On Libya, Now They Tell Us

From the Archive: The U.S. capture of an alleged al-Qaeda terror leader in Libya underscores the failure of the major news media to give the public the full story during the military intervention that led to Muammar Gaddafi’s ouster and murder. Mainstream journalists behaved more like propagandists, as Robert Parry reported in 2011.

By Robert Parry (Published on Sept. 15, 2011)

During the six-month uprising against Muammar Gaddafi, major U.S. news outlets repeated again and again that the Libyan dictator was behind the 1988 bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, and they ignored warnings that militant Islamists were at the core of the anti-Gaddafi rebel army.

Indeed, for Americans to get alternative views on these points, they had to search out Web sites, like Consortiumnews.com, which had the audacity not to march in lockstep with the rest of the Western media. Only outside the mainstream press would you find significant questions asked about the certainty over Libya’s guilt in the Pan Am bombing and about the makeup of the rebels.

Libyan Ali al-Megrahi, whose conviction as the “Lockerbie bomber” remains a point of historical dispute.

Now, after the United States and its NATO allies have engineered the desired “regime change” in Libya – under the pretext of “protecting civilians” – those two points are coming more into focus. The New York Times and the Washington Post finally acknowledged that radical Islamists, including some with links to al-Qaeda, are consolidating their power inside the new regime in Tripoli.

And, the proverbial dog not barking – even as Libya’s secret intelligence files have been exposed to the eyes of Western journalists – is the absence of any incriminating evidence regarding Libya’s role in the Lockerbie case. Earlier interrogations of Libya’s ex-intelligence chief Moussa Koussa by Scottish authorities also apparently came up empty, as he was allowed to leave London for Qatar.

Since Gaddafi’s fall, news outlets also have reported that Libyan intelligence agent, Ali al-Megrahi, who was convicted of the Lockerbie bombing by a Scottish court and was later released on humanitarian grounds because of terminal prostate cancer, is indeed gravely ill, bedridden and seemingly near death. [He died May 20, 2012.]

Megrahi’s trial in 2001 before a panel of Scottish judges was more a kangaroo court than any serious effort to determine guilt – even a Scottish appeals court expressed concern about a grave miscarriage of justice – but the Western press continues to describe Megrahi, without qualification, as the “Lockerbie bomber.”

It also was common in the West’s news media to smirk at the notion that Megrahi was truly suffering from advanced prostate cancer since he hadn’t died as quickly as some doctors thought he might. After Gaddafi’s regime fell, Megrahi’s family invited BBC and other news organizations to see Megrahi struggling to breathe in his sick bed.

His son, Khaled al-Megrahi, also continued to insist on his father’s innocence. “He believes and we know that everybody will see the truth,” the younger Megrahi told the BBC. “I know my father is innocent and one day his innocence will come out.”

Asked about the people who died in the bombing, the son said: “We feel sorry about all the people who died. We want to know who did this bad thing. We want to know the truth as well.”

Convicted or Railroaded?

As more information becomes available inside Libya, the facts may finally be clarified about whether Gaddafi’s government did or did not have a hand in the bombing over Lockerbie. However, so far, the indications are that Megrahi may well have been railroaded by the Scottish judges who found a second Libyan defendant innocent and were under political pressure to convict someone for the crime.

After Megrahi’s curious conviction, the West imposed harsh economic sanctions on Libya, agreeing to lift them only if Libya accepted “responsibility” for the bombing and paid restitution to the families of the 270 victims. To get rid of the punishing sanctions, Libya accepted the deal although its officials continued to insist that Libya had nothing to do with the Lockerbie bombing.

However, amid the 2011 propaganda campaign in support of the Libyan rebels, none of this uncertainty was mentioned in the New York Times, the Washington Post or other leading U.S. news outlets. Gaddafi’s guilt for Lockerbie was simply stated as flat fact, much as the same news organizations endorsed false claims about Iraq’s WMD in the run-up to the 2003 invasion of that Arab country.

