Revolution in Libya and the CIA
Michael S. Rozeff
by Michael S. Rozeff: Personal
Secession – The Way to Freedom
on in Libya? The answer in one sense is very simple: revolution.
However, the long-term results are complex and unknown.
The U.S., Britain,
and France are the main foreign principals attempting, among other
deeper goals, to end the Gaddafi regime and replace it with a new
state, a new constitution, and a new form of government. They are
predominantly using air power. Their boots on the ground consist
of their own special forces (including CIA forces) and an assortment
of other forces native to the region that are rebelling.
in Libya is a joint operation of Libyan rebels and forces of the
West. The country in one sense was ripe for revolution because of
42 years of Gaddafi’s dictatorial rule in which civil society and
opposition were suppressed. But, on the other hand, economic discontent
was not a probable factor fanning revolutionary flames. Libya’s
standard of living was high with about 61 percent of the world’s
countries ranking below it. Libya ranks 83rd in per capita
GDP (out of 213 countries) as compared with China’s ranking of 126.
Its per capita annual income of $14,000 is almost double that of
China and more than double that of Egypt.
revolution from the West’s perspective is something like many CIA-instigated
coups of the past, it differs in three respects. The West has as
one of its aims not merely to replace a government but to change
the governing structure. It is taking a war and a rather long time
period to accomplish this aim. The revolution is relying on Western
air power, without which it cannot succeed and with which the degree
of success is not yet clear.
the Libyan revolution has large effects. It creates large displacements
of civilians, alters economic activity, and reshapes the country’s
politics. The hostilities reshape the lives of many, ending some.
opens up unforseen and unintended consequences. Longer-term results
are unknown. This is necessarily true because people are involved.
Their ideas, sentiments, interests, and values are constantly changing,
and this makes their actions unpredictable. Revolution is not a
chemical reaction in which combining two molecules is known to produce
another molecule under known conditions. Revolution is complex even
when external forces and interests are not involved.
reactions of Libyans affected by the revolution are many and varied
and they are bound to keep changing. At present the National Transitional
Council (NTC) is a coalition united by resistance to the Gaddafi
regime. It contains some who want a parliamentary democracy, others
who are former members of Gaddafi’s government and want power for
themselves, some who want to restore the monarchy, and others who
want to institute an Islamic state.
are important to the country and the state. Attitudes of tribal
leaders to the revolution vary. The attitudes of the NTC members
to the tribes and tribalism itself in Libya vary. This adds still
The legal cover
for the West’s military operations against Gaddafi is U.N. Security
Council resolution 1973 (March 17, 2011). It allows regional organizations
to participate. That provides the legal cover for NATO’s participation.
The legal cover
is so that Libya, which is being attacked, cannot claim that aggression
against it is occurring, which it is. And it is so that the attackers
can claim that they are attacking for humanitarian reasons, which
they are not. Additionally resolution 1973 contradicts the clear
language of the U.N. charter which forbids such international attacks
on its members, of which Libya is one.
overt military attack began on March 19, 2011 (Operation Odyssey
Dawn) with the launching of air attacks by the U.S., Great Britain,
and France from submarines and ships. The U.S. commanded the initial
operations for several weeks. NATO subsequently took over, but only
in name. A U.S. admiral is the Supreme Allied Commander, and the
U.S. provides 70 percent of the reconnaissance, 75 percent of the
refueling, and 27 percent of all air sorties. NATO also imposed
a blockade by sea.
took time to prepare. They took planning and coordination. The initial
targets had to be recognized and selected. The ships had to be brought
into position. The U.S. had to have been instrumental in these operations.
The U.S. had
to have been the leader in the decision to remove Gaddafi, because
of its role in these preparations and its subsequent dominant role.
The U.S. needed only the right sparks within Libya to have fanned
them into a full-fledged revolution. It needed only a pretext or
two in order to decide that the time had come to end the Gaddafi
uprising in Benghazi began on February 15. By February 22, Gaddafi
was suppressing the revolt in Tripoli. This resulted in an estimated
deaths. Gaddafi threatened a house to house intensive search
for armed protestors, warning them that execution lay in
store for them. He said "Any Libyan who carries arms against Libyans
will be punished by death."
moment of U.S. decision became public when Obama said on February
26 that Gaddafi had "lost legitimacy" and must "leave
now". On March 3, he repeated that Gaddafi had lost legitimacy
and should step down. He revealed that he was considering a range
of military options to make this happen. It’s very likely that Obama
had already directed military forces into the region in February,
given that the attack came on March 19 and that reports of ships
headed for Libya through Suez had surfaced by March 1.
