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Torture exposes West's hollow claims about democracy

The indictment gets longer. Still wanted over the illegal invasion of Iraq, former prime minister Blair could be open to prosecution over New Labour’s secret collaboration with the Gaddafi regime, leading international lawyer Philippe Sands has suggested.

Ironically, in the wake of the Nato-backed regime change in Libya, it has become crystal clear that British intelligence agency MI6 collaborated in the “rendering” of alleged terror suspects by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and were complicit in their torture.

Under New Labour, M16 tipped off the CIA to help ensnare and transport two leaders of the anti-Gaddafi opposition back to Tripoli where they were promptly imprisoned and tortured. MI6 also told Libyan intelligence about opposition figures who lived in Britain, supplying it with emails and telephone numbers.

As early as 2003 Mark Allen, head of counter-terrorism at MI6, wrote to former Libyan foreign intelligence and then foreign minister, Moussa Koussa on the friendliest of first-name terms.

US human rights campaigners found letters in Koussa’s home showing how pleased Allen was about the “delivery” of Abedelhakim Belhadj then known by his nom de guerre Abu Abdallah Sadiq. Belhadj says that British intelligence officers were among the first to interrogate him when he arrived in Libya and was promptly imprisoned and tortured.

The CIA paid for Belhadj and his deputy, Abu Munthir and their families’ air trips from Malayasia and Hong Kong. But Allen played a double-game, telling Koussa that he would not share information obtained by torture with the CIA – and how he found this “amusing”.

“I have no intention of doing any such thing [sharing information]. The intelligence about Abu Abdallah was British. I know I did not pay for the air cargo. But I feel I have the right to deal with you direct on this and am very grateful to you for the help you are giving us,” he wrote.

Mark Allen has since been knighted and is an advisor to BP.

UK Special Forces helped to train the Khamis Brigade run by one of Gaddafi’s sons. The elite SAS forces assisted Libyans in counter-terrorism techniques and surveillance between 2004 and 2009.

M16 also held counter-terrorism courses for them in 2006 to help them fight the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, then headed by Belhadj. The US had added this group to its list of banned terror groups in 2003. Ironically, Belhadj was one of the chief leaders in the overthrow of Gaddafi and is now head of the Tripoli Military Council which currently heads 8,000 troops. He has called for a full apology from Britain.

Although British diplomats tried to shred compromising documents before they fled Libya, they have been discovered in the residence of the British ambassador. They show how Labour PMs Blair and Brown wooed the Gaddafi family in terms of sycophantic flattery.

Using craven religious phraseology, Blair wrote in December 2006: “At this sacred time of harmony and reconciliation, recalling how our passionate God has mercy on mankind, I would like to express my personal wishes to you, to your family and to the Libyan people.”

But working with torturers in Libya was not enough for M16. While the British government made hypocritical noises about human rights in China, MI6 was cooperating with the notorious Chinese State Security Bureau: “We agreed that we would look at how we might engage the Chinese Services on the Islamic extremist target in China”, one letter says chillingly. It is well-known that the Chinese authorities have long been brutally repressing anyone campaigning for Uighur ethnic rights, denouncing them as Islamic terrorists.

Of course, when anti-Gaddafi forces in Libya were inspired by the Arab Spring to revolt, the Cameron-Clegg coalition changed the tune sung by Britain. But the same thinking lies behind this government: flatter the leaders, repress the opposition and above all – get the oil.

But as the evidence found in the ashes of the old regime proves, no amount of flattery or the torture of opponents can possibly guarantee this. Finally, what the revelations show is what we have always known – that fine words about “democracy” from the mouths of British governments are the height of hypocrisy – both at home and abroad.

Corinna Lotz
A World to Win secretary
5 September 2011

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Kate says:

When the 27-year-old Ghadafi took power in 1969, Libya had the lowest per-capita income in the world according to the UN - because though the oil was flowing, the old imperialist placeman 'King' Idris was making sure the benefits got nowhere near the Libyan people.

In its early years, the Ghadafi regime transformed Libya from terrible conditions. The period we are talking about was the high point of global struggles for national liberation and it was absolutely right that socialists should discuss with and develop relations with the governments that emerged from these struggles. Ghadafi's concept of the Jamahiriya - the state of the masses - which he put forward in 1977 was a genuine attempt to develop a democratic political system based on people's assemblies. But it was not possible to sustain progress on the grounds of nationalism alone, and new ruling elites emerged that were in it for themselves. Libya was no exception and its growing isolation contributed to a degeneration of the regime.

In 1986 the US bombed Libya - with British approval - with the specific intention of killing Ghadafi and his family. The sanctions imposed on the country banned the sale of medical equipment and drugs, agricultural equipment and clothes and shoes to the "Pariah state".

As the embattled Ghadafi regime degenerated, opposition to him grew. It was only then that the imperialists chose to open relations with him. He was flavour of the month - and so were his playboy sons.

There was no 'dining with a long spoon' as they would now have us believe. British trade delegations, oil companies, and others poured into Tripoli through the gap opened up by the Blair government. Now it emerges that Ghadafi committed the ultimate crime of joining Bush/ Blair in kidnap and torture to order, as well as rounding up and holding immigrants on behalf of Berlusconi to bolster the Italian president's anti-immigration policies. So there you are, when Ghadafi was on the way up, when he talked about how to advance socialism and the cause of the Palestinians, only anti-imperialist revolutionaries were interested. It was the oil-greedy British and US governments that first smashed, then wheedled their way in to Libya on his way down.

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