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Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Libya: The Psy-ops War
July 5th, 2011 by Syd Walker

Is it a war in Libya? Or a war against Libya?
Is it really – in truth – a war at all?
Is the whole thing an an Orwellian nightmare in which peace means war, just as ‘humanitarian’ now seems to mean ‘murderous’? Have all the old landmarks of our social reality been up-ended? Are we living in a psychotic version of Alice’s Looking-Glass land?

Horrific Civilian Casualties

There’s no doubt it’s a war if you’re living in Tripoli, Libya’s capital and most populous city.
NATO has been bombing nightly for more than 100 days, sometimes in daylight hours too. Imagine what that does to a population, if you can. The noise, bangs, flashes, wailing sirens, constant anxiety, sleepless nights and weary days.
The ever-changing coterie of western journalists safely ensconced in Tripoli’s Rixos Hotel – a name that shall go down in infamy as host to the highest density of lying shysters in African history – routinely reassure us that it’s (almost) all been ‘humanitarian bombing’, using ‘smart bombs’. Occasionally, a single incident like the murder of Ghadafi‘s own grandchildren disturbs their mantra. But overall, according to theRixos crowd, civilian casualties caused by NATO bombing have been low, very low.
Now, for the first time, comprehensive figures have been published. Franklin Lamb reported on them in his Counterpunch article Countdown to Invasion. They make shocking reading. Typically, there’s been virtually no reporting about this in the western mainstream media. Here’s the scoop:
At ten a.m. Tripoli time on 6/28/11 the Libyan Ministry of Health made available to this observer its compilation entitled “Current Statistics Of Civilian Victims Of Nato Bombardments On Libya, (3/19/11-6/27/11).
Before releasing their data, which will be made public this afternoon, it was confirmed by the findings of the Libyan Red Crescent Society and also by civil defense workers in the neighborhoods bombed, and then vetted by researchers at Tripoli’s Nassar University.
As of July 1, 2011, military casualties have not been officially released by the Libyan armed forces.
In summary, the MOH compilation documents that during the first 100 days of NATO targeting of civilians, 6121 were killed or injured. The statistical breakdown is as follows:  3093 Men were injured and 668 were killed. Women killed number 260 and 1318 injured. Children killed number 141 and 641 injured.
Of those seriously injured 655 are still under medical care in hospitals while 4,397 have been released to their families for outpatient care.
After a NATO bombing strike: a scene in Tripoli
After a NATO bombing strike: a scene in Tripoli
Remember, these figures are civilians only. Let’s give NATO the benefit of the doubt and assume they really are killing and maiming a substantially higher number of Libyan armed forces, as opposed to civilians. That suggests a total casualty rate in the tens of thousands.
Libya’s population is only in the order of six million. Many families must alreadybe suffering personal tragedy resulting directly from NATO’s remorseless bombing. A frighteningly high proportion of the population. And the bombing continues…
Then there are casualties of other kinds. They are even harder to guage.
There are rebels who perish or otherwise come to harm at the hands of Ghadafi‘s soldiers. We have some idea of their numbers from journalists on the rebel side of the lines. Certainly the hospitals in Misrata and Benghazi are grossly overstretched.
But there are other categories of war victim too. The best-known of these, believe it or not, is quite likely a mythical invention. Others we can only guess at.

