The US Can’t Stand By While Racism Ravages Libya

November 10, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Reports abound that black Libyans are being subjected to beatings, torture, rape, killings — and, in several instances, horrific public lynchings

By Rev. Jesse Jackson

Before leaving the G-20 meetings in Cannes, France, President Obama joined with French President Sarkozy to pay tribute to the two countries’ alliance and celebrate the successful intervention in Libya that ended the rule of Moammar Gadhafi.

“Every man and woman in uniform who participated in this effort can know that you have accomplished every objective,” Obama said. “Today, the Libyan people have liberated their country and begun to forge their own future.”

Obama, who launched the Libyan mission amid widespread Republican criticism, had good reasons to greet Gadhafi’s overthrow with relief.

And all hope that democracy can take root. But once the U.S. intervenes in an internal foreign dispute, we bear greater responsibility for the outcome. Before the “war of choice” on Iraq, former Secretary of State Colin Powell warned President Bush about the “Pottery Barn rule: If you break it, you own it.”

That’s why the U.S. and its allies must respond to the credible reports of terrible violence being wreaked on dark-skinned Libyans by the victors. According to Human Rights Watch, “It is a dangerous time to be dark-skinned in Tripoli.” Reports abound that black Libyans are being subjected to beatings, torture, rape, killings — and, in several instances, horrific public lynchings.

Racism in Libya has a long and complex history but has grown fierce since the uprising against Gadhafi began in February. Under Gadhafi, foreign workers accounted for about one quarter of Libya’s 6 million population. Most came from Africa, poor immigrants seeking jobs in Libya’s oil, agriculture or other sectors. They live predominantly in the southern part of the country and many were naturally loyal to Gadhafi.

Now towns like Tawergha in the southern region previously loyal to Gadhafi are reported to be ghost towns, with entire populations having “disappeared.” The revolutionaries claim that many of those arrested or killed were “mercenaries” hired by Gadhafi to defend the regime. While some, no doubt, fought on Gadhafi’s side, independent analysts say the rumors about mercenaries are wildly exaggerated and are used as an excuse for trampling rights.

Libya’s National Transitional Council has denied the allegations, telling the U.N. Human Rights Council: “We do not make any distinction among people on grounds of color.” But independent organizations like Amnesty International confirm the reports that refugees and other dark-skinned Libyans are filling detention centers, with allegations of torture widespread.
The U.S. and its allies intervened in the Libyan conflict on the basis of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1975, which called for the international community to use all necessary means to protect civilians. The abuse and ethnic cleansing of dark-skinned people mock that authority.

It is vital that there be an immediate United Nations investigation of the reports of ethnic cleansing and violence against dark-skinned people in Libya. The allied nations should work with the new authorities in Libya to strengthen the rule of law, stop ethnic violence and end human rights abuses. The Obama administration should independently investigate the atrocities and bring international attention to the situation.

No one knows what comes next in Libya. But the United States and the other NATO allies involved in the intervention are not simply onlookers. They can’t simply celebrate the end of Gadhafi regime. They bear responsibility, in part, for what comes next — and cannot stand silently by as racial division becomes deadly.

Chicago Sun-Times

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A Thirst for Blood

October 27, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, TMO

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There is a fine line that separates man from mere beast. This week that line was crossed by the armed rebels on the hunt for deposed Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi as they stumbled upon him held up in a storm drain in his hometown of Sirte. The events surrounding his death are as rough as the various video footage of his demise. Each video, shot from different cell phones, tells its own story. Some show Gadhafi being shot in the arm while others show him being beaten. Yet another shows him being dragged across the ground, his clothes in disarray, after he was apparently sodomized.  And the most notable reveals a gunshot wound to his head.

The question is not whether or not Gadhafi deserved to pay for his vast array crimes that stretched clear around the globe for decades. The answer is very clear in that regard, Gadhafi indeed deserved to be punished for his reign of terror. The question that begs to be answered is whether or not armed militia had the right to take matters into their own hands denying one of the world’s worst dictators the very basic of human rights, a trial in a court of law. Now many will argue that Gadhafi was not human in the way that he treated his own people with disdain and disregard for the sanctity of human life. In all respects Gadhafi was the judge, jury and executioner in Libya. However, hasn’t the very premise that made the ‘Arab Spring’ so inspirational to the world been forever tainted in a gushing of crimson blood?

It only got worse as Libyans danced in the streets with joy upon hearing of Gadhafi’s wholesale execution as scores followed his bloodied body to a nearby shopping mall where it was put on display. Men, women and children lined up and waited to catch a glimpse of Gadhafi’s gruesome corpse while taking even more cell phone video footage to share with the rest of the world.

