Thursday, August 25, 2011

Sweet crude of mine By Pepe Escobar

Sweet crude of mine
By Pepe Escobar

Royals dancing in palace corridors have been spotted in Riyadh. The heir to the Libyan throne, Prince al-Senussi, a nephew of King Idriss who was deposed by Muammar Gaddafi and others in a bloodless 1969 military coup, has embarked on a busy self-promotion campaign, saying he's ready to go back to Libya and even "lead the country".

Nothing in the world would be sweeter for the House of Saud - extremely distasteful of most Arab secular republics - than a friendly, brand new emirate in northern Africa.

But the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the real winners of the Libyan tribal/civil war, may have other ideas. Mahmoud Jibril - the dodgy National Transitional Council's prime minister - speaking in Qatar, has explicitly thanked the winners by name: France, Britain, the United States, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Of this top five, the Western top three might welcome, in theory, a pliable emirate - but as long as it does not exhibit North Waziristan-style ultra-fundamentalist tendencies, as in Pakistan's tribal area.

It's an open game, because at this stage no one really knows the degree of influence Islamists will be able to wield in post-Gaddafi Libya. A week from now, in Paris, some answers might be on the table; that's when the "friends of Libya" (FOL) will gather with council leader Mustafa Abdul Jalil and prime minister Jibril to talk business regarding what is gearing up to be a new NATO protectorate.

Meanwhile, from Benghazi to European capitals, the dancing is to the tune of a Guns 'n Roses megahit, now rebranded Sweet Crude of Mine. France and Germany are already pressing the "NATO rebels" leadership for juicy deals, Italy starts today (Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is meeting Jalil in Milan) and the Brits and the Americans are about to join the fray.

Up to now, Libya's National Oil Company was essentially awarding service contracts on old, profitable oil fields to Libya's national subsidiaries. But what BP, Total, Exxon Mobil and the Qatar oil company really want is serious involvement in new fields, and those famous production-sharing agreements (PSAs) that allow stratospheric profits. They want the full bonanza they didn't get in Iraq - where some of the juiciest contracts went to Russian, Chinese or Malaysian players.

As for those players that were already on Libyan soil, such as Spain's Repsol and Italy's ENI, they are planning to be back in business before the end of September. No one knows what will happen to Chinese investments.

What WikiLeaks had already revealed [1] will certainly be back in the form of dogfights, such as between US companies and Italy's ENI for the cream of the contracts. Largely because of Berlusconi's very tight "bunga bunga" links with Gaddafi, ENI was already pumping almost 200,000 barrels of oil a day before the tribal/civil war.

Anyway, from the point of view of corporations linked to the war "winners", no more Gaddafi is already a surefire guarantee of ultra sweet contracts and an array of concessions.

Follow the money

On the banking front, WikiLeaks once again had already revealed [2] that the privatization of Libya's central bank was regarded as a golden "opportunity" for US banks. The shadow "rebel" bank facilitated by HSBC in all probability will take over - obviously not independent as the previous Libya Central Bank but aligned with the Swiss-based Bank for International Settlements (BIS), the central bankers' central bank.

So bye-bye to "subversive", unifying Gaddafi ideas such as dumping the US dollar and the euro so Arab and African nations would start dealing in a new single currency - the gold dinar. It's crucial to note that most African nations - and a lot of Arabs - backed up the idea. The only serious contrarians in the region were South Africa and the Arab League (influenced by the House of Saud). Obviously Washington and the European Union (EU) were furious - to the point of calling NATO to the rescue.

It's never enough to remember that in late 2002 Iraq under Saddam Hussein started accepting payment in euros instead of US dollars for its oil. Everybody knows what happened next. Don't mess with the petrodollar, or else ...

So the oil and the flow of money will be secure in the hands of the "winners". Now for the strategic design. The Pentagon's Africom - after its first successful African war - will be rewarded with its first African base, thus abandoning its headquarters in that lovely African bush, Stuttgart. And NATO will proceed in its sacred mission of turning the Mediterranean into a "NATO lake". Northern Africa is already in the bag; now for the eastern Mediterranean, to teach a lesson to those pesky Syrians.

Whose flag is this?
To qualify the TNC's cast of characters as "dodgy" is in fact an understatement. Virtually everyone is "invisible". Few may remember that the TNC's Jalil was the judge that condemned those Bulgarian nurses to death - a notorious case in France that warranted muscular intervention by neo-Napoleonic Nicolas Sarkozy, who even regimented his trophy wife Carla Bruni to seduce the Big G. After the nurses were freed, Jalil was promoted by Gaddafi to justice minister, lasting from 2007 until his opportunistic defection last February.

