Mar 3, 2011
THE ROVING EYE
War porn is back in Libya
By Pepe Escobar
Forget “democracy”; Libya, unlike Egypt and Tunisia, is an oil power. Many a
plush office of United States and European elites will be salivating at the
prospect of taking advantage of a small window of opportunity afforded by
the anti-Muammar Gaddafi revolution to establish – or expand – a beachhead.
There’s all that oil, of course. There’s also the allure, close by, of the
US$10 billion, 4,128 kilometer long Trans-Saharan gas pipeline from Nigeria
to Algeria, expected to be online in 2015.
Thus the world, once again, is reintroduced to war porn, history as farce, a
bad rerun of “shock and awe”. Everyone – the United Nations, the US, the
North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) – is up in arms about a no-fly
zone. Special forces are on the move, as are US warships.
Breathless US senators compare Libya with Yugoslavia. Tony “The Return of
the Living Dead” Blair is back in missionary zeal form, its mirror image
played by British Prime Minister David Cameron, duly mocked by Gaddafi’s
son, the “modernizer” Saif al-Islam. There’s fear of “chemical weapons”.
Welcome back to humanitarian imperialism – on crack.
And like a character straight out of Scary Movie, even war-on-Iraq-architect
Paul Wolfowitz wants a NATO-enforced no-fly zone, as the Foreign Policy
Initiative – the son of the Project for the New American Century – publishes
an open letter to US President Barack Obama demanding military boots to turn
Libya into a protectorate ruled by NATO in the name of the “international
The mere fact that all these people are supporting the Libya protesters
makes it all stink to – over the rainbow – high heavens. Sending His
Awesomeness Charlie Sheen to whack Gaddafi would seem more believable.
It was up to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to introduce a note of
sanity, describing the notion of a no-fly zone over Libya as “superfluous”.
This means in practice a Russian veto at the UN Security Council. Earlier,
China had already changed the conversation.
In their Sheen-style hysteria – with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
desperately offering “any kind of assistance” – Western politicians did not
bother to consult with the people who are risking their lives to overthrow
Gaddafi. At a press conference in Benghazi, the spokesman for the brand new
Libyan National Transitional Council, human-rights lawyer Abdel-Hafidh
Ghoga, was blunt, “We are against any foreign intervention or military
intervention in our internal affairs … This revolution will be completed
by our people.”
The people in question, by the way, are protecting Libya’s oil industry, and
even loading supertankers destined to Europe and China. The people in
question do not have much to do with opportunists such as former
Gaddafi-appointed justice minister Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, who wants a
provisional government to prepare for elections in three months. Moreover,
the people in question, as al-Jazeera has reported, have been saying they
don’t want foreign intervention for a week now.
The Benghazi council prefers to describe itself as the “political face for
the revolution”, organizing civic affairs, and not established as an interim
government. Meanwhile, a military committee of officer defectors is trying
to set up a skeleton army to be sent to Tripoli; through tribal contacts,
they seem to have already infiltrated small cells into the vicinity of
Whether this self-appointed revolutionary leadership – splinter elements of
the established elite, the tribes and the army – will be the face of a new
regime, or whether they will be overtaken by younger, more radical
activists, remains to be seen.
Shower me with hypocrisy None of this anyway has placated the hysterical
Western narrative, according to which there are only two options for Libya;
to become a failed state or the next al-Qaeda haven. How ironic. Up to 2008,
Libya was dismissed by Washington as a rogue state and an unofficial member
of the “axis of evil” that originally included Iraq, Iran and North Korea.
As former NATO supreme commander Wesley Clark confirmed years ago, Libya was
on the Pentagon/neo-conservative official list to be taken out after Iraq,
along with Somalia, Sudan, Lebanon, Syria and the holy grail, Iran. But as
soon as wily Gaddafi became an official partner in the “war on terror”,
Libya was instantly upgraded by the George W Bush administration to
As for the UN Security Council unanimously deciding to refer the Gaddafi
regime to the International Criminal Court (ICC), it’s useful to remember
that the ICC was created in mid-1998 by 148 countries meeting in Rome. The
final vote was 120 to seven. The seven that voted against the ICC were
China, Iraq, Israel, Qatar and Yemen, plus Libya and … the United States.
Incidentally, Israel killed more Palestinian civilians in two weeks around
new year 2008 than Gaddafi these past two weeks.
This tsunami of hypocrisy inevitably raises the question; what does the West
know about the Arab world anyway? Recently the executive board of the
International Monetary Fund (IMF) praised a certain northern African country
for its “ambitious reform agenda” and its “strong macroeconomic performance
and the progress on enhancing the role of the private sector”. The country
was Libya. The IMF had only forgotten to talk to the main actors: the Libyan
And what to make of Anthony Giddens – the guru behind Blair’s “Third Way” –
who in March 2007 penned an article to The Guardian saying “Libya is not
especially repressive” and “Gaddafi seems genuinely popular”? Giddens bet
that Libya “in two or three decades’ time would be a Norway of North Africa:
prosperous, egalitarian and forward-looking”. Tripoli may well be on its way
to Oslo – but without the Gaddafi clan.
The US, Britain and France are so awkwardly maneuvering for best
post-Gaddafi positioning it’s almost comical to watch. Beijing, even against
its will, waited until extra time to condemn Gaddafi at the UN, but made
sure it was following the lead of African and Asian countries (smart move,
as in “we listen to the voices of the South”). Beijing is extremely worried
that its complex economic relationship with oil source Libya does not
unravel (amid all the hoopla about fleeing expats, China quietly evacuated
no less than 30,000 Chinese workers in the oil and construction business).
Once again; it’s the oil, stupid. A crucial strategic factor for Washington
is that post-Gaddafi Libya may represent a bonanza for US Big Oil – which
for the moment has been kept away from Libya. Under this perspective, Libya
may be considered as yet one more battleground between the US and China. But
while China goes for energy and business deals in Africa, the US bets on its
forces in AFRICOM as well as NATO advancing “military cooperation” with the
The anti-Gaddafi movement must remain on maximum alert. It’s fair to argue
the absolute majority of Libyans are using all their resourcefulness and are
wiling to undergo any sacrifice to build a united, transparent and
democratic country. And they will do it on their own. They may accept
humanitarian help. As for war porn, throw it in the dustbin of history.
Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is
Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a
snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His new book, just out, is Obama does
Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).