Three years ago, NATO declared that the mission in Libya had been “one of the most successful in NATO history.” Today, this statement is a proven lie that was fed to the public at large in the West. A recently published report of British parliament’s foreign affairs committee has categorically acknowledged that the Western intervention in Libya in 2011 was not only based upon flawed intelligence but also directly paved the way for the resurgence of Islamist terror groups in the country. What had initially been propagated as a sort of “humanitarian intervention” to “protect” civilians from the “tyranny of Gaddafi” soon exacerbated into the notorious game of regime change and led to the subsequent disaster, proliferation of Islamist groups and Libya’s downfall from a reasonably stable state to a fragmented one. The report’s findings are, as such, highly critical in terms of the way the West, particularly the US, has been projecting the utmost necessity of NATO’s intervention.
Even if we were to agree to the Western proposition that Gaddafi regime was inflicting atrocities on its people and that the real goal, as a recent article published by the corporate-funded Brookings Institute argues, was to protect people, the report finds it to be wrong. It unambiguously states:
“Many Western policymakers genuinely believed that Muammar Gaddafi would have ordered his troops to massacre civilians in Benghazi, if those forces had been able to enter the city. However, while Muammar Gaddafi certainly threatened violence against those who took up arms against his rule, this did not necessarily translate into a threat to everyone in Benghazi. In short, the scale of the threat to civilians was presented with unjustified certainty. US intelligence officials reportedly described the intervention as “an intelligence-light decision.”
Exposing the hollowness of the propagated “truths” that Gaddafi regime was indiscriminately killing his countrymen and that he would have continued to do so “in large numbers if that’s what his survival required”, the report states that nothing of this sort was happening at the time of intervention or was likely to follow. Intervention happened not because Gaddafi was inflicting atrocities but because he was winning the fight against Western and Arab funded militias:
“Despite his rhetoric, the proposition that Muammar Gaddafi would have ordered the massacre of civilians in Benghazi was not supported by the available evidence. The Gaddafi regime had retaken towns from the rebels without attacking civilians in early February 2011.”
The report goes on to state that:
“On 17 March 2011, Muammar Gaddafi announced to the rebels in Benghazi, “Throw away your weapons, exactly like your brothers in Ajdabiya and other places did. They laid down their arms and they are safe. We never pursued them at all.” Subsequent investigation revealed that when Gaddafi regime forces retook Ajdabiya in February 2011, they did not attack civilians.”
Contrary to this situation was the mantra of “protecting” people that was officially projected for public consumption, while the real goal was to send Gaddafi home and to re-design Libya’s future in which Gaddafi or his affiliates would have no role to play. The report states:
“When the then Prime Minister David Cameron sought and received parliamentary approval for military intervention in Libya on 21 March 2011, he assured the House of Commons that the object of the intervention was not regime change. In April 2011, however, he signed a joint letter with United States President Barack Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy setting out their collective pursuit of “a future without Gaddafi”.
That the goal was always to impose a new regime on the people of Libya is evident from another finding that no option other than that of military intervention was explored and considered:
“The Government rapidly developed a new policy of intervention to protect civilians as Muammar Gaddafi’s forces approached Benghazi in mid-February 2011. It did not explore alternatives to military intervention such as sanctions, negotiations or the application of diplomatic pressure. In pursuing regime change, it abandoned a decade of foreign policy engagement…”
What the West wanted to achieve by regime-change?
As could be expected of the West, the real goal was to extend Western influence in the African continent. Libya was to be the gateway for that. However, as long as Gaddafi was there, this objective could never be realized. Hence, the anti-Gaddafi propaganda and the development of “pro-democracy” discourse in the West that paved the way for NATO-led intervention. The report enlists following critical objectives, which were of crucial importance for France’s Sarkozy, behind the military intervention and change of regime in Libya:
1. A desire to gain a greater share of Libya oil production.
2. Increase French influence in North Africa,
3. Improve his internal political situation in France,
4. Provide the French military with an opportunity to reassert its position in the world.
5. Address the concern of his advisors over Qaddafi’s long term plans to supplant France as the dominant power in Francophone Africa.
Therefore to achieve these objectives, a dual strategy was implemented. On the one hand, NATO intervened and on the other hand weapons were allowed to be distributed to the Islamist militias. The report categorically states:
“….the international community turned a blind eye to the supply of weapons to the rebels. Lord Richards highlighted “the degree to which the Emiratis and the Qataris…played a major role in the success of the ground operation.” For example, Qatar supplied French Milan antitank missiles to certain rebel groups. We were told that Qatar channelled its weapons to favoured militias rather than to the rebels as a whole.”
Who were the “rebels”?
While it is largely believed that that crisis in Libya were linked to a general uprising linked with the so-called “Arab Spring”, this is far from the truth. For one thing, a general popular uprising against an autocrat regime could not possibly have descended into a pure chaos but for the involvement of foreign funded extremist groups. This is precisely what happened in Libya. The critical question, therefore, is: were the Libyan rebels really “rebels”? The report disputes the Western official narrative that it was a general uprising and that extremists got involved at some alter stage. Contrary to the official narrative, the report concludes:
“It is now clear that militant Islamist militias played a critical role in the rebellion from February 2011 onwards. They separated themselves from the rebel army, refused to take orders from non-Islamist commanders and assassinated the then leader of the rebel army, Abdel Fattah Younes.”
That the West had “turned a blind eye” to the support certain militias were receiving from Arab countries is, in fact, an indication of the Western complicity in facilitating the rise of Islamist groups in Libya. And as the report states yet again:
“We asked Lord Richards whether he knew that Abdelhakim Belhadj and other members of the al-Qaeda affiliated Libyan Islamic Fighting Group were participating in the rebellion in March 2011. He replied that that “was a grey area”. He added that “a quorum of respectable Libyans were assuring the Foreign Office” that militant Islamist militias would not benefit from the rebellion. He acknowledged that “with the benefit of hindsight, that was wishful thinking at best.”
What is Libya today? A disastrous mess
It is a mess, a victim of Western conspiracy and its notorious cold-war era policy of imposing regime change in countries that refuse to abide by their rules of global politics. Libya, today, is a disaster. Facts speak for themselves: In 2010, Libyan economy was generating US$75 billion in GDP, with an average per capita income of US$12,250, roughly equal to an average income in some European countries. As of 2016, however, Libya is likely to experience a budget deficit of some 60% of GDP. The United Nations ranked Libya as the world’s 94th most advanced country in its 2015 index of human development, a decline from 53rd place in 2010.
Thanks to the Western intervention which was, to say the least, not only ill-informed and a result of propaganda against Gaddafi but also motivated by purely geo-political considerations. Thanks to the Western intervention that has ‘successfully’ transformed Libya from the richest African state under Gaddafi to a failed state under Western supervision.
Its various experiments in Libya have failed to transform it into a pure Western vessel. And as the reports indicate, the US in now trying to install one of its long term assets, General Khalifa Hifter, who aims to set himself up as Libya’s new dictator and then help the West in transforming Africa’s political economy into a disastrous the kind of which Libya, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan today are.
Salman Rafi Sheikh, research-analyst of International Relations and Pakistan’s foreign and domestic affairs, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.