To believe that this motley crew of disgruntled tribals, radical Islamists, fake "socialists" of the Tony Blair variety, cynical opportunists on the payroll of oil giants, military defectors and outright thugs will pray in the altar of "democracy" is a mirage. Not to mention that they invited NATO and regressive Arab monarchies to bomb their motherland - certainly not where they live, but "the other side", Tripolitania.

It remains to be seen how most people and tribes in Tripolitania will relate to the people of Cyrenaica - which they view as lowly country bumpkins - seizing power. They are already fuming at being degraded in the new Libyan flag - which is basically the Cyrenaica flag (black rectangle with a white Islam crescent) with two additional strips, red for Fezzan and green for Tripolitania

No one knows how the next stage of this "kinetic" war that is not a war (copyright: The White House) will play out. Yet there are serious reasons to believe this may turn out to be a devastating remix of the 2001 "defeated Taliban" and 2003 "Mission Accomplished" scenarios.

Bedouins and Berbers, at war, are all about strategic retreat and ambushing. That is, guerrilla. No one knows what degree of tribal support Gaddafi may still count on not only around Tripoli but around his fiefdom of Sirte or in the high desert. Yet it's a sure bet that he'll go the guerrilla way. Whether he'll end up like Saddam or play "the road goes on forever" like the Taliban is the $100 billion question (the amount of Libyan funds to be unfrozen by the "winners"). Quagmire looms.

1. See WikiLeaks cables show that it was all about the oil.
2. See Libya makes progress on banking reform.

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).

He may be reached at

To follow Pepe's articles on the Great Arab Revolt, please click here.

Disaster capitalism swoops over Libya By Pepe Escobar

Disaster capitalism swoops over Libya
By Pepe Escobar

Think of the new Libya as the latest spectacular chapter in the Disaster Capitalism series. Instead of weapons of mass destruction, we had R2P ("responsibility to protect"). Instead of neo-conservatives, we had humanitarian imperialists.

But the target is the same: regime change. And the project is the same: to completely dismantle and privatize a nation that was not integrated into turbo-capitalism; to open another (profitable) land of opportunity for turbocharged neo-liberalism. The whole thing is especially handy because it is smack in the middle of a nearly global recession.

It will take some time; Libyan oil won't totally return to the market within 18 months. But there's the reconstruction of everything the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) bombed (well, not much of what the Pentagon bombed in 2003 was reconstructed in Iraq ...)

Anyway - from oil to rebuilding - in thesis juicy business opportunities loom. France's neo-Napoleonic Nicolas Sarkozy and Britain's David of Arabia Cameron believe they will be especially well positioned to profit from NATO's victory. Yet there's no guarantee the new Libyan bonanza will be enough to lift both former colonial powers (neo-colonials?) out of recession.

President Sarkozy in particular will milk the business opportunities for French companies for all they're worth - part of his ambitious agenda of "strategic redeployment" of France in the Arab world. A compliant French media are gloating that this was "his" war - spinning that he decided to arm the rebels on the ground with French weaponry, in close cooperation with Qatar, including a key rebel commando unit that went by sea from Misrata to Tripoli last Saturday, at the start of "Operation Siren".

Well, he certainly saw the opening when Muammar Gaddafi's chief of protocol defected to Paris in October 2010. That's when the whole regime change drama started to be incubated.

Bombs for oil
As previously noted (see Welcome to Libya's 'democracy', Asia Times Online, August 24) the vultures are already circling Tripoli to grab (and monopolize) the spoils. And yes - most of the action has to do with oil deals, as in this stark assertion by Abdeljalil Mayouf, information manager at the "rebel" Arabian Gulf Oil Company; "We don't have a problem with Western countries like the Italians, French and UK companies. But we may have some political issues with Russia, China and Brazil."

These three happen to be crucial members of the BRICS group of emerging economies (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), which are actually growing while the Atlanticist, NATO-bombing economies are either stuck in stagnation or recession. The top four BRICs also happen to have abstained from approving UN Security Council resolution 1973, the no-fly zone scam that metamorphosed into NATO bringing regime change from above. They saw right through it from the beginning.

To make matters worse (for them), only three days before the Pentagon's Africom launched its first 150-plus Tomahawks over Libya, Colonel Gaddafi gave an interview to German TV stressing that if the country were attacked, all energy contracts would be transferred to Russian, Indian and Chinese companies.

So the winners in the oil bonanza are already designated: NATO members plus Arab monarchies. Among the companies involved, British Petroleum (BP), France's Total and the Qatar national oil company. For Qatar - which dispatched jet fighters and recruiters to the front lines, trained "rebels" in exhaustive combat techniques, and is already managing oil sales in eastern Libya - the war will reveal itself to be a very wise investment decision.