Similarly, there was scant U.S. media attention given to evidence that eastern Libya, the heart of the anti-Gaddafi rebellion, was a hotbed for Islamic militancy with that region supplying the most per-capita militants fighting U.S. troops in Iraq, often under the banner of al-Qaeda.

Instead, Gaddafi’s claims that he was battling Islamic terrorists in the Benghazi region were widely mocked or ignored in the West. Even a report by analysts Joseph Felter and Brian Fishman for West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center got short-shrift.

In their report, “Al-Qaeda’s Foreign Fighters in Iraq,” Felter and Fishman analyzed al-Qaeda documents captured in 2007 showing personnel records of militants who flocked to Iraq for the war. The documents showed eastern Libya providing a surprising number of suicide bombers who traveled to Iraq to kill American troops.

Felter and Fishman wrote that these so-called Sinjar Records disclosed that while Saudis comprised the largest number of foreign fighters in Iraq, Libyans represented the largest per-capita contingent by far. Those Libyans came overwhelmingly from towns and cities in the east.

“The vast majority of Libyan fighters that included their hometown in the Sinjar Records resided in the country’s Northeast, particularly the coastal cities of Darnah 60.2% (53) and Benghazi 23.9% (21),” Felter and Fishman wrote.

The authors added that Abu Layth al‐Libi, Emir of Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), “reinforced Benghazi and Darnah’s importance to Libyan jihadis in his announcement that LIFG had joined al‐Qa’ida.”

Top Libyan Terrorists

Some important al-Qaeda leaders operating in Pakistan’s tribal regions also are believed to have come from Libya. For instance, “Atiyah,” who was guiding the anti-U.S. war strategy in Iraq, was identified as a Libyan named Atiyah Abd al-Rahman.

It was Atiyah who urged a strategy of creating a quagmire for U.S. forces in Iraq, buying time for al-Qaeda headquarters to rebuild its strength in Pakistan. “Prolonging the war [in Iraq] is in our interest,” Atiyah said in a letter that upbraided Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi for his hasty and reckless actions in Iraq.

After U.S. Special Forces killed al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden on May 2, 2011, in Pakistan, Atiyah became al-Qaeda’s second in command until he himself was reportedly killed in a U.S. drone strike in August. [See Consortiumnews.com “Time Finally Ran Out for Atiyah.”]

However, to most Americans relying on the major U.S. news media, little of this was known, as the Washington Post itself acknowledged in an article on Sept. 12, 2011. In an article on the rise of Islamists inside the new power structure in Libya, the Post wrote:

“Although it went largely unnoticed during the uprising that toppled Gaddafi last month, Islamists were at the heart of the fight, many as rebel commanders. Now some are clashing with secularists within the rebels’ Transitional National Council, prompting worries among some liberals that the Islamists — who still command the bulk of fighters and weapons — could use their strength to assert an even more dominant role.”

On Sept. 15, 2011, the New York Times published a similar article, entitled “Islamists’ Growing Sway Raises Questions for Libya.” It began:

“In the emerging post-Qaddafi Libya, the most influential politician may well be Ali Sallabi, who has no formal title but commands broad respect as an Islamic scholar and populist orator who was instrumental in leading the mass uprising. The most powerful military leader is now Abdel Hakim Belhaj, the former leader of a hard-line group once believed to be aligned with Al Qaeda.”

Belhaj was previously the commander of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, which was associated with al-Qaeda in the past, maintained training bases in Afghanistan before the 9/11 attacks, and was listed as a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department.

Though Belhaj and the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group deny current allegiance to al-Qaeda, Belhaj was captured during George W. Bush’s post-9/11 “war on terror” and was harshly interrogated by the CIA at a “black site” prison in Thailand before being handed over to Gaddafi’s government which imprisoned and – Belhaj claims – tortured him.

The Times reported that “Belhaj has become so much an insider lately that he is seeking to unseat Mahmoud Jibril, the American-trained economist who is the nominal prime minister of the interim government, after Mr. Jibril obliquely criticized the Islamists.”

