Yoichi Shimatsu, Senior Advisor to the 4th Media, reported on the rise of Islamist extremist movement in North Africa in the 1990s.
In what country have Americans fought more wars than in any other? The runner-ups include the two wars in Iraq, a pair for Germany, Britain, twice in the Revolution and 1812, and Cuba, a double-header if the covert Bay of Pigs operation is included. The invasions of Canada don’t count since it was still a British colony.
These worthy foes fall short by half. The U.S. Marine Corps ditty about the “shores of Tripoli” provides a clue. The answer was given away by Muammar Qadhafi in his defiant comeback speech on February 22, accusing the US of instigating the current rebellion against his regime. His head wrapped in a saffron turban, he gave a rousing, if rambling, account of surviving dozens of U.S. bombs that blasted his desert encampment, wounding him and killing more than 40 aides in 1986.
The correct answer then is Libya, with four wars and counting. The two Barbary Wars of 1805 and 1815 were the first expeditionary campaigns for the newborn American republic. Storming across the Sahara in 1943, Gen. George Patton led the Allied attack on Rommel’s Afrikacorps. Libya was then a colony of Mussolini Italy, one of the Axis powers. Later in 1986, President Ronald Reagan ordered air strikes against Qadhafi’s tent in a near-miss assassination attempt.
Now a chorus of human-rights activists are calling for the U.S. military to impose a no-fly zone over Libyan airspace, as was done over Kosovo during the NATO campaign to partition Yugoslavia in the late 1990s. In the Balkans case, the no-fly policy led to shoot-downs followed by an invasion of ground troops. Qadhafi’s fiery pledge “to die as a martyr ” is a signal that he is anticipating the Fifth American-Libyan War.
President Barack Obama, with ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq and his own record of civilian casualties, has so far not escalated beyond covert support for America’s newfound allies among Islamic extremists and terrorists. Triple Dealing in Tripoli Libyan exiles and defectors deem Qadhafi to be out of touch with reality. Diplomats at the United Nations are shocked by his use of abusive language, with outright threats to kill rebels.
They’re not the first to be outraged. Reagan, in a fit of righteous anger, called Qadhafi a “mad dog”, a term traditionally used for Englishmen. Yet in 1993, Qadhafi was hailed by the West as a model of virtue and sanity in the Mideast for his pledge to forsake weapons of mass destruction. The Rabta chemical weapons facility was converted into a pharmaceutical plant. Relations with Washington and London were normalized and soon Western oil companies including Chevron, Occidental, ConocoPhillips, Marathon and BP were exploring and drilling for oil and gas in Libya.
Following the 9-11 attacks, Libya became a key ally in America’s war on terror, particularly in the hunt for Osama bin Laden, who escaped to the Saharan region at the start of the Afghan War, as I was told by sources from the Taliban while war reporting at that time. The Pentagon has since established a special forces base in the southwestern region of Fezzan. Under a $165 million contract, General Dynamics provided high-tech communications for Libya’s mobile elite forces.
Thus for the Libyan strongman to renounce his new ties with the US and accuse Washington of instigating protests cannot be mad ravings but must have some basis in fact. As shown in US diplomatic cables, the US intrigues against Qadhafi involve covert ties with religious extremists, including the Islamic Fighting Group, or al-Jamaa al-Islamiyya al-Muqatilah, which is on the State Department list of terrorist groups.
Most people around the world assume that the war on terrorism since the 9-11 attacks definitively ended any American and British support for Islamist insurgents. It didn’t. Washington isn’t just double-dealing; it’s been triple-dealing in Tripoli. Oil and Religion In possibly his last televised speech, Qadhafi described himself as a child of the desert, a “Bedouin revolutionary” who dared to challenge the colonial powers and their regional puppets.
He disparaged the protesters as “greasy rats” and “terrorists” who aim to divide the country into “emirates” under the flag, not of revolutionary Libya, but of the old colonialist-backed monarchy. His words are something more than a dictator’s rant. They ring true in the light of the Libyan revolution of 1969, which established the principle of Jamahiriya or the State of the People. Libya sits on a reserve of more than 30 billion barrels of light sweet crude, remarkably low in sulfur, acid and tar. Libyan petroleum, with its low refining costs, is premier grade as Petrus is to wine.
