How NATO Destroyed Libya
A detailed look at how Deception, Incompetence and Greed led to the destruction of the Libyan State
London , United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland - 28 Sep 2017 - Ghassan Matar
“We came, we saw, he died,” exclaimed an ebullient Hillary Clinton, as she exulted over the horrific death of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, who was sodomized with a bayonet before being brutally murdered by rampaging militiamen.
Visiting Tripoli, the Libyan capital, the American Secretary of State was eager to take credit for the “liberation” of yet another Muslim country by Western powers acting in concert. Her top policy aide, Jake Sullivan, boasted about Mrs. Clinton’s ‘leadership/ownership/stewardship of this country’s Libya policy from start to finish.’
These days, however, all the architects of the war are not quite so eager to take ownership of what can only be characterized as an unmitigated disaster, a case history dramatizing the perils of “liberal” interventionism from inception to bloody chaos and above all a true crime against humanity. Mrs. Clinton was easily won over by the Libyan rebels who presented a utopian view of what the post-revolutionary era would look like: there would be free elections, a free media, women would be able to “do it all,” and everyone would life happily ever after.
They “’said all the right things about supporting democracy and inclusivity and building Libyan institutions, if only they meant it.
Confirmation bias in a writer or reporter is fatal, but only to his/her own career: in a Secretary of State it is a death sentence for thousands. And that’s exactly how it turned out in Hillary’s case. To this day, Libyan war apologists avers that “it’s too soon to tell” whether the Libya intervention qualifies as an unmitigated failure – even in the face of marauding militias, no less than two self-declared governments, the horrific death of an American ambassador at the hands of the very militias the US empowered, the flood of migrants to Europe and the incursion of the Islamic State, al Qaeda, and other terrorist outfits.
Hillary, who had hesitated at first to jump on the bandwagon during the Egyptian uprising, made up for lost time in Libya. She “pressed for a secret American program that supplied arms to rebel militias”. Those arms would be eventually be used to attack a CIA outpost in Benghazi, where Ambassador Stevens would fall at the hands of these very militiamen.
While initially the US was purportedly acting only to prevent civilian deaths at the hands of Gaddafi – a “humanitarian disaster” that turned out to be nothing but media-driven war propaganda – Hillary and her staff soon fell down the slippery slope to actively aiding the rebels. The ‘responsibility to protect” soon became another regime change operation, as in Iraq.
But even taking the claim that Gaddafi was intent on the wholesale massacre of civilians in Benghazi in March 2011 on its own terms, this in itself is disputatious. In an article titled ‘False pretence for war in Libya?’ which appeared in the Boston Globe in April 2011, US foreign policy expert and academic, Alan J Kuperman, asserts that prior to the Libyan army’s move on Benghazi Human Rights Watch had ‘released data on Misurata [Misrata] the next-biggest city in Libya and scene of protracted fighting, revealing that Muammar Gaddafi is not deliberately massacring civilians but rather narrowly targeting the armed rebels who fight against his government.’
Later in the same article Kuperman continues, ‘Nor did Khadafy [Gaddafi] ever threaten civilian massacre in Benghazi, as Obama alleged. The “no mercy’’ warning of March 17 targeted rebels only, as reported by The New York Times, which noted that Libya’s leader promised amnesty for those “who throw their weapons away.” Khadafy even offered the rebels an escape route and open border to Egypt, to avoid a fight “to the bitter end.”’ In a meeting with Sergei Lavrov, she was quoted as saying.
“’We don’t want another war,’ she told [Russian Foreign Minister Sergey] Lavrov, stressing that the mission was limited to protecting civilians. ‘I take your point about not seeking another war,’ she recalled him responding. ‘But that doesn’t mean that you won’t get one.’”
The French were pushing particularly hard for a more muscular Western response, and in a meeting with French and British officials they played their “trump card” Although the meeting was convened to decide whether to act, Clinton was informed that “French fighter jets were already in the air” – but, added the French official, “this is a collective decision and I will recall them if you want me to. ”Clinton was supposedly “irritated,” but she capitulated readily enough. “’I’m not going to be the one to recall the planes and create the massacre in Benghazi,’ she grumbled to an aide. And the bombing began.”
The Libyan leader, who had ruled his country for more than 40 years, knew what the outcome would be. His regime, “he railed to anyone who would listen,” was Libya’s sole defence against Islamist crazies who would overrun the country if not for him. But no one in the West was listening.
Gaddafi also warned that toppling his regime will open a floodgate of refugees to Europe; again no one was listening. Clinton was jazzed that this was supposedly a model of “multilateralism,” with the Arab League as well as the Europeans in on the deal. But that proved to be the original mission’s undoing as Qatar – a little oil-rich country long dependent on the US military for its existence – starting funnelling weapons to Islamist militias with dubious credentials.
Qatar even admitted to sending hundreds of troops to support the Libyan rebels who overthrew Muammar Gaddafi's regime. Qatar also played a key role in galvanising Arab support for the UN security council resolution that mandated NATO to defend Libyan civilians in March. It also delivered weapons and ammunition on a large scale – without any clear legal basis.
