Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
April 07, 2011

Rebel Legitimacy And Other Points on Libya

What is providing legitimacy to a rebel movement like the one in Libya? The Wall Street Journal explains:

The opposition in eastern Libya took further steps toward establishing its legitimacy Wednesday, meeting with a U.S. envoy and loading its first shipment of oil for export since the uprising began.

So legitimacy is the easy part. At least when one speaks English and has some cheap oil to give away. The Brits want Blackwater/Xe or some other mercenary outlet to train the rebels which I understand means to do "training on the job", i.e. to fight their fight. I am sure that will also add to the rebels legitimacy. As Britain is broke, the Saudis are supposed to cough up the money for that. Getting support from Saudi money also adds to legitimacy?

The Libyan head of security Moussa Koussa who fled to London is said to be an MI6 double agent. That might well be the reason why restrictions on his bank accounts were immediately removed. Expect more propaganda talk about such false defections.

When I wrote How The War On Libya Will Continue, predicting their defeat, the rebels controlled the oil hubs Ras Lanuf and Brega. They soon lost both and their attempts to recapture them failed.

Attempts by the rebels to send resupplies to Misurata in the west also failed. Their ships were stopped by a Turkish patrol boat. The UN resolutions says "no additional weapons" and Turkey is serious in enforcing that part.

Gaddafi forces are still "cleaning up" in Misurata. In a few days that will be done and he will start new offense efforts in the east. But his forces must now "hug the enemy" to discourage further air attacks. Thereby it is unlikely that he will try a frontal assault on Ajdabia and later Benghazi. Instead Gaddafi will likely have some forces infiltrate into those cities, from the sea, the south and the east, and then roll the rebels up from their back.

Some NATO buffoon said that Gaddafi forces are "hiding behind civilians". That is a sure sign that more attacks on those civilians are now likely to happen. It is always the same sorry excuse. Hitler had to bomb London because Winston Churchill was "hiding behind civilians" there. Then again NATO is also bombing the rebels. Maybe they make up their mind.

The situation is now in a temporary stalemate and when the scale slides further towards Gaddafi forces, as it will, the attackers are in a bind. Protect civilians or bomb the heck out of them because they happen to be on the wrong side of the front? With the UNSC resolution and the attack Britain, France and the U.S. put themselves into an idiotic position. This was foreseeable. One might want ask what is their plan B but that would be wrong question. What was their plan A in the first place?

Posted by b on April 7, 2011 at 08:20 AM | Permalink


Our democratic peacemaking air bombers have bombed today a 'rebel' 'army' convoy with at least a tank (hard to tell 'friends' from 'fiends' there in the middle of the desert and every side wearing similar clothes, vehicles, weapons and a 'skin color'). Different media are quoting from a dozen to up to 50 dead and many more wounded.

Gaddafi forces are already targeting the oil wells and pipelines feeding the Tobruk terminal. I guess they may still have a few loads stored on depots for sell though. Time to pocket the money on some private account and fly back to safe port ...

So clearly everything follows the script and this will be solved on in a week or two at most. We can trust our valiant governments 'leaded' by Sarkozy and Cameron (now that the US is no longer 'actively' involved).

And meanwhile the French are still promising a fast outcome out of the Ivory Coast mess. Another UN/French successful peacemaking effort. No neocolonial games being played here either. We are a neutral force, it's not like both sides and have a proved record of 'respecting' human rights and law. We are there to protect civilians ... by bombing the side we 'don't like' while they are being attacked by the side we 'like'. You see if we kill enough people fast enough it will end sooner and less civilians will end dying ... at least until the civil war reignites in a couple weeks or months.

