THE GADDAFI REGIME

Having discussed the west’s war against Gaddafi it seems to me only right  if I devote a post to the man himself and to his regime.  I do so in part because in my opinion virtually everything written about both Gaddafi and his regime is quite simply wrong.

In my opinion when shorn of its pseudo revolutionary rhetoric Gaddafi’s regime stands revealed as a hereditary desert oil monarchy very similar in almost every respect to that other great hereditary desert oil monarchy, Saudi Arabia.  

1.  Gaddafi’s Libya like Saudi Arabia was presided over by a hereditary monarch.  Everybody realises this is so in the case of Saudi Arabia.  It is not however generally realised that this was equally true of Gaddafi’s Libya.  However as soon as Gaddafi’s position is examined the fact becomes obvious.  As Gaddafi repeatedly pointed out he was not a “Prime Minister” or a “President”.  He was not elected to any post.  Nor was he ever subject to any form of re election however rigged.  Like the founder of the Saudi monarchy, Abdul Aziz ibn Saud (“ibn Saud”), he seized power by force and thereafter ruled the country on the basis of nothing else than the charisma of his personality.  Many of the eccentric aspects of Gaddafi’s behaviour, which caused so much baffllement and annoyance to western and Arab politicians who had to deal with him, were the result of his need to project a larger than life personality to his own people in order to justify a rule that was in the end based on nothing other than his own charisma.  Accounts of ibn Saud show him to have been every bit as flamboyant and eccentric as Gaddafi though because he was the west’s friend in his case these eccentricities were seen as engaging rather than annoying.

2. Gaddafi did not formally call himself a “king”.  Neither does the Saudi monarch. Gaddafi’s title was “Brother Leader of the Revolution”.  The Saudi monarch’s is “Protector of the Two Holy Places”.  The Saudi monarch is now usually referred to even in Saudi Arabia as “king” whilst the male members of his clan and family call themselves and are called “Princes”.  Towards the end of his reign Gaddafi was also starting to refer to himself informally as “king”.  In one speech he apparently called himself “king of kings”.  Typically this has been seen as an example of Gaddafi’s megalomania rather than for what it was, which was an acknowledgement of the true nature of his position.  

 3. As in Saudi Arabia the monarchy Gaddafi had established was intended to be hereditary.  Ibn Saud on his death bequeathed the monarchy to his sons who have since succeeded each other according to a system of agnate succession.  This is what would have happened in Libya if Gaddafi had not been overthrown.  Gaddafi’s designated successor (“crown prince”) was apparently his son Saif.  As in Saudi Arabia on his death Saif would have been succeeded by one of his brothers, probably Mutaizzim or Khamis.  As in Saudi Arabia the succession would have been confined to a tight ring of Gaddafi’s sons drawing like ibn Saud’s sons legitimacy from the charisma of their father and not therefore needing to imitate the eccentrities of their father’s behaviour.  In Saudi Arabia the line of brothers will shortly die out creating growing uncertainty about the country’s future.

4. As in Saudi Arabia the brothers (ie Gaddafi’s sons) controlled the country on behalf of the family and each other through their control of key military and police units recruited in order to ensure their loyalty on tribal and clan lines.  In Saudi Arabia the designated successor (“crown prince”) of Abdullah, the present Saudi monarch, was his younger brother Sultan, who at the time of his recent death was also the country’s defence minister and commander of its army.  He is expected to be replaced by the next brother in line who is Naif who as interior minister controls the police.  Gaddafi did not appoint his sons to head ministries in the way that ibn Saud did but preferred to give them instread direct command of key military units.  Mutaizzim, who seems to have been second in line. was apparently the overall army commander whilst Khamis, who was possibly the third in line, commanded the unit that provided Gaddafi’s guard.

5.  Beyond the immediate family stood the wider tribe or clan.  In Saudi Arabia this is the Saudis.  In Libya it was the Qadhaffa.  In Saudi Arabia the entire country is named after the clan even though it accounts for only a very small proportion of the total population.  Male members of the clan all use the title “prince” and there are apparently thousands of them with no one it seems knowing exactly how many.  In Libya the Qadhaffa were not privileged in this formal way but in practice their privileges seem to have been the same.  Both ibn Saud and Gaddafi went out of their way to emphasise their links to their clan and its Bedouin ways by wearing desert robes in preference to western clothes and by living or by appearing to live much of the time in a tent.  In Saudi Arabia the Saudi monarch still always dresses in desert robes and still often receives visitors in a tent.

6. Beyond the wider clan is a network of other clans and tribes allied to the ruling clan.  In both Saudi Arabia and Gaddafi’s Libya the principle function of the monarch has been to hold together this alliance by judicious use of patronage.  In both cases this has resulted in groups being privileged above others.  Since in each case the ruling clan, Saudi and Qadhaffa, are Bedouin in origin this has meant that the clans and tribes of the desert interior have been privileged above those of the cities and the coast. Particularly disadvantaged have been clans from those regions associated with the dynasties the Saudis and the Qadhaffa overthrew.  In Saudi Arabia these were the Hashemites of the Hejaz and in Libya they were the Senussi of Cyrenaica.  The Hejaz has remained a centre of opposition to the Saudis since the re establishment of the Saudi state in the 1920s whilst the rebellion that ended the rule of the Qadhaffa began in Cyrenaica.

7. At this point I should say that even if ibn Saud and Gaddafi had come to power with different intentions (and in Gaddafi’s case there is evidence that he came to power with genuinely good intentions) given the tribal or clan based nature of their respective societies their regimes would not have survived if they had not favoured their clans in this way.  Had ibn Saud or Gaddafi sought to treat all people equally they would merely have stirred resentment within their own clan, which would have seen their actions as a betrayal, whilst failing to win support from the other clans, which would have found their behaviour incomprehensible.    

8. Both the Saudis and Gaddafi have used the Islamic religion to entrech themselves and to legitimise their position.  In the case of Saudi Arabia this is a universally acknowledged fact.  Few however realise that Gaddaf’s regime in Libya was as much based on a particular interpretation of Islam as is the regime in Saudi Arabia.  Gaddafi repeatedly and throughout his rule emphasised the Islamic nature of his rule and moreover he started doing so from the moment he came to power in 1969 at a time when this was unpopular with the secular nationalist governments that then existed in the Arab world.  Gaddaf’s supposed conversion of Libya into a “Jamahariya” or “state of the masses” was intended to be a realisation of the Islamic nature of his rule just as his rejection of a republican system was because of the secular concept behind it.  The Islamic nature of Gaddafi’s system was given visual form through the adoption of green, the traditional Islamic colour, as the colour of Libya’s flag and as the colour of his book (“the green book”) in which he expressed his philosophy and ideas.  In its attempted fusion of Islam with an ethnically defined concept of nationalism and with socialism the Jamahariya can be best described as a sort of “Islamic national socialism”. Though ridiculed by western commentators there is no doubt that Gaddafi himself took this ideology extremely seriously and that he continued to hold to it right up to the moment of his death. 

9. The respective religious ideologies of Saudi Arabia and of Gaddafi’s Libya, Wahhabism and the Jamahariya, have been regarded with suspicion by the mainstream Islamic religious authorities of Constantinople, Cairo and Jerusalem. Both the Saudis and Gaddafi have responded by using their oil wealth to spread their respective ideologies.  The resources available to the Saudis being much greater they have done this on an immeasurably greater scale.  Gaddafi by contrast had to concentrate on north and west Africa where however he had more success than western commentators admit.

