LIBYA: THE PERPETUAL TARGET
by Husayn Al-Kurdi
Sanctions and embargoes are increasingly being used in international
conflicts as methods of warfare, frequently producing horrifying results:
in Bosnia, a long-standing embargo prevented Muslims there from receiving
arms and sustenance as Serb and Croatian forces practiced genocide there
for years. Iraq's people are undergoing immense hardship due to the quarantine
imposed there. Thousands of people are going blind in Cuba due to the quarantine
imposed on that island nation by the United States. Due to external blockade,
thousands of children, old people and people with curable diseases are dying.
The Saharan country of Libya, located in the heart of North Africa, has
been subject to UN Security Council sanctions for nearly three years for
the alleged involvement of two Libyans in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103,
which exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland, on December 21, 1988, killing all
271 on board. The context for the continuing assault on Libya is one in
which no country can decide its destiny for itself or disregard American
plans for the fate of its own people. Libya has formed a target of opportunity
for U.S. assaults since it broke its shackles of dependence on September
1st, 1969. On that date, a revolution led by a young, junior officer named
Mu'ammar Qaddafi succeeded in overthrowing the Senoussi monarchy and announced
its determination to change the course of poverty, dependence and humiliation
which had been the lot of the Libyan people in this century.
Libya had experienced over three decades of Italian colonial rule from 1912
until World War Two, when the U.S. led Allies swept the Italian and German
presence out of North Africa. After the War, Libya was granted independence,
with King Idris installed as a compliant regent with a demonstrated propensity
to take orders from the U.S.A. and Britain. The U.S. maintained a huge Air
Force base near Tripoli, the Libyan capital, with the British holding onto
their military barracks at Azizia.
When oil was discovered, the oil companies moved in to drive a hard bargain
with the monarch. The royal retinue would batten off a small part of the
proceeds while the conglomerates made off with the wealth generated by Libya's
newly found natural resource. The Libyan people, who had suffered to the
tune of having over one million of their number killed in the resistance
to Italian colonization earlier, continued to live in makeshift shacks and
lean-tos while a small, Westernized elite tried to emulate their benefactors.
Mu'ammar Qaddafi brought a number of notions with him which were unacceptable
to "American interests." He propagated the idea that all people
have a right to self-determination, and should be supported in their quest
to realize sovereignty over themselves and their lands. Oil wealth was not
to be given away to multinational corporations abroad, but used to improve
the living standard of the nation's own people. The inequities promoted
by the Western powers were to be rejected in favor of a society in which
justice, equity and a high standard of living for all citizens were to be
built. Popular forms of direct democracy, in which the entire population
could participate in decision-making, were created. In steps which would
benefit the country but simultaneously draw the wrath of the U.S. and others,
Libya nationalized the oil companies and drove the foreign bases away from
its soil. Wheelus Air Force Base, a major American military installation
located on the Mediterranean Sea just east of Tripoli, was shut down.
To make matters worse for Libya, it chose to pursue an active foreign policy
entailing support for national liberation and social justice movements around
the world. All parties and groups fighting for the liberation of Apartheid
South Africa were given aid and training. Peoples ranging from the Muslim
Moros of the Philippines to the Indians of the Americas drew vocal and material
support from Tripoli. The Nicaraguan Sandinistas, Grenada's New Jewel led
by Maurice Bishop, the IRA in Northern Ireland, the Basques, the Kurds,
the Palestinians and many others found a friend and a base of sustenance
in the new Libyan Jamahiriya ("gathering of the people"). It was
political and economic defiance of the U.S.A. which put Libya and Qaddafi
on the hit list of countries slated for death and destruction in what is
now called the "New World Order."
Libya has been repeatedly attacked ever since it took its bold stand on
behalf of those silenced majorities who suffer the consequences of U.S.
hegemony. American jets repeatedly attacked Libya during the reign of Ronald
Reagan. An attack on Tripoli and Benghazi in April 1986 claimed more than
one hundred lives, including that of Qaddafi's infant stepdaughter. It was
one of many attempts made on the Libyan leader's life, all of them failing,
as his continued presence makes clear. The Libyan revolution is hanging
on after 25 years of resistance to constant attacks of all sorts, ranging
from internal CIA subversion to armed attacks over its cities.
