The international conference about Libya in Berlin on January 19 was a success, in that the parties agreed to a meaningful set of conclusions and recommendations that appear to have a reasonable chance of at least limiting conflict and halting further expansion of Islamic State in the region. One reason for tepid reaction and lack of enthusiasm about the outcome on the part of the Western mainstream media was that participants included Presidents Putin and Erdogan, both of whom were influential in pursuing compromise and moderation in the path to peace in the violence-stricken country whose Western-inspired destruction began in 2011.
Twelve countries and four international organisations were represented in Berlin, and it is notable that the event was hosted by Angela Merkel who, as with Presidents Putin and Erdogan, had refused to join in the jolly U.S.-sponsored blitzkrieg that wrecked Libya, and even more notable that NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg wasn’t invited to attend. It was no doubt borne in mind that nine NATO countries conducted a total of 5488 airstrikes on Libya between 19 March and 31 October 2011, while cruise missiles were fired by the U.S. (228) and the UK (18).
Nothing was said in Berlin about the responsibility of the U.S.-NATO alliance (and other culprits including, amazingly, Sweden) for reducing Libya to the utter chaos in which it now exists. As observed at the meeting, “The conflict in Libya, the instability in the country, the external interferences, the institutional divisions, the proliferation of a vast amount of unchecked weapons and the economy of predation continue to be a threat to international peace and security” and attendees committed “to refraining from interference in the armed conflict or in the internal affairs of Libya and urge all international actors to do the same.”
It is regrettable, to put it mildly, that NATO’s U.S., UK, France and Italy, all of which were represented in Berlin, had not in 2011 “refrained from interference” in Libya, and the western media refrained from making the slightest mention of their culpability with, for example, the Washington Post recording lamely that Libya’s President Muammar Gaddafi “was toppled and killed by rebels during the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings and NATO intervention.”
Intervention? The word ‘intervention’ is defined in the Cambridge Dictionary as “action taken to intentionally become involved in a difficult situation in order to improve it or prevent it from getting worse” and this certainly is not what the U.S.-NATO military alliance accomplished in its seven months of bombing and rocketing all over the country. There was no improvement whatever to the situation in Libya, and the U.S.-NATO blitz led directly to its collapse in ruin and vicious civil war.
Although the heads of government of Germany, Russia, the UK, Turkey, Italy and France were at the Berlin Summit, Washington’s Trump was conspicuous by his absence which was probably just as well, because nobody knows where he stands as regards the Libya debacle. Last April, as reported by the New York Times, he “abruptly reversed American policy toward Libya, issuing a statement publicly endorsing an aspiring strongman in his battle to depose the United Nations-backed government.” Trump’s ‘strongman’ is the self-styled “Marshal” Khalifa Haftar, a former CIA asset, who is still waging war to overthrow the admittedly incompetent government of Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj.
It was lunacy on the part of Trump to telephone the rebel leader and tell him, as stated by the White House, that he “recognized Field Marshal Haftar’s significant role in fighting terrorism and securing Libya’s oil resources, and the two discussed a shared vision for Libya’s transition to a stable, democratic political system”. This was directly contrary to the stance of Secretary of State Pompeo (who was in Berlin and said nothing of note) in that he had strongly criticised Haftar’s military actions.
It all comes down to oil and profits, of course, so far as western interest in Libya is concerned, and it should be borne in mind that in March 2004, when UK Prime Minister Blair paid a visit to President Gaddafi, it was reported that “Shell today marked its return to Libya after an absence of more than a decade by signing a $200 million gas exploration deal with the former pariah state.” Libya has the world’s ninth largest oil reserves, and the U.S. companies ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Marathon Oil Corporation and the Hess Company were already heavily involved in exploiting its deposits.
The country was thriving under the despot Gaddafi, who was certainly ruthless and persecuted his enemies most savagely — but life for most Libyans was comfortable and even the BBC had to admit that Gaddafi’s “particular form of socialism does provide free education, healthcare and subsidized housing and transport,” although “wages are extremely low and the wealth of the state and profits from foreign investments have only benefited a narrow elite” (which doesn’t happen anywhere else, of course). The CIA World Factbook noted that Gaddafi’s Libya had a literacy rate of 94.2%, by far the best in Africa (and better than Malaysia, Mexico and Saudi Arabia), and the World Health Organization recorded a life expectancy of 72.3 years, among the highest in the developing world.
But then Gaddafi made the mistake that cost him his country and his life.
On January 21, 2011 Reuters reported that “Muammar Gaddafi said his country and other oil exporters were looking into nationalizing foreign firms due to low oil prices.” He suggested that “oil should be owned by the State at this time, so we could better control prices by the increase or decrease in production.” His fate was sealed and his country was set on the road to chaos by a rebellion supported by NATO’s Operation Unified Protector, after which NATO proudly announced that “After seven months of operations at sea and in the air NATO has ended its mission for Libya. The Alliance’s job to protect civilians from the threat of attack is done. On his historic first visit on 31 October to the Libyan capital of Tripoli, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said he was proud of the part the Organization and its partners played in helping the country and the region.”
Rasmussen was joined in happy satisfaction by Ivo Daalder, U.S. Representative on the NATO Council from 2009 to 2013, and Admiral James G (‘Zorba’) Stavridis, U.S. Supreme Allied Commander Europe (the military commander of NATO) in the same period. After their war these two ninnies had a piece published in the New York Times in which they made the absurd claim that “the alliance and its partners can look back at an extraordinary job, well done. Most of all, they can see in the gratitude of the Libyan people that the use of limited force — precisely applied — can affect real, positive political change.”
Tell that to those who gathered at the Berlin conference to try to find a way forward from the tragic catastrophe created by these dimwits.
The way ahead is for the UN Security Council to endorse the Berlin ‘Follow-Up’ recommendations, especially noting that the conference was “one important step in a broader Libyan-led and Libyan-owned process designed to bring a decisive end to the Libyan crisis by addressing in a comprehensive manner the underlying drivers of the conflict.” The main thing is to keep NATO and Trump out of it and help Libya towards stability by pressuring Haftar and supporting moves to democratic government.