Posted by: ThePaper | Apr 7, 2011 8:57:34 AM | 1

plan A: unleash the rebels, get crowds to cheer the liberators, scare off Gaddafi (I'm sure they honestly believed it could be done)

plan B: bomb Gaddafi (never an explicit or even a conscious option - but there aren't alternatives, so ... you can't have the West held in check by a Bedouin, can you?)

this is called strategical planning in the 21st century; see Iraq as model implementation

(splitting Lybia would be recognizing that a sizable part of the population prefers Gheddafi to western-sponsored rebels, it would ruin the whole narrative - I don't think it would be acceptable)

Posted by: claudio | Apr 7, 2011 9:14:54 AM | 2

Philip Girardi gut punches "humanitarian" interventions: "Many countries are not shy about massacring civilians. The United States has itself killed tens of thousands of them in Iraq and Afghanistan...By any metric Israel should be attacked first to prevent massacres of civilians as it has killed thousands of Arabs in internationally recognized war crimes carried out in Lebanon and Gaza...Both Republican and Democratic doctrines should be rejected because experience suggests that they do not save lives anywhere, quite the contrary, and each unfortunate overseas adventure only represents a new burden that has to be borne with no discernible gain for the American people."

Posted by: JohnH | Apr 7, 2011 9:36:57 AM | 3

I was watching Al Jazeera English last night. The anti-Gaddafi rebels are called "pro democracy forces". If that isn't legitimacy, at least it sounds like it.

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. | Apr 7, 2011 10:04:14 AM | 4

"Meeting with an U.S. envoy and loading its first shipment of oil."...Mmmmmm, thought the U.S. was taking a backseat to the French and UK.

Posted by: ben | Apr 7, 2011 11:46:49 AM | 5

Plan A? Plan B? They never had any plans to begin with.

It's worse than a mistake, it's an accident.

Posted by: dan | Apr 7, 2011 11:56:30 AM | 6

Claudio said:

"plan B: bomb Gaddafi (never an explicit or even a conscious option"

We bombed Gaddafi's compound on the FIRST DAY of the war!

Posted by: Tom | Apr 7, 2011 12:22:07 PM | 7


We bombed Gaddafi's compound on the FIRST DAY of the war!

you're right; what I meant is that sooner or later they'll have to bomb him, not his compound

Posted by: claudio | Apr 7, 2011 12:33:24 PM | 8

CNN is playing up the Libyan woman who tells everyone who listens that she has been raped by who knows how many men. The story is just as believable as the one once told by the Kuwaiti nurse.

Posted by: b | Apr 7, 2011 12:42:36 PM | 9

Michael Brenner's comment on SST is noteworthy

The shambles that is American, and Western, policy on Libya is the most vivid example of wider Middle East policies that lack coherence and credibility. Any conscientious and experienced observer finds himself utterly baffled by what the White House and its European allies are not doing in Libya. I've stretched my imagination to the limits to no avail. I think that I've tried every conceivable logical path, and still none of this makes sense. Having been frustrated in trying to find the logic of recent goings-on, I still believe that there are certain conclusions that can be drawn. Here are mine in brutal frankness.

1. We are witnessing irresponsibility and incompetence on monumental scale. Our rulers clearly lack the wit and the maturity to do their job: caring for the nation’s interests for today, tomorrow and the day after.

2. The tone and the fecklessness emanate from the top in Washington. Mr. Obama is a man who cares about nothing and believes in nothing other than his own personal welfare. I truly think that he has no preference as to outcomes in Libya. On this, as on everything else, he places everything in two categories – that which is spinnable, and that which is not. His conception of the former is very broad, based on his life experience and the derelict state of American public life.

3. Many members of the country’s foreign policy elite retain the conviction that the United States can micro-manage crises and manipulate local parties despite a decade of experience demonstrating just the opposite. The idea that we are in a position to fine tune Libyan politics so as to produce the type of leaders that are pliable and low-risk borders on madness. This from an administration that cannot even macro-manage a budget crisis with the tea tinged Republican in the House of Representatives.

4. We remain enslaved by our twin obsessions with Islamic terrorism and Iran’s supposed ambitions to rule the Middle East. The only Arab leaders who fit our comfort zone, therefore, are the kind of thugs who are everywhere besieged. Most have seen their day past. The rest are fated to live in fear and dread. Due to this obsession, we are prepared to abandon a respected place in a regional future where the dynamic force will be a youthful generation which doesn’t fit our simplistic formulas.

5. We are blind to the derisory image that we are presenting. A Washington that is self-consciously always trying to project strength displays only weakness and ineptitude to friend, foe and bystander alike.

