Friday, 4 March 2011

More blood for oil? Libya and the UK

By Tim Coles

4 March 2011

Amid the talk in Washington and London of military intervention in Libya, Tim Coles considers how the Anglo-American portrayal of Mu’ammar Gaddafi changed from bogeyman to friend when it became apparent that he would grant oil contracts to various Western companies.

By reporting both the plight of Libya’s border refugees and the “failure of the international community” to help them, the BBC is once again beating the drums for war, or at least the imposition of sanctions and/or “no fly zones”
1. If this is not the case, we may ask why the BBC is, and has almost always been, silent on the issue of worse cases, such as Iraq’s four million refugees, sparked largely by the 2006-07 escalation of Anglo-American violence? Or the million-plus refugees of Somalia, risking life and limb to flee to Yemen and elsewhere, having lost their homes at the hands of the British-backed Transitional Federal Government? Or the comparable numbers of refugees in Congo and the surrounding countries, made homeless in large part by the Anglo-American-backed Rwandan, Ugandan and Burundian forces running a new slave trade for coltan?

British officials have condemned Gaddafi for murdering his people. There is just one thing wrong with this: Britain’s outgoing New Labour party and incoming Tory-Liberal Democrat “coalition” governments sold Gaddafi’s regime arms worth GBP 22,500,961 in the second quarter of 2010 alone, including “ammunition for wall and door breaching projectile launchers (two licences); components for semi-automatic pistols; components for sniper rifles; crowd control ammunition (four licences); equipment for the use of sniper rifles”.
2 Would those British officials who support sanctions and the imposition of “no fly zones” on Libya support imposing the same things on London?

British hypocrisy

To give some perspective, Britain’s recent and direct historical involvement with Libya has resulted in the deaths of almost as many people as were murdered in the 7 July 2005 attacks in London. Naturally, the media and scholarship never make such comparisons, and doing so often provokes remarkable tantrums. In 1986, in response to the bombing of a German disco, for which Britain and America blamed Gaddafi, the US launched air strikes on Libya from British bases, killing at least 30 civilians, including Gaddafi’s adopted daughter. Gaddafi’s funding of the Irish Republican Army could have hardly been a concern for the Thatcher government, given that most financial and ideological support for the IRA comes from Boston, America. Can you imagine Margaret Thatcher directing the Royal Air Force to bomb Reagan’s White House?

Libyan poster against foreign interventionAmong those murdered in the 1986 air strikes was Raafat al-Ghossain, a young Algerian-born Palestinian who moved to Libya when her father took a job with an oil company. Unmarried, the beautiful Raafat seemed to know that her life would end. Shortly before the attacks, she wrote “Life is a game, a gamble, and people are its victims, its players”, concluding that “I hope that one day I shall find that stream of light.”3 According to the pro-empire, Oxford and Harvard professor Niall Ferguson, America merely struck “an empty tent” in Libya, symbolizing “America’s impotence” in the fight against “the Middle East’s retarded political culture”.4

Britain’s next attack on Libya, which killed at least six people, was the failed coup against Gaddafi in the 1990s, which the former MI5 officer, David Shayler, said was funded by MI6 to the tune of GBP 100,000. Because Britain believes in democracy, Shayler was arrested for leaking the information.

Befriending Gaddafi

Britain’s attitude towards Gaddafi shifted after 9/11, when it looked like he would help with the British elites’ oil interests. The egregious Tony Blair lobbied Gaddafi  “on behalf of Shell ... promoting a 500-million-dollar (GBP 325 million) deal it was trying to clinch in Libya”, the London Times reported, adding that “BP has signed a 900-million-dollar deal to explore [Libya’s] offshore oilfields and the BG Group, the former British Gas, is searching for resources in the Libyan desert” – having stolen the gas rights to Gaza’s offshore fields, one might add.6 The Daily Mirror reported that “the Libya deals are linked to JP Morgan which pays Blair an annual salary”.7 One wonders if Saint Anthony Blair, with his tax-free “Faith Foundation” will give some of the money to the children of Iraq, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan and elsewhere, whom he helped to murder, maim, torture and orphan.

During the ongoing revolutions in the Middle East, Britain began panicking that the overthrow of long-supported dictators would leave a “power vacuum”. The same thing was said in the early 1990s, when it looked as though the Shi’i-Kurdish uprising – which Britain and America encouraged, then abandoned – would overthrow their former friend, Saddam Hussein. This time, when it became apparent that Gaddafi could be on his way out, Britain and America redirected their navies to the Mediterranean Sea.

In 2010, the Tory-Liberal Democrat “coalition” published its Strategic Defence and Security Review, which stated that Britain would continue its Continuous at Sea policy of secretly stationing nuclear-armed submarines in various locations throughout the world – as an act of deterrence.8 In reality, this is a way of “wielding a big stick” in order to “compel others to act in a desired manner”, to quote the chief of naval staff, Admiral Stanhope, in an address at the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House) in 2009.9 All of this is in violation of the UN Charter, which prohibits threats against other nations, and in violation of the World Court’s Advisory Opinion of 1996, which declared that nuclear weapons are unlawful.

If an attack on Libya goes ahead, it will almost certainly be undertaken beneath the ideological cover of NATO, despite its being an Anglo-American attack. Although Gaddafi is murdering his people, the hypocrisy of Britain condemning such atrocities – when it is Britain that is arming them – is low comedy.

