Last Wednesday an article titled “Lies of the Libyan War” by Thomas Mountain appeared on Counterpunch. My first reaction, even before reading it, was to wonder if Mountain was involved with a little bit of Freudian projection since most of what he writes about Libya is bullshit. But I was not prepared for this tidbit:
What seem to have finally tipped the balance in favor of direct western military intervention was the reported demand by Gadaffi that the USA oil companies who have long been major players in the Libyan petroleum industry were going to have to compensate Libya to the tune of tens of billions of dollars for the damage done to the Libyan economy by the USA instigated “Lockerbie Bombing” sanctions imposed by the UN inSecurity Council throughout the 1990′s into early 2000′s. This is based on the unearthing of evidence that the CIA paid millions of dollars to witnesses in the Lockerbie Bombing trial to change their stories to implicate Libya which was used as the basis for the very damaging UN sanctions against Libya. The government of the USA lied and damaged Libya so the USA oil companies were going to have to pay up to cover the cost of their governments [sic] actions. Not hard to see why Gadaffi had to go isn’t it?
My first reaction upon reading this was to ask myself where the “demand” was first “reported” because past experience has taught me that Mountain is not averse to making things up just like Jon Lovitz.
I first encountered some of Thomas Mountain’s bullshit artistry on Counterpunch back in March when he alleged that a Benghazi “mafia” was “employing thousands in various capacities and corrupting Libyan police and government officials.” When I asked him to substantiate this claim, he said that his “investigations” in Benghazi confirmed this. Great, just what we needed. A leftist version of Judith Miller.
This time I didn’t waste my time asking Mountain to back up his claim that a “demand” for reparations was “reported”. I went directly to Nexis and spent a good half-hour on the outside chance that something like this really happened. Searches using a combination of keywords like “reimburse”, “damages”, “compensation”, “oil companies”, “Libya”, etc. turned up absolutely nothing, as I expected they wouldn’t.
My next step was to use the same keywords on google. This time something did show up. On April 12th an article by Susan Lindauer titled “Putting Out Fire With Gasoline in Libya” appeared on Veterans Today. She wrote: “Gadhaffi challenged U.S. (and probably British) oil companies to reimburse Libya for the economic damage caused by U.N. sanctions tied to the Lockerbie bombing, which Libya had nothing to do with.”
So being the nuisance I am prone to be, I wrote Lindauer asking for a citation on this claim. She wrote back:
I’m actually speaking from my own direct knowledge. Last summer I heard all about this while I was finishing my book. I learned it from spooks, and we joked about how the U.S. would not be amused, and how Gadhaffi was playing with fire. Nobody expected a war though. We expected Gadhaffi to throw a tantrum and the U.S. to offer a substitute.
So once again we have some Internet investigative reporter telling us that there are no independent sources to back up their story. Mountain tells me that he should be believed about a Benghazi mafia because he’s been “investigating” the story and Lindauer tells me that she “learned it from spooks”. All I can say is that I am beginning to understand the plea in certain quarters to keep print journalism alive. With people like Thomas Mountain and Susan Lindauer, you almost feel nostalgia for Judith Miller.
I should add that Lindauer is a “truther”. On the website for her book “Extreme Prejudice”, she states in light of the disappearance of 911 eyewitnesses in JFK assassination style that “If in the future I should die under mysterious circumstances, my supporters can trust with certainty that nothing could ever compel me to commit suicide. Suggestions to the contrary should be scorned.” In 2001, Lindauer was charged with acting as a spy for Iraq but during the trial the judge ruled her mentally incompetent and allowed her to go free.
A retrial convinced the judge to let her off again, as the NY Times reported:
He cited findings that she had paranoia and delusions of grandeur; he also questioned the strength of the government’s case, saying, “There is no indication that Lindauer ever came close to influencing anyone, or could have.”
Judge Preska, in her ruling, said that Ms. Lindauer generally understood the roles of jurors, prosecutors, defense lawyers and judges, but did not seem to have a “rational understanding of the roles” they played in her case.
The judge cited the testimony of a government psychiatrist who said that Ms. Lindauer claimed to have special powers and that she had indicated she once met with Osama bin Laden, who disclosed to her the location of a bomb. The judge said that demonstrated “a lack of connection with reality.”
There is little doubt that her “reported claim” about Qaddafi seeking reparations was the basis for Mountain’s reporting. Talk about the blind leading the blind.
