‘No fly zone’ over Libya

According to reports in corporate media the US has been unable to implement a no fly zone over Libya. There is much talk of dissent in the UN over this issue.

However, on the ground, the difficulty to implement a ‘No Fly Zone’ is both political and military.

This is because the US is worried that Qadhafi still has operational anti-aircraft missiles.

Here is a quote from the US Defence Secretary:

Mr Gates said: “Let’s just call a spade a spade, a no-fly zone begins with an attack on Libya to destroy the air defences, that’s the way you do a no-fly zone, and then you can fly planes around the country and not worry about our guys being shot down.”

I think that it was a mistake for the opposition to call for the NATO to implement a ‘no fly zone’ over Libya because no one wishes to be bombed from the air – whether they be by US or by Libyan airforce planes.

By doing so they separated themselves from the masses.

17 thoughts on “‘No fly zone’ over Libya

  1. Manuel Iglesias - Guerrero (PhD) says:

    Libya Today (es, en, it):
    A sangre y fuego quieren robar el petróleo libio—Al capitalismo ni agua!
    With Fire and Sword they want to steal the Libyan oil — Capitalism and water!

    On April 15, 1986 thirteen aircraft U.S. Air Force, authorized by President Ronald Reagan, bombed Bab al-Azizia.

    Hana, una niña de tan sólo quince meses de edad, falleció bajo la incesante destrucción de las bombas.
    Hana, a girl of only fifteen months old, died under the relentless destruction of the bombs.

    Su padre, el conocido como Muammar al-Gaddafi, jamás volvió a habitar la casa.
    Her father, known as Muammar al-Gaddafi, never returned to live in the house.

    Desde tal fecha es su tienda de beduino quien lo cobija en el dormir, el trabajar y el vivir.
    From this date is his Bedouin tent who blanket on the bed, working and living.

    En la operación militar, llamada Dorado Canyon , fueron heridos otros dos hijos suyos y, en total, murieron cien desconocidos libios.
    In the military operation, called Gold Canyon, were wounded and two other sons, in total, killed a hundred unknown Libyans.

    Los sanguinarios pájaros venidos de poniente destruyeron asimismo Murat Sidi Bilal, al-Jamahiriyah, y los aeropuertos de Trípoli, Bengasi y Benina.
    The bloodthirsty birds coming from the west also destroyed Murat Sidi Bilal al-Jamahiriyah, and airports of Tripoli, Benghazi and Benin.

    Qadhafi's house
    Qadhafi’s House bombed in 1986 by the order of President Reagan



  2. [Editor’s Note: I wish to thank my sources for the research they have provided which is reflected in my comments below. I have tried to distil my attitude to the current crisis in these comments. Needless to say I take full responsibility for the accuracy (or otherwise of facts that lead me to these conclusions.)]

    To put this in historical perspective, the bombing of Tripoli in 1986 (referred to by Manuel Iglesias – Guerrero below) was said by the US to be in response to the bombing of a German Discothèque frequented by US soldiers.

    There was speculation that the later bombing of the Lockerbie plane in 1988 was a Libyan response to the US bombing of Tripoli. However this is pure speculation. There is also doubt about whether it was Qadhafi’s daughter who was killed. Some reports refer to ‘adopted’ daughter. It is said that Qadhafi was pre-warned by the Italian politician, Craxi, because the US requested the use of Italian air space thus showing their hand about their intended bombing of Tripoli in 1986.

    The story of Libya-US relations is a complex web — with oil the soup in the mix.

    As with the assassination of Musa as Sadr who went from Lebanon to Tripoli to meet with Qadhafi in August 1978, intrigue often overrides the will of the masses. Al-Sadr was a popular leader in the resistance to Israeli aggression in Lebanon. Israel had attacked southern Lebanon in March 78. The Israeli attack turned a lot of Lebanese people against the Palestinians for drawing the attack. The Palestinians were refugees in southern Lebanon. Al-Sadr’s disappearence was blamed on Qadhafi and the PLO (Qadhafi is supposed to have killed al-Sadr on behalf of the PLO … so the story goes). Sources show two given reasons for al-Sadr’s trip to Tripoli, both say he was invited by Qadhafi. One is to participate in events celebrating the ’69 revolution in Libya against the royal family and Italian colonialism. The other was to mediate between Libya and the PLO regarding Libya’s funding. The story goes….. Libya wanted the PLO to assassinate some Syrians in Libya but the PLO refused. Libya threatened to cut funding to the PLO for not doing it and Musa as Sadre was called in to mediate. There is also speculation that al-Sadr survives to this day and his release remains a bone of contention between Lebanese and Libyan leaders.

