25 May 2016

Gaddafi's Libya and the United States

A lesson in alliance and machination

During the opening salvos of the Cold War, the United States found a staunch ally in Libya's King Idris who reigned from 1951-69. Italian imperialism seemed to be replaced by the United States which promptly utilised the nation's resources and appropriated a large airbase. Libya was viewed as strategically important, a bridge between the Mediterranean, Africa and the Middle East.


This is an interesting 2011 article, of course a bit dated as Gaddafi would be dead later that year.


While initially upset with the 1969 coup that brought Gaddafi to power, the United States later seemed willing to deal with the military dictator. We come to the strange a largely forgotten story of CIA agent Ed Wilson who was involved during this time in the rapprochement with Gaddafi. The US seemed keen to utilise him in resisting Communism's rising wave in various African independence movements. Despite the enmity that would develop, Gaddafi was actually the type of dictatorial leader the US was usually happy to deal with. He was secular and yet fervently anti-communist. But the problem was, he had overthrown a US proxy and was somewhat erratic. That might be putting it lightly.

He seemed determined to break Western imperialism's influence in both his own nation and much of Africa.

The US had been working with Gaddafi, helping to train his troops and sharing intelligence about moves against him.

Ed Wilson was supposedly an 'ex-CIA' agent who sold Gaddafi a fairly large quantity of explosives. Was he a renegade, a profiteer who had turned against US policy and was arming enemies? Was he part of a rogue faction that fell apart? Or was he patsy, the fall guy in a larger plot?


He served quite a bit of time in a US prison but eventually was exonerated. Of course he always maintained that his arms sales were done under orders and with the full knowledge of CIA officials. Studying the reporting on the trial it seems pretty clear he was set up. Far from being a pariah in the intelligence community, he seemed pretty popular, well known and rather 'chummy' with a lot of top officials.

The Libyan relationship was thrown into question when the Carter administration began to negotiate with the Libyan enemy, Egypt's Anwar Sadat. Previously the US had been happy to support Gaddafi against Sadat but now this shadowy aspect of the relationship would need to end and be suppressed.

It was really the Reagan administration that brought about the shift in policy and the labeling of Gaddafi as an absolute enemy. The article above suggests that elements within the US oil industry may have been behind this as they were the big losers when Gaddafi had taken over just over a decade earlier.

Does this explain the seemingly schizophrenic policy? One minute the US is a quasi-ally with the dictator and then the Washington turns on him and begins working to overthrow him. Were figures like Wilson, the casualties of this policy shift? Were the operations (which they were in the midst of) suddenly detriments to official policy, a potential source of embarrassment? Were they betrayed by their own government in order to squelch an operation that now would be viewed as both controversial and contrary to public goals?

That's one way to look at it. But there's another.

We might call it 'False Ally Penetration' or manufacturing your own enemies for a greater strategic goal. This seems almost unbelievable to some and yet it's amazing how often this seems to happen. Afghanistan is probably the most poignant and contemporary example where the US is quite literally fighting against former allies which it trained and armed.

How does this work? Well, the US can go in make friends, train special forces troops, police, paramilitary units and in many cases death squads. They penetrate the country with their own special forces units who often function in this type of training capacity. Of course these same people are (at times) trained in intelligence work and even some light diplomacy. It wouldn't be hard to bring in CIA agents or assets as part of the team. The lines can start to grow a little blurry.

They establish relationships with military figures, while at the same time the US can cultivate relationships abroad with the exile and dissident community. This harmonizes in a great flood of intelligence and the ability to penetrate networks both within and outside Libya.

And of course then you begin to make your moves.

You've set up an enemy but one that you understand, one that you've subverted. There's an old line about keep your friends close but your enemies closer. That applies here. Why make an enemy that is an unknown? Rather know your enemy, get inside his head, make friends with his friends, subvert him, understand him and then when he's your enemy you can manipulate him and in the end destroy him at your convenience. You can use the conflict to feed and support larger circles of war and strategic struggles. Oh, and then of course you can make a lot of money along the way.

Of course Gaddafi did not disappoint. He worked to subvert US interests, supported terrorism, in some cases utilising networks and weapons the US had helped to put in place. He also certainly moved against French interests in Africa. Did that really upset the United States? One wonders. It all depends on the context. Given the current situation in Libya and the impending war that it faces, it's the European powers that are likely to lose. Eager to re-enter old colonial stomping grounds the Europeans will likely find that a second war will grant the US greater control.

Then there's the very complicated and murky relationship with the Irish Republican Army (IRA). At this point, the relationship with the US is found to be nothing less than bewildering as there's a great deal of evidence to suggest tacit CIA support for the IRA, and there are some strange chapters of US involvement with Libya in this regard. Was this the United States continuing to work clandestinely with Gaddafi or elements within Gaddafi's government, even while officially the US was moving against him? Of course the 1986 bombing of Libya by the US brought out a degree of open enmity beyond what already existed.

These relationships and actions also strained the relationship with the United Kingdom and at times it seems the CIA was operating contrary to the FBI who was working to support the UK in uncovering IRA financial and weapon support networks in the United States. The Irish mafia and figures like Whitey Bulger enter at this point in a story that grows almost incomprehensible... but certainly fascinating.

Again I ask was Ed Wilson truly a rogue, a casualty of policy or was he the patsy set to fall at the convenient time, a means to cover US tracks?

Iran-Contra was bad enough, though amazingly covered-up and misunderstood by the public. If the public had known the Reagan administration had also been working with Gaddafi, then what would the response have been?