The Myth of Ghadafi‘s Atrocities

The warmongers’ great con – primarily especially back in February and March yet continuing to this day – was  to focus world attention, through the prism of a more than a willing mass media machine – on a category of Libyan ‘victim’ that almost certainly didn’t really exist.
I refer to the very large numbers of civilians allegedly slain by government armed forces (or ‘Ghadafi forces’ as the media prefers to say). The enormous kerfuffle kicked up about these ‘civilian casualties’ is what, after all, constituted the entire rationale for the two successive UN resolutions that paved the way for western sanctions and NATO bombing. To this day, the official war mantra in Washington, London and Paris remains that the bombing is needed to “stop Ghadafi murdering his own citizens”.
Yet as weeks turned into months – and now after more than three bloody months of bombing – evidence for Ghadafi’s alleged atrocities has become weaker, not stronger. Amnesty International’s observer Donatella Rovera is on the record as doubting the initial claims. Here’s what Patrick Cockburn reported, again in Counterpunch, only last week, in an article primarily debunking allegations of rape against government troops – see Amnesty Questions Claim That Gaddafi Ordered Rape as Weapon of War:
Nato intervention started on  March 19 with air attacks to protect people in Benghazi from massacre by advancing pro-Gaddafi troops. There is no doubt that civilians did expect to be killed after threats of vengeance from Gaddafi. During the first days of the uprising in eastern Libya, security forces shot and killed demonstrators and people attending their funerals, but there is no proof of mass killing of civilians on the scale of Syria or Yemen.
Most of the fighting during the first days of the uprising was in Benghazi, where 100 to 110 people were killed, and the city of Baida to the east, where 59 to 64 were killed, says Amnesty. Most of these were probably protesters, though some may have obtained weapons.
Amateur videos show some captured Gaddafi supporters being shot dead and eight badly charred bodies were found in the remains of the military headquarters in Benghazi, which may be those of local boys who disappeared at that time.
There is no evidence that aircraft or heavy anti-aircraft machine guns were used against crowds. Spent cartridges picked up after protesters were shot at came from Kalashnikovs or similar caliber weapons.
The Amnesty findings confirm a recent report by the International Crisis Group, which found that while the Gaddafi regime had a history of brutally repressing opponents, there was no question of “genocide”.
The report adds that “much Western media coverage has from the outset presented a very one-sided view of the logic of events, portraying the protest movement as entirely peaceful and repeatedly suggesting that the regime’s security forces were unaccountably massacring unarmed demonstrators who presented no security challenge”.
In other words… just about the entire pretext for outside intervention in Libya is discredited…
Not that any of these inconvenient doubts inhibited the International Criminal Court’s prosecutor and its ridiculous court of judges from getting arrest warrants underway against Muhammar Ghadafi and his son Saif. Uncritical mass media coverage of that legal circus, which Lewis Carroll and Eric Blair would both have appreciated, certainly helped bolster the myth of the murdered civilians.
Happily, the ICC is now a busted flush. No-one takes it seriously any more. At its meeting in early July, the entire African Union effectively told it to get stuffed. That’s a problem for the ICC, because so far it has only prosecuted Africans – a record suggesting a level of racial bias that makes US Drug Enforcement authorities look positively enlightened.
Amnesty itself hasn’t really helped to get the crucial truth out to the world about the falsity of the anti-Ghadafi atrocity allegation. Although Donatella Rovera provided crucially important information to Patrick Cockburn for his article, to my knowledge she’s done no other media on the story and there’s still nothing about it on Amnesty’s website. All of the items attributed to Donatella Rovera on Amnesty’s website regarding Libya are anti-Ghadafi, and in general, Amnesty continues to pump out anti-Ghadafi stories, along with its evil twin Human Rights WatchEver since the ‘crisis’ began in February both of them, on the subject of Libya, have served like branches of the US State Department.
Perhaps there’s a debate going on within Amnesty and Human Rights Watch? I certainly hope so. Continue on their present course and both will fast be as discredited in the public mind as the ICC and we’ll be mourning yet another good idea, subverted by the cryptocracy, worthy only for the dustbin of history…
Like international law, human rights organisations are very badly needed and should be strengthened and supported. But they must tell the truth. They must be impartial. A lying, impartial ‘human rights’ organisation is more dangerous than none at all. HRW & Amnesty have both been heavily partisan so far in the Libyan conflict.  With the notable exception reported by Cockburn, Amnesty and HRW’s reports about the conflict have dovetailed nicely with anti-Ghadafi commentary emanating from the western mainstream media and their gaggle of associated ‘rebels’ and spooks. All these ‘voices’, one might say, have been singing from the same songbook. The song has been: ‘Ghadafi must go’. After 100 days, it sounds more and more like a stuck record.

