The Libyan memos, found and published by the Canadian Globe and Mail earlier this month, describe a meeting between Gaddafi “security” officials and the Chinese dictatorship’s state-controlled arms manufacturers. Three “companies” offered their entire inventory to the Libyan despot and even promised to manufacture more if needed.
The $200 million in heavy weaponry included anti-tank missiles and surface-to-air rockets capable of bringing down airplanes. To sidestep the arms embargo against Gaddafi, the shipments were supposed to be routed through third-party nations.
“The companies suggest that they make the contracts with either Algeria or South Africa, because those countries previously worked with China,” the document noted, adding that the communist regime was demanding confidentiality.
Some of the Chinese military supplies sought by Gaddafi were already in the hands of the dictatorship ruling Algeria. As such, the weapons could be delivered immediately. China would replace Algeria’s stockpiles later, the Chinese regime was quoted as saying in the memo.
The official government documents discovered in a trash pile near the mansions of top Gaddafi supporters were over a month old. And they contained no documentary proof that the weapons were actually supplied. Beijing claims they weren’t.
But National Transitional Council (NTC) leaders who examined the documents begged to differ. According to the rebels, the information contained in the official memo explained the presence of new weapons being used by Gaddafi’s forces.
“I’m almost certain that these guns arrived and were used against our people,” NTC “military committee” boss Omar Hariri told the Globe and Mail, furious that China was working with the Libyan dictator as his own NATO-backed forces were being slaughtered.
A spokesperson for the communist Chinese regime’s foreign ministry, meanwhile, claimed the the state-owned companies were acting without official permission. Analysts said that was preposterous.
State-owned Chinese companies had nearly $20 billion in contracts with the Gaddafi regime. And despite maintaining a façade of neutrality, the memos show that Beijing was indeed secretly conspiring to aid the crumbling dictatorship.
In recent months Chinese officials have also endeavored to cozy up to the new rebel regime, inviting its representatives to Beijing and sending envoys to insurgent strongholds. China officially recognized the NTC as the government of Libya earlier this week.
But despite denials, propping up unsavory tyrants behind the scenes is hardly a new policy for the communist dictatorship. In fact, it has become increasingly active in such efforts from Latin America to Africa.
Earlier this year, for example, China was widely condemned for illegally arming and supporting Omar al-Bashir, the mass-murdering war criminal ruling North Sudan who is currently massacring civilians in the Nuba mountains. Al-Bashir, wanted for genocide and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court, calls Chinese strongman Hu Jintao his “friend and brother.”
Violating international sanctions to arm fellow tyrants is nothing new to communist China, either. At least two of the state-owned weapons makers involved with supplying Gaddafi, for instance, have been repeatedly called out for illegally selling missile technology to the Iranian regime.
In Libya, however, the exposure of Chinese duplicity might have real consequences. Even before the recent revelations rebel leaders had been threatening to keep China out of the country over its refusal to back the rebellion. Now commercial ties might be in even more jeopardy.
“If indeed the Chinese government agreed to sell arms to Qaddafi only a month ago, definitely it will affect our relationship with China,” NTC “finance minister” Ali Al Tarhouni told Al Jazeera the day after reports about the sales first surfaced. Following the communist regime’s diplomatic recognition of the rebels this week, however, tensions appear to have eased somewhat.
Other governments that opposed or did not openly support the Western-backed rebellion and regime change efforts have also faced threats of economic exclusion. Russia and even Italy have both been mentioned as possible losers in future Libyan business deals for not doing enough, soon enough, to back the rebels.
Violent retribution has already started in some cases, too. The dictatorship ruling Algeria, for example, was targeted by al Qaeda last month in an attack that left 18 dead. The terror group released a statement claiming responsibility saying the bombing was because the Algerian government was “continuing to support the Libyan dictator Gadaffi to fight against our brothers.”
But despite the hysteria over China, the U.S. government has also worked closely with Gaddafi even recently. American embassy cables leaked by the anti-secrecy organization WikiLeaks show that a high-level U.S. delegation was even plotting to supply military hardware to the Libyan dictator just two years ago.
According to one cable from the American embassy in Tripoli, U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman called the Libyan regime an “important ally in the war on terrorism” during a meeting with Gaddafi and his minions. Sen. John McCain went further, assuring the regime that “the United States wanted to provide Libya with the equipment it needs for its security” and that “the bilateral military relationship” between the governments was “strong.”
The U.S. government was actually training Gaddafi’s military officers at the time. And it was helping the Libyan regime to persecute the very same people who are now leading rebel forces with NATO support and Western weapons.
One prominent example of a terrorist-turned-ally among many is Abdelhakim Belhaj, founder of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG). The LIFG, which merged with al Qaeda in 2007 according to the U.S. military, was on the U.S. State Department’s list of terrorist organizations. It has also been one of the largest suppliers of foreign fighters battling American troops in Iraq.
Belhaj was captured and tortured by the CIA in a secret prison years ago before being handed over to Gaddafi. Now, after receiving U.S. training and supposedly renouncing terror, he is the NTC military boss in charge of Tripoli.
After waging its terror war alongside Gaddafi, the American government eventually decided to covertly supply weapons to the rebels aiming to overthrow him instead. Shortly after that U.S. fighter jets under NATO command supplied overwhelming aerial support for the insurgents - largely reducing the armed forces of America’s former ally to rubble.
The U.S. government also has a track record of propping up and aiding dictators that is far more extensive than the Chinese regime’s. Ironically, perhaps, American policies even played a crucial role in bringing the brutal communist dictatorship to power in mainland China by, among other measures, halting the flow of supplies to nationalist leader Chiang Kai-Shek. Since then the communist Chinese tyrants have murdered more people than any other government in history.
Like the future of Libya, the full consequences of China’s formerly secret relationship with the Gaddafi regime remain unclear. But because the dictator’s four-decade rule appears to be fast approaching its end, experts say the communist Chinese will likely try hard to build bridges with the new regime.
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Photo: Muammar Gaddafi with his all-female Amazonian Guards in Damascus, Syria.