While Workers Lack Leadership and 50,000 Die: Battle for Libya’s Oil Heats Up Inter-Imperialist Rivalry

The Libyan civil war has heated up the rivalry among the world’s imperialists, as U.S., British, French, Italian, Russian, and Chinese rulers jockey for access to the country’s oil and gas riches. What Obama hails as Libya’s “liberation” from dictator Muammar Qaddafi is in fact a bid to recolonize it into a Western protectorate. And if Libya unravels, U.S. rulers are preparing for an invasion.

Rebel Racism Rampant

Obama called Libya’s NATO-backed rebels “courageous.” For our class, however, there are no heroes in this civil war. Nobody is fighting for workers. All sides represent oil-thirsty capitalists and stand guilty of atrocities.

Both Qaddafi’s forces and the rebels have executed handcuffed prisoners. Racist rebels massacred scores of black migrant workers and recently jailed hundreds more as alleged Qaddafi mercenaries from sub-Saharan Africa. NATO bombers under overall U.S. command wiped out 85 civilians in one August raid. “An estimated 50,000 people have been killed in Libya since the start of the uprising, according to the rebels’ military leadership” (Independent, London, 8/31).

Libya’s Den-of-Thieves ‘Saviors’ Include Anti-U.S. al Qaeda Allies

But while the triumphant U.S., British, and French imperialists vie for Libya’s energy riches, they’re having trouble patching together a viable local government. Tribes and regions within Libya are also competing for their own shares of the oil profits, thus weakening the new, supposedly ruling National Transitional Council (NTC). “Already council members have fallen into dispute over the $65 billion Libyan Investment Authority sovereign wealth fund” (Bloomberg News, 9/1).

In addition, Obama & Co.’s opportunistic reliance on radical Islamists to do their dirty work poses still worse threats to the U.S. ruling class. The London Independent noted (8/28): “The rebel military commander behind the successful assault on Tripoli had fought in Afghanistan alongside the Taliban and was an Islamist terror suspect interrogated by the CIA. Abdelhakim Belhadj, the newly appointed commander of the Tripoli Military Council, is a former emir of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) — banned by Britain and the U.S. as a terrorist organisation after the 9/11 attacks.” In power, radical Islamists could steer Libya closer to an anti-U.S. Iran or help destabilize Saudi Arabia (the cornerstone of oil-based U.S. imperialism), a long-time goal of Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda.

Stratfor, a Texas think-tank named for the “strategic forecasting” it sells to U.S. businesses, thinks Libya could soon tear wide open. “This jihadist element of the rebel coalition appears to have reared its head recently with the assassination of former NTC military head Abdel Fattah Younis in late July….Between the seizure of former Qaddafi arms depots and the arms provided to the rebels by outside powers, Libya is awash with weapons. If the NTC fractures like past rebel coalitions, it could set the stage for a long and bloody civil war — and provide an excellent opportunity to jihadist elements” (Stratfor, 8/24).

With Eyes on Libya’s Oil Prize, U.S. Rulers Have Invasion Plan

Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), the U.S. rulers’ leading foreign policy factory, foresees GIs in Libya: “Obama may need to reconsider his assertion that there would not be any American boots on the ground” (London Financial Times, 8/22). The CFR’s “Contingency Planning Memorandum No.12: Post-Qaddafi Instability in Libya,” released in August and bankrolled by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, gave more specifics:

“If initial efforts to avert violent instability in Libya fail, the international community would have three broad response options: humanitarian relief…limited military intervention…full-scale occupation. Various operational configurations for armed intervention are conceivable — including unilateral U.S. action (our emphasis, Ed.) a coalition of the willing without UN mandate, and a fully sanctioned international force led by NATO.”

Obama, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron bombarded Libya and sent in special forces assassins, invoking a “responsibility to protect” Libyan citizens. But the civilian casualties resulting from 8,000 NATO airstrikes and the disgusting scramble for war spoils prove the humanitarian motive false.

On September 1, Sarkozy and Cameron chaired a 60-nation “Friends of Libya” gathering in Paris. Hillary Clinton stood in for Obama. Everyone knew the agenda. “The glittering prize is Libya’s 1.6 million barrels per day output of high quality crude….Projecting into the future, analysts believe that has reserves to sustain its previous level of production for 80 years”  (OilPrice.com, 8/24).

Obama’s ‘Coalition of the Drilling’

“Who will eventually control this asset, with oil prices currently at roughly $84 a barrel, generating an income of more than $12.6 million per day? Italy’s ENI? France’s Total? Britain’s BP? U.S. companies?” (OilPrice.com). That’s the 4.6-billion-dollar-a-year question.

Obama and his murderous coalition of the drilling imagine that they’ve scored a major coup against imperialist rivals China and Russia. Abdeljalil Mayouf, information manager at Libya’s “rebel” Arabian Gulf Oil Company, proclaimed in gratitude for NATO’s slaughter: “We don’t have a problem with Western countries like the Italians, French and U.K. companies. But we may have some political issues with Russia, China and Brazil [which took no military or diplomatic action against Qaddafi]” Asia Times, 8/25). And Business Week (8/24) predicts triple profits for Western firms under Libya’s new management, “a split of 70 percent of revenue for the government and 30 percent for oil companies, as opposed to the current 90-10 ratio.”

But meanwhile, rising imperialists are joining together to challenge the traditional capitalist powers centered in NATO: the U.S., Britain, France and Germany. BRIC — Brazil, Russia, India and China — represents a coalition seeking a larger portion of the world capitalist pie, which can only come from taking resources and exploitable workers away from the more established powers. This growing inter-imperialist rivalry will inevitably lead to regional and eventually world war.

China’s Bosses May Trump Obama’s Bombing Coalition in Libya Oil Grab

 “But it is too early to count China out from the race….The crystal ball is murky indeed, but when the uprising against Qaddafi began six months ago, about 36,000 Chinese were in Libya working on 50 projects” (OilPrice.com). And Chinese rulers have “deeper pockets than all their competitors.”

Suppose China does win energy concessions in Libya. The range of its potential military confrontations with its chief imperialist rival, the U.S., will then stretch from the Mediterranean through Suez to the Persian Gulf, the Indian Ocean, the Strait of Malacca, the South China Sea and Taiwan, all the way to the mid-Pacific. The U.S. Navy is pointedly expanding its already massive base on Guam.

China’s rulers, who already field the world’s largest land army, have been building up their blue water navy and their stockpile of non-nuclear ballistic missiles, threatening U.S. domination of the Pacific and Indian oceans (see article, page 5). China recently launched its first aircraft carrier, with more to come. The New York Times Op-Ed page (9/5) warned that planned Pentagon spending cuts — a reflection of divisions in the U.S. ruling class — could give China the ability to deal “a knockout blow to [U.S.] forward forces” and to erode U.S. security guarantees to China’s neighbors.

Many working-class Libyans sincerely believed they were combatting Qaddafi’s tyranny. But because they lacked communist leadership and goals, the struggle long ago became a classic inter-imperialist battle for territory and resources. Instead of Qaddafi’s brutal reign, Libya’s workers will be suffering the so-called Western “democracy” which exploits their labor and rains bombs down on them to guarantee ruling-class profits.

The end of oil wars like Libya’s can come only after the working class seizes power in a revolution that destroys the profit system. This will be a true, lasting, fundamental change in class rule. It constitutes the Progressive Labor Party’s ultimate aim.

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