Prior to the months-long crisis that is in its end game now with the rebels in the capital, Tripoli, Libya was producing 1.6 million barrels per day. Once resumed, this could reap Tripoli's new rulers some US$50 billion annually. Most estimates place oil reserves at 46.4 billion barrels.

The "rebels" of new Libya better not mess with China. Five months ago, China's official policy was already to call for a ceasefire; if that had happened, Gaddafi would still control more than half of Libya. Yet Beijing - never a fan of violent regime change - for the moment is exercising extreme restraint.

Wen Zhongliang, the deputy head of the Ministry of Trade, willfully observed, "Libya will continue to protect the interests and rights of Chinese investors and we hope to continue investment and economic cooperation." Official statements are piling up emphasizing "mutual economic cooperation".

Last week, Abdel Hafiz Ghoga, vice president of the dodgy Transitional National Council (TNC), told Xinhua that all deals and contracts agreed with the Gaddafi regime would be honored - but Beijing is taking no chances.

Libya supplied no more than 3% of China's oil imports in 2010. Angola is a much more crucial supplier. But China is still Libya's top oil customer in Asia. Moreover, China could be very helpful in the infrastructure rebuilding front, or in the technology export - no less than 75 Chinese companies with 36,000 employees were already on the ground before the outbreak of the tribal/civil war, swiftly evacuated in less than three days.

The Russians - from Gazprom to Tafnet - had billions of dollars invested in Libyan projects; Brazilian oil giant Petrobras and the construction company Odebrecht also had intrests there. It's still unclear what will happen to them. The director general of the Russia-Libya Business Council, Aram Shegunts, is extremely worried: "Our companies will lose everything because NATO will prevent them from doing business in Libya."

Italy seems to have passed the "rebel" version of "you're either with us or without us". Energy giant ENI apparently won't be affected, as Premier Silvio "Bunga Bunga" Berlusconi pragmatically dumped his previous very close pal Gaddafi at the start of the Africom/NATO bombing spree.

ENI's directors are confident Libya's oil and gas flows to southern Italy will resume before winter. And the Libyan ambassador in Italy, Hafed Gaddur, reassured Rome that all Gaddafi-era contracts will be honored. Just in case, Berlusconi will meet the TNC's prime minister, Mahmoud Jibril, this Thursday in Milan.

Bin Laden to the rescue

Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu - of the famed "zero problems with our neighbors" policy - has also been gushing praise on the former "rebels" turned powers-that-be. Eyeing the post-Gaddafi business bonanza as well, Ankara - as NATO's eastern flank - ended up helping to impose a naval blockade on the Gaddafi regime, carefully cultivated the TNC, and in July formally recognized it as the government of Libya. Business "rewards" loom.

Then there's the crucial plot; how the House of Saud is going to profit from having been instrumental in setting up a friendly regime in Libya, possibly peppered with Salafi notables; one of the key reasons for the Saudi onslaught - which included a fabricated vote at the Arab League - was the extreme bad blood between Gaddafi and King Abdullah since the run-up towards the war on Iraq in 2002.

It's never enough to stress the cosmic hypocrisy of an ultra-regressive absolute monarchy/medieval theocracy - which invaded Bahrain and repressed its native Shi'ites - saluting what could be construed as a pro-democracy movement in Northern Africa.

Anyway, it's time to party. Expect the Saudi Bin Laden Group to reconstruct like mad all over Libya - eventually turning the (looted) Bab al-Aziziyah into a monster, luxury Mall of Tripolitania.

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).

He may be reached at

To follow Pepe's articles on the Great Arab Revolt, please click here.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Welcome to Libya's 'democracy' By Pepe Escobar

Welcome to Libya's 'democracy'
By Pepe Escobar

The Big Gaddafi has barely left the building - the Bab-al-Aziziyah compound - and the Western vultures are already circling overhead; the scramble is on to seize the "big prize" - Libya's oil and gas wealth. [1]

Libya is as much a pawn in a serious ideological, geopolitical, geo-economic and geostrategic chessboard as a pedestrian morality play sold as a TV reality show; idealistic "rebels" win against Public Enemy Number One. Once the public enemy was Saddam Hussein, then it was Osama bin Laden, today is Muammar Gaddafi, tomorrow is President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, one day it will be Iran's President Mahmud Ahmadinejad. The enemy is never the ultra reactionary House of Saud.

How NATO won the war
The spectacular reappearing act of Gaddafi's son Saif al-Gaddafi notwithstanding, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has virtually won the Libyan civil war (or "kinetic military activity", according to the White House). The masses of "Libyan people" were spectators at best, or bit part actors in the form of a few thousand "rebels" carrying kalashnikovs.

The top billing was R2P ("responsibility to protect"). From the beginning R2P, manned by France and Britain and backed by the US, magically turned into regime change. That led to the unsung stars in this production being Western and monarchical Arab "advisers", as in "contractors" or "mercenaries".

