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Monday, February 16, 2015

#Libya: Hailed as a Model Journalist Glenn Greenwald Proves to be the Exact Opposite

Before Glenn Greenwald ever joined and quit The Guardian, its summary of NATO's Operation Unified Protector reported, 31 October 2011, that the combined military forces from the US, UK, France, Italy, Canada, Sweden, Spain, Turkey, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Netherlands, Jordan, UAE, Qatar, Romania, Bulgaria and Greece had hit over 3,000 targets in Libya, including 304 ammunition dumps, 100 tanks and 55 rocket launchers. In addition:
Nato ships have also stopped over 3,000 vessels and boarded another 250 while enforcing the arms embargo.
I assume Greenwald & Company also opposed this rarely mentioned arms interdiction role NATO played in overthrowing Qaddafi. In their not so humble opinion, the "Hands Off Libya" crowd would have preferred it if Qaddafi's still active air force was able to be freely resupplied with bombs and spare parts from whoever was willing to trade stolen Libyan oil for Libyan blood and make the arms dealers' profit using Putin's line-of-credit when Qaddafi's cash ran out. They would've preferred it if Libya was still suffering as Syria is today with a death toll many times the 30,000 it took to defeat Qaddafi, because, make no mistake about it, the Libyan people are no more willing continue kneeling before a fascist dictator than the Syrian people are. So the alternative to NATO intervention in Libya was not the "peaceful and progressive" Libya of some people's fantasies. It is Syria today.

We can debate whether more than 30,000 Libyans would have met with a violent end had that world intervention not taken place, just as we can debate whether 200,000 Syrians are really dead. For some people it doesn't matter because it is not about them. Its about US. Its about the Western world, and its about scoring points for our side in political debates that see "those" countries as stages for our political dramas and "those" people as the replaceable "extras" that every "shoot" requires. Doing that with present-day Libya means replacing the real history of recent events with Western Left caricatures and fantasies. This is far from the field of journalism but it is exactly where Glenn Greenwald has wandered in his latest rant against "our own imperialist" using the Libya playhouse:

Hailed as a Model for Successful Intervention,
Libya Proves to be the Exact Opposite
16 February 2015
When Saddam Hussein was captured in 2003 by U.S. forces, Iraq War advocates boastfully celebrated the event as proof that they were right and used it to mock war opponents (Joe Lieberman and John Kerry, for instance, gleefully exploited the event to demand that Howard Dean admit his war opposition was wrong). When Muammar Gaddafi was forced by NATO bombing in August, 2011 to flee Tripoli,

So in Greenwald's learned opinion, only NATO bombing explains Qaddafi's overthrow. Unlike Greenwald, my same-day description didn't give NATO all the credit:
Shortly after nightfall in Tripoli Saturday night the Libyan liberation army encircling Tripoli combined with an uprising by freedom fighters and protesters inside of the city and NATO air support in Operation Mermaid Dawn, the final battle to liberate Tripoli and with it, the entire country of Libya from Qaddafi's 42 year dictatorship. Many people are dying tonight as Qaddafi forces are shelling parts of Tripoli at the same time DSL [The Internet connectivity that was so vital to my ability to cover these real-time events.] is coming back on in other sections.
Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, then head of the National Transitional Council told Al Jazeera:
“We planned this operation with NATO, our Arab associates and our rebel fighters in Tripoli with commanders in Benghazi.”
After a week of gathering reports and assembling the facts, I summarized:
The campaign that routed Qaddafi's Tripoli defenses in a few days was masterful! First there were the coordinated campaigns in the west coming down from the Nafusah Mountains and from in the east, west of Misrata, then the convergence on Tripoli via three major roads, from the west, east and south, together with an amphibious landing of a brigade from Misrata and the uprising by secret forces already in Tripoli. It was a brilliant victory. It showed great unity and coordination by freedom fighters from separate parts of Libya and the leadership of their command staff in spite of the assassination of their chief of staff, most likely by Qaddafi agents, only weeks before. It will go down in military history as a classic victory.
This victory wasn't all about NATO bombing. Probably the most important NATO role was providing naval transport and support for the amphibious assault from Misrata. But nevermind about that. In Greenwald's world these Libyans don't exist. They have no agency and aren't worth mentioning except as puppets and you certainly don't credit puppets along with the puppeteers. Greenwald continues:

advocates of U.S. intervention played the same game ...