10. As part of their efforts to promote their respective ideologies Gaddafi and the Saudis have also been active sponsors of international terrorism.  Again due to their much greater resources Saudi involvement in international terrorism has been on a far bigger scale than Gaddafi’s.  If Saudi supported terrorism has tended to attract less attention this has been because it has been mainly directed against the west’s enemies (for example Russia in Afghanistan and Chechnya).  Only since the terrorist attacks of September 2001 has Saudi supported terrorism started to attract western attention. 

11. In only one respect other than scale has there been a qualitative difference between Saudi support for terrorism and Gaddafi’s.  All the terrorist groups that have received support and funding from the Saudis have been Islamic.  Overwhelmingly they have shared the Saudis’ Wahhabi ideology.  By contrast Gaddafi in the past was prepared to support non Islamic groups such as the Basque separatist group ETA and the Irish nationalist group the Provisional IRA.  Partly this was a reflection of the anti imperialist rhetoric of his regime.  However it is important to say that Gaddafi’s support for these groups was also fully in keeping with his Jamahariya ideology.  Gaddafi apparently genuinely believed that the ethnicist “socialism” that defined these groups would eventually lead them to adopt the same “Islamic national socialist” ideology of the Jamahariya as he had himself.

12. Both the Saudis and Gaddafi have been utterly ruthless in their suppression and persecution of their political and religious opponents.  In both cases this has involved publicly sanctioned violence including public executions.  In Saudi Arabia these take the form of beheadings.  In Gaddafi’s Libya they took the form of public hangings.  Both the Saudis and Gaddafi have used torture on a regular basis.  Neither has recognised such western concepts as judicial independence and the rule of law, which are anyway incompatible with their respective religious ideologies.  Both the Saudis and Gaddafi have a history of murdering political and religious opponents even when these are located in foreign countries and even when they are citizens of those countries.  The Saudis are known to have murdered various Shia political and religious leaders in Lebanon and Iraq whilst Gaddafi is known to have murdered the founder of Lebanon’s Shia movement Hezbollah.  Though normally enemies a shared hostility to Hezbollah, Shiism and Iran is one thing the Saudis and Gaddafi had in common.  It has been suggested that the uncompromisingly violent response of regimes such as the Saudi and Gaddafi’s to their opponents is a reflection of the tribal and clan based nature of these regimes with their long history of tribal violence and blood feuds.  It is also surely a reflection of the very narrow base of these regimes and of their need to create a climate of fear so that they can deter their opponents.

13. Both regimes have sought to widen this base or at least to buy a measure of support or at least acquiescence from their people by funding what superficially appear to be very generous social services.  Many of Gaddafi’s western sympathisers have pointed to the absence of direct taxes and the free provision of health, education, housing and utilities in Libya as evidence of the “progressive” nature of his regime.  Few are apparently aware that the Saudis provide almost identical services to their people as indeed do some of the other Gulf oil states.  These social programmes should be seen for what they are, not the product of socially oriented welfare state but rather an act of largesse by the monarch to his subjects in return for their loyalty.  The quality is said to be poor in Libya and Saudi Arabia at least and is said to be much worse than that found in much poorer but genuinely socially oriented countries like Vietnam and Cuba.  

14. Since these services are acts of largesse and are not provided by welfare states to which the whole of society including their beneficiaries make a contribution their effect has been enervating.   Instead of contributing to the modernisation of their societies they have instead fostered a culture of simultaneous dependence and entitlement so that  Libyans and Saudi Arabians refuse to do work they consider beneath them.  Both Saudi Arabia and Libya have as a result been obliged to import millions of foreign workers to carry out tasks ranging from the sophisticated to the basic at the same time as they record very high levels of unemployment.

15. Many western commentators have lamented the absence of political or administrative institutions in Libya beyond Gaddafi and his family and entourage.  They appear oblivious to the fact that the same is equally true of Saudi Arabia.  The absence of such institutions  inevitable in countries that are no more autocratic tribally based monarchies.  This makes them very different from the dictatorships found in other Arab countries such as Egypt, Iraq and Syria where the regimes have governed and administered the country through its institutions.  By way of example Saddam Hussein’s Iraq had an army whose ultimate loyalty was to the state of Iraq rather than personally to him and which therefore had a notional existence independent of him.  Gaddafi’s army like the Saudi army was a family run tribally recruited private militia, which having lost its purpose with his death has now disappeared without trace.

Once the true nature of Gaddafi’s regime is laid bare it becomes clear that he was neither a progressive hero nor a mere tyrant.  What blinds many to the true nature of his regime was the pseudo revolutionary and pseudo socialist rhetoric Gaddafi liked to use.  This is a legacy of the European student movement, which was in its heyday when Gaddafi came to power in 1969 and with which as a young man of 27 as he was then he strongly identified.  Isolated in Libya and cut off from larger intellectual currents Gaddafi never grew out of this rhetoric the substance of which anyway he seems never to have really understood.  Some of the peculiarities of Gaddafi’s personality such as his openly expressed interest in drugs and sex, which he combined with a strong puritan streak, were in my opinion also leftovers from his exposure to left wing student politics in Europe in the 1960s.  If all this rhetoric is put to one side and the true nature of Gaddafi’s regime is understood it becomes less strange and less threatening and much more like other conservative regimes that are the west’s allies.

Gaddafi’s regime became what it was not because Gaddafi wanted it so but because conditions in Libya like conditions in Saudi Arabia in the 1920s made it so.  When Gaddafi came to power Libya was an impoverished tribal society that was the poorest on the African continent. He came to power with genuinely good intentions.  He was credited with averting a civil war, which would have lead to Libya’s disintegration.  He successfully forced a higher oil price and a larger share of Libya’s oil wealth from the western oil companies that controlled Libya’s oil fields.  He used this oil wealth to transform material conditions of life in Libya and to free the country from dependence on the US, which maintained a great naval base on Libya’s Mediterranean coast.  He could not however carry out the sort of total transformation of Libyan society that would have been necessary for Libya to be governed in a different way.  It is doubtful whether with his lack of education or knowledge of the outside world he understood the need for such change. 

Gaddafi nonetheless was not a monster like Saddam Hussein.  Though capable of great acts of cruelty he did not indulge in the sort of indiscriminate terror that Saddam Hussein did.  There were no mass purges and no use of chemical weapons against his own people.  By comparison with other rulers of Arab oil states such as the Saudis and and Saddam Hussein he lived fairly modestly.  In the days following his death reports circulated that his personal fortune amounted to $200 billion but this figure is untrue and has been arrived at by treating the country’s financial reserves as his personal property for which there is no warrant.  Though an Islamic leader Gaddafi’s variant of Islam was without the more conspicuous forms of misogeny found elsewhere.  Whatever one may think of his famous bodyguard of gun totting women its existence and the political role he gave to his daughter Ayesha would have been unthinkable in any other Islamic state.  It is also fair to say that in the final crisis of his regime and of his life he acted with a courage and moderation few expected of him.  He did not hide or run away and as I said in my previous post the claims about the atrocities he was supposed to have committed have been proved to have been untrue.  Moreover there is some evidence that his son and intended successor Saif, who for all the doubts expressed about his Ph.d was undoubtedly much better educated and knowledgeable than his father, did have plans for reform.  It seems that it was Saif who persuaded his father to open up the country to foreign investment and to mend fences with the west.  Saif seems to have had plans for some sort of constitution (something he mentioned in his television speech of 20th February 2011) and was responsible for Libya’s $200 billion development plan.  He also brought a large number of foreign educated technocrats into the government who in the event mostly defected to the rebels.

