NATO Hypocrisy Revealed in Libya

All International Criminal Court fugitives are equal -- but some are more equal than others.

While the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) says it is protecting civilians in Libya from Muammar Gaddafi, an International Criminal Court (ICC)-indicted fugitive, it has allowed another ICC-wanted criminal to send his army into the country.

In an under-reported event, Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir, currently under indictment by the ICC for genocide in Darfur, recently sent troops across the Libyan-Sudanese border into southern Libya to occupy Kufra, a town located in an important oil-producing area. Only last May in his own country, Bashir, who could teach Gaddafi lessons on killing civilians, had used the same army to ethnically cleanse 60,000 Dinka tribesmen with tanks from Abyei, while his air force is currently bombing Nuba civilians indiscriminately in their mountain villages in possible preparation for a new genocide. Indicating that a deal with the devil may have been made prior to the Sudanese army’s cross-border move, NATO, which controls Libyan airspace, did not oppose the occupation.

“Our surveillance shows that they are not moving the oil, so it is not about money in the short term,” one Western official was quoted as saying.

What the Sudanese intervention most likely is about, however, is oil. More specifically, it is about getting it flowing again, a NATO priority. British officials are reported to “have worked closely” with the rebels in Benghazi to this end.

The role of the Sudanese troops in achieving this goal, it seems, is to provide the oil-producing area around Kufra with protection from Gaddafi’s forces. The Libyan leader’s fighters have been attacking oil facilities around Kufra and elsewhere to prevent the rebels from selling the oil and using the proceeds to prosecute the war against him. Without money, the rebels say they are “incapable of battling Gaddafi…"

“The Gaddafi army was coming in and taking out the oilfields every time the rebels started pumping oil. They’ve dismantled the fields quite carefully so the rebels need security down there,” the official said.

The Sudanese army moved into Kufra only days after the last attack by Gaddafi forces on the area’s oil fields on June 12. Prior to the Sudanese arrival, there had been a lot fighting around the town. What Sudan’s government expects to receive for its help in Kufra is unclear. But one can rest assured that Bashir is not helping out for nothing.

If NATO acquiesced or assisted in hiring the army of a war criminal and mass murderer like Bashir for use against a similarly indicted criminal, as appears likely, it throws a hypocritical shadow over the military alliance’s oft stated mission statement of protecting Libyan civilians. Enlisting Bashir proves protecting civilians from a brutal dictator was never NATO’s priority; rather it proves, as has long been suspected, the war is primarily about oil.

One African columnist, Obi Nwakanma, has most likely discerned the true reason for NATO’s involvement in the Libyan civil war. Britain and France, Nwakanma maintains, feared being shut out of the Libyan oil fields in favour of China and India. Libya contains the largest oil reserves in Africa.

“It is no longer a secret that behind this NATO alliance war on Libya, and far beyond the ‘do-good’ face it …wears…as its reason for bombing Libya to smithereens is the quest to control the oil fields of Libya, guarantee Western access to energy sources in the face of growing concern over the rise of China and India and their…emerging gluttony for oil…,” Nwakanma writes.

It would be just like the sadistic Gaddafi to turn around and make oil exploration deals with China and India after Britain and France had suffered humiliation at his hands in expectation of getting such agreements. Forgetting Churchill’s words of never giving in to tyranny and dishonour, in 2009 Britain cravenly freed the Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset al Megrahi, who in 1988 blew a Pan Am passenger airliner out of the sky over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270 people including 189 Americans in exchange for an oil deal.

At first, the British government denied that freeing Megrahi was linked to any such agreement. Later, however, it admitted the Libyan’s release was part of just such a deal, worth $900 million, that British Petroleum signed with Gaddafi shortly afterwards. At President Obama’s request, Libyan rebel forces are currently searching for Megrahi. Like his boss, the Libyan terrorist is facing a court date but with the US justice system.

