Sirte after NATO bombing, 2011
Libya, October 20, 2011: jihadist brigades supported by NATO captured and assassinated the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi who, together with his men, was trying to move away from the city of Sirte, his last stronghold, reduced to rubble by a joint NATO-“rebels” action (this is how the militiamen were defined, who had already revealed themselves to be fundamentalist and racist cutthroats – do not forget the deportation of an entire city, Tawergha, populated by Libyans of sub-Saharan origin). “We came, we saw, he died”: Hillary Clinton, then U.S. Secretary of State, laughingly paraphrased the well-known Latin phrase attributed to another colonizer, Julius Caesar.
In 2011, the hundredth anniversary of the Italian colonial invasion of Libya was therefore commemorated with yet another war of aggression that began with lies on March 19, 2011 that went on for many months. The shameful lynching of Gaddafi sealed the latest “humanitarian mission” of NATO, responsible for more than ten thousand deaths, plunging what was a relatively prosperous country into an abyss of misery, violence and oppression. The effects in terms of the spread of self-styled Islamist terrorism were then seen not only in Libya (remember the columns of off-road vehicles with the black Daesh flag conquering Sirte) and Syria (where the war that began in 2011 is still not over), but also throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. The continent, once exempt from this scourge and the bearer of an Islam of solidarity, has now been hit hard not only in its western part (Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria…) but as far as Mozambique and Tanzania, with brutal massacres, displaced populations, additional hunger and misery.
Today Western public opinion is busy with other matters. But even in 2011, the left (not to mention the PD) and civil society looked elsewhere. The street protests, except for the national demonstration in Naples on April 15, 2011, in those endless months of bombings and clashes, had few people. While the media, politicians, the same international organizations and even non-governmental organizations were practicing the art of lying and demonizing the Libyan government, in order to justify that war of aggression, in Italy even the peace marches, the marches for social rights, the Occupy Wall Street protests in autumn 2011, did not mention Libya. It was only remembered in the placards of a few groups of pacifists, such as Rete No War.
In order not to forget, we present two articles. The first, which appeared in 2012 on Sinistra in rete, summarizes the lies of February-March 2011 that led people to stomach the war. The second in 2014 on the site Sibialiria, later taken up by AD, is a chronicle of the surreal briefings that NATO, from Brussels and Naples, organized with journalists, almost all of them silent and servile. Briefings during which NATO implicitly admitted its connivance with the crimes of the “revolutionaries”.
March 19, 2011: The Beginning of War and Falsehoods
A minimal chronology of “useful” lies.
The anniversary of the UN-NATO “humanitarian war” on Libya, March 19, 2011, should not be forgotten. There was a deadly short circuit between media, UN, NGOs, governments involved, all to amplify the propaganda of the “rebels”. On the wave of news about the repression of the protests of February 17 in Benghazi (bloody and brutal but soon elevated to the level of “genocide”), in February-March 2011 two UN resolutions were passed: sanctions, no-fly zone, Libya expelled from the UN Human Rights Council, Gaddafi referred to the International Criminal Court. And a war that lasted 8 months. Here is a minimal chronology of the most useful lies. On February 21, the Qatari TV al Jazeera reported: “Warplanes and helicopters are bombing protesters in some districts of Tripoli. The world revolts. Ban Ki Moon says he is “outraged”.
The Russian military satellites – and certainly also the Western ones – did not detect anything, video footage and visits of witnesses in the affected neighborhoods reveal no destruction. But who cares? On February 23rd it is the turn of al Arabiya, another petro-monarchic TV (http://www.ansamed.info/en/libia/news/ME.XEF93179.html;http://www.rainews24. rai.it/en/news.php?newsid=150371): “The repression in Libya has already caused 10 thousand deaths and 55 thousand wounded”. Evidence? None. The source? A “Libyan member of the International Criminal Court, Sayed al Shanuka”, from Paris. But on February 24 comes the denial: “The Court wishes to clarify that this person is not a member of staff nor can he speak on behalf of the Court”. In the same period, a “film from February 22” by One World shows “mass graves”: dead people killed by the government buried on a beach after the massacres ordered by Gaddafi. The Telegraph relaunches the news. Everyone repeats it. Especially in Italy.
