The most remarkable thing about the NATO-led operation in Libya is the difference between what the West and the Libyans perceived. For the former, it was the liberation of a People crushed by a dictatorship, while for the latter, it was a foreign invasion that destroyed everything in its path and sent the nation back to the stone age.
NATO declares its concern for the crisis in Libya, which “has direct implications for regional stability and the security of all Allies”. It therefore assures that it “remains committed to providing advice to Libya on defence and security”. The governments of the United States, France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom state that “free elections will enable the Libyan people to strengthen their own sovereignty” and that they are “prepared to hold to account those who threaten Libya’s stability”. They then reaffirmed “full respect and commitment to Libya’s sovereignty and independence”.
These are solemn words from the same powers that, after having demolished Yugoslavia in the 1990s by disintegrating it from within and attacking it from outside, used the same technique to demolish the Libyan state in 2011. First they financed and armed tribal sectors and Islamist groups hostile to the government from within, and infiltrated special forces, especially Qatari ones, to spread armed confrontations. Then they attacked it from outside: in seven months, the US and Nato air force flew 30,000 missions, 10,000 of which were attacks, with more than 40,000 bombs and missiles. Italy participated with 7 air bases, fighter-bombers and an aircraft carrier in the war – led by the United States, first via AfriCom, then via NATO under US command.
Thus was demolished this African state which – according to the World Bank in 2010 – had ’high levels of economic growth and human development’, and where about two million immigrants, mostly Africans, found work. Thanks to energy exports, the Libyan state had invested around 150 billion dollars abroad. Libyan investments in Africa were crucial to the African Union’s plan to create financial institutions, a common market and a single African currency. Emails from Obama administration Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, later uncovered by WikiLeaks, show that the US and France wanted to eliminate Gaddafi before he used Libya’s gold reserves to create a pan-African currency as an alternative to the dollar and the CFA franc (the currency imposed by France on 14 former colonies). Before the bombers went into action, the banks went into action: they sequestered the 150 billion dollars invested abroad by the Libyan state, most of which later disappeared, thus blocking the entire African project.
All of this has been erased by the media-political narrative of the Libyan crisis, allowing the main perpetrators of the social catastrophe caused by the war against Libya to present themselves as its saviours. Today in Libya, the revenues from energy exports are monopolised by militias and multinationals. Large quantities of Libyan oil are sold to EU countries through Maltese companies that recycle it and disguise its origin. The standard of living of the population has collapsed. Libya has become the main transit route for a chaotic migratory flow that has caused more victims than the 2011 war. According to data from the International Organization for Migration, about 1,500 migrants drowned in the Mediterranean in 2021, but the number is likely to be higher as many cases go unreported. About 30,000 migrants in 2021 were intercepted at sea and brought back to Libya by the “Libyan” coastguard, created, trained and financed by Italy with 33 million euros. Many of these migrants ended up in detention centres of both the Tripoli “government” and the militias. More than 600,000 migrants of about 45 nationalities are now trapped in Libya, virtually enslaved, forced to work without pay and under duress. More and more of them are asking not to be brought to Europe, but to return home to escape this condition. The plight of young women, sold at auction, raped and forced into prostitution, is particularly dramatic.
All this is thanks to Operation Unified Protector, which, according to the Ministry of Defence, was carried out by NATO in 2011 for “the protection of civilians in Libya”.
Manlio Dinucci: Geographer and geopolitical scientist. His latest books are Laboratorio di geografia, Zanichelli 2014 ; Diario di viaggio, Zanichelli 2017 ; L’arte della guerra / Annali della strategia Usa/Nato 1990-2016, Zambon 2016. Guerra nucleare. Il giorno prima. Da Hiroshima a oggi: chi e come ci porta alla catastrofe, Zambon 2017; Diario di guerra. Escalation verso la catastrofe (2016 – 2018), Asterios Editores 2018.
Il Manifesto (Italy)
- Aggression Against Libya: Examining the Past – Looking Towards the Future
- Remembering the Libyan Jamahiriya
- Libya: Two Years After Imperialist Military Intervention – Continued Violations of International Law
- US, UK and UNSMIL’s Dirty Game in Libya
- Libya: The United States Obstructs Elections, Fearing the Victory of Dr. Saif al-Islam Qaddafi