Libya: The Bizarro War

We’re killing civilians in order to save them

by , May 02, 2011

Note: Take a look at my commentary on the death of Osama bin Laden here.

Flying unopposed over Libyan airspace, NATO’s fighter planes bombed the residence of the Gadhafi family, killing his youngest son and three grandchildren. What a glorious victory for the defenders of innocent civilians! The NATO-crats, of course, deny targeting either Gadhafi or his family members: those much-touted high-tech weapons, with their “precision” targeting capabilities, seem to have had a very convenient breakdown. But at least one Republican Senator wasn’t fooled. Lindsey Graham had this to say:

“I support what NATO did. I thought this was a good use of the mandate. This is the way to end this [conflict]. Thousands of people are subject to dying, the longer this takes. No one in the world is going to regret Gadhafi being replaced, however you do it. I want to thank NATO for expanding the scope of these operations.”

“A good use of the mandate” – killing three grandsons of the Libyan dictator, all under the age of 12? And what about that “mandate,” which was proclaimed in the name of preventing civilian deaths in Libya’s civil war? In the Orwellian logic of “humanitarian” interventionism, raining death on 12-year-olds is an act of love. Welcome to Bizarro World: we hope you enjoy your stay.

Because it looks like we’re going to be trapped in this alternate dimension – where up is down and truth is lies – for quite a long time to come. Instead of crumbling like all the other Arab despots who face their day of reckoning, Gadhafi has survived – in some measure, I would argue, because of UN intervention. Without that, it’s likely the eccentric tyrant – although he might have temporarily retaken Benghazi – would’ve fallen victim to the same seismic forces that toppled his neighbors: Ben Ali, in Tunisia, and Egypt’s Mubarak. His regime was saved by the cavalry – the NATO bombers that are daily wreaking devastation on the Libyan people.

A thoroughly despicable – and, within the wider Arab world, hugely unpopular – tinpot dictator is fighting NATO to a draw. That has to earn him some credit on the Arab street – and in his own country, where the much-vaunted “tribes” show no signs of abandoning him.

As I predicted from the outset, the rebellion is a regionalist phenomenon, roughly centered in – but not confined to – Benghazi and the eastern part of the country. Libya was never a real country anyway, and so the rapid reversion to the ancient borders of Tripolitania (in the West) and Cyrenaica (in the East) is hardly surprising.

Yet the rebels – and their Western backers – are hardly content with half the pie. They want the whole thing, and that’s what this war is really about – it is a war of aggression by the de facto government of eastern Libya against the pro-Gadhafi Western half. Actually, the Gadhafi forces enjoy the support of two-thirds of the country if we include the Fezzan region, the source of many of the black African “mercenaries” Gadhafi is accused of importing.

This is why the Gadhafi regime has repeatedly called for a truce. Upon announcing the death of Gadhafi’s son, Seif, and the three grandchildren, Libyan government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim put it this way:

“This was a direct operation to assassinate the leader of this country. This is not permitted by international law. It is not permitted by any moral code or principle. If people claim they want to protect civilians, we have again and again declared, we are ready for negotiation, ready for road maps for peace; ready for political transitional periods; ready for elections; ready for referendum.

“NATO does not care to test our promises. The West does not care to test our statements. They only care to rob us of our freedom, our wealth, which is oil, and our right to decide our future as Libyans.”

This isn’t just a desperate ploy to buy time – Gadhafi really thinks he can win a national election, even one scrutinized in every detail by the UN. That’s a true megalomaniac for you. Well, then, why not take him up on his offer? After all, if Gadhafi is really the monster he’s now portrayed as being – as opposed to the rather rosy portrait of a “reformed” terrorist which took hold after he came in from the cold – then he’ll lose, big time, and the problem is solved without further loss of life.

Yet this scenario assumes the stated motivation behind the UN Security Council resolution authorizing military action – saving lives – has anything to do with NATO’s mission, which is nothing less than regime change. British Prime Minister David Cameron, apparently still suffering the aftereffects of celebrating The Wedding, defended the attack on the Gadhafi compound by telling the BBC the UN resolution permitted attacks on “command and control” targets because “their aim was to prevent a loss of civilian life by targeting Gadhafi’s war-making machine.”