However, on 24th it was proven that the video was shot in August 2010 in the Ashat cemetery and it was a normal operation of soil renewal and displacement of remains, customary every 10-20 years. No matter. Peace activists and humanitarians rise up. On February 24, 70 NGOs addressed a petition to Ban Ki Moon, Obama and the EU Minister of Foreign Affairs Ashton. Promoted by Suleiman Bouchuiguir of the Libyan League for Human Rights, by the U.S. organization UN Watch and by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) which is not an NGO but the powerful U.S. organization that under the guise of democracy and human rights destabilizes troublesome regimes (it also played a role in the 2002 anti-Chávez coup in Venezuela). The petition claimed that the Libyan government was committing “crimes against life” and “crimes against humanity”; it called for international action against Libya, “using all possible measures”. The letter was poignant. In July, Bouchuiguir, interviewed in Geneva, (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g_IU0d3WVu0), admited he had no evidence; his source was the NTC, of which he was a member. In March, there were reports of mass rapes ordered by the regime on the part of “Gaddafi’s mercenaries supplied with Viagra”.
Denied by the same UN envoy Cherif Bassiouni in June. Denials confirmed ex-post both by Amnesty and by the report of the UN Commission of Inquiry (February 2012). On February 26 the Security Council passed resolution 1970. On March 3, Tal Ali Zeidan, spokesman for the Libyan League for Human Rights, launched from Paris a new alert: within two weeks there would be 6000 victims of Gaddafi and a “genocide announced” if his “mercenaries” arrived in Benghazi. On March 17 the resolution 1973 of the Cds: no-fly zone and “any action” for the “protection of civilians”. On March 19, French fighter jets began bombing. “Humanitarian,” of course.
Sirte, October 2011. NATO as Seen from Press Conferences
During the bombing of Libya in 2011, NATO held weekly press conferences both in Brussels and at its headquarters in Bagnoli, Naples. Attending were journalists-captains who affectionately and deferentially called the NATO spokeswoman from Brussels (“Oana” Longescu) and the NATO spokesman from Naples (“Roland” Lavoie, a Canadian colonel) by their first names. All it would have taken was a bevy of decent journalists to put them on the spot, because the spokesmen and generals were grasping at straws, so as not to reveal crimes and illegalities. Here’s a straightforward account.
In order to protect civilians in Libya, as the mandate of Security Council Resolution 1973 ordered, NATO should have turned drones and bombs against itself and against its local allies in the NTC (National Transitional Council, the “rebels”): since they used indiscriminate weapons on besieged cities, in particular Sirte and Bani Walid. And even, to stay within the boundaries of its mandate, NATO should have bombed itself and the NTC to avoid attacks on Libyan government forces when these did not threaten civilians.
In fact, the NTC gunmen were the only Libyans that NATO protected, thus allowing them to threaten and kill Libyan (and non-Libyan) civilians. Surreal. NATO protected gunmen (who also threatened civilians) in the name of the Responsibility to Protect that was intended to protect civilians and on which basis “allied” bombings were justified. And NATO protected armed people using warplanes symbolically waving the mandate of resolution 1973 that established the prohibition of air flight, precisely to protect civilians.
Do implicit admissions in a trial count as evidence? If so, here are the NATO ones, collected during the surreal press conferences at the Bagnoli headquarters (in the absence of demonstrations outside of the same, in which to participate), or obtained by email from a “NATO source” (this is how the various captains and graduates, Italians and Americans, male and female, from Naples or Brussels, ask to be referred to when they answer questions).
From NATO headquarters in Naples, Colonel Roland Lavoie spoke for months to loyal media troops in a deceptively innocuous French with a Canadian accent. From headquarters in Brussels, Romanian spokeswoman Oana Longescu – more realistic than the king, embodying the Alliance’s extension to the loyal Eastern European countries – juggled dryly between English and French. Both repeated throughout: we are preventing the “Gaddafi forces” (never used the term “Libyan army”) from striking civilians. The journalists who attend their weekly press conferences from Brussels called them by their affectionate names (French-speakers would pronounce “Oanà”), in keeping with the climate of courtesy and helpfulness that makes them feel accepted in society that they reciprocate by never asking awkward questions, so as not to become pariahs. With glacial silence and no solidarity, the “colleagues” of the mainstream media welcomed the pariah in September and October.
Oana and Roland had been grasping at straws for months. They had to deny the evidence that NATO was fighting for regime change, together with one of the parties.
They claimed several times that there was no coordination with the opposition or rebel forces; that the situation was being closely monitored by “allied information sources in the area”. So, they admit the presence of Westerners on the ground? “There are no NATO forces on the ground,” they answered laconically. By email, NATO officials explained: “Both the officers in charge of identifying and approving the targets and the pilot would abort if there was a suspicion of injuring or killing civilians. In some cases video observation by air would take 50 hours before clearance.” In addition, “we warned civilians with press releases, leaflets and radio programs to stay away from military installations.”
