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Nato is fuelling Libya's humanitarian crisis

by Simon Assaf

Sixty one refugees died on a boat fleeing Libya in late March after European military vessels refused to help, it has emerged.

All but 11 on board the stranded boat died of thirst and hunger, including young children.

This is despite claims by survivors that at least one Nato ship ignored pleas for help—breaking international maritime law.

Last week another ship carrying up to 600 refugees from Tripoli sank. The number of deaths is unknown.

Some 30,000 refugees have fled via the Mediterranean in the past four months. Three other ships carrying refugees are missing.

Western forces claim to be on a humanitarian mission—yet offer nothing to those in real need.

Western intervention in Libya has damaged the credibility of the revolution in the east of the country and limited its chance of victory in the west.

Recently Nato warplanes destroyed the Libyan Down’s Syndrome Society building in Tripoli. And countless conscripted soldiers have been killed.

Unmanned US Predator drones menace the skies above Libya. Meanwhile, Libyans trapped in areas controlled by Colonel Gaddafi’s regime struggle to find basic necessities because of economic sanctions.

Western intervention has ushered in a counter-revolution in eastern Libya. Nato has imposed a line of control in the east, threatening to attack rebels who stray west from the city of Ajdabiya.

And Western powers continue to blackmail the east. Britain holds some £800 million in Libyan currency commissioned before the uprising.

The US has granted the eastern authorities £15 million in aid, yet refuses to release the tens of billions in confiscated funds under its control.

This strategy is presented as the only realistic way to defeat Gaddafi’s regime.

Yet the Nato military campaign has been a failure. The only substantial victories have come in the regions where Western powers have little influence.

Liberated

Rebels in the western stronghold of Misrata have liberated their city by relying on their own resources.

The city, run by popular committees, pulled off a remarkable military victory comparable to that achieved by the eastern cities in the first days of the uprising.

But when Misrata rebels eventually routed regime forces, they destroyed dozens of captured tanks—fearing they would be targeted by Nato warplanes.

Rebels in Misrata have constantly attempted to win over, or call for the surrender of, regime forces. They understand that many of these soldiers are forced to fight.

Those who surrender are well treated and allowed to return to their families.

This strategy is key to undermining support for the regime and widening the revolution’s appeal.

Battles along the string of western Berber villages and towns close to the border with Tunisia have followed a similar pattern.

Here rebels acted on their own, using army troops who had defected and captured equipment to seize the border region that has become a key route into Tunisia.

When Libyan regime troops attempted to retake the border, Tunisians in the village of Dehiba rose in revolt, forcing Tunisian soldiers to intervene.

The key to this success, and the long-term survival of the revolution in western Libya, is in the reaction of Tunisia.

While the US made a big play of its offer of aid, Tunisia announced that its schools will open their doors to children of Libyan refugees for free. Its borders have remained open.

In contrast Egypt is now sealing its border with the Western-client regime imposed on the east of the country.

The Libyan revolution is not lost. But it now has the double burden of destroying Gaddafi’s regime in the west, and fighting for self-determination in the east.

Stop the War protest when parliament debates Libya, 5pm, Monday 16 May, Downing Street, London


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International
Tue 10 May 2011, 18:13 BST
Issue No. 2251
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