Instead of stooping to Gadhafi’s merciless level, it might have been better to have hauled him off, alive, to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to stand trial for his crimes against humanity. A great number of Gadhafi’s victims would have been given the opportunity to speak out against the dictator who dogged them for years and humiliate him in an international arena. Gadhafi was all about appearances and it would have caused him greater suffering to be publicly disgraced than merely shot in the head. Gadhafi meticulously tortured and enslaved his people without even showing the slightest bit of remorse. How fitting it would have been to see him stripped of all his self-given powers and forced to spend his remaining days confined to a minuscule jail cell. And while Gadhafi’s suffering was over in a mere matter of minutes, the people whose lives he scarred have a long road of healing to undertake.

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British Firms Urged to ‘Pack Suitcases’ in Rush for Libya

October 27, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

New defence secretary says companies should be ready to cash in on reconstruction contracts in newly liberated Libya

By Jo Adetunji

The starting pistol for British firms to pursue contracts in Libya has been fired by the new defence secretary, Philip Hammond, who urged companies to “pack their suitcases” and head there to secure reconstruction contracts.

As Nato announced that it plans to wind up operations in Libya, Hammond said that great care had been taken during the campaign to avoid destroying critical infrastructure.

“Libya is a relatively wealthy country with oil reserves, and I expect there will be opportunities for British and other companies to get involved in the reconstruction of Libya,” he told the BBC in an interview.

“I would expect British companies, even British sales directors, [to be] packing their suitcases and looking to get out to Libya and take part in the reconstruction of that country as soon as they can,” said Hammond, who replaced Liam Fox as defence secretary a week ago.

He added that after a “hugely successful” British mission in Libya, Britain now needed “to support the Libyans to turn the liberation of their country into a successful stabilisation so that Libya can be a beacon of prosperity and democracy in north Africa going forward.”

The National Transitional Council has already said that it intends to reward countries who showed support for its fight against the Gaddafi regime, with Britain and France likely to lead the way.

The success of British contractors in the country – which could see billions of pounds spent on reconstruction over the next decade – will be seen as a huge victory for prime minister David Cameron, who visited Tripoli and NTC members last month, along with Nicolas Sarkozy.

British gains in Libya include business and reconstruction contracts, as well as oil. As Libya’s £100bn in frozen assets around the world are released, it is a sizeable pot.

Lord Green, a trade minister, has already met with British firms to discuss potential opportunities in Libya, and oil company BP is believed to have already held talks with the NTC.

In a press conference in September, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, the interim Libyan prime minister, praised the “brave positions” of Cameron and Sarkozy. “They showed us political, economic and military support, which helped the rebels establish a state, and we thank France and the UK for that,” he said.

But while Guma al-Gamaty, the NTC’s UK representative, has said Libya would honour contracts signed under the Gaddafi regime, he has also indicated that British companies might not get “easy business” from Libya.

“There will be huge changes in everything – in the oil and gas sectors, in education, and with the creation of new industrial sectors,” he said. “But it’s not a guaranteed market. Contracts will be awarded not on the basis of political favouritism, but on merit, quality and competitiveness.”

France has already begun its own campaign to secure business in the country. French foreign minister Alain Juppé has said it was only “fair and logical” for its companies to benefit.

Daniel Kawczynski, a Conservative backbencher and chair of the cross-party parliamentary group on Libya, said Britain should come first when it comes to awarding contracts, which would also pay back some of the cost of some £300m spent on military action.

“The question that remains is, who should ultimately bear this cost?” he said. “Should the burden fall on those who could be counted on? Or should, in time, Libya repay those who fought with her, and for her?”

He added: “In these difficult economic times, it should not be too much to ask a country with Libya’s wealth and resources to pay their share of the gold.”

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Russia: Arming Libya Rebels Is “Crude Violation”

July 7, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Lutfi Abu-Aun

2011-07-06T202351Z_158716080_GM1E7770CEB01_RTRMADP_3_LIBYA

Head of the rebel forces Abdel Fattah Younes gestures as he arrives at Green Square in the Kish, Benghazi July 6, 2011, to demonstrate against Muammar Gaddafi and his regime. 

REUTERS/Esam Al-Fetori

TRIPOLI (Reuters) – Russia accused France on Thursday of committing a “crude violation” of a U.N. weapons embargo by arming Libyan rebels, while Washington said it was acting legally, creating a new diplomatic dispute over the Western air war.

