By Horace Campbell
The inability of the Western media and other ‘information’ sources to manage the news of the execution of Colonel Gaddafi was compounded by the news, according to the New York based Human Rights Watch, that 53 supporters of the ousted regime were executed at a hotel in Sirte with their hands tied behind their backs (Huffington Post October 26, 2011). Wall-to-wall news bulletins of the demise of Colonel Gaddafi, which should have been a moment of victory for the imperial forces, have now turned into a public relations disaster and nightmare for those military planners who want to distance themselves from the gruesome details of the executions. These immoral and illegal actions by the military forces and private contractors in Libya backed by NATO were furthered with disrespect for religious and cultural traditions where the mortal remains of Gaddafi and his son, Muatassim, were kept in a meat freezer until the bodies started to decompose.
Finally a supposedly secret burial failed to resolve the tussle between those who had hijacked the body in the on-going struggle inside the National Transitional Council (NTC) between the three centers of power, Tripoli, Benghazi and Misrata. The factions fear each other and they have lost the one factor that united them, hatred for Gaddafi. With fear of other factions in the NTC, the Benghazi section is calling for the United Nations Security Council to extend the mandate of the no fly zone until 31 December 2011. There are members of the UNSC such as Russia who oppose this extension. The African Union must call for the immediate end to the mandate of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973.
It is now becoming clear that the Western leaders (especially those from Britain, France, Italy and the United States) used the cover of protection of civilian lives to go to Libya to carry out regime change. Gaddafi had vowed to fight to the end and he did. The destruction of Libya by NATO jets was totally unnecessary. Can the people of the West and their leaders say that Libya is now better off in October 2011 than it was in March 2011?
In a moment of revolutionary upheavals all over the world, the leaders of France, Britain and the United States intervened in Libya to divert attention from their problems and to derail the wave of revolutionary change that is now underway internationally. Italy, which is in the throes of a profound crisis, tagged along to protect its colonial heritage and oil contracts in Libya.
On Tuesday 25 October 2011 the Los Angeles Times reported that Libya had more than US$200 billion in reserves. As outlined in my article, ‘Global NATO and the Recolonisation of Africa’, it is no secret that leaders such as France’s Nicolas Sarkozy deeply want to get their hands on this money to save the banks in Europe and to save the Euro. But the crisis in the Eurozone area is too far gone and the depth of the structural and systemic crisis is too extreme to save the politicians who oversaw this military campaign inside Libya.
The NATO forces (meaning the countries of this Libya campaign) that were using international morality and international law to justify the recolonisation and destruction of Africa are now exposed. The attempt to humiliate Gaddafi was a failed effort to humiliate oppressed peoples and decent elements within the armed forces of these societies who are seeking another world. In this article, I seek to reconstruct the decision at the highest levels to execute Colonel Gaddafi and to analyse the urgency for organising to oppose the remilitarisation of Africa.
PLANNING FOR THE EXECUTION OF GADDAFI
When on Sunday 23 October 2011, US secretary of state Hilary Clinton said on the US television Channel NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ that she backed a proposal that the United Nations investigate Gaddafi’s death and requested that Libya’s TNC also look into the circumstances, it was clear that the execution had backfired. This was the height of hypocrisy, or what would be called a pre-emptive strike on her own reputation. Under international law and the Geneva Conventions, Hillary Clinton could be held to account for her statements in Tripoli on 18 October when she called for Gaddafi’s capture or killing.
Security planners and military strategists of the Obama Whitehouse are now cowering in shame on the fallout from the failure of the Libyan quagmire and the exposure of the bankruptcy of the US military and imperial logic.
Back in March The New York Times reported that the National Security Council of the White House had debated the execution of Colonel Gaddafi. The article, ‘Before Qaddafi’s Death, U.S. Debated His Future’, stated that the White House considered ‘The killing of Colonel Qaddafi … [as] one of the three scenarios considered last Wednesday.’ The article in the Times also said, ‘Putting the colonel on trial, either in Libya or The Hague, was one of a host of situations for which the administration planned.’
The next day Colonel Gaddafi was killed. What is being asked all over the world is why kill him? Why not put him on trial, what is it that the western leaders do not want to come out in a trial?
