This month marks ten years since the beginning of the NATO bombing campaign in Libya. Launched on the spurious pretext of ‘protecting human rights’, the bombardment of Libya resulted in the toppling of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, and the installation into power of CIA-backed Islamist rebels. The US administration at the time, under President Obama, intended to effect regime change and seize Libya’s extensive oil assets.
The bombing of Libya, it was claimed by the Obama-Clinton administration, was undertaken to protect Libyan civilians protesting the rule of Colonel Gaddafi. This excuse turned out to be transparently false. The imperialist states, led by Britain and France, began a mad scramble for Libya’s oil reserves in the immediate aftermath of the Gaddafi regime’s ousting. Obama, in a 2016 interview, claimed that the biggest mistake of his presidency was the ‘lack of planning’ for a post-Gaddafi Libya.
We will return to this pathetic and tired excuse of ‘failure to plan’ later. For now, let’s make a number of relevant observations, taking a historical perspective. Under Gaddafi, Libyans had the highest standard of living in Africa, ranked in the Human Development Index. The oil wealth of the nation was distributed to its citizens, and health care was available to all. Libya had the lowest infant mortality rate, and had the highest life expectancy in Africa.
Today, ten years after the NATO bombing campaign, the country remains mired in ruins and militia-chaos. The health care and electricity systems have all but collapsed. Fractured into warring regions, two rival governments compete for authority. The new Libyan governing militias, composed of Islamist fundamentalist groups, participate in the trading of black African slaves. Refugees from sub-Saharan Africa are making their way to Europe, using Libya as a transit point.
After ten years of lawlessness and violent conflict, Libya is a failed state, where the majority of its people live in squalor. Bearing that in mind, it is interesting to read an editorial from the highly-esteemed New York Times. In a column called “Can Libya Put Itself Back Together Again?“, the writers admit that Libya is fractured, blame the ‘lack of planning for rebuilding’ by the Obama administration, and set out reasons for the post-2011 chaos. However, they avoid mentioning the main reason why Libya is stuck in anarchy – the 2011 NATO intervention which broke the nation in the first place.
The Obama excuse – lack of planning for rebuilding – does not stand up to scrutiny. In fact, it is ludicrous to suggest this tired, worn-out cliche, considering that the Libya intervention was conducted with the full knowledge and participation of then US President Obama, his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and his Vice President Joe Biden. Intelligence gathering and sharing, the use of armed drones, and the deployment of CIA-recruited Islamist fundamentalist rebels were all measures adopted with the permission of the Obama administration.
As Eric Draitser wrote in Counterpunch magazine, the disastrous state of post-2011 Libyan affairs was not the result of hawkish Republican neoconservatives;
No, it was the great humanitarian Barack Obama, along with Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Susan Rice, Samantha Power and their harmonious peace circle of liberal interventionists who wrought this devastation. With bright-eyed speeches about freedom and self-determination, the First Black President, along with his NATO comrades in France and Britain, unleashed the dogs of war on an African nation seen by much of the world as a paragon of economic and social development.
This is not the first attempt at overt or covert intervention in Libyan affairs. The effort to topple the Gaddafi regime extends over decades. The man appointed to lead the Libyan rebels in 2011 is General Khalifa Haftar (sometimes spelt Hifter), a former army general who defected in the mid-1980s. Recruited by the CIA and relocated with his family to Virginia, he led several unsuccessful attempts to overthrow the Gaddafi administration.
Provided with armaments and logistical support, the Libyan Islamist rebels and Haftar, backed up by NATO sorties, overthrew the Gaddafi regime, and in October 2011, Gaddafi himself was murdered by a lynch mob. The anti-Gaddafi Libyan exiles, based in England, the US and other nations, provided the foot soldiers for the rebel cause. In fact, the Manchester bomber, who detonated a bomb at Manchester arena in 2017, was himself a Libyan rebel who had fought for the anti-Gaddafi cause.
It is interesting to note that while anti-Gaddafi Libyan refugees were welcomed in the capitalist nations of Europe, since 2011, refugees from Libya and sub-Saharan Africa are met with a range of hostile militarised responses. The European Union has used the Mediterranean Sea as a maritime barrier to refugees escaping from the horrendous conditions in Libya.
Dissecting the hypocrisies of the imperialist states is basically a full time project. The Libyan intervention of 2011, a criminal and predatory undertaking, has been disguised as a ‘humanitarian‘ enterprise. The international powers who currently act in Libya are doing so for the purpose of extending their economic and military powers. It is time to condemn the criminal war against Libya in the same manner we have denounced similar predatory wars in the past.