    Added to all this, from the 1970s till now there have been black operations performed by the CIA, Mossad on one side and by groups like the Palestinian group, Black September, on the other.

    With this a small part of the historical background, consider the current struggle in Libya.
    The uprising has not taken long to descend into a morass of intrigue.
    The US has positioned itself to take advantage of the uprising against Qadhafi to protect its oil interests.

    One important aspect of Libyan oil is that it is a rich source of aviation fuel.

    Big oil companies and banks involved in oil trades say that they are recognising and applying the sanctions imposed by the UN on Libya.

    This is almost certainly untrue.

    Nevertheless, because of the uncertainty produced by uprisings in the region, oil prices have been rising.
    This may put pressure on the US economy by slowing growth.
    As a result the Obama administration may use the uprising as a front to intervene militarily in Libya to break the economic uncertainty for the US and to seize the oil in the same way that Bush did in Iraq in March 2003.

    As in Iraq, the human cost of such an adventure would be horrible.

    Ian Curr
    10 Mar 2011

    See also “Western Powers Exploit Libyan Crisis To Step Up Intervention Plans” by Mike Head — 05 March, 2011 WSWS.org

    Under the cynical cover of addressing a humanitarian crisis in Libya, the US and its European allies are intensifying military operations and economic measures directed against the regime of Muammar Gaddafi. … read more http://www.countercurrents.org/head050311.htm

  3. I don’t think too many people would disagree that oil is the motivation for NATO interventions in Libya – past, present and future.

    The real question is whether the Libyan protests are legitimate people’s uprisings or are global capitalist backed counter revolutions orchestrated to lay a foundation for NATO intervention? If it is the latter, as I suggest after looking into the NAtional Front for the Salvation of Libya, what are international human rights and socialist activists doing cheering the counter-revolution along?

    Gadaffi is a very old man, God will soon take him and, if a civil war had not erupted, there would have been a natural regime change enabling change and reform in Libya. (Keeping in mind it is already light years ahead of the rest of Africa on issues such as poverty and the liberation of women). This prospect of reform has been aborted and NATO will now determine the nature of change. Same in Egypt, the September election would have brought about regime change and extensive reform – but this too was aborted and a NATO backed military junta will determine the nature of change.

    “The Arab Uprising” that is so celebrated by the sloganistic left is just a racist stereotype to justify western dominance.

  4. Hmmm,

    This is more and more like Iraq and Afghanistan. First Gadaffi/Hussein/Taliban is demonised in the global media, the UN hums and hars over the matter Nato forces prepare an invasion ready to go off at any old legal justification, when that happens the national airforce infrastructure is wiped out out opening the gates for coordinated ground troops of warlords and NATO troops to enter with the local militias at the front of the battle and the cameras – thus liberating the land from the tyrant. Ongoing death and destruction for decades but at least trade will be free – Yay!

    Australian SAS troops were in Afghanistan long before the UN said this or that, I bet we have our diggers in Iraq right now given Rudd and Gillards sentiments on the issue.

    After so many wars you would think we would wake up to what is going on.

    When the Knee-jerk left runs into the street in response to media reports of NATO attacks on Libya, what will they say?

  5. Watch out for the next round of slogan-lotto, it will be a jackpot!

    Will the metamorphoic leadership of the radical left re-incarnate as an anti-war movement that turns its back on the opposition rebels with whom “full solidarity” (Socialist Alliance policy) was pledged only weeks previously?

    Or will they stick to their guns, literally, and support the global liberation forces that will open up the economy, develop an organised working class and save the Libyan people from whatever afflictions they suffer?

    Or perhaps they will hail the leadership of some obscure Libyan ideological sect, such as their own and with whom some Australian group corresponds?

    Ya just cant tell, that’s the thrill of it.

    But you can increase your chances of winning slogan-lotto by keeping your slogans vague and simple. Many activists have these as jokers in the pack that can be brought out in any historical circumstance. These slogans build unity too, which is good for everyone so you are not cheating.

  6. Sorry John,

    I think you should stick to the facts when criticising the ‘Left’ here in Brisbane.

    For example, take the response on facebook to the call for a No Fly Zone over Libya — Hamish Chitts (Standfast & Revolutionary Socialist Party) made the following comment:

    “We cannot support this. Remember the NATO no fly zone over Iraq? When the people in Southern Iraq rose up the US and NATO didn’t like the democratic nature of the uprising and dropped the No Fly Zone when those on the ground expected and …needed it. They even let Saddam’s Republican Guard through NATO’s lines on the ground so they could crush the rebellion. NATO cannot be trusted they will harm the uprising more than help.”