What the timing
of these movements and statements suggests is that the U.S. had
decided very early on to remove Gaddafi when the opportunity presented
itself, or to create the opportunity. A firmer degree of planning
probably goes back into 2010, before the uprisings began in January
in Egypt. Contingency planning probably goes back further than that.
state that has been participating in this revolution has its own
interests in bringing it about. A politician who cites humanitarian
concerns is either terminally naive or lying. The haste with which
a number of countries have recognized the National Transitional
Council as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people tells
us that state interests predominate.
In the U.S.
case, the reasons for removing Gaddafi include reducing Chinese
influence in Libya and Africa, removing an independent voice who
can encourage African nations to keep their distance from the U.S.,
removing someone who is moving to abandon the use of dollars in
pricing oil, access to a high quality crude oil and abundant potential
reserves, removing an antagonist of Saudi Arabia, and the U.S.'s
general policy of creating western-style democracies.
By March 16,
Gaddafi’s superior forces were on the doorstep of Benghazi. The
U.S. was in the last stages of obtaining legal cover and making
attack preparations. It was at this point that the West’s propaganda
machine went into high gear with the suggestion that Gaddafi was
going to massacre the population of Benghazi. This was a physical
impossibility. Gaddafi’s heated and pugnacious rhetoric at what
he thought was his moment of complete triumph played into the West’s
hands. A more balanced
report at the time quoted a Libyan army source to the more sensible
effect that the government wanted to retake Benghazi without attacking
the city, and that the message it wanted to convey on Libyan state
television was that "The idea is to surround Benghazi but to
leave one exit open for the rebels. If we can get the rebels to
leave the city then we will move troops in between them and the
city and fight them in the open desert."
has been a significant element in the strategy of the rebels and
their foreign partners. This has included the highly implausible
charge that Gaddafi was using rape and Viagra as a weapon.
The CIA is
surely integral to U.S. operations inside Libya. It takes only a
brief look at the CIA’s history to realize that this must be the
One of the
CIA’s methods is the secret war. The CIA waged a secret war for
some 13 to 20 years in Laos between 1955 and 1974. The CIA itself
tells its story of this covert war on
its web site.
the CIA’s methods is the coup d’état. For example, Nixon
directed the CIA to create a coup against Allende in Chile. The
published a prize-winning article about this that says
sure were senior US officials that Salvador Allende and his coalition
would be defeated in the September 1970 election, as he had been
three times previously, that, despite CIA warnings, they were
caught off-guard when he won a plurality. Undeterred by the voters’
preference, President Richard Nixon delivered a clear and forceful
Directive calling for expanded CIA operations in Chile. In the
weeks between Allende’s election and his inauguration planned
for 3 November, the CIA actively sought to foment a coup in Chile.
Washington was unequivocal about its desire to keep Allende from
More such cases
can be found here.
the U.S. coup activity in Syria that stretched over many years.
Curtis has an informative blog on CIA machinations in Syria.
What is more, he tells the story of some pre-CIA government-led
1947 attempts to influence Syrian politics as explained by CIA agent
Miles Copeland in his 1968 book The
Game of Nations.
treatment of the U.S. coup attempts in Syria appears in historian
Douglas Little’s article "Cold War and Covert Action: The
United States and Syria, 1945-58." This 25-page article
will not be accessible to most readers. Brief summaries appear here
writes, for example, of Operation Straggle in 1956. The CIA cooperated
with the British SIS (Secret Intelligence Service) in this (as they
are doing in Libya now). The U.S. ambassador suggested an anti-communist
coup engineered by the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP). Plans
for a coup were subsequently discussed in the White House. The Secretary
of State communicated about these prospects with his British counterparts.
Within two months, they had developed covert plans (in the words
of the British Foreign Secretary) "to establish in Syria a
Government more friendly to the West". Subsequently the CIA
chief flew to London to work out details with the SIS.