The unmentioned victims of human rights abuses

There’s another category of ‘war victim’ in Libya – and it’s barely mentioned at all in mainstream commentary about the war. Every now and again the western media do mention that people are dying at the hands of the rebels . Occasionally, we hear that not all the circumstances might be fully above board. Then there’s a polite (virtual) cough – and zero follow up.
But the stories of rebel atrocities haven’t gone away over the course of the conflict, They’ve multiplied. Rumours abound about horrific crimes committed by the rebels. There appears to be very graphic evidence of some of these. Yet Human Rights Watch and Amnesty have been largely silent on the subject.
A public hanging in Benghazi
A public hanging in Benghazi: this is effectively what the west is supporting...
It is a reasonable inference that Ghadafi supporters and suspected supporters in areas under rebel control are in dire danger.
The rebels, who scarcely try to disguise the fact that they’re a bloodthirsty lot,  have grudges, zeal and weapons. At the same time. the human rights industry just isn’t too interested in what the rebels get up to – not as long as they keep it quiet. Every now and again the rebels do something silly – like a public hanging that’s actually recorded on video and posted on Youtube. That must be embarrassing for the Amnesty and Human Rights Watch staff, because it makes their silence stand out like dogs-balls.
If ever the history of these times is written with accuracy, I suspect it will record some truly appalling crimes were committed by rebels against civilians (an unarmed Ghadafi supporter is a civilian too, whatever they think). Historians will, I hope, note the irony that while the war was launched on the basis of preventing atrocities against civilians on grounds that proved largely bogus – it paved the way for real atrocities, the worst of which went largely unreported.

Future victims?

There’s one more ‘category of victim’ that needs to be remembered: future victims.
Even if the bombing stops today, the population will be years recovering. Many Libyans are wounded and in need of treatment. Thousands will be crippled for life. The children of Libya must be traumatised. Infrastructure is in ruins. Prosperity has been turned into misery and struggle.
Then there’s the longer term future.
NATO isn’t telling, so we just don’t know to what extent if at all it’s been using Depleted Uranium in Libya. If not, it’s something of a first in recent times during NATO bombing sprees. If it has, the environment of Libya has also been poisoned and tragic consequences of this war may continue for generations to come.

So – is it a war?

