China offered Qaddafi Armaments in midst of war

People who favored saving the civilian populations of Benghazi and other eastern Libyan cities from Qaddafi’s tanks and artillery have often been termed “interventionists.” But it turns out that there was more than one kind of interventionism. The Globe and Mail reports that documents discovered in mid-July show that state-owned Chinese weapons companies offered to sell Libya weaponry. The plan was to move items from Algeria or South Africa.

China has denied the report, but officials of the new Libyan government say the evidence is air tight.

It is alleged that Algeria was a source of weapons and support for Qaddafi.

China, Brazil, Russia and India worried that Libya would become a precedent for NATO intervention in their own countries. The fear is misplaced–after Iraq there is no appetite in the West for boots on the ground.

So it isn’t a question of interventionism. The question is who’s intervention you support.

Posted in Uncategorized | 52 Responses | Print |

52 Responses

  1. Yes, and if I ever become a citizen of China, Juan, I will concern myself with Chinese interventionism.

    Any American who speaks of ‘humanitarian’ military missions is deluded – we are talking about an indiscriminate killing force that has annihilated hundreds of thousands of innocents since 9/11, tortured, maimed, displaced and destroyed millions of others. The US has actively undermined democracy throughout the Middle East and the Pentagon’s totalitarian mindset has infected the homeland as well.

    Would you care to comment on the humanitarian drones your beloved democracy-loving Pentagon has dispatched to every corner of the Muslim world? How about the tens or even hundreds of thousands of mercenary goons who kill with utter impunity? Will you demand justice from the documented baby-killers and torturers who act daily to make us less a less secure, less humane and less democratic nation?

    Defense is good and noble. Our military is not about defense, and there is nothing good or noble about it. Sycophants like you give comfort and support to our real enemy, the one we should have targeted in the days following 9/11: an imperial and out-of-control military establishment.

    • “Would you care to comment on the humanitarian drones your beloved democracy-loving Pentagon has dispatched to every corner of the Muslim world?”

      I would be glad to comment on it. Are you speaking of all those drones targeting Malaysia? or Indonesia? or Bangladesh? or Morrocco? or Algeria, or Mauritania? or Saudi Arabia? or Qatar? or the United Arab Emirates? or Egypt? or Tunisia? or Oman?

      “Every corner of the Muslim World,” indeed! Get a grip. Your nonsensical hyperbole undermines everything you wrote.

      I’ll tell you something about the U.S. military you obviously either don’t know about or refuse to acknowledge. During the great tsunami that ravaged Aceh in Indonesia, a U.S. aircraft carrier battle group diverted from its mission to provide much-needed humanitarian assistance to Indonesia and Aceh. And one stood by to provide humanitarian assistance to Burma when that country was ravaged, but the xenophobic Burmese government refused all outside assistance. The U.S. military is much more than the cartoon version of your narrow imagination.

      • Excellent comment. And just as the humanitarian mission to Indonesia doesn’t tell us anything about the morality of the Iraq War, nor does the Iraq War tell us anything about the morality of the UN protective mission in Libya.

        I grew quite sick, during the Bush administration, of people who believed that they didn’t have to know any relevant facts about a particular military action in order to draw a conclusion about it – that they merely needed to have the proper ideological stance towards America and military force in general, and they could just assume that the facts would back them up.

        I don’t find this habit of thought any more respectable when it’s utilized by the other side.

  2. That is one of the larger questions. US anti-interventionists are usually thinking only about US intervention. The US has by far the biggest military and can exert a lot of influence through air power. If you look at what the US has done overseas during the past 30 years, you may conclude that the US is not, on balance, a force for good, and deserves to have its wings clipped. But, if the US were somehow disempowered, other countries would step up to fill the vacuum, and all the small wars would continue. China is in the UN, so I guess the UN is not the answer to all international conflicts. As to whose and which interventions I’ll support, I’ll take that on a case by case basis.

