INDEX (stories follow)
- Wisconsin Supreme Court Reinstates Anti-Union Law
- Report: CIA Builds Mideast Base for Yemen Drone Strikes
- Rebels Advance in Libya; House Votes to Cut Funding
- Pakistan Arrests CIA Informants
- Syria Expands Crackdown to 2 Towns
- Gaza Strip Unemployment at Record High as Blockade Enters 5th Year
- 2 U.S. Soldiers Killed in Iraq
- Obama Makes Brief Puerto Rico Visit
- Admin Presses Congress on Debt Limit
- Ex-Utah Gov. Huntsman Enters GOP Race
- Ex-Blackwater Operative Sentenced for Afghan Killing
- Federal Judge Upholds Reversal of California Gay Marriage Ban
- New Yorkers Erect “Bloombergville” Tent Camp Against Budget Cuts
- Amazonian Land Rights Activist Slain in Brazil
The Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence has arrested five Pakistani informants who gave the CIA information leading to the raid on Usamah Bin Laden’s compound at Abbotabad, according to the NYT. The arrests appear to have happened some time ago, and were part of the recent consultations of Leon Panetta, who is transitioning from CIA chief to Secretary of Defense, with Pakistani officials.
From an American point of view, that Pakistan arrested the informants rather than giving them medals suggests perfidy. But from a Pakistani point of view, they can’t be having nationals working for a foreign intelligence agency and enabling foreign special operations raids into the country from outside.
The security relationship between the US and Pakistan is breaking down in 2011 in alarming ways. The Raymond Davis case, in which a CIA operative shot down two Pakistani men in broad daylight at a roundabout in Lahore last January, and then the consulate extraction team failed to get to him in time and ran over a third man on the way, had soured relations. Ironically, the US government sprang Davis by appealing to sharia or Islamic law, arranging for the relatives of the slain men to be paid blood money. Oklahoma, which has banned sharia, should be advised.
Then the US mission into Islamabad that ended with the death of Bin Laden came as a shock to the Pakistani elite, both because it looked as though some elements in Pakistan may have been sheltering the terrorist and mass murderer and because the US had so blithely ignored Pakistani sovereignty in not telling Islamabad about the operation.
The arrest of the informants, however, is less dire than and has fewer clear lessons than US politicians such as Rep. Mike Rogers of Michigan suggest.
First of all, if the ISI had been actively sheltering Bin Laden, it would have been apparent in the computer files and papers the SEALs carried off from his compound. In reality, what has so far leaked from the US government in this regard is that there is no such evidence in that material. That Bin Laden had some sort of ‘support network’ in Pakistan is clear; that Gen. Shuja Pasha of the ISI or army chief of staff Pervez Kayani were part of it seems incredible. If the US had evidence to that effect, it surely would have deployed it by now.
Second, the US covert activities in Pakistan have become public and are unpopular among the public, just as the US would not react positively to being spied on, bombed and having rogue operations go bad on city streets– all by even a close ally. Pakistan’s democracy is fragile, but it does have parliamentary elections and parties can win or lose on public opinion, and the ruling Pakistan People’s Party has suffered in the public eye by its complaisance toward US interference in the country. Moreover, the powerful military establishment in Islamabad is furious at US high-handedness. The British ruled what is now Pakistan from the 1840s until 1947, and Pakistan was supposed to be about South Asian Muslim independence and self-reliance, so that having a super-power’s deputy commissioners reinserted into the country is most unwelcome to a lot of Pakistanis.
The United States needs to put things like drone attacks in the hands of the Department of Defense rather than in those of the CIA, so that they are not covert operations but rather elements of war-fighting. The US needs a Status of Forces Agreement with the Pakistani government laying out the terms of legitimate US actions in that country. And the Obama administration needs to come to Congress for authorization to bomb Pakistan (just as it should have gone to Congress with regard to Libya).
US bad relations with Pakistan at the moment derive from using the CIA in paramilitary ways in a no-man’s land of covert action that lacks any framework of international or bilateral law. If Washington goes on like this, it will push Pakistan altogether into the arms of the Chinese and it will set up a negative situation for its likely withdrawal from Afghanistan, in which Islamabad has powerful perceived interests that the US has not respected.
The US-Pakistan relationship is important and can be repaired, but it must be by the two countries acting like democracies, not cartoon spies.
