Few Americans have any understanding of what happened to Libya six years ago. Even fewer know the significance of what is taking place there now. The US-led war on Libya was erased from historical memory before it reached popular consciousness. To remember Libya and more specifically Gaddafi’s dream is to remember the destruction of an African revolution. This African revolution possessed many attributes that struggling people in the US, especially the poor, would admire.
Last October marked the sixth anniversary of the brutal assassination of Col. Muammar Gaddafi, Libya’s adored architect of the “Jamahiriya” or state of the masses. The assassination was conducted by NATO-backed “rebels” fully loyal to the notion of waging jihad on the socialist Arab republic. Libya was Barack Obama’s war. The “first Black President” enthusiastically promoted lies about the Libyan leader in preparation for the invasion. He called Gaddafi a dictator, a strongman, and a mass murderer of his own people. US military forces collaborated with the media to spread rumors that Gaddafi had deployed soldiers armed with Viagra to rape women and children. Like the war on Afghanistan and Iraq, everything said about Gaddafi and Libya ended up being a lie. There were no massacres led by Gaddafi. In fact, NATO-backed “rebels” were found to have committed the most heinous crimes against the populace imaginable.
The long list of “rebel” crimes in Libya included the lynching of Black Libyans and the arbitrary destruction of schools and hospitals. The majority of so-called “rebels” were Al Qaeda affiliates armed and funded through backdoor channels with Saudi Arabia and Qatar. When NATO intervened on their behalf in March of 2011, over 200 sorties were dropped on Libya every day for seven months. By October of 2011, the number of bombs that rained over the African nation totaled 30,000. NATO mercenaries and bombs led to the death of over 50,000 Libyans with many more across North Africa losing their lives in an attempt to escape the on-going carnage.
NATO successfully imposed an American nightmare on the Libyan people. Yet what the Libyan state had achieved prior to the US-NATO invasion was nothing short of a miracle. Gaddafi had to go because his dream was antithetical to the imperialist interests of the US-NATO alliance. In 1969, Libya overthrew a neo-colonial monarchy that imposed poverty and illiteracy on the country on behalf of Western capital. The state of the masses was established, giving the Libyan people direct control over the future of the nation. Nationalized oil provided healthcare, housing, and employment for all. Underdevelopment gave way to industrial advances that eventually made Libya the most prosperous nation on the African continent.
Gaddafi’s revolution liberated women from the clutches of colonial
underdevelopment. After 1969, women in Libya were given opportunities to receive an education and equal pay for equal work. New mothers received $5,000 per month until they returned to work. When this author was a case manager for homeless individuals in Massachusetts, a Libyan woman presented to the agency. She reported that she had lost over $4,000 per month provided by the Libyan government to attend university. The stipend was stopped after the fall of Gaddafi leaving her unable to afford rent. Few in the US have any knowledge of how the Libyan state allowed Libyans to study abroad by subsidizing basic needs during their educational period.
Gaddafi’s dream extended beyond Libya’s borders. Historically, Libya was well-known across Africa for its solidarity with national liberation struggles in places like South Africa, Algeria, and Somalia. However, Libya’s “state of the masses” or Jamahiriya really wore out its welcome with the US-NATO alliance following Gaddafi’s selection to the head of the African Union in 2009. Gaddafi used the platform to formulate concrete proposals to liberate the continent from dependency on US and Western capital. The most significant proposal was the creation of a continental military and the establishment of a regional currency in the form of the gold “dinar” used in Libya. Gaddafi was willing to use his nation’s vast oil wealth to unite the African continent and paid the price for it.
It was during this time that the US imperialist system was spreading chaos throughout the African continent by way of AFRICOM. AFRICOM was formed by the Bush Administration in 2007 as a military command center that would enforce US interests in Africa. Beginning in 2009, then President Barack Obama invested a great deal of resources in AFRICOM. By the time the war on Libya was declared, AFRICOM possessed military “partnerships” with every African nation except Zimbabwe, Eritrea, and Libya. Gaddafi opposed AFRICOM’s expansion on the continent. He saw it as nothing but an extension US and NATO efforts in the Middle East to divide the region along sectarian lines.
Even though WikiLeaks exposed the Obama-Clinton machine’s motivations in Libya as being primarily driven by opposition to Gaddafi’s plan for African unity, his position on AFRICOM also posed a serious threat to US strategic interests. The same year that Gaddafi become the head of the Africa Union also happened to be the same year that China surpassed the US in terms of trade with the nations of Africa. AFRICOM was erected as a last gasp effort by the US to remain hegemonic in the resource rich continent. And the US was not about to allow Gaddafi to get in the way.
Images spread worldwide of Gaddafi’s graphic murder at the hands of NATO’s mercenaries. The US-NATO backed “rebels” murdered the Libyan leader in cold blood without regard to international law. International law, however, means nothing to the US and its allies who see the tenants of self-determination and sovereignty as little more than impediments to Wall Street profit. The US did not consult any international body when it invaded Iraq and made up the pretext of “humanitarian intervention” to destroy Libya. Gaddafi’s bloody downfall represented the obliteration of international law itself.
Imperialism is a system of social relations governed by the law of private profit accumulation. The US and its allies operate not from concern for the lot of humanity but from the strategic political and economic interests of monopoly corporations. Libya’s American nightmare is part and parcel of a larger history of imperial intervention on behalf of capital that spans centuries. From Guatemala to Ghana, and Vietnam to Venezuela, there is not a nation on this earth that has gone untouched by imperialism’s military ventures. And since 1945, the most violent wars have been led by the US.
War is the primary means by which US corporations have remained dominant in the world. However, Libya marked a significant shift in the consequences of US-led warfare. For the end of Gaddafi’s dream of an egalitarian society brought with it only chaos and terror. Gaddafi’s hometown, Sirte, is now controlled by ISIS terrorists. De facto militia rule has led to endless sectarian warfare yielding disappointing economic results. Similar to Iraq, the destruction of the Jamahiriya has forced Libya to go without a state capable of lending any direction to the future of society. Terrorism has spread to Nigeria, Mali, and surrounding nations as the arms funneled to “rebels” during the invasion of Libya have spread to terrorists throughout the continent.
Instead of a higher income and net worth, the people living in NATO countries have been rewarded with poverty and joblessness. Reductions in healthcare, education, and housing have devastated the majority of the population despite the presence of growing military budgets. Libya is definitive proof that war only benefits the rich. That is why Gaddafi’s dream was a nightmare for the American elite. But from the perspective of the poor and working class, pre-2011 Libya provided an example of what a more just society could look like regardless of the geography. Libya and Gaddafi should be celebrated as part of a larger strategy to condemn US military aggression worldwide and bring forth real justice to all people and nations struggling against oppression.
Danny Haiphong is a Vietnamese-American activist and political analyst in the Boston area. He can be reached at email@example.com