  3. I deeply respect Prof Cole’s insight on Mideast issues and I congratulate him on the ultimate vindication of his early stance in favor of the NATO intervention. He knows of what he speaks.

    That said I am disturbed by the rift between him and Cockburn. Alex is more accurately described as Marxist or leftist than progressive. He is against anything that helps the American empie succeed including a successful NATO intervention. He argues against human caused global warming, not global warming per se. Although the evidence for the warming being human caused is certainly compelling it is not an air tight case and someone who is skeptical is not automatically a crank.

    Cockburn is a very good writer and thinker and I encourage everyone to read his most recent Counterpunch piece dissecting the 911 conspiracy nuts. He is wrong about Libya and is not above saving face and that is regrettable but does not disqualify him from being taken seriously.

    Stop choosing up sides and fighting for Team Cole or Team Cockburn. Read what they say, consider their arguments and see how the facts bear them out. It’s not football.

    • Oh, by all means read Alex Cockburn, and read Robert Kagan– read widely.

      I don’t know Alex but am told by people who do that apart from ideology, he is a quirky character and that there aren’t any friends or colleagues of his that he hasn’t at some point stabbed in the back. I fear he holds The Nation back in many ways.

    • Cockburn’s 9/11 piece was full of holes. In it he alleged that there was photographic evidence of an airplane hitting the pentagon, but did not produce the picture. I for one have been looking for 10 years (or almost) and have not found this c kind ov evidence. He also cites one or two anonymous “witnesses” to support his theory. If he is a credible journalist he needs to apologize for that opinion piece and offer something that resembles real investigative work, otherwise I will judge him on that piece and concider him a hack.

        • JOE FROM LOWELL. Are you kidding me?? Are you referring to the unidentifiable flash of colour that appears in the right top third of the screen just before the explosion?? I saw that video when it was released. Cockburn said eyewitnesses reported seeing passengers terrified faces through the windows, lol. If the powers that be want to prove us skeptics wrong, they need to offer more than microseconds flashes of UFO’s (in the literal sence of the term). With all the video servelence of the pentagon, offering this video does nothing but harden a skeptics skepticism. But, I think you were being sarcastic, no?

    • It’s all very well to claim to be sceptical about anthropogenic greenhouse warming, but those who do make such claims need to provide an alternative thesis – backed up with data – to explain the unprecedented rate of increase in global temperature in recent decades. I’m not aware that Alexander Cockburn has done this.

      Otherwise they can’t expect to be taken seriously.

    • Oh, who cares?

      We got this wonderful world-wide arms souk, where corporations, all a long ways post-national, and those wonderful marketing guys aka arms dealers, and all the stupid violent humans that just LOVE to blow things up, shoot things up, screw things up and leave corpses and sorrow everywhere, busily engage in the exact same species of commercial/consumer behaviors that are the daily bread of WalMart and the fast food industry and the automakers, etc.

      There are discussions like the one Professor Cole stimulates and moderates, all these little surface debates about stuff that has only a tiny little bit to do with the underlying reality of the money aspects and destrictive seduction of militarizationism. And there’s the huge industry fomenting and growing the business of the movement of explosive and destructive stuff of war, the manufacture and sale of which “informs” and largely drives all the policies and behaviors that get generated and debated and effectuated and then commented on in spaces like this.

      But in partial answer to your question, Thivai, here’s a more exacting summation: link to , and here’s one little piece of it. And now Libyans will once again get the oil flowing, and be back in the market for more weapons to stuff in their war locker, with new salesmen coming in all the time to peddle the next “game changer” to give their generals a seeming edge in the planetary arms tail chase, a meaningless Ouroboros. link to

      How’s it feel to be nothing more than a soft target in such a target-rich environment? And how’s it feel, every time you fill the fuel tank or fire up your yard blower, to be a “consumer participant” in that huge, mostly invisible-in-plain-sight, market? How’s it feel to know that the processes for “improving the lethality” of every kind of weapon, “kinetic” and pathogenic and chemotoxic and nuclear and all the rest, are busily grinding away, all kinds of really smart people bending their awesome intellects to “improving” the killing capacity of everything, building us all into a world of autonomous battle robots and more and more and more of the same… all part of one giant idiot’s dream of a “networked battlespace?”

