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From: The Socialist issue 667, 20 April 2011: United action to defend NHS

Search site for keywords: Libya - Gaddafi - Saudi Arabia

Libya: Is humanitarian aid providing mission creep for western powers?

Robert Bechert

There is little doubt that a bloody war of attrition is being waged against the population of the Libyan city of Misurata by the Gaddafi regime. Gaddafi's regime is relying on brute force to survive, largely because the momentum from the original February uprising, inspired by the revolutions in neighbouring Tunisia and Egypt, faltered.

Lacking its own independent leadership the movement was effectively hijacked by a combination of pro-western groups and regime defectors who wanted to do a deal with the main imperialist powers.

This in turn helped Gaddafi stabilise his rule, at least for now, on a combined basis of terror and exploiting popular fears of losing the social gains made over the last 40 years in fields like health and education.

The alliance that the rebel Interim National Council (INC) has made with imperialism and reactionary Arab states has made it more difficult for it to appeal to the population in much of western Libya where two-thirds of Libyans live.

The current military stalemate is forcing the major powers to consider more direct intervention on the ground as they seek to remove Gaddafi, albeit under a "humanitarian" banner.

The European Union has agreed a 61 page document that includes plans to send 1,000 troops to Misurata on a "humanitarian mission" but which allows them "to fight if they or their humanitarian wards were threatened.

"'It would be to secure sea and land corridors inside the country,' said an EU official" (18 April, the Guardian website).

More blatantly, Tory foreign secretary William Hague says British military officers will be sent to Libya to advise rebels fighting Gaddafi's forces. Given Libya's oil and gas riches it is no surprise that already there is rivalry between the European powers as to which one would lead any ground operation.

While some Libyans might welcome any support in their battle against Gaddafi, trust in these 'friends' would be totally misplaced. If Gaddafi had been a more reliable ally then imperialism would have had a different attitude to him.

None of the powers either supporting the Libyan rebels or, indirectly, the Gaddafi regime have any record of supporting democratic rights in North Africa or the Middle East.

The western powers' support for reactionary regimes in the Middle East, alongside their silence over Israeli attacks on Gaza and Lebanon, is clear. Only the mildest criticism is directed towards the Bahraini regime's brutal repression that now includes around 500 arrests and a number of deaths in detention.

In fact the Bahraini regime is fully backed by military forces from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). In the last weeks the UAE, ruled by another bunch of feudal autocrats, has also started arresting oppositionists.

Not surprisingly the British Foreign Office's 2010 Human Rights and Democracy Report does not even mention the situation in Bahrain or the UAE, after all they are important British allies.


The way out of this quagmire is a movement of Libyan working people and youth around a programme that will genuinely benefit the mass of the population.

This needs to be based upon winning and defending real democratic rights, an end to corruption and privilege, the safeguarding and further development of the social gains made since the discovery of oil, opposition to any form of re-colonisation and for a democratically controlled, publicly-owned economy planned to use the country's resources in the interests of the majority of the population.

Such a programme can cut across tribal and regional divisions and unite the mass of the population against the Gaddafi clique and the imperialists' attempts to regain their positions in Libya and in a joint struggle for a better future.

There can be no support for the imperialist intervention, despite its UN colouring. The Libyan working masses and youth should show no trust whatsoever in the so-called democratic powers.

They need to always remember that up until a few weeks ago the US, Britain, France etc were friends of Gaddafi and are still friends and allies of dictators and rotten regimes like Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE across the Arab world.

The creation of an independent movement of Libyan workers, poor people and youth that could implement such a real revolutionary transformation of the country is the only way to thwart the imperialists' plans, end dictatorship, bring the bloody civil conflict to an end and start to transform the lives of the mass of the people.

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