The Qatari chief-of-staff, Major-General Hamad bin Ali al-Atiya, said: "We were among them and the numbers of Qataris on the ground were hundreds in every region.
Training and communications had been in Qatari hands. Qatar … supervised the rebels' plans because they are civilians and did not have enough military experience,”. "We acted as the link between the rebels and Nato forces."
Qatar also gave $400m to the rebels, helped them export oil from Benghazi and set up a TV station in Doha. Qatar blamed Qaddafi for the leak of a recording between the Emir of Qatar Jassim and Gaddafi in which the Emir is heard conspiring against Saudi Arabia which eventually led to the Emir’s abdication under Saudi Pressure.
This is how we were pressured into going from “humanitarian intervention” to regime change. If we didn’t arm the “good” militias, Clinton argued, the bad ones being empowered by Qatar would prevail. Yet military officials were not convinced
“NATO’s supreme allied commander, Adm. James G. Stavridis, had told Congress of “flickers” of Al Qaeda within the opposition. Mr. [Tom] Donilon, Mr. Obama’s national security adviser, argued that the administration could not ensure that weapons intended for ‘the so-called good guys,’ as one State Department official put it, did not fall into the hands of Islamist extremists.”
As this article makes all too clear, Clinton had a bias in favour of action, as well as relying on what can only be called a woman’s intuition. Her aides “described her as feeling her way through a problem without being certain of the outcome.” Another word for this is recklessness. Clinton eventually succeeded in persuading President Obama, who signed a presidential finding authorizing a covert action to overthrow Gaddafi. US weapons poured into the country. The militias were unleashed, while Clinton, Sarkozy and Cameron hailed the elections that were staged shortly after the “liberation.”.
Cameron and Sarkozy, we should recall, extended themselves in basking in the glory of NATO’s Libyan intervention. In September 2011, a month before Gaddafi was killed trying to escape his home town of Sirte in the west of the country, both leaders arrived in Benghazi to give the new ‘democratic’ Libya their stamp of approval. In words that should forever haunt his legacy, David Cameron announced to a mob of admiring supporters that, “It is great to be here, in a free Benghazi and in free Libya.”
Yet as it turned out the elected officials had no real power: the guns were in the hands of the militias, who extorted government officials for more weapons in return for not being killed. The country was looted and went to pieces rather quickly, but the Secretary of State and President hopeful had already moved on: she was too busy plotting regime change in Syria to be bothered with the unravelling of Libya.
More troubling was the series of emails by The U.S. State Department that revealed the real motives for intervention. One email identifies French President Nicholas Sarkozy as leading the attack on Libya with five specific purposes in mind: to obtain Libyan oil, ensure French influence in the region, increase Sarkozy’s reputation domestically, assert French military power, and to prevent Gaddafi’s influence in what is considered “Francophone Africa.” Most astounding is the lengthy section delineating the huge threat that Gaddafi’s gold and silver reserves, estimated at “143 tons of gold, and a similar amount in silver,” posed to the French franc (CFA) circulating as a prime African currency. interestingly enough, this letter is among those which Clinton did NOT classify; apparently, she didn’t see anything particularly damning in it.
If this wasn't bad enough ,In a late March 2011 email, Blumenthal confesses to Hillary to starting rumours about Libya accusing Qaddafi of adopting a rape policy and has even distributed Viagra to troops. The incident at the Tripoli press conference involving a woman claiming to be raped.
The story made international headlines as U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice made a formal charge against Libya in front of the UN Security Council. Today's Libya is overrun by militias and faces a deteriorating human rights situation, mounting chaos that is infecting other countries, growing internal splits, and even the constant threat of civil war. Only occasionally does this growing crisis creep into the headlines: like when an oil tanker is seized by rebellious militia; or when a British oil worker is shot dead while having a picnic; or when the country's prime minister is kidnapped.
Ominously, Libya's chaos is spilling across the region. The country is awash with up to 15 million rifles and other weapons, and a report by the UN panel of experts this month found that "Libya has become a primary source of illicit weapons". These arms are fuelling chaos in 14 countries, including Somalia, the Central African Republic, Nigeria and Niger. Qatar is helping to deliver Libyan armaments to Syria, where Russian-made weapons bought by Gaddafi's regime are being given to fundamentalist Islamist rebels.
No wonder western governments and journalists who hailed the success of this intervention are so silent. But here are the consequences of their war, and they must take responsibility for them. After all, these humanitarian champions destroyed a country that had the highest GDP per capita and life expectancy on the continent. Less people lived below the poverty line than in the Netherlands. Unlike many other Arab nations, women in Gaddafi’s Libya had the right to education, hold jobs, divorce, hold property and have an income. The United Nations Human Rights Council even praised Gaddafi for his promotion of women’s rights. For over 40 years, Gaddafi promoted economic democracy and used the nationalized oil wealth to sustain progressive social welfare programs for all Libyans. Under his rule, Libyans enjoyed not only free health-care and free education, but also free electricity and interest-free loans.
Given the West’s colonial past, its history of adventurism and support for dictatorship in the region, its failure to enforce UN resolutions in Palestine and the legacy of the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the current outcome in Libya was inevetible and the consequences are likely to be felt for decades.