      Oh heck, who wants to give any attention to all that? Where’s my iPad? I feel the need for a quick hit of “Call of Duty…”

      And we live in a myth, that somehow there’s any kind of control of all that, and any future other than the kind of world that was dominated by the “Terminator’s kin…

    • Mostly old Russian stuff. If he had AK47s he must have gotten them in Gaza though. I say this because the IDF’s evidence that the south Israel bus attackers were from gaza is that they used AK47’s (apparently only available in Gaza lol)

  4. Who needs “boots on the ground” when 21st century high-tech drone warfare is available (and being used in numerous locales as I drink this morning’s coffee) to disrupt a state’s security, cause unease & paranoia within that state, and, oh yeah, kill selective citizens?

    The only feet on the ground need be protected by hand-made Italian loafers shuffling about in any state’s elite centers of power & economy.

    • I’d like to take a moment of silence for the crews of the artillery and rocket systems that were shelling civilians in Misrata when they were killed by Predator drones.

    • Yeah, yeah, and 90 years ago Douhet told all the flyboys that if they dropped enough bombs on civilian cities, armies would no longer be needed to fight wars. How has that worked out?

      The drones are sloppy, weak, and blind in the deeper sense that you can never fight without knowing something about the society you are fighting. We got that first quick victory in Afghanistan in 2002 because Special Forces guys with laser target designators were welcomed by the Northern Alliance, who were a genuine coalition of anti-Pashtun rebels, and that meant they had an understanding of what they were calling airstrikes against. We don’t have that in Pakistan, which is by the way a nuclear power and doesn’t just let these drone strikes happen helplessly, no matter how it postures in its own media.

      Drones are entirely the response of a weak, cowardly democracy to a public that has deliberately kept so ignorant of foreign affairs that it is reluctant to sacrifice anything for any reason. They won’t be worth a damn in a Great Power war, just like all the other weapons we’ve developed since Vietnam started. They look equally useless in a battle against a mass revolution based on modern communications and decentralization.

      Unless, of course, you have cheap enough high-tech labor and big enough factories to build (and operate) them by the millions. There’s nothing America can make 1000 of that China can’t eventually copy 1,000,000 of. Yet again, America has created its own worst enemy.

      • “Drones are entirely the response of a weak, cowardly democracy to a public that has deliberately kept so ignorant of foreign affairs that it is reluctant to sacrifice anything for any reason. They won’t be worth a damn in a Great Power war, just like all the other weapons we’ve developed since Vietnam started. They look equally useless in a battle against a mass revolution based on modern communications and decentralization.”

        The above-cited quote about drones not being “worth a damn in a Great Power war” is a total non-sequitur. They were not meant as field weapons in a Great Power war. They were meant precisely for the purpose to which they are being applied (very successfully) today–to target high-value leaders in an environment where they can be used both for reconnaissance and killing the target. As for your comment about China’s ability to manufacture drones, it is ludicrous to think the U.S. will use drones to kill millions of Chinese. Again, that is a total non-sequitur that demonstrates a lack of understanding of the purpose of drones in the type of warfare in which the U.S. is engaged today against al Qaeda.

  5. This thread is going to be full of people insisting that it’s unfair to exclude them from the category “People who favored saving the civilian populations of Benghazi and other eastern Libyan cities from Qaddafi’s tanks and artillery,” on the grounds that they had warm feelings about the would-be victims.

    • That presumes that they believe that Benghazi was under a real threat. Most who hold Islamaphobic contempt for the rebels actually believe Gaddafi was merely stopping an islamist insurrection and was fully justified in that act.

