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Shock, Awe, and Deja Vu in Libya. But What’s the Plan, Mr. President?

• Eric Margolis via

With déjà vu we see US cruise missiles being launched from the sea, Libyan AA firing helplessly into the night sky at invisible B-2 heavy bombers, and the burning wreckage of armor and vehicles on desert roads.

Here we go again! It’s Iraqi-style shock and awe for Libya.

Let’s get that nasty Saracen, Muammar Gadaffi, the man we love to hate.

As in the case of Iraq, the assault on Libya was preceded by a huge barrage of anti-Gadaffi propaganda and steaming moral outrage by western media and politicians. American TV crews rushed to Libya to witness the wicked colonel get his comeuppance. None went to Bahrain or Yemen.

The attack was led by France. President Nicholas Sarkozy just suffered his own bout of shock and awe when polls showed his conservative party trailing the hard right National Front of Marine LePen. Blasting Arabs is a sure-fire way to win back the hearts of France’s rightwing voters. So "aux armes, citoyens!"

Bien sure, the French attack had nothing, nothing at all to do with unsubstantiated claims by Gadaffi’s number one son, Saif, that Libya has secretly financed Sarkozy’s last election campaign.

The ever-bumbling Arab League had first given a tepid ok to a no-fly zone to stop Gadaffi bombing rebels civilians, but then recoiled as western warplanes began attacking Libyan ground targets and civilians – including Gadaffi’s compound in Tripoli.

The fireworks were most impressive. To no surprise, Libya proved a total pushover. Its feeble military was routed.

But the nasty question then surfaced: what is the objective of this operation? Washington’s crusaders lacked a cogent answer.

Wars are waged to attain political objectives. Killing enemy forces is merely the means to this objective. The UN mandate is only to protect civilians, not to remove the Gadaffi regime. The US is targeting Gadaffi but claims – wink, nudge – that it is only after command and control targets.

But Gadaffi has been through many attempts to kill him. In 1987, he took me by the hand and led me through the ruins of his residence which had been demolished a year earlier by a US bomb that killed his two-year old daughter.

For the moment, the most likely scenario is that Libya will end up split into warring western and eastern camps. The western powers – minus Germany and Turkey who wisely refused to join the Libya attack – are likely to arm and support the Benghazi rebels. It’s also noteworthy that the African Union failed to endorse the anti-Gadaffi operation.

Gadaffi still retains some support in western Libya and from important tribes. So welcome to a Libyan civil war. Shades of Afghanistan and Iraq, where the US intervened to support rebelling minorities and ended up stuck in the middle of maddeningly complex civil wars.

Little is known about the rag-tag Benghazi rebels, now adopted by the western powers. Britain’s MI6 intelligence service has maintained some links with them for over a decade. But the rebels have no organized military power – which suggests western special forces and intelligence agents will soon become involved. This writer has reported their presence in Libya for many weeks.

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