    This does not sound like a ‘knee-jerk’ or populist response to me.

    Al Jazeera has provided an account of how real the threat by NATO intervention could be. It sounds like someone working his way through the possible outcomes based on what history has taught us. Is Hamish Chitt’s response that much different to yours? Why the sectarianism in the face of a potential human tragedy like Iraq?


    Just while I am here, remember last week the news reports said that Libyan pilots had defected to Cyprus flying Mirage jets? I was not aware that Libya had French fighter planes – I thought they had Russian planes.

    Ian Curr
    10 mar 2011

  7. Hello Ian,

    Interesting to see how the conversation on that face book page develops. So far….. (excerpts)…….

    Australian Libyan Solidarity (which I notice you “like”) says….. ” there is a general approval among Libyans on the ground now to call for a no-fly zone.” and “the revolutionaries are unable to advance while Gaddafi’s warcraft in the sky .. we cant decide for them”….. to which Hamish replies….”If that is the will of the people I cannot argue with them”.

    I wonder which people Hamish is referring to? He has to take sides too, the idealised ideological “people” only exist in activists’ minds and falls apart when applied to any real historical circumstance. I suppose he could be like the Christian pacifists and just complain about the violence and ignore the economic circumstance as irrelevant?

    I am glad Hamish is speaking up about imperialist intervention but it seems he is already upsetting some comrades who consider solidarity with the Libyan uprising to involve, well… solidarity.

    But he will be a key player to watch when slogan-lotto starts up again.

  8. Qadaffi at the Arab Summit 2008 says:

    Hello John,

    Don’t people have a right to develope their ideas in public?



  9. “On March 6 Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told the television news program Meet the Nation “that Libya’s air force could be disabled without the kind of expense and commitment required to maintain previous no-fly zones in Iraq and the Balkans,” [5] and instead “One could crater the airports and the runways and leave them incapable of using them for a period of time.” His position on grounding Libya’s air force was echoed by two of the Senate’s top Republicans, John McCain and Mitch McConnell.”

    John Kerry’s suggestion below about bombing runways is a furphy.

    What about the use of heliocopters used by the Libyan airforce to attack the rebels?

    A military imposed ‘no fly zone’ involves a lot more than bombing runways, it will include bombing anti-aircraft missile bases set up to protect civilian areas like the US airforce attack on Tripoli in 1986.

  10. Ian,

    It is very good for people to develop their ideas in public. The problem is when full solidarity and public action occurs before this idea development happens.

    Those who oppose foreign intervention should have been equally critical of the National Front for the Salvation of Libya (Western funded and coordinated from US) as they have been about NFSL’s masters in NATO.

    But instead of opposing the foreign manipulation of the LIbyan people and global media, the radical left ran along with it and even became global mouthpieces for the NFSL.

    Now that the obvious and inevitable is occurring, the radical left has no integrity of ideas, have an ambiguous stand on Libya and must now piss off their Arab colleagues such as Libyan exiles who they built connections with in their campaign so far. Those Arabs who oppose the NFSL and support Libyan socialism as the lesser of two evils are also pissed off. That’s just silly, thats not how you build a movement. You would think seasoned activists such as Hamish and yourself, especially campaigners against war, would have developed an idea or two before engaging on Libyan issues rather than get caught in confused retrospect. Nothing that has happened should be a surprise to anyone who remembers the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan or the previous bombings and sanctions on libya. Why are ideas only developing now?

    I’ve got an entry for slogan-lotto that sums up the emerging consensus of SA, SAl and RSP about Libya…….

    Yes Gadaffi has got to go
    But we wont help you, no no no

  11. OK, Socialist Alternative have bought into the debate but no slogans yet….stay tuned.

    What is interesting in this article, as with lot of Western socialist commentary including here on BT, is the cultural arrogance of holding Marxist socialism as the one true god and dismissing Arab socialism because it is not Marxist. Yet they proclaim the myth of an Arab Revolution?

    But no suggestion of support for the insurgency’s next step – invasion (although it is the obvious conclusion of the SA position), so my previous slogan “Yes Gadaffis got to go, but we wont help you, no no no” still stands as a slogan of left unity.

  12. There has only been one voice from Libya in the media opposing foreign military intervention, from Abdel-Hafidh Ghoga. His comments were represented by the Socialist Alternative headline “Libyan revolutionaries speak out: “The West’s war machine won’t help us win”

    However Ghoga is now saying….”“We require support, whether it’s military or otherwise, we require help,” Abdel-Hafidh Ghoga, the deputy leader of the provisional leadership, told a news conference in Benghazi. “The international community has to assume its duty at this point.”

