NATO has been described as the rebel air force, but it is more accurate to describe the rebels as NATO’s ground forces. The National Transitional Council has little independence and NATO controls the rebel ground forces, arms them, trains them, provides advisers, provides massive fire support and decides on strategy. NATO controls the air and sea and little moves on the ground without NATO’s permission.
As the rebel fighters took Zawiya, NATO faced a last-minute appeal from the Libyan government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim for a negotiated solution. The precise circumstances that led to the decision to proceed with the attack on the capital, with the inevitable humanitarian disaster that followed are uncertain, but the decisions made will be subject to examination.
It is worth having a look at the footage of Muammar Gaddafi touring the capital, to appreciate what a beautiful, well-developed city Tripoli had become and also to understand some of the obvious popular support he enjoys in that city:
Sarkozy, Cameron and Obama and the NATO high command share the belief in the efficacy of violence combined with vigorous prosecution of the information war is the best way forward. NATO, of course, has no interest in fulfilling UN Security Council Resolution 1973 which established the no fly zone and mandate to protect civilians with
“the aim of facilitating dialogue to lead to the political reforms necessary to find a peaceful and sustainable solution”
In making their decision the western leaders would have been encouraged by the enthusistic participation of the western media in producing pro-war propaganda, who faithfully and uncritically report information provided by NATO, government spokespeople and intelligence sources. Anything which may seriously threaten the pro-war narrative is either not reported or downplayed (e.g. rebel atrocities, ethnic cleansing of Misrata and Tawergha, RAF massacre in Zlitan, peace initiatives, support for Gadaffi regime from Libyan people).
In any case, in an attack coordinated by NATO, rebels from the Western Mountains entered Tripoli from the west and ships delivered fighters from Misrata, fresh from ethnically cleansing Tawergha, into the city. NATO airstrikes were launched against the residential area of Abu Salim.
The short-term results from a humanitarian perspective were predictable: widespread destruction, looting, a collapse of public services, executions, widespread death and destruction and the deaths of hundreds of civilians (particularly black people), militia and fighters on both sides. As AP reports:
The streets where rebel fighters bombarded snipers loyal to Moammar Gadhafi were strewn with bullet-ridden corpses from both sides Thursday. Streams of blood ran down the gutters and turned sewers red.
The long-term consequences of this are unpredictable, but Sirte on the coast and Sabha in the south-west are next to be turned into slaughter-houses and how long guerrilla warfare and other violence will continue is anyone’s guess.
HRI supports the African Union’s continued attempts, to find a peaceful and sustainable solution which is inclusive of all parties to the conflict.