In November 2013, a poll conducted and released by JMW Consulting and the National Democratic Institute found that 41% of Libyans thought they were worse off than they had been under the regime of Muammar Gadaffi, compared to 32% who thought they were better off.
The same two organisations have recently released another poll, asking the same question., among others. And according to The Libya Herald, the question got exactly the same results. To quote:
’41 percent believe that Libya is worse off than before the 2011 revolution. Only 32 percent believe it is better off’.
Once again, the point here – for me – isn’t to in any way imply that Libyans had it good under the regime of Muammar Gadaffi. While the guy certainly did have his supporters, and while there was a degree of development in areas like healthcare, life expectancy and education under his rule, he did preside over an authoritarian state that denied large swathes of the population their basic political, civil, human and economic rights.
The point is that, if we are to recognise that life under the regime of Muammar Gadaffi was no bed of roses for a great many Libyans, how bad must it be now for almost half of them to say that things have gotten worse since his overthrow?
The poll also finds that 60% of Libyans think that disarming militias and ensuring security are the most important tasks facing Libya at the moment. And it’s hardly surprising, as a brief review of what has been happening there over the last few months will demonstrate. E.G.:
March 9th: Two injured in Matouba bomb attack
March 8th: Former security officer killed in Benghazi
March 2nd: GNC stormed; Congress members injured
March 1st: Senior Air Force officer killed in Benghazi
March 1st: Women’s cosmetic shop in Derna bombed
February 24th: Egyptian Christians executed in Benghazi
February 22nd: Two more killed in Benghazi
February 22nd: Tripoli hotel set ablaze during armed clashes
February 20th: Polling stations bombed in Derna; man killed
February 13th: Two Libyana employees killed in Benghazi
February 5th: Six children injured in Benghazi school bomb attack
As anyone following events closely in Libya will know, these kinds of attacks have been a regular occurrence for nearly two years. They are now par for the course, even though they don’t attract anything beyond scant corporate media coverage.
When NATO decided to violently and very probably illegally overthrow the regime of Muammar Gadaffi almost three years ago, we were told at the time that it was necessary to protect civilians and civilian areas under threat of attack.
It soon became clear that this pretext – protecting civilians – was an outrageously cynical lie. What brought this into sharpest relief was the rebel attack on the town of Tawergha. For months before hand, rebel leaders from the nearby town of Misrata had been threatening Tawergha openly. They made no secret of their contempt for its residents.
Ibrahim al-Halbous, a rebel commander who was fighting near Tawergha, told The Wall Street Journal in June 2011 that they (the residents of Tawergha) ‘should pack up . . . Tawergha no longer exists, only Misrata’. Some of the rebel brigades marked their territory with slogans like ‘the brigade for purging slaves, black skin’ – a clear reference to the Tawerghans, who are said to be descendents of trafficked slaves, and have darker skin than some other Libyans.
When the attack on Tawergha did finally come circa August 11th-13th 2011, it was ‘a heavily co-ordinated operation with NATO’, according to Al Jazeera’s Andrew Simmonds. A Guardian data blog shows that NATO carried out airstrikes