue”. it is rather killing those who do not hold the NATO approved opinion. That is the actual truth. It is extremely plain.

I have no time for Gadaffi. I have actually met him, and he really is nuts, and dangerous. There were aspects of his rule in terms of social development which were good, but much more that was bad and tyrannical. But if NATO is attacking him because he is a dictator, why is it not attacking Dubai, Bahrain, Syria, Burma, Zimbabwe, or Uzbekistan, to name a random selection of badly governed countries?

“Liberal intervention” does not exist. What we have is the opposite; highly selective neo-imperial wars aimed at ensuring politically client control of key physical resources.

Wars kill people. Women and children are dying now in Libya, whatever the sanitised media tells you. The BBC have reported it will take a decade to repair Libya’s infrastructure from the damage of war. That in an underestimate. Iraq is still decades away from returning its utilities to their condition in 2000.

I strongly support the revolutions of the Arab Spring. But NATO intervention does not bring freedom, it brings destruction, degradation and permanent enslavement to the neo-colonial yoke. From now on, Libyans like us will be toiling to enrich western bankers. That, apparently, is worth to NATO the reduction of Sirte to rubble.

217 thoughts on “Sirte – the Apotheosis of “Liberal Intervention”

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  • Alexander Mercouris

    This is an outstanding post Craig. I agree with everything you say. I have nothing to add to what you have said. I do not know what shocks me more: the murderous cruelty of those who support these wars or the indifference of the peoples of America and Europe who look on when they happen. I remember once sharing in the bafflement at German indifference to Auschwitz. In the light of the general indifference to the horror in Iraq and now in Libya it is no longer so strange to me. Like the American abolitionist I tremble for my country when I remember that God is just.

  • Courtenay Barnett

    In response to Writeon :-
    “I suppose Craig’s almost childlike innocence about certain aspects of the world, and his disarming honesty, coupled with his obvious humanity and true liberalism, is why we are so fond of him.
    His analysis of the debacle in Libya, yet another gross international warcrime, even though the end apparently justifies the means, where have we heard that before, and it makes up for everything, like leading a dying democracy to war again, so soon after Iraq, on a gigantic raft of lies, distortions, exaggerations, and hysterical war-propaganda. There are a frightening number of people on the ‘left’ and the ‘right’ who don’t seem to care about any of this, as long as Gaddafi bites the dust. And they call it democracy?
    It would be interesting to hear Craig’s views on his friend Juan Cole, the expert on the Middle East, who has allowed his obvious and perhaps understandable antipathy towards Gaddafi cloud his judgement to an extraordinary degree. But then all’s fair in love and war, isn’t it?”

    I ask two(2) questions:-

    1. Where have all the journalists gone?
    And –
    2. Why does Juan Cole support this imperialist intervention in Libya?

  • Canspeccy

    Bin Liner, I’n not sure who the “pro-911 conspiracy nuts” are that you refer to.
    But, I assume you mean the idiots who think 9/11 was planned by bin Laden from a cave in Afghanistan and executed by 19 non-pilots armed only with box cutters, who entirely outwitted the trillion-dollar Norad air defense system.

    Tony, I agree that whatever of Craig’s brain remains undamaged can certainly be a great asset to whatever cause it is committed.

  • Kevin Barrington

    The BBC footage is obviously a mistake. If intentional, apart from giving the game away with the flags, it is lousy propaganda. It does not look like a historic scene of liberation, looks more like a crowd in line for a national sport event.

    The supposedly nefarious plan exposed by the Australian shows at least that the attempts are being make to avoid the arrogance and criminal negligence of the Iraq folly.

    The quote about NATO strikes becoming “unbearable” is of concern.

    However, it is a truncated quote…which makes a suggestive highlight of the word ‘unbearable” but does not give us the context.

    I am sceptical, but open to correction, that this is some Karadvic like pledge of bombing Sarajevo the edge of insanity.

    I thought the paper offered some minor consolation.

    We’ll see.

  • Brendan

    “I had hoped that the general population in Europe is so educated now that obvious outright lies would be rejected. I even hoped some journalists would seek to expose lies.

    I was wrong, wrong, wrong.”