GADDAFI’S ESCAPE FROM TRIPOLI
‘Mansour Dhao Ibrahim, one of the military leaders who survived the murder and execution of the Gaddafi entourage has revealed that Colonel Gaddafi had escaped from Tripoli to Sirte on 21 August. Reports in the international media are that the decision for Gaddafi to stay in Sirte was based on Muatassim, the colonel’s son. The report continued that Gaddafi’s son and the military entourage had ‘reasoned that the city, long known as an important pro-Qaddafi stronghold and under frequent bombardment by NATO airstrikes, was the last place anyone would look.’
In August 2011, after the capture of Tripoli by the Qatari Army, the British Special Air Service and private military contractors to Tripoli, there was euphoria at NATO headquarters. Having declared that Tripoli had been ‘liberated’, the NATO headquarters had been issuing communiqués since August that all Libya was about to be liberated. There was anxiety when there was stiff resistance in Sirte and every other day, NATO was declaring that Sirte was about to fall.
NATO, which had started the war under the pretext of responsibility ‘to protect’, had destroyed the most of Libya . From the nature of the resistance, NATO and their satellite intercepts had found out that Gaddafi was in Sirte, hence the NSC meetings and deliberations.
The New York Times’ report on the ‘Last Days of Gaddafi’ has revealed for posterity that:
‘The colonel traveled with about 10 people, including close aides and guards. Muatassim, who commanded the loyalist forces, traveled separately from his father, fearing that his own satellite phone was being tracked. Apart from a phone, which the colonel used to make frequent statements to a Syrian television station that became his official outlet, Colonel Qaddafi was largely “cut off from the world”.’
It was this satellite phone that was tracked so that when Sirte was bombed to smithereens, there was only one option left for Gaddafi, and that was to make a run to escape.
British news reports from both the Telegraph and The Independent UK since 21 August 2001 had been reporting that SAS and US Special forces were hunting for Gaddafi. British SAS forces and U.S. Special Forces had been scouring the Sirte area for Gaddafi, unable to find him.
According to these reports, when the resistance continued for two months, the British and US Special Forces on the ground disguised as Libyan NTC fighters had been coordinating the bombing campaign of Sitre. These SAS forces synchronised the bombing and one or two weeks before the execution, ‘NATO had pinpointed Gaddafi’s position after an intelligence breakthrough.’
Once the SAS and the coordinating forces confirmed Gaddafi’s position, ‘an American drone and an array of NATO eavesdropping aircraft had been trained on his Sirte stronghold to ensure he could not escape.’
This was when the debates on execution intensified and the drones were deployed to ensure that Gaddafi did not escape from Sirte.
US DRONES VS. FRENCH JETS
‘About two weeks ago, as the former rebels stormed the city center, the colonel and his sons were trapped shuttling between two houses in a residential area called District No. 2. They were surrounded by hundreds of former rebels, firing at the area with heavy machine guns, rockets and mortars. “The only decision was whether to live or to die,” Mr. Dhao said. Colonel Qaddafi decided it was time to leave, and planned to flee to one of his houses nearby, where he had been born. On Thursday, a convoy of more than 40 cars was supposed to leave at about around 3 a.m.’
With the voice recognition technology picking up any call made by Gaddafi, the drones were called in when the convoy carrying Gaddafi was pinpointed by the drone.
According to The Daily Telegraph (as reported by Empire Strikes Black):
’They built up a normal pattern of life picture so that when something unusual happened this morning such as a large group of vehicles gathering together, that came across as highly unusual activity and the decision was taken to follow them and prosecute an attack.
‘Electronic warfare aircraft, either an American Rivet Joint or a French C160 Gabriel, also picked up Gaddafi’s movements as he attempted to escape.’
Hilary Clinton had flown to Tripoli on Tuesday 18 October and from The New York Times report on the debate on Gaddafi’s future, Clinton made her position clear as reported in the international media when she declared that she wanted Gaddafi killed or captured.
Was this a clear message to the Special Forces on the ground that the NATO forces wanted Gaddafi killed? The Geneva conditions explicitly stated that prisoners of war should be humanely treated. In normal situations of the rule of international law this question of the manner of the execution would be taken up under the Geneva Conventions.