A NATO official acknowledged June 14 that the alliance is considering air-strikes on ancient Roman ruins in north Libya, sparking statements of concern from the United Nations. The anonymous official told CNN the alliance would bomb the ruins of Leptis Magna, between Tripoli and Misrata, if it confirmed that war material is being sequestered there by the Qaddafi regime. Rebel sources claim that Qaddafi-loyalist troops have stashed rocket launchers and other military equipment at the site. (CNN, UPI, Time magazine’s Global Spin blog, June 14)
In Syria, the regime lies and so does elements of the opposition–US government confirms the presence of religious armed groups
American and Afghan officials are locked in increasingly acrimonious secret talks about a long-term security agreement which is likely to see US troops, spies and air power based in the troubled country for decades.
Though not publicised, negotiations have been under way for more than a month to secure a strategic partnership agreement which would include an American presence beyond the end of 2014 – the agreed date for all 130,000 combat troops to leave — despite continuing public debate in Washington and among other members of the 49-nation coalition fighting in Afghanistan about the speed of the withdrawal.
American officials admit that although Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, recently said Washington did not want any “permanent” bases in Afghanistan, her phrasing allows a variety of possible arrangements.
When the war in Libya began, the U.S. government convinced a large number of war supporters that we were there to achieve the very limited goal of creating a no-fly zone in Benghazi to protect civilians from air attacks, while President Obamaspecifically vowed that “broadening our military mission to include regime change would be a mistake.” This no-fly zone was created in the first week, yet now, almost three months later, the war drags on without any end in sight, and NATO is no longer even hiding what has long been obvious: that its real goal is exactly the one Obama vowed would not be pursued — regime change through the use of military force. We’re in Libya to forcibly remove Gaddafi from power and replace him with a regime that we like better, i.e., one that is more accommodating to the interests of the West. That’s not even a debatable proposition at this point.
What I suppose is debatable, in the most generous sense of that term, is our motive in doing this. Why — at a time when American political leaders feel compelled to advocate politically radioactive budget cuts to reduce the deficit and when polls show Americans solidly and increasingly opposed to the war — would the U.S. Government continue to spend huge sums of money to fight this war? Why is President Obama willing to endure self-evidently valid accusations — even from his own Party — that he’s fighting an illegal war by brazenly flouting the requirements for Congressional approval? Why would Defense Secretary Gates risk fissures by so angrily and publicly chiding NATO allies for failing to build more Freedom Bombs to devote to the war? And why would we, to use the President’s phrase, “stand idly by” while numerous other regimes — including our close allies in Bahrain and Yemen and the one in Syria — engage in attacks on their own people at least as heinous as those threatened by Gaddafi, yet be so devoted to targeting the Libyan leader?
Whatever the answers to those mysteries, no responsible or Serious person, by definition, would suggest that any of this — from today’sWashington Post — has anything to do with it:
The relationship between Gaddafi and the U.S. oil industry as a whole was odd. In 2004, President George W. Bush unexpectedly lifted economic sanctions on Libya in return for its renunciation of nuclear weapons and terrorism. There was a burst of optimism among American oil executives eager to return to the Libyan oil fields they had been forced to abandon two decades earlier. . . .
Yet even before armed conflict drove the U.S. companies out of Libya this year, their relations with Gaddafi had soured. The Libyan leader demanded tough contract terms. He sought big bonus payments up front. Moreover, upset that he was not getting more U.S. government respect and recognition for his earlier concessions, he pressured the oil companies to influence U.S. policies. . . .
When Gaddafi made his deal with Bush in 2004, he had hoped that returning foreign oil companies would help boost Libya’s output . . . The U.S. government also encouraged American oil companies to go back to Libya. . . .
The companies needed little encouragement. Libya has some of the biggest and most proven oil reserves — 43.6 billion barrels — outside Saudi Arabia, and some of the best drilling prospects. . . . Throughout this time, oil prices kept rising, whetting the appetite for greater supplies of Libya’s unusually “sweet” and “light,” or high-quality, crude oil.
By the time Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited in 2008, U.S. joint ventures accounted for 510,000 of Libya’s 1.7 million barrels a day of production, a State Department cable said. . . .
But all was not well. By November 2007, a State Department cable noted “growing evidence of Libyan resource nationalism.” It noted that in his 2006 speech marking the founding of his regime, Gaddafi said: “Oil companies are controlled by foreigners who have made millions from them. Now, Libyans must take their place to profit from this money.” His son made similar remarks in 2007.
Oil companies had been forced to give their local subsidiaries Libyan names, the cable said. . . .