    An excellent post. I have been discussing this issue along with others on a vaguely left-leaning Guardian-related talkboard. The nature of the discussion shouldn’t surprise me, but it does. What happens is that pro-war posters – and clearly, I don’t know who they are – just refuse to engage in any analysis. They repeat the mantras, and immediately indulge in sly mockery of the ‘pro-Gaddafi’ types. When faced with essential facts – that these rebels are dubious, and often CIA backed – they choose to ignore the essential facts, or actively refute them, without bothering to check. It’s a deeply curious mindset, an almost, dare I say it, dialectic mindset.

    This indeed is linked to the laughable reportage of much of the visual-media. I’m not sure it’s all that much better in the written media, though I concede that there is some difference in quality. In all the time since we invaded, I have read, or viewed, almost nothing about the rebels, not beyond ‘they are the rebels, and Star Wars teaches us that Rebels Are Good.’ Star Wars is responsible for a lot, I’m sure. And the pertinent question – since when do we take part in a civil war – is simply not asked: do we – i.e, NATO – now legally take part in civil wars? It seems we do, and I missed a memo.

    I don’t even reckon myself all that clever, just reasonably educated, and with an honorable skepticism about military propaganda. I’m sure the media, and the talkboards, are not representative, mind, and others are as skeptical as I.

  • CheebaCow

    Writeon, Courtenay:
    I too have found Juan Cole’s blogging on Libya to be very surprising. I get the feeling that Juan has a big blind spot when it comes to Obama, he seems to take Obama’s words at face value and applies none of the same scepticism as when Bush was in office. I don’t expect people to all have the same views as me, but I have been very disappointed with the limited range of views he allows in his comments section. The lack of free discussion has caused me to lose a lot of respect for his work. Over the space of 2 weeks, I tried 3 times to post a link to Craig’s Bahrain post (US green light to Saudi invasion), each time it was denied. Numerous other comments I have tried to post have been denied and all were polite, on topic and even limited to the mainstream framework of political discussion. Juan has also repeatedly said that those against the NATO bombing are pro Gaddafi, despite the fact he used to rail against being called pro Saddam when he was against the Iraq war. It’s sad, it used to be one of my favourite blogs, but now I see little reason to visit.

  • miketherevelator

    Excellent post, although I do agree with Syd Walker 100%. I’m not sure you were saying they all deserved a NATO attack, but still it was written in a way that that could be perceived. All enemies of the west need to be demonized and once you’ve demonized the religion of an entire vast area, it’s very simple to get the people to believe any leader must by definition be a despot of some kind.
    Of course the truth is that nobody has given NATO, the UN or the USA the job of deciding what regimes need to be changed and then invading those countries and seeing that it happens. Forced regime change for oil is an arogant, evil business, made easier when the leader is ”brutal” and the people begging us for help. But empires always end up on the dark side, natural resources always end up taking priority over human beings, especially when you can BS the population that it’s all humanitarian and will be of great help to the ‘real’ people of that country. If any are left by the time NATO and/or the US get done establishing NO LIVE ZONES with Obama’s beloved drones. People believe what they choose to believe. Juan Cole has bitten so deeply into the Obama apple, his posts anymore are little more than drivel. To still be thinking this is some kind of noble humanitarian operation defies credulity but he is by no means the only “liberal” who sees this as some kind of victory for our side.
    Any reasonable look at what is going on already in Libya that does not take the violence and chaos that most likely lies ahead into account is dishonest. And that more than the drivel is what bothers me about ‘experts’ like Cole.

  • kingfelix

    It’s not good enough to say being a liberal is not easy, etc.

    For those who supported humanitarian intervention by NATO to prevent a massacre of his own citizens by Gaddafi, we now have an endgame that looks like

    a) collective punishment via aerial bombardment by NATO forces
    to be followed by b) ‘rebels’ massacring fellow Libyans

    In other words, rather similar, or worse, than what the original intervention was supposed to prevent.

    It’s clear. NATO should not be believed. The use of humanitarian intervention to justify this was simply a neat way of either forcing those predisposed to dissent to come onside, or to place them in the awkward position of arguing (supposedly) for a massacre of the innocents by a bloodthirsty dictator.

