The Same Old Playbook

Back in 2017, [I am tempted to add, “when I was still naive and optimistic”] I posted a bit about “operators” I spotted in pictures of the “rebels” in Libya.

I think we’ve had more time to see the patterns in Libya and Syria emerge: a local “rebel faction” stands up against the oppressive government, which tries to suppress them, and things get violent. Then the US and its allies talk about the humanitarian crisis and find some semi-deniable power (Saudi Arabia has done this service, as well as UAE) to send weapons and “training” and before you know it there’s a full-blown “regime change” operation, or war, on. In the case of Syria, the US underestimated Assad’s resolve, which is odd because he’s a typical sociopathic strong-man, but it accomplished its goal anyhow by plunging the area into a mad whirling chaos of US and Israeli war crimes and crimes against international law. In Libya, things went more or less the same way – Quaddafi, another typical sociopathic strong-man, had no place to go and was not morally capable of stepping down, so he was brutally murdered, and Hillary Clinton famously laughed about it. Trump’s supporters would cheerfully serve her the same way, except the US hasn’t destabilized that far, yet. The play-book is vintage CIA and, to be honest, it was written by Ghengis Khan or Xerxes a long time ago; we ought to be able to recognize it by now. We ought to be able to see that the “rebels” are not any more of a political movement with popular support, than they are a bunch of cardboard cut-outs.

I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912 (where have I heard that name before?). I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.

During those years, I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket. Looking back on it, I feel that I could have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.
– Smedley Butler USMC

That’s a picture of some of the “Libyan Rebels” that I posted back in 2017. [stderr] And, you know what I only just now noticed? The left edge of a “US ARMY” embroidered patch on the leading fellow’s BDUs, peeking out from under his shoulder-strap. Whups.

The Libya “revolution” has caused massive unrest and set hundreds of thousands of people migrating toward Europe; between Libya and Syria, the European “migrant crisis” ought to be chalked up as the European “regime change blow-back crisis” but it won’t be. Under Obama the US’ operations in those countries were handled with a thin, smooth, veneer of civilization but Trump was too crass to stand back and wash his little hands of the affair, he had to interfere. Now, of course, Biden is trying to reset to the status quo post-Obama, i.e.: drone striking wherever the US wants to assassinate someone, and using Syria as a proxy battlefield to try to contain Iran. Iran, of course, is planning to invade Florida or something. Joking aside, no, the issues are the usual ones: control in general, control of oil resources, and protect Israel. Of course none of this has anything to do with protecting “democracy” or anything as nonsensical as that. Still, back in 2017 it was possible to assert that the Libya and Syria “rebels” looked straight out of a CIA playbook, and someone would still come around and say “you don’t know that, you can’t say that, they might be real locals.” Yeah.

Khalifa Haftar with a lot of guys in US-made gear they probably got on Ebay

In Libya, the CIA’s man is Khalifa Hifter, who maintained a mysteriously-financed private army just over the border from Libya (when he wasn’t residing in Falls Church, Virginia, literally across the street from CIA HQ) a man who exactly fits the profile of strongman-in-waiting, except those many-time-damned Libyan people are not sitting back and letting him establish a western-style democracy puppet dictatorship. [stderr]

Anyhow, meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

There’s some new news about this: asshole-at-large Erik Prince’s new version of Blackwater was involved in an attempt to violate the UN arms embargo on Libya by smuggling weapons to Hifter. It’s straight out of the Reagan “trade missiles for hostages in order to evade congressional oversight” except there’s no honorable schoolboy like Ollie North, and nobody in Washington gives a shit anymore; the facade is not even worth maintaining. There are probably sad sighs in the back corridors for the good old days when they’d just send Smedley and the marines in and shoot people until order was restored and the new puppet was installed.


The mission to back Hifter ultimately failed, but a confidential U.N. report issued last week and first reported by the New York Times concluded that Prince, a former Navy SEAL, and his associates violated the U.N. arms embargo for Libya. For more than a year, The Intercept has been investigating the failed mercenary effort, dubbed Project Opus. This account is based on dozens of interviews, including with people involved in the ill-fated mission, as well as the U.N. report and other documents obtained exclusively by The Intercept. It includes a blow-by-blow account of how Prince and an associate sought to pressure the Jordanian government to aid the illicit mission, as well as previously unreported details about how the architects of Project Opus used Prince’s connections to the Trump administration to try to win support for their efforts in Libya.

Like a good puppet, Hifter appears to be playing his masters off against eachother:

The Intercept’s reporting shows that the push to aid Hifter continued even after Project Opus fell apart. In the summer of 2019, after their backdoor efforts failed to convince Jordan to approve the arms transfer, Prince called a member of Trump’s National Security Council to request a meeting; Prince asked the official to meet with Christiaan Durrant, Prince’s business associate and former employee. At the Army and Navy Club near the White House, with Prince sitting silently at his side, Durrant described the campaign to back Hifter and asked for U.S. support for their mercenary effort, the former NSC official told The Intercept. The upside, Durrant told the official, was that the U.S. help would limit Hifter’s reliance on the Russians, who were also supporting him in the war. The official, who asked not to be named because he feared professional reprisals for being publicly associated with Prince, balked. “It wasn’t something I wanted to be involved in,” he said.

True to the CIA playbook, that also meant building Hifter some “death squads”:

The PowerPoint describes a so-called termination team, a hit squad composed of foreign mercenaries who would jump out of the helicopters to chase and kill their targets; it appears to be modeled on the secretive, elite U.S. Joint Special Operations Command. The PowerPoint lists 10 individuals as assassination targets, including commanders aligned with the U.N.-backed Tripoli government as well as two EU citizens.