Posted by: Cloned Poster | Apr 7, 2011 2:41:00 PM | 10

The most significant aspect of the "UN" involvement is the complete freedom with which the governments of Britain, France and the US operate. It would appear that nobody at home gives a damn. They have as much freedom to act as the Saudis: maybe the Saudi Royal Family should be told that you can hold elections, have a legislature, political parties, the entire nine yards of Representative Democracy. And it makes no difference. Nobody cares. Well some do, but nobody cares about the people who care. And they don't care very much either.

Thus it is that Portugal, broke and begging for loans, doesn't stop for a moment before it pledges its full support to the NATO attack: Aggression budgets are inelastic.

The media and the Academy have become a clean up squad, ready to rationalise and sanctify any idiocy the government cares to slip into; drunk or sober; frothing at the mouth or as solemn as a Priest in the pulpit.

The "plan" seems to be very simple: at any opportunity attack any muslim country which cannot defend itself. The benefits are, firstly to please islamophobes, particularly Israel, a state founded in islamophobia. Secondly to entertain that portion of the populace with a hankering for Capital Punishment, pogroms and lynchings. Thirdly to keep the armed forces active and to use up ammunition and other materiel, supplied by the arms industry. Fourthly to ensure a steady stream of the terror alerts needed to ensure public support for mass surveillance, secret policing and the makings of a police state. Fifth... the list is very long, and we can all add to it. Suffice it to say that no specific plan is needed, not any longer. It is accepted that, from time to time, attacks will be made on defenceless countries.
It is a classic protection racket: "You don't want to be invaded, conquered and looted? It's easy: join NATO, kow-tow to the US government. Otherwise 'look out' your time is coming."
And it works: Ghadaffi's biggest political error was to give into fear of the US after Iraq was invaded. It is not hard to see why he took the dangerous step of inviting slimy Tony Blair to come to Tripoli and receive Libya's 'nuclear' materials (if there were any) and humblest apologies. The problem was that the resulting neo-liberal 'reforms' must have cost the regime large amounts of public support, which is always useful when an invading force appears. It cost billions in blood money taking the fall for Lockerbie and other payments. Money that was taken out of the mouths and pockets of the Libyans who own the country's resources; that cannot have been without political consequences either.

Saddam made a similar error in co-operating with the UN disarmament process: giving the 'west' clear evidence that you cannot defend yourself amounts to an invitation to aggression.

The question is who, after Ivory Coast is next?

My guess is that the action will swing back to Latin America, but b might be right: all the signs are that Iran has been chosen as the final resting place for the remains of US democracy. The idea is so crass ("It would please AIPAC and make fund raising for next year so easy...")And so utterly stupid, a war stretching from East Africa, across Arabia and Persia through Afghanistan to Pakistan, for no possible profit, that it would fit right in with the cardinal US Foreign Policy objective of using wars to start other wars and spreading war everywhere for reasons that the intelligentsia will come up with, later.

As to Libya the first time, in 1911 was tragedy so this one must be something else, which will be a consolation to those about to die. The only good thing about this is that the "west' is wasting its power and substance so quickly that, in future, its hegemony will not be unchallenged. A great thing "The Balance of Power" when you look at the alternative: a state so drunk on its own indispensability that it allows the most corrupt, self-serving, bigoted and idiotic elements within it to control its destiny. Take a look at Congress. Listen in to the Supreme Court as it delivers its decisions. Bathe in the vacuities of the President's rhetoric.

Swift, leave alone Sinclair Lewis, could not have come up with legislative bosses like Boehner and Reid, Judges like Thomas and Scalia or a President like this with Chiefs of Staff such as Daley and his predecessor Emanuel. No doubt the real meaning of the Chinese curse is "May you live in extremely amusing times, a golden age of parodists and satirists."

Posted by: bevin | Apr 7, 2011 3:37:10 PM | 11

b @ 9: The media is clearly building a case for further action on the ground. I agree with your Kuwaiti nurse theme.

Posted by: ben | Apr 7, 2011 4:30:50 PM | 12

bevin @ 11: I agree that the list of priorities for the U.S./NATO is endless, pick one. All will become more clear as the days go by.

CP @ 10: I couldn't disagree more with Michael Brenner's take on Obama's " irresponsibility& incompetence". He makes it sound as if this war on Libya was a decision he made. Give me a break, Obama is dancing to the tune the 1%ers play. As if ANY modern day leader has complete freedom to act as they please. He's doing what the puppet masters dictate. Maybe in the realm of social policy, but when it comes Geo strategy, nope.