Gaddafi’s regime was therefore a natural development in Libya’s history and life.  If Libya is able to develop a functioning political system of a more conventional sort then this will be because of positive changes that have happened to Libya during his rule.  Of that unfortunately at the moment there is little sign (though it is early days) and there is a serious risk that with Gaddafi gone the key to the country’s stability has gone and a downward spiral will now follow.

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THE TRUE STORY OF THE LIBYAN CONFLICT

Following Gaddafi’s murder and the fall of Sirte this appears to be a good moment to sum up what has happened over the course of the Libyan conflict.  As I shall show in this post this has been a very disturbing affair.  It seems to me that the best way to do this is to give a narrative account of the conflict from its inception to its (apparent) end. 

1. An uprising began against the Libyan government of Muammar Gaddafi in the eastern Libyan province of Cyrenaica on 17th February 2011. A report by the International Crisis Group has confirmed that contrary to reports that appeared in the western press this uprising was not peaceful but was a violent insurrection from the start.  It is now also clear that this uprising was heavily infiltrated and may even have been led by Islamic groups some of which had and which possibly still have links to Al Qaeda. 

2. The uprising in Cyrenaica culminated in a violent attack on the main military barracks in Benghazi, the capital of Cyrenaica, which was stormed with the loss of perhaps a hundred lives.  Elsewhere across Cyrenaica most of the towns and villages quickly fell under rebel control.  Analysis of the protests by the International Crisis Group suggests that the number of rebels and the size of the protests was small and that the success of the rebellion in Cyrenaica hinged on the defection to the rebels of local military commanders and their troops.  That most did defect together with their troops as well as the suspiciously sudden appearance of monarchist flags suggests that the uprising was not spontaineous but planned and that contacts between the rebels and the local commanders must have been underway for some time.

3. The rebellion was not confined to Cyreinaica but its success elsewhere was limited.  The important coastal city of Misurata also rebelled whilst in the capital Tripoli the rebels staged a successful attack on the Libyan parliament building (which was burnt down), preventing the holding of a session of the Libyan parliament called by Gaddafi to discuss the uprising.  

4. Despite these rebel successes overall apart from Cyrenaica and Misurata the rebellion was a failure.  In Tripoli and in the western province of Tripolitania where the bulk of the Libyan population lives as well as in the southern province of Fazzan Gaddafi successfully rallied his supporters and regained control.  The rebels in Tripoli who attacked the parliament building were driven back and seem to have fled to the Berber town of Zuwiyah to the south west.  This they briefly captured but quickly lost as a result of a counter attack by Gaddafi’s troops. 

5. With the bulk of the army remaining loyal to Gaddafi and with solid support for Gaddafi in Tripoli and in the southern and western regions of Libya, Gaddafi was left at the end of February in control of over 70% of Libya’s population as well as most of its economic resources and oil wealth.  With the army units that had gone over to the rebels in the east unwilling to fight it is a certainty that the rebellions in Misurata and Cyrenaica would have been quickly suppressed if matters had been left to take their course.  Indeed in March counter offensives by Gaddafi’s troops came close to reconquering both Misurata and Cyrenaica and were as I have said successful in recapturing Zuwiyah.. 

6. Matters were not left to take their course.  From the outset of the rebellion the  British government made clear its support for the rebels.  William Hague, the British Foreign Minister, made public a false claim that Gaddafi had fled the country and was in Venezuela.  This claim, which was apparently made on the basis of no actual information, was surely made not out of ignorance or incompetence but in order to demoralise Gaddafi’s supporters.  The British press reported secret contacts between the British government and members of Gaddafi’s government with the British allegedly trying to persuade these persons to defect and join the rebels.  Several did in fact defect and join the rebels including the country’s Foreign and Interior Ministers, Libya’s Ambassador to the United Nations and various other senior officials and diplomats of the Libyan government.  In the end though these defections failed to undermine the Libyan government or precipitate its collapse. 

7. The British and other western governments including in particular those of the US and France also made repeated statements to the effect that Gaddafi had somehow forfeited his legitimacy and was no longer Libya’s legitimate ruler.  These statements were soon taken up and repeated by amongst others the Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki Moon though they have no legal basis with the governments and persons making these statements having no right to make them.  International law does not give foreign governments or persons the right to pronounce on the legitimacy or otherwise of the government of a particular country.  This is a matter solely for the people of that country.

8. Last but not least at the end of February came conclusive evidence of the presence of British troops in Libya supporting the rebels when local people south of Benghazi rounded up a group of SAS soldiers.  The British government has never provided a satisfactory explanation for the presence of these soldiers.  In fact as has subsequently become clear the SAS has been present in Libya throughout the conflict.  

9. These actions of the British government went hand in hand with a ferocious campaign against Gaddafi in the British press.  This was quickly taken up by the western press as a whole and also by certain sections of the Arab press namely the Qatari and Saudi owned television stations Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya.  This campaign basically amounted to the uncritical reproduction often with a measure of further elaboration of unsupported stories that subsequent investigation by amongst others the International Crisis Group show originated with the Libyan opposition.  These included claims that Gaddafi’s troops had fired on peaceful protesters with heavy calibre machine guns, that governnment snipers had shot at mourners participating in funeral processions for murdered protesters, that the Libyan airforce had bombed residential districts with jet aircraft, that helicopter gunships had been deployed and had fired upon demonstrators and that Gaddafi’s army consisted largely or even entirely of African mercenaries.  At a later stage of the conflict further claims were made that Gaddafi had incited his troops to carry out rapes and had distributed viagra tablets for this purpose and that cluster munitions had been fired into residential districts of the rebel held city of Misurata.

10. By the end of February the British government and the British press were reporting a death toll in Libya running into thousands.  The United Nations Commission for Human Rights gave support to these claims.  The alleged death toll was in fact so high that for a time there was serious talk of genocide charges being brought against Gaddafi. 

11. Subsequent investigations on the ground in Libya by the International Crisis Group, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have established that none of these claims were true.  None of the newspapers or media outlets that made these claims has however admitted this fact or has retracted these claims and nor has the fact that these claims have been discredited been admitted by the western governments that based their actions on them .  Nor has the fact that these claims have been proved to be untrue been given anywhere near the same amount of publicity as were the claims themselves when they were originally made.  Indeed in the immediate aftermath of Gaddafi’s death many of the claims were repeated at least by the British press with no acknowledgement or recognition that they have been proved to be untrue. The result is that though the claims have been shown to be untrue they continue to inform most people’s perception of the Libyan conflict and they continue to colour much of the coverage of the Libyan conflict.

12. At this point I wish to make a specific observation about one aspect of the media coverage of the Libyan conflict that has especially troubled me.  The investigations carried out by the International Crisis Group, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have shown that the number of casualties in the original uprising in Benghazi on 17th February 2011 was not the hundreds or thousands claimed at the time but was approximately one hundred.  I clearly recall that this was the same number given by Gaddafi’s son Saif in a television speech he made on 20th February 2011.   I have tried to confirm this by checking this speech on the internet.  Every single copy of the speech I have found including several which purport to give the complete text delete the relevant sentence.  Unless my memory of Saif’s speech is completely wrong (which I do not believe) this means (1) that the most accurate information provided at the time about the events in Benghazi was the one given by Gaddafi’s government and (2) that someone has systematically gone through and edited all the versions of Saif’s speech readily available on the internet in order to suppress this fact.  