    Who are “the people” that the left is supporting? It seems they support nothing except their own illusions.

  13. Hello John,

    For the record, I did not attend the ‘Solidarity protest with Libya’ rally and march (there was only one) on 25 Feb 2011.

    There was an attempt at a second rally and march on the following Friday which did not come off.

    There was no organised group that called either demonstration.

    Certainly the various socialist groups did attend and express differing opinions about the meaning of the situation in Libya.

    I made both private and public argument (on WBT and Facebook) to members of these groups not to support protests based on the Libyan royal flag because it represents colonialism. I circulated articles like “Western Powers Exploit Libyan Crisis To Step Up Intervention Plans” By Mike Head

    A plea was made to me not to attend the demonstrations by an Iraqi comrade whose family had suffered at the hands of Saddam. His argument was that the protest was playing into the hands of the imperialists and he did not want a repeat of what happened in Iraq after the Mar 2003 invasion by the US and its allies. I told him that I would respect his wish and did not attend the rally and march.

    I am aware of the arguments against monopoly capitalism posed by Lenin in his pamphlet ‘Imperialism, the highest stage of capitalism’.

    The oil cartels and the banks are having had a field day over the current crisis – business is booming.

    The banks and cartels have lied that they will observe current sanctions on trading in Libyan oil. The monopoly capitalists are only too happy to trade Libyan oil, so useful in making aviation fuel.

    There is a temporary problem for the capitalists in that most of the working class in Libya is imported labour from Egypt, Tunisia, Palestine and countries further afield. These workers have fled the country to escape the current hostilities. Hence oil production and transport has slowed.

    Now Qaddhafi’s army has held its ground and is shaking off the attacks by the rebels. The army has re-taken many of the oil facilities initially captured by the rebels.

    A popular uprising against Qadhafi has been muted by threats of foreign intervention and by repression imposed by Qadhafi.

    You say not to impose socialist jargon on the Arab street.

    But have you listened to the Arab street?

    Begin my paying heed to Qadhafi’s own words at the Arab Summit in 2008. This speech was made after the Israeli army, the imperialist proxy, had put down an uprising in Gaza.

    “We (Arabs) are enemies of one another, I’m sad to say. We all hate one another. We deceive one another. We gloat at the misfortune of one another. And we conspire against one another. Our intelligence agencies conspire against one another, instead of defending us against our enemies. We are the enemies of one another. An Arab’s enemy is another Arab’s friend.

    If only we used such ferocity against the enemy (that we use against each other).

    We meet in Syria which is an Arab country. But the relations Syria has with Russia, Iran and Turkey are thousands times better than its relations with its Arab neighbours. The relations Lybia has with Italy are a thousand times better than relations with its neighbours Egypt and Tunisia.

    This is the situation of the Arabs.”

    But the Arab world has changed and so have the attitudes of many in the West to it.

    I disagree with your pessimism that the imperialists will easily recover their pre-eminence in the region.

    Palestinians are already planning to take cement across the Egyptian border to help re-build Gaza.

    They are using this tactic to test the Egyptian uprising in the same way that the Viva Palestina convoy and the flotillas tested the support of the Arabs across North Africa and in Turkey.

    However my views do not count for much and are almost universally ignored. Nevertheless I think it important to work out your position and not be afraid to do it in the open, on the run, or to worry too much about the criticism that inevitably flows from this process. I have my doubts mostly because I am not there and cannot see for myself what it happening on the ground.

    Workers Solidarity, Arab Unity, Palestinian Victory!


    Ian Curr
    Mar 2011

  14. Ian,

    “You say not to impose socialist jargon on the Arab street.” This is not my meaning of the comment about Arab socialism. I am referring to the ideological and strategic difference between Marxism-Leninism and socialist movements of the Arab world (known as “Arab socialism”) such as Nasser and the Egyption revolution, Baathist, Hamas and of course Gadaffi’s Jamahiriya.

    I don’t think there were any Arab socialists other than Gadaffi at the 2008 Arab summit. The pan-Arab pillar of Arab socialism was well on display in Gadaffi’s speech.

    Arabs have been talking socialism for a hundred years, as long as Europeans have, and toppled several monarchies with it.

  15. p.s.

    Arab socialism incorporates Islam and indigenous tribal structures into its scheme of things. This is the main criticism by Marxist Leninists of revolutionary Arab movements because Marxism-Leninism is afflicted with the same notions of the cultural superiority of western civilisation as capitalist imperialist hegemony does, where the sophisticated and connected secular urban working class represents the zenith of human evolution and notions of religion and tribe are considered retarded anachronisms of epochs past and just corrupted platforms for tyrants and terrorists.

