Global Nato and the Recolonisation of Africa - Lessons From the Libyan Intervention

If there was any uncertainty about the real mission of the United States, France, Britain and other members of NATO in Libya, these doubts were clarified with the nature of the military campaign against the people of Libya that had been orchestrated under the mandate of the United Nations Security Council. It was a new kind of war, using third party forces in order to silence the global peace forces who were opposed to further military intervention. A robust propaganda and disinformation campaign by the corporate media covered up the real content of what was happening.

The economic crisis inside the Eurozone was too deep, however, and some of the members of NATO were hesitant about this recolonisation of Africa. France was desperate to get in on the act of intensifying the exploitation of African resources. France had not been a big player in Libya (a former colony of Italy) which until recently was Africa's fourth-largest oil producer, and possessing one of the continent's largest oil reserves of some 44 billion barrels - more than Nigeria or Algeria. France was also aware that Libya sits on the Nubian Sandstone Aquifer, an immensely vast underground sea of fresh water. The government of Libya had invested US$25 billion in the Great Man-made River Project, a complex 4,000km long water pipeline buried beneath the desert that could transport two million cubic metres of water a day

The energetic activities of Nicolas Sarkozy in guiding the military intervention took centre stage, while the US military could claim to 'lead from behind.' When France called a celebratory conference of ambassadors to rally them for the new imperial vision, Mr Sarkozy said Libya proved 'a strong contrast' to past European weakness, and justified his decision to integrate France into NATO's military command in 2009. The nature of this war organised from the air with proxy armies and private military contractors showed the way for dictatorships like Qatar and Saudi Arabia to fight for 'democracy.'

This intervention clarified for many African military forces that their alliance with the United States and France will not spare them when it is in the interest of the NATO forces to dispense with former allies. Muammar Gaddafi had enabled the imperial forces by financing their governments, purchasing junk as weaponry and cooperating with their intelligence agencies. The news about the cooperation of Gaddafi with British and US intelligence services along with their collaboration in relation to 'enhanced interrogation techniques' (translated as torture), the exchange of information and the secret transfers of opponents and 'terror' suspects should clarify to all that Muammar Gaddafi was no anti-imperialist. More damaging has been the most recent news of the regime's collaboration with human traffickers to use African immigrants as political football in his conflict with Europe. When the rebels were at the gates of Tripoli, the Gaddafi government worked with human traffickers to release African migrants who wanted to go to Europe. Hundreds left Libya then and drowned in the Mediterranean Sea. (See 'Gaddafi planned to flood Europe with migrants as final revenge').

But the crux of the matter of the relationship between Africa and Libya can now be seen in the killing of Africans in Libya on the grounds that they were and are mercenaries. These racist actions by the so-called 'rebels' were reported from the start of this 'humanitarian' intervention but at the point when these hodge-podge forces entered Tripoli, there was fresh evidence of the wanton killings of black Africans. Africans who escaped the pogroms reported the killings and this information had been in the public domain for months. Now it seems the world is paying attention after Amnesty International put out a report that Africans are being killed in racist attacks. So pronounced have been these racist killings that liberal organs such as the New York Times had to write an editorial on the killings. There has been no word from the United States or the information section of the AFRICOM. Though there have been with small stories in the British press, when British prime minister David Cameron, French president Nicolas Sarkozy and other NATO celebrants made their flying victory visit to Libya, they were silent on these racist attacks against black Africans as they shuttled between Tripoli and Benghazi trying to iron out how to cut French oil companies into the restructuring of the oil industry in Libya.

The African Union has condemned the racist attacks and maintained that political negotiations are still necessary. Jean Ping, chairperson of the Commission of the African Union, decried the attacks on black Africans and reiterated the reasons why the African Union wanted to see an inclusive government in Libya. Jean Ping declared, the 'Blacks are being killed. Blacks are having their throats slit. Blacks are accused of being mercenaries. Do you think it's normal in a country that's a third black that blacks are confused with mercenaries?'

Ping continued, 'There are mercenaries in Libya, many of them are black, but there are not only blacks and not all blacks there are mercenaries. Sometimes, when they are white, they call them "technical advisors".'

This reminder, that Libya is in Africa and that a third of the country is black is for those forces who are celebrating the success of a NATO mission to protect Africans which has ended up killing Africans. Africans do not consider the NATO mission a success. In fact, this has been a disaster for peace and reconstruction in Africa. The Russians and Chinese do not consider this operation a success but the leaders of Africa and the leaders of the BRICS societies have awoken too late to the new form of imperial intervention using Global NATO.

The one positive impact of this new imperial adventure is to send alarm bells among all of the military forces in Africa aligned to the West. The other impact is to alert the popular forces to the reality that governments with big armies are literally 'paper tigers.' Proper organising, political education, and disciplined activity by the working people can shift the international balance of power and rid Africa of other long serving despots. There is a new scramble for Africa and the progressive forces will have to learn the lessons from the new multilateral imperial interventions that are now being planned by Global NATO.

Global NATO and the Intervention in Libya

The history of NATO and the history of Libya are intertwined in many ways. It was two years after the formation of the North American Treaty Organization that Libya became independent in 1951. However, for the Europeans the strategic importance of Libya during the Second World War and the memory of the siege of Tobruk were too fresh in their minds for NATO to give up Libya entirely. The compromise was that NATO and the US would maintain a military presence. The US established a base called Wheelus Air Base in Libya. This base was called a 'Little America' until the US was asked to leave after Gaddafi seized power in 1969. The US had been scheming to get back into Libya since then. For a short while Gaddafi was supported as an anti-communist stalwart, but later he became a useful nuisance shifting as friend and foe over the years. As the US fabricated the myth of al Qaeda in the Maghreb, cooperation was extended to this leader but Gaddafi was opposed to the establishment of US and French military bases in Africa. Now we are informed through the military gossip sheet Stars and Stripes that NATO is considering the establishment of an air squadron in Africa to assist African governments. This is how it was reported in 'Stars and Stripes' (29 August 2011).

'While not formally assigned to AFRICOM, the squadron has been formed to conduct missions primarily in Africa, with a focus on building the air mobility capacity of African militaries.'

The next question that was posed by peace activists was whether this was a prelude for the building of another AFRICOM and NATO facility in Africa.

NATO had been formed as an alliance ostensibly to defend Western Europe against the Soviet Union. Charles De Gaulle had pulled France out of this alliance in 1966 after it became clear that this military alliance was dominated by the USA and Britain (supporting their military industries). Usually, when an alliance is formed for a specific purpose such as halting the spread of communism, that alliance is folded when the mission is complete. Hence, after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, it was expected that the mission of NATO would be scaled down.

[Source: By Horace Campbell, Pambazuka News, UK, 15Sep11]

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