13.  This is not the first time I have noticed signs of such tampering.  In George Orwell’s 1984 historic texts are routinely “corrected” to make them conform to the political needs of the moment.  It is disturbing to find evidence that this sinister practice is now actually taking place.

14. The press campaign against Gaddafi was accompanied by a mass evacuation of westerners from Libya.  It has subsequently become known that several western governments including especially the US government were concerned that the Libyan government would try to prevent this evacuation and would seek to hold these westerners hostage.  Nothing of the sort in fact happened.  Not only were western nationals able to leave Libya but western journalists were able to stay and report from Libya throughout the conflict.

15. As it became increasingly clear that the rebellion had no prospect of success without external intervention a campaign for such intervention by the western powers took shape.  Disproportionate stress was given to a single passage in a long speech of Gaddafi’s in which he promised that his troops would clear the rebels from Benghazi if necessary house by house.  This was misrepresented as a threat to carry out a general massacre in Benghazi.  In fact Gaddafi made no such threat.  On the contrary he went out of his way in the same speech to reassure the people of Benghazi that they had nothing to fear from his troops or from him.  By this time Gaddafi’s troops had already recaptured several rebel towns including Zuwiyah and had not carried out any massacres so grounds to suppose that a massacre in Benghazi was being threatened or would take place in the event of its fall did not exist.

16. With the press campaign by now in full flood the western powers presented the UN Security Council with a draft Resolution prepared by the British government.  This was unanimously supported by all the members of the Security Council and was passed as Resolution 1970.  The Resolution placed all the blame for the conflict in Libya squarely on the Gaddafi government, repeated many of the claims of atrocities supposedly perpetrated by the Gaddafi government that have since been discredited and imposed on Libya an arms embargo and a ban on flights including commercial flights.  Resolution 1970 also forbade the deployment of foreign mercenaries in Libya and instructed UN member states to take action to prevent their citizens from serving in Libya as mercenaries.  Lastly Resolution 1970 also referred Gaddafi, several of his sons and various other members of his government to the International Criminal Court, imposed travel bans upon them and ordered seizure of their assets.

17. Disgracefully, though Libya is a member state of the United Nations, its government was prevented from attending or participating in the meeting of the Security Council at which Resolution 1970 was passed.  Gaddafi’s government did attempt to send a representative but in an extraordinary abuse of its position as the host state of the United Nations the United States prevented this person from attending the meeting by denying him a visa.  In place of this representative Libya was “represented” by its former ambassador who had in the meantime defected to the rebels and who could be relied upon to speak in favour of a Resolution imposing sanctions upon his own country.  I believe I am right in saying that this is the first time since the United Nations was created that the United States has abused its position in this way.  It is a disturbing precedent with ominous implications for the future.

18. Though all the members of the Security Council voted for Resolution 1970 the speeches of the ambassadors of several member states show that they did so with some unease.  The Indian ambassador made clear his unhappiness at the way in which Resolution 1970 had been pushed through before the Security Council had been provided with all the facts.  News from Libya was at this time however dominated by the atrocity stories in the western press, which appeared to suggest that a massacre was imminent and with no alternative source of information no state represented on the Security Council was prepared to oppose a Resolution that appeared to be the one thing that stood in the way of such a massacre.  

19. Resolution 1970 did not change the situation on the ground in Libya where Gaddafi’s army continued its advance on Cyrenaica and its siege of Misurata.  With a succession of rebel towns falling to Gaddafi’s troops demands began in the west for a further stronger Resolution imposing a no fly zone.  These demands were given further impetus following a decision of the International Criminal Court after what can only have been at best a cursory investigation to indict Gaddafi and several of his sons and officials for war crimes and human rights abuses.

20. Demands for a further Resolution intensified following what has been represented as a decision by the Arab League to demand a no fly zone purportedly to protect the civilian population in the rebel held towns from Gaddafi’s troops.  In reality the meeting of the Arab League that issued this call was one attended by only a small caucus of Arab states consisting mainly of the various Gulf monarchies headed by Saudi Arabia, a country with a long history of antagonism towards Gaddafi.  Nonetheless the fact that the Arab League, one of the two regional organisations to which Libya belonged, appeared to be calling for military intervention to “protect the civilians” in Libya was seized on in the west by the advocates of such intervention.  The fact that the other regional organisation of which Libya is a member, the African Union, strongly opposed such intervention, was completely ignored.

21. When the Security Council therefore met again it did so in an atmosphere of tension and crisis.  The countries that might normally be expected to resist demands for intervention, the BRICS states, found themselves confronted by a draft Resolution authorising such intervention drawn up by Britain and France with the participation of  the US, which also however appeared to enjoy the support of the Arab League.  As on the previous occasion the country that was to be the subject of the Resolution, Libya, was not represented at the meeting.  On this occasion the US did not need to deny its representative a visa since the flight ban imposed on Libya by Resolution 1970 made it physically impossible for him to attend. 

22. An account of the meeting has been provided by the Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin.  He has described a chaotic meeting in which changes were made to the text of the Resolution right up to the moment it was put to the vote in breach of the Security Council’s procedures and in a manner that was apparently designed to prevent proper discussion.  The final draft continued to place all the blame for the conflict on Gaddafi.  It reaffirmed the arms embargo, travel ban, flight ban, seizure of assets and ban on the use of mercenaries set out in Resolution 1970.  It added a no fly zone and a provision that allowed members of the Security Council to use “all necessary means” to protect civilians. It specifically ruled out “an occupying force” from any part of Libyan territory. It also called for a ceasefire and for negotiations between the parties to be brokered by a special mediator appointed by the UN Secretary General, which would lead to a settlement.

23. The summary of the discussion of the Resolution in the Security Council that has been published on the UN’s website shows the deep unease felt by several of the delegations at the wide scope of the Resolution.  None of the states represented on the Security Council were however in the end prepared to vote against it.  Of the BRICS states Brazil, Russia, India and China abstained as did Germany.  South Africa voted for the Resolution on the instructions of its President, Jacob Zuma, who had been persuaded to support it by none other than President Obama himself.  The failure of Russia and South Africa to vote against the Resolution caused controversy in these two countries and triggered minor political crises.  The Presidents of these countries, Dimitri Medvedev and Jacob Zuma, have explained their decision by saying they were moved by worries that their countries might have been exposed to criticism if Benghazi had fallen and the massacre that had supposedly been threatened had actually taken place. 

24. This Resolution, known as Resolution 1973, provided the western powers with what they say is their mandate for the war they have subsequently waged against Gaddafi and his government.

25. As was pointed out at the time Resolutions 1970 and 1973 are a further disturbing development.  It is a fundamental principle of the UN System that member states are sovereign over their own internal affairs.  This builds on the previously established law of nations that countries do not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries and do not take sides or interfere in their civil wars.  Over time this principle has been modified to permit intervention in exceptional circumstances such as where genocide is taking place or is beiing threatened.  These exceptions are however hedged around with safeguards and procedures all of which were completely disregarded in this case.  As a matter of fact we now know as a result of the investigations carried out by the International Crisis Group, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch that the situation in Libya was not in fact of the sort as would justify intervention in accordance with these exceptions.  