The entire article is worth reading, as it details how Gaddafi has progressively impeded the interests of U.S. and Western oil companies by demanding a greater share of profits and other concessions, to the point where some of those corporations were deciding that it may no longer be profitable or worthwhile to drill for oil there. But now, in a pure coincidence, there is hope on the horizon for these Western oil companies, thanks to the war profoundly humanitarian action being waged by the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize winner and his nation’s closest Western allies:
But Libya’s oil production has foundered, sagging to about 1.5 million barrels a day by early this year before unrest broke out. The big oil companies, several of which had drilled dry holes, felt that Libya was not making the best exploration prospects available. One major company privately said that it was on the verge of a discovery but that unrest cut short the project.
With the country torn by fighting, the big international oil companies are treading carefully, unwilling to throw their lot behind Gaddafi or the rebel coalition.
Yet when representatives of the rebel coalition in Benghazi spoke to the U.S.-Libya Business Council in Washington four weeks ago, representatives from ConocoPhillips and other oil firms attended, according to Richard Mintz, a public relations expert at the Harbour Group, which represents the Benghazi coalition. In another meeting in Washington, Ali Tarhouni, the lead economic policymaker in Benghazi, said oil contracts would be honored, Mintz said.
“Now you can figure out who’s going to win, and the name is not Gaddafi,” Saleri said. “Certain things about the mosaic are taking shape. The Western companies are positioning themselves.”
“Five years from now,” he added, “Libyan production is going to be higher than right now and investments are going to come in.”
I have two points to make about all this:
(1) The reason — the only reason — we know about any of this is because WikiLeaks (and, allegedly, Bradley Manning) disclosed to the world the diplomatic cables which detail these conflicts. Virtually the entirety of the Post article — like most significant revelations over the last 12 months, especially in the Middle East and North Africa — are based exclusively on WikiLeaks disclosures. That’s why we know about Gaddafi’s increasingly strident demands for the “Libyanization” of his country’s resource exploitation. That’s how we know about most of the things we’ve learned about the world’s most powerful political and corporate factions over the last 12 months. Is there anything easier to understand than why U.S. Government officials are so eager to punish WikiLeaks and deter future transparency projects of this sort?
(2) Is there anyone — anywhere — who actually believes that these aren’t the driving considerations in why we’re waging this war in Libya? After almost three months of fighting and bombing — when we’re so far from the original justifications and commitments that they’re barely a distant memory — is there anyone who still believes that humanitarian concerns are what brought us and other Western powers to the war in Libya? Is there anything more obvious — as the world’s oil supplies rapidly diminish — than the fact that our prime objective is to remove Gaddafi and install a regime that is a far more reliable servant to Western oil interests, and that protecting civilians was the justifying pretext for this war, not the purpose? If (as is quite possible) the new regime turns out to be as oppressive as Gaddafi but far more subservient to Western corporations (like, say, our good Saudi friends), does anyone think we’re going to care in the slightest or (at most) do anything other than pay occasional lip service to protesting it? Does anyone think we’re going to care about The Libyan People if they’re being oppressed or brutalized by a reliably pro-Western successor to Gaddafi?
In 2006, George Bush instructed us that there was a “responsible” and an “irresponsible” way for citizens to debate the Iraq War: the “responsible” way was to suggest that there may be better tactics for waging the war more effectively, while the “irresponsible” way was to outrageously insinuate that perhaps oil or Israel or deceit played a role in the invasion:
Yet we must remember there is a difference between responsible and irresponsible debate — and it’s even more important to conduct this debate responsibly when American troops are risking their lives overseas.
The American people know the difference between responsible and irresponsible debate when they see it. They know the difference between honest critics who question the way the war is being prosecuted and partisan critics who claim that we acted in Iraq because of oil, or because of Israel, or because we misled the American people. And they know the difference between a loyal opposition that points out what is wrong, and defeatists who refuse to see that anything is right.
Earlier this month, Hillary Clinton hosted a meeting of top executivesfrom a wide array of corporations — Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, Halliburton, GE, Chevron, Lockheed Martin, Citigroup, Occidental Petroleum, etc. etc. — to plot how to exploit “economic opportunities in the new Iraq.” And one WikiLeaks “diplomatic” cable after the nextreveals constant government efforts to promote the interests of Western corporations in the developing world. Nonetheless, the very notion that the U.S. wages wars not for humanitarian or freedom-spreading purposes, but rather to exploit the resources of other nations for its own large corporations, is deeply “irresponsible” and unSerious. As usual, the ideas stigmatized with the most potent taboos are the ones that are the most obviously true.
