People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 24

June 12, 2011

Libya: Western Double Standards


Yohannan Chemerapally



THE request by the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Luis Moreno Ocampo, in the third week of May, for international arrest warrants to be issued against the Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, his son Saif al Gaddafi and the head of the Libyan Intelligence, Abdullah al Sanussi, even as NATO warplanes were wreaking havoc on the country, is yet another illustration of the double standards being adopted by the West. The ICC seems to specialising in targeting African leaders and heads of state. There already is an ICC warrant of arrest against the Sudanese President, Omar al Bashir. But now that the goal of the West in dividing Sudan has been achieved, the ICC seems to be in no hurry in executing the warrant.




As things stand today, Libya too seems to be on the verge of partition, with the proxies of the West being helped by NATO, to retain control of the oil producing eastern part of the country. Gaddafi was repeatedly warned that if he did not give up the fight and leave the country, he would have to meet the fate of former heads of state like Slobodan Milosevic. The Yugoslav leader too had stood up to the military might of NATO.


Many people are of the opinion that it would be more in the fitness of things for the leaders of the US, France and the UK to face war crimes charges. These three countries were responsible for waging the unlawful war on Libya. The UN Charter does not permit the use of military force for the so-called “humanitarian interventions.” The “no fly zone,” authorised by the UN Security Council, did not mandate the use of stealth bombers, Cruise missiles and Predator drones to target civilian centres and infrastructure. The “responsibility to protect” doctrine, which evolved after the Rwanda genocide, has not been recognised as international law but the West has used it as a pretext to intervene militarily in countries that don’t kowtow to it. Recently the Arab League asked the UN Security Council to impose a no fly zone over Gaza to prevent the killing of Palestinians by Israeli air strikes. There is no possibility of such a request being approved by the UN Security Council, given Washington’s unblinking support for Israel. More than 1400 Palestinians, many of them women and children, were killed during the brutal Israeli assault on Gaza two years ago.


During a discussion on the issue of “Responsibility to Protect” in the UN General Assembly in 2009, the Cuban delegate raised a pertinent point: “Who is to decide if there is an urgent need to intervene in a given state, according to what criteria, in what framework, and on the basis of what conditions? Who decides it is evident that the authorities of a state do not protect their people, and how is it decided? Who determines that peaceful means are not adequate in a certain situation, and on what criteria?  Do small states have the prospect of interfering in the affairs of larger states? Would any developed country allow, in principle or in practice, humanitarian intervention in their territories?” These questions highlighted the inherent duplicity of the so-called “Responsibility to Protect” doctrine being propounded by Obama, Sarkozy and company.




The Nuremberg tribunal set up to try Nazi war criminals had ruled that launching unprovoked wars of aggression is the most serious of war crimes. The NATO has been specifically targeting Gaddafi, his family and top officials of his government for physical liquidation. His youngest son and three of his grandchildren have already been killed when a NATO missile demolished their residence in a Tripoli suburb on April 30. The major countries of the world like the US, Russia, China and India are not members of the ICC and reject any accountability to the body. Libya too is not a member and has said that it is not answerable to the diktats of Moreno. The ICC, as recent events have shown, is being increasingly used as a tool by the West, in its bid to re-establish the neo-colonial hold over Africa’s huge natural resources. The ICC has not bothered to seriously investigate the human rights abuses committed by the US in Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries, despite several requests. The ICC wants to arrest Gaddafi for “crimes against humanity” while George W Bush is penning his memoirs in peaceful retirement. At least 650,000 Iraqis were killed as a result of the American occupation of Iraq.


Russia and China have been openly critical of the sharp escalation in NATO military strikes in the part of Libya controlled by the government in Tripoli. On May 19, NATO planes and missiles sunk eight warships of the Libyan Navy which were anchored in the ports of Tripoli, Sirte and Al Khums. The NATO secretary general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, has said that this was part of game plan to topple the Libyan government. “We have significantly degraded Gaddafi’s war machine. And now we see the results. The opposition has gained ground.” His views were endorsed by President Barack Obama in his May 19 speech. Obama said that time was running out for Gaddafi. “He does not have control over the country” opined the American president. The Libyan government’s spokesman, Musa Ibrahim, described the American president’s views “as delusional.” He emphasised that it is not for Obama to decide on the future of Gaddafi. The Libyan people, he said, “will determine their future.”  