    The other criticism of Arab socialism by Marxism-Leninism is the assimilation of capitalists and capitalism into the framework of socialism. Apart from the fact that this has happened in every marxist-lenninist revolution thus nullifying the critique, Arab capitalists and capitalism are incorporated into Arab revolution/socialism by way of the discipline of Islamic and tribal structures. Even the boss goes to the Mosque and has tribal obligations.

    Arab socialism is a round peg that does not fit into the square box of Marxism-Leninism, this is why so much of the Oz left’s analysis of Libya is just absurd disconnected ethnocentrism..

  16. Hello John,

    Arab Socialism

    There has been an interplay of socialist parties and groups around the world since in the 1850s. Some prominent ‘European’ Socialists were Arabs – the founder of the British Socialist Workers Party, Tony Cliff (Yigael Gluckstein), was born in Palestine.

    Cliff (a pen name) was a member of Palestine Revolutionary Communist League. He is what an Iraqi friend would call a Jewish Arab. I have friends, Jewish and Arab, who are socialist in outlook and who share special relationships – there are many such people who define what Israel could have been — were it not for Zionism.

    Your attempt to identify a unique Arab socialism is a big call – were it only true. Many of the communist and socialist parties in the region are in a parlous state and some have made some horrible mistakes e.g. the Iraqi Communist Party co-operated with the US occupation by participating in the elections that produced the puppet Maliki government. That is not just me saying that. There are plenty of ex-party members who will back up that assessment — especially since the party was recently banned as part of the current crackdown in Iraq to stop further intifadas.

    The parlous state of existing socialist parties in the Arab world (matching that elsewhere) is demonstrated by the Arab League vote for a ‘No Fly Zone’ over Libya a couple of days ago. All save two countries backed the call. Syria and Algeria voted against imposing a No Fly Zone. Syria knows about being attacked from the air (by Israel) and Algeria knows about foreign occupation (French).

    However, on the positive side, the working class uprisings — in Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Tunisia, Morocco, and yes Iraq — may lead to a resurgence of Arab socialism.

    Correction – Libyan Mirage Jets
    About those two Libyan pilots who defected with two Mirage jets to Malta. Previously I challenged the existence of French fighters in the Libyan airforce. Apparently there were some (4?) old Mirage jets left over from the 1960s & 70s. The media claims that they were ordered ‘to bomb protesters’ is dubious. So two pilots defected with old Mirages but the remainder of the airforce remains intact with more modern Russian planes. There is a claim on Wikipedia that one of the 4 remianing Mirages was shot down in early March 2011.

    If people want a cogent argument against the imposition of a ‘No Fly Zone’ just read about the chaotic bombing of Tripoli and Benghazi by the US in 1986. F-111s struck residential areas. They even bombed embassies (it is claimed they did so by mistake) including a near miss of the French Embassy in Tripoli. One US F-111 was shot down by a SAM missile.

    The US/NATO should be careful – Libya may have some sting left.

    That’s all for now,

  17. Richard Falk says:

    The hypocrisy

    The US and others are intervening in Libya to protect the civilian population (not oil wells)

    As Richard Falk points out these very same defenders (US UK Germany) of the civilians were the perpetrators of the greatest use of airpower against civilians in human history.

    “After atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, there was in the West – especially the United States – a short triumphal moment, crediting American science and military prowess with bringing victory over Japan and the avoidance of what was anticipated at the time to be a long and bloody conquest of the Japanese homeland.

    This official narrative of the devastating attacks on these Japanese cities has been contested by numerous reputable historians who argued that Japan had conveyed its readiness to surrender well before the bombs had been dropped, that the US government needed to launch the attacks to demonstrate to the Soviet Union that it had this super-weapon at its disposal, and that the attacks would help establish American supremacy in the Pacific without any need to share power with Moscow.

    But whatever historical interpretation is believed, the horror and indecency of the attacks is beyond controversy.

    This use of atomic bombs against defenceless, densely populated cities remains the greatest single act of state terror in human history, and had it been committed by the losers in World War II surely the perpetrators would have been held criminally accountable and the weaponry forever prohibited.

    But history gives the winners in big wars considerable latitude to shape the future according to their own wishes, sometimes for the better, often for the worse.”

    Will this now play out as devastating as the US bombing of Iraq and halt the progress of the Arab peoples.

    As imperialist intrigue takes over and those in power assert themselves, the hopes of a generation in the Arab world for a decent life that emerged in the 15 days of the Egyptian uprising are now under extreme attack.

    [Richard Falk is, among other things, a Princeton University Professor in International relations]

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