05/23/2011, 00.00
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Economic crisis and a thirst for money, the true reasons for the war in Libya

by Simone Cantarini
For Jean Paul Pougala, a Cameroonian sociologist and Africa expert, the war against Gaddafi is too costly and could last years. Based on unsubstantiated claims, NATO’s No Fly Zone hides the economic interests and frustrations of Europe and the Arab League. The Church offers a lesson to the world’s silent pacifists.

Rome (AsiaNews) – “Europe is making a fool of itself in front of countries like Russia and China, by conducting an expensive war, that will not solve anything and could last years,” Jean-Paul Pougala, a Cameroonian writer, told AsiaNews as he spoke about NATO’s action against Gaddafi. An expert on Africa, he teaches sociology at the School of Diplomacy and International Relations in Geneva. In an interview with AsiaNews, he said he was “scandalised by this war, which began under the pretext of protecting civilians,” but is in fact due to hidden economic and strategic interests in Africa and the Middle East. Pougala notes, “only the Church has given voice to anti-war positions, giving a lesson to all these self-righteous people”. In fact, he wonders, “Where are the crowds that in 2003 protested around the world against the Iraq war?

Meanwhile, airstrikes continue against the Libyan capital. Planes hit overnight the harbour and Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s residence. Baroness Catherine Ashton, EU Foreign Affairs Representative, visited Benghazi yesterday where she opened an EU office that will start working with the Transitional National Council on “security reform, the economy, health, education, and in building civil society.”

The world economic crisis and the failure of the NATO campaign in Libya

“France, Great Britain and Italy have underestimated this war,” Jean Paul Pougala said. “They started, not realising the real size of Gaddafi’s weapons and military forces, especially ground forces. They could lose and look like fools.”

NATO propaganda on TV, newspapers and news agencies showing the world the mission’s success is hiding, according to the scholar, the current deadlock, due to the economic crisis of European nations. The first week of the war cost NATO countries more than 600 million Euros and the conflict could last months or years.

“In recent days, Italy dropped flyers over Tripoli, calling on the population to boycott Gaddafi, who is on the verge of defeat. On 17 May, media began their coverage claiming that Gaddafi’s second wife, Safiyah, and her daughter Aisha had fled to Tunisia, which was later denied by Tunisian authorities but ignored by news agencies that reported it without too much prominence.”

According to the sociologist, if the air conflict continues, France, Great Britain and Italy will run out of resources. In order to win, they will have to begin a ground operation, which is not allowed under UN Resolution 1973.

“In the past three weeks, French fighter planes have had to land in Malta several times to refuel. The missiles that sank eight Libyan ships cost 300,000 euro each. Each day, hundreds are launched.” Libya’s National Transitional Council has been without resources for months, and has asked for 3 billion Euros in aid, which European nations cannot provide since they are faced with large debts.

“Under the pretext of financially helping the rebels and fund the war, France, Great Britain and the United States want access to Libya’s US$ 200 billion sovereign funds, frozen by banks because they are tied to Gaddafi and his family, but which actually belong to Libya”.  

Those who want to take that money must violate international rules. The United Nations and the international community recognise Gaddafi as the president of Libya, whilst the Transitional National Council is officially recognised only by Italy, France, Qatar, Kuwait, Gambia and the Maldives.

Gaddafi, an unwelcome figure for the West and the Arab world. Absent pacifists

According to Pougala, the war that started under the false pretext of defending civilians became a licence to kill Gaddafi, violating United Nations resolutions and demonising a leader and his action without concrete evidence. “I have not yet seen pacifists criticise the NATO mission,” the sociologist said. “Where are the crowds that in 2003 protested around the world against the Iraq war? Only the Church has given voice to anti-war positions, giving a lesson to all these self-righteous people.”

“No one has provided the evidence that the Gaddafi regime killed 10,000 demonstrators, on the basis of which UN Resolution 1973 was adopted, the No Fly Zone was established, and an application was filed for Gaddafi to be tried before the court in The Hague for crimes against humanity. The information came from two Arab news sources, Qatar-based Al-Jazeera and Saudi-based Al-Arabya”. For the sociologist, both countries have an interest in destroying Gaddafi and Libya. Qatar, together with other Gulf States, has a grudge against the Libyan regime, and is the only Arab state that has joined in the airstrikes against Libya. Saudi Arabia has never been a fan of the Libyan leader. In 2003, during a meeting of the Arab league, Gaddafi accused Saudi King Abdullah of having allowed the “sacred ground of Makkah” to be violated by “Christian soldiers during the 1991 Gulf War”.

“Gaddafi has committed crimes,” Pougala said, “but he is different from an Arab sheikh. He had plans for the African continent and his people, namely the establishment of the United States of Africa and the creation of a single currency, the ‘golden dinar’, which has always been opposed by Western nations.”

In fact, the rules imposed by the former colonisers prevent many states from setting up their own independent central banks[1]. For Pougala, Gaddafi’s goal was to end this type of dependency by creating local central banks under the guidance of a supranational agency modelled on the European Central Bank (ECB). His huge petrodollar investments in sub-Saharan Africa were another factor that made the Libyan leader internationally unpopular, especially in the Arab world.

“Arab states have exploited Black Africa long before Europeans did. So far, Gaddafi is the only Muslim leader to apologise to Africans for Arab slavery and paid them back, not only through one-way business relations, but also by stimulating local economies and countering the interests of China, the only country other than Libya that has focused on the resources of the African continent.”

For the scholar, the future of Libya and African countries remains uncertain. The prospect of real independence is ever more distance. However, “if the project of the United States of Africa is sound, nothing can stop this principle from future realisation.”

[1] One example is the CFA (African Financial Community) franc, which has legal tender in 14 former French colonies. The currency has a fixed exchange rate with the euro and is guaranteed by the French treasury. A joint foreign currency reserve is funded by member countries (covering at least 65 per cent of reserves deposited with the French treasury, which acts as guarantor for monetary exchange). French authorities participate in defining the monetary policy of the CFA zone.

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