On 13 September, one of the world’s biggest arms fairs opens in London, backed by the British government. On 8 September, the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry will hold a preview entitled “Middle East: A vast market for UK defence and security companies”. The host was the Royal Bank of Scotland, a major investor in cluster bombs. According to Amnesty international, the victims of cluster bombs are 98 per cent civilians and 30 per cent children. The Royal Bank of Scotland has received £20 million in public money. The blurb for the bank’s arms party reads: “The Middle East is one of the regions with the greatest number of opportunities for UK defence and security companies. Saudi Arabia… is the world’s top defence importer, having spent $56bn in 2009… a very worthwhile region to target.”
Such are the Cameron government’s priorities following the great “humanitarian” victory in Libya. As Margaret Thatcher once declared: “Rejoice!” And as the bankers and arms merchants raise their glasses, let us not forget the heroic RAF pilots who made Libya ours again by incinerating countless “pro Gaddafi elements” in their homes and cots and clinics, and the unsung stalwarts of the British drone industry at Menwith Hill in Yorkshire who, before and after lunch, provide the information for drone targets so that Hellfire missiles can flatten homes and suck the air out of lungs, a specialty. And cheers to QuinetiQ’s drone testing site at Aberporth and at UAV Engines Limited in Lichfield.
The west’s humanitarian mission is not quite finished. Nearly six months after securing a UN resolution authorising “the [protection] of civilians and civilian-populated areas under the threat of attack”, Nato is raining fragmentation bombs on civilian-populated Sirte and other “Gaddafi strongholds” where, says a Channel 4 News reporter, “until they cut off the head of the snake, Libyans will not feel safe”. I quote that not so much for its Orwellian quality but as a model of journalism’s role in justifying “our” bloodbaths in advance.
This is Rupert’s Revolution, after all. Gone from the Murdoch press are pejorative “insurgents”. The action in Libya, says The Times, is “a revolution… as revolutions used to be”. That it is a coup by a gang of Muammar Gaddafi’s ex cronies and spooks in collusion with Nato is hardly news. The self-appointed “rebel leader”, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, was Gaddafi’s feared justice minister. The CIA runs or bankrolls most of the rest, including America’s old friends, the Mujadeen Islamists who spawned al-Qaeda.
They told journalists what they needed to know: that Gaddafi was about to commit “genocide”, of which there was no evidence, unlike the abundant evidence of “rebel” massacres of black African workers falsely accused of being mercenaries. European bankers’ secret transfer of the Central Bank of Libya from Tripoli to “rebel” Benghazi by European bankers in order to control the country’s oil billions was an epic heist of little interest.
The entirely predictable indictment of Gaddafi before the “international court” at The Hague evokes the charade of the dying “Lockerbie bomber”, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, whose “heinous crime” has been deployed to promote the west’s ambitions in Libya. In 2009, Al-Megrahi was sent back to Libya by the Scottish authorities not for compassionate reasons, as reported, but because his long-awaited appeal would have confirmed his innocence and described how he was framed by the Thatcher government, as the late Paul Foot’s landmark expose revealed. As an antidote to the current propaganda, I urge you to read a forensic demolition of el-Melgrahi’s “guilt” and its political meaning in Dispatches from the Dark Side: on torture and the death of justice (Verso) by the distinguished human rights lawyer, Gareth Peirce.
This is not to detract from Gaddafi’s awful dictatorship, a “rendition” destination for MI6, we now learn. But his odium is unrelated to the rape of his country by imperial caricatures such as Nicholas Sarkozy, a Napoleonic Islamophobe whose intelligence services almost certainly set up the coup against Gaddafi. US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks disclose the west’s panic over Gaddafi’s refusal to hand over the greatest source of oil in Africa and his overtures to China and Russia.
Propaganda relies not only on Murdoch but on apparently respectable voices inducing historical amnesia. The Observer, which has yet to apologise for its catastrophic promotion of Iraq’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction, is in thrall to the “honourable intervention” of Sarkozy and Cameron and their “humanitarian and emotional” motives. Its political columnist Andrew Rawnsley completes an impressive double. As Media Lens reminds us, in 2003, Rawnsley wrote of Iraq: “The death toll has been nothing like as high as had been widely feared.” A million dead Iraqis later, Rawnsley insists that, in Libya “Britain got it right” and “the number of civilian casualties inflicted by the air strikes seems to have been mercifully light”. Tell that to Libyans with loved ones obliterated by corporate-friendly Hellfires.
Nato attacked Libya to counter and manipulate a general Arab uprising that took the rulers of the world by surprise. Unlike his neighbours, Gaddafi had come to power by denying western control of his country’s natural wealth. For this, he was never forgiven, and the opportunity for his demise was seized in the usual manner, as history shows. The American historian William Blum has kept the record. Since the second world war, the United States has crushed or subverted liberation movements in 20 countries, and attempted to overthrow more than 50 governments, many of them democratic, and dropped bombs on 30 countries, and attempted to assassinate more than 50 foreign leaders.