Arbeit Macht Drei

Special Labor Day edition –dedicated to all those hard-working guys and gals on the shores of Tripoli.

When dynasties fall/ old titles must go
— Water Margin

The building was relatively undamaged by air strikes. Its rooms had instead been broken apart by people searching through cabinets and closets.
— Al Jazeera

Welcome to Phase Two of the Libya Campaign –Tripoli: the Afterparty.  All kinds of messy things occur on the cusp of regime change:  summary executions, dramatic (almost miraculous) changes of allegiance, interruptions of food distribution and utility services, and (best of all) the sudden revelation of jealously-guarded intelligence secrets.  Sometimes (and this is one of those times) the manner in which those secrets are revealed is just as revealing as the secrets themselves.  Or perhaps more so.

Let’s take a quick look at the way various world media outlets have reported the Libyan rebels’ seizure and occupation of Gaddafi’s intelligence headquarters.  In the chaos of the battle for Tripoli, journalists and NGO workers had partial (guided) access to various buildings in the intelligence compound.  They poked through the offices of the defeated(?) regime, viewed (and in some cases spirited away) abandoned intelligence files, and took photographs or video for posterity.  What has been made public thus far?

Al Jazeera :
Influential Americans tried to help Gaddafi cling to power
Gaddafi Had Spies in Rebel Camp

Al Jazeera’s reporting emphasizes current or recent events.  One story highlights “a top-secret document …found in a sealed envelope… that appears to be a briefing for Libyan intelligence mastermind Abdullah Senussi.”  To Al Jazeera, the intell report suggests that “Gaddafi had spies at the highest levels of the rebel movement.

However, in focusing on the here-and-now, Al Jazeera does not ignore international dimensions to the Libyan revolution.  Its initial story described a meeting in which Bechtel executive David Welch (former Bush regime ASecState) counsels Gaddafi underlings on their damage control options.  The same story cites other documents which purport to describe efforts by Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) to assist the Gaddafi regime.

The official state media provides a bland, superficial gloss:

“the documents illuminate a short period when the Libyan intelligence agency was a trusted and valued ally of both MI6 and the CIA.”

The Guardian (UK) :
Spies at the top of the rebel movement
Sir Mark Allen: the secret link between MI6, the CIA and Gaddafi
Libyan papers show UK worked with Gaddafi in rendition operation
NTC Commander Abdul Hakim Belhaj demands apology over MI6 and CIA plot

The Guardian concentrates its extensive coverage on Britain’s intell cooperation with Gaddafi’s government, and some of the aftermath:

“Sir Mark Allen Allen, formerly MI6’s director of counter-terrorism, left MI6 in 2004 … to join BP, for which he later helped arrange lucrative oil and gas contracts in Libya.”

The Independent (UK) :
Gaddafi, Britain and US: A secret, special and very cosy relationship

In-depth review of Libya-UK rapprochement in 2003-2004 and beyond.  Much of the story’s focus appears to be on heaping opprobrium and blame onto Tony Blair’s Labor government of the time.

New York Times :
Files Note Close CIA Ties to Qaddafi Spy Unit

NYT [1] distances itself from the material by attributing its provenance to “journalists and [NGO] Human Rights Watch;” [2] focuses the story on “ancient history” –Bush-era rendition activities of the CIA; [3] subtly develops the sub-theme of Islamist extremism within some elements of the NTC; and [4] mentions but minimizes the involvement of MI-6 in rendition of Islamist suspects to the Gaddafi regime.  Must have been all the news that was fit to print.

“While most of the renditions referred to in the documents appear to have been CIA operations, at least one was claimed to have been carried out by MI-6.”

Los Angeles Times :
CIA once handed key Libya rebel figure to Kadafi, documents show

Quotes a retired CIA official affirming Abdel-Hakim Belhadj’s extremist credentials.  To show its fairness and balance, the LA Times also presents Belhaj’s side:

He said his group had rejected overtures to affiliate with Al Qaeda and that Libya’s new government will not be Islamist.
“We believe that Libya should have relations with all nations,” Belhadj said at his heavily guarded seaside complex in Tripoli. “We Muslims need to interact with all other nations, and all other religions. This is what Islam tells us.”

Washington Post :
Gaddafi assisted CIA rendition efforts

Its only coverage of this story is an AP reprint:

“An embarrassing example of the U.S. administration’s collaboration with authoritarian regimes in the war on terror.  The documents mention a half dozen names of people targeted for rendition, including Tripoli’s new rebel military commander, Abdel-Hakim Belhaj.”

The Post’s own reporters prefer to focus on political developments in Tripoli, and accentuating the positive.  The head and subhead:

Reining in Libyan rebel commanders: civilian rulers take control of military chiefs in effort to ease internal strains and curb Islamist influence.”

What can we learn from this?  Several things.  First, the chaos of regime change is the perfect time to run a disinformation operation, so there’s no guarantee that all of the documents conveniently exposed for journalistic review at ESO headquarters are actually genuine.  Maybe they are, and maybe they’re not.  Lunghu can envision a scenario in which the Tripoli representatives of various competing intell agencies had to take turns planting fake documents in ESO offices once the buildings were captured.  Perhaps they drew up an access schedule in advance, in the spirit of international cooperation which has thus far distinguished the Libyan revolution.

why is this file upside-down? ... and what USED TO BE on the shelf below?

Second, regardless of the authenticity/veracity of this document trove, NTC decisionmakers are likely to take future action as if much of the material is true (minus whatever disinformation they themselves fed to Gaddafi’s intell crew).  This implies that certain nations and corporations may well be viewed with less favor than others by a governing NTC.  The primary goal for all the NATO/EU players sniffing at Libya’s oil is now to minimize their past sins and emphasize their current sanctity.  In this respect, France (despite being tainted by association with Ben Ali in Tunisia) can plausibly claim to have mostly steered clear of Gaddafi.  Italy, Germany, Britain, the USA, Russia, and China –not so much.

... just make sure you count your fingers afterwards.


Third, let the games begin!  The desert dust has far from settled in Libya.  The moving and shaking, deal-cutting, back-stabbing, coalition-building and tit-for-tat assassination have only just started.  Each of the major European and Asian powers has its own set of favored sons whose factional interests they will seek to promote:  the last ones left standing will be in charge of Libya’s territory, polity and natural resources.  Naturally, their external allies –who see themselves as sponsors but are viewed by Libyans as a temporary expedient– will seek recompense for prior services and assistance.  The bargaining should be interesting to watch.  In’shallah.



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