In his tussle with Congress over continued funding for the Libya war, President Obama apparently overruled some of his own senior legaladvisors with the argument that the level of hostilities in Libya don’t really merit the term ‘war’. It enabled him to claim that compliance with the War Powers Act was not obligatory in the case of Libya.
Obama was widely – and rightly – criticized for this at the time. It’s absurd and grossly offensive to suggest that 5,000+ deadly bombing raids are ‘below the threshold’ for war. One wonders if even George Bush would have had the audacity to hope he could get away with such nonsense.
Yet there’s a sense in which Obama’s right – it isn’t really a war, any more than Israel’s assault on Gaza in 2009 was really a war. From the perspective of the American, British and French military, it’s much more like a turkey shoot than a real conflict. To the mostly slumbering populations of those countries, it’s a remote conflict largely administered by remote-control operators. “At least our boys aren’t getting shot!” is the self-satisfied refrain.
As for the so-called ground war, it’s quite unclear what’s really been going on. If a tenth of the rebel claims were true, they’d already be in Tripoli liberating the few remaining poseurs at the Rixos. But it seems they have been substantially untrue. The rebels’ progress has been slow and often fiercely resisted. There have been reversals as well as gains.
It’s also quite unclear what it really feels like for the population caught in the cross fire. To state the obvious, it must be terrifying. That’s a given. But do most of the people really welcome the rebels, as rebel propagandists claim? Are they actually relieved when areas come back under Government control – as the government claims? Without honest, accurate reporting, its very hard to know. My sense is that there’s an almost complete dearth of honest, credible reporting  from the contested areas.
Where government control is secure – as in Tripoli, there’s really no question that support for the current government is buoyant. A few months ago, we were often told by western media that Ghadafi had to pay supporters to demonstrate in his favour. That silly line has been quietly dropped in recent times. The remarkable July 1st demonstration, featuring a crowd that must surely have exceeded a million proudly displaying a 4.5 kilometre Libyan flag – has surely put the myth of Ghadafi‘s isolation to rest for all time. Obama, Cameron and Sarkozy can only dream of rallies that size in their support. Obama had big crowds prior to his election – but complicity with the Zionist war lobby and banking industry since taking office has tarnished the mass support he once enjoyed.
At any rate, the core narrative spun by western politicians and media talking heads at the beginning of the conflict is now exposed as a blatant lie. Civilians in the capital, at the very least, are in no need of rescue from a crazed leader intent on their destruction – not unless that leader be Obama, Cameron or Sarkosy. Far from falling apart, public support for Ghadafi appears to be increasing.
Allied Bombing of Northern Germany, World War Two
British saturation bombing of a German city, World War Two
This should be no surprise to students of modern wars. A faction in British bomber command was quite convinced that German public morale would crumble under saturation bombing, causing the German public to reject its government long before the end of the Second World War. Yet bombing far more terrible than what has yet been visited on Libya failed to dislodge the great bulk of the German people from supporting their government. Proud, resourceful people don’t cower and give up when attacked. They fight back and support their authorities more – not less – because all suffer together from a common, external enemy that from a terrestrial vantage point shows no mercy whatsoever.
Of course, comparisons with the Second World War shouldn’t be pushed too far. In other respects this is a war that’s quintessentially different in kind from that monstrous earlier cataclysm.
During the Second World War there were plenty of false reports, smoke and mirrors. But most of the time there was rough consensus about who was fighting where. As the fronts moved, so did the maps that people saw in newspapers, whether in Britain, Germany or Russia.
But that was a ‘normal’ war by contemporary standards. Libya, by contrast, is a post-modern war. It’s a war that’s largely in the mind. Sure, ‘real war’ is actually happening too, somewhere . But no-one seems quite sure where.
In the first few weeks I recall seeing occasional sketch-maps purporting to delineate the areas controlled by the troops of either side. But such maps have become less frequent over time. For the most part, the ‘war’ is portrayed as a series of disconnected verbal narratives, accompanied by photos and/or video footage. We’re told that such and such a town has been ‘liberated’ by the rebels, or that Ghadafi forces have regained control of so and so. But the main thing that seems clear is that since March, Tripoli is on the side of the current government, while Beghazi is ‘securely’ under rebel control. Even that is not entirely clear; there’s clearly residual support for Ghadafi in the west of Libya, which under current conditions is unlikely to be out in the open. On the other hand, reports of anti-Government sentiment within Tripoli may also not be entirely manufactured by western media.
Of course, the African Union proposal, accepted (along with all other previous AU mediation attempts) by the Government, but rejected by the ‘Transitional National Council’ would help establish exactly what the people really do think – and who they’d prefer to be governed by. Saif Ghadafi, in a recent interview, argued for supervised elections. But the rebels have said no – again. They demand that Ghadafi (and Saif) must ‘leave’ before they’ll negotiate. They repeat the regicidal demand of the vast crowds of Tahrir in the run-up to Murbarak’s demise. But unlike those crowds of Egyptian youth, they have no moral or popular authority. They are not predominantly non-violent protesters. They are not in vast numbers. They never were. In essence, they are armed insurrectionists. If a politician like Mustafa Abdul Jalil ever had a chance of getting elected in fair elections to the highest office in Libya, he’s certainly blown it now by colluding with NATO in the brutal bombing of their own country and generally creating havoc.
And that highlights two more looking-glass-style  ironies of this war that isn’t really a war. It’s supposedly about ejecting an unpopular dictatorship that isn’t really an unpopular dictatorship – and its supposedly in favour of democrats… who aren’t, in point of fact, keen on democracy at all.