    • Brazilians had thirty or so years of U.S. backed military dictatorship. Experience that, and maybe you’ll understand their point of view on U.S. intervention.

    • Almost as hilarious as the thought of the CIA and its jackals, the US being the vastly biggest part of NATO to the point of swallowing any notion of distinct member interests, intervening in, say, Chile, or Guatemala, or Venezuela or gee, how about that stupid little nation of Costa Rica, unwise enough not to have its own huge military establishment, which the Leader of the Free World is now apparently going to provide, whether wanted or not: link to

      Seen anything in the way of reporting on how well our Gyrenes are doing “interdicting drug trafficking” or what-ever down in that little post-colonial space?

      On the other hand, who cares, really? this stuff just happens…

    • Almost as funny as the US bombing Grenada because it was having its runway lengthened by Cuban construction workers. Not quite so funny was the destruction of an occupied nursing home (collateral damage).

      There must be some humor in the bombing and invasion of Panama – something about dealing a death blow to the drug trade.

  6. I know why China and Russia are “worried,” as they both basically govern without the consent of the people, but… Brazil? India? India lives on the precipice of an armed conflict with Pakistan, one that could foreseeably be stopped by foreign intervention out of fear of a nuclear exchange, but… Brazil? What kind of intervention does a peace-abiding, stable, largely human rights-respecting democracy fear?

    • intervening in Brazil ……..It’s not hilarious, the USA has intervened in Brazil in the recent past. And in every other country in South and Central America.

      I don’t think Brazilians have forgotten.

      • ” the USA has intervened in Brazil in the recent past. And in every other country in South and Central America.

        If you are referring to the 1964 military coup in Brazil, it was home-grown. The U.S. supported Brazil after the military came to power, but the U.S. did not “intervene” to cause the coup. As for the U.S. intervening “in every other country in South and Central America,” that is nonsense. The U.S. has, of course, intervened in certain countries, but your statement is wildly inaccurate. If you have evidence of U.S. intervention in “every country in South and Central America,” please present it. Otherwise don’t make a blanket statement that cannot be supported with evidence.

        • declassified documents, very easy to find if you want to find them:

          link to

          “Among the documents are Top Secret cables sent by U.S. Ambassador Lincoln Gordon who forcefully pressed Washington for direct involvement in supporting coup plotters led by Army Chief of Staff General Humberto Castello Branco. “If our influence is to be brought to bear to help avert a major disaster here-which might make Brazil the China of the 1960s-this is where both I and all my senior advisors believe our support should be placed,” Gordon wrote to high State Department, White House and CIA officials on March 27, 1964.

          To assure the success of the coup, Gordon recommended “that measures be taken soonest to prepare for a clandestine delivery of arms of non-US origin, to be made available to Castello Branco supporters in Sao Paulo.” In a subsequent cable, declassified just last month, Gordon suggested that these weapons be “pre-positioned prior any outbreak of violence,” to be used by paramilitary units and “friendly military against hostile military if necessary.” To conceal the U.S. role, Gordon recommended the arms be delivered via “unmarked submarine to be off-loaded at night in isolated shore spots in state of Sao Paulo south of Santos.””

      • I repeat, the 1964 coup in Brazil was a homegrown affair. The U.S. supported the junta, as I stated earlier, but it provided neither planning nor the weapons mentioned in your cited source. It was unnecessary. And the “unmarked” submarine plan was never implemented. Your own source tells the story: “Such U.S. military support for the military coup proved unnecessary; Castello Branco’s forces succeeded in overthrowing Goulart far faster and with much less armed resistance then U.S. policy makers anticipated. On April 2, CIA agents in Brazil cabled that “Joao Goulart, deposed president of Brazil, left Porto Alegre about 1pm local time for Montevideo.”

        I’m still waiting for you to provide evidence to substantiate your claim that the U.S. has intervened “in every country in South and Central America.”