NATO started winning the war by launching Operation Siren at Iftar - the break of the Ramadan fast - last Saturday evening, Libya time. "Siren" was the codename for an invasion of Tripoli. That was NATO's final - and desperate - power play, after the chaotic "rebels" had gone nowhere after five months of fighting Gaddafi's forces.

Until then, NATO's plan A was to try to kill Gaddafi. What R2P cheerleaders - left and right - had dubbed "steady NATO attrition" boiled down to praying for three outcomes; Gaddafi killed, Gaddafi surrenders, Gaddafi flees.

Not that any of this prevented NATO bombs from falling in private homes, universities, hospitals or even close to the Foreign Ministry. Everything - and everyone - was a target.

"Siren" featured a colorful casting of "NATO rebels", Islamist fanatics, gullible embedded journalists, TV-friendly mobs, and Cyrenaica youth manipulated by opportunist Gaddafi regime defectors eyeing fat checks by oil giants Total and BP.

With "Siren", NATO came out all guns (literally) blazing; Apache gunships firing nonstop and jets bombing everything in sight. NATO supervised the landing of hundreds of troops from Misrata on the coast east of Tripoli while a NATO warship distributed heavy weapons.

On Sunday alone there may have been 1,300 civilian deaths in Tripoli, and at least 5,000 wounded. The Ministry of Health announced that hospitals were overflowing. Anyone who by that time believed relentless NATO bombing had anything to do with R2P and United Nations Resolution 1973 was living in an intensive care unit.

NATO preceded "Siren" with massive bombing of Zawiya - the key oil-refining city 50 kilometers west of Tripoli. That cut off Tripoli's fuel supply lines. According to NATO itself, at least half of Libya's armed forces were "degraded" - Pentagon/NATO speak for killed or seriously wounded. That means tens of thousands of dead people. That also explains the mysterious disappearance of the 65,000 soldiers in charge of defending Tripoli. And it largely explains why the Gaddafi regime, in power for 42 years, then crumbled in roughly 24 hours.

NATO's Siren call - after 20,000 sorties, and more than 7,500 strikes against ground targets - was only made possible by a crucial decision by the Barack Obama administration in early July, enabling, as reported by The Washington Post, "the sharing of more sensitive materials with NATO, including imagery and signals intercepts that could be provided to British and French special operations troops on the ground in addition to pilots in the air".

That is, without the Pentagon's unmatched firepower know-how, satellites and drones, NATO would still be engaged in Operation Quagmire Forever - and the Obama administration would not be able to milk a major victory in this "kinetic" drama.

Who are these people?
Who are these people who suddenly erupted in joy on US and European television screens? After the smiles to the cameras and the Kalashnikovs shooting the skies, get ready for some major fratricidal fireworks.

Ethnic and tribal trouble is bound to explode. Many of the Berbers from the Western mountains, who entered Tripoli from the south this past weekend, are hardcore Salafis. Same with the Muslim Brotherhood/Salafi nebula from Cyrenaica, which has been instructed by US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) boots on the ground. As much as these fundamentalists "used" the Europeans and the Americans to get close to power, they may become a nasty guerrilla force if they are marginalized by the new NATO masters.

A large Benghazi-based "revolution" sold to the West as a popular movement was always a myth. Only two months ago the armed "revolutionaries" barely numbered 1,000. NATO's solution was to build a mercenary army - including all sorts of unsavory types, from former Colombian death squad members to recruiters from Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), who pinched scores of unemployed Tunisians and tribals disgruntled with Tripoli. All these on top of the CIA mercenary squad - Salafis in Benghazi and Derna - and the House of Saud squad - the Muslim Brotherhood gang.

It's hard not to be reminded of the UCK drug gang in Kosovo - the war NATO "won" in the Balkans. Or of the Pakistanis and Saudis, with US backing, arming the "freedom fighters" of Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Then there's the dodgy, Benghazi-based, Transitional National Council (TNC)'s cast of characters.

The leader, Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, Gaddafi's justice minister from 2007 until his resignation on February 26, studied sharia and civil law at the University of Libya. That might entitle him to cross rhetorical swords with the Islamic fundamentalists in Benghazi, al-Baida and Delna - but he could use his knowledge to press their interests in a new power-sharing arrangement.

As for Mahmoud Jibril, the chairman of the council's executive board, he studied at Cairo University and then the University of Pittsburgh. He's the key Qatari connection - having been involved in asset management for Sheikha Mozah, the ultra high-profile wife of the emir of Qatar.

There's also the son of the last monarch of Libya, King Idris, deposed by Gaddafi 42 years ago (with no bloodshed); the House of Saud would love a new monarchy in northern Africa. And the son of Omar Mukhtar, the hero of the resistance against Italian colonialism - a more secular figure.

