On February 22, Muammar Gaddafi boasted on state TV that the Libyan people were with him and that he was the Libyan revolution.
His comments came as his dwindling army of special guards and hired mercenaries tried to drown the popular revolution in blood.
AlJazeera.net reported on February 21 that civilians were strafed and bombed from helicopters and planes. Snipers with high-powered rifles fired into unarmed crowds.
Two pilots flew their fighter jets to Malta rather than bomb their own people and another two are reported to have crashed their jets rather than attack civilians.
Sections of the armed forces, several diplomats in embassies around the world and some ministers have abandoned the regime.
AlJazeera.net said on February 24 that eastern Libya was in the hands of anti-regime demonstrators.
AlJazeera.net said Gaddafi ordered troops who refused to shoot their own people to be executed.
Gruesome footage of the carnage was revealed to the world despite the Gaddafi regime’s desperate attempts to seal the country by blocking the internet and locking out journalists.
First Gaddafi’s son Saif al Islam (a darling of greedy United States and European corporations in recent years) and then Gaddafi himself tried to deny these massacres. At the same time, they threatened retribution against those who dared to rise up against the regime.
As the regime’s brutal attacks unfolded, it was days before the US and other Western governments were prepared to condemn the regime for this monstrosity. Even as late as February 23, Barack Obama had not condemned Gaddafi by name.
Yet in the 1980s and most of the ’90s, the Gaddafi regime was attacked by the same Western governments as a “terrorist rogue state” because of its political and material support to numerous national liberation movements around the world.
The Reagan administration imposed economic sanctions on Libya and carried out bombing raids to try to assassinate Gaddafi in 1986.
However, in the late 1990s secret negotiations for a rapprochement with the US and other Western governments began. First the United Nations sanctions were lifted in 1999 and by 2006, the US lifted its own sanctions and normalised relations.
European leaders flocked to Libya with greedy businessmen hanging on to their coat tails. Before long, several European oil companies were back in business, with banks, airlines and hotel chains following.
Former British PM Tony Blair and Italian President Silvio Berlusconi played leading roles in the process.
Libya offered multinationals greater access, tax concessions and privatisation. An April 2010 report by the Libyan government said that over the past 10 years, the regime privatised 110 state-owned companies.
The same report promised to privatise 100% of the Libyan economy over time.
The prospect of the privatisation of the refineries and other downstream sectors of the oil industry promises lucrative profits.
Worried that they were missing out to European competition, a group of powerful US companies (including Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Dow Chemical, ExxonMobil, Occidental Petroleum, Halliburton and Raytheon) set up a US-Libya Business Association to catch up.
Among the Gaddafi regime’s new lobbyists in Washington was Richard Perle, a former Reagan-era US defence department official.
Lauren Rozen said in a February 21 Politico.com article that Perle travelled to Libya as a paid adviser to the Monitor Group, a prestigious Boston-based consulting firm.
Several big US oil companies, including ConocoPhillips, Marathon Oil and Hess Corp, now have large stakes in the Libyan oil industry, Reuters said on February 23.
However, 80-85% of Libya’s oil exports go to Europe and companies such as British Petroleum, Italy’s Eni, Spain’s Repsol and Royal Dutch Shell have some of the biggest stakes.
In a February 23 British Guardian article, Tom Bawden and John Hooper described Berlusconi’s role: “Gaddafi and Berlusconi have a famously warm personal relationship. Less well-known, however, is the fact that Berlusconi is in business with one of the Libyan state’s investment vehicles.
“In June 2009, a Dutch-registered firm controlled by the Libyan Arab Foreign Investment Company, took a 10% stake in Quinta Communications, a Paris-based film production and distribution company. Quinta Communications was founded back in 1990 by Berlusconi in partnership with Tarak Ben Ammar, the nephew of the late Tunisian leader, Habib Bourguiba.
“The Italian prime minister has a 22% interest in the company through a Luxembourg-registered subsidiary of Fininvest, the firm at the heart of his sprawling business empire …
“Libyan investors already hold significant interests in several strategic Italian enterprises.”
Deutsche Presse-Agentur said on February 23 that the European Union’s latest annual report on arms exports revealed Libya’s biggest military suppliers in Europe.
The article said: “Italy [the largest supplier] granted export licences totalling 112 million euros, with a single 108-million-euro licence for military aircraft making up most of the amount …
“Germany was third in the list, with 53 million euros of licences, mostly for electronic jamming equipment used to disrupt mobile phone, internet and GPS communication …
“France was next with 30.5 million euros, followed by Britain with 25.5 million euros, and Belgium with 22 million euros.”
Bawden and Hooper said: “About 150 British companies have established a presence in Libya since the US and Europe lifted economic sanctions in 2004 …
“The most high profile have been the oil companies, keen to tap Libya’s vast reserves of fossil fuels.
“In a deal brokered in 2007 by Tony Blair, BP signed a £560m exploration agreement allowing it to search for oil and gas, offshore and onshore, in a joint venture with the Libya Investment Corporation.
“Shell is also exploring for oil in Libya as western companies seek to capitalise on a country with the largest oil reserves in Africa and substantial supplies of gas.
“High street retailers such as Marks & Spencer, Next, Monsoon and Accessorize have also set up in the country to serve the growing middle-class population …
“Companies such as AMEC, an engineering firm, and Biwater, a waste treatment company, have supplied services to Libya …
“British exports to Libya have soared to about £930m in recent years, while the business momentum in post-sanctions Libya is so great that the economy managed to grow by about 5% last year, while much of the rest of the world struggled.”
Saif, speaking in his private suite in Mayfair’s five star Connaught Hotel, told the British Daily Mirror in June 2010: “Tony Blair has an excellent relationship with my father. For us, he is a personal family friend … He has come to Libya many, many times.”
Libya considered Blair to be a trusted adviser to the Libyan Investment Authority, a role that Blair now denies.
But Blair has done his dirty job well.
The British Independent said on February 19: “Since the warming of relations between Libya and Britain, officers travelled frequently to Tripoli between 2008 and 2009 to train police, and Britain has authorised the export of tear gas, crowd-control ammunition, small-arms ammunition and door-breaching projectile launchers.
“Three years ago, ministers agreed to send Libya vehicles armed with water cannons. There are also unconfirmed reports that riot vans made by British companies have been present during crackdowns in the Libyan city of Benghazi, where scores have been killed.”
One of the murderous special battalions headed by another Gaddafi son, Khamis, is a British-trained unit, Associated Press said on February 21.
Libya’s oil exports have enabled it to build up foreign reserves of US$150 billion, but almost half its youth are unemployed, African Online News, said on February 16.
AON said: “Libya is the richest North African country… But that does not reflect the real economy of the average Libyan, with around half the population falling outside the oil-driven economy.
“The unemployment rate is at a surprising 30%, with youth unemployment estimated at between 40% and 50%. This is the highest in North Africa …
“Education levels are lower than in neighbouring Tunisia, which has little oil, and a surprising 20% of Libyans remain illiterate.
“Decent housing is unavailable to most of the disadvantaged half of the population. A generally high price level in Libya puts even more strains on these households.
“But the key of popular discontent is the lack of work opportunities, which strongly contrasts the Libyan image of a rich nation constantly propagated by the regime and its Soviet-style media.
“The few options for ordinary Libyans include the police or armed forces, construction works and petty trade. But even here, contacts and corruption are needed to have a chance.”
The oil sector employs only 4900 Libyans with a further 1000 training overseas, an October 2010 report by Libyan National Oil Company (NOC) said.