‘In a Toyota Land Cruiser, Colonel Qaddafi traveled with his chief of security, a relative, the driver and Mr. Dhao. The colonel did not say much during the drive. NATO warplanes and former rebel fighters found them half an hour after they left. When a missile struck near the car, the airbags deployed, said Mr. Dhao, who was hit by shrapnel in the strike. He said he tried to escape with Colonel Qaddafi and other men, walking first to a farm, then to the main road, toward some drainage pipes. “The shelling was constant,” Mr. Dhao said, adding that he was struck by shrapnel again and fell unconscious. When he woke up, he was in the hospital.’
Sensitive to the repercussions of this attack on the convoy, the British media declared early that the RAF had not been involved in the aerial attack. With great bravado, the French took credit for firing missile that stopped the car carrying Colonel Gaddafi.
French Defence Minister Gerard Longuet revealed that a French Mirage-2000 fired a warning shot at a column of several dozen vehicles fleeing Sirte.
MANAGING THE NEWS OF THE EXECUTION OF GADDAFI
It is now known that Gaddafi was alive after the airstrike by the French jets. With the clear mandate emanating from the discussions at the highest levels, the ‘NTC forces’ were on the ground to find the wounded Gaddafi. These newspapers would have the world believe that it was by chance that these ‘NTC’ fighters happened to find the wounded Gaddafi. Thanks to cell phone technology and alternative news sources, we know that when these ‘NTC forces’ captured Gaddafi, he was alive.
There are also visual images of the humiliation of the wounded Gaddafi and then later the dead body.
Once Gaddafi was executed with a bullet to the head, the great challenge for the NATO forces was how to manage the news of the execution, with the full knowledge that there were visual images of Gadddafi alive and then dead.
This was when the disinformation planners came up with the theory that Gaddafi was killed in crossfire. But the inconsistencies from the western news sources were so blatant that it was embarrassing for the psychological warfare experts of NATO. Was it crossfire, was it stray bullet, was it an assassination? There were too many cell phone images of what transpired for the western intelligence agencies to attempt to cover the clear violation of international law.
In this disinformation effort to convince the world that Gaddafi was killed in a crossfire or by a stray bullet, events were moving too fast so NATO could not control the disinformation and lies. Throughout the war, disinformation had been central to the operations.
As Lizzie Phelan had reported for Pambazuka News and other media, NATO had been willing and able ‘to not just fabricate events but to create.’ The fabrications now failed and it was clear that the manner of the killing of Gaddafi was meant to humiliate him. One does not have to support Gaddafi to realise that this kind of killing will not lay any basis for a society free from revenge killings. The disinformation backfired – even those who opposed the antics of Gaddafi in Africa were now opposed to the wanton disregard for international law.
From all corners of the world, NATO and the US Africa Command were being condemned. Despite efforts by western news agencies to place a microphone before those who would parrot the western line, the disregard for law and the hypocrisy of those who had used the mandate of the ‘responsibility to protect’ to carry out executions were too blatant. The Russians called for an end to the NATO mission and called for the UN Security Council to end the mandate of the no fly zone. At the United Nations, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, who has repeatedly accused NATO of exceeding its UN mandate in Libya, has called for ending the mandate of the no-fly zone on October 31. Churkin said extending the UN authorisation beyond Monday October would be ‘unrealistic.’
In Africa, even those who had been opposed to Gaddafi, especially when he called his people rats, were now seeing the real criminal actions being carried out by NATO. Former Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu condemned the killing of Gaddafi, saying mob justice and violence should always be deplored.
‘The manner of the killing of Muammar Gaddafi on Thursday totally detracts from the noble enterprise of instilling a culture of human rights and democracy in Libya… the people of Libya should have demonstrated better values than those of their erstwhile oppressor.’
The same managers of disinformation realised that this manner of the execution revealed the true nature of the NATO/AFRICOM operations so the New York Times editorialised on October 20 that:
‘But a gruesome video broadcast on Al Jazeera – apparently showing him being dragged, beaten and then, perhaps, shot to death by armed men – is deeply troubling, if it is real.
‘Libyans must resist further reprisals and channel their passion into building a united, free and productive country. If not, they risk even more chaos and suffering.’