They’re killing civilians in the name of protecting them: I suppose that’s good enough for government work.

If not for NATO, Gadhafi might very well be living in exile by now, writing his memoirs. Thanks to Western intervention, however – and please don’t tell me how the mighty army of Qatar is fighting alongside us – the Daffy Despot is showing some real staying power. Just how real remains to be seen, but the balance of forces on the ground, so far, seems to be perpetually favoring Gadhafi’s loyalists. This impression, it’s true, is due in part to the propagandistic nature of most war reporting: somehow, the rebels are always on the edge of disaster (and in dire need of more NATO assistance), and Gadhafi’s African mercenaries – pumped up with Viagra, according to our UN ambassador, Susan Rice – are always on the verge of taking some major city, murdering the males en masse, and raping all the women.

As has been the case for all the Arab dictators faced with the wrath of their own suddenly-awakened people, in Libya attempts to parlay have come from the regime. The Americans, who once urged restraint on the Egyptian masses – and endorsed Mubarak’s chosen heir, the former head of the Egyptian spy agency – think they have learned their lesson, and are now ahead of the game.

The game they are playing is a very dangerous one, tailor made to generate the sort of lethal “blowback” we saw on 9/11. Because their game involves lining up with the very enemy they claim to be fighting worldwide.

Abu Yahya al-Libi, a top al-Qaeda commander born in Libya, issued a statement supporting the rebels, and radical Islamists throughout the world are rallying to the cause. The last time we saw this NATO/al-Qaeda alliance in action was in the Bosnia and Kosovo conflicts, where NATO also intervened for purportedly “humanitarian” reasons. In the Balkans, al-Qaeda’s janissaries stood shoulder-to-shoulder with NATO forces, fighting to establish an Islamic beachhead in the heart of Europe: today the pattern is being repeated in North Africa.

I am reminded of the first paragraph of Michael Scheuer’s Imperial Hubris:

As I complete this book, U.S., British, and other coalition forces are trying to govern apparently ungovernable postwar states in Afghanistan and Iraq, while simultaneously fighting growing Islamist insurgencies in each – a state of affairs our leaders call victory. In conducting these activities, and the conventional military campaigns preceding them, U.S. forces and policies are completing the radicalization of the Islamic world, something Osama bin Laden has been trying to do with substantial but incomplete success since the early 1990s. As a result, I think it fair to conclude that the United States of America remains bin Laden’s only indispensable ally.”

Scheuer meant this last comment in a purely metaphorical or objective sense, not that the US leadership was secretly colluding with bin Laden. This latest confluence of interests, however, verges on active collaboration – and there is nothing secret about it. A top rebel commander has admitted – or, rather, boasted – that he is fresh from fighting under al-Qaeda’s banner in Iraq.

In order to establish his Arab street cred, President Obama is cuddling up to Libya’s jihadists – and probably arming them, just like we support and arm Jundallah, the Sunni terrorist group operating in Iranian Baluchistan. With David Petraeus at the CIA, these kinds of covert wars are doubtless the wave of the Obama-ite future. The COIN doctrine goes global – and clandestine. Beyond congressional oversight and beneath the radar of our mainstream journalists, America’s covert wars are setting us up for a major conflict.

Prediction: More Republicans are going to suddenly discover the electoral benefits of opposing Obama’s Libyan gambit, a political hot-potato handed to him by old adversary Hillary Clinton and opposed by over 70 percent of the American people.

I’ll go further out on a limb and divine the coming political demise of Lindsey Graham: not all the warmongering in the world is going to save him from the wrath of Tea Party types who (rightly) consider him a leading RINO. He’s one of three US Senators who can be counted on to whoop the loudest for war at the start of any international crisis, the other two being Joe Lieberman and John “Boots-on-the-ground” McCain. A more desirable candidate for involuntary retirement from politics has never set foot on Capitol Hill.

NOTES IN THE MARGIN

Take a look at my commentary on the death of Osama bin Laden here.

Read more by Justin Raimondo