  • FunkyMonkeyAC

    The tragedy is that Libya is only the latest country targeted for regime change. After Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia, the U.S./NATO/Israel alliance has other countries selected for regime change including Iran, Syria, Lebanon, North Korea, Sudan, Algeria, Eritrea, Zimbabwe, Myanmar, Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Belarus and even Russia (through covert support of opposition groups), being countries that are not aligned with the strategic interests of this alliance. Unfortunately, this globally expanding aggressive militarism is far from over. Just as the militarism of former military powers ended in a world war, similarly it is likely that this globally expanding militarism (which is occurring in conjunction with the U.S./NATO pursuit of nuclear primacy through multi-layered missile architecture and the build-up / expansion of military alliances) will likely result in a conflict that will have profound implications for humanity.

  • Levantine

    ‘Gaddafi is no saint’ – ‘Oh yes he is’ (July 10th)
    In 2011, when Muammar Gaddafi was demonised more than ever, many people around the world felt an urge to remind the rest of us that “Gaddafi is no saint.”
    Google reported the phrase “Gaddafi is no saint” about 1,580 times. This figure doesn’t encompass the many other spellings of Gaddafi’s name.
    This attempt to bring us to sobriety didn’t quite work for me – in fact it looked ridiculously out of place.
    While there are people who view Gaddafi as a saint, they didn’t participate in the online discussions; they were mostly in Libya, bombed.
    Sainthood is culture dependent. The people who said “Gaddafi is no saint” never indicated their criteria for sainthood: Sunni, Sufi, Christian, or perhaps altogether secular ones? Was anyone a saint in their view?
    And since when did these pundits become interested in sainthood in the first place?
    And if they know a lot, how much they know of Gaddafi in order to judge him? Have they studied his life, or informed themselves from popular journals and TV shows?
    If they were suddenly transported to Tripoli, would they tell the people that their worship of Gaddafi (which is a segment of the Libyan culture) is “wrong”?
    And one more point. In this age, many have forgotten a simple truth:
    Sainthood isn’t about being perfect. It’s about striving for perfection. In other words, you don’t have to be an angel in order to be a saint.*
    If you ask me, I think Gaddafi will be celebrated like a saint for millenia to come. You see, it’s due to the national transformation he led. It’s like the transformations in the film 2001: Space Odyssey. Too powerful, miraculous and positive, not to be retold as a legend.
    (* I borrowed this phrase from another great fighter for Africa, Albert Schweitzer)

  • Bob Jackson

    NATO is frantically ratcheting up the violence, because it is rapidly running out of time. In a fortnight, it runs smack into the tenth anniversary of 9/11. And it’s hand-in-glove with al-Qa’eda! What’s more, the relationship is very well documented, and widely known. Ditto Malcolm Rifkind’s support for al-Qa’eda’s 1996 coup attempt. Not a good place to be.

    There’s also an irony attached to UNSCR 1973. In the year 1973, on 21st February, Israel shot down Libyan Arab Airlines Flight 114. This Boeing 727 had gone off course in a sandstorm. When Israeli fighters intercepted it over Sinai, the pilot realised his error, and headed west, away from Israel. But they shot him down, and 108 people died. No action was ever taken against Israel, and the incident is seldom remembered. As British lawyers are currently demanding ten million dollars for each Lockerbie victim, on the basis of a shonky prosecution with bribed witnesses, we can conclude one Libyan life is worth one ten-millionth of an English or American life. Which also explains NATO’s violence.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    “If you ask me, I think Gaddafi will be celebrated like a saint for millenia to come. You see, it’s due to the national transformation he led. It’s like the transformations in the film 2001: Space Odyssey. Too powerful, miraculous and positive, not to be retold as a legend.” Levantine.
    A Gaddafi Romance Cycle, possibly. Or ‘Muammar Gaddafi: The Space Opera’?
    On another note, those people who seem incapable of comprehending that Craig Murray was being sarcastic as a means of highlighting NATO/Western hypocrisy (and that it is deeply silly for anyone to read his post as advocating NATO bombing of Bahrain et al) themselves probably need a dose of ‘Space Opera’.
    To reiterate, NATO is engaged in (another) criminal, imperialist war of aggression on behalf its fat-cat elites. Gaddafi is just another ‘Third World’ potentate who has outlived his managerial usefulness to those elites. Oil and Africa: It is a C21st re-make of 1880-90. No need to beatify him, or them, no need for theology. This is politics. Better to quote Machiavelli, rather than Aquinas.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    “one Libyan life is worth one ten-millionth of an English or American life.” Bob Jackson.
    Of course. Black, brown and yellow people (unless they’re in the White House or its equivalents; you see, as before, there is a difference the ‘house’ and the ‘field’) are viewed largely as vermin. Nothing new.