26. Despite the fact that the situation in Libya was not such as to justify outside intervention in its conflict that is precisely what Resolutions 1970 and 1973 in practice made possible.  The Security Council passed these Resolutions in breach of its own procedures and of standard diplomatic practice on the basis of information that has now been shown to have been false and without giving the country that was the object of these Resolutions an opportunity to state its case.  This happened because a small number of powerful states on the Security Council were able to abuse the monopoly the western media still has over information in order to blackmail the rest.  There is moreover no doubt that this was done in pursuit of a straightforward agenda of regime change even though this was not actually authorised by the Resolutions. 

27. That this is so is shown by the failure of the western powers to propose to the Security Council the kind of Resolution that would in fact have been best calculated to protect civilians had that actually been the intention and had they actually been in danger.  This would have been a Resolution that ordered both sides to observe an immediate ceasefire whilst authorising the deployment of a peacekeeping force to the two threatened cities of Misurata and Benghazi.  There are numerous precedents for such Resolutions and there is no doubt that had such a Resolution been proposed it would have been unanimously carried.  There is also no doubt that a peacekeeping force could have been assembled and deployed quickly (most probably from the African Union states) and that Gaddafi would have complied with such a Resolution and would have agreed to the deployment of such a force.  He had in fact already said as much and he was to go on saying it throughout the remainder of the conflict.

28. Notwithstanding these major deficiencies in Resolutions 1970 and 1973 it is important to stress that they did not authorise regime change and that they limited the use of military action to the protection of civilians.  As a matter of fact the only form of military action expressly authorised by Resolution 1973 was a no fly zone.  The Resolutions certainly did not authorise an unrestricted bombing campaign in support of one side in a civil war or the use of force to assist in the violent overthrow of Gaddafi or his government.  They also expressly forbade the deployment of foreign troops or mercenaries in Libya and imposed an embargo on arms supplies that the Resolutions expressly said applied both to the Libyan government and to the rebels.  Lastly they also called for a ceasefire and for negotiations leading to a political settlement.

29. In the event and entirely predictably, having bullied and blackmailed the Security Council into passing the Resolution against the better judgement of several of its members, the western powers treated Resolution 1973 as giving them licence to wage what was in effect an unrestricted war against the Libyan government.  That the western powers always intended to use Resolution 1973 in this way became immediately clear  when a Libyan military unit was attacked by French aircraft outside Benghazi the day after Resolution 1973 was passed. The unit was attacked when it was actually retreating from Benghazi and posed no threat to the civilians the Resolution was intended to protect.  It was attacked anyway and it seems most of the soldiers who belonged to it were killed.

30. The western powers subsequently dispelled any possible doubt about their intentions by issuing a joint statement signed by the US and French Presidents and by the British Prime Minister.  This openly said that the objective was the overthrow of Gaddafi.  All the steps taken thereafter by the western powers during the conflict have been directed to achieving this goal even though it is not the goal that appears in Resolution 1973.

31. To that end the western powers conducted an extensive bombing campaign over the next few months whose scope went far beyond the protection of civilians.  Repeated efforts were made to kill Gaddafi failing to kill him but killing several members of his family including some of his children.  Libyan military formations were bombed even when they were on the defensive for example in the town of Adjabiya or in Sirte.  Libya’s civilian infrastructure, including its radio and television stations and its water supply projects (the so called “Great Man Made River”), were repeatedly attacked causing extensive damage.  Western aircraft also provided close ground support to rebel units in the battles of Adjabiya and Misurata and in the attacks on Tripoli and Sirte acting in effect as the rebels’ airforce.  In keeping with what has become usual western practice the western powers refused to keep or publish a count for the number of civilians the bombing campaign killed.  Conservative estimates put this in the hundreds and probably thousands.

32. When it became clear that the bombing campaign by itself would not suffice to overthrow Gaddafi the western powers stepped up arms supplies to the rebels and introduced increasing numbers of Special Forces troops into the country.  As the discovery of a British SAS unit south of Benghazi at the end of February shows British SAS troops had in fact been in Libya from the start and were almost certainly in the country at the time Resolutions 1970 and 1973 were passed.  Resolutions 1970 and 1973 expressly prohibit arms supplies to either party in the conflict and also expressly prohibit the introduction of foreign troops into the country.  Both Resolutions were largely drafted by British diplomats acting on instructions from the British government.  If as seems likely British SAS troops were in Libya when these Resolutions were passed then British diplomats drafted Resolutions that prohibited activities the British government was already secretly engaged in.

33. Western governments have never formally admitted the presence of their troops in Libya though the presence of these troops has been observed by western journalists working in the country.  Informally western governments have sought to explain away the presence of these troops with a number of arguments as follows:

(1) that the Resolutions do not prohibit the presence of foreign troops but only the presence of “an occupation force”;

(2) that the troops were not engaged in actual combat but were merely advisers and/or were merely providing targeting information to aircraft engaged in the bombing campaign;

(3) that many or even most of the troops were not serving soldiers but were civilian contractors some of whom had previously served in the military.

34. None of these arguments stands up:

(1) International law defines “an occupation force” as a foreign military force that enters a country without the consent of its government.  The troops the western powers sent to Libya did not enter that country with the consent of the Libyan government.  On the contrary they were waging war against it.  The western powers have tried to get round this by claiming that Gaddafi’s regime had ceased to be Libya’s “legitimate” government.  As I have said earlier in this post it is not for western governments to decide whether Libya’s government is legitimate or not.  Anyway Resolutions 1970 and 1973 refer to Gaddafi’s regime as Libya’s government as shown by the fact that both Resolutions refer to Libya by the name Gaddafi gave it, which is the “Libyan People Jamahariya”;

(2) Resolutions 1970 and 1973 prohibit the presence of foreign troops in Libya regardless of whether or not these troops engage in combat operations.  Even if it could definitely be shown that western troops present in Libya have not engaged in combat operations their presence would still be illegal.  In reality it is ridiculous to pretend that activities such as providing military advice to armed rebels aiming to overthrow Libya’s government and providing targeting information to aircraft engaged in a bombing campaign do not amount to combat operations;

(3) if the troops in questions are civilian contractors rather than serving soldiers that makes them mercenaries whose presence in Libya is also expressly prohibited by the two Resolutions.   

35. Whilst the western powers pursued their military campaign they also placed Libya under naval blockade tightening the economic stranglehold on the country.  Libya’s foreign currency reserves held before the outbreak of the conflict in western banks had already been seized by western governments.  Gaddafi’s government appears to have put aside substantial stocks of food and fuel but over time as these ran out the civilian population especially in Tripoli began to suffer increasing hardship. 

36. None of these actions was authorised by Resolutions 1970 and 1973.  The supply of weapons to the rebels and the introduction of foreign troops into Libya were  expressly prohibited by the Resolutions.  Resolutions 1970 and 1973 were supposedly intended to protect Libya’s civilians.  The bombing campaign killed many Libyan civilians whilst the destruction of Libya’s infrastructure and the blockade imposed on the country made life harder for the others.

37. The western powers justify their actions by claiming that the words in Resolution 1973 “all necessary means” permit actions which the Resolutions otherwise either prohibit or do not authorise.  As I explained in an earlier post this argument is absurd.  One part of a Resolution does not invalidate another part.  Both Resolutions expressly say that the Security Council remains “seized of the manner”, which means that it is for the Security Council and not the western powers to decide such questions as what means are “necessary” or not.