The Times article by correspondents Rod Nordland and David D. Kirkpatrick also cited other recent developments of growing Islamist influence inside the Libyan rebel movement:

“Islamist militias in Libya receive weapons and financing directly from foreign benefactors like Qatar; a Muslim Brotherhood figure, Abel al-Rajazk Abu Hajar, leads the Tripoli Municipal Governing Council, where Islamists are reportedly in the majority; in eastern Libya, there has been no resolution of the assassination in July of the leader of the rebel military, Gen. Abdul Fattah Younes, suspected by some to be the work of Islamists.”

It may be commendable that the Post and Times finally gave serious attention to this unintended consequence of the NATO-backed “regime change” in Libya, but the fact that these premier American newspapers ignored the Islamist issue as well as doubts about Libya’s Lockerbie guilt – while the U.S. government was whipping up public support for another war in the Muslim world – raises questions about whether any lessons were learned from Iraq.

Do these prestige news outlets continue to see their role in such cases as simply getting the American people to line up behind the latest war against a Mideast “bad guy” – or will they ever take seriously their journalistic duty to arm the public with as much information as possible?

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com). For a limited time, you also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.

Share this Article:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • NewsVine
  • Technorati
  • email

7 comments on “On Libya, Now They Tell Us

  1. Karon von Gerhke-Thompson on said:

    I GAVE YOU A COVERT OPERATION THAT DWARFED THE IRAN CONTRA AFFAIR THAT OUGHT TO HAVE TOPPLED THE REAGAN BUSH ADMINISTRATION ALONG WITH ALL OF THE EMPIRICAL FACT BASED EVIDENCE TO BACK IT UP—WEAPON SALES TIED TO THE SALE OF 5OO,OOO BPD OF IRANIAN CRUDE OIL THAT FOUND ITS WAYS INTO THE U.S.WITH THE USE OF PROCEEDS TIED TO IRAN’S PURCHASE OF PRIOR WEAPONS AND THE ACQUISITION OF NEW AND IMPROVED WEAPON SYSTEMS UNDER VIKTOR KUCHMA IN THE UKRAINE AND VLADIMIR PUTIN IN RUSSIA (2004 thru 2007)— THE BRIANCHILD OF BORIS BEREZOVSKY AT HIS BEST THAT SAILED THROUGH TREASURY UNDER SECRETARY FOR TERRORISM AND FINANCIAL INTELLIGENCE UNDER AN END USER DESTINATION CLAUSE THAT EXEMPTED THE INVOLVED PRINCIPALS FROM PROSECUTION FOR VIOLATIONS IN TRADING WITH THE ENEMY ACT AND FROM VIOLATION OF SALES OF WEAPONS TO TERRORISTS STATES.

    I AM NOT TALKING ABOUT SALES OF WEAPON SYSTEMS TO IRAN HERE/ I NEVER DOUBTED THAT THE PROCEEDS FROM THE SALE OF IRANIAN CRUDE OIL ACQUIRED BY THE UKRAINE WOULD bw DIVERTed TO SUPPLY WEAPONS TO CHECHNYA AND OTHER ROGUE JIHADISTS NATIONS IN THE CAUCASUS EMIRATES.

    IT WAS NATURAL FOR BEREZOVSKY AND FOR AKMED ZAKEAV AND THE AMERICAN COMMITTEE FOR PEACE IN CHECHNYA. THIS EXCERPT FROM THE DAILY KOS:

    ” Founded in 1999, the American Committee for Peace in Chechnya is the only private, non-governmental organization in North America exclusively dedicated to promoting the peaceful resolution of the Second Chechen war whose sole purpose is the defeat of Russia. It is chaired by former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, former Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig and former Congressman Stephen J. Solarz, the committee is composed of more than one hundred distinguished Americans representing both major political parties Elliott Abrams .Kenneth Adelman, Midge Decter (director of the Heritage Foundation), Frank Gaffney, William Kristol, Michael A. Ledeen, Richard Perle and it goes without saying. R. James Woolsey.” The only name missing is Marshall Miller, who has eschewed even the most elementary honorable mention in the media since the death of his former law partner, DCI William Colby who drowned during a rare solo midnight canoe trip down on the Potomac River without wearing his usual life jacket.