France confirmed on Wednesday that it had air-dropped arms to rebels in Libya’s Western Mountains, becoming the first NATO country to acknowledge openly arming the insurgency against Gaddafi’s 41-year rule.

France, Britain and the United States are leading a three-month-old air campaign which they say they will not end until Gaddafi falls. The war has become the bloodiest of the “Arab Spring” uprisings sweeping North Africa and the Middle East.

Rebels acknowledged French support, saying it had helped sustain them in the region.

“There should be no doubt that Libyans in the Nafusa Mountain (Western Mountains) area are alive and safe today thanks to a combination of heroic Libyan bravery and French wisdom and support,” Vice Chairman Abdul Hafeedh Ghoga of the Transitional National Council said in a statement of thanks to French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Though rebel advances have been slow, the insurgents scored a success in the region on Sunday in pushing to the outskirts of Bir al-Ghanam, within 80 km (50 miles) of Tripoli.

On Thursday the rebels surveyed the strategic town from a ridge overlooking the desert plateau that leads to the capital, in preparation for a possible attack. A Reuters journalist with them said they were waiting for NATO airstrikes to help them.

Libyan television broadcast a statement from tribal leaders condemning Sarkozy over the arms, calling the rebels in the Berber area “a product of France.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow “asked our French colleagues today whether reports that weapons from France were delivered to Libyan rebels correspond with reality.”

“If this is confirmed, it is a very crude violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1970,” he said. That resolution, adopted in February, imposed a comprehensive arms embargo.

Paris said on Wednesday it believed it had not violated the U.N. embargo because the weapons it gave the rebels were needed to protect civilians from an imminent attack, which it says is allowed under a later Security Council resolution.

Washington agreed. “We believe that U.N. Security Council resolutions 1970 and 1973, read together, neither specified nor precluded providing defense materiel to the Libyan opposition,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.

“We would respectfully disagree with the Russian assessment,” he added. Nevertheless, although legal, arming the rebels was “not an option that we have acted on,” he said.
Although Russia is not involved in the bombing campaign, its stance could add to reservations among some NATO countries wary over an air war that has lasted longer and cost more than expected. Moscow could also challenge Paris at the U.N. Security Council, where both are veto-wielding permanent members.

U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq said it was up to the Security Council to determine what is permitted by its resolutions.

France’s weapons airlift, while possibly increasing the insurgent threat to Gaddafi, highlights a dilemma for NATO.

More than 90 days into its bombing campaign, Gaddafi is still in power and no breakthrough is in sight, making some NATO members feel they should help the rebels more actively, something the poorly-armed insurgents have encouraged.

But if they do that, they risk fracturing the international coalition over how far to go.

The World Bank’s Libya representative said on Thursday Islamist militants could gain ground if the conflict wears on.

“If this civil war goes on, it would be a new Somalia, which I don’t say lightly,” said Marouane Abassi, World Bank country manager for Libya who has been in Tunisia since February.

“In three months we could be dealing with extremists. That’s why time is very important in this conflict, before we face problems in managing it.”

Even before news of the French arms supply emerged, fissures were emerging in the coalition with some members voicing frustration about the high cost, civilian casualties, and the elusiveness of a military victory.

Gaddafi says the NATO campaign is an act of colonial aggression aimed at stealing the North African state’s oil. He says NATO’s U.N.-mandated justification for its campaign — to protect Libyan civilians from attack — is spurious.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen made clear on Thursday the weapons airlift was a unilateral French initiative. Asked by reporters on a visit to Vienna if NATO had been involved, he answered: “No.”

“As regards compliance with the U.N. Security Council resolution, it is for the U.N. sanctions committee to determine that,” Rasmussen said.

The rebel advance toward Tripoli’s southwest outskirts from the Western Mountains has not been matched by progress toward the capital from the east, where they hold Misrata on the coast about 200 km (130 miles) from the capital.

The city has been bombarded for months by Gaddafi’s forces. Six rockets landed early on Thursday near the oil refinery and port. A Reuters journalist there reported no casualties.

Britain’s military said its Apache helicopters had attacked a government checkpoint and two military vehicles near Khoms, on the Mediterranean coast between Misrata and Tripoli.

Insurgents say Gaddafi’s forces are massing and bringing weapons to quell an uprising in Zlitan, the next big town along the road from Misrata to the capital. Rebels inside Zlitan said they mounted a raid on pro-Gaddafi positions on Wednesday night.