The CIA and the State Department issue periodic scare stories which are
disseminated by their accomplice media to keep Libya in the public eye as
a "terrorist" threat to the well-being of Americans. At one point
in the build-up to the 1986 bombings, "Libyans" were alleged to
be infiltrating the U.S. via Tijuana to assassinate Reagan and otherwise
wreak havoc on America. Columnist Jack Anderson was exasperated that he
had been used as a conduit for false information, declaring that he had
been "spooked by the spooks." At other times, CIA disinformation
had Libya manufacturing chemical and even nuclear weapons, promoting all
forms of "terrorism" around the world and stirring up trouble
where there was none previously found. Domestically, the Libyan experiment
in social equity greatly disturbed their ex-patrons. Such notions as "The
house to those who live in it" are anathema to a country that has over
five million homeless persons residing in it, as the U.S. does now. The
idea that emancipation from want, ignorance and injustice was to be actually
implemented somewhere is unacceptable to an entity that foments poverty
and dependence everywhere. Libya, a nation of some 4 million people, over
half of whom are under 15 years of age and spread out over 680,000 miles
of Sahara Desert-dominated North Africa, had become a perpetual target for
the bellicose designs of the U.S.-led "New Order."
The Lockerbie Pan Am crash formed the most recent cover for actions against
Libya. Even though all evidence pointed to Syria as being the perpetrator
of the bombing, and a Hollywood movie even made the case against Syria and
Iran, attention shifted to Libya as the culprit when a tiny electronic chip
was "found" by investigators in April 1990, over 16 months after
the calamity. This tiny, thumbnail-sized chip was alleged to be part of
the radio which contained less than a pound of plastic explosive, enough
to scatter the 747 over 845 square miles of Scottish countryside.
It so happened that the U.S. was building its coalition to destroy Iraq
in Desert Storm at the time. Syria was one of the prime components of that
force, joining Egypt, the Gulf States and Saudi Arabia in turning against
their Arab compatriots who had made the mistake of ignoring U.S. wishes
by annexing Kuwait. Iraq and Saddam Hussein were the new targets of opportunity
along with Libya. All was forgiven their new-found ally, Syria.
After "going over" the evidence once again, the investigators
decided to pin the blame for Pan Am 103 on Libya, specifically charging
two Libyan airline employees with involvement in the act. The U.S. and U.K.
further demanded that the two "suspects" be handed over for trial
to them. The Libyan government has refused, suggesting the International
Court of Justice as a fairer tribunal to judge the case. What are termed
"limited sanctions" have been in place against Libya since April
15, 1992, served up by a United Nations Security Council, which is increasingly
compliant with U.S. demands. Meanwhile the ongoing terrorism AGAINST Libya
has continued unabated: 158 people perished in the crash of a Libyan airplane
near Tripoli on December 22, 1992. Twenty years earlier, another Libyan
civil airliner was blown out of the air over Egypt by Israeli forces. Continuing
efforts to organize and equip groups inside Libya to overthrow Qaddafi have
met with the usual lack of success. The Libyan people, especially the younger
generation, do not want to return to the pre-Jamahiriya era in which squalor
and misery prevailed. Giant strides in education, housing, medicine and
agriculture have taken place in a county in which the literacy rate has
increased tenfold since the revolution.
The Libyan people are suffering as a result of the "limited" sanctions.
Thousands of people have not been able to travel abroad for medical treatment
of grave illnesses and have died as a result. Hundreds of medical personnel
have been prevented from entering the country. Traffic accidents and deaths
have doubled due to the increase in highway travel caused by the shutdown
in international travel which the sanctions enforced. Over $1 billion has
been lost to Libya in agricultural and livestock production. In all, over
10,000 lives have been needlessly cut short.
According to U.S. policies, the Libyan experiment cannot be allowed to work.
It may influence others to emulate its example, or, more precisely, to set
their own independent course of development. The sanctions weapon, used
"successfully" in Cuba, Iraq and Nicaragua in recent years, is
a relatively "cost-free" method of bringing populations to heel.
The danger of Arabs, Africans and Muslims getting together must be averted
in the calculations of U.S. policy makers. This "danger" will
remain a perpetual target of opportunity until it ceases and desists in
trying to create a just society at home and in supporting struggling people
around the world in their aspirations for self-determination.
Husayn Al-Kurdi, a Senior Editor of News International Press Service,
has written hundreds of articles which have appeared in over 70 publications.
He specializes in themes relating to the liberation of oppressed people.
Al-Kurdi grew up in Libya and currently lives in San Diego.
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