The new Iraq?
Yet to believe that NATO would win the war and let the "rebels" control power is a joke. Reuters has already reported that a "bridging force" of around 1,000 soldiers from Qatar, the Emirates and Jordan will arrive in Tripoli to act as police. And the Pentagon is already spinning that the US military will be on the ground to "help to secure the weapons". A nice touch that already implies who's going to be really in charge; the "humanitarian" neo-colonialists plus their Arab minions.

Abdel Fatah Younis, the "rebel" commander killed by the rebels themselves, was a French intelligence asset. He was killed by the Muslim Brotherhood faction - just when the Great Arab Liberator Sarkozy was trying to negotiate an endgame with Saif al-Islam, Gaddafi's London School of Economics son now back from the dead.

So the big winners in the end are London, Washington, the House of Saud and the Qataris (they sent jets and "advisers", they are already handling the oil sales). With a special mention for the compound Pentagon/NATO - considering that Africom will finally set up its first African base in the Mediterranean, and NATO is one step closer to declaring the Mediterranean "a NATO lake".

Islamism? Tribalism? These may be Libya's lesser ills compared to a new fantasyland open to neo-liberalism. There are few doubts the new Western masters won't try to revive a friendlier version of Iraq's nefarious, rapacious Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), turning Libya into a hardcore neo-liberal dream of 100% ownership of Libyan assets, total repatriation of profits, Western corporations with the same legal standing of local firms, foreign banks buying local banks and very low income and corporate taxes.

Meanwhile, the deep fracture between the center (Tripoli) and the periphery for the control of energy resources will fester. BP, Total, Exxon, all Western oil giants will be gratefully rewarded by the transitional council - to the detriment of Chinese, Russian and Indian companies. NATO troops on the ground will certainly help to keep the council on message.

Oil executives estimate it will take at least a year to get oil production back to pre-civil war levels of 1.6 million barrels per day, but say annual earnings from oil could reap Tripoli's new rulers some US$50 billion annually. Most estimates place oil reserves at 46.4 billion barrels, 3% of the world's reserves and worth some $3.9 trillion at today's oil price. Known gas reserves stand at some 5 trillion cubic feet.

Thus in the end R2P wins. Humanitarian imperialism wins. The Arab monarchies win. NATO as global Robocop wins. The Pentagon wins. But even that is not enough for the usual imperial suspects - already calling for the deployment of a "stabilization force". And all this while lost-the-plot progressives in assorted latitudes continue to hail the Holy Alliance of Western neocolonialism, ultra-reactionary Arab monarchies and hardcore Salafis.

It ain't over till the fat Arab lady sings. Anyway, on to the next stop; Damascus.

1. The Big Gaddafi Asia Times Online, August 20.

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).

He may be reached at

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Truth About the Situation in Libya

By Brian Becker, National Coordinator, ANSWER Coalition

Libya is a small country of just over 6 million people but it possesses the largest oil reserves in all of Africa. The oil produced there is especially coveted because of its particularly high quality.

The Air Force of the United States along with Britain and France has carried out 7,459 bombing attacks since March 19. Britain, France and the United States sent special operation ground forces and commando units to direct the military operations of the so-called rebel fighters – it is a NATO- led army in the field.

The troops may be disaffected Libyans but the operation is under the control and direction of NATO commanders and western commando units who serve as “advisors.” Their new weapons and billions in funds come from the U.S. and other NATO powers that froze and seized Libya’s assets in Western banks. Their only military successes outside of Benghazi, in the far east of the country, have been exclusively based on the coordinated air and ground operations of the imperialist NATO military forces.

In military terms, Libya’s resistance to NATO is of David and Goliath proportions. U.S. military spending alone is more than ten times greater than Libya’s entire annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) which was $74.2 billion in 2010, according to the CIA’s World Fact Book.

In recent weeks, the NATO military operations used surveillance-collecting drones, satellites, mounting aerial attacks and covert commando units to decapitate Libya’s military and political leadership and its command and control capabilities. Global economic sanctions meant that the country was suddenly deprived of income and secure access to goods and services needed to sustain a civilian economy over a long period.

“The cumulative effect [of NATO’s coordinated air and ground operation] not only destroyed Libya’s military infrastructure but also greatly diminished Colonel Gaddafi’s commanders to control forces, leaving even committed fighting units unable to move, resupply or coordinate operations,“ reports the New York Times in a celebratory article on August 22.

A False Pretext

The United States, United Kingdom, France, and Italy targeted the Libyan government for overthrow or “regime change” not because these governments were worried about protecting civilians or to bring about a more democratic form of governance in Libya.

