By Reza Pankhurst
The depth of British and American collusion with the Gaddafi regime is slowly being exposed with the capture of documents from the offices of Moussa Koussa former regime security chief and right-hand man of Moammar Gaddafi. The documents highlight the long-standing co-operation between the Western intelligence agencies MI6 and CIA, and the Gaddafi regimes security apparatus.
Though it was known that there was previously collaboration between the agencies, the extent of it indicates just how deeply entrenched the West was in supporting the Libyan regime against its opponents up to and until the uprisings this February. It now transpires that AbdulHakim Belhaj (also known alternatively as Abu Abdullah al-Sadiq) was requested by the Libyan regime in 2004, to which the CIA replied that they were “committed to developing this relationship for the benefit of both our services,” and promised their best to locate him for the Libyans. They promptly did so, and tortured him before sending him to Libya. Having recovered from his rendition and torture at the hands of both the CIA and Gaddafi regime, he is now the head of the military council in Tripoli.
Highlighting the lack of independence of mainstream Western media and the moral vacuum therein, the biggest questions being asked about Belhaj are not linked to his torture and how the CIA is permitted to act as an international terrorist organization, but rather whether he is a threat to Western interests due to his leadership of an Islamic movement. Not discussed in detail is the hypocrisy of the West’schange of heart on Gaddafi, and that far from “humanitarian” reasons the whole NATO campaign was to maintain as much control as possible over the future of the region. Neither is the issue of CIA torture and collusion in torture considered extraordinary or warranting much introspection. As mentioned by CIA spokeswoman Jennifer Youngblood “It can’t come as a surprise that the Central Intelligence Agency works with foreign governments to help protect our country from terrorism and other deadly threats. That is exactly what we are expected to do.” Of course the detail of what that work entails is another blow to the already discredited reputation of the United States and a sign of the extent of the abdication of any claims to moral leadership.
It has also been reported that the CIA sent at least 8 rendition victims to be interrogated by the Libyan intelligence (and the MI6 is also reported to have sent at least 1). The New York Times mentions that this was “despite that country’s reputation for torture”. It would be fairer to have written “because of that country’s reputation for torture”, given the fact that the CIA has been shown not to be averse to torturing suspects itself, and the whole point of the rendition process is to render the victim to regimes who, in the belief of the Americans, didn’t have to face any accountable for their actions (something being currently disproven by the Arab uprisings across the region). Until now the US still parades the same lines about obtaining assurances from the recipient countries that the rendered detainees would be treated humanely, while at the same time the CIA sends questions to be answered and is sometimes present during their torture.
As quoted in the Wall Street Journal a US official said “There are lots of countries willing to take terrorists off the street who want to kill Americans. That doesn’t mean U.S. concerns about human rights are ignored in the process”. The report doesn’t mention whether the official managed to say this with a straight face or not. The whole rendition process itself in any case is a flagrant violation of any moral or international norms, and that it is still referred to in such neutral terms is a further disgrace upon an American media who long ago sacrificed any semblance of independence.
The British, at the forefront of NATO’s campaign against Gaddafi, come off looking just as bad if not worse. An unsigned fax dated 2004 from the MI6 talked about proving their close friendship with the regime as well as highlighting competition with the CIA, mentioning that the information leading to the handing over Abu Abdullah Sadiq (another of the names Abdulhakim Belhaj was known by) was “the least we could do for you to demonstrate the remarkable relationship we have built over recent year….amusingly, we got a request from the Americans to channel requests for information from Abu Abd through the Americans. I have no intention of doing any such thing.”
This is the same Libyan regime whose assurances that it would not commit torture were rejected by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (‘SIAC’) in 2007. As mentioned in the JUSTICE Press release “The decision came in a case involving two Libyan men that the UK government sought to deport to Libya on grounds of national security, despite the well-established record of the Libyan government for using torture”. The court was not however made aware of the fact that the British government had up until that point in any case been complicit in the rendition and torture of Libyan opposition figures.
Given the closeness between the Libyan regime and the West, which was not limited to intelligence issues as exhibited by the array of business deals between Britain and Libya and the further normalization of official relations between the Gaddafi regime and the United Stated when a pact on military co-operation in 2009, those in Libya ought to be ever more wary of NATO plans to direct the future of the country.
It is clear that the volte-face carried out by the West during the Arab Risings has been to try to manage any process of change in the region and making sure that their interests remain protected within the same Sykes-Picot regional setup created by the imperial powers after World War One. And within that the same ought to be said about former regime stalwarts who now reside in influential positions of the NTC. The people of Libya have risen against a dictator who was closely supported and co-operated with the West. It is unlikely they would willingly accept the replacement of one Western agent with another, while the Islamic sentiments of the people are sidelined to appease the sensitivities of governments who were deep in co-operation with Gaddafi against opposition.
Reza Pankhurst is a regular contributor to New Civilisation. He has a PhD from the London School of Economics Government department, and also blogs at rezapankhurst.net.