The dark side of Western intervention in Libya

  • Martin Jay
  • 20 Mar 2018

Libya has become one of the largest black market arms suppliers in the world, and a center for sex trafficking and slavery since the Western intervention in 2011. More importantly, it is a cautionary tale of the West's failed adventurism.

In this Dec. 10 2007 file photo, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, left, greets Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi upon his arrival at the Elysee Palace, in Paris. ( AP )

Seven years ago, the UN blithely went ahead with what has become the West’s biggest blunder to date in the Middle East. But what was really behind the plan?

Analysts are always obsessing over the vexing question of where did ISIL begin? Who really sowed the seeds of what we know today as ‘Daesh’?

Some point to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, where George W. Bush’s decision to not pay some 500,000 regular army soldiers – mostly Sunnis from Mosul, Fallujah and Ramadi – cast the die. Many, particularly in Mosul, were supported by Saddam Hussein’s henchmen and very quickly the extremist group emerged.

But this blunder by Bush junior, was to be trumped exactly eight years later in Libya, which today stands out as the greatest example of how western interventionalism poured oil on the extremists’ fire.

Today, Libya might be the largest single country in the world which supplies black market arms to other countries – and by far the largest supplier to Daesh in the region, according to a recent study.

The decision taken by the UN security council seven years ago, was arguably the greatest blunder in the region to date and has not only created a two-state Libya which hosts Daesh, is a dominant arms supplier to all extremists and has become renown with slavery and sex trafficking – but has become a shining example of just how inept the West is capable of being, when it obsesses over its post colonial ‘regime change’ agendas.

It’s not as though it has any track record to base these decisions on. I was in Somalia in the early nineties and saw with my own eyes what a monumental disaster UN intervention was there, which merely galvanised warring factions in Mogadishu against UN soldiers and iconized General Aideed. The West, guided by President Clinton, then quickly got cold feet when Rwanda erupted in April 1994 and more or less stood by as half a million (mainly Tutsis) were slaughtered.

Deal with Gaddafi 

But the sheer arrogance of the UN is extraordinary and no better displayed in the Libya decision. Hillary Clinton’s idiotic ‘we came, we saw, he died’ quote on US TV succinctly summed it up. The decision was about regime change. Gaddafi had to go.

The UNSC decision, which Russia abstained on, to support opposition groups in Libya was so short sighted, naive and plainly stupid that it was destined to become the mere foundation of other gross errors which created the chaos of Libya today - namely to quickly rush through elections immediately after the fall of Gadaffi’s regime, despite Libyan scholars advising against the move; or arming thousands of fighters, many linked to Al Qaeda, and allowing hundreds of foreign "jihadists" from the West to fight alongside them.

But is there another reason why the West obsessed over regime change? Why did Gadaffi have to go? Did France and the UK have a role in the UN scheme?

Initially, Tony Blair, Nicolas Sarkozy and the EU itself brought Gaddafi in from the cold.

For Blair in 2004, it was getting Gaddafi to scrap his WMD program and providing a breakthrough in the hunt for the killers of WPC Yvonne Fletcher shot dead outside the Libyan embassy in London in 1984. The Blair deal included the Anglo-Dutch conglomerate Shell signing a $700 million gas exploration agreement.

For Nicolas Sarkozy, (who, in 2005 was France's interior minister) the real Gaddafi deal was exposed when he was later to face an investigation into whether the Libyan leader had bankrolled his presidential campaign of 2007 to the tune of $50 million. Today that investigation has led to French authorities taking Sarkozy into custody for questioning.

And so both the UK and France had real reasons to remove him from power. But did it end there with both Blair and Sarkozy using Gaddafi for their own political agenda back home?

Not quite.

A recent investigation by The Guardian has revealed that Blair in particular had good reason to back the UN plan to overthrow Gaddafi as he and his government struck a deal with the Libyan leader in 2004 to use MI6 to arrest dissidents around the world and have them flown back to Tripoli where they were tortured.

Blair must have thought that helping Gaddafi with such dirty work would never see the light of day – especially if the Libyan leader was dead or in exile – but papers recently found in Tripoli clearly show the involvement of his own head of MI6 at that time – and are now to feature in a court case in London.

It takes the idea of ‘propping up a despot’ to a whole new level as Blair used his office and the British secret service to garner Gaddafi’s brutal regime of torture and murder, to stay in power.

In the Middle East, the trail of havoc is becoming an embarrassment though for the UN and its western allies; Iraq is now a satellite of Iran, Assad in Syria is emboldened since Western intervention and Yemen is subsequently becoming an Iranian proxy.

The West’s intervention in Libya is not merely about short sighted, over simplified geopolitical strategy; it represents the darkest side of countries like France and the UK who were happy to support America’s foolish bravado there.

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