Americans have always desired that oil, and in World War II, planted Wheelus Airfield on Libyan soil to claim those reserves for Esso (today’s Exxon-Mobile). The US backed the 1951 enthronement of Libya’s first and last monarch, King Idriss . His claim to royalty arose from his prior position as the Emir of Cyrenaica, awarded to him by the Italian colonialists and affirmed under the British occupation of eastern Libya, which lasted through World War II to 1951.
In 1969, the young Colonel Qadhafi launched a military coup to oust the puppet king. His first decision, as recalled in the recent speech, was to “expel five American military bases,” including the Strategic Air Command’s Wheelus Airfield, closed in 1970. In the late-1960s, Qadhafi created the National Oil Corporation, which wrested control of exploration away from Esso. The deposed king’s base in Cyrenaica, or Barqa in Arabic, with its major cities of Benghazi and Derna, is at the center of the current “democracy” rebellion. Also known as Sheikh Sidi Idriss, he was leader of the Senussi sect, which was affiliated with the ultra-orthodox Salafi movement in the Arabian Peninsula and, more recently, with the Muslim Brotherhood in next-door Egypt.
Fanaticism Posing as Reason Given the orthodox climate in Cyrenaica, it is not surprising then that the senior cleric of the Muslim Brotherhood, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, has just issued a fatwa against Qadhafi, urging Libyan soldiers to fire on their commander in chief. This is not the first time that the 84-year-old Egyptian scholar has been involved in such threats against secular political leaders. Following an assassination attempt against Egypt’s first president Gamal Abdel Nasser, the cleric was prohibited from speaking in public. After the murder of President Anwar Sadat by Brotherhood-linked assassins, Qaradawi gave his last Friday sermon in Cairo in praise of the killers and then went into exile in Qatar.
Just prior to the outbreak of the Libyan riots, Qaradawi finally revisited Egypt to a joyous reception by more than 1 million supporters at a victory celebration in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. This aged religious scholar is promoted by human-rights groups as a voice of democracy and pluralism. Yet in the next breath, this “democrat” advocates “defensive” suicide bombings and the mandatory death penalty for homosexuals. Qaradawi owes this popularity among an audience of 40 million Muslims to his televangelism over the Qatar-based Al Jazeera network, which is also the main international news source out of North Africa.
Not by coincidence, when confronted by Libyan officials, Al Jazeera producers admitted to broadcasting faked tapes, for example, of jets flying (in daylight) over protesters (in nighttime darkness). That admission of falsified images could back the regime’s claims of atrocities against civilians were exaggerated and sometimes fabricated. Al Jazeera is financed and owned by the royal family of Qatar. Just two weeks prior to the first Cairo protests, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spend three days in Doha, Qatar, to establish a special “partnership” with Qatar. She spoke at the Forum for the Future alongside Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani Qadhafi in his televised address appealed to Qatar, saying that he could not understand how a “brother could turn against one of his brothers.” Fratricide is not uncommon, not since Cain and Abel. American Spies in Benghazi Cyrenaica, the center of the “democracy” protests, remains a hotbed of Islamist extremism ripe for turning against the Qadhafi regime with a bit of guidance from the US, according to a confidential Embassy cable, dated June 2, 2008.
In the message titled “Die Hard in Derna”, Charge d’Affairs Chris Stevens described his visit with a Libyan subordinate to eastern Libya to meet with Islamist radicals who, like the Bruce Willis character, “stubbornly refused to die quietly.” Unofficially in the east for a visit t an American-sponsored archaeology dig, Steven’s actual mission was to retrace the trail of foreign jihadists in Iraq. “A large number of Libyan foreign fighters (were) identified in documents captured during September’s Objective Massey operation in Iraq.” A local activist confirmed those military intelligence findings. “(He told us) 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’.”