38. At the same time that the western powers were actively breaching Resolutions 1970 and 1973 Gaddafi appeared to be doing his best to comply with them.  From an early stage in the conflict Gaddafi and his regime made overtures to the rebels.  As early as 20th February 2011 Gaddafi’s son Saif in his television address offered talks aimed at a new constitution.  The session of the Libyan parliament that Gaddafi tried to call on 21st February 2011 and which was prevented by the rebel attack on the parliament building was supposed to provide the framework for such talks.  Shortly after in another conciliatory gesture Gaddafi sent a convoy with food and other supplies to Benghazi, which was by then under rebel control.  After Resolution 1973 was passed Gaddafi through his foreign minister (who subsequently defected) accepted the ceasefire and withdrew the military unit that had reached Benghazi.  This was the same unit that was attacked and destroyed by French aircraft whilst engaged in this retreat.  Thereafter Gaddafi repeatedly offered talks with the rebels and accepted a peace proposal by the African Union for a ceasefire and negotiations leading to a political settlement.

39. All these offers for a ceasefire and negotiations were rejected by the rebels and by the western powers who continued to insist that Gaddafi’s departure was a precondition for any talks.  Western spokesmen and commentators have questioned Gaddafi’s sincerity in making these offers.  Whether Gaddafi was sincere or not in making these offers by making the offers he complied with Resolution 1973.  Resolution 1973 provides no basis for refusing such offers on the grounds that it might be breached at some future time.  As for making Gaddafi’s departure a precondition for the talks the International Crisis Group has pointed out that it is absurd to set as a precondition the outcome the talks are supposed to achieve.  Resolution 1973 anyway does not impose preconditions for the talks other than a ceasefire.

40. The western powers justify this hardline by claiming that they would have been unable to guarantee the safety of Libyan civilians whilst Gaddafi was still in Libya and remained free.  Supposedly Libyan civilians would always have been in danger from Gaddafi so long as he was in Libya and remained free.  This would apparently have been the case even if a ceasefire was in existence and talks were underway. This argument elevates the supposed threat from Gaddafi to superhuman and even mythic levels.  It is a bizarre endorsement of the personality cult he had previously created around himself.

41. The end of Gaddafi’s regime came at the end of August 2011 when Tripoli was stormed by a rebel Berber force operating from the Nafusa mountains to the west.  The French government has openly admitted that it provided arms supplies to these rebels and it has been informally admitted that this force was assembled in Tunisia and was “advised” (or commanded) by western Special Forces.  It seems that these Special Forces (mainly British and French) actually took part in the fighting.  The attack on Tripoli was apparently planned at NATO headquarters and was given the codename “Operation Mermaid Dawn”.

42. The capture of Tripoli did not lead to the end of the war.  Gaddafi and some of his followers including his sons Mutaizzim and Saif escaped to Gaddafi’s home town of Sirte.  There they fought their last stand.  Over the next few weeks Sirte was heavily bombed by western aircraft and placed under siege by rebel troops who were again “advised” by western Special Forces in this case mainly British.  Recent pictures show that by the end of this fighting Sirte had become a devastated city and reports by Human Rights Watch speak of mass reprisals and murders carried out by the rebels against Gaddafi’s followers.  The fighting in Sirte eventually ended on 20th October 2011 when the city finally fell and Gaddafi and his son Mutaizzim were captured.  As I have discussed in two previous posts both Gaddafi and Mutaizzim were then murdered in Gaddafi’s case after lengthy and brutal torture carried out in public by his captors.  Since I wrote my posts it seems that more film has appeared, which shows that Gaddafi was sodomised with a knife before he was killed.

The above is a factual account of the Libyan war.  Describing the war in this way exposes it for what it was.  Taking advantage of an internal conflict western governments have committed a cynical act of aggression against a small country of 6 million people with the intention of overthrowing its government.  In the process they have broken almost every principle of international law they claim to uphold.  They have repeatedly falsified facts and have done everything in their power to prevent a peaceful settlement of the conflict.  Their aggression, justified by the need to prevent a massacre in Benghazi, which was never threatened, has ended with a massacre in Sirte.  Libya’s infrastructure has been devastated and thousands of people have been killed.  No one knows the true number and the figure of 30,000 (22,000  after the start of the bombing) that has been cited seems to be no more than a guess.  What we do know is that as of the time of writing of this post and two months after the fall of Tripoli the city remains without fresh water and has only sporadic electricity supplies.  Such systems of administration as the country once had have collapsed.  Libya’s cities and regions are controlled by rival armed rebel factions, who appear to be in bitter dispute with each other, and who have so far failed to agree on a government.

Whatever Gaddafi’s previous record at the time the war was launched he had mended his fences with his neighbours and with the west.  So far from posing a threat to international security Gaddafi had made a sustained effort to reintegrate Libya in the international community and had opened its economy to outside investment.  To their intense embarrassment many of the western politicians who were at the forefront of the war against him such as Senator McCain of the United States and President Sarkozy of France had gone out of their way to make friends with him.  As Gaddafi’s son Saif pointed out in his broadcast of 20th February 2011 at the time the war broke out the Libyan economy was set to benefit from a $200 billion investment programme, which would have completely transformed such a small country.  All this is now obviously in jeopardy.  Whilst everyone must sincerely hope that Libya under a new government will recover and that the Libyan people will achieve the security and prosperity they have been promised, in the event that this does not happen there should be no doubt that the responsibility will lie with the western powers who have waged a war of aggression against a small country that was no threat to them and with which they were at peace.  Beyond this the damage done to the fabric of international law and of international trust by western conduct has been immeasurable and because of the cynical misuse of a mandate provided by the United Nations may actually turn out to be greater than that done by the Iraq war.

A NEW EUROPE AND THE DECLINE OF AMERICAN POWER

We have just lived through a momentous day in European and world history, which has gone completely unnoticed.

Early this morning the eurozone states led by Germany agreed a plan for the eurozone.  All the focus has been on the plan and whether or not it will succeed.  For various reasons I doubt it will succeed.  However that is not what is important about today. 

For the first time since the First World War a crisis in Europe has played out and the US has played no part in it.  The eurozone states agreed their plan without reference to Washington.  Britain, Washington’s key European ally, was excluded from the part of the meeting where the plan was agreed. Instead the French President told the British Prime Minister in the crudest language to get lost.  As soon as the eurozone agreed its plan the French President on behalf of the eurozone states telephoned not his counterpart in Washington but his counterpart in Beijing.  Where at any time following the end of the First World War European states looking for financial aid would have sent a representative to Washington they are now sending one to Beijing. 

If China contributes to the European stabilisation fund as it is being asked to do then that automatically makes Beijing a partner in the  euro project. The same applies to China’s ally Russia if it is asked to contribute as well.  It is surely not a coincidence that at the same time that a eurozone representative is flying to China the German Chancellor is flying not to Washington but Moscow.  The eurozone states are turning to China and Russia not because they want to but because they have to.  The shift in the balance of world economic power means that for the first time since 1920 Washington no longer has money to help them whilst Beijing and Moscow do. 

All of this would have been completely inconceivable only a few years ago.  On major international issues Germany, the undisputed leader of the eurozone, has over the last decade repeatedly aligned itself with Beijing and Moscow and against Washington and London.  Germany opposed the wars against Iraq and Libya, is lukewarm in its support for sanctions against Iran and strongly opposes further NATO expansion in the former Soviet space.  In other words Germany’s international stance is starting to mirror its economic interests and is converging with that of Beijing and Moscow and of the other BRICS states.  In the light of what has just happened at the eurozone summit this trend will now surely intensify with Germany drifting further towards Beijing and Moscow to the point where Germany effectively becomes the sixth BRICS state.