It’s certainly possible to contend reasonably that (as was true for Iraq) removing a heinous dictator and other humanitarian outcomes will be the incidental by-product of our war in Libya even if not its purpose (although, as was also true in Iraq, one would need to see the regime that replaces Gaddafi to know if that’s true). And it’s fine — or at least candid — to argue, as Ann Coulter often does, that “of course we should go to war for oil. . . .We need oil. That’s a good reason to go to war.” But to believe that humanitarianism (protection of Libya civilians) was why we went to war in Libya requires a blindness so willful and complete that it’s genuinely difficult to describe.
UPDATE: To clarify what I believe was already clear: the point here is not that the U.S. invaded Libya in order to steal its oil. That’s not the West’s modus operandi. The point is that what distinguishes Gaddafi and made him a war target is not the claimed humanitarian rationale (he brutalized his own people) any more than “Saddam’s gassing his own people” (25 years ago when he was a close American ally) was the reason the U.S. invaded Iraq. Instead, what distinguished Gaddafi and made him a war target was that he had become insufficiently compliant — an unreliable and unstable servant to the West.
The U.S. does not object in the slightest when a leader oppresses or even attacks his own people. The U.S. adores leaders who do things like that. Its best friends in the region have long done and continue to do exactly that — from Mubarak to the Saudis to Yemen’s Saleh to the Bahrainis, not to mention the Shah of Iran and even our one-time good friend Saddam. The very idea that the U.S. Government woke up one day and suddenly decided that it can no longer abide a leader who mistreats his own people — and that’s why we went to Libya — is so ludicrous that it’s actually painful to hear that people believe that. It so obviously confuses pretext with cause. If Gaddafi had continued to be as compliant as he had been in the past, does anyone really believe we would have invaded his country and spent months trying to kill him and replace him with another regime?
That’s not to say that Gaddafi’s “resource nationalism” is the only or even overriding motive for the war in Libya. Wars are typically caused by the interests of multiple factions and rarely have just one motive. As Jim Webb explained in arguing that the U.S. has no vital interest in Libya, the French and British are far more reliant on Libyan oil than the U.S. is (and this reader offers a rational dissent and alternative explanationfor the war). But the U.S. has long made clear that it will not tolerate hostile or disobedient rulers in countries where it believes it has vital interests, and that’s particularly true in oil rich nations (which is one reason for the American obsession with Iran). It’s just hard to believe that any rational person would believe that the war in Libya is unrelated to the fact that Gaddafi has been increasingly obstructionist in allowing Western oil companies access to that nation’s oil and that Libya is so rich in oil.
- More: Glenn Greenwald
The allegation out there in the blogosphere that the United Nations-authorized intervention in Libya was driven by Western oil companies is a non-starter. The argument is that Muammar Qaddafi was considered unreliable by American petroleum concerns, so they pushed to get rid of him. Nothing could be further from the truth.Bloomberg details the big lobbying push by American oil companies on behalf of Qaddafi, to exempt him from civil claims in the US.
The United States in any case did not spearhead the UN intervention. President Obama and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, along with the Pentagon brass, considered the outbreak of the Libya war very unfortunate and clearly were only dragged into it kicking and screaming by Saudi Arabia, France and Britain. The Western country with the biggest oil stake in Libya, Italy, was very reluctant to join the war. Silvio Berlusconi says that he almost resigned when the war broke out, given his close relationship to Qaddafi. As for the UK, Tony Blair brought the BP CEO to Tripoli in 2007, and BP had struck deals for Libya oil worth billions, which this war can only delay.
Not only is there no reason to think that petroleum companies urged war, the whole argument about UN and NATO motivations is irrelevant and sordid. By now it is clear that Qaddafi planned to crush political dissidents in a massive and brutal way, and some estimates already suggest over 10,000 dead. If UN-authorized intervention could stop that looming massacre, then why does it matter so much what drove David Cameron to authorize it?
An argument you sometimes hear is that the new Transitional National Council in Benghazi will be pliant toward Western interests. But Qaddafi himself had come back in from the cold and all sorts of deals were being struck with him by Western powers. Those who more or less support Qaddafi and wanted to let him roll tanks on civilian protesters has weaved itself into a pretzel with all these conspiracy theories, while conveniently managing to leave out of the account ordinary Libyans, so many of whom are willing to risk their lives to bring about the end of Qaddafi’s murderous and mercurial regime.