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Vol. 75/No. 11      March 21, 2011

U.S. rulers debate military
options in Libya civil war
(front page)
With civil war raging in Libya, divisions have widened within ruling-class circles in Washington and other imperialist capitals about options for possible military intervention against the Moammar Gadhafi regime.

Some capitalist politicians from both the Democratic and Republican parties are calling for arming and training opposition forces, including airdrops of weapons or Special Operations troops on the ground as well as deeper military intervention under the guise of “humanitarian assistance.”

Among the issues in dispute is whether to impose a no-fly zone. Republican senators Mitchell McConnell, the minority leader, and John McCain have been campaigning for this, as is Democrat John Kerry, head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Kerry has called for “cratering” the country’s runways to make them incapable of use.

“Lots of people throw around phrases like no-fly zone—they talk about it as though it’s just a video game,” retorted William Daley, the White House chief of staff, expressing the Barack Obama administration’s hesitancy.

U.S. defense secretary Robert Gates has also warned against undertaking such a move. “Let’s just call a spade a spade,” he told Congress March 2. “A no-fly zone begins with an attack on Libya to destroy the air defenses.”

President Obama has said that while military options are on the table, any steps to enforce a no-fly zone must have participation of other members of NATO, especially those like Italy that have air bases near Libya. Others have raised seeking political cover from the Arab League or African Union.

The U.S. ambassador to NATO, Ivo Daalder, however, downplayed the impact of a no-fly zone, claiming fighter and air activity by the Libyan regime had recently declined.

NATO officials did agree March 7 to expand aircraft surveillance flights monitoring Libyan airspace and ground movements from 10 to 24 hours a day. Washington has also placed two warships with about 400 Marines aboard in the Mediterranean Sea near Libya.  
Sub-Saharan migrant workers
According to UN officials more than 213,000 foreign workers have left Libya since the civil war began. Most have crossed into Tunisia and Egypt.

But large numbers of workers from sub-Saharan Africa, many employed in Libya for years at low-wage jobs as oil, construction, and service workers, are facing much greater obstacles in getting out.

Many have faced discriminatory treatment in Libya and even more brutal treatment by Gadhafi forces since the civil war began. “Dark-skinned Africans say the Libyan war has caught them in a vise,” stated the New York Times March 8. Gadhafi’s police and militia forces “who guard checkpoints along the roads around the capital rob them of their money, possessions, and cell phone chips.” At the same time some aligned with the opposition have threatened and attacked some of these workers, charging they’re African mercenaries brought in by Gadhafi to crush the uprising.

About 10,000 Africans are stuck in Saloum, a town on the Libya-Egypt border. Among those waiting to cross is Asante Jonny, a Ghanaian migrant worker who for the past two years worked in Benghazi for a construction company. He fled the city fearing that now “walking around town can get you killed,” he told Al Masry Al Youm.

“Come see the black working class,” he said. As of March 6 he had been held up there amidst miserable conditions for four days. He can’t return to Libya but Egyptian authorities insist that before he crosses into Egypt, the Ghanaian embassy in Cairo must commit to his repatriation.

Despite these experiences he and other African immigrants express support for the fighters standing up to the Gadhafi dictatorship.

Sub-Saharan Africans comprised the majority of the estimated 1.5 million undocumented workers living in Libya when the revolt began, according to the International Organization for Migration.

A refugee camp with thousands of migrant workers from sub-Saharan Africa has sprung up by the airport in Tripoli. Some have been there for two weeks or more, lacking passports, other documents, or funds to purchase an airplane ticket.

In Benghazi, where Africans and hundreds of Bangladeshi workers have been stranded by the port, aid is being provided by representatives of committees running the rebel-held city, reported Associated Press. They’re providing meals, blankets, and medical visits.

As antigovernment fighters were forced to retreat from the coastal city of Bin Jawwad, “they stopped to pick up about a half dozen Filipino factory workers,” noted the Times, driving them to a safer area.
Related articles:
Egyptian workers press for right to unions  
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