Another Jolly Little War

Morally Indignant Sharks Circle Libya While Osama Smiles

by Eric Margolis by Eric Margolis Recently by Eric Margolis: The Libyan Fox at Bay

The US media, perfectly described by Israeli thinker Uri Avnery as "a mixture of propaganda, news and entertainment," is steaming with righteous indignation over the awfulness of Libya's wicked Colonel Muammar Gadaffi, and is once again baying for his blood.

"On to Libya! Down with the Tyrant of Tripoli!" That's the latest hue and cry from North America's lynch mob of right wingers, jingoistic media, and neoconservative jackals. Once again there's talk of war against a small, almost defenseless nation that can't seriously fight back. What Imperial Britain used to call, "a jolly little war."

War fever over Libya is gripping the United States. After a hiatus of nine years, in which he was a useful ally to western interests, Col. Muammar Gadaffi is once again the monster we love to hate. It's damned hard trying to keep track of when we love him and when we hate him. Not so long ago he was our bosom buddy in the "war on terror." Now, he's a devil all over again.

The right thinks it sees a golden opportunity in Libya's current civil war to get rid of the unloved Gadaffi, "liberate" Libya's high-grade oil, and halt the wave uprisings now flaring across the Arab world.

We heard this same siren song about Iraq: an evil dictator oppressing his people, seas of oil, arsenals of dangerous weapon, an enemy of Israel.

President Barack Obama may be nearing a decision to attack Libya and implement no-fly zones over it. US Marine amphibious units are off Libya's coast. Hillary Clinton has donned her breastplate and horned helmet.

Leaders of the US, Britain, France, and Germany who were happy to hold hands with Gadaffi, take his money, and buy his premium oil now suddenly brand him a monster. There is enough hypocrisy over former ally Libya to float the US 6th Fleet.

A US-British-French-Canadian invasion of Libya would be sugarcoated as a humanitarian mission to rescue Libyan civilians from supposedly murderous air strikes by Gadaffi's comically inept air force, which has trouble just getting airborne.

But hardly any mention is made in the US of the 65 Afghan civilians recently killed by a US air strike, or the nine Afghan boys collecting wood on a hillside massacred by US helicopter gunships last week

Nor about repeated US air strikes on Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen that have killed large numbers of civilians. When we do it, it's "collateral damage" and "stuff happens."

Last week, Afghanistan's US-installed leader, Hamid Karzai, demanded the US halt air strikes that are killing many civilians and provoking outrage across Afghanistan. Even Pakistan's feeble, spineless US-installed regime is also making similar demands as US drones terrorize the Northwest Frontier.

All the blazing criticism of Gadaffi seems shameless and hypocritical in light of US and NATO actions in South Asia, Yemen, and Somalia.

Meanwhile, US, British, French, and perhaps Canadian special forces are likely operating in eastern Libya, training, arming and even fighting alongside anti-Gadaffi irregular forces and jamming Tripoli's communications.

The oldest trick in the imperial playbook is to foment an uprising, then call for outside help.

This writer has reported for weeks that Britain's elite Special Air Service (SAS) has been rallying anti-Gadaffi forces in and around Benghazi, seizing desert oil installations, and helping attack pro-Gadaffi forces. Britain has stoutly denied this.

Then, oh dear! To London's monumental embarrassment, eight SAS and intelligence officers from MI6 Secret Intelligence Service were arrested in Libya. They have since departed aboard a British warship. But this contingent was only one of many active in Libya and made liars of the British government. Sticky wicket, what!

Speaking of double standards, the Brits, who have been howling about Somali pirates, grabbed a Libya-bound freighter laden with Libyan currency in the finest tradition of Sir Henry Morgan. Washington is trying to put the grabbers on Libya's $70 billion sovereign wealth fund. The age of piracy is not dead.

Attention all despots and tyrants: you are well advised to follow the example of big time drug dealers in the 1970's and 80's. Put your moolah in Russian banks, where it is safe from US authorities. China will also be a safe haven for flight money and swag.

Meanwhile, Libya is sinking into civil war. The tribes of eastern Libya, and the city of Benghazi, have always been opposed to Gadaffi and to western Libya. British intelligence has been active in Benghazi for thirty years, stirring up anti-Gadaffi sentiment and trying to subvert his rule.

In 1998, Britain's MI6 mounted an unsuccessful attempt in Benghazi to murder Gadaffi with a car bomb because of his support for the IRA. Many civilians died. Now, the Brits have gone into high gear, apparently trying to reassert London's influence over its former oil-rich former colony.

Libya is very fragile and appears to be coming apart at the seams as its civil war spreads. It only became a unitary state in 1951 when its three independent regions, Tripolitania, Cyrenaica and Fezzan were merged.

Eastern Libya is the home of one of the most important historic Arab liberation movements, the Senoussi, who in the early 20th century, came close to pushing the French and Spaniards out of North Africa.

As regional and tribal civil war flares, oil-hungry foreign power sharks circle Libya, just as Col. Gadaffi warned. Libya may end up be splintered by outside intervention, like Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia. "Divide et impera," as the Romans said, divide and rule.

Having learned nothing from America's trillion-dollar apiece fiascos in Afghanistan and Iraq, Washington's national security circles are eager to invade Libya. Plans to attack Iran and/or Pakistan have been postponed. Libya's oil riches are too good to pass up.

However, some voices of reason are still heard in Washington. Our cautious, seasoned defense secretary, Robert Gates, stated his very strong opposition to any no-fly zone and/or ground invasion of Libya, warning the US can't risk or afford a third major war when 40% of every dollar spent by the US government is being borrowed from China or Japan.

Former CIA chief Gates is quite right. A no-fly zone would soon draw the US into ground combat and into the midst of a confusing tribal conflict no one in Washington understands. This is precisely what happened in Afghanistan, where America found itself in the middle of a civil war between its Communist-dominated Tajik/Uzbek allies and the majority Pashtun.

The supposed "cakewalk" in Iraq turned into a quagmire tying down 50,000 US troops costing $1 trillion to date. The US is now getting ever deeper involved in conflicts in Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan's Northwest Frontier, and, most lately, Djibouti.

For now, Tehran is breathing easy thanks to Col. Gadaffi.

Another person who must be relishing this spectacle is the elusive Osama bin Laden (assuming he is alive). Bin Laden's primary goal is overthrowing US-backed autocratic regimes across the Muslim world. Attacking western targets that supported them was only secondary.

Col. Gadaffi was not totally wrong when he blamed al-Qaida for Libya's uprising. Bin Laden was not pulling the strings of Libya's rebellion, but al-Qaida's revolutionary philosophy and anti-western jihad certainly inspired many young people from Morocco to Bangladesh.

That's Washington's big problem. Invading Libya will intensify the fires burning in the Arab world and create yet another anti-western jihad.

This is exactly Osama bin Laden's strategy: draw the bull in the china shop – US into many small wars in the Muslim world – and so bleed it dry. So far, the US has been cooperating with Osama's master plan.

Caution over Libya is strongly advised. We have had enough fools charging in where knowledgeable men fear to tread.