The NATO is now using EU weaponry to bomb Libyan military assets. Much of Libya’s recent defence purchases were from the very countries that are now engaged in waging a war against the country. Initially, the three governments spearheading the aggression had hoped that Col Gaddafi would just pack up and leave the country and the rebel rabble in Benghazi would inherit the Libyan government’s military assets. But things have apparently not gone according to the script written at the NATO headquarters. Despite the continuous bombing campaign of the last two months, the Libyan government has continued fighting in the face of overwhelming odds. Gaddafi has repeatedly stated that he has no intention of leaving his homeland.




Experts of the region are saying that the battle for Libya has resulted in a military stalemate. The end result could be the balkanisation of the country. Already parallels are being drawn with the situation that prevailed in Afghanistan after the ouster of the secular government in Kabul by the American supported “mujahedin.” The country had consequently witnessed the rise of warlords and radical Islamists. The civil war in Libya has already acquired the contours of a tribal war. Former al Qaeda members are known to be actively fighting alongside the Benghazi rebels. The balkanisation of sovereign African countries, instigated by the West, has in fact already started. It was Sudan last year. Southern Sudan formally seceded last year. Many African countries are facing secessionist challenges. It is in the interest of the West to once again redraw the map of Africa in pursuit of the neo-colonial agenda. Southern Sudan and Libya could only be the beginning. 


Many Africa watchers also believe that the war in Libya was triggered by the West to undermine the genuine demands for democracy in the region. By supporting those Libyans opposed to the policies of Gaddafi, the West could pose as a champion of democracy after the negative role it had played in the democratic upheavals in Egypt and Tunisia. Washington, till the eleventh hour had supported, Hosni Mubarak and Ben Ali. In Bahrain, the Obama administration just stood aside and allowed the government there to brutally crush the democracy movement there.


The situation in Libya was tailor made for Washington to pursue its long term military and strategic agenda on the African continent. One of the major goals with which the US Africa Command (Africom), currently headquartered in Germany, was set up, is of combating the growing Chinese influence in the continent. China was emerging as one of Libya’s key energy partners. Africom was also desperately looking for a military base in the continent. Now the rebels in Benghazi, who owe their survival to Washington’s tender mercies, will be more than willing to provide a military base in the strategically located Libya. Libya is conveniently situated between Europe and sub-Saharan Africa. Control of Libya would also make the Mediterranean into a “NATO lake.”




The western military intervention also coincided with the Libyan government’s championing of an African Union (AU) that would not be influenced by either the EU or Washington. Gaddafi was the strongest proponent of a separate currency for the continent that would replace the dollar and the euro. Gaddafi was also toying with the idea of channelling the country’s oil revenue directly to the Libyan people. Gaddafi had said that he was fed up with the corruption in the country’s administrative set-up. “The administration has failed. The state economy has failed. The solution is that we Libyans directly take the oil money and decide what to do with it,” Gaddafi had told the media. The West had feared a new round of “nationalisations.” After Gaddafi’s rapprochement with the West eight years ago, for which he is no doubt repenting, western oil companies had once again entered the lucrative Libyan market. The Libyan bureaucracy and many influential figures in the government had stymied Gaddafi’s efforts to distribute the oil wealth directly to the people. Today, many of them are with the Benghazi rebels.


Gaddafi may feel betrayed but not too surprised at the turn of events. In his marathon speech at the UN General Assembly two years ago, he had listed the many instances in which the Security Council was hijacked by the West to target leaders who had stood up for just causes. He mentioned the attack against Gamal Abdel Nasser during the Suez crisis of 1956. Nasser’s fault was that he called for Arab unity against colonialism. Gaddafi also gave the examples of the wars in Korea and Vietnam, both instigated by Washington, in which millions of people lost their lives. He bemoaned the role of the Security Council, calling it “the terror council” controlled by the US. Gaddafi said that the American presidents, since the founding of the UN, are still sending the same message. “And we shall lead the world, and we shall punish anyone whether they like it or not. We shall punish anyone who is against us,” he had said in his speech. He had warned that all heads of state who dared to raise their voices against US hegemony will meet the fate of leaders of Yugoslavia, Grenada, Panama and Somalia. All of them paid the price for opposing the USA, the pre-eminent permanent member of the Security Council. Manuel Noriega, once the Panamanian president, is still in jail. Slobodan Milosevic died in jail. Gaddafi, from available indications, would prefer to die with his boots on, rather than spend his remaining days in a prison cell in the Hague.