“(We) carried out a violent attack last night on checkpoints … and exchanged gunfire, killing a number of soldiers,” a rebel spokesman, who identified himself as Mabrouk, told Reuters from the town.
Le Figaro newspaper said France had parachuted rocket launchers, assault rifles and anti-tank missiles into the Western Mountains in early June.

A French military spokesman later confirmed arms had been delivered, although he said anti-tank missiles were not among them. Despite the diplomatic storm, the rebels encouraged more arms deliveries.

“Giving (us) weapons we will be able to decide the battle more quickly, so that we can shed as little blood as possible,” senior rebel figure Mahmoud Jibril said in Vienna.

The conflict has halted oil exports from Libya, helping push up world oil prices. Jibril said it may take years for oil exports to fully resume: “No, no oil is being sold. A lot of the oil well system was destroyed, especially in the east.”

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The Quiet Corner of the Mideast (Surprise)

June 16, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Helene Cooper

Washington — In the Arab democracy movement, there is a dog that has not yet barked. And whether or not it does — and how loudly — is causing a lot of heartburn among American policy makers.

Egyptians, Tunisians, Libyans and Syrians gathered in their respective city squares and neighborhood streets to demand democratic rights, and the Western world cheered, if with varying degrees of diplomatic or military support. But by and large, so far, the Palestinians in the West Bank, who see Israel as the source of their grievances, have not.

Yet.

In part, this is because the Palestinians’ own leaders — elected, but weak — have another timetable in place, for a diplomatic campaign against Israel in the fall that turmoil on the ground could complicate. But some other prominent Palestinians are beginning to say that the moment of the Arab Spring offers a more urgent opportunity to join fellow Arabs in the streets. And that worries policy makers and experts here, as well as the political leaders in Hamas and Fatah, whose own authority could be undermined.

“If you’re looking for a game-changer, that would be it,” says Robert Malley, the program director for the Middle East and North Africa at the International Crisis Group. “At a time when the entire world, including President Obama, is applauding nonviolent popular protests from Cairo to Tehran, it would put Israel in an acute dilemma about how to react if tens of thousands of Palestinians started organizing protests in the West Bank, or marching on Israeli settlements or on Jerusalem demanding an end to the Israeli military occupation.”

Even more significantly, Mr. Malley said, “it would put the United States in an equally acute dilemma about how to react to Israel’s reaction.”

And it would box President Obama into a corner, penned in by his own words: on one side, that the democratic aspirations of people in the region must be heeded and that Palestinians deserve their own state, and on the other side, 44 years of American national policy that strongly sides with Israel on issues involving its security.

The biggest worry for Mr. Obama is that Israel would react with violence toward nonviolent Palestinian protesters in the West Bank. Last Sunday, Israeli forces fired at pro-Palestinian protesters on the Syrian frontier as they tried to breach the border for the second time in three weeks. The Syrian news agency SANA reported that 22 protesters were killed and more than 350 wounded; Israeli officials said that they had no information on casualties, but suggested that the Syrian figures were exaggerated.

Israeli and American officials both said those protests were instigated by Syria, in a move to draw attention away from the violent crackdown on its own democracy movement. By and large, there was not a huge outcry over Israel’s decision to fire on the protests, in part because of the role that Syria is believed to have played, and partly because the march on the border was viewed as a hostile and provocative action on a sovereign country with which Syria is still legally at war.But the West Bank is a whole different ballgame. This is the disputed territory captured in 1967, the land occupied by Israel after its three southern and eastern Arab neighbors united to fight it 44 years ago. It is the land that Israeli settlement blocks have since sprouted throughout, in an ever-growing reminder that the longer a peace deal remains elusive, the more the facts change on the ground. And now, Palestinians there have started to draw a direct line between the Arab Spring movement and their own push for an end to the Israeli occupation.

“You will see waves,” Mustafa Barghouti, a former Palestinian Authority presidential candidate and independent member of Parliament who has been critical in the past of the Fatah leadership, said in a telephone interview. “It’s already happening. We, the Palestinians, have inspired Arabs many times in the past, and now we’re getting inspired by them.”

On Sunday, a few hundred Palestinians in the West Bank tried to organize marches around the territory, but were stymied by the forces of both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, neither of which are eager to see widespread Palestinian democracy protests. That is in part because leaders of both Hamas, the militant Islamist organization that controls Gaza, and Fatah, the party that controls the Palestinian Authority, fear that a popular Palestinian uprising could upend their own authority in the West Bank and Gaza.

