Libya: the criminal silence of the press

The silence of the western press on the situation in Libya is deafening. This is no surprise as the pessimistic predictions of the critics of NATO’s war to oust Qaddafi become reality.

The eastern Cyrenaica has seceded and put Islamic fundamentalists with close links to Al Qaeda in positions of power. Threats from Tripoli of civil war to bring Benghazi back into the fold ring hollow. Those in Tripoli hold power no farther than the keyboards on their office computers. They have been unable to convince anyone to even go retake Bani Walid which fell back to Qaddafi forces in January and the town is only 80 kilometers from the capital.

The military commander in Tripoli is an Islamist himself. Abdelhakim Belhadj, who fought with Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, has no interest in bringing down a government run by his Salafist brethren. The militias refuse to disarm and have fought in the streets of Tripoli on numerous occasions because they also refuse to go home, fearing those in Tripoli might cheat them out of the pie. School girls are wearing the veil and Sharia law is written into the new constitution.

In the southern region of Sabha, ethnic and tribal clashes have turned into a war where hundreds may have died. This conflict has taken on a racial character between the Black Tabu and the Arab Abu Seif tribes. It is interesting to see how the western press try to blame this on Qaddafi’s legacy such as the Guardian which writes on Saturday “Muammar Gaddafi’s 40 years in power have left behind a patchwork of local rivalries.” Never mind that under Qaddafi there were no racial or tribal wars. The same press passes in silence the systematic murders of Black Africans by the militias during the war and the on-going imprisonment of people suspected of being Qaddafi supporters just because they are Black.

And what of the widespread use of torture which forced the French NGO Doctors without Borders to pull out of Misrata? Is this the democracy NATO and Qatar (which is very quiet about shooting protesters in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia) promised us?

And nobody seems to be able to tell us where we can find the 144 tons of gold Qaddafi had in reserve and with which he wanted to create an African central bank and a continent-wide currency which would have put the IMF and the World Bank out of business in Africa and end France’s control of its former colonies who use the Paris controlled CFA franc.

But the worst and most predictable outcome of NATO’s war is the total destabilization of the Sahel region where Qaddafi’s soldiers fled with arms and know-how and have taken the north of Niger and a good third of Mali while fighting rages in Mauritania. One of Francophone Africa’s few democracies fell to a coup by soldiers frustrated at not being given the means to fight back.

It would also be interesting to know what happened to the US military base built near Timbuktu. Up until the fall of their bases in the north, it was the US Air Force who reportedly dropped badly needed supplies to the surrounded Malian outposts. The Pentagon tells us “all US soldiers in Mali are accounted for”. I’m sure that makes Malians feel a whole lot better.

In Niger, rebel advances threaten to cut off France’s supply of uranium. France gets nearly all its uranium through Areva run mines in Niger and for a country that depends on nuclear power for 80% of its electricity, this is a catastrophe. Will there be another French colonial intervention to protect its economic interests like the colonial expedition in Ivory Coast a year ago? Certainly not before the second round of French Presidential elections in May.

How long will it be before the press reports drones hitting rebel positions in another US undeclared war. Much the same way as they hit targets in Yemen and Pakistan every day with no accountability to anybody.

NATO’s war had badly hurt Sahel nations well before Qaddafi’s gruesome murder. Just one example: by June 2011, 210 thousand Niger migrant workers had returned from Libya. They were sending on average 200 dollars a month back home. The sudden end to funds sent the country into a downward poverty spiral and food insecurity.

Yet western pundits continue to point to Syria and say that is what would have happened if NATO had not intervened. The reality is that civil war and instability are the direct result of NATO intervention and the region would have been much better off without it. And if the Gulf monarchies get their way, the civil war in Syria will be even more destructive and destabilizing. The West does not seem to learn from their mistakes.

Turkey’s decision to abandon Iran for Libya as the source of its oil demonstrates why Ankara sided with the West. Turkey’s ‘moderate’ Islamic ruling party is backing the Sunnis in Syria against the Alawites backed by Shia Iran. Turkey’s other neighbor, Iraq, is also ruled by Shias who back Assad.  This is again the result of a botched imperialist intervention. Thank you George W. Bush! What we are seeing is more and more a Sunni – Shia civil war taking shape and a Salafist take over in those Sunni countries where the West intervenes. We know there are strong Salafist forces operating in the religious and ethnic patchwork which is Syria. Forces backed, financed and armed by Saudi Arabia and Qatar while our obedient press speak of aspirations for Democracy.

The role of the western press in misinforming the public by not informing them is criminal. It will allow western leaders to continue to intervene and destroy people’s lives for short-sighted imperial interests. Oil, uranium and gold… that is why regimes are being overturned and people killed. The silence of the press is no accident.