Monday, August 01, 2011

Patrick Cockburn on the Libya War

Patrick Cockburn consistently did some of the best reporting on the Iraq War. Which means you don't see him on the Sunday morning talking-heads shows in the US. But it's worth paying attention to what he is writing about the Libya War in Why the West is committed to the murderous rebels in Libya Independent 07/31/2011:

The Libyan rebels are even weaker than those in Afghanistan and Iraq where the Western-backed opposition had a core of loyal and well-trained fighters. In Afghanistan, these were the mostly Tajik forces of the Northern Alliance and in Iraq the Kurds had a well organised and well led army in the north of the country. In Libya, rebel forces have always been more meagre, inexperienced and often appear to be one side in hitherto obscure tribal confrontations which have turned into mini civil wars.

The nature of the civil war in Libya has been persistently underplayed by foreign governments and media alike. The enthusiasm in some 30 foreign capitals to recognise the mysterious self-appointed group in Benghazi as the leaders of Libya is at this stage probably motivated primarily by expectations of commercial concessions and a carve-up of oilfields.
And he comments on the success of the Free Libya propaganda campaign in the Western media, no doubt assisted by the usual bank of consultants available to exile governments supported by friendly NATO governments:

In one respect, the foreign media has been more culpable than governments in giving credibility to the TNC as an alternative to Gaddafi's regime. Official rebel statements and claims have been treated with respect, as if they were not geared to winning the propaganda war. Atrocity stories, such as the use of the mass rape of women as a weapon of war, were broadcast uncritically by CNN and others. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International as well as a UN commission, found there was no evidence for the allegations, but there was no retraction by the media. How could it be that for month after month Gaddafi's forces were still fighting when he was meant to have no support? One answer was that he had hired mercenaries from black Africa. Frightened labourers with no documents were arrested and presented by the rebels at TV press conferences as mercenaries and later quietly released. In contrast to their limited military capabilities, the rebels have proved extremely effective in cultivating the foreign media. [my emphasis]
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