If that were the real motivation of the NATO powers, they could start the bombing of Saudi Arabia right away. There are no elections in Saudi Arabia. The monarchy does not even allow women to drive cars. By law, women must be fully covered in public or they will go to prison. Protests are rare in Saudi Arabia because any dissent is met with imprisonment, torture and execution.

The Saudi monarchy is protected by U.S. imperialism because it is part of an undeclared but real U.S. sphere of influence and it is the largest producer of oil in the world. The U.S. attitude toward the Saudi monarchy was put succinctly by Ronald Reagan in 1981, when he said that the U.S. government “will not permit” revolution in Saudi Arabia such as the 1979 Iranian revolution that removed the U.S. client regime of the Shah. Reagan’s message was clear: the Pentagon and CIA’s military forces would be used decisively to destroy any democratic movement against the rule of the Saudi royal family.

Reagan’s explicit statement in 1981 has in fact been the policy of every successive U.S. administration, including the current one.

Libya and Imperialism

Libya, unlike Saudi Arabia, did have a revolution against its monarchy. As a result of the 1969 revolution led by Muammar Gaddafi, Libya was no longer in the sphere of influence of any imperialist country.

Libya had once been an impoverished colony of Italy living under the boot heel of the fascist Mussolini. After the Allied victory in World War II, control of the country was formally transferred to the United Nations and Libya became independent in 1951 with authority vested in the monarch King Idris.

But in actuality, Libya was controlled by the United States and Britain until the 1969 revolution.

One of the first acts of the 1969 revolution was to eliminate the vestiges of colonialism and foreign control. Not only were oil fields nationalized but Gaddafi eliminated foreign military bases inside the country.

In March of 1970, the Gaddafi government shut down two important British military bases in Tobruk and El Adem. He then became the Pentagon’s enemy when he evicted the U.S. Wheelus Air Force Base near Tripoli that had been operated by the United States since 1945. Before the British military took control in 1943, the facility was a base operated by the Italians under Mussolini.

Wheelus had been an important Strategic Air Command (SAC) base during the Cold War, housing B-52 bombers and other front-line Pentagon aircrafts that targeted the Soviet Union.

Once under Libyan control, the Gaddafi government allowed Soviet military planes to access the airfield.

In 1986, the Pentagon heavily bombed the base at the same time it bombed downtown Tripoli in an effort to assassinate Gaddafi. That effort failed but his 2-year-old daughter died along with scores of other civilians.

The Character of the Gaddafi Regime

The political, social and class orientation of the Libyan regime has gone through several stages in the last four decades. The government and ruling establishment reflected contradictory class, social, religious and regional antagonisms. The fact that the leadership of the NATO-led National Transition Council is comprised of top officials of the Gaddafi government, who broke with the regime and allied themselves with NATO, is emblematic of the decades-long instability within the Libyan establishment.

These inherent contradictions were exacerbated by pressures applied to Libya from the outside. The U.S. imposed far-reaching economic sanctions on Libya in the 1980s. The largest western corporations were barred from doing business with Libya and the country was denied access to credit from western banks.

In its foreign policy, Libya gave significant financial and military support to national liberation struggles, including in Palestine, Southern Africa, Ireland and elsewhere.

Because of Libya's economic policies, living standards for the population had jumped dramatically after 1969. Having a small population and substantial income from its oil production, augmented with the Gaddafi regime’s far-reaching policy of social benefits, created a huge advance in the social and economic status for the population. Libya was still a class society with rich and poor, and gaps between urban and rural living standards, but illiteracy was basically wiped out, while education and health care were free and extensively accessible. By 2010, the per capita income in Libya was near the highest in Africa at $14,000 and life expectancy rose to over 77 years, according to the CIA’s World Fact Book.

Gaddafi’s political orientation explicitly rejected communism and capitalism. He created an ideology called the “Third International Theory,” which was an eclectic mix of Islamic, Arab nationalist and socialist ideas and programs. In 1977, Libya was renamed the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. A great deal of industry, including oil, was nationalized and the government provided an expansive social insurance program or what is called a welfare state policy akin to some features prevalent in the Soviet Union and some West European capitalist countries.

But Libya was not a workers’ state or a “socialist government” to use the popular if not scientific use of the term “socialist.” The revolution was not a workers and peasant rebellion against the capitalist class per se. Libya remained a class society although class differentiation may have been somewhat obscured beneath the existence of revolutionary committees and the radical, populist rhetoric that emanated from the regime.

As in many developing, formerly colonized countries, state ownership of property was not “socialist” but rather a necessary fortification of an under-developed capitalist class. State property in Iraq, Libya and other such post-colonial regimes was designed to facilitate the social and economic growth of a new capitalist ruling class that was initially too weak, too deprived of capital and too cut off from international credit to compete on its own terms with the dominant sectors of world monopoly capitalism. The nascent capitalist classes in such developing economies promoted state-owned property, under their control, in order to intersect with Western banks and transnational corporations and create more favorable terms for global trade and investment.