  • mary

    BBC: ‘Huge problem of public health – with no water or proper sanitation’
    Posted by The Editors on August 27, 2011, 10:54 am

    The West’s Midas touch in reverse, again. Almost beyond belief (and no doubt this is only a tiny, partial glimpse of the reality).

    ‘Most of the fighting in the capital appears to be over. The bigger problem here now is a humanitarian one.

    ‘++This is a city of two million people with no effective political direction or leadership++. The real political leadership and the people who need to take control of the situation are not here and ++practically what that means is that when it comes to resources like water there is none, and there’s hardly any electricity++ – there was a blackout across Tripoli last night and only those hotels or buildings with generators had any power.

    ‘There’s also a huge problem of public health – with ++no water or proper sanitation++ there’s a very difficult issue developing in many parts of the city.’

  • Suhayl Saadi

    So maybe now Bob Geldof will ‘sing a song for Libya’. Africa is for charity, after all. “Don’t they know it’s Christmastime at all…” Crap.

  • Jon

    @Tom Welsh: on the existence of democracy – a very good point. I agree there is no widespread support for the bombing, though I am not sure why there has not been a highly visible British opposition to it. Perhaps most activists inclined against war have been demoralised by – as you say – the 2003 marches being ignored? There are lots of little propaganda lies, of course, but perhaps the Big Lie is missing this time around? Or maybe people feel that the situation under Gaddafi might be worse than Iraq under Hussein? I don’t know – and there are too many opposing arguments about how much support Gaddafi has, or does not have, to make an informed decision.
    In terms of a pure democracy generally, Evgueni and I had a great discussion about this recently, which weaved back and forth between that topic and a fairer economic system. I am fully in favour of more democracy, and generally believe that an improvement in the quality/independence of our media system would go hand-in-hand with improving our democratic enfranchisement.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Tarig, you give an interesting angle but, I think, to some extent it is misplaced. The Pan Africanism of Nkrumah and Lumumba et al was and is laudable. Africa should unite as a single economic trading block (not a single state) with tariffs, etc., just like the EU has done. But your seeming insistence on alluding to essentialist concepts which seem very close to those of ‘race’ detracts from your argument and almost puts your basic premise in the same bracket as that of White Supremacists in Europe. This type of ideation was used for heinous purposes by bloody dictators like Mobutu and Amin.
    The peoples in Africa are – and always have been – hugely mixed. This applies also to the northern parts of Africa. Goths, Vandals, Arabs, Turks, Greeks, Romans, Spanish, Jews… all have been there for hundreds, or even thousands of years and have mixed with Berbers and other groups. What are you going to do, using ‘mitochondria’ or other such nonsense, sort out who is a ‘real’ African down to the fourth generation and boot out all the others? And in any case, what was the ‘original population-type’ of Africa (or Europe, or Asia)? It’s a fool’s errand and will not help the peoples of Africa achieve true self-determination.
    I agree completely about Arab (and Turkish) imperialism, the part played by Arabs and Turks in the slave trade and continuing Arab chauvinism and discrimination. I also agree with you about the malign role played by Islamic Fundamentalism in Africa, including wrt the Copts in Egypt, the attacks on whom are utterly shameful and must be opposed. But the answer to such belligerent tribalism is not to sow yet more tribalism.
    The real enemies of the peoples of Africa are those who wield power in the current criminal global economic system and it is towards the systems developed by these elites – whatever the colour of their skin, whatever their supposed creed, whatever their language or location – that the struggle ought to be directed.