Posted by: ben | Apr 7, 2011 5:06:06 PM | 13

That didn't take long:
General: U.S. may consider troops in Libya

The use of an international ground force is a possible plan to bolster rebels fighting forces loyal to the Libyan leader, Ham [Commander US Africa Command] said at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

Asked if the U.S. would provide troops, Ham said, "I suspect there might be some consideration of that. My personal view at this point would be that that's probably not the ideal circumstance, again for the regional reaction that having American boots on the ground would entail."

Posted by: xcroc | Apr 7, 2011 6:23:26 PM | 14

Pardon if someone posted and discussed this already. I find Horace Campbell's piece priceless (the whole thing should be read):

Dictators throughout Africa and the Middle East were shaken by the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions. Barack Obama dithered on the question of the future relationship with the Crusaders when he should have taken a clear position on the question of a US military intervention in Libya. As the debate raged between the Rocks and the Crusaders inside the military bureaucracy, Robert Gates decided to abandon the Crusaders and gave Obama an opening by saying that any President who placed troops in Africa needed to have his head examined. While Obama dithered, France and Britain energetically pushed so that British Petroleum and ELF could be in the driver’s seat in North Africa in order to play the counter-revolutionary role against the rising tide of revolution. The Crusaders did not want to be left out and were temporarily sidelined until Susan Rice, (Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations), Samantha Power (Special Assistant to President and member of the National Security Council) and Hilary Clinton began to make the vigorous claim for US military intervention. These advisors of Barack Obama presented strong militaristic arguments and never considered serious alternatives to the military intervention. The Crusaders waited for the moment to bring back their public push for Africom. And they seized it.

Of course, Campbell mentions Jeremy Keenan's book (which I haven't read yet) in relation to the 2003 kidnappings in Algeria:

Keenan links the growing importance of African petroleum with the US' desire for an increased military presence. Without active, demonstrable African terror networks, however, the US faced difficulties in establishing the need to expand its military activities there. Keenan argues that the expansive liquefied natural gas resources in Algeria, Nigeria and Libya provided the motive for the US to exploit, or even engineer, these kidnappings as a means of rationalising an increased military presence with the growth of the United States African Command (AFRICOM) and other agencies. He contends that the kidnappings provided the missing terrorist activities needed to ramp up the War on Terror.

Posted by: Maracatu | Apr 7, 2011 7:00:20 PM | 15

Maracatu, the Campbell essay is really good, thanks for the link. Keenan has an essay online that briefly covers many of the points in his book. I think b real provided this link at an earlier date.

Demystifying Africa’s Security:

[The] Bush administration decided to use a military structure to secure access to and control over African oil and opted to use the GWOT as the justification, rather than acknowledging that US military intervention in Africa was about resource control.

… emphasizing the threat posed by the marginalised and excluded, Africa’s ‘dangerous classes’, and the role of aid and ‘development’ … merging the development and security agendas so that the two have become almost indistinguishable

The securitisation of Africa has been further promoted by drawing attention to the association between underdevelopment and conflict and the various discourses on ‘failed states’, which, in no time at all, were linked directly to the 9/11 attacks. It took only a few steps – from ‘poverty’ and ‘underdevelopment’ to ‘conflict’, ‘fear’, ‘failed states’ and the black holes of the ‘ungoverned areas’ – to recast Africa as the ‘Heart of Darkness’ and to transpose the GWOT into its vast ungoverned spaces: the DRC, Sudan, Somalia and EUCOM’s infamous ‘swamp of terror’, the Sahara.

Far from bringing ‘peace and security’ to Africa, AFRICOM is directly instrumental in creating conflict and insecurity.

Social scientists unfamiliar with the new ‘security development’ discourse may find its emphasis on ‘security’ and ‘development’ seductive. What more does Africa need? However, as Abrahamsen (2005) has already pointed out, London and Washington have used this discourse to link Africa’s underdevelopment with the threat of terrorism. And the regimes of Africa have followed suit: many are now using the pretext of the GWOT to repress legitimate opposition by linking it with ‘terrorism’. … Above all, the ‘security-development’ discourse explicitly links Africa’s poor, her ‘dangerous classes’ as Abrahamsen calls them, the marginalised and excluded to international security ‘problems’ and ‘terrorism’.