Once Gadaffi was brutally killed by a mob,

If this was about Libyans and not about US, the victorious Libyan revolutionaries wouldn't be referred to as "a mob" and Qaddafi wouldn't be the first brutally killed Libyan mentioned. There would the untold thousands disappeared during his regime - they are still finding mass graves in the desert - the 1270 massacred in a day in Abu Salim prison, the 700 protesters in Green Square killed the long night of 21 February 2011 in Tripoli and maybe 2000 shot down in Benghazi before that. Certainly Libyans would acknowledge the roughly 30,000 lives it cost them to be rid of him. Most were killed by Qaddafi. Nobody who's looked at the facts says NATO bombing killed more than 75 civilians they weren't aiming at, not the New York Times, Human Rights Watch or the United Nations. But this ain't about Libyans, so we'll mourn the passing of Qaddafi first.

Does Greenwald consider how people in Libya felt about the death of Qaddafi?

advocates of intervention threw a giddy party for themselves, celebrating their own rightness and righteousness and declaring Libya a model for future western interventions.

Does anyone else get the feeling that Greenwald is not talking about the mass celebrations that broke out in Martyr's Square, until recently Qaddafi's Green Square, or all over Libya upon news of his departure? And I'll bet Greenwald wasn't thinking about Libyan followers of this blog that for the first time ever felt safe enough to start using their real names.

He can't admit to that or to the cheers that greeted NATO bombing from Tripoli rooftops [video]. Glenn Greenwald continues:

Upon Gadaffi’s fleeing, The New York Times, which editorially supported the war, published a front-page article declaring: “U.S. Tactics in Libya May be a Model for Other Efforts.” While acknowledging that “it would be premature to call the war in Libya a complete success for United States interests,”

Naturally, since the New York Times is the biggest bourgeois paper in the US, its criteria for a good outcome in any foreign land is what's best for "United States interests." Is this also the POV of Greenwald? Because the New York Times may well argue, or has argued in the past, that its best for US interests if some countries are ruled by a Qaddafi or an Assad no matter how many brutal murders have to go unmentioned. To continue with the Greenwald piece:

the paper noted that events had given “Obama’s senior advisers a chance to claim a key victory for an Obama doctrine for the Middle East that had been roundly criticized in recent months as leading from behind.”

The reason Obama "had been roundly criticized in recent months as leading from behind,” is that the US played such a minor role in the battle to overthrown Qaddafi. In the first place, to give proper credit, it was the Libyans that did the really heavy lifting and all of the ground combat. Then in terms of air support, NATO strike missions carried out by France, Britain, Italy and others played a bigger role. As I reported in July 2011:
AFRICOM spokeswoman Nicole Dalrymple said in a statement on June 29th. “As of today, and since 31 March, the U.S. has flown a total of 3,475 sorties in support of OUP. Of those, 801 were strike sorties, 132 of which actually dropped ordnance.” That was only 16.1% of the 4,963 strike sorties conducted by NATO as of June 29th with a total of 132 targets being hit.
So in the crucial first five months of the struggle to overthrow Qaddafi, US warplanes actually "dropped ordinances" to use the Pentagon euphemism, a paltry 132 times. Given, the sole Superpower status of the US, some might call that hiding in the rear, rather than leading from it. To give you a number to compare that with, between the beginning of the US air campaign against the Islamic State in August 2014 and 15 January 2015, the "allies" have carried out over 16,000 strike sorties, 60% were carried out by the US Air Force and 40% were carried out by "the US Navy and allied nations," according DefenseNews.

It could have been just a baker's dozen NATO air strikes against Qaddafi, that would have been 13 more than Obama has carried out against Assad, but that still would have been enough to allow the US Left to declare the Libyan people puppets and their revolution a NATO-backed regime change scheme.

Once the fighting stopped, the Pentagon wanted to come forward and take credit for heroic deeds, and of course, the shills of the Left like Greenward were there to help them make the story stick.

