Muammar. He’s Back!
by Eric Margolis
by Eric Margolis: Morally
Indignant Sharks Circle Libya While Osama Smiles
wrote that Libya’s "Leader," Muammar Gadaffi, had used
up all of his nine lives. After being written off by great powers
and world media, Gadaffi, the dictator we love to hate, is still
in power and making rude gestures at his assorted foes.
We should call
Gadaffi Mr. Lucky. As the western powers were edging ever closer
to a war to "liberate" Libya’s high-grade oil, along came
Japan’s awful tsunami which washed Libya off the front pages of
a nuclear and financial meltdown in Japan gripped world capitals,
overshadowing Libya’s civil strife.
the normally do-nothing Arab League had bestirred itself to pass
a resolution calling for the United Nations Security Council to
impose a no-fly zone over Libya – a euphemism for war. Most of the
Arab states hate Gadaffi and would love to see him strung up. For
decades, Libya’s "Leader" has been calling them American
and Israeli stooges, cowards, and thieves.
barbs were reserved for the Saudi royal family, whom he scathingly
described as "old women in robes." Ouch! This from a zany
despot who loves to wear comic opera military uniforms made by Italian
But note, the
Arab League did not propose action itself. It merely kicked the
Libyan problem over to the UN Security Council which may not take
decisive action due to Chinese and Russian opposition.
Mark Twain, who would have had a lot of fun with all the righteous
hysteria over Libya, reports of Gadaffi’s demise are premature.
It seems Libya’s
Muammar Gadaffi is not a goner, at least not this week. His military
and mercenaries have counterattacked and are driving east towards
the center of rebellion, Benghazi.
There has not
been all that much fighting, in spite of overheated reports by the
media, thanks to the military ineptitude of both Gadaffi’s forces
and the Benghazi-based rebels who are little more than an armed
mob making warlike gestures for TV cameras.
war correspondents seem to have vanished from the media, replaced
by amateurs who can’t tell a tank from an armored personnel carrier.
is akin to naval operations: vast distances are covered, often back
and forth. Supply bases are of paramount importance. Logistics rule
everything, as we saw during the North African campaigns of Word
opposition starts making gains again, suspect that foreign special
forces are involved. I’ve reported for some weeks that British SAS
forces were secretly in Libya. A bunch were recently rounded up
I’ve seen Libya’s
Army at war before. In the later 1980’s, Libya and Chad, backed
by its neocolonial master France, fought a little war over the disputed
Aouzou Strip, which was believed to have rich uranium deposits.
sort of ceded by France, which then ruled neighboring Chad, to Italy,
which then ruled Libya. Italy was given Aouzou by the British and
French as one of the prizes it received after World War I for joining
the Allied side. But after uranium was discovered in the 1970’s,
the French decided they should never have ceded Aouzou to Italy
and reneged on the deal, leaving the desert strip in limbo.
In what was
called the "Toyota War," (both sides used the splendid
Toyota Land Cruiser), Libya’s Army proved laughably incompetent.
French Foreign Legionnaires disguised as Chadian tribesmen quickly
routed the Libyans.
I ran into
some of these tough Legionnaires in Alsace and they told me delightful
tales of their Beau
Geste–type colonial operations in Chad and Aouzou. On their
muscled arms was tattooed, "marcher ou crever" (march
This time around,
Gadaffi’s military and mercenaries have the ragtag anti-Gadaffi
forces on the defensive. To the horror of the US, Britain, Canada,
and France, all of whom are calling for Gadaffi’s head, Libya’s
eccentric leader appears to be winning.
and NATO stumble, dither, and look plain silly over Libya, the awful
realization is growing: what if Gadaffi survives and continues to
rule Libya? Will he have the last laugh?
president, Nicholas Sarkozy, whose popularity is almost as low as
Gadaffi’s, just recognized the Benghazi-based Libyan opposition
and calls for air strikes against Libya. This after France was revealed
to have offered riot police to Tunisia’s embattled dictator, Gen.
Ali. French prime minister, François Fillon, vacationed in Egypt,
with travel goodies supplied by former president-dictator Husni
Gadaffi did not riposte by recognizing the Corsican Liberation Movement
on the restive French-ruled island, or endorse a Basque state in
southwestern France. Touché! He could have declared an embargo
on French perfume, for which Libya is a significant market.
In a huge embarrassment
for President Barack Obama, who has been demanding Gadaffi resign,
the gutsy new US national intelligence director, Gen. James Clapper,
told Congress that Gadaffi’s forces were winning. Fortunately, US
Defense Secretary Robert Gates put the brakes, at least for now,
on Republican hawks and the-only-good-Arab-is-a-dead-Arab neocons
who were urging the US impose a no-fly zone over Libya.
also be many red faces in Europe. Libya is a major oil supplier.
If Gadaffi survives and reconsolidates his rule, Europe will have
to continue buying oil from him. Germany’s Angela Merkel and her
pal Sarko will look very foolish.
the leaders of France, Germany, and Britain, who have been calling
for the overthrow of Gadaffi, may have to make nice to him again,
and even, horror of horrors, go to Tripoli and be filmed holding
hands with the smirking Libyan dictator, decked out in one of his
Marx Brothers military outfits. Revenge, Libyan-style, will be oh
are very good at reversing course. "Oh, it was all a terrible
misunderstanding. Fault of those Americans, don’t you know."
patch up relations by sending his gorgeous Carla Bruni to visit
Gadaffi, who has an eye for the ladies.
not so adept at U-turns, will continue to huff and puff at Gadaffi
until the New York Times runs a lead article about how poor,
misunderstood Gadaffi is really secretly a friend of Israel. (If
you think this is crazy, Gadaffi told me he admired Israel and wanted
to invite all of Libya’s former Jewish residents to come home.)
All this reminds
me of a wonderful story told to me by the late Count Alexandre de
Marenches, the longtime head of France’s hard-fisted foreign intelligence
service, SDECE (today, after big scandals, it’s called DGSE).
Aouzou conflict, French President Francois Mitterand, highly annoyed
at Gadaffi, ordered Marenche’s SDECE to assassinate the Libyan leader.
The count related to me how his agents managed the feat of secreting
a pressure-fused bomb aboard Gadaffi’s private jet, set to explode
at 7,000 meters. Luckily for Gadaffi, he did not use his jet in
But after Libya
gave up Aouzou and Franco-Libyan relations improved,
Mitterand ordered SDECE to remove the bomb. That, said Marenches,
was ten times harder than getting it aboard. But SDECE did manage
to remove the bomb, and Libyan oil and cash flowed to France.
in 1989, Libya’s intelligence chief, with whom I had dined in Tripoli,
allegedly ordered the bombing of a French UTA airliner over Niger,
killing 170. Gadaffi denied any knowledge of this crime or of the
downing of a PanAm US airliner over Scotland. Libya was subjected
to crushing western sanctions.
In 2008, Gadaffi
bought his way out of trouble by forking out $1.5 billion to the
US citizens and other claimants for the UTA and PanAm Lockerbie
aircraft – but without admitting Libya’s guilt.
W. Bush ordered all sanctions on Libya lifted. Washington even declared
Gadaffi a valued ally in the so-called war on terror.
Money and oil
trump moral outrage. This time, the wily Libyan colonel has a reported
$50 billion in his war chest to buy his way out of his latest troubles.
him mail] is the author of War
at the Top of the World and the new book, American
Raj: Liberation or Domination?: Resolving the Conflict Between the
West and the Muslim World. See his
© 2011 Eric Margolis
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