The informant showed the embassy intelligence official “a number of small, discrete mosques tucked away in side alleys, noting the profusion of ‘popular mosques’ complicated effective monitoring by security forces.” Following the 1993 thaw in US-Libya relations after Qadhafi pledged to cease production of weapons of mass destruction, “many easterners feared the US would not allow the regime to fall and therefore viewed direct confrontation with the government of Libya as a fool’s errand. At the same time, sending young Libyans to fight in Iraq was ‘an embarrassment’ to Qadhafi.
Fighting against US 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.” As the cable indicated, the government was well aware that the Cyrenaica-based Islamist movement is led by “afghanis”, veteran jihadists who fought the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Despite the cover story about visiting ancient ruins, Libyan security had picked up on the surreptitious contacts with terrorists in Derna and later Benghazi. At least five “emboffs”, jargon for embassy officials, were later prevented by airline security and police from traveling to meet dissidents in Benghazi, Berber areas west of Tunis and to the southern Fezzan district populated by Tuaregs.
American spies must have gotten around the travel bans since by March 9, 2009, as indicated in another cable, US Ambassador to Tripoli Gene Cretz was quite upbeat about the prospects of Qadhafi’s imminent political demise. Tthe sharp rivalry between the al-Qadhafi children could play an importatnt. . . .. role, in whether the al-Qadhafi family is able to hold on to power after Muammar al-Qadhafi exits (one way or another) the political scene.”
In hindsight, the term “one way or another” has dire consequences. Causes of Clandestine War The insurgent’s use of weapons in the Benghazi and Derna uprisings should put to rest the media myth of “peaceful protests.” In Cairo as well, foreign residents have told me that insurgent squads cut off electrical power and torched nearly every police station in the city center. The physical beating and sexual assault on a female ABC reporter was not done by the police but by the “peaceful protesters” who controlled Tahrir Square.
Asian domestic workers fleeing Cairo reported that many foreign women were gang-raped in public view. What is happening across the Magreb, or North Africa, is a US-sponsored Islamic uprising, similar to the bloody Muslim coup against Indonesian independence leader Sukarno. Barack Obama spent his formative years in the tutelage of his stepfather, an Indonesian military intelligence official involved in the massacre of 2 million supporters of the ousted president.
The covert alliance between the White House and religious extremists, including the powerful Muslim Brotherhood and the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group is not a local affair in Egypt, Libya or Tunisia. The secret pact s are part of a regional strategy for North Africa on an issue important enough to allow Islamic radicals who supported the 9-11 attacks to gain state power. The issue in one word is uranium. Hosni Mubarak was pushing for a crash program for Egypt to develop a nuclear capability to restrain Israeli aggression in Gaza and Lebanon. The obvious supplier of uranium is Libya. Qadhafi has in the past obtained uranium ore in the Aozou Strip a , disputed territory between Chad and Libya.
In 1987, French paratroops disguised as Chadian soldiers drove the Libyan army out of the area. That source of uranium could again become available due to a French-Libyan agreement to jointly build a civilian nuclear power plant, proposed during President Nicholas Sarkozy’s visit to Tripoli in July 2007. A European-approved nuclear facility would give Qadhafi the green light to resume his role as a uranium supplier while maintaining his claim of renouncing weapons of mass destruction. Meanwhile, Libyan-Chadian uranium could be quietly routed to Egypt via BenAli’s Tunisia.
Thus an Arab nuclear capability to deter Israeli adventurism could be realized through North African cooperation. Washington, as the protector of Israel’s nuclear monopoly over the Mideast and Africa, went for a takedown of all three regimes. Beyond presidential resignations, however, this task could prove daunting. In Algeria’s counterinsurgency campaign in the 1990s against jihadists led by returnees from Afghanistan, up to 200,000 people were killed.
The other problem is that a Brotherhood -led government in Egypt cannot be trusted not to build atomic bombs, since Qaradawi’s daughter is a nuclear physicist. Instead of managing a transition to a regional deterrence system, Washington has opened the gates of a historic catastrophe.