RIO DE JANEIRO, Nov 17, 2011 (IPS) – Brazilian journalist and writer Mário Augusto Jakobskind was thwarted in his attempt to visit Libya during the civil war there, but in spite of this he produced a lucid analysis of the situation in the North African country and of the forces that have taken power after the fall of the Muammar Gaddafi regime.
Jakobskind, a 68-year-old correspondent for the Uruguayan weekly Brecha, was invited by the civil society Fact Finding Commission in Libya, along with people from several other nations, to visit Libya in August in the midst of the internal armed conflict and the aerial attacks by North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) forces.
But just as they were about to cross the border between Tunisia and Libya, the Brazilian delegation he was with had to turn back for security reasons, due to the intensified bombing and fighting on the ground.
In his book “Líbia: barrados na fronteira – O que não saiu na mídia sobre a invasão da Líbia” (Libya: Blocked at the Border. What the Media Did Not Publish about the Invasion of Libya), Jakobskind analyses the rebel forces that overthrew Gaddafi with NATO support, and their links with the extremist Al Qaeda network.
Q: Why was the Brazilian delegation unable to enter Libya?
A: The Fact Finding Commission (FFC) invited delegations from several countries to verify in situ what was happening in Libya, and to write an unbiased report on the impact of the NATO bombing, to be delivered to former United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan.
The Brazilian delegation, made up of nine people, two of whom were official parliamentary delegates, was the last one to arrive, after groups from countries like the United States, Venezuela, France and Italy.
The visit was to last 10 days. We departed from São Paulo and reached Tunis after a stopover in Paris, and then travelled overland towards Tripoli because Libya’s airspace was closed.
We left Aug. 14, and that very day NATO bombings were intensified. The leaders of the FFC in Tripoli themselves told us to go back to Tunis. The situation had changed. If we had arrived 24 hours earlier, we would have been able to get into Libya.
Q: Why did you want to go to Libya, in spite of the risks?
A: No journalist can ever turn down an invitation of this kind. I was psychologically prepared and aware of the risks, and of everything that could happen in a war situation. The idea was to prepare a report, but I also wanted to write something special about the country, the society, and the effects of the bombings.
Besides, the FFC, which issued the invitation, vouched for our security.
Q: What was it that the media did not publish about the NATO invasion of Libya?
A: The role of Al Qaeda, for instance. It is highly unusual for an organisation like Al Qaeda to fight alongside NATO against Gaddafi. I discovered this information by investigating, and from correspondents who have followed events in Libya from the start. This has not been published.
Certain NATO leaders are linked with the extreme right, like NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who was prime minister of Denmark from 2001 to 2009.
Fogh Rasmussen headed a coalition with the right wing of the Conservative People’s Party and relied for support on the Danish People’s Party, which has affinity with the Norwegian Progress Party. It was a former member of the Progress Party, neo-Nazi activist Anders Behring Breivik, who carried out the attacks in Norway this year that killed dozens of people.
Q: What direction do you envision for the Arab Spring (the wave of uprisings and protests since December 2010 in the Arab world)?
A: I have been covering the Middle East for the past 20 years. What happened in Egypt and Tunisia must be distinguished from Libya. They are different, each with their own idiosyncrasies and consequences.
For example, Libya is the North African country with the highest human development index. Most of its 6.5 million people live in Tripoli and (the northeastern city of) Benghazi. There has always been rivalry between east and west, represented by the country’s two major cities.
Unusually for the oil-rich North African region, the Gaddafi regime managed to use its oil resources to fulfil social goals. Yet in Western eyes, it was a dictatorship.
There are 140 tribes and clans in Libya, 30 of which are politically dominant. Gaddafi took power without bloodshed and managed to unite the country.
After 2003, Gaddafi changed course in order to show the West he was reliable. For example, he received then U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and forged friendly ties with the British government.
He stated publicly that Libya had helped finance French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s electoral campaign, and it must also be remembered that Gaddafi owned 10 percent of the shares of Italian car-maker Fiat.
Q: How do you see the future of Libya and its reconstruction?
A: It’s part of the game for the political marketing of ‘democracy.’ Behind the scenes, it will be European powers like France and Italy, as well as the United States, that will dominate Libya.
Libyans have no concept of democracy as understood in the West. What happened in Libya was a process of recolonisation, recreating a dependency that dates back to the 19th century.
The rebels would not have amounted to anything without the backing of NATO, which used human rights violations as a pretext for intervention. But crimes were committed on both sides of the Libyan conflict.
Moreover, it is those who destroyed Libya who are now going to profit from its reconstruction.