There's No Business like War Business

By Pepe Escobar · 1 Apr 2011

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Picture: Ammar Abd Rabbo
Picture: Ammar Abd Rabbo

Lies, hypocrisy and hidden agendas. This is what United States President Barack Obama did not dwell on when explaining his Libya doctrine to America and the world. The mind boggles with so many black holes engulfing this splendid little war that is not a war (a "time-limited, scope-limited military action", as per the White House) - compounded with the inability of progressive thinking to condemn, at the same time, the ruthlessness of the Muammar Gaddafi regime and the Anglo-French-American "humanitarian" bombing. 

United Nations Security Council resolution 1973 has worked like a Trojan horse, allowing the Anglo-French-American consortium - and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) - to become the UN's air force in its support of an armed uprising. Apart from having nothing to do with protecting civilians, this arrangement is absolutely illegal in terms of international law. The inbuilt endgame, as even malnourished African kids know by now, but has never been acknowledged, is regime change. 

Lieutenant General Charles Bouchard of Canada, NATO's commander for Libya, may insist all he wants that the mission is purely designed to protect civilians. Yet those "innocent civilians" operating tanks and firing Kalashnikovs as part of a rag-tag wild bunch are in fact soldiers in a civil war - and the focus should be on whether NATO from now on will remain their air force, following the steps of the Anglo-French-American consortium. Incidentally, the "coalition of the wiling" fighting Libya consists of only 12 NATO members (out of 28) plus Qatar. This has absolutely nothing to do with an "international community". 

The full verdict on the UN-mandated no-fly zone will have to wait for the emergence of a "rebel" government and the end of the civil war (if it ends soon). Then it will be possible to analyze how Tomahawking and bombing was ever justified; why civilians in Cyrenaica were "protected" while those in Tripoli were Tomahawked; what sort of "rebel" motley crew was "saved"; whether this whole thing was legal in the first place; how the resolution was a cover for regime change; how the love affair between the Libyan "revolutionaries" and the West may end in bloody divorce (remember Afghanistan); and which Western players stand to immensely profit from the wealth of a new, unified (or balkanized) Libya. 

For the moment at least, it's quite easy to identify the profiteers. 

The Pentagon 

Pentagon supremo Robert Gates said this weekend, with a straight face, there are only three repressive regimes in the whole Middle East: Iran, Syria and Libya. The Pentagon is taking out the weak link - Libya. The others were always key features of the neo-conservative take-out/evil list. Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Bahrain, etc are model democracies. 

As for this "now you see it, now you don't" war, the Pentagon is managing to fight it not once, but twice. It started with Africom - established under the George W Bush administration, beefed up under Obama, and rejected by scores of African governments, scholars and human rights organizations. Now the war is transitioning to NATO, which is essentially Pentagon rule over its European minions. 

This is Africom's first African war, conducted up to now by General Carter Ham out of his headquarters in un-African Stuttgart. Africom, as Horace Campbell, professor of African American studies and political science at Syracuse University puts it, is a scam; "fundamentally a front for US military contractors like Dyncorp, MPRI and KBR operating in Africa. US military planners who benefit from the revolving door of privatization of warfare are delighted by the opportunity to give Africom credibility under the facade of the Libyan intervention." 

Africom's Tomahawks also hit - metaphorically - the African Union (AU), which, unlike the Arab League, cannot be easily bought by the West. The Arab Gulf petro-monarchies all cheered the bombing - but not Egypt and Tunisia. Only five African countries are not subordinated to Africom; Libya is one of them, along with Sudan, Ivory Coast, Eritrea and Zimbabwe. 


NATO's master plan is to rule the Mediterranean as a NATO lake. Under these "optics" (Pentagon speak) the Mediterranean is infinitely more important nowadays as a theater of war than AfPak. 

There are only three out of 20 nations on or in the Mediterranean that are not full members of NATO or allied with its "partnership" programs: Libya, Lebanon and Syria. Make no mistake; Syria is next. Lebanon is already under a NATO blockade since 2006. Now a blockade also applies to Libya. The US - via NATO - is just about to square the circle. 

Saudi Arabia 

What a deal. King Abdullah gets rid of his eternal foe Gaddafi. The House of Saud - in trademark abject fashion - bends over backwards for the West's benefit. The attention of world public opinion is diverted from the Saudis invading Bahrain to smash a legitimate, peaceful, pro-democracy protest movement. 

The House of Saud sold the fiction that "the Arab League" as a whole voted for a no-fly zone. That is a lie; out of 22 members, only 11 were present at the vote; six are members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), of which Saudi Arabia is the top dog. The House of Saud just needed to twist the arms of three more. Syria and Algeria were against it. Translation; only nine out of 22 Arab countries voted for the no-fly zone. 

Now Saudi Arabia can even order GCC head Abdulrahman al-Attiyah to say, with a straight face, "the Libyan system has lost its legitimacy." As for the "legitimate" House of Saud and the al-Khalifas in Bahrain, someone should induct them into the Humanitarian Hall of Fame. 


The hosts of the 2022 soccer World Cup sure know how to clinch a deal. Their Mirages are helping to bomb Libya while Doha gets ready to market eastern Libya oil. Qatar promptly became the first Arab nation to recognize the Libyan "rebels" as the only legitimate government of the country only one day after securing the oil marketing deal. 

