Categorized | USA, Africa, Europe

Slouching Towards Sirte: NATO’s War on Libya and Africa

Maximilian Forte’s new book Slouching Towards Sirte: NATO’s War on Libya and Africa, released Nov 20, is a searing indictment of NATO’s 2011 military intervention in Libya, and of the North American and European left that supported it. He argues that NATO powers, with the help of the Western left who “played a supporting role by making substantial room for the dominant US narrative and its military policies,” marshalled support for their intervention by creating a fiction that Gaddafi was about to carry out a massacre against a popular, pro-democracy uprising, and that the world could not stand idly by and watch a genocide unfold. Forte takes this view apart, showing that a massacre was never in the cards, much less genocide. Gaddafi didn’t threaten to hunt down civilians, only those who had taken up armed insurrection, and he offered rebels amnesty if they laid down their arms. What’s more, Gaddafi didn’t have the military firepower to lay siege to Benghazi (site of the initial uprising) and hunt down civilians from house to house.
Nor did his forces carry out massacres in the towns they recaptured, something that cannot be said for the rebels. Citing mainstream media reports that CIA and British SAS operatives were already on the ground “either before or at the very same time as Cameron and Sarkozy began to call for military intervention in Libya”, Forte raises “the possibility that Western powers were at least waiting for the first opportunity to intervene in Libya to commit regime change under the cover of a local uprising.” And he adds, they were doing so “without any hesitation to ponder what if any real threats to civilians might have been.”
Gaddafi, a fierce opponent of fundamentalist Wahhabi or Salafi Islam, “faced several armed uprisings and coup attempts before, and in the West there was no public clamor for his head when he crushed them.” The same, too, can be said of the numerous uprisings and assassination attempts carried out by the Syrian Muslim Brothers against the Assads, all of which were crushed without raising much of an outcry in the West, until now. Rejecting a single-factor explanation that NATO intervened to secure access to Libyan oil, Forte presents a multi-factorial account, which invokes elements of the hunt for profits, economic competition with China and Russia, and establishing US hegemony in Africa. Among the gains of the intervention, Forte writes, were:
  1. increased access for US corporations to massive Libyan expenditures on infrastructure development (and now reconstruction), from which US corporations had frequently been locked out when Gaddafi was in power;
  2. warding off any increased acquisition of Libyan oil contracts by Chinese and Russian firms;
  3. ensuring that a friendly regime was in place that was not influenced by ideas of “resource nationalism;”
  4. increasing the presence of AFRICOM in African affairs, in an attempt to substitute for the African Union and to entirely displace the Libyan-led Community of Sahel-Saharan States;
  5. expanding the US hold on key geostrategic locations and resources;
  6. promoting US claims to be serious about freedom, democracy, and human rights, and of being on the side of the people of Africa, as a benign benefactor;
  7. politically stabilizing the North African region in a way that locked out opponents of the US; and
  8. drafting other nations to undertake the work of defending and advancing US political and economic interests, under the guise of humanitarianism and protecting civilians.

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