NATO and oil

In an interview with the Russian TV channel RT (1 March 2011), the Russian ambassador to NATO stated that any Anglo-American attack on Libya would not be supported by NATO. The role of NATO, despite much propaganda questioning the organization’s future, was spelled out by then-Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, who informed a meeting that “it was the oil companies which  already quite some time ago approached NATO – not exclusively NATO, also the European Union – to see how these international organizations could be helpful”. Scheffer added “that the present strategic concept of NATO, of dating back, as you know, to 1999, is already talking about the free flow of energy”.10

The year 1999, was of course, the year of NATO’s “humanitarian intervention” in Serbia, which left around 2,000 people dead, the country poisoned with depleted uranium, a catastrophic oil refinery spill and the dropping of a quarter of a million cluster bomblets. On the first day of the bombing in March 1999, a House of Commons Library study revealed that 2,000 people on both sides – not the hundreds of thousands of Kosovar Albanians as alleged – had been killed in the civil war – not in the genocide or ethnic cleansing that was alleged to have been taking place. Furthermore, then-Foreign Secretary Robin Cook informed the press in Slovenia that most  Kosovar refugees had been repatriated – unlike, say, the Palestinians or Turkish Kurds. 11

The NATO assault was later declared illegal by Justice Richard Goldstone. Without UN Security Council authorization, a similar assault on Libya, under humanitarian pretexts, would also be illegal, and it would poison the country with depleted uranium. It is also worth noting that before the Britain special forces, the Special Air Service, or SAS, and the CIA had covertly invaded Serbia, the Halliburton subsidiary, Brown and Root (now Kellogg, Brown and Root) set up a massive US base, Camp Bondsteel, right in the middle of the Balkans’ main pipeline junction, which just happened to be in Kosovo.

Jaap de Hoop Scheffer’s position on oil and gas was affirmed by his successor, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who informed NATO delegates that the organization “need[s] to look more closely at protecting our critical energy infrastructure”, concluding that “There is a direct link between energy security and maritime security”,
13 which is consistent with the off-shore rights granted to Shell et al., mentioned above. Equally, “no fly zones” would also violate international law, unless approval was granted by the Security Council.

Between 1991 and 2002, Britain and America relentlessly bombed Iraq under the rubric of protecting Iraq’s Kurds – the very people who were murdered by Saddam Hussein with Anglo-American weapons. Britain’s then-secretary of state for defence, Geoff Hoon, said that the “no fly zones” were “based on the overwhelming humanitarian necessity of protecting people on the ground, combined with the need to monitor the effect of UNSCR [United Nations Security Council Resolution] 688; so it is the two taken in combination that provide[d] the legal justification”.

The British Ministry of Defence did not quite agree, informing the Iraq Inquiry that: “[t]he no-fly zones were not themselves justified on the grounds of self defence – there was no evidence of the threat of an imminent attack [from Saddam Hussein]... Nor were the no-fly zones explicitly authorized by the Security Council [emphasis in original].” In other words, they were illegal.14 Considering the fact that at the time, Britain and America were murdering Iraqi children with illegal, genocidal sanctions, which ended up killing 1.5 million Iraqis, mostly children, we can’t possibly take the humanitarian argument seriously.

If the pattern of NATO “invention” in Kosovo and Afghanistan, as well Anglo-American assaults on Iraq, is applied even in any small degree to Libya, the fate of Raafat al-Ghossain could become that of others. There could be some dire humanitarian disasters on the horizon – all under the pretext of supporting democracy. As the recent revolutions have shown, Arabs and Muslims are perfectly capable of getting rid of their despotic rulers without violence; much to the West’s chagrin, of course.


1.On the shameful record of the BBC’s support for the plunder of Iraq, see David Edwards and David Cromwell, 2009, Newspeak in the 21st Century, London: Pluto Press.

2. British Government, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, “Strategic Export Controls”, Country Pivot Report, 1st April 2010 - 30th June 2010, Export Control Organization, p. 161.

3. Cited in Robert Fisk, 2006, The Great War for Civilization, London: Harper Perennial, pp. 1086-95.

4. Niall Ferguson, 2004, Colossus, London: Penguin. On the subject of retardation, Ferguson’s acknowledgement pages thank the who’s who of the economic establishment for helping with “my freshman-level American history”.

5. Mark Curtis, 2003, Web of Deceit, London: Vintage, pp. 97-8.

6. D. Robertson, “Shell dictated Blair’s letter to Gaddafi promoting £325m deal”, Times, 27 April, 2010.

7. V. Moss, “Tony Blair’s fortune to treble to £45million next year”, Daily Mirror
31 January, 2010.

8. Cabinet Office, “Strategic Defence and Security Review”, October, 2010, London: Stationary Office.

9. Mark Stanhope, “The Royal Navy: Afghanistan and Beyond”, Transcript, Chatham House, 27 November, 2009.

10. Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, “Transatlantic leadership for a new era: Speech by NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer at the Security and Defence Agenda”, NATO, 26 January, 2009.

11. Youngs, T., Oakes, M. and P. Bowers, “Kosovo: NATO and Military Action”, House of Commons Library, Research Paper 99/34, 24 March, 1999.

12. Dan Briody, 2004, The Halliburton Agenda: The Politics of Oil and Money, New York: Wiley.

13. Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Address to NATO, 7, March, 2010.

14. Ministry of Defence (UK), “The No Fly Zones”, Iraq Inquiry, 6 November 2009.

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian

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