  • Azra

    Colin, it is a very good link, and an indication of things to come! Libya and Iraq both have many tribes and as many as 2000 Sub tribes (clans) each, how to unite them and bring them together?? that is not going to be easy!the only difference is that Muslims in Libya are almost all Sunni, therefore no rivalry there. One can only hope.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Furthermore, Tarig, what have got against Palestinians? They are a forced diaspora, many of whom swelter in camps but some of whom have done very well (and good on them). So some of them will work for Western, or pro-Western news outlets. And some will not. Some will be doctors, nurses, teachers, bus drivers. Is there something that irritates you about Palestinians? Do you think that they are going to take over the world? Do they think they ought to continue to be oppressed by Israel?

  • writeon

    I think, for the most part, the ‘quality’ of jounalism in the overwhelming number of reports and articles relating to this latest western ‘intervention’ or ‘crusade for freedom’, has been appalling bad. But is that really surprising, we are, after all, fighting abroad against an unpopular tyrant and the political class are, judging from the parliamentary debates, 100% behind this ‘war.’

    It’s perhaps natural that the jounalsists follow the political lead, that is, their role in most situations, isn’t it?

    What’s more troubling is the wretched discontinuity between the level of public scepticism and outright opposition to yet another costly overseas adventure/war, and how little of this opposition is honestly reflected in our media and by our politicians. For example, most, if not all, our newspapers, television stations, and radio programmes, support the aims of the war, virtually without scrutiny or criticism, and supposedly we have a ‘free’ press and a broad spectrum of views are expressed across the political spectrum. But, given the numbers who are against the latest war, for a variety of reasons, where is the TV, newspaper, radio station, that’s on their side?

    Our media give a grossly distorted picture of what’s going on. The impression that the entire world backs the attack on Libya and is cheering from the sidelines. This is the exact opposite of the truth, yet from the UK media, we’d never know this.

    I think our journalists should be honest and wear military uniforms so that everyone can make their own judgements about where they stand and what their role is in wartime, though I suppose this might be giving the game away.

  • Azra

    Suhyal, the treatment of Copts in Egypt and attacks.. I have a well informed Coptic friend who is a Journalist , she and many other Copts firmly believe that it is not the Islamist who are attacking the Copts, but the secret police in Egypt, who want to cause problems and divide Muslim and Copts .Apparently when the secret service head office was broken into they found documents regarding the previous attacks on Copts during Hosni’s rule relating to this kind of tactics. To me it sounds quite feasible. Same tactics as in Vietnam! As you said they are shameful and they should be stopped, but stopped by who??

  • writeon

    Juan Cole, maybe sincere, but I somehow doubt it. He’s seen how priciples have damaged the careers of other leading academics, and understandably he doesn’t want to become tainted as well.

    In the strange sectarian world of US politics, which reminds one of the serious schism between City and United, being a Democrat or a Republican means a lot, despite the obvious similarities between the two ruling parties, often to the point of them becoming indistinguishable from each other on most substantive issues, when in power. The brazen rhetoric of the campaign trail is only for public consumption and is not to be taken for more than it really is, glossy marketing to create a profile signifying nothing.

    Of course if Obama is virtually identical to Bush, if not worse, then the two-party system breaks down, and a one-party democratic state begins to seem like a puzzling paradox.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Azra, thanks. Very interesting and not surprising – same dynamic in Pakistan and Alegria wrt attacks on civilians. It is usually the work of the security forces.

  • Levantine

    If Tripoli is under rebel & al Qaeda[1] control for four days already, and NTC is effective (says John Simpson [2]), why is Tripoli still without water & electricity [3]?

    This is the likely answer to my question –

    LibyanLiberal [4] tired and the supplies are cut, we will die all here.we are surrounded and ready to face martyrdom. nato will not get us. nor the rebels.

    LibyanLiberal NATO is planning to exterminate every resist in Tripoli by cutting the water and forcing us to starve and die. if we go out rebels snipes us. [4]

    In reaction, the UN is doing – what?

    Today, 27 August, UN say “reports suggest… the water supply may be in danger.” [5]

    Reports SUGGEST?! most of Tripoli is already without water for days!

    A major genocide of the people of Tripoli is prepared with a cooperation of UN organs.






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