Posted by: xcroc | Apr 7, 2011 7:22:58 PM | 16

What a tangled web and what a convenient pretext the GWOT has turned out to be: You've got a US Congressman seeking to classify Mexican drug cartels as foreign terrorist organization. Presumably that will someday facilitate justification for a US military occupation of its southern neighbor. Even if that doesn't work, the US can always claim see Al Qaida cells operating in the far flung reaches of its former empire. So attractive is this proposition of a "terrorist behind every bush" (pun intended), that even some of our local gov'ts find it highly useful in fighting domestic opponents:

Prior to the protests, Colombian intelligence agency DAS stated Wednesday that guerrilla groups such as the FARC and ELN, who have have historically had a reported presence on campuses across Colombia, embedded themselves within student protest groups and might provoke violence during demonstrations.

In the push to equate nacro-trafficking with terrorism, it never ceases to amaze me how the accusers often overlook their own track record.

Posted by: Maracatu | Apr 7, 2011 9:14:18 PM | 17

If not for the killed and wounded the situation would be comical: Libyan Rebels Say Airstrikes Killed 5

The rebels moved 17 tanks towards Breda and where attacked by NATO planes. Most of the tanks seem to lost. A doctor at the scene was hit by what was likely a rocket fired from improvised vehicles by other rebels. After a few artillery rounds landed near Ajdabiya, people, including those with heavy weapons, fled to Benghazi.

NATO also bombed military academies in Tripoli. What has that to do with "protecting civilians"?

Posted by: b | Apr 8, 2011 2:36:51 AM | 18

1. in German

2. in French

Plan A: Legitimacy by monarchy brought in by the people (i.e. keep the Gulf and Jordan monarchs legitimate and in power)

Plan B: Intervention

Plan C: Lose

Posted by: somebody | Apr 8, 2011 4:22:57 AM | 19

@Tom #7

Claudio said:

"plan B: bomb Gaddafi (never an explicit or even a conscious option"

We bombed Gaddafi's compound on the FIRST DAY of the war!

refined, correct answer to your observation: the bombing of Gaddafi's compound was part precisely of plan A, ... "scare off Gaddafi"

Posted by: claudio | Apr 8, 2011 6:51:12 AM | 20

It seems that the article "The Great Libyan Distraction" Immanuel Wallerstein's site was deleted.

It still is in the Google cache.

Hmmm ...

Posted by: b | Apr 8, 2011 8:46:08 AM | 21

Exhibit Plan A
above article is very careful to say "constitution of 1951" without saying monarchy

Posted by: somebody | Apr 8, 2011 10:35:43 AM | 22


the article you linked is signed by Hayri Abaza, "a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies" - doesn't seem to be the source for the "real" plan of the coalition, just one of the many intellectuals giving their advice to politicians;

Posted by: claudio | Apr 8, 2011 11:43:20 AM | 23


Posted by: somebody | Apr 8, 2011 12:05:24 PM | 24

oh, and there is of course this

intellectuals no politicians eh?

Posted by: somebody | Apr 8, 2011 12:09:18 PM | 25


intellectuals no politicians eh?

ok, ok, you made your point :-)

lobby (or front group for a lobby), no intellectuals

still, my point remains; it's a pressure group hoping to push its agenda through the course of events, not the "real planners" that decide behind the curtains; the plan consisted simply of the desiderata of the "international community" (out Gaddafi, in "democracy" and its western patrons), with no plan b; what I called "plan B" (@2) is what will emerge by force of circumstances as the only alternative to political disaster for the western stars - Obama, Clinton, Sarkozy and Cameron

just recently Clinton repeated "they must go"; she's painted herself in a corner, and proudly stands by her position

of course they'll blame the destruction of Lybia on Gaddafi's stubborness

Posted by: claudio | Apr 8, 2011 12:26:07 PM | 26

Plan A:

Lybia is going to domino! Holy bloody F* H*! It’s Kahdafi! We have to do something! Right now, Soon! There’s the oil and the contracts, these rebels means business! People are going to die! It’s Kadhafi! We can’t sit back! Egypt and Tunisia, that may turn out alright in the end! But bad, enough is enough! Bahrein is stirring, the Arabs will make a swop, they get a free hand there, we invade Lybia, we can’t not do anything, Saudi must hold! Khadafi is a mad man! We must show determination and strength! We are the masters!

and so on. Add in Sark the First and Camera-on thrilling to show they are real men with something in our outside their pants...