The collapse of the Soviet Union and the “socialist bloc” governments of central and Eastern Europe in 1989-91 deprived Libya of an economic and military counter-weight to the United States, and the Libyan government’s domestic economic and foreign policy shifted towards accommodation with the West.

In the 1990s some sectors of the Libyan economic establishment and the Gaddafi-led government favored privatization, cutting back on social programs and subsidies and integration into western European markets.

The earlier populism of the regime incrementally gave way to the adoption of neo-liberal policies. This was, however, a long process.

In 2004, the George W. Bush administration ended sanctions on Libya. Western oil companies and banks and other corporations initiated huge direct investments in Libya and trade with Libyan enterprises.

There was also a growth of unemployment in Libya and in cutbacks in social spending, leading to further inequality between rich and poor and class polarization.

But Gaddafi himself was still considered a thorn in the side of the imperialist powers. They want absolute puppets, not simply partners, in their plans for exploitation. The Wikileaks release of State Department cables between 2007 and 2010 show that the United states and western oil companies were condemning Gaddafi for what they called “resource nationalism.” Gaddafi even threatened to re-nationalize western oil companies’ property unless Libya was granted a larger share of the revenue for their projects.

As an article in today’s New York Times Business section said honestly: “"Colonel Qaddafi proved to be a problematic partner for the international oil companies, frequently raising fees and taxes and making other demands. A new government with close ties to NATO may be an easier partner for Western nations to deal with."

Even the most recent CIA Fact Book publication on Libya, written before the armed revolt championed by NATO, complained of the measured tempo of pro-market reforms in Libya: “Libya faces a long road ahead in liberalizing the socialist-oriented economy, but initial steps— including applying for WTO membership, reducing some subsidies, and announcing plans for privatization—are laying the groundwork for a transition to a more market-based economy.” (CIA World Fact Book)

The beginning of the armed revolt on February 23 by disaffected members of the Libyan military and political establishment provided the opportunity for the U.S. imperialists, in league with their French and British counterparts, to militarily overthrow the Libyan government and replace it with a client or stooge regime.

Of course, in the revolt were workers and young people who had many legitimate grievances against the Libyan government. But what is critical in an armed struggle for state power is not the composition of the rank-and-file soldiers, but the class character and political orientation of the leadership.

Character of the National Transition Council

The National Transitional Council (NTC) constituted itself as the leadership of the uprising in Benghazi, Libya’s second largest city. The central leader is Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, who was Libya’s Minister of Justice until his defection at the start of the uprising. He was one of a significant number of Western-oriented and neoliberal officials from Libya’s government, diplomatic corps and military ranks who joined the opposition in the days immediately after the start of the revolt.

As soon as it was established, the NTC began issuing calls for imperialist intervention. These appeals became increasing panicky as it became clear that, contrary to early predictions that the Gaddafi-led government would collapse in a matter of days, it was the “rebels” who faced imminent defeat in the civil war. In fact, it was only due to the U.S./NATO bombing campaign, initiated with great hurry on March 19 that the rebellion did not collapse.

The last five months of war have erased any doubt about the pro-imperialist character of the NTC. One striking episode took place on April 22, when Senator John McCain made a “surprise” trip to Benghazi. A huge banner was unveiled to greet him with an American flag printed on it and the words: “United States of America – You have a new ally in North Africa.”

Similar to the military relationship between the NATO and Libyan “rebel” armed forces, the NTC is entirely dependent on and subordinated to the U.S., French, British and Italian imperialist governments.

If the Pentagon, CIA, and Wall Street succeed in installing a client regime in Tripoli it will accelerate and embolden the imperialist threats and intervention against other independent governments such as Syria and Venezuela. In each case we will see a similar process unfold, including the demonization of the leadership of the targeted countries so as to silence or mute a militant anti-war response to the aggression of the war-makers.

"They control the minds of the masses."


"They control the minds of the masses."

- Malcolm X (on American media power)

Perhaps my favorite illustration of life in a corporate propaganda state is the daily New York Times corrections box. Each morning, the newspaper of record comes clean about what it got wrong the day before.

For example, I remember a Times article that referred incorrectly to the status of Gwen Stefani’s tattoos. The next day, in the corrections box, came a dose of reality: Gwen Stefani has no permanent tattoos.

We can all sleep better knowing that Gwen Stefani has no permanent tattoosand secure in the knowledge that the media readily admits its mistakes. It’s all there in black and white—every single day—right?

