Chaos and reaction in post-Gaddafi Libya

The situation in Libya, for some four decades an oasis of social progress in north Africa, continues to deteriorate following the barbarous war unleashed against the country by the US, British and French imperialists, along with a range of Nato allies, and the savage murder of the country’s revolutionary leader, Muammar al-Gaddafi.

Long established rights and social programmes for women, working people and youth have been overturned, to be replaced by an asset stripping of the country’s vast, and once largely publicly owned, natural wealth by the imperialist monopolies and a small local coterie of thieves in cahoots with them, who are also promoting everything backward, from polygamy to barbaric punishments, in the social field. There is no security for ordinary people, as rival groups of militias compete for the spoils of war. And for Libya’s neighbours, and the African continent in general, the imperialist crisis is now biting deeper than ever before, as the once generous aid and beneficial investment that Libya provided to so many fellow developing countries has disappeared.

However, whilst the externally engineered counter revolution in Libya has proved a disaster for the Libyan masses and the oppressed of the world, it is equally proving an elusive victory for imperialism, as their puppets show themselves to be totally incapable of providing stable government and administration and, still largely unreported, the patriotic resistance rebuilds and launches progressively more daring and bold attacks.

Death of al-Megrahi

On 20 May, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, who had been falsely accused and convicted of the 1988 explosion of a US civil aircraft over the Scottish town of Lockerbie, but whose return home was won as a result of a tenacious campaign by Gaddafi’s government once he had been diagnosed as suffering from terminal cancer, died at his home in the Libyan capital, Tripoli.

Callously, Prime Minister David Cameron responded to the news by saying that al-Magrahi should never have been released. But some relatives of those who lost their lives in the tragedy took a different view. Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora died, and who has always believed in al-Magrahi’s innocence, and had himself travelled to Tripoli to discuss the case with Colonel Gaddafi, campaigning for the truth, said that his death was a “very sad event“.

Right up to the end, he was determined, for his family’s sake… [that] the verdict against him should be overturned,” said Dr Swire, who is a member of the Justice for Megrahi group, adding that he believed there was evidence yet to be released which would prove his innocence.

His British lawyer, Tony Kelly said he was dismayed to hear people taking pleasure in al-Megrahi’s death: ” I came to know him as a man much troubled by the injustice of what happened to him. Even after the appeal process was finished, when at home in Tripoli, he talked of little else. I am sorry that he did not live to see his name cleared .”

In an article carried by the Wall Street Journal (22 May 2012), Dr Karol Sikora, former head of the UN World Health Organisation’s Cancer Programme, who had offered specialist advice on al-Megrahi’s condition, prior to his release from Glasgow’s Barlinnie prison, explained that the reason why the patient had survived much longer than was originally projected was because of the vastly superior health care available in Gaddafi’s Libya, as compared to Britain’s NHS. Dr Sikora wrote:

Based on the evidence of rapid spread and progression of his cancer despite the correct treatment, I wrote a report stating that on the balance of probability, Megrahi would die after about three months

But predicting the course of an illness is like trying to piece together the plot of a ballet after seeing just one still image. Most people in Megrahi’s condition would die at three months, but there is a very wide range with a long tail to the curve. Furthermore, there have been significant advances since 2009 in the treatment of prostate cancer that has spread. These include drugs such as abiraterone, cabazitaxel, alpharadin and medivation, which Megrahi probably received and are still not widely available in the UK. We judged his prognosis based on his treatment as an NHS patient in Glasgow at the time, when not even standard docetaxel chemotherapy was offered .

Conspiracy theories abound – that I was shown the wrong patient, that the X-rays and blood tests were faked. Maybe he died shortly after his release, or we were all bribed to get the answer the Libyans wanted. I don’t believe any of these at all. After his release, Megrahi almost certainly had excellent care in Tripoli .” (‘Why I gave Megrahi three months to live’)

The Wall Street Journal, in an accompanying editorial, which perversely managed to argue against the NHS in favour of fully privatised medicine, rather than the socialist model of health care that Libya embraced, nevertheless found itself forced to opine:

In other words, get treated for cancer by the UK’s National Health Service and you’ll be dead by Christmas. But get treated for the same cancer in Libya [emphasis in original] and you may have years to live.” (‘The Megrahi prognosis’, 22 May 2012)

Tripoli airport seized

Whilst the imperialist media generally try to downplay and obscure the chaotic situation prevailing in Libya, they could hardly deny it on 4 June, when armed militias stormed Tripoli international airport, reportedly to protest the kidnapping of their leader.

The militias, from Tarhuna, 40 miles south of Tripoli, captured the airport, firing shots as their vehicles careered across the runway in front of planes waiting to take off, forcing international flights to be diverted to the capital’s military airport.

The Guardian reported:

The attack on the airport, which was apparently unguarded, has raised fresh questions about the government’s grip on security, coming a month after another militia occupied the office of the prime minister, Abdurrahim el-Keib, and little more than two weeks before planned national elections

One witness, Adem Saleh, a Libyan oil worker, was on a bus being taken across the airport apron to board a flight to Benghazi when the militia struck .”

Saleh said he watched as the militia’s vehicles swarmed around planes parked on the apron, and saw one unit dismount and confront the Libyan ground crew of an Alitalia plane.

They walked up to these guys, I could see they were shouting. Then they opened fire. I don’t know if they shot the ground crew or they were firing near them, but I saw two guys, ground crew, later who were wounded .”

The Guardian report continued: ” Tripoli airport is no stranger to conflict: in December it was closed after machine-gun fire arced over the runway as the army tried to capture the airport from a militia from Zintan that had occupied it. The Zintan militia surrendered control of the airport in April, but a strike last month forced it to close for a day .