The US’s dominant position in Europe has been key to its status as the world’s leading power.  As of  today that position has never looked weaker.  Today may one day be remembered as a key day in the process whereby Europe broke away.

MURDER OF GADDAFI – POSTSCRIPT

Immediately after I finished my previous post I learnt that the new Libyan government has agreed to an inquiry into the circumstances of Gaddafi’s death. 

The Guardian in reporting this inquiry asserts that it is being held under western pressure.  Strictly speaking this is probably true.  However that western pressure is itself the result of increasing demands for such an inquiry from the BRICS states and from the Russian and Chinese governments in particular.  What may have tipped the balance in favour of an inquiry is the discovery of a mass grave of pro Gaddafi fighters in Sirte who according to Human Rights Watch were probably murdered after they were captured by the rebel forces.  This suggests that the murders of Gaddafi, his son Mutaizzim and Gaddafi’s army commander, were not isolated affairs but were part of a veritable bacchanalia of tortures and killings carried out in Sirte as the city fell.

No one should have any expectations of what this inquiry will achieve.  That the new Libyan authorities have no intention of carrying out a proper inquiry is shown by the episode of the non existent autopsy that I discussed in my previous post.  In addition the rebel leaders in Misurata, who actually have Gaddafi’s body in their possession and whose fighters were the ones who tortured and murdered Gaddafi, have made no secret of their contempt for the new Libyan authorities and appear to be a law unto themselves.  They are most unlikely to cooperate willingly in an inquiry that is bound to convict their fighters and possibly themselves of Gaddafi’s torture and murder and for the moment it seems that the new Libyan authorities in Benghazi and Tripoli simply lack the means to bring them to heel.  That the rebel leaders in Misurata have no intention of cooperating in any inquiry into Gaddafi’s death is shown by their continued refusal to return his corpse to his family and by their apparent intention to bury Gaddafi at sea.  Nor is there any realistic possibility that the western politicians in the US, Britain and France who supported them in their war against Gaddafi will put sufficient pressure on them to make them change their minds. 

Indeed the truth is that western governments have no more interest in a genuine inquiry into the circumstances of Gaddafi’s death than do the rebel leaders in Misurata.  Such an inquiry would be bound to expose the full extent of these government’s role in Gaddafi’s overthrow and subsequent murder.  For obvious reasons this is not something the western politicians who head these governments want.  If there was any pressure for an inquiry in the western media such reluctance might be overcome but as I said in my previous post there is no sign of it.  On the contrary the British press as I write this post prefers instead to publish a succession of essentially identical articles written mostly by Arab publicists I have never previously heard of all hailing Libya’s great new democratic dawn.

THE MURDER OF GADDAFI

Despite a continuing information blockade it is now possible to reconstruct many of the facts of Gaddafi’s murder.

Early on Thursday 20th October 2011 Gaddafi and a group of his supporters including his son Mutaizzim decided to escape from the town of Sirte, where they were under siege.  It appears that the escape plan was the work of Mutaizzim, who was the actual commander of the pro Gaddafi troops in Sirte and who may indeed have been Gaddafi’s main army commander from the outset of the uprising back in February.  The escape plan involved a breakout from Sirte in a large vehicle convoy consisting of no fewer than 75 vehicles.

The convoy seems to have successfully broken through the rebel defence lines.  However it was spotted and attacked first by a US Predator drone and then by French Rafale fighter aircraft.  This caused the convoy to break up.  Some vehicles may have continued their escape but others were forced to stop and their passengers, one of whom was Gaddafi, dismounted.

It has been said that Gaddafi was injured in the French attack and that after he dismounted from the vehicle convoy that he tried to hide in a drainage pipe.  These statements should be treated with caution.  In the film showing Gaddafi immediately after his capture he does not appear to be injured whilst there is no film footage of him either in or near the drainage pipe.  Both claims could be inventions, the one to explain away Gaddafi’s injuries, the other to make him appear a coward.  The fact that several rebel spokesmen have made play of the supposed irony of Gaddafi hiding in a drain pipe after calling the rebels “rats” should make one cautious about the truth of these claims.

Shortly after the French attack on the convoy a unit of rebels from the town of Misurata arrived on the scene.  The Daily Telegraph has confirmed information that had already appeared on the internet, which is that the rebels besieging Sirte were being “advised” (in effect commanded) by British SAS troops.  In fact the SAS has been present in Libya since the very start of the uprising in February and it is now an open secret that they together with other special forces from France, Qatar and the United States have been on the ground and directing the rebels for many months.  The rebel unit that arrived at the scene would therefore have been sent there by its SAS advisers who were presumably in contact with it at all times.

There have again been stories of some sort of a firefight between the rebels and Gaddafi loyalists when the rebels arrived on the scene.  As of the time of my writing this post the rebel authorities in Tripoli, Benghazi and Misurata continue to insist that Gaddafi was killed when he was caught in the crossfire during this firefight.  There is no evidence that such a firefight ever took place.  Not only is there no film of this firefight but there is no information of anyone else killed or injured during it.

At some point and in some way (it is still unclear exactly how) Gaddafi was taken prisoner.  The film shows that he was savagely beaten and insulted from the moment of his capture.  The film also shows a complete breakdown of whatever discipline amongst the rebels there may have existed.  There is no sign of anyone taking charge or of being in control. 

A great deal of publicity has been given to claims that on being taken prisoner Gaddafi pleaded for his life.  It is entirely plausible that he did.  However  the film made after his capture does not show this.  Instead it shows Gaddafi under a rain of blows repeatedly telling his captors “God does not allow this”.  It is clear that what Gaddafi is referring to is his mistreatment.  Again one should be wary of claims made by the rebels that appear to be intended to make Gaddafi appear a coward.

There is no clear account of what happened next.  There are reports that Gaddafi was driven in an ambulance to Misurata but that he died of his wounds along the way.  Again no film of this exists, nor have any photographs been produced of the ambulance involved though one would have expected it to be of obvious interest to the western journalists present and covering the story.  What does exist is film of a by now severely injured Gaddafi being pulled off a truck by a group of rebels who subject him to further humiliation and more beatings.  There is no information about whether this film was made in Sirte or Misurata.  In this film Gaddafi though still conscious and able to walk appears dazed and disorientated and is covered with blood on his face and chest.  Notwithstanding claims made to the contrary there is nothing in the film to suggest that this blood was the result of gunshot wounds.  Given the savage beating inflicted on Gaddafi when he was captured (which the earlier film shows included kicking and having rocks thrown at his face) the blood is equally likely to have been caused by the effect of this beating.  The bullet hole on the left side of his head, which appears in later photographs, is not visible.  Gaddafi could anyway scarcely have survived such a shot, which is conclusive evidence that at the time when this film was made he had not yet been shot in this way.  

I understand that there is more film, which I have not seen.  I have seen a photograph of Gaddafi, by this time covered in blood, with a gun pointed at the right side of his face.  I cannot tell from this photograph whether Gaddafi was alive or dead when it was taken.

The next set of photographs clearly show Gaddafi dead.  At some point either he or his corpse were brought to Misurata.  In defiance of Islamic custom his body was placed in a freezer and put on public display. This continued for several days.  Western journalists and diplomats who were shown his body have confirmed the presence of several bullet holes including one on the left side of his head.  This bullet hole does indeed appear to be visible in some photographs.

