Saturday, May 19, 2012

the lesson of Libya: don't trust NATO

Friday morning's bright spot was Vijay Prashad, author of Arab Spring, Libyan Winter.

Prashad's thesis was that NATO intervention was unnecessary to depose Muammar Gaddafi in Libya. The forces of change were strong enough to replace Gaddafi internally.

What NATO accomplished by aiding the forces that deposed Gaddafi was to ensure that Libyan ex-patriots with strongly connections and loyalties to the West would play a leadership role in the new government.

Prashad argued that had the regime change been accomplished internally, it would have been clearer who should be leading the new government of Libya.

Prashad also detailed how NATO had demanded it be exempted from any findings that it killed civilians. A Human Rights Watch report based on investigating a limited number of sites showed 72 civilian casualties. Prashad quoted a letter demanding that UN investigations conclude NATO did not kill civilians before the investigations happen.

Prashad then went on to give anecdotes about diplomatic discussions about Syria. He claimed that diplomats at the United Nations are reluctant to use NATO to address the unrest in Syria because NATO went beyond the UN Security Council resolution for Libya and because NATO refused to be held accountable.

In private discussions afterward, Prashad also characterized Syria as much more aligned with the West than was commonly recognized. He sited that Syria was the only non-Saudi Arab state to participate in Gulf War I. I asked about why Syria was part of Bush's "axis of evil" if the Syrian government was such a darling of the West. Prashad attributed it to Syria being an inconsistent ally of the West and Bush going further than made any sense based on normal understanding of how diplomacy and international relations work.

I asked Prashad about the source of Osama bin Laden's money for the 9/11 attacks. Prashad said ObL was never cut off. This is the quote from Fawaz A. Gerges in The Rise and Fall of al-Qaeda:

As bin Laden boarded a small Russian-made airplane to transport him and his family back to Afghanistan in 1996, the future must have looked bleak indeed. Stripped of his Saudi citizenship in the spring of 1994, he was nearly penniless, having lost his financial empire, amounting to millions of dollars, in Sudan, and found himself on the run. His investment in various domestic jihadist groups, such as Zawahiri's Tanzim al-Jihad, al-Gamaa al-Islamiya, and Algeria's Groupes Islamiques Armes (GIA; Armed Islamic Groups), had gone sour--their extreme violence turned Muslim public opinion against them and they were more of a liability than an asset. Bin Laden had nothing concrete to show after spending four years in Sudan and squandering his fortune.
Maybe "almost penniless" left ObL with significant financial assets. In other parts of the book, it describes one of ObL's tools for converting people to his strategy (the far enemy: attacking the United States) from the preferred strategy of others (near enemy: toppling secular Arab leaders) was to spread the money around.

It seems possible to me that part of ObL's money came not from ideological allies, but from individuals, institutions and governments that would benefit and who did benefit when al-Qaeda attacked the United States.

It's not terribly controversial to state that the United States had Osama bin Laden killed because it did not want information to be revealed at trial that would... reflect poorly on those in power in the United States and the West.

Was part of that information details about individuals, institutions and governments that the U.S. public is supposed to consider positively that actually funded the 9/11 attacks?

1 comment:

  1. Fawaz Gerges graciously answered an email on the point I raised:

    Thanks, Carl. In The Rise and Fall of Al-Qaeda, I show that although Osama bin Laden left Sudan in 1996 on the verge of bankrupcy, he subsequently leveraged his status as an opposition leader to the Saudi monarchy and its superpower patron, the United States, to raise tens of millions of dollars from wealthy Gulf businessmen who bankrolled his jihadist venture while in Afghanistan. After all, Sudan, a way station on bin Laden's jihadist journey, was not as disastrous and crippling as the Saudis and the Americans had thought when they exerted pressure on the Sudanese government to expell him from the poor Arab-African country.