Turning from the ridiculous to the nearly ridiculous, a recent WSWS article also looks for a “smoking gun” that would explain why NATO went to war. In this instance, it relies more credibly—at least on first blush—on Wikileaks:
The scramble by dozens of international oil and gas companies to cash in on the lifting of sanctions, however, soon produced two major problems for the US government. Firstly, in the words of a November 2007 cable, “Libyan resource nationalism”—policies designed to increase the Libyan government’s “control over and share of revenue from hydrocarbon resources.” The cable ominously concludes that the US should demonstrate “the clear downsides” to the Libyan regime of such an approach.
Well, if a Wikileaks cable states that “Libyan resource nationalism” was what led to war, then it must be true even if dozens of articles in leading newspapers made the case for Libya being a jackpot for oil companies. One understands why WSWS, Counterpunch and other voices of the pro-Qaddafi left would be so invested in looking for proof that Qaddafi was some kind of revolutionary nationalist since it is required to make the story of a repeat of the war on the Serbs plausible. It doesn’t matter if the bourgeois press painted a picture of Qaddafi as a willing accomplice of the CIA and more than happy to collaborate with Berlusconi on keeping “illegals” out of Europe, they had to portray him as a heroic anti-imperialist fighter no matter how much cherry-picking of the facts was required.
Ironically, a supporter of the PSL on Marxmail who agrees with the Counterpunch-type analysis of Libya warned against taking Wikileaks literally (of course, in this case a cable describing how Qaddafi kept the eastern part of the country impoverished):
This kind of “analysis” reflects a common problem with Wikileaks. People think Wikileaks is some kind of secret source of the “truth.” It isn’t. It’s a secret source of U.S. Government documents. This isn’t a secret Libyan government document revealing “deliberate Libyan government policy,” it is the opinion of some U.S. Diplomat, based on who-knows-what source of information (for all we know, some of those who would become rebels).
Need I remind people of the famous Michael Moore incident, where a Wikileaks cable claimed that the Cuban government was so offended by Moore’s “Sicko” that it had banned it, whereas in actual fact it had been shown on Cuban TV?
Just because something is “Wikileaked” doesn’t make it true.
Well, as long as people are dipping into the Wikileaks database, I might as well cite a cable that should make you think twice about the level of “resource nationalism” that Qaddafi was committed to. The WSWS article informs us that oil companies were alarmed by statements made at a Georgetown University conference in 2009, so much so that it led to war presumably.
The oil giants and the US government were alarmed by threats Gaddafi made, in a January 2009 video-conference to Georgetown University students, to nationalise the oil and gas industry. A January 2010 cable recounts that “regime rhetoric in early 2009 involving the possible nationalization of the oil sector … has brought the issue back to the fore.”
But if you take a look at another cable, there seems to be much less concern:
During a recent video conference with Georgetown University students, Muammar al-Qadhafi suggested that Libya and other oil exporting states could nationalize their oil production in view of sharply plummeting petroleum prices. Several days later, however, a senior MFA official assured the visiting Spanish King’s delegation that Libya does not intend to do so.
Famous for saying the unexpected (a favorite local saying is “from Libya comes the new”), al-Qadhafi did not disappoint with his threat to nationalize Libya’s oil production. As with similar dramatic, headline-grabbing statements on various other subjects in the past, though, much of what he says and does represents tactical maneuvering rather than a sincere expression of intent. While it is never wise to rule out the possibility of seemingly irrational decisions by the GOL, we are not inclined to believe that nationalization is being seriously considered.
I want to conclude with a statement to my more intellectually-challenged readers. This blog is not endorsing NATO’s murderous attack on Libya when it criticizes sloppy, ideologically-loaded reporting about Qaddafi’s “anti-imperialist” credentials. Furthermore, it does not try to “demonize” Qaddafi. There has never been a single instance of my giving credibility to stories about government troops using Viagra during mass rapes, etc. My writings on Libya have a very specific goal, which is namely to debunk the sort of article that Thomas Mountain writes and that never should have appeared on Counterpunch, DissidentVoice or other websites that know damned well how to conduct a close reading of the N.Y. Times to expose some lies. I maintain that if the left is to have any credibility, it must maintain higher standards than the bourgeois press. It is really too bad that the people running Counterpunch appear to disagree.