The 'rebels' 

All the worthy democratic aspirations of the Libyan youth movement notwithstanding, the most organized opposition group happens to be the National Front for the Salvation of Libya - financed for years by the House of Saud, the CIA and French intelligence. The rebel "Interim Transitional National Council" is little else than the good ol' National Front, plus a few military defectors. This is the elite of the "innocent civilians" the "coalition" is "protecting". 

Right on cue, the "Interim Transitional National Council" has got a new finance minister, US-educated economist Ali Tarhouni. He disclosed that a bunch of Western countries gave them credit backed by Libya's sovereign fund, and the British allowed them to access $1.1 billion of Gaddafi's funds. This means the Anglo-French-American consortium - and now NATO - will only pay for the bombs. As war scams go this one is priceless; the West uses Libya's own cash to finance a bunch of opportunists Libyan rebels to fight the Libyan government. And on top of it the Americans, the Brits and the French feel the love for all that bombing. Neo-cons must be kicking themselves; why couldn't former US deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz come up with something like this for Iraq 2003? 

The French 

Oh la la, this could be material for a Proustian novel. The top spring collection in Paris catwalks is the President Nicolas Sarkozy fashion show - a no-fly zone model with Mirage/Rafale air strike accessories. This fashion show was masterminded by Nouri Mesmari, Gaddafi's chief of protocol, who defected to France in October 2010. The Italian secret service leaked to selected media outlets how he did it. The role of the DGSE, the French secret service, has been more or less explained on paid website Maghreb Confidential. 

Essentially, the Benghazi revolt coq au vin had been simmering since November 2010. The cooks were Mesmari, air force colonel Abdullah Gehani, and the French secret service. Mesmari was called "Libyan WikiLeak", because he spilled over virtually every one of Gaddafi's military secrets. Sarkozy loved it - furious because Gaddafi had cancelled juicy contracts to buy Rafales (to replace his Mirages now being bombed) and French-built nuclear power plants. 

That explains why Sarkozy has been so gung ho into posing as the new Arab liberator, was the first leader of a European power to recognize the "rebels" (to the disgust of many at the European Union), and was the first to bomb Gaddafi's forces. 

This busts open the role of shameless self-promoting philosopher Bernard Henri-Levy, who's now frantically milking in the world's media that he phoned Sarkozy from Benghazi and awakened his humanitarian streak. Either Levy is a patsy, or a convenient "intellectual" cherry added to the already-prepared bombing cake. 

Terminator Sarkozy is unstoppable. He has just warned every single Arab ruler that they face Libya-style bombing if they crack down on protesters. He even said that the Ivory Coast was "next". Bahrain and Yemen, of course, are exempt. As for the US, it is once again supporting a military coup (it didn't work with Omar "Sheikh al-Torture" Suleiman in Egypt; maybe it will work in Libya). 


The oh so convenient bogeyman resurfaces. The Anglo-French-American consortium - and now NATO - are (again) fighting alongside al-Qaeda, represented by al-Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQM). 

Libyan rebel leader Abdel-Hakim al-Hasidi - who has fought alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan - extensively confirmed to Italian media that he had personally recruited "around 25" jihadis from the Derna area in eastern Libya to fight against the US in Iraq; now "they are on the front lines in Adjabiya". 

This after Chad's president Idriss Deby stressed that AQM had raided military arsenals in Cyrenaica and may be now holding quite a few surface-to-air missiles. In early March, AQM publicly supported the "rebels". The ghost of Osama bin Laden must be pulling a Cheshire cat; once again he gets the Pentagon to work for him. 

The water privatizers 

Few in the West may know that Libya - along with Egypt - sits over the Nubian Sandstone Aquifer; that is, an ocean of extremely valuable fresh water. So yes, this "now you see it, now you don't" war is a crucial water war. Control of the aquifer is priceless - as in "rescuing" valuable natural resources from the "savages". 

This Water Pipelineistan - buried underground deep in the desert along 4,000 km - is the Great Man-Made River Project (GMMRP), which Gaddafi built for $25 billion without borrowing a single cent from the IMF or the World Bank (what a bad example for the developing world). The GMMRP supplies Tripoli, Benghazi and the whole Libyan coastline. The amount of water is estimated by scientists to be the equivalent to 200 years of water flowing down the Nile. 

Compare this to the so-called three sisters - Veolia (formerly Vivendi), Suez Ondeo (formerly Generale des Eaux) and Saur - the French companies that control over 40% of the global water market. All eyes must imperatively focus on whether these pipelines are bombed. An extremely possible scenario is that if they are, juicy "reconstruction" contracts will benefit France. That will be the final step to privatize all this - for the moment free - water. From shock doctrine to water doctrine. 

Well, that's only a short list of profiteers - no one knows who'll get the oil - and the natural gas - in the end. Meanwhile, the (bombing) show must go on. There's no business like war business.

Escobar is author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His new book, just out, is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009). He may be reached at [email protected]

This article was originally published By Asia Times Online. SACSIS cannot authorise its republication. For reprinting rights, please contact the author directly.

Editor's Note: You may also be interested in Daily Show host Jon Stewart's satirical take on "America at Not-War."

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