News Release

Libya: * Who Are the Rebels? * WikiLeaks


Author of The Darker Nations: A People’s History of the Third World, Prashad said today: “We should be very careful when we think of the rebels. We should not confuse all the rebellions across the Arab world and consider them all to be the same. There are some important differences. Also, the United States and NATO have their own agendas here. When one supports an intervention, one should be very careful to see whose intervention we are supporting. Is this on behalf of those young people, the workers and others? Or is it on behalf of NATO and the Libyans it may be attempting to install?

“So, for instance, when we talk about the rebel leadership in Benghazi, one should keep in mind that the two principal military leaders, one of whom was a former interior minister in the Gadafi regime, Abdel Fatah Younis. And the second, Khalifah Hifler, was a general who led Libyan troops in Chad in the 1980s and was then taken up with the Libyan National Salvation Front, went off to live in Vienna, Virginia, for 30 years, about a ten minute drive from Langley [where the CIA is headquartered], and returned to Benghazi to, in a sense, I think, hijack the rebellion on behalf of the forces of reaction. In addition to NATO members, it’s fundamentally Qatar and the UAE, the Saudis and the Gulf Cooperation Council that is behind this. That’s the principal Arab support for the Libyan intervention and is the same force putting down the uprising in Bahrain. You had the Saudi Prince Faisal Al Turki talking about the GCC becoming perhaps a NATO of the Gulf region. So part of this intervention is precisely to clamp down on the ‘Arab Spring,’ to take attention away, as well, from Bahrain and other places, rather than a part of the Arab Spring — exactly the opposite of what the U.S. administration is claiming.”

Prashad is the George and Martha Kellner Chair of South Asian History and director of International Studies at Trinity College, Hartford, Conn. He recently wrote the piece “Intervening in Libya.”

Short is an independent researcher who holds a doctorate in African studies from Howard University and a masters of divinity from Harvard University. He said today: “As part of my research on Libya, I came across a WikiLeaks document that seems to have been largely overlooked with all the fuss about personalities surrounding the WikiLeaks disclosures. The document shows extreme U.S. interest in the prospect of a rebellion in the eastern part of Libya. … In terms of sources of information, possibly the most dangerous aspect of what we are currently seeing has been the role of al-Jazeera. It played a very positive role in Egypt, but when things came to Libya it did a complete 180. The sheikdom of Qatar — which funds al-Jazeera — is the only nation in the Arab League that is actually participating in the military attacks. Also, it has signed an oil deal with the Libyan rebels. So if Gadafi wins, an oil deal for Qatar goes bad.” Short is able to address other issues surrounding the war with Libya, including water, refugees and relations with other African countries.

Excerpts from the WikiLeaks document Short is referring to: “Frustration at the inability of eastern Libyans to effectively challenge Qadhafi’s regime, together with a concerted ideological campaign by returned Libyan fighters from earlier conflicts, have played important roles in Derna’s [town in eastern Libya] development as a wellspring of Libyan foreign fighters in Iraq. Other factors include a dearth of social outlets for young people, local pride in Derna’s history as a locus of fierce opposition to occupation, economic disenfranchisement among the town’s young men. Depictions on satellite television of events in Iraq and Palestine fuel the widespread view that resistance to coalition forces is justified and necessary. One Libyan interlocutor likened young men in Derna to Bruce Willis’ character in the action picture ‘Die Hard,’ who stubbornly refused to die quietly. For them, resistance against coalition forces in Iraq is an important act of ‘jihad’ and a last act of defiance against the Qadhafi regime. …

“Over lunch at a popular restaurant just off the waterfront, xxxxxxxxxxxx and his business partner (who declined to give his name) discussed at length the local political-economic, cultural and religious scene, noting that it was ‘well-known’ that a large number of suicide bombers (invariably described as ‘martyrs’) and foreign fighters in Iraq hailed from Derna, a fact in which the town ‘takes great pride.’ …

“There was a strong perception, he said, that the U.S. had decided in the wake of Qadhafi’s decision to abandon WMD aspirations and renounce terrorism to support the regime to secure counter-terrorism cooperation and ensure continued oil and natural gas production. Many easterners feared the U.S. would not allow Qadhafi’s regime to fall and therefore viewed direct confrontation with the GOL [government of Libya] in the near-term as a fool’s errand. At the same time, sending young Libyans to fight in Iraq was ‘an embarrassment’ to Qadhafi. Fighting against U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq represented a way for frustrated young radicals to strike a blow against both Qadhafi and against his perceived American backers. …

“The fact that Derna’s educational system was weak had also enabled conservative clerics. xxxxxxxxxxxx described a situation in which mosques and imams effectively offered the only alternative to schools, sports leagues and after-school activities. A heavy influx of Arabic-language satellite television — a phenomenon that dated to the late-1990’s — also fostered a ‘hard view’ of the world, xxxxxxxxxxxx said. Most young men watched a mix of al-Jazeera news, religious sermons and western action films on English language satellite channels broadcast from the Gulf. The result was a heady mixture of violence, religious conservatism and hatred of U.S. policy in Iraq and Palestine. The consensus view in Derna is that the U.S. blindly supports Israel and has invaded Iraq to secure oil reserves and position itself to attack Iran, he said.” Full text

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167