Plan B: Bomb the shit out of everyone. Triumph.

Posted by: Noirette | Apr 8, 2011 3:00:53 PM | 27

stephen zunes continues his voyage to the dark side:

Zunes advises:
"For a revolution against a heavily armed and deeply entrenched dictator to succeed, the opposition movement needs to mobilize a large percentage of the population on their side, as took place in Tunisia and Egypt . Libyans need to engage in strategies that will make the regime come across as illegitimate and a traitorous, while making themselves look virtuous and patriotic."

To date, this is factually false of Tunisia as well as Egypt , where there have yet to be quote-unquote "revolutions," the titular dictators having fled the scene, but the institutions of the dictatorship -- in Egypt especially -- have remained perfectly intact.

What's more, Zunes concedes that Qadhafi's Libya "achieve[d] the highest Human Development Index ranking in Africa, surpassing scores of relatively wealthy non-African countries….There are many Libyans who, while unhappy with Qadhafi's rule, are not ready to support the opposition." Yet, after the United States and its allies managed to drag Libya before the Security Council in late February, and then launched their war on March 19, all bets are off on what Libyans themselves may or may not want.

Zunes' paragraph on the 1999 U.S.-led war on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the eventually successful regime-change operation and restoration of neocolonial domination (what Zunes misrepresents as the "independence struggle in Kosovo") is an outrage.

"The largely spontaneous Libyan uprising," is how Zunes characterizes events inside Libya from the middle of February 2001 on, events which bear all the earmarks of a foreign-sponsored operation, with the United States and its allies arriving not as reluctant humanitarians, but as overthrowers and conquerors having created their own pretext.

"Even now," Zunes concludes, "if a cease-fire could be arranged, rebel-controlled areas could solidify a well-functioning democratic order other Libyans would desire to emulate, while dissidents within areas controlled by Qaddafi could begin a series of strikes and other actions which -- combined with international sanctions targeting the regime -- could seriously undermine the dictator's ability to resist." --

This is not analysis, friends. This is falsification and advocacy, where the lies are such that they cover for the agenda. And what is being advocated for, ultimately, is not democracy, but American Power.

-- David Peterson
Chicago, USA

Posted by: brian | Apr 9, 2011 1:55:32 AM | 28

The insurgents are dreadfully unhappy with NATO...they arent killing enough people.NATO is not prepared to carpet bomb cities...its bad press...but the insurgents are saying: 'Dont wimp out on us! Go into the cities and bomg the tanks!'

and they want to rule Libya?

Posted by: brian | Apr 9, 2011 2:04:08 AM | 29

FYI did NATO supply the Libyan insurgents with weapons from the very beginning?

Posted by: brian | Apr 9, 2011 11:03:22 AM | 31

Some adults are trying to help the west out of the corner it has painted himself into.

AFRICAN UNION - President Zuma to Travel to Mauritania, Libya for African Union Panel

It is anticipated that the Committee [African Union's ad hoc High Level Committee on Libya] will hold discussions on the recent developments in Libya and deliberate on the way forward in fulfilling its mandate. The Committee has been granted permission by NATO to enter Libya [my emphasis] and to meet in Tripoli with the Libyan leader, H.E. Muammar Gaddafi.

TURKEY - Erdogan unveils roadmap for Libya

But there are Forces of Darkness that won't be swayed from the necessity of destroying yet another country. The Sunday Times and the rebels aren't enthusiastic about it, because it stops short "of a clear appeal for Kadhafi to cede power"

Posted by: claudio | Apr 9, 2011 1:44:57 PM | 32

why should Gadafi and the Libyan govt cede power? esp to a mix of monarchists and jihadis, who promise...what?

Posted by: brian | Apr 10, 2011 5:50:03 PM | 33

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