However, civilian installations were often hit. But practically NATO admitted only one case of error: the seven deaths of the Garari family on June 19 in Tripoli, Suq Al Juma.
On August 10, when confronted with the photos of dozens of civilians killed by a NATO aircraft on the night of August 8 in Zliten, Canadian General Charles Bouchard (at the press conferences in Bagnoli the temperature of the air conditioning was kept at 16 degrees) said: “I cannot believe that those civilians were there in the early hours of the morning, considering the information of our intelligence. I can assure you that there were not 85 civilians; I can’t assure you that there weren’t any”. NATO by email reiterated that the buildings were a troop encampment, situated on a farm, and that observation and other intelligence tools had found that there were no civilians”.
Requested by email to NATO: “Why did NATO strike a Gaddafi troop encampment? A night encampment was not threatening civilians at that time.” Response, “Yes they were a real threat. Throughout the conflict, they were resting to launch future attacks and that’s why military staging areas were legitimate targets. They could have caused future casualties. Military forces and their facilities were only attacked if they were directly involved in or allowed the attack on civilians; troops not involved in the attack on civilians were not targeted.” The last sentence contradicts the previous ones. Indeed, Zliten was a pro-government area.
On August 15 they stated that two oil deposits were burning in Brega, “further proof that Gaddafi wanted to destroy or damage key infrastructures that the population would need at the end of the conflict”. On August 16, NATO said that Gaddafi forces “launched a short-range ballistic missile toward the Brega area that could have killed many civilians” and that “shows that the Gaddafi regime is desperate and continued to threaten innocent civilians in Libya. We protect civilians by Security Council mandate and will continue to press pro-Gaddafi forces militarily as long as necessary.” Of course, “NATO’s persistent and cumulative action creates an obvious effect: Gaddafi’s attacking forces are gradually losing their ability to command, conduct, and sustain attacks on civilians.” Armed groups – the only ones protected by NATO in Libya – are therefore always equal to the civilian population.
After all, in Tunisia a leader of the local NATO allies, when confronted with a timid accusation by the media, “you armed groups use the food that the UN allocates to civilians…”, replied: “We are civilians”.
On the other hand, if you tell Lavoie that NATO allies on the ground are killing civilians and are (after the end of the government) hunting blacks and NATO is not protecting those civilians, Lavoie extended his arms: “We are not a police force”. Admission that a bombing cannot protect civilians . And by email, when asked, “How come you don’t protect the deported Tawergha residents and the many blacks persecuted by your allies? And also in general the civilians taken in the besieged areas?”, here is the answer: “We have appealed to both sides for the protection of human rights. The NTC leadership has often asked its forces to restrain themselves. And it has pledged as the new authority to respect human rights; putting that into practice will take time and effort, and help from the international side. While pro-Gaddafi forces attacked civilians and civilian areas NTC forces in many cases waited for civilians to leave before attacking. We have no reports that they were deliberately and systematically attacking civilians.” And where was the evidence of systematic attacks by Gaddafi’s forces?
Partisanship became most evident in the deadly NATO and NTC siege of Sirte. If it was pointed out to Lavoie that the siege of civilians was a war crime, the colonel surreally replied, “The NTC has demonstrated its intention to get the civilian population out.”
As Sirte was being destroyed by bombardment and Grad and heavy artillery used by the NTC gunmen, NATO Colonel Lavoie declared, “Most of the population of Sirte and Bani Walid are no longer in danger because the remaining Gaddafi forces are on the defensive, in an apparent attempt to escape capture. They do not control any densely populated areas and no longer pose a real threat outside of these pockets of resistance.” Threat to whom? For those protected by NATO: the NTC gunmen. But the UN resolution was not meant to protect the armed! When writing to NATO: “It is reported by Libyan humanitarian organizations such as Djebel al Akhdar, that more than fifty civilians have been killed by the bombing of a building collapsed at the corner of Dubai Avenue and Sept. 1st Avenue, and could only have been an airplane given the large crater produced,” the response was “we have no indication that this is true.”