    I do not believe Miller will ever recover from Colby’s death. He is alleged to have visited Colby’s family only once since his death. As a senior official in the DIA’s OGC, Miller had worked the Lockerbie bombing case and was substantially involved in the arrest of Lester Knox Coleman. I know him to mourn Colby’s loss and “to see Coleman’s black cats crossing his path wherever he walks”. Open the link and then type in Miller’s name for his famous last words “I know more than I should know…but I don’t control other people’s operations so leave me alone!” . http://www.amazon.com/Trail-Octopus-Beirut-Lockerbie-Inside/dp/074751562X.
    . .
    THE INVOLVED PRINCIPALS WERE NEOCONSERVATIVE ZEALOTS, BENEFICIARIES AND ANNUITANTS OF BEREZOVSKY, THE LATTER WHO WILL BE TRIED POSTUMOUSLY IN USDC WASHINGTON, DC. ALONG WITH HIS U.S. COHORTS IN CRIME.

    I AM A NEIGHBOR WHO RESIDES WITHIN A FIVE MINUTE COMMUTE OF YOU. MY DOOR AND MY 127,000 PAGE DOCUMENT FILE WAS OPEN TO YOU. YOU NEVER RESPONDED, PRESUMABLY A HANGOVER FROM YOUR COVERT NOT-INVENTED-HERE SYNDOME. OLD HABITS ARE HARD TO BREAK.

    MISSED OPPORTUNTIES, I GUESS.

  2. David Howard on said:

    Lockerbie bombing – Google “Quadri-Track ZCT”

    • Sidy M. Gueye on said:

      Lockerbie Bombing – YouTube “Allan Francovich: The Maltese Double-Cross – Lockerbie (1994)”.
      This documentary, which is still in YouTube, will really tell you what happened on that faithful day.
      Good Luck!

  3. incontinent reader on said:

    Bob, Thanks, you’ve come up with another fine article, and made this reader eager for more of the story of Libya to be told.

    Qadaafi’s dictatorial and sometimes quirky rule was repeatedly demonized by the West, and some of the specifics of it- for example, where he imprisoned and used torture against activist political opponents- should have been condemned. (Though, as with Syria, some of this was coerced by the U.S. as part of its “war on terror” and use of black site prisons abroad.) Yet, he did use Libya’s oil wealth for the well-being of Libya’s citizens, so much so that Libya had the highest standard of living of any nation in Africa, except possibly South Africa. This included: 1) a 90% literacy rate, 2) a high doctor to patient ratio (with planned investment to increase it, such that one UN report commented it would be TOO high), 3) universal health care that even paid for operations and care abroad (including transportation, room and board for patients’ families), 4) subsidies for families having children, 5) old age insurance more generous than our Social Security, 5) free education through university (which ended up educating young unemployed political activists, whose disaffection was exacerbated by the economic impact in Libya of the global recession), 6) a non-sectarian, non-discriminatory Muslim state (like Syria’s before the US initiated its clandestine war in 2011, introduced jihadist mercenaries and shredded Syria’s civil society), 7) women’s rights- including marital and political rights, political representation, and job mobility for women (all of which make Hillary Clinton’s advocacy for the empowerment of women that much more hypocritical, and her viciousness about Qadaafi’s death outrageous). This was a form of state socialism that was a real threat to the IMF model of privatization, and not so free ‘free market’ capitalism.