Looking at the history and the way the US manipulated Gaddafi and then sought to destroy him is it any wonder he responded the way he did? Due to the weapons sales, and some of the IRA connections (which include the CIA) I am convinced the US has always been reluctant to truly pursue and uncover the events surrounding the downing of PanAm 103. The whole episode and the various controversies surrounding it have engendered a certain bitterness among some in the UK. Deep down they know the United States is not a true ally, it doesn't view them as an equal partner but as a minion or lackey.

By the 1990s Gaddafi actually saw the writing on the wall and understood a new era of Islamic terrorism was on the horizon and it jeopardised his position. Interestingly there was an episode during this period which was something of a harbinger of what would occur in 2011. US/MI6 backed jihadis attempted to overthrow him. In fact these same jihadis were connected with the Soviet War in Afghanistan and the network that birthed al Qaeda. These same jihadis would later 'formally' join or affiliate with the organisation.

Gaddafi ever the survivor shifted and despite the fact that he was a serpent and knew he was dealing with the same, reached out to the West and post-9/11 hoped to become a secular partner in the new era and seemingly endless war against Islamist forces. This normalising of relations began in 2003.

He was happily embraced but this time he truly had been fooled. He was being set up once more, this time for the fall that would end with his brutal public execution.

In some ways you could say he spent his career being played like a fiddle. In terms of Machiavellian ethics, the American's moves against and manipulations of Gaddafi have been brilliant. I would argue the present chaos also serves US purposes. Nobel Peace Prize winner Barack Obama's reluctance regarding his 'mistake' in Libya are little more than crocodile tears. The Libyan chaos is serving US interests multiple fronts. Rather than being viewed as a tragedy it is instead a great opportunity for expanding the phony War on Terror, state surveillance, NATO imperialism, the US relationship with Italy as well as an element in the destabilisation of the EU. It's opening many desired doors into Africa and presently is providing a haven for clandestine operations and further dark deals and alliances. Libya is a feeding trough for the maggots of empire.

It's noteworthy that the Libya uprising in 2011 was fomented by US backed Libyan exiles. It looks like a CIA operation from start to finish.

If war is the backbone of US interests and empire then Libya has proven to be a very lucrative market indeed.

Again as a Christian I urge fellow believers to consider this legacy, the various revelations and the nature of US operations. And then weigh the supposed wisdom of fellow Christians and Christian leaders who praise and support the US war machine and the various branches of the government, military and intelligence that wage these wars. How many have died? How much destruction has been wrought in order to effect these policies? How many of the same sages have profited from the industries that feed this machine?

The notion that government, politics and their corollary wars are somehow moral must be identified as absurd. Some Christians at this point will acknowledge this and hide behind a Constantinian doctrinal apparatus in order to justify their Machiavellian ethics.

Others still operate under the fantasy that government and geopolitics can be conducted on a moral basis. Those that have attempted to do this find that in the end their policies actually result in further trouble. There's no escaping death, theft and lies when it comes to political struggle. Even if you're content to avoid ascendancy which the US has never been, your idleness will lead very quickly to your degradation.

This is why as offensive and immoral as the Neoconservative movement is, they are right in how they view the world in Machiavellian terms. I'm not saying they're morally right but practically so. They are evil but consistent and display a degree of coherence even if it is self-destructive in the end. Robert Kaplan has called for a 'pagan ethic' to govern diplomacy and military strategy. This offends some and yet I know what he's saying. Yes, it's immoral and must be rejected by those who embrace morality, but if you understand the world, such a suggestion is really not that shocking. It merely reflects the nature of the fallen world, vengeance and seeking the destruction of not just your enemies but anyone who does not fully support you. It's the law of the jungle and a failure to recognise reality as such leads to defeat.

Christian participation in this is both lamentable and laughable. We are pilgrims and strangers, we must have nothing to do with the struggle for power.

One cannot help but pity a figure like Ed Wilson. He had it all (so to speak) and yet in the end had like all lost people built a house on sand. What is your nation? What is your government? It's an idea run by men who seek power. Do you think they care about you as an individual? Do you think they won't use you and throw you away? Ask Ed Wilson.

If he was a 'rogue' which I seriously doubt, then again we must observe the irony. He had learned his lessons so well and was behaving in a manner no different than his compatriots and managers. Did he do anything different than anyone else? Hardly. He got caught. His timing was off. In a slightly different context, say on Wall Street, he would be praised and lauded as a genius even if his transactions led to the destabilisation of societies and the destruction of lives. Maybe the trick is learning how to set off deadly explosions that no one can even see and so the fallout barely makes the news.

The notion that Wilson was able to export these explosives without someone noticing is pretty absurd. The more you look into these events, the more this becomes clear. The episode demonstrates how US agencies work against one another and pursue different agendas. If there's a 'rogue' here it's the CIA itself. To no one's surprise the same cast of characters from the period show up once more. The familiar names of Ted Shackley and Richard Secord seem to be involved in all this.

Did the CIA get caught and consequently left Wilson out in the cold, exposed and under threat of death? Or as I suggested earlier was the whole thing a set-up from the start with Wilson the fall guy so everyone else could walk away with impunity? I guess it depends on how sinister you think these people really are.

It's quite a story and a lesson in the nature of power and in the way modern empires function. Their enemies are real but often semi-created, armed and built up. They then can be destroyed while the schemers make money and increase their own power.

I wonder what was going through Gaddafi's head as they hunted him down and he knew death was upon him? I wonder what Ed Wilson thought as he sat in prison those many years and followed the news, or what he thought as he watched Gaddafi fall in 2011? He too would be gone the following year.

Of course Libya now lies in chaos, the dogs of war have been unleashed and new schemes and plots are afoot. Many will die, many will profit. It's a new chapter but the story isn't all that different.

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