August 2011, Week 4


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Portside Moderator <[log in to unmask]>
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Wed, 24 Aug 2011 22:03:26 -0400
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Comments from Portsiders on Juan Cole's "Top Ten Myths about the Lybia War"

Juan Cole's original article can be found here:


or here:



Sorry, Juan Cole--but I choose not to celebrate a NATO
military intervention in Africa.

gerald horne


I hope he is right about the end result but this is not
balanced analysis.
FOUR RED HERRINGS::  1.  Few people argue that Libya is
not a nation.  If we did not know better we would assume
that this was a common basis for questioning the air
assault.    2.  Hardly anyone thought Ghadafi could last
indefinitely against the forces arrayed against him.  The
fact is he lasted longer than most, including me,
expected.  Yet, Professor Cole pats himself on the back
for predicting his downfall as if he had been a voice
crying in the wilderness.  3. Linking Ghadafi with Silvio
Berlusconi and sarcastically adding "some progressive
would be fair with some mention of the progressive bona
fides of the heads of state of our principle European
allies David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy. 4. Alleging
Ghadafi has supported brutal African dictators would be
fair if it was acknowledged that our main regional allies
are Saudi Arabia and its surrogates in the emirates.
Professor Cole does not call for us to demand that our
government with its allies not be the agent of global
corporations who now stand poised with exclusive
contracts, 99 year leases and armies of private security
to seize control of Libya. His lack of balance is very

John Talbutt


10 Myths About Libya?

Conn Hallinan
Aug. 24, 2011

In his essay, "Top Ten Myths about the Libyan War," Juan
Cole argues that U.S. interests in the conflict consisted
of stopping "massacres of people," a "lawful world order,"
"the NATO alliance," and oddly, "the fate of Egypt." It is
worth taking a moment to look at each of these arguments,
particularly his dismissal of the idea that the U.S./NATO
intervention had anything to do with oil as "daft."

Massacres are bad things, but the U.S. has never
demonstrated a concern for them unless its interests were
at stake. It made up the "massacre" of Kosovo Albanians in
order to launch the Yugoslav War, and ended up acquiring
one of the largest U.S. bases in the world, Camp Bond
Steel. It has resolutely ignored the massacre of
Palestinians and Shiites in Bahrain because it is not in
Washington's interests to concern itself with those
things. Israel is an ally, and Bahrain hosts the U.S.
Fifth Fleet. Cole accepts the fact that Qaddafi would have
"massacred" his people, but his evidence for that is thin,
and he chooses to completely ignore the deaths and
casualties resulting from the NATO bombing.

The U.S. is interested in a "lawful world order." That
would certainly come as a surprise to the Palestinians,
the Shiites in the Gulf, peasants in Colombia who suffer
the deprivations of death squads aided by the U.S.  (see
the Washington Post story of 8/20/11) etc. The U.S,
supports international law when it is in its interests to
do so, undermines it when it is not, and ignores it when
it is inconvenient. I wish Cole were correct but he is
not. The record speaks for itself.

Okay, spot on for the NATO alliance, which is exactly the
problem.  Africa has increasingly become a chess piece in
a global competition for resources and cheap labor. It is
no accident that the U.S. recently formed an African
Command (Africom)--the Libyan War was the organization's
coming out party--and is training troops in countries that
border the Sahara. It is already intervening in Somalia,
and a recent story in the New York Times about an
"al-Qaeda threat" in Northern Nigeria should send a
collective chill down all our spines. NATO has already
"war gamed" the possibility of intervention in the Gulf of
Guinea to insure oil supplies in the advent of "civil
disturbances" that might affect the flow of energy

NATO represents western economic and political interests,
which rarely coincide with the interests of either the
alliance's own people, or those of the countries it
occupies. The Libyan intervention sets a very dangerous
precedent for the entire continent, which is why the
African Union opposed it. Who will be next?

Ummm, Egypt? Certainly the U.S. has "a deep interest in
the fate of Egypt," which ought to scare hell out of the
Egyptians. But overthrowing Qaddafi was important because
he had "high Egyptian officials on his payroll"? Is Cole
seriously suggesting that Libya's 6.4 million people have
anything to do with determining the fate of 83 million

Opposition to the Libyan War is not based on supporting
Qaddafi, although Cole's portrait of the man is one-sided.
For instance, Libya played an important role in financing
the African Bank, thus allowing African nations to avoid
the tender mercies of the World Bank and the International
Monetary Fund. Libya also financed a continent-wide
telecommunications system that saved African countries
hundreds of millions of dollars by allowing them to bypass
western-controlled networks.  He also raised living
standards. This does not make him a good guy, but it does
say that Libya's role in Africa cannot be reduced to
simply "sinister."

Lastly, the charge that this was about Libya's oil is
"daft"? Libya is the largest producer of oil in Africa,
and the 12th largest in the world. Its resources are very
important for NATO's European allies, and over the past
several years there has been competition over these
supplies. The Chinese have made major investments. During
the war China, Russia and Brazil supported the African
Union's call for a ceasefire and talks, and pointed out
that UN Resolution 1973 did not call for regime change.
One of the first statements out of the Transitional
National Council following Qaddafi's collapse was that
China, Russia and Brazil were going to be sidelined in
favor of French, Spanish, and Italian companies. Quid pro

The war was not just over oil, but how can anyone dismiss
the importance of energy supplies at a time of worldwide
competition over their control?  The U.S. is currently
fighting several wars in a region that contains more than
65 percent of the world's oil supplies. Does he think this
is a coincidence? Sure, the companies that invested in
Libya will take some initial losses, but does Cole think
those Libyans beholden to NATO for their new positions
will drive a hard bargain with the likes of Total SA and
Repso when it comes to making deals? If I were those
companies I would see the war as a very lucrative
investment in futures. In any case, when the U.S., China,
and Russia are locked in a bitter worldwide battle over
energy resources, to dismiss the role of oil in the Libyan
War is, well, daft.

Special Forces are taking over the U.S. military. Africom
is increasingly active on the continent. NATO has just
finished its first intervention in Africa. With Qaddafi
gone, every country that borders the Mediterranean is now
associated with NATO, essentially turning this sea into an
alliance lake.

This is not a good thing.


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