    I recall hearing Chas Freeman at a lecture speak about Qadaafi’s request to meet and ask him about Libya’s development, including its port development. Freeman said Qadaafi was ignorant of the complexities of what would be required and that he had to explain it to him. Yet Qadaafi learned from that and engaged the Chinese to build modernized port facilities at a fraction of the cost of a French or American project. Furthermore, Qadaafi had just about completed the largest water project in the world, and without American input or investment (except for its some of its initial design) when NATO attacked Libya, and bombed the project’s infrastructure. That project would have tapped into huge reserves of water under the Sahara and not only fueled development in Libya, but also allowed exportation of water to Libya’s drought stricken neighbors. In addition Qadaafi had endorsed Desertec, a huge North African solar project for generating and transmitting competitive low cost electricity to Southern Europe. (One component of that project, which has either been completed or is still under construction would provide electricity transmitted through cables under the Mediterranean from Tunisia to Rome.) It is both instructive and tragic that the US is still unable or unwilling to apply this technology on any meaningful scale in its desert states.

    On the geopolitical side, Qadaafi had organized the African States into a unified voice, and was proposing a new monetary gold standard for trade between African nations. He had also organized them to prepare to sue the European nations for damages related to past transgressions and exploitation, which could have amounted to trillions of dollars. Whether or not a European Court would have allowed the suit, just the public claim in a unified lawsuit would have been threat to America’s and Europe’s plan to recolonize Africa. The U.S.- NATO war against Libya was an imperial war, with a rationale and propaganda similar to what Western Europe used in their colonial wars and exploitation of Africa and Asia, i.e., India, China, Indochina, East Indies (and the U.S. used in the Philippines) in the 19th century. So, it is not a surprise that the $100 billion or more of Libya’s bank accounts, or its oil facilities, (including China’s holdings in Libya) were seized, or that the US and NATO and then claimed that they should be applied to the costs of their war to ‘liberate’ Libya from its dictatorial rule and ‘protect the human rights of its citizens’.

    • F. G. Sanford on said:

      Great article and great comment. I wonder if Samantha Power and Susan Rice will proudly add this to their resumes under the “Humanitarian Bombing” section.

  4. elmerfudzie on said:

    Indisputable irregularities were uncovered by private investigator, George Thomson during his review of evidentiary materials used during the Lockerbie trial. It brought the whole Megrahi wrongful conviction to light. That said, as leaders go, Gaddafi had a little less blood on his hands then most despots in his league. Gaddafi exploited natural resources to feed the Libyan people, end homelessness, vigorously supported educational programs, oversaw the construction of one of the greatest engineering feats in the past one hundred years. I’m referring to (The Manmade River Project) that now irrigates semi-arid areas in the south of that country. Didn’t he dodge assassination attempts by MI6? and accepted the “fall guy” routine for Lockerbie? Isn’t he a son of both Abraham and Ishmael? Was that too much for the Western Occident to bear?Just a few years prior to his demise, I distinctly remember western countries, particularly the USA, welcoming Gaddafi back into “the fold” and Silvio Berlusconi kissing his hand. At the time, this behavior seemed to be more schizoid than the colonel. Perhaps his political downfall had more to do with international petrochemical corporations coveting the last known reserves of sweet and easily extractable light oil, or the motive may have been to control an enormous underground store of the purest drinking water found anywhere in the African continent. Down the road, Consortiumnews will probably do another rewrite on this article -It was About Water-Now They Tell Us!

  5. Excellent commentary,especially by responders.Actually,the whole deal against Q(K)addaffi was his resistance to Zionism,and Lockerbie was intended as his elimination,but it didn’t quite pan out,so the French and other Nato lackeys finished the job.And has anyone else noted the extreme loyalty of Hollande towards Israel?His African interventions will only lead to more and more instability in the region, just what the Zionists want.
    Why do people skirt this obvious and malevolent infection in our world?And to add insult to injury,when the avowed racist Rabbi Ovadio?dies,the world and political figures heap praise instead of condemnation on this person who said that goyim are just here to serve Jews,and to be exploited by same.Oy!