        • Oh Bill, you set such high standards, and we all love the demand for substantiation as a way to try to stifle your opponent by sad little cross-examination techniques.

          Here’s one litany of US involvement in our southern neighborhood, link to

          Here’s a mixed-blessing take from the Cato Institute: link to

          Then there’s Joe Stockwell, link to

          And here’s a nice convenient tabular summary for you, covering not just those neighbors, but most of the rest of the world:

          link to

          And I know you won’t do it, but if you Google “covert us activities in south and central america” you will find a lovely assortment of various “interventions,” “covert” and “overt.” Our MIC is just as Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler described it: “A Racket.”

          And your cavil about the cited leaked cables in no way makes it clear that “our boys” did not have a hand in the “regime change” in Brazil in 1964. It does make it perfectly clear, on any honest reading, that the CIA sneaky petes were on the scene, in the process of establishing that thing called “influence,” and gee, how many times have those fellas been involved in “interventions” in local politics and culture, leading to assassinations, revolts and all that jazz?

          I particularly like the one entry in that table that reminds us that our heroic CIA, in 1963 in Iraq, conducted a “command operation,” that “CIA organizes coup that killed president, brings Ba’ath Party to power, and Saddam Hussein back from exile to be head of the secret service.” But I bet you would think that was a GREAT Idea, right? Really contributed to the net goodness and stability of the world, right? Helped secure the blessings of freedom, and promoted the general welfare, right? Maybe about the same degree as “supporting” Jonas Savimbi’s UNITA in Angola, who attacked us mining interests there to the point that Cuban Commie troops had to be deployed to defend the I part of the MIC from the skulduggery of the M part. It’s all just a game, right? You know, RISK! with real bleeding humans as counters. Except people get killed and maimed and whole nations get trashed, for the profit and fun and pleasure of a very few…

    • That bit about Brazil not having anything to fear is irony or sarcasm, right? Last time I checked, years ago now, there were targets in Brazil for some of our thousands of strategic nukes, just because why should THEY get to survive and prosper if our militarialists pull off that final boneheaded idiocy of a thermonuclear war? And I saw some preliminaries recently to the drumbeat leading to an assertion that the Brazilian nuclear power program was really a cover for the development of their own nuclear weapons. Boy, get on THAT list and you got troubles… Unless you are the nuke-lovers like Pakistan’s heroic A Q Khan and our own beloved Edward Teller, in a place like Israel…

    • By that criteria Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the Emirates should also be worried. More so since they would be pushovers, and have all that oil.

    • The Brazilians aren’t afraid of NATO, but of the CIA, which helped install military dictatorships all over South America back before 1975. Consider this their idea of payback.

      However, you must understand that consent of the governed is always relative. To say that Putin has no consent is to whitewash the monstrous economic crimes carried out by the pro-US Yeltsin regime, which the public definitely did not consent to. Yet dazzled by Yeltsin’s American corporate brainwashing… uh, campaign team, they voted for him, and boy do they regret it. Similarly, the Chinese government maintains breakneck economic growth, I’ve heard, because its own economists believe mass rebellion will occur if growth falls below 7% per year. Yet I think China’s regime is in a stronger position that it believes, because of the rising nationalism of the Chinese and their pride in their accomplishments under one-party rule. They like being strong.

      Meanwhile, note the mass demonstrations roiling Indian cities in recent weeks over an elderly activist’s hunger strike against corruption and his arrest by a centrist government. Consent is a tricky matter in hard times, and right now no government across the political spectrum, or even capitalism itself, is perfectly safe.

    • Those of you moving the goal posts from “UN-backed military intervention” to “covert assistance” aren’t making nearly as impressive a point as you think.

      The UN voting in favor of a humanitarian intervention makes it easier for the US to unilaterally send the CIA to conduct clandestine operations…how, exactly?

  7. “The question is whose intervention you support.”