I guess Prince’s problem is that he’s not as charming as Ollie North. Now that’s saying something. On the other hand, he’s not even as charming as Smedley Butler, who does not sound like a mountain of charm unless your idea of “charm” is a cobra snake.

Prince asked the adviser to help an associate of Prince’s with what he described as a shipment of humanitarian aid. Abdullah knew about the shipment, Prince told the adviser, and it had been “cleared in Washington.” The adviser was troubled by Prince’s vagueness. “I didn’t know Prince as a humanitarian,” he later told The Intercept. Nonetheless, Prince told the king’s adviser that the associate would contact him.

Nobody should be fooled for a second into thinking that this sudden wave of support for Hifter is something new; it dates back to well before the CIA-engineered collapse of Libya. It was part of the engineering of the CIA-engineered collapse of Libya.

Benghaaaaazi!!! Oops, that slipped out. Now, let’s rewind a bit and re-consider the Benghazi incident: the building that was mortared was a CIA operations building that was a mile from the embassy. Who was behind the attack is obscure but the attackers appear to have been the same kind of “spontaneous protesters” that the CIA was operating – i.e.: someone fed them a spoonful of their own medicine. There was a massive investigation that accomplished very little, attempting to determine if Hillary Clinton had acted improperly somehow, by not forseeing the attack – never mind the obvious fact that the CIA’s operation in Libya was violating international law through “regime change.” It’s popular to describe such things as “Orwellian” but really they’re just “stupid.” You can bet there won’t be an investigation as to whether or not Prince was violating the UN arms embargo with support from the US government because, of course he was. Although, Prince’s lawyers are Clintonesque in the precision of their denials:

In a statement, Prince’s lawyer, Matthew Schwartz, categorically denied the findings of the U.N. report and said he had asked the body to retract it. “Mr. Prince had no involvement in any alleged military operation in Libya in 2019, or at any other time,” the statement said. “He did not provide weapons, personnel, or military equipment to anyone in Libya.”

He, personally, did not lift and move any weapons. That’d be hard work. Now ask the lawyer whether he directed such actions.

Remember: this is what US regime change policy made of Benghazi. I can’t imagine why anyone would want to thank the CIA for their efforts.


  1. JM says

    This sort of scheming works because if it’s done well it’s hard to tell fake rebels from real ones. In a lot of cases the foreign backed side are actually real rebels or at least started that way. The outside party just picks out a potential leader willing to sell out for money and/or power and makes sure they get the money and arms to push to the top of the rebels.
    It’s not like the US had any trouble finding people upset with the government in Syria or Libya. Dictators of this type usually have trouble controlling the far corners of their territory and are often fighting a low level war against local rebels continuously.
    In many ways the real problem with US policy is that we replace these local dictators with our own puppets and are surprised over and over that violent petty dictators willing to sell out anybody are not reliable puppets.

  2. says

    This sort of scheming works because if it’s done well it’s hard to tell fake rebels from real ones.

    Yes, that’s it.

    It’s basically a fake democratic appeal: “look, there’s a popular people’s front!” except they’re actually not popular at all. In fact, I often expect that the “just shut up and keep the peace” party would be the democratic winner.

    I’ve just gotten through another history of the French Revolutions, and one of the things that jumps out at me is that popular revolutions’ main characteristic is that they are disorganized as hell. So perhaps when we see “protesters” who all are carrying professional-looking signs that have been translated to English, waving their weapons at the camera, they’re a disinformation op.

  3. Pierce R. Butler says

    Apparently Russia and Turkey are building up a major military presence in Libya (on opposite sides):

    Turkey is the main patron of the U.N.-supported government in the capital, Tripoli, while the UAE, Russia and Egypt back the forces of military commander Khalifa Hifter who runs most of the east and the south.

    U.N. experts said last year that the Wagner Group, a private Russian security company, had provided between 800 and 1,200 mercenaries to Hifter. There are thousands of mercenaries in Libya also from Syria, Sudan and Chad, according to Security Council diplomats.

    [A]ccording to a still-secret U.N. report reviewed by The Washington Post:

    … more than 330 Russian aircraft … have entered Libya over the past 18 months… There are now at least 20,000 mercenaries in Libya, including fighters and military advisers from Russia, Syria, Chad, Turkey and Sudan … Russia and Turkey are in position to effectively split the country in two, turning the front lines of Libya’s conflict into a permanent partition. … U.S. policy since then [the overthrow of Qaddafi] has bordered on incoherent.

    Former CIA asset Khalifa Hifter, now a cozy Putin crony, controls most of the eastern part of Libya, which has little population but most of the oil. Lots more at the WaPo link.

  4. sonofrojblake says

    “Khalifa Hifter”

    Wow, the nerd programming this bit of the simulation we all live in really couldn’t be bothered coming up with an original name for this villain, could she? I mean HIFTER? Sounds a bit like Hitler? Up your game, simulation – writer(s), your shortcuts are starting to show…
    (/s, in case anyone thinks I take simulation hypothesis seriously)

  5. says

    Wow, the nerd programming this bit of the simulation we all live in really couldn’t be bothered coming up with an original name for this villain, could she? I mean HIFTER? Sounds a bit like Hitler? Up your game, simulation – writer(s), your shortcuts are starting to show…

    I seem to recall Nostradamus also predicted HIFTER. Or was it HITLER? I forget, it’s all vague.

    Villany McVillainface.

  6. says

    It’s ironic Russia and Turkey are on opposite sides of the Libyan mess, when buying Russian surface to air missile systems is what got Turkey’s F35 order cancelled.

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