Maybe Greenwald has taken a page from the ANSWER Coalition because the rest of his piece reminded me of "No Libyans Allowed!" It reads like a who's who of Western players ..."Anne-Marie Slaughter and Nick Kristof"..."British and French leaders" ... "American and Canadian officials"..."Hillary Clinton" and so on.

Greenwald sees the conflict in Libya as very similar to the US War on Iraq. It matters little that one was started by the Libyan people and the other was started by George Bush. Greenwald is also far more concerned about whether the US participation in this UN sanctioned coalition of 19 countries was legal under US law than he is about the aerial slaughter averted in Libya.

He notes that both Iraq and Libya are a mess today. Another way to say that is that both war and revolution are messy. Greenwald probably thinks that both should be avoided. That's the main point upon which we differ. I think the heroic Libyan effort to throw off the Qaddafi dictatorship was entirely within their rights to make. I also think that they had the right to ask for international assistance. The question at the heart of the difference between Glenn Greenward and myself is the answer to the question of whether the international community, through the instrument of NATO, should have answered in the affirmative that request for assistance. It was never NATO's war to start so it was never NATO's war to end. The proper situation to compare Libya to is not Iraq, where NATO started a war; it is Syria, where NATO has claimed no responsibility to protect. The main question Greenwald should be addressing in this piece is: Would Libya be better off now if it was more like Syria today? Because last I heard, bad as it is in Libya, nobody is dropping barrel bombs on the people from helicopters.

Greenwald proclaims:

The unraveling of Libya is now close to absolute.

Greenwald blames NATO for helping to create this situation and then just going home and taking no responsibility even though that is precisely what NATO signed on to do. They had no mandate to organized a replacement Libyan state or even put boots on the ground. Their mandate was to protect Libyan civilians as long as Qaddafi was trying to kill them. Qaddafi was trying to kill them until the day he died but that day marked the end of the NATO mandate.

Greenwald & Company sound like their new complaint about this NATO enterprise is that it wasn't imperialist enough. NATO didn't go in and set up a proper colonial administration. Instead they just flew off into the sunset. That's why it's all their fault! After all, Greewald can hardly claim that after bombing Qaddafi out of power, the US is secretly running things. The CIA in Libya has been an absolute embarrassment.

No, the mess the Libyans are in is one they have made, 90%, themselves and one they are going to have to dig themselves out of. NATO had no mandate to fix the social effects of four decades of dictatorship. Just because you save someone's life, that doesn't make you responsible for them thereafter.

What occasions all this "I told you so" cackling by Greenwald about the current dire straits of the Libyan people is the recent killing of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians by Egyptian jihadists living in Libya [source BBC WorldNews this evening] who claim to be members of the Islamic State. Historically, struggles in neighboring countries have often spilled over into Libya. One look at the map of Africa will show you why. Libya is almost twice the size of Egypt but compared to Egypt's 79 million people, Libya has about 6 million bunched up along the coast. A lot of Libya is pretty empty and hard for any central government to control. Qaddafi would simply send in helicopter gunships to settle tribal disputes in the outlands, but Libya is trying to move beyond that now.

The gist of this latest Greenwald piece is essentially: You overthrew Qaddafi. So now you have ISIS. Now see what you've done! He conveniently over looks any connection between the rise of the Islamists in Libya and the remnants of the Qaddafi regime. There is a lot of evidence that regime money and military expertise has played an important role in the rise of the jihadists in Libya just as it has in Iraq and Syria. It may be no accident that those Coptic Christians were abducted and murdered in Sirte, the old Qaddafi stronghold. I'm sure Greenwald remembers how Qaddafi's son Saif al-Islam declared allegiance to the Islamists and warned that the final outcome of the civil war in Libya might be an "Islamic State" just a few weeks before the fall of Tripoli? They wrote about it in the Guardian.

Greenwald sees the biggest problem with ISIS in Libya is that it is so close to Europe, again it's not about them:

Into the void of Libya’s predictable disintegration has stepped ISIS,
Far from serving as a model, this Libya intervention should severely discredit the core selling point of so-called “humanitarian wars.”

Oh, most assuredly! Syria, that non-interventionist masterpiece, also known as the greatest humanitarian crisis of the 21st century, also the real center of ISIS development, not some piss ant Egyptian jihadists imitating them in the Libyan desert, Syria! That's the model we should use going forward!

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Libya

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