Libya: payback time
Libya too got confronted with the popular strive for more political rights and freedoms. Although the Libyan people's standard of living is among the top in Africa, and although life expectancy is somewhat equal to Belgium, the Qadhafi regime in these four decades showed to be very authoritarian, sometimes with some clownish aspects. Qadhafi didn't tolerate much opposition and his security services didn't hesitate to eliminate adversaries. This didn't increase his popularity among a major part of the population. The regime has fallen now, but the way in which it was driven out of power doesn't give much hope.
Western politicians and media like to portrait the takeover as the result of the collective popular will for more democracy. However, reality seems to be a bit more complicated. The former rebels form a heterogeneous group of strongly diverting political and ethnic origins. Various former Qadhafi officials joined the opposition either out of opportunism or in search of power conservation. The murder this summer of Fatah Younes, military leader of the rebels, illustrates the dangerous tensions within the ranks of the new rulers. Younes had been for years responsible for internal security under Qadhafi before he defected to the rebels. A faction of Islamic opponents is blamed for his murder which is seen as revenge for Younes's responsibility in the regime's atrocities. The leader of the Military Council in Tripoli is Abdelhakim Belhadj, an Afghanistan veteran and leader of the Al Qaida linked LIFG (Libyan Islamic Fighters Group). Cynically enough Belhadj was extradited to Libya by the CIA in 2004, and was then tortured before he was released by an amnesty measure in 2010. Then we still have the rival ethnic groups that could cause conflict in post Qadhafi Libya and we can not rule out that supporters of the former leader will take up armed resistance. Sufficient ingredients indeed for an Iraq scenario.
But also the agenda of the so called 'Friends of Libya' puts a mortgage on Libya's future. The Belgian political world subscribed unanimously the country's enthusiastic participation to a war that resulted into more than 8000 air strikes – NATO information – under the label of a humanitarian operation. NATO saved the people from Bengazi from a terrible bloodshed was the official chorus although no convincing evidence for such statement was provided for. In reconquering cities as Zawiya, Misurata or Ajdabiya the regime didn't organize big slaughters among the people. The propaganda machine ran at full speed. In the best Orwellian tradition bombardments were most accurate. NATO protects civilians, so there were no reports on victims or large scale destructions. In a tame Belgian parliament Defense Minister, Pieter De Crem, could proudly announce that 97 percent of the Belgian bombs were effective. No member of parliament seemed to wonder over the human impact of the bombing raids over Tripoli and other cities. It was indeed 'a hell of a humanitarian mission'.
NATO said to operate under a security council mandate, but in stead of protecting civilians the alliance chose openly the side of the rebels and went for a regime change. A new regime with thorough links to NATO countries is a far better business partner. In the meantime we learned that the participating countries in the military operations count on a 'return on investment'. The Italian Finance Minister, Franco Frattini, said in a public broadcast that the Italian oil company ENI “will play a number 1 role in the future”. Belgian entrepreneurs too have already scheduled their flight for a promising business trip. The leaders of the rebellion made it very clear that they would remember who supported them. A spokesman of Agoco – the oil company of the rebels – said there would be no problems for Italian, French and British oil companies, unlike the Russians, the Chinese or the Brazilians. The growing Chinese activities in Africa have been an eyesore for American and European leaders for sometime now. Beijing tries to scale down the damage and does everything to save its investments in various projects worth 18,8 billion dollar.
NATO's decision to launch an expensive operation against the then Libyan regime has nothing to do with charity. Qadhafi was offered weapons in the past, he concluded easily economic agreements an maintained good relations with US and British secret services. Human rights have never been a decisive standard for NATO if we take into account the history of so many good relations with dictatorships worldwide. There are few reasons to believe that today moral motives would suddenly play a key role. In that case political efforts to avoid a violence escalation with thousands of victims would have been the better choice. Responsibility to Protect? Nonsense. NATO efforts are a calculated move in a greater geo-strategic chess-play which we saw earlier in Afghanistan and Iraq. When NATO acts trade routes are at stake, access to raw materials, military interests, and so. Could it be possible that our Belgian Defense Minister, Pieter De Crem, is soliciting for the function of NATO secretary-general?