The attack will cause anxiety among international airlines which must now decide whether the government can guarantee security for what promises to be a turbulent time leading up to the elections…Some airlines continue importing their own aviation fuel, or ensure jets land with enough fuel for the return journey, amid concerns that supplies in Libya may be contaminated .

The government’s elite force, the Supreme Security Committee, whose forces remained deployed with machine-gun mounted jeeps near the airport on Monday night are in the spotlight after claims from the health ministry that they kidnapped and tortured a prominent heart surgeon last month .

The latest skirmish comes with the NTC [the imperialist puppet regime] facing fighting and upheavals across the country, hampering efforts to hold national elections on 19 June .

The southern towns of Sabbha and Kufra remain tense after inter-tribal battles, and engagements west of Tripoli last month saw the border crossing with Tunisia closed .

Meanwhile, the cities of Zintan and Misrata, home to the most powerful militia armies, which bore the brunt of last year’s fighting, have become virtual fortresses, electing their own city councils and resisting attempts by NTC forces to impose their authority .” (‘Tripoli airport back in our control, says Libyan government’, 4 June 2012)

Elections postponed

In fact, the elections originally promised for 19 June were subsequently postponed to 7 July, with no guarantee they will be held then either. In any case, this so-called election, if it takes place at all, is merely for a so-called ‘Public National Conference’, which is supposed to appoint a Prime Minister, Cabinet and Constituent Authority, which is then supposed to draw up a new constitution. This would in turn be put to a referendum and, if approved, a general election would be held within six months from that point.

Considering the chaos and lack of government control in Libya, with the above quoted instances merely the tip of a very large iceberg, it is clear that this is all so much wishful thinking or eye wash for the gullible.

ICC under arrest

In yet another sign of the chaos enveloping the country, four staff members of the International Criminal Court (ICC), who were visiting Libya in connection with the court’s demand that Colonel Gaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi, be handed over to them, were arrested by the Zintan militia holding him, on suspicion of spying, on 7 June.

As Lalkar went to press, Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr, who had been spearheading negotiations for the ICC staff’s release, admitted this goal was still some way off, despite the court agreeing to investigate the team’s behaviour. This pusillanimous stance, inconceivable had this imperialist kangaroo court been dealing with any regime that was in any way progressive, anti-imperialist or with a shred of legitimacy, was summarised by the BBC as follows:

The four went to Zintan earlier this month to meet Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of the late Libyan leader.

One of them, Australian lawyer Melinda Taylor, was accused of trying to pass him documents from a former ally and was then detained.

“‘The ICC deeply regrets any events that may have given rise to concerns on the part of the Libyan authorities,’ the statement said.

“‘In carrying out its functions, the Court has no intention of doing anything that would undermine the national security of Libya,’ it added.

If found responsible for any misconduct, the ICC would ensure that staff ‘will be subject to appropriate sanctions,’ it went on

Australian lawyer Melinda Taylor was detained after accusations she clandestinely passed Mr Gaddafi a coded letter from a fugitive former aide, Mohammed Ismail. Her Lebanese translator Helene Assaf is accused of being her accomplice .” (‘ICC promises to investigate Libya staff if released’, 23 June 2012)

British Ambassador ambushed

Meanwhile, the resurgent strength of the Libyan resistance was highlighted in an audacious 11 June attack on a British embassy convoy, which included Ambassador Dominic Asquith, in the country’s second city, Benghazi, supposedly the stronghold of the counter-revolutionaries. In a daylight attack, using a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG), two bodyguards, understood to be “former” members of the terrorist Special Air Services (SAS) special forces, were wounded, although information as to their condition is being withheld.

This was but the latest in a series of high profile resistance attacks in Benghazi, which have included on the US mission, the UN mission, and the offices of the Red Cross, presumably because it is seen to be working in support of the occupation, rather than in pursuit of its ostensible humanitarian mission.

A plague of locusts

On 5 June, the Financial Times reported that an important UN agency had highlighted yet another way in which the overthrow of Gaddafi has been a catastrophe for the entire region. The newspaper wrote:

The death of Muammar Gaddafi continues to reverberate across Africa – this time in the form of desert locusts.

The Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations warned on Tuesday that croplands in Niger and Mali were at imminent risk from locust swarms moving south from Libya and Algeria. The revolution [in fact counter-revolution] in Libya played a major role in allowing the pests to breed, it said.

“‘ The fall of Gaddafi was an enormous factor, to be honest,’ said Keith Cressman, FAO senior locust forecasting officer. ‘It depleted the Libyans’ capacity to monitor and respond as they normally would .'”

Desert locusts have the capacity to destroy vast areas of croplands. During a plague, a swarm can stretch for several hundred kilometres, comprising billions of locusts, each capable of eating its own weight in food a day.

A 2003-05 plague affected farmers in two dozen countries, mainly in Africa, and cost more than $500m to bring under control.

Desert locust swarms formed in Libya and Algeria in mid-May, after good rains and the resultant growth of vegetation on which they feed. The first swarms have already been sighted in northern Niger, which is currently experiencing a food crisis.

Small farmers are especially vulnerable since their entire crop can be wiped out. The FAO said that the number of locusts and their spread would depend on control efforts in Libya and Algeria, as well as rainfall in the Sahel region of West Africa.

The Financial Times continued: “‘ During Muammar Gaddafi’s reign, Libya had an effective and well-resourced locust control programme’, Mr Cresswell said. While the administrative structures were still there, the vehicles, sprayers and other equipment were no longer available .

“‘Before the [counter] revolution, Libya would even send large convoys with survey and control teams to other countries in north and west Africa,’ he said. ‘But now they are the ones needing help .'”

However, the paper concluded: “The continued insecurity in southern Libya meant that the FAO’s in-country expert was unable to travel there.” (‘Locusts swarm in wake of Libya uprising’)