Canada has sent another 200 military personnel to fight in NATO’s regime change operation in Libya, bringing the total to 770 members of the Canadian Forces embroiled in the war. Operation MOBILE is Canada’s first air-only war fought since 1999, when NATO precipitated the destruction and dismemberment of Yugoslavia through massive bombardment.

A Canadian, Lt. Gen. Charles Bouchard, is the Commander of NATO’s Libyan war, supported by the four main political parties in Canada, the Bloc Québécois, the Liberal, Conservative, and New Democratic Parties. The ongoing Federal Election campaigns have overshadowed Canada’s major involvement in the intervention. Ottawa’s foreign policy newspaper Embassy has reported that “Canada stands near the top in terms of personnel commitments from mid-sized countries” and admits that Canada’s involvement has gone “under-reported.”

The Libyan conflict began during the wave of Arab popular movements, beginning with Tunisia’s revolt in January and that of Egypt in February. In Libya, demonstrations against the 40-years Libyan leader, Col. Muammar Gaddafi, began the night of February 15 in Benghazi and spread to al-Bayda the next day. Initial protests were sparsely attended compared to those of neighbouring states, but were quick to arm themselves with rudimentary heavy weaponry and began to seize territory.

On February 20, Benghazi, the largest city in Libya’s eastern, oil-producing region, was declared “liberated” by rebels, beginning a civil war that has since evolved into a conflict between the imperialist powers and their Libyan opponents. The western half of the country remains more or less in pro-Gaddafi hands, while the east is controlled by rebel groups allied with imperialism, led militarily by Khalifa Hifter, a Libyan ex-pat and CIA operative flown in from Virginia. The different reaction of the NATO imperialist bloc to the Libyan revolts versus the ongoing popular movements in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, and Bahrain was immediately apparent.

In those countries, NATO, led by the U.S. imperialists, remained a staunch ally of dictators just as brutal as Gaddafi up until the time of their ouster. In Bahrain, NATO states continue to support the regime that has repeatedly opened fire on unarmed protesters. Unlike the other popular Arab movements, the direction of the Libyan revolt was planned early, in part in November-December 2010, in Paris and Benghazi, where meetings were held between future defectors from Gaddafi’s government, Libyan opposition groups, French business interests, and government figures, as reported by the Italian right-wing newspaper Libero on March 23.

NATO’s plan for regime change in Libya comes primarily from the need to maintain stable and preferential access to Libya’s massive oil reserves. While Gaddafi has been allied with French and Italian imperialism some for years, recent overtures towards re-nationalization of oil companies and threats to begin privileging Russian and Chinese oil producers, as opposed to the U.S. and Europe, has driven home the need for a more “reliable” Libyan regime.

As Stephen Gowans has pointed out, Libya, unlike Bahrain and other U.S. puppet states in the region, still retains the lowest property rights, highest restrictions on foreign firms, a variety of tariffs on trade, import bans, stronger regulation on treatment and pay of workers, high corporate tax rates, publicly owned banks and government expenditures equaling almost 50 percent of GDP. Libya’s status, ranked by the right-wing Heritage Foundation’s 2011 as the lowest ranked North African or West Asian state for accommodating corporate and investor interests means that the imperialists are eager for any opportunity to exploit Libya’s resources to their full potential. By February 25, totally unsubstantiated headlines were fabricated in the media cartels claiming that without immediate NATO military deployment, Col. Gaddafi’s forces would deploy chemical and biological weapons, including mustard gas, on the Libyan population as a whole. Like the fabrications used to justify invading Iraq, the mad beating of war drums soon swelled into a chorus that no one could ignore.

The NATO imperialist bloc countries hoodwinked both the UN Security Council and the Arab League into passive support of what was supposed to be a limited “no-fly zone,” but became a full bombing campaign in support of one side of a civil war. Along with military targets, the victims of bombardment have so far included civilians in a residential area near a hospital in Tajhura, as testified by an open letter from over two dozen Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian doctors in Libya.

In rebel-controlled areas, NATO bombs have twice hit groups of the fighters they are tasked with protecting. According to the BBC, only one small trainer aircraft has been destroyed since the imposition of the “no-fly zone,” casting doubt upon the purported reasoning of the invasion, while CIA and other state agents have been on the ground for weeks, as reported by all the major media outlets.

Defections from Libyan government ministers have continued to occur, and may point to a change in the balance of forces. However, Al Jazeera English reported on April 7 that the situation in Libya remains “fluid,” saying that “nothing appears certain anymore, except the loss of life.”

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