    Wouldn’t the world be a better place if the answer was “no-ones,” as I believe is written in the UN Charter?

    • NATO was already pumping Libya’s oil, and the Western oil companies would much prefer not to have put their bids in doubt by changing the government.

      So, actually oil is irrelevant here. And, NATO’s interventions in the Balkans and Afghanistan indicate that they are entirely willing to go into resource-poor regions.

    • “Just one question…do you think NATO would have intervened if Libya did not have oil?”

      So is that why NATO intervened and conducted a war against Serbia over Kosovo? Was it because of the enormous reserves of oil and natural gas in Kosovo? I was under the impression that NATO intervened in Kosovo against Serbia because the Serbs were committing mass ethnic-cleansing. Little did I know that it was over the vast oil and natural gas fields now being exploited by NATO countries in Kosovo. Or at least so it would appear in the imagination of those who think NATO only intervenes over oil.

  8. You need to comment on the US and British collaboration with the Qaddafi regime, its erstwhile ally in the so-called “war on terror” before the current revolt. This goes much further back than any Chinese intervention.

    What will prevent Washington from betraying the new Libyan government? Clearly human rights and basic humanitarian principles are no object.

    See: link to


    link to

    • What will prevent Washington from betraying the new Libyan government?

      The presence of an administration which has forsaken the relationship with Gadhafi, and the absence of the administration that forged that relationship.

  9. China has not denied the visits, but it has denied any sales – link to

    What we need to see are actual weapons. The Chinese weapons known to be used by Algerian Army link to – the most likely “channel” are as follows.

    Assault Rifle – link to
    Machine Gun – link to
    RPG – link to
    APC – link to

    I wonder what the Pentagon was offering Egypt’s security chief on his visits before Mubarak’s fall.

    How about an open thread called “Cole v Cockburn” in which Juan and others can vent their spleens on this spat, then those of us who find the issue a yawn can ignore it.

  10. Let me see if I understand this argument Juan. If we are opposed to US intervention that automatically translates into support for Chinese intervention. You’re not very good at this whole constructing arguments business are you?

  11. “China, Brazil, Russia and India worried that Libya would become a precedent for NATO intervention in their own countries.”

    This interpretation makes little sense to me. If they were genuinely worried about this, then China and Russia would have vetoed the UNSC resolution that legitimated the Libya intervention.

    I think that a better interpretation is that China misjudged western intentions. The Chinese did not appreciate that by allowing UNSC resolution 1973 to pass they were effectively acquiescing in an agenda of regime change in Libya, which is something they don’t support.

    If it was to do over, UNSC 1973 wouldn’t pass, and there won’t be another similar UN-legitimated R2P intervention.

  12. “China offered Qaddafi Armaments in midst of war” and it is a news since China is involved.

    Last time India & Pakistan had about a million man army facing each other at their borders. Guess who was trying to sell arms to INDIA worth a billion dollars. Tony Blair of Britain.

    Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh is not a fool. He refused Tony Blair’s offer.

    So, if China was trying to sell arms to Ghadafi, it should not be so surprising.

    • There are really good reasons it’s called “the arms business” and “the arms trade.” Got nothing to do with any of the grand normative notions that move nations in the Great Game… It’s just all about money, and that disgusting (to me) dry enthusiasm for the sexiest of war toys. Threat and counterthreat and counter-counter threat or is it counter-threat threat? It’s a dog chasing its own tail.

  13. Dear Professor Cole

    The mention of the QW-18 MANPAD is interesting.

    China will have been interested to see what its actual combat performance is. We dont have any reports of helicopters or aircraft lost to ground fire.

    So either the MANPAD werent delivered or nobody showed people how to use them.

    Fascinating to see that variants are manufactured under licence in Pakistan and that the Iranians have developed their own version.

    link to

    This could be a nasty surprise for anymore SEAL incursions.

    link to

    One wonders when MANPAD will be able to reach and kill Drone.

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