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America’s secret plan to arm Libya’s rebels

Robert Fisk, Independent/UK
Obama asks Saudis to airlift weapons into Benghazi
Desperate to avoid US military involvement in Libya in the event of a prolonged struggle between the Gaddafi regime and its opponents, the Americans have asked Saudi Arabia if it can supply weapons to the rebels in Benghazi. The Saudi Kingdom, already facing a “day of rage” from its 10 per cent Shia Muslim community on Friday, with a ban on all demonstrations, has so far failed to respond to Washington’s highly classified request, although King Abdullah personally loathes the Libyan leader, who tried to assassinate him just over a year ago.

Washington’s request is in line with other US military co-operation with the Saudis. The royal family in Jeddah, which was deeply involved in the Contra scandal during the Reagan administration, gave immediate support to American efforts to arm guerrillas fighting the Soviet army in Afghanistan in 1980 and later – to America’s chagrin – also funded and armed the Taliban.

But the Saudis remain the only US Arab ally strategically placed and capable of furnishing weapons to the guerrillas of Libya. Their assistance would allow Washington to disclaim any military involvement in the supply chain – even though the arms would be American and paid for by the Saudis.
(7 March 2011)
Related by Robert Fisk: The historical narrative that lies beneath the Gaddafi rebellion. -BA

Venezuela and Libya: An Interview with Gregory Wilpert

Greg Wilpert and, conducted the following interview with Gregory Wilpert. Wilpert is a sociologist, freelance journalist, co-founder of, and author of the book, Changing Venezuela by Taking Power.

Q: To what extent has Chavez really taken sides in the conflict in Libya?

A: Chavez seems to be torn on the issue of Libya. On the one hand he has declared that Gaddafi is his friend and that he trusts Gaddafi. On the other hand he says he does not know what is happening in Libya today, that one cannot trust the international media on this issue, and that he cannot support even a friend on everything they do. So, while Chavez has taken a fairly cautious approach with regard to Libya, he has in effect taken sides with Gaddafi to the extent that he has cast doubt on news reports about atrocities being committed by Gaddafi in Libya.

Q: Chavez often states that what each country does internally is their business, and that it’s important that other world leaders not comment on such things, in order to respect the sovereignty of that country. He made such comments regarding the recent popular rebellion in Egypt. Why then do you think he has taken sides, even if in a limited way, in this issue?

A: I think Chavez has taken sides because he bases his foreign policy to a large extent on personal relationships. Once he establishes a personal rapport with a foreign leader he trusts that leader implicitly and negative news reports about that leader leave him completely unimpressed because he knows only too well from personal experience how biased international media can be.

Some critics of Chavez like to argue that he is fond of people like Gaddafi because they are autocrats just like him. That is a silly argument, though, if you consider that Chavez is also close friends with people such as Lula da Silva of Brazil, who has an impeccable democratic reputation. Rather, Chavez simply makes friends across the “democrat” – “autocrat” spectrum, regardless of their governing styles.

Q: Do you think Chavez’s own experiences of a U.S backed coup, and complete distortions about Venezuela by the international private media have played a role in his reaction to what is going on in Libya, or is it more a part of his general foreign policy?

A: Both. There is a general foreign policy component in that Chavez is very interested in strengthening South-South relations and in order to do that he has to do to establish ties with unsavory characters such as Gaddafi. Also, with Chavez being a history buff, he sees Gaddafi’s 1969 revolution in Libya as an anti-imperialist liberation struggle and values Gaddafi for that (which is why he honored him with a replica of Simon Bolivar’s sword). Meanwhile, Chavez seems to be unaware that Gaddafi and Libya have changed significantly since then and so he continues to view Gaddafi through this historical lens.
(6 March 2011)

A Libyan Leader at War With Rebels, and Reality

David D. Kirkpatrick, New York Times
… accuracy and logic have never been the tenets of Colonel Qaddafi’s governing philosophy, and their absence is especially conspicuous now, as rebels pose the greatest challenge to his four decades of enigmatic rule.

Not a day passes in Tripoli without some improbable claim by Colonel Qaddafi or the top officials around him: there are no rebels or protesters in Libya; the people who are demonstrating have been drugged by Al Qaeda; no shots have been fired to suppress dissent.

… For more than four hours, Qaddafi supporters fired triumphant bursts of machine gun fire into the air from cars and among crowds in the downtown area. As many as 2,000 of them waved bright green flags and bandannas — and, in many cases, guns — as they rallied in Green Square, and several hundred of the pro-Qaddafi demonstrators were still at it at sunset.

Many of the people in Green Square lashed out at the Arabic news channels Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya, calling them liars that had confused and inflamed Libya’s young people. The crowd’s fist-pumping ardor was a testament to the strength of the mythology of epic heroism that Colonel Qaddafi has instilled since he seized power at the age of 27.

He did it in part by making sure that his was virtually the only voice in public life. News reports try not to refer to other top government officials, or even soccer players, by name, ensuring that Colonel Qaddafi is virtually the only public figure in Libya.

Colonel Qaddafi has also built a persona, in particular as a revolutionary still tilting at distant colonial powers, that in some ways resonates with Libyans who remember their bitter experiences under Italian rule. His personal mythology has helped him stay on top of a fractious, tribal and deeply divided society for longer than any other living leader in North Africa or the Middle East.

… Colonel Qaddafi maintains a strong interest in American books about public affairs. In one cable, the embassy reported that Colonel Qaddafi assigned trusted aides to prepare Arabic summaries of Fareed Zakaria’s “The Post-American World,” Thomas Friedman’s “The World Is Flat 3.0,” George Soros’s “The Age of Fallibility: Consequences of the War on Terror” and President Obama’s “The Audacity of Hope.” Another of Zakaria’s books, “The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad,” was said to be a Qaddafi favorite.
(6 March 2011)