What about the bombing of the Avicenna hospital? “We never bombed hospitals, not even near military sites”. Another question: is NATO investigating the bombing of civilian facilities in Sirte? “Our targets were all military and therefore legitimate under resolution 1973. We acted with caution, discernment and precision. We are not aware of any evidence that would require the opening of a formal investigation.” Also, “NATO’s goal has always been to avoid targeting civilians. We have robust intelligence and very stringent target selection processes. They considered the day of the week, the time of day and night, the direction of the attack. The ammunition was all precision and hundreds of targets were missed to avoid risks to civilians and infrastructure. Even in a complex military operation the risks cannot be eliminated”.
Sirte destroyed, NATO explained: “It was Gaddafi’s last bastion. It was contested for weeks between Gaddafians and NTC.” And here the surreal occurs: “NATO encouraged a peaceful solution. But the forces of the former regime had to lay down their arms and stop attacking civilians”. In short, they should have surrendered and facilitated the regime change instead of hindering it.
Pro-NATO NTC rebels launch Grad missiles inside besieged cities, and they admit it. They are considered an indiscriminate weapon, therefore a threat to civilians, by the Alliance itself; NATO clung to the use of Grad by the former Libyan army, and to the siege of Misrata, in all the past months to justify the “protective” bombings and related massacres. Regarding the use of Grad by the NTC, NATO replied via email (not), demonstrating all the neutrality flaunted by Oana: “From the beginning the NTC has taken every care to avoid civilian casualties and we believe it will continue to do so.” Perhaps NATO intelligence was selective and did not see the NTC Grad, nor the hunt for black Libyans and foreigners and loyalists.
Surreal statements. While Gaddafi’s forces are on the run and concentrating in the triangle where they have stronger popular support, the spokesman on September 13 said that “by occupying and repressing cities like Bani Walid and Sirte, Gaddafi’s forces have taken the population hostage, exposing them to obvious risks, suppressing the uprising and preventing citizens from leaving.” Evident double standards compared to Misrata, or Homs and Aleppo and many other places in Syria, where rebels are never accused of taking hostages. “NATO managed to intercept and annihilate several sources of threat to the civilian population, including tanks, missile launchers, etc.; NATO vehicles conducted several strike missions well into the Sahara Desert to destroy command and control infrastructure, a self-propelled unit and several armored vehicles thereby preventing the strengthening of regime positions in the north of the country.”
Then he summarized citing 1973: “In the last six months NATO forces have maintained a constant pace of operations, intervening wherever Gaddafi’s forces posed a threat to civilians, whether in Benghazi, Misrata, Sebha, in the south or in many other cities and villages throughout the country”.
Proving its impartiality, NATO concluded a press conference on September 13 by saying “The recovery of Libya is well understood and leaves no room for doubt.”
The siege in Sirte had made a humanitarian situation desperate. From the hospital – also hit by rockets – Dr. Abdullah Hmaid told Reuters that patients were dying for lack of hospital supplies and asked the International Red Cross and WHO to help break the blockade. But no international organization reported the siege. Yet at the press conference of September 27, Colonel Lavoie from Naples reiterated that the emergency in Sirte was solely “the fault of Gaddafi’s militiamen and mercenaries” who did not understand that they should “surrender” and “placed themselves near houses and hospitals using civilians as human shields”. An accusation that the Alliance its member countries have never addressed to the rebels barricaded in Misrata or, later, in BabaAmr in Syria. By definition, human shields are used only by the bad guys.
Also by email NATO implicitly reiterated that it had left it up to the besieging allies, and blamed the besieged. In another email: “Pro-Gaddafi people were hiding in the center of the city trying to use civilians as human shields against the NTC. The humanitarian situation in Sirte was precipitated by efforts by Gaddafi troops to control access points. Pro-Gaddafi checkpoints and snipers were preventing families from moving to quieter areas. Gaddafi forces also roamed the streets looking for anti-Gaddafi supporters, taking hostages and carrying out executions.” How did you know this when you had no military on the ground? “We didn’t have observers on the ground but we used our intelligence and surveillance assets to get a true picture. We would carefully monitor the front lines to identify who was attacking or threatening the population.” It was obviously impossible to monitor from 10,000 meters. So?
On September 21, the commander for NATO operations in Libya Charles Bouchard explained that “our mission continues, because Gaddafi’s forces are still threatening the population”; he “invited the loyalists to surrender to ensure a peaceful end to the conflict, also because they are surrounded and have no way of escape, as the territory around them is in the hands of the rebels”. As for the fleeing loyalists, NATO would not attack them because “they are moving away from the population and thus do not pose a threat to civilians.” But it was NATO that stopped Gaddafi’s fleeing convoy and therefore killed him.
Translation by Internationalist 360°