By Tim Shenk, Justicia Global
Far from being “humanitarian,” U.S.-led NATO bombings begun March 19 in Libya are killing civilians and destroying public infrastructure in what appears to be the preparation for a ground occupation to control the largest oil reserve on the African continent.
Despite U.S. government claims that military intervention is necessary to “protect civilians,” many reports confirm civilian targets such as hospitals and other public infrastructure.
This apparent contradiction – insisting on a discourse of civilian protection while hitting civilian targets – suggests less-than-humanitarian motives for the air attacks. Many are speculating that NATO powers are after Libya’s 46 billion barrels of oil, or worse, that they’re planning an occupation and reconstruction similar to what began in Iraq in 2003.
Canadian economist Michel Chossudovsky denounces the bombing in an article published by the Ottawa-based research center, Global Research: “The objective is not to come to the rescue of civilians,” asserts Chossudovsky. “Quite the opposite. Both military as well as civilian targets have been pre-selected…. Early reports confirm that hospitals, civilian airports and government buildings have been bombed.”[i]
Analyst John Brown questions the “humanitarian” motives of the NATO bombings in Libya. Brown asks why there is international military intervention in Libya but not in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where 6 million people have been killed in an unending war.[ii]
It is important to consider the geopolitical and economic value of Libya at a moment of instability in which US-backed dictators in nearby Tunisia and Egypt have been recently ousted by popular uprisings. Libya is a logical place for the U.S. and its allies to regain a foothold in the region. As a country that controls 10 times the oil Egypt does with a mere 7 percent of Egypt’s population, Libya represents a relatively easy target with high possible returns and a plausible justification for military action.
Even without the oil incentive, rebuilding a war-ravaged country is good business. You just have to create a big mess first. Ask Halliburton: a division of this US-based company raked in $17.2 billion in profits in Iraq from 2003 to 2006 for contracts awarded by the Pentagon for infrastructure reconstruction, military base construction, oil-field repair and logistics support.[iii]
It’s all too likely that occupying NATO forces will end up in charge of the reconstruction projects in Libya as well and will repeat the successful business model they piloted in Iraq. Though no one in the West is admitting it, Russian intelligence reports that coalition ground units landed in Libya on the night of March 25 and are preparing a heightened physical presence.[iv]
Chossudovsky analyzes the NATO bombings in Libya as part of tried-and-true U.S. military strategy. He explains the precedent: “The Libyan ‘humanitarian bombing’ campaign is an integral part of military strategy which consists in destroying the country’s civilian infrastructure. It is modeled on previous humanitarian bombing endeavors including the 1999 bombing of Yugoslavia and the 2003 military campaign against Iraq.”[v]
Indeed, “humanitarian concerns” and “protecting civilians” are phrases that ring hollow in the ears of people of the many nations who have been invaded by the United States and its myriad coalitions. For example, the 1965 revolution in the Dominican Republic faced a major setback when U.S. President Lyndon Johnson sent Marines to Santo Domingo under similar pretenses of “protecting American citizens.” It was later admitted that progressive democratic governance posed a threat to U.S. political and economic interests in the region.
Many in Libya and around the world are raising their voices against the escalating NATO military strikes. In Indonesia, for example, protesters held signs that read, “Overthrow Qaddafi’s Regime, Reject American Army and Allied Forces.”[vi]
U.S.-led air strikes and the potential NATO ground offensive in Libya aren’t about “protecting civilians.” It’s about oil, it’s about reconstruction contracts, and it’s about finding ways to justify taking control in an unstable region. Old storyline, new characters: war is good business.
[vi] Feller, Ben. 2011. “Obama defends role of U.S. in Libya.” The Ithaca Journal. 29 March. 1A. Photo Associated Press.