France was involved in the monstrous case of the five Bulgarian nurses and Palestinian doctor who were accused of deliberately injecting children with the HIV virus in a Libyan children’s hospital. The nurses, all European Union (EU) citizens, were raped and tortured in Gaddafi’s dungeons and then subjected to a full-blooded Stalinist show trial, in which they all bravely repudiated their confessions. It is too bad the EU couldn’t have summoned up the same courage at that time and have taught Gaddafi a lesson for the vile treatment of its citizens. If it had, NATO would probably not be at war in Libya now.

Despite the fact an independent commission of two European AIDS experts, one a French professor who co-discovered the HIV virus, ruled the epidemic started in the hospital a year before the nurses had even arrived there and was caused by poor sanitary conditions, the EU still paid $400 million in compensation to Libya and, like good dhimmis, even agreed to clean the hospital. French President Nicolas Sarkozy sent his then wife, Cecilia Sarkozy, to Tripoli to escort the battered and traumatized women, along with the badly tortured doctor, back to Bulgaria.

Sarkozy’s next cynical move was to phone Gaddafi almost immediately thereafter to say he would start his upcoming Africa tour in Libya. With the obstacle of the Bulgarian women’s barbarous detention solved, the decks were now clear for business deals.

But such abject appeasement and dishonourable behaviour could only have aroused a cruel disdain in a person like Gaddafi. So it is quite possible he may have attempted to further humiliate the French and British by refusing expected oil exploration contracts. In an interview with a French television journalist this week, Gaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam, indicated dissatisfaction with business agreements may be at the bottom of France’s and Britain’s desire to depose his father.

“If you are angry with us because we are not buying Rafaele airplanes, talk with us! If you are angry with us because oil deals are not going well, talk with us!” Saif al-Islam said.

In the same interview, Gaddafi’s son also warned that Europe would become a legitimate target for Libyan attacks, if NATO bombings did not stop. His father issued the same warning a few days ago. And considering Gaddafi’s past record for terrorism in Europe, the warnings should be taken seriously. What also should be taken seriously is Gaddafi’s possible use of poison gas against rebel forces if his position becomes too precarious. Gaddafi’s friend, Saddam Hussein, resorted to such a heinous tactic when his survival was at stake in the Iran-Iraq war.

France and Great Britain appear set on a military solution to the war instead of a diplomatic one despite the growing international opposition the rising number of civilian deaths is causing. The African Union and Italy, a NATO member, have both called for a ceasefire, while China and Russia have opposed the war from the start. Russia supports Gaddafi’s remaining in power, since he purchases large quantities of Russian arms, while China probably views Gaddafi as its key to Libya’s oil fields.

But NATO is running out of options in bringing a quick end to the bloody mess the Libyan war has become. The rebels are no closer to deposing Gaddafi than they were last February when the rebellion began. Facing a stalemate in eastern Libya, they have also not advanced from Misrata in western Libya despite having the advantage of NATO air support. As an indication of their weakness, and perhaps of their desperation, the rebel’ ruling council in Benghazi has now offered to allow Gaddafi to stay in Libya, if he would only step down. This offer was promptly rejected.

A possible sign of NATO’s desperation occurred when it was revealed last week France had air-dropped arms to anti-Gaddafi Berber rebels in Libya’s western mountains, defying the UN resolution banning the supplying of weapons to either side. The French defended their actions, saying the weapons, “rocket-propelled grenades, assault rifles, machine guns and, above all, anti-tank missiles,” were to protect the rebels against Gaddafi’s troops.  Frustratingly for NATO, the French weapons have not helped so far. The French-armed Berber rebel force, now positioned 50 miles south of Tripoli, first offensive failed. Fighting on flat plains is not the same as mountain warfare.

But even if NATO does prevail, one must question what kind of democracy does it expect to appear in Libya after Gaddafi’s downfall? The rebel forces are not very united, except in their desire to get rid of Gaddafi, and some have even been accused of war crimes, especially against black Africans. Made up largely of tribes, the opposition forces may eventually start to fight each other over power and control of oil revenues after Gaddafi’s demise, setting the stage for a never-ending, multi-phase civil war like happened in Afghanistan after the 1989 Soviet withdrawal. If this is the case, NATO may inadvertently have created more candidates for the ICC, against which it will again eventually have to act “to protect Libyan civilians.”