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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Libya Myth used by Trump, Bolton and Amy Goodman to blow up peace talks with North Korea

Originally titled "Trump, Bolton and Amy Goodman on North Korea and the Libya Myth" Updated 24 May 2018

Two days ago I published this under the title above. Since then the promotion of this American fantasy about who really overthrew Muammar Gaddafi and why, has moved the world closer to thermonuclear war as the fracas around these comments leads to the cancellation of the scheduled 12 June denuclearization talks. Yesterday The New York Times reported:
The North Korean official who issued the warning singled out Vice President Mike Pence for remarks that she called “ignorant and stupid.” In an interview broadcast on Monday on Fox News, Mr. Pence warned that North Korea’s government could end up like that of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, the former Libyan leader.
...
In a statement carried by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency on Thursday, the North Korean official, Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui, referred to “unlawful and outrageous acts” by top American officials and said that Mr. Pence had made “unbridled and impudent remarks that North Korea might end like Libya.”
...
“As a person involved in the U.S. affairs, I cannot suppress my surprise at such ignorant and stupid remarks gushing out from the mouth of the U.S. vice president,” Ms. Choe said. “In case the U.S. offends against our good will and clings to unlawful and outrageous acts, I will put forward a suggestion to our supreme leadership for reconsidering the D.P.R.K.-U.S. summit.”
Trump respond to this in a letter this morning:
Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel it is inappropriate at this time, to have this long-planned meeting.
So now this Libya Myth, popularized by pundits on both the Right and the Left, has brought the world closer to nuclear war. Fantasies have consequences!


As Arabs started rising up all over the Middle East and North Africa in the early months of 2011, a Libyan majority joined together in a successful effort to overthrow the brutal 42 year dictatorship of Muammar Gaddafi. When he started using his air force to attack unarmed civilians, the UN sanctioned a no-fly zone, and NATO, for reasons that weren't entirely humanitarian, stepped up to enforce it. While NATO itself never put forces on the ground, it's clear Gaddafi never would have been defeated in less than a year without its air support. In the end, Muammar Gaddafi, the "Brother Leader" that had murdered hundreds of thousands in the Libya desert, was killed by his own people after he was caught fleeing from Sirte.

In the years since then, a kind of mythology has developed around what exactly happen in Libya and the role of US imperialism in causing it. In the US, this mythology has both Right and Left variants, although they share a great deal of unity. Both variants give little or no credit to the Libyan people for the toppling of Gaddafi. If they are mentioned at all, it is as agents of others. All the credit, or blame for this "regime change" operation is given to the US imperialists. Both see it as an example of US military might in the service of regime change. While the Right takes credit for ousting Gaddafi in all his badness; the Left blames the US for the sorry state of affairs in Libya today.

In the past few weeks this Libya Myth has been mashalled by both the Right and the Left in the North Korean discussions. So it has been on full display. This began on Sunday, 29 April 2018, when Trump's new hawk, John Bolton, told Chris Wallace on Fox News what North Korean denuclearization means to him:
"We have very much in mind the Libya model from 2003, 2004." 
And just to be clear, he repeated himself on "Face the Nation," CBS News:
"I think that's right. I think we're looking at the Libya model of 2003, 2004."
North Korea responded to Bolton's bluster by putting disarmament talks in doubt. Addressing Bolton's comments, Kim Kye-gwan, North Korea’s first deputy minister of foreign affairs, said:
“This is not an expression of intention to address the issue through dialogue. It is essentially a manifestation of awfully sinister move to impose on our dignified state the destiny of Libya or Iraq which had been collapsed due to yielding the whole of their countries to big powers.”
The North Korean government has a natural unity with Americans of both the imperialist and "anti-imperialist" ilk persuasion. None can entertain the idea that the Libyan government was toppled by the Libyan people, so the next day, Trump used this Libya Myth to give the United States dubious credit for having "decimated" Libya and then threatened North Korea with the same if they don't yield, all while appearing to "correct" Bolton:
"The Libya model isn't the model that we have at all when we're thinking of North Korea," Trump said. "In Libya, we decimated that country. That country was decimated."
...
“The best thing he could do is to make a deal,” Trump said of Kim. The Libya model “is what will take place if we don’t make a deal.”
Then Poodle Pence backed Trump with his own version. CNN reported:
US Vice President Mike Pence warned North Korea that it could end up like Libya if it fails to make a nuclear deal with Washington.

"There was some talk about the Libyan model last week, and you know, as the President made clear, this will only end like the Libyan model ended if Kim Jong Un doesn't make a deal," Pence said Monday.
Trump is willing to forgo any pretense of supporting the struggle for human rights in North Korea, so on Tuesday he used the Libya Myth, not only to imply that Kim Jong Un could only be overthrown with US support, but that the US was willing to guarantee the future of his dictatorship. He said:
"We will guarantee his safety, and we've talked about that from the beginning. He will be safe. He will be happy. His country will be rich."
He's inviting Kim to join the US sponsored corrupt dictators club. Trump has no problem with corrupt dictators.