We read that
original CIA-SIS plan appears to have called for Turkey to stage
border incidents, British operatives to stir up the desert tribes,
and American agents to mobilize SSNP guerrillas, all of which
would trigger a pro-Western coup by ‘indigenous anticommunist
elements within Syria’ supported, if necessary, by Iraqi troops."
events are a common technique used in coups.
The CIA’s role
in fomenting, assisting, and furthering the Libyan revolution has
received relatively little attention. As usual, the public information
is sparse. We have to make inferences and piece together a complete
picture. The margin of error goes up, but maybe not that much in
view of the past record of the CIA and what we know from the public
On March 30,
2011 the LA
Times reported White House comments that "CIA officers
on the ground in Libya are coordinating with rebels and sharing
intelligence." The White House refused comment on a Reuters
report of a secret memo that two weeks earlier had authorized secret
aid to the rebels.
The time frame
for these decisions lines up well with Obama’s March 3 revelation
that he was considering military options. In order to spot targets
for bombing and report them to NATO, CIA and other intelligence
services of Great Britain and possibly France are essential. In
order to train rebels in weapons and advise on military operations
on the ground, such forces are essential. The CIA has deep experience
in inserting operatives on foreign grounds. It is safe to assume
that CIA operatives for these military purposes were in place in
Libya in February and certainly by March 3. That was the date on
which a team of British special forces fouled up and were captured
by some rebels in Libya.
As of May,
the commander of the rebel forces is Khalifa Belqasim Haftar.
He has close ties to the CIA, which financed his militia years ago.
He lived a number of years in Langley, Virginia.
CIA personnel are likely only a portion of the full array of CIA
people with a hand in this revolution. Sooner or later, if the West
ousts Gaddafi, it will try to control the new government. It will
choose whom to back and support and whom to marginalize. The CIA
will be critical in making these decisions.
No doubt the
CIA and other western intelligence operations are now connected
to a number of persons on the National Transitional Council, either
directly or indirectly. This affords them the means to control or
influence the direction of the revolution, or the hope of doing
so. Members of the council’s executive team have toured western
capitols and have been constantly seeking assistance, both military
and financial. This is bound to have exposed them to western diplomats,
politicians, and intelligence operatives.
one contingent of the NTC is affiliated with the Libyan
League for Human Rights, which has a number of branches in the
West. It was founded in 1989. Another contingent is the National
Front for the Salvation of Libya, founded in 1981. It has been
supported by Saudi Arabia and the CIA. A third element is separatist
and goes back to the Senoussis Brotherhood that was the de facto
government of Cyrenaica. This element is monarchist.
(See also here.)
Also on the NTC are liberals with links to human rights organizations,
persons who are ex-Gaddafi government officials, and finally persons
who favor a radical Islamic state.
The CIA would
not at all have minded in the 1990s that Gaddafi would be battling
terrorism within Libya . They would have been pleased that Gaddafi
reconciled with the West. These activities led to cooperation with
the West. That brought the CIA close to Gaddafi's intelligence operatives
and members of his regime. That allowed the CIA to infiltrate and
turn some Libyan agents into double agents. That allowed the CIA
to identify and cultivate elements in Gaddafi’s government that
were anti-Gaddafi. The same goes for the SIS.
In other words,
the CIA and SIS have had sources within Gaddafi's intelligence operation
and government for a long time. They had double agents. There are
Libyan government officials who are on the NTC who deserted Gaddafi
that are seeking power. Some of these are likely to be closely attached
to the SIS and CIA. The CIA always infiltrates. It has its fingers
on as many of the NTC contingents as it can.
At the opportune
time, the U.S. will push aside certain revolutionary elements and
support others. It did this for years in Syria in its failed attempt
to control that country’s politics. It has been doing this for years
in Iraq and Afghanistan. CIA influence on these decisions will be
The CIA agrees
with its critics that its early efforts in Syria and elsewhere were
failures. CIA historian and veteran intelligence analyst Nicholas
Dujmovic writes on the CIA web site "It is no surprise
to anyone knowledgeable about early CIA covert operations that,
in the first years of the Cold War [1945-53], most of this activity
met with failure."
are really broader U.S. policy failures. Later efforts of the CIA
have failed again and again, in places like Syria, Cuba, Vietnam,
Iraq, and Afghanistan. There are many reasons why.