The Psy-Ops War

The indistinct, confused, patchwork-like nature of the war front would make little sense if the armed contest in Libya was a war in anything like the conventional sense of the word ‘war’.
But view the war as largely a psy-op and it makes more sense. Here’s my attempt to analyse the confusion, for what it’s worth.
Most of Libya, I suspect, is still really under government control. But the government’s grip has been weakened – first by the shock of a successful insurrection in some locations, revolts that seemed to come from nowhere and developed very fast – then by a sustained bombing campaign by NATO that has impeded the government’s ability to regain its hold over territories, especially in the east, and bring them back under law and order.
Rebels stage raids of towns and settlements – then pull back under fire. But their attackers are often bombed by NATO – enabling the insurgents to make another spurt, gaining new ground or retaking forfeited territory. Broadly speaking, the west is in Government control and the coastal east in ‘rebel’ control. But there are exceptions. The ‘rebels’ have no chance of ever capturing Tripoli, whose heavily-armed population would simply slaughter them. By contrast, Government forces do have good prospects of taking back territory it lost, probably including Benghazi, quite possibly with the support of a significant proportion of the population. But the government can’t take back its own territory without incurring appalling losses while under sustained NATO bombardment.
So it is that the ‘war’ drags on, with increasingly gruesome carnage all round.
This is a war to the extent that a lot of people are getting killed and injured. It’s a war from the perspective of the weapons industry. It’s certainly an economic black hole for almost everyone affected – and it’s a growing human and environmental catastrophe.
But most fundamentally, I think, the Libya War of 2011 is a kind of psy-op. It’s a manufactured conflict to achieve ulterior objectives that aren’t openly stated. It was devised, and is being driven, by very powerful behind-the-scenes-forces that won’t openly reveal their identity or agenda.
Insofar as it’s a war, it’s a war based on lies from the outset – and it can only be sustained by more lies. It is not an equal contest, but a deliberately protracted insurgency by foreign-backed rebels with little popular support (less every day). The stated reasons for the NATO bombing are absurd. In fact, these bombings are a most horrific and quite systematic crime against an entire nation – the nation that, until this assault, had clawed its way in four decades to having the highest UNDP Human Development Index ranking in Africa, including the lowest infant mortality and highest life expectancy.
Tripoli pro-government demonstration, July 1st
Tripoli pro-government demonstration, July 1st. A million or more on the streets?
If Gahdafi is such a villainous leader that he must be expunged from his nation by cruise missiles and drones then few African leaders are safe. Who’s next for a sentence of death, imperiously issued from a formerly friendly western capital? Which country will the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation bomb next? (given it seems to have lost any sense of where the North Atlantic is actually situated)
Leaders assembled last weekend for the African Union meeting no doubt had the fate of Ghadafi high in their minds – and gave hints, for once, that they could behave like a pride of lions if provoked beyond reason by the North Atlantic imperial beast. They rejected the jurisdiction of the ICC. They demanded NATO’s bombing ends. Zuma has since been in Moscow. There’s a chance the peace lobby will assert itself more forcibly than before.
A key goal for peace activists must be to dislodge the wicked co-conspirators who promoted this latest war from their hapless, passive-repeater followers. The latter are people who generally wouldn’t support what the west is doing in Libya if they properly understood what it was. The media, needless to say, is not our friend. Much persuasion must be done in person to person ‘combat’.
Widespread understanding of the horrible deceptions behind the attack on Libya would shrink public support for the NATO attack to the point where politicians will be forced to back down, call off the dogs of war, stop pretending they can impose leadership on Africa and give peace another chance.

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