Yesterday, Democracy Now chimed in with the Left version of this racist Libya Myth as part of its Headline news when Amy Goodman reported:
North Korea is threatening to cancel the meeting, after President Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, said the U.S. should use the so-called Libyan model for denuclearization in North Korea. In 2011, the U.S. and other nations attacked Libya, toppling and killing Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, eight years after Libya negotiated sanctions relief from the United States in exchange for renouncing its nuclear program.
Even in this popular US Left variant of the Libya Myth, the Libyan people are invisible. They have no role. They aren't worth a mention, except there are significant problems with this Libya Myth as it applies to North Korea:

Gaddafi never had a significant nuclear weapons program to give up in the first place. Bolton, and everyone else who draws these parallels, between what North Korea has created and what Libya claimed, is still drinking the kool-aid that Gaddafi constantly served up about how great everything was in his Libya. He was very much like his buddy Donald Trump in that regard, but comparing the North Korean nuclear weapons program to what Gaddafi had is like comparing me to Francis Ford Coppola because I once directed Martin Sheen. The Libyan effort was largely limited to buying materials and plans. Although they had acquired enough raw uranium for a bomb, they never had more than a dozen working centrifuges, and they were all imported. They never managed to build a single working centrifuge in Libya, never enriched anything, and didn't even have engineers that could understand the plans they bought. It was easy for Gaddafi to give up this "program" in return for all the much more useful conventional arms the NATO countries were then willing to sell him. In 2015 the Nuclear Threat Initiative [NTI] said this about the nuclear weapons program Gaddafi gave up:
Following the December 2003 announcement, a Libyan delegation informed the IAEA Director General that "Libya had been engaged for more than a decade in the development of a uranium enrichment capability." Libya admitted to importing natural uranium, centrifuge and conversion equipment, and nuclear weapons design documents. However, Libyan officials said that the enrichment program was at an early stage of development, that no industrial scale facilities had been built, and that Libya lacked the technical know-how to interpret the weapons design documents.
On the other hand, the North Koreans have not only a proven atomic bomb capability; they have a proven thermonuclear capability, and the heavy lift missiles that can carry a nuclear warhead to the continental United States. Many knowledgeable observers think they have already crossed the threshold of the nuclear power club, and Trump and company are in denial thinking they can roll it back. One thing is certain, any comparison between the North Korean nuclear program and what Gaddafi gave up in 2003 is based on a mythology being promoted because of its usefulness.

The other part of this excursion into FantasyLand involves seeing a direct connection between Gaddafi's decision to give up the embryonic nuclear program he had in 2003, and his loss of power and life eight years later. Believing this magic means leaving the Libyan people and their heroic struggle completely out of the picture, and giving the US military credit or blame it doesn't deserve. President Trump said, "In Libya, we decimated that country. That country was decimated." By "we," he means the armed forces he now commands, and by "decimated," he means largely destroyed. This is how Trump sums up the Libya Myth and this view is widely echoed on both the Right and the Left.

Beyond the fundamentally racist notion that whatever role the Libyans may have played in the destruction of the regime that ruled over them for 42 years is not worth mentioning, crediting or blaming the US for "regime change" in Libya, and implying that this was connected to what he did or didn't do with his so-called nuclear program eight years earlier, is ridiculous. There are at least two other major problems with this Libya Myth:

The first is the idea that the 2011 NATO air strikes "decimated" Libya. The more than 9,000 NATO strike sorties used smart weapons exclusively for very carefully planned missions than didn't include random secondary targets. The result was a massive air campaign that did little damage to infrastructure and killed less than a hundred un-intended civilians; 60 by the UN's count, 72 according to HRW, 55 according to Amnesty International, and 40-70 according the the New York Times. It was not the type of air campaign carried out by the US in Iraq and Afghanistan, and again in Iraq and Syria, that caused tremendous infrastructure damage with massive civilian casualties as exampled by the re-taking of Raqqa last October in which more than 1,800 civilians were killed. In contradiction to the popular image of it in the West as no different from these others, the NATO air campaign over Libya should be seen as the standard by which all others are judged. It should be held up as an example, and we should demand that if air power is to be used at all, that it be used with no less care and precision than NATO has already shown possible over Libya.

The second part of the myth is that what NATO did over Libya was largely an American show. It was not! The US was a straggler that had to be dragged into the fight against Gaddafi by its NATO partners. Between 31 March 2011 and an AFRICOM report on 29 June 2011, the US had only flown 801, or 16.1% of the 4,963 strike sorties to that point, but it gets even more pathetic than that; the US had "dropped ordinances" in only 132 of those strike sorties, most were "dry" runs! To give you a sense of scale, know that France was carrying out strike sorties at more than twice the rate of the US. Britain, Canada, Belgium and Italy were also players, and even little Denmark had "dropped ordinances" 705 times by 11 August 2011.

Do you see now why I say the Libya Myth is doubly chauvinist?

First, it is chauvinist in crediting NATO with the overthrow of Gaddafi, when it was the Libyan people that did the heavy lifting, and the dying.

Second, it fully credits the US for NATO's impact when that was hardly the case. I have no doubt that the low number of civilian casualties is directly related to the low number of bombs dropped by the American forces, but that factual reality if far from fantasies on both the US Left and Right that thinks we were the only monkey in that show. 132 bombs dropped in 3 months buys the US all the credit!

In a related story, today CNN won the Online Media Award for Breaking News Story of the Year for their discover of Libyan slave auctions. Don't they know it was much worse with Extreme racism & slave auctions 3 times a week in Gaddafi's Libya?



Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

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