At its peak, the 26 of July Movement had some 300 fighters, ill fed and poorly armed, bitten by mosquitos and accompanied by the rain. Against them, Gen. Fulgencio Batista mobilized an army, a navy, an air force, a coast guard, and the Rural Guard, aside from a network of spies and irregular bands of enforcers at his command.
How could the 26 of July Movement have achieved victory? The majority of the people were against Batista and for the 26 of July. There was also an active underground, and organized resistance among student, union, and political organizations. Batista fell because he had no support. Revolutions succeed when the system they replace can no longer survive.
Libya’s rebels are a different story. A front patched together from groups of varying interests and ideologies, they were disorganized, undisciplined, and untrained for battle when they first attacked an army base and a police station. By themselves, they could have perhaps achieved negotiations and reforms, but they could not have overthrown the government.
They still have not achieved the latter goal; fighting continues in Tripoli, the capital, and elsewhere. They are there now thanks only to NATO, which has bombed at will Gaddafi’s forces and buildings –including the residences of Gaddafi families–, funded and armed the rebels, furnished them with intelligence and strategic direction, and provided them with a worldwide media platform of publicity. In other words: it is NATO, not the rebel front, that has led the drive to overthrow the Libyan government.
The US and various European nations declared from the beginning their goal: Gaddafi must go. They pursued that goal irrespective of Security Council action at the UN. On August 22, in a possibly premature celebration, the Telegraph published an article from the perspective of the UK’s government entitled Libya: secret role played by Britain creating path to the fall of Tripoli.
It cites the declaration of Prime Minister Cameron: “This has not been our revolution, but we can be proud that we have played our part.”
Indeed, it was not their revolution. Nor was it of the US or of France or the other European nations, nominally led by Norway in this effort, that have taken part in the open action to take control of independent Libya. But it was their war.
On August 23, the Guardian led an article with this simple but informative sentence: “British and Nato military commanders are planning what they hope will be a final onslaught on Colonel Gaddafi’s forces to put an end to all resistance from troops loyal to the Libyan leader.” That’s “British and NATO” –not Libyan– commanders.
The report noted:
The Guardian has learned that a number of serving British special forces soldiers, as well as ex-SAS troopers, are advising rebel forces, although their presence is officially denied….
The Guardian has previously reported the presence of former British special forces troops, now employed by private security companies and funded by a number of sources, including Qatar. They have been joined by a number of serving SAS soldiers. They have been acting as forward air controllers – directing pilots to targets – and communicating with Nato operational commanders. They have also been advising rebels on tactics, a task they have not found easy.
The US, which had supported the rebels with intelligence and satellite images, drones, and armor-piercing munitions, ramped up its own bombings in compliance with the plan for what NATO envisioned as the final assault.
The Huffington Post on August 23 reported that “Libya Post-Conflict Planning Has Major Western Support,” observing that “[a]ccording to reports in the American and British press, French and British special operatives have been on the ground with the rebels, and played a major role in coordinating the final strategic push into Tripoli.”
The same day, the Boston Globe explained that “Firms are eager to tap into Libya’s oil wealth.”
It confirmed the obvious:
The fighting is not over in Tripoli, but the scramble to secure access to Libya’s oil wealth has begun…Western nations, especially the NATO countries that provided crucial air support to the rebels, want to make sure their companies are in prime position to pump Libyan crude…Foreign Minister Franco Frattini of Italy said yesterday that the Italian oil company Eni “will have a number one role in the future’’ in Libya…Eni, with BP of Britain, Total of France, Repsol YPF of Spain, and OMV of Austria, were all big producers in Libya before the fighting broke out, and they stand to gain the most once the conflict ends.
In recent decades we have lived under the overlapping and curiously-named doctrines of neo-conservatism and neoliberalism. We see now the resurgence of a third related practice: neocolonialism. War at will is the new standard for NATO.