“We have been talking to the youth movement in Tunisia,” said a Palestinian activist in Ramallah who asked to be identified only by his initials, F. A., because he said he has been threatened by both the Palestinian Authority and by Israeli officials. “They are telling us how they did it, and when we tell them our situation, they say, ‘Wow, your situation is much more complicated.” ’ He said his house, in Ramallah, had had no running water this month, but he could see Israeli settlers in a nearby settlement enjoying the summer in their swimming pool. Because of such daily indignities, he said: “We will do this. Our time will come.”

In Israel, the political discourse in the past two weeks has centered on the increased fear that the Palestinians in the West Bank will join the Arab Spring movement. On Sunday, Aluf Benn, the influential Israeli editor at large for Haaretz wrote: “The nightmare scenario Israel has feared since its inception became real — that Palestinian refugees would simply start walking from their camps toward the border and would try to exercise their ‘right of return.’ ” Mr. Benn was referring to the Syrian border episodes, but many Middle East experts say that a West Bank uprising would actually be more seismic, for both Israel and the United States.

In Washington, Obama administration officials have been fretting about how the United States would respond. In many ways, Mr. Obama’s decision to come out in favor of Palestinian statehood based on Israel’s pre-1967 lines, with land swaps, stemmed from a desire at the White House to give both Palestinians and the world at large a place to park their grievances. That, they felt, might help forestall both a United Nations resolution in September recognizing a state of Palestine within the 1967 boundaries, and a popular uprising among Palestinians in the West Bank.

That such an uprising hasn’t happened yet, Mr. Barghouti and other Palestinians say, goes beyond the simple Hamas-and-Fatah-won’t-allow-it reasons. Palestinians in different West Bank cities are disconnected from each other, separated by Israeli checkpoints that don’t allow freedom of movement even within the territory. Israel’s security fence also inhibits movement among Palestinians.
Beyond that, Palestinians may be exhausted from the two intifadas — the second one, in the last decade, extremely violent — that ended with the Israeli construction of the security fence and the imposition of increasingly strict restrictions on movement throughout the West Bank.

But exhaustion from the violence may feed more nonviolent uprisings. “There is now a growing belief,” Mr. Barghouti said, “that nonviolence is the only form of struggle we should use. Or, at least, that it is the most effective form of struggle we should use.”

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Libya’s Oil Chief Ghanem Defects, in Rome Now

June 2, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Deepa Babington

ROME (Reuters) – Libya’s top oil official Shokri Ghanem appeared in Rome on Wednesday, saying he had defected because of relentless bloodshed under Muammar Gaddafi’s rule.

A tired looking Ghanem, whose whereabouts had been unknown for several days, made a brief statement to a few reporters in the basement of a Rome hotel that he had resigned as National Oil Corp chief because of the “unbearable” violence in Libya.

“The continuous blood spill, continuous war and loss of life make it impossible for anyone to work in this environment,” said Ghanem, one of the most senior officials to desert Gaddafi.

“I left the country and decided also to leave my job and to join the choice of Libyan youth to create a modern constitutional state respecting human rights and building a better future for all Libyans.”

Ghanem, a familiar face to oil reporters with whom he enjoyed friendly banters at energy conferences, appeared tense and a shadow of his former effusive self, politely answering questions briefly before leaving.

“We will see what will happen, it’s too early to say,” he said, when asked what he would do next and if he would join the rebel movement. “I need some sort of few days rest.”
He said he had left Tripoli two weeks ago, and that some of his family remained there.

“Lot of Pressure”

Born in Tripoli, Ghanem has decades of experience in the oil sector and took the helm of Libya’s National Oil Corp. in 2006. Considered a reformer, reports emerged in 2009 that he had resigned in a turf war, but he was back at his post weeks later.

In Rome, he said had not seen Gaddafi “for months,” but still hoped for a peaceful solution to the leader’s fate. Gaddafi has shown no signs of stepping down since rebels in the east rose up against his four-decade rule in mid-February.

Asked if he thought Gaddafi would be willing to negotiate, Ghanem said: “Well he is negotiating sometimes. A few days ago he met with the South African president but of course we don’t know what is going to happen.”

When asked what the mood within the Gaddafi government was, he said: “What’s happening in Libya is that there is a lot of pressure from within and from outside.”

Ghanem, who normally led the Libyan delegation at OPEC, said oil production in Libya was “coming to a halt” because of the international sanctions.

“Very little is produced because you cannot export — if you cannot export, you cannot produce,” he said.

He added he would no longer represent Libya at OPEC.

(Editing by Jon Hemming)

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