Of course, the tacit message behind the daily New York Times corrections box is this: Besides a few minor typographical errors, everything else in yesterday’s paper was correct. It was accurate. It was, to use their phrase, fit to print…and has now passed on to become part of our official history. This is typical of life within a society dominated by a corporate-run press.

Whether you label them liberal or conservative, most major media outletsare large corporations owned by or aligned with even larger corporations, and they share a common goal: to make a profit by selling a product (an affluent audience) to a given market: advertisers.

Therefore, we shouldn’t find it too shocking that the image of the world being presented by a corporate-owned press very much reflects the biased interests of the elite players involved in this sordid little love triangle.

That’s why every major daily newspaper has a business section, but not a labor section. Why at least once a week, those same newspapers run an automobile section, but no bicycle section.

This is why when the Dow Jones Industrial Average drops, it makes headlines. But if the global extinction rate rises, it’s questionable if it'll even make the papers (and if it does, it’ll be buried in a small item on page 23).

If you created a blueprint for an apparatus that utterly erased critical thought, you could make none more efficient than the American corporate media.

Kill someone while wearing a uniform and you're a hero…do it in gang colors and you're a criminal. Hire a lawyer to help you find tax loopholes and you're a good businessman…make a few bucks off the books and you're a tax cheat. Sell cigarettes, alcohol and lottery tickets and you're an entrepreneur…smoke a joint and bet with a bookie: you're a menace to society.

Of all the beguiling propaganda tactics Corporate America has cultivated, the usurping of language is the greatest victory of all. Have you ever considered that also right after World War II the "Department of War" was renamed the "Defense Department"? Almost 70 years later, thanks to legions of pinstriped mountebanks, we exist in an age where helicopters named Apache are unselfconsciously used to quell (often alleged) ethnic cleansing.

It's all about setting standards and defining the accepted parameters. Yes, we can "have it our way," as long as we stay well within the range of choices being offered. We can “just do it” any time we damn well please. All we need is a $120 pair of sneakers. We've strayed so far from reality that even the most elementary truths have become obscured.

Show some flesh in a particular magazine and you're a pornographer…flash some skin on a public bus and you're a Calvin Klein ad. Collect food stamps and you're a welfare queen…hire a lobbyist to win government subsidies, tax breaks, and protectionist tariffs and you're a corporation.

Let's say you're a big city mayor and you want to institute a regressive tax on your city's poor residents. Easy, call it a "transit fare hike." Rich people don't ride the subway.

What if your company wants to dump toxic sludge on farmers to be used as fertilizer? Hire a massive public relations firm to give it a new image by renaming it "biosolids.”

There’s really nothing to it: Cars aren’t used, they’re pre-owned. Invasions aren’t invasions when they’re pre-emptive wars. Missiles aren't weapons, they're peacekeepers.

Claim that the Messiah regularly visits your suburban home and Mel Gibson’s faithful will beat a path to your door…claim to be the Messiah in Waco and they'll drive a tank through your living room. Serve the charred flesh of tortured animals and you're a gourmet…choose a lifestyle of compassion and logic and you're a zealot.

Since today's words have developed an uncanny knack for altering their meaning from situation to situation until they have no meaning at all, perhaps it's time for Americans to hold a mass dictionary burning. What good are definitions when they give peace prizes to men like to Henry Kissinger and Barack Obama—and so many of us believe these war criminals deserve such accolades?

As South African activist Steven Biko once said: “The most potent weapon of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.”

Reprint State Department press releases verbatim and you're a respected investigative journalist…dig up the truth and you're gonna have a hell of a time trying to earn money as a writer.

With a nod to Guy Debord, I say it’s time we reinvent everyday life—steal it back from corporate propagandists and reintroduce the joy of living. Stop settling for less pain and start demanding more pleasure. Today’s progressives can provoke dramatic changes simply by refusing to submit to the societal formula they’re presented with.

We know what we feel…so no longer should we allow Hollywood, Madison Avenue, the government, or Corporate America to define us. We must trust our own instincts and break free from manufactured needs and illusory goals in order to cultivate new American Dreams (yes, plural):

  • Dreams not for sale
  • Dreams not based on celebrity
  • Dreams not based on material consumption

Dreams not based on physical beauty

  • Dreams not based on military conquest
  • Dreams that promote unity and collective action while maintaining individuality and independence
  • Dreams that challenge us to think for ourselves and about others

Breaking away from the omnipresent message of “work, consume, and obey authority without question” can be this generation’s way of challenging—and smashing—a culture that has us programmed to be more concerned with Gwen Stefani's tattoos than the corporate pirates raping the planet and controlling our minds.

Comrades, it’s time to rediscover the subversive pleasure of thinking for ourselves…

Mickey Z. is the author of 11 books, most recently the novel Darker Shade of Green. Until the laws are changed or the power runs out, he can be found on an obscure website called Facebook.