Wednesday’s British Independent sums it up in an article entitled , ‘Dash for profit in post-war Libya carve up.’ ‘British businesses are scrambling to return to Libya in anticipation of the end to the country’s civil war, but they are concerned that European and North American rivals are already stealing a march as a new race to turn profit out of the war torn nation begins. . . . industry figures are aware that billions could be made in the coming years from rebuilding Libya.’
This should surprise no one since, for decades, the approach to Libya adopted by western powers and western based corporations has been marked by nauseating hypocrisy.
During his forty year dictatorship over Libya’s 6.5 million people, Colonel Gaddafi harboured major delusions about his own importance as an Arab leader, striking a posture as a champion of liberation for oppressed people around the world. The reality was quite different.
Gaddafi ‘s ‘Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Republic’ was neither socialist nor a people’s democracy but brutally repressed any opposition to the regime. And in time honoured fashion, Gaddafi enriched himself, his family and cronies with the same cynicism as if he were a Russian oligarch or an American billionaire.
The claim by the NATO powers that its bombing campaign was for humanitarian reasons rang hollow from the very beginning. People hadn’t forgotten the lies that NATO leaders in the US and Britain told to justify their invasion of Iraq and the hundreds of thousands of lives that that particular ‘humanitarian’ intervention cost since 2003. Neither was there any concern for the unfortunate people in Bahrain who bravely mobilised for democracy and change a few months ago only to be massacred by Saudi Arabian troops with the unexpressed complicity of the NATO ‘humanitarians’. Nor indeed do we ever hear a protest from the same quarters in defence of the oppressed people of Saudia Arabia itself, the Western powers’ closest ally in the Arab world.
The real reason for the quick intervention by key western powers in Libya was twofold, to guarantee the flow of oil and to attempt to get control of the Arab revolution, having been caught badly off side when the magnificent movements for democracy and change exploded into the Arab spring. Let’s remember the French government’s offer to send in riot police to help the Tunisian dictatorship restore order in response to the initial uprising there. Let’s remember also that the Mubarak dictatorship in Egypt was primarily supported by the United States and that virtually all the dictators in the Arab world were militarily equipped by western arms contractors and politically supported by the US, Britain and France.
Gaddafi was no exception. Once his flirtation with various terrorist groups like the IRA in Ireland and the Red Brigades in Italy petered out and attacks on US military targets ended, he was rehabilitated by the west as expressed by the obsequious visit of former British Prime Minister Blair to his tent near his hometown of Sirte. Lucrative arms deals and the guarantee of desperately needed oil has a magical way of making great advocates of democracy forgive and forget the past crimes of barbaric dictatorships and turn a blind eye to their ongoing repression and torture.
The National Transition Council based until now in the eastern city of Benghazi and claiming to represent the opposition to Gaddafi, is a creature of the NATO powers. Initially the uprising in that city was representative of the population as a whole including particularly workers and the poor. However increasingly pro big business elements and also former Gaddafi lieutenants who abandoned the sinking ship have come to dominate. Already the NTC has guaranteed that the contracts done between the Gaddafi government and western oil companies will be honoured.
Replacing an eccentric tyrant with a government that may adopt the trappings of democracy but then subjugate itself to the commercial interests of multinational corporations and to the political pressures of European and American neo liberal governments will not meet the aspirations of the Libyan people. They will demand freedom and democratic rights but also that the wealth of their country is developed for the benefit of all rather than for western big business. That can only be achieved when the policies of capitalist governments of NATO are rejected.
In fact the key to the Arab revolution as a whole – and this has yet to develop – is when working people and the poor organise to follow the overthrow of dictators with the removal of the political and economic elites on which they rested and the taking of the major wealth into democratic public ownership for the benefit of all.