A big reason
is that the U.S. is unable to control a country’s politics by any
means and certainly not by military means. There are too many dynamic
unknowns. Unintended consequences occur because the U.S. cannot
foresee and therefore cannot control all the possible events that
can happen, and that’s because it cannot foresee what the political
players are going to do. Very many actions of human beings come
from within. As such they are uncaused, frequently being uncertain
and unpredictable. Human beings have the capacity to break into
reality and alter it. Multiple actions of multiple parties create
new conditions that could not have been foreseen. Human beings can
lie and deceive. They can give out false information. They can uses
ruses and stratagems. They can switch sides. They can bluff.
politics, communications are cloudy. Intentions are unclear. Trust
is lacking. Crises can erupt. Definite information about how far
others will go and what they will do is not available.
The games that
are being played are dangerous games, and they are games that are
being played with people’s lives.
case illustrates these points. American-Syrian relations were friendly
for over a century after 1820. The U.S. supported Syria’s removal
of the French control over the country. Syrians looked upon America
as friendly. This altered dramatically when the U.S. supported the
creation of Israel.
of 1948, Stephen Meade, a CIA political action specialist, contacted
right-wing Syrian army officers. This led to a coup in March 1949
in which Husni Zaim took power. At first, this was wildly successful
from the U.S. perspective. Zaim rooted out communists, approved
an ARAMCO oil pipeline, began to improve relations with Turkey and
Israel, and planned to resettle Palestinian refugees. However, on
August 14, 1949, Zaim was overthrown in another coup that the CIA
and the U.S. had not foreseen. This led to political instability
and rule that was not conducive to U.S. aims. After seven civilian
cabinets in 23 months, Colonel Shishakli became dictator. About
two years later, he was overthrown. The next leader lasted 14 months
before he was assassinated. In August 1955, Syria elected Shukri
Quwatly as president.
The next U.S.
coup attempt nearly led to a superpower confrontation between the
U.S. and the Soviet Union. All during 1956 and most of 1957, the
U.S. planned various coups in Syria. Operation Wappen was approved
in August of 1957. This led to a fiasco. The Operation was penetrated
by Syrian intelligence. As soon as the CIA approached Syrian officers,
they reported to their authorities. Syria expelled several CIA agents
and placed the U.S. embassy under constant surveillance. Contrary
to the CIA’s designs, a left-wing colonel now gained control over
his moderate rivals. This alarmed Turkey which massed 50,000 troops
on the Syrian border. John Foster Dulles was prepared to go to war
in Syria. He viewed Khrushchev "as more like Hitler than any
Russian leader we have previously seen." Khrushchev emitted
a clear message that "if Turkey starts hostilities against
Syria, this can lead to very grave consequences, and for Turkey,
too." The U.S. then had to provide aid and assurances to Turkey
so that it would de-mobilize.
The U.S. foreign
policy goals have been and are large. Too large. Anti-Communism
was seen as a worldwide confrontation of huge proportions. Anti-terrorism
is now seen as a huge matter of global scale. The U.S. government
pushes democracy, not just here but everywhere on earth
The U.S. government
is too ambitious, too utopian, and too domineering. When it catches
hold of one of these causes, it goes whole hog. It thinks it has
found truth. It thinks it’s necessary to implement it everywhere.
It tries to spread it everywhere.
it’s the same. Utopia is the goal. No area of life shall be left
untouched in the government’s quest to make life wonderfully perfect
for all persons and from all angles. Everyone shall be made happy.
Does it ever occur to anyone that maybe happiness is not a
good goal for one’s life or for every single aspect of life? Does
it ever occur to anyone that Jefferson maybe had it wrong? Does
the government not realize that suffering is an ineradicable part
of living and dying? Does no one in government realize that in the
quest for unending happiness, we may create a great deal of unhappiness
for ourselves? Does no one in government realize that they do not
know what constitutes the happiness of a given person? Does no one
realize that happiness may deaden creativity, or that many worthwhile
endeavors are not happy experiences, or that unhappiness may bring
about many good results? Life is not so simple.
