Spreading democracy and saving the people of Benghazi form merely tangential benefits used to justify these ends. Lest we forget, Nato’s bombardment began because former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi threatened to do to Benghazi what Bashar al-Assad’s forces are doing to various Syrian cities and Nato itself is poised to do in Sirte.
“History is a set of lies agreed upon,” once remarked Napoleon Bonaparte. If left unchallenged the true motives behind what the French mainstream media have coined ‘’Sarkozy’s War’’ may be lost in the fog of war.
So what makes Libya so important to the West? Any real estate agent could tell you: location, location, location! Given that Libya sits atop the strategic intersection of the Mediterranean, African, and Arab worlds, control of the nation has always been a remarkably effective way to project power into these three regions and beyond.
Since time immemorial Western control over Libya has been of great importance. After the Libyan independence in 1951, US, British and French payments for military basing rights formed the single-largest element of Libyan GDP until oil exports began to flow in 1961.
Nowadays, Sarkozy’s interest in Libya lies in a commodity more precious than oil, namely water. It is becoming increasingly accepted that water promises to be to the 21st century what oil was to the 20th century: the precious commodity that determines the wealth of nations.
Unlike oil, there are no substitutes, alternatives or stopgaps for water. Nature has decreed that the supply of water is fixed. Meanwhile, demand rises inexorably as the world’s population increases and enriches itself. Population growth, climate change, pollution, urbanisation and the rapid development of manufacturing industries are relentlessly combining such that demand for fresh water will outstrip supply by 40% by 2040.
Libya sits on a resource more valuable than oil, the Nubian Sandstone Aquifer, which is an immensely vast underground sea of fresh water. Gaddafi had cleverly invested US$25 billion in the Great Man-made River Project, a complex 4 000 km long water pipeline buried beneath the desert that could transport two million cubic metres of water a day. Such a monumental water distribution scheme could turn Libya — a nation that is 95% desert — into a food self-sufficient arable oasis.
Today, France’s global mega-water companies like Suez, Ondeo and Saur, control more than 45% of the world’s water market and are rushing to privatise water, already a US$400 billion global business. For these French companies, Libya will be a bonanza. No wonder Le Mondé coined it “Sarkozy’s War” and had a “Victoire” front page splash when Gaddafi’s compound was stormed.
Late last year the Central Intelligence Agency suspiciously raised the spectre of “future ‘hydrological warfare’ in which rivers, lakes and aquifers become national security assets to be fought over,” or controlled through proxy armies and client states. Regime change in Libya, is the first major instance of hydrological warfare.
With the spoils of war from Libya’s water market largely reserved for the French, UK’s David Cameron is eyeing another market, that of arms.
The subject of the West selling arms to regimes suppressing uprisings remains as wilfully overlooked as an American war crime.
Even as The Times of London has just reported that Britain enjoyed a 30% spike in arms sales to regimes in the Middle East during the Arab Spring. Arms sold between February and July jumped to US$101 million, the Times’ report says, noting that these include weapons that could be used to suppress domestic protests.
Barrack Obama’s administration is even more steeped in the controversial arms trade. The US accepts no rival on this front. Over the past decade, the US has averaged a staggering US$5,8 billion per year in arms sales with the Middle East.
The very Libyan military hardware that Nato boastfully claims to have downgraded by 90% will need to be rebuilt. US arms companies will gleefully be on hand to arm their proxy regime to the teeth. Libya will be a bonanza for American arms dealers.
American infrastructure contractors will also reap the windfalls of post-war reconstruction. The grim reality is that every bridge, road, rail-link and building that US war-planes bomb will have to be rebuilt and paid for by the Libyan taxpayer.
Even grimmer still is the fact that the approximately US$1,1billion spent by the US government on bombarding Libya is a drop in the ocean compared to the profit that American contractors stand to make. Many of whom have strong ties to the upper echelons of the military and the Obama administration.
Garikai Chengu is a research scholar at Harvard University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
BY GARIKAI CHENGU