This same newspaper did not bring out whether there was any the role of US Special Forces and the British SAS on the ground, but from all corners of the world, there were now Human Rights reports calling for an investigation into the manner of the killing. Bloggers and articulate writers were reminding the imperialists that the Third Geneva Convention clearly states (article 13): ‘Prisoners of war must at all times be protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation and against insults and public curiosity.’
The Fourth Geneva Convention (article 27): ‘Protected persons are entitled, in all circumstances, to respect for their persons, their honor, their family rights, their religious convictions and practices, and their manners and customs. They shall at all times be humanely treated, and shall be protected especially against all acts of violence or threats thereof and against insults and public curiosity.’
The discovery of the 53 corpses at the Mahari hotel, and another ten dumped in a nearby reservoir reveal a glimpse of the bloodletting and indiscriminate killings.
Africans from sub-saharan Africa were being particularly targeted and the opposition to the NTC intensified all over the continent, if not over the world.
CAN NATO CONTROL LIBYA?
From the start of the war against the peoples of Libya in March 2011, it became clear that the objective of the war was regime change. Those decent humans who had been offended by the leadership of the Libyan society calling their people rats and feared for a massacre were soon shown the reality that it was the NATO bombing that was a greater threat.
The NATO-led air campaign was launched in March under a UN mandate to protect civilians from Gaddafi’s forces trying to crush popular protests. It was clear that the objective of NATO was not to protect civilians and there was opposition to this NATO operation.
The destruction of Libya was meant to ensure greater western control over that society.
Throughout the war, the African Union spoke with one voice and called for a roadmap that would establish an inclusive government. Experience from Burundi and the work of the Nyerere and Mandela foundations point to the truth that it is in Africa where there is expertise to bring reconciliation. From the actions of the USA, France and Britain, they do not want peace and reconstruction in Libya. France continues to ensnare China in the spoils of war by promising reconstruction contracts. But if the BRICS societies support the African Union, there will be no contracts to be given out by France. National Transitional Council (NTC) Chairman Mustafa Abdul Jalil would like the UNSC to extend the mandate of the no fly zone on the grounds of controlling surplus weapons. However, Jalil has no means to exercise political leadership.
The NTC is divided. Three months after Tripoli was ‘liberated’ the leaders in Benghazi are still afraid to move to Tripoli. The Misrata elements of the ‘uprising’ hijacked the body of Gadddafi and kept the body in a meat freezer in Misrata. Humiliation was piled upon total disrespect for religious and traditional customs as the bodies were made a public spectacle. When the bodies started to decompose, they could no longer keep the bodies and Gadddafi and his son were buried in the desert.
AFRICAN UNITY CANNOT BE HALTED
Fifty years after Patrice Lumumba was assassinated in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1961, we now have another gruesome execution of an African leader with the objective of halting the liberation and independence of Africa. In normal circumstances NATO commanders, United Nations personnel, point persons for the Arab League, and other imperial actors would be required to testify before an impartial enquiry in order to justify their role if any in these atrocities. It required the tenacious work of peace loving persons to ensure that Belgium and the USA were named as the murderers of Patrice Lumumba.
Today, international law can only be enforced by a new international alliance of societies that want to avoid total destructions.
In the midst of this crisis, the criminal actions carried out in Libya point to the reality that we are not in normal circumstances. How can the United Nations or NATO investigate crimes committed on their watch? Under the cover of providing security from the air for the TNC, NATO, the UN, and the other imperial actors in this campaign, granted themselves the alibi now being espoused for cold blooded murder. It is unthinkable to believe that NATO and the UN did not know what the NTC and other special forces were doing on the ground. Given the turn of events in Libya, which erupted in the cold blooded bloodletting, what seems to be emerging is some kind of sinister plot to obliterate any remnants of the former regime. There is no justification for such bloodletting. These people, including Gaddafi should have been captured and brought to trial under international law. International law cannot be exercised in a piecemeal manner to suit the whims and fancies of big powers. International law must be applied equally in all circumstances and in all areas of the world.
What has emerged in Libya is a double standard.
The same leaders who proclaim themselves as upholders of human rights applauded the humiliation and execution of Gaddafi. Decent human beings all over the world were outraged and it is now clearer that the decision to execute Gaddafi was made to silence one voice for anti-imperialism.
The execution had the opposite effect and the work for expelling foreign military forces from Africa will be now more intense.