Gaddafi was not the only member of the vehicle convoy to have been captured.  The rebels have released a photograph of his son Mutaizzim, which shows that he too was captured.  Mutaizzim is shown sitting against a wall and smiling into a camera with rebel soldiers in the background.  Another photograph shows him dead.  His body has apparently also been placed on display in the same freezer as his father.  Western diplomats and journalists who have seen his body have confirmed that he too appears to have been shot in several places.  In addition I have seen reports that a senior officer of Gaddafi’s military, perhaps his defence minister, was also shot in a similar way and that his body was also placed on display alongside those of Gaddafi and Mutaizzim.

I have set out the facts about Gaddafi’s death from the information I have been able to piece together from the international media.  It shows conclusively and beyond a shadow of a doubt that Gaddafi and his son Mutaizzim were murdered by the rebels some time after they were captured and that this happened after Gaddafi was tortured possibly for several hours by his captors.  All this happened moreover notwithstanding the presence in the immediate area of SAS troops who could have intervened to stop it but who did not do so.

That this was a brutal murder scarcely needs saying.  The grisly display like a trophy of Gaddafi’s body and that of his son compounds it.

I had expected Gaddafi’s torture and murder, much of it shown on film, to have provoked an outcry and calls for a full inquiry.  When Saddam Hussein was hanged a few years ago there was a storm of protest even though that execution followed a trial and was a decorous affair compared to Gaddafi’s murder.  Given the direct involvement in the murder of the US, Britain and France, all of whose militaries played a part in it, I was expecting hard questions to be asked of their respective governments.  Instead to my astonishment and dismay the response has been muted.  In Britain I have found only two comments that live up to the horror of what happened.  One was by the redoubtable Craig Murray on his blog.  The other was by Peter Hitchens in the Daily Mail.  No editorial in any of the big newspapers has condemned the manner of Gaddafi’s death and no political leader in any western country has spoken out against it.  Instead there has been a revolting display of self congratulation and backslapping and at times even gloating. 

Meanwhile the British media continues to report uncritically the claims of the new Libyan authorities that Gaddafi was accidentally killed in a crossfire even though as I have sought to show in this post these claims are demonstrably untrue.  The extent of British collusion in the coverup perpetrated by the new Libyan authorities is demonstrated by the British media’s treatment of the subject of Gaddafi’s autopsy.  On Saturday 22nd October 2011 the rebel authorities in Misurata categorically ruled an autopsy out  The next day it was suddenly announced that an autopsy had in fact already taken place supposedly in secret on the previous day and that it had established that Gaddafi had been killed by a gunshot on the left side of his head.  The British media has uncritically  accepted the “results” of this “autopsy” though it is clear that no “autopsy” has in fact taken place a fact confirmed by the state of Gaddafi’s body, which as of Monday 24th October 2011 was obviously intact and still on display.  The fact that the authorities in Misurata are unwilling to permit an autopsy raises further questions and makes one wonder whether Gaddafi might not in reality have died as a result of the beatings and mistreatment we know he received.  The bullet holes in his head and body would then have been inflicted after his death to conceal its cause.

This silence on the part of the British establisment contrasts sharply with the sense of revulsion and disgust felt by many British people as expressed on such sites as Twitter.  As on so many other matters the contrast between the general feelings of the British people and that of the political class that purportedly represents them could not be more stark.  Unfortunately it is the political class that is the power.  On the evidence of its response to Gaddafi’s murder it has lost whatever moral compass it once had.

MURDER IN LIBYA?

Though the information coming out of Libya all day has been contradictory a picture is now beginning to emerge and it is a disturbing one. 

The Guardian is now showing film of what appears to be a terrified but uninjured Gaddafi being hauled off a truck by a mob of militiamen some of whom are shouting the Islamic cry “Allah Akbar”.  If this film is genuine (and I see no reason to suppose that it is not) then the only possible conclusion is that Gaddafi was killed shortly after he was captured when he was no longer in a position to cause harm to anyone.  If so then by any definition this was a straightforward act of murder.  Moreover the grisly pictures of his corpse showing him covered in blood suggest that he was either repeatedly shot or that he was savagely beaten before he was killed or possibly both.

Some appear to find this outcome satisfying.  There has already been a chorus of self congratulation and self praise on the part of western governments and of the newspapers that have supported the war.  I see nothing to be proud of and I find nothing satisfying in the murder of a defenceless man especially a murder carried out with so much cruelty.  Of course as I have said in my previous posts it is a murder the western governments have been trying to carry out from the moment the war against Gaddafi began. They have now achieved their objective and we the people they purport to represent are degraded by it.

DALE FARM EVICTION

The media today is full of pictures of the eviction of the residents from Dale Farm.  Unfortunately events appear to have taken a violent turn and riot police are involved.

Any eviction of people from their home is distressing.  I do however want to take issue with some of the reporting of this affair.  The media refer to the residents of Dale Farm as “travellers” and are reporting this affair as a battle between the local authority and the “travellers”.  Some have seen a racist dimension to this affair in that it seems that most of the “travellers” are Irish.

When I was a court official I used to have to deal regularly with cases involving travellers.  Invariably these were cheerful young people who had chosen to live alternative lifestyles, which involved them moving from place to place and taking over empty land or buildings where they would live together in their own communities.  In no case that I was involved in did such travellers invade residential land or property or inconvenience or seek to inconvenience neighbouring residents.  Nor did they expect to stay where they were for very long.  When the owner showed up they would invariably agree to leave but would ask for time to find themselves another place.  Occasionally the owner would seek an eviction order in which case my job was to negotiate with the owner (invariably a big company or local authority) and its lawyers for the travellers to be granted a short time (usually a week) to leave.  At the end of this period leave they invariably did.  As I remember not one of these cases ended in ugly or violent confrontations.  Usually the owner was perfectly happy to give the travellers the time they asked for.  In the rare cases where the owner did not the court could be relied upon to give the travellers the time they needed instead.  Contrary to what is often said judges have a generally indulgent attitude towards travellers as mostly do the settled communities near whom they live.

The Dale Farm affair is completely different and I question whether the people involved who are occupying the land are “travellers” at all.  The fact that they own the land and sought to make permanent homes on the land contradicts everything I know about travellers.  In my opinion it is completely inconsistent with these people being travellers.  Travellers are by definition people who follow nomadic lifestyles and who have no permanent home, which in the case of the people who live on Dale Farm is clearly not the case.

If one puts to one side the idea that the residents of Dale Farm are travellers then Dale Farm is revealed in its true light as a big residential development carried out without planning permission and without heed to building or health and safety regulations by a developer from Ireland who has settled the development with relatives and friends.  That the development has been carried out in a slapdash way using cheap materials so that much of the housing is primitive and substandard does not alter the fact that Dale Farm is a residential development and not a travellers’ site.  Given the way in which it has been built without planning permission and without heed to building or health and safety regulations the local authority is actually under a duty to clear the site and to demolish it.

There are countless cases every year of local authorities intervening to clear and demolish illegal developments that have been built without planning permission and without regard to building and health and safety regulations.  These never excite comment because the developers responsible never attract sympathy.  In the case of Dale Farm one is sorry for some of the people involved (especially the children) though I understand that the local authority has confirmed that it is prepared to re house these people as indeed is its duty.  Having said this I cannot help but feel that the reason the Dale Farm residents have attracted so much more sympathy than do other developers who break the law is because there exists a romantic assumption that they are travellers who are being persecuted by the authorities and by the local community when in fact they are not.