We have presidents
and Congressmen who want to eliminate poverty, eradicate disease,
provide everyone with health care, make sure anyone can buy a house,
make sure that Americans have jobs, make sure that the planet doesn’t
get too warm, make sure that no child is left behind, and make sure
that no one takes "bad" drugs and all those who should
have "good" drugs be made to take them. We have governments
that want to make sure we don’t waste energy and that every bottle
has a tamper proof seal. Every toy should be ultra safe. Children
shall never point their fingers at each other. Women shall be paid
the same as men. No one shall touch a creek, a swamp, a marsh, a
stream or a river without permission. No one shall kill certain
bugs or critters.
No parent shall
strike a child. What would have happened to my parents if this had
been the rule when my father took a razor strap to my behind or
my mother slapped me across the face? Isolated instances to be sure,
but in those particular cases my behavior called for it. Can a man
slap an hysterical person these days? It’s still shown in the movies.
In those same movies, travelers often pack guns as they board airplanes
or place them in suitcases. Can a person exercise reasonable judgment
and precautions in all sorts of situations without running afoul
of laws? Not any more. One has to have permission. It’s grade school
extended to life.
It’s all insane.
The U.S. is a nuthouse. It once prohibited alcohol nationwide. This
shows how nutty American government can be. Americans then went
on a very large Prohibition binge. Insane.
Plain old living
seems increasingly to be beyond the capacity of human beings in
modern life, at least that with which I am familiar in the U.S.
Living and let living increasingly are falling by the wayside.
isn’t only in the overambitious goals. It’s also in the knee-jerk
resort to force to bring them about. Do we actually believe that
force is the answer to everything? To health care, shelter, education,
drugs, foreign relations, food, unfriendly governments, product
safety, and money? It appears we do. Such a belief is insane.
overambitious foreign goals are made even more improper when they
are implemented in secretive, unaccountable, and violent ways that
constantly interfere in the internal workings of other nations.
How can the U.S. maintain that it stands for freedom and for democracy
when here at home the people are kept in the dark about the CIA?
The public doesn’t know the amount of funding of the CIA much less
its activities. The CIA is a secret arm of the Executive branch.
It routinely violates any semblance of constitutional and international
law. How can any of that be reconciled with the idea that the U.S.
government is a government of a free people who control its actions?
On paper, the
U.S. is a constitutional republic with limited powers. In reality,
it goes around the world seeking to make and unmake the governments
of other countries. This is currently the case in Libya.
The U.S. government
believes in governing not only its own citizens but anyone else
it can. Its ideal is to regulate behavior so as to produce what
it will call happiness and security of a person. Its laws and regulations
are merely a crude form of programming, because they require external
monitoring and enforcement.
the (science-fiction) ideal would be something like this. The government
would determine how to make every person be "happy" all
day long. It would determine what behaviors, thoughts, and actions
are consistent with this and what are not. It would program all
of this onto a chip that would be implanted in a newborn baby. The
chip would then control the baby, thereby ending the baby’s will
and humanity. The baby would be turned into a robot that always
obeys the commands and impulses brought about by the instructions
on the chip. Once the government had fastened upon a set of "happiness
instructions" and programmed them, the human race would simply
reproduce itself and live happily ever after. A high degree of stasis
would occur. Certain amusements might be programmed in. Work would
be made the occasion of pleasure by appropriate drugs.
U.S. would prefer Gaddafi to be dead so that the Libyans can achieve
a higher measure of "happiness" with a new form of government.
The U.S. had the same wish for Saddam Hussein. In the brave new
world of perfect government by implanted chips, any potential Gaddafis,
Saddam Husseins, and Hannibal Lecters will be eliminated long before
they can damage others. The chip will automatically release deadly
poison if certain limits of violent behavior are surpassed. Punishments
will be automatic.
In this world,
human creativity would cease. Human personality would be suppressed.
Freedom would be non-existent. This is the limit to which existing
government is tending. The result of this is the death or near-death
of the human race. Without freedom and creativity, human beings
will be unable to cope with environmental changes. Climate changes
alone will doom them, but so may new species of other animals, crop
failures, floods, etc. The chip-makers will be unable to foresee
all contingencies in the same way that the U.S. government never
foresees the results of its intrusions in other nations. Perfect
chip-government will kill everyone. Utopia will be the death of
S. Rozeff [send him mail]
is a retired Professor of Finance living in East Amherst, New York.
He is the author of the free e-book Essays
on American Empire: Liberty vs. Domination and the free e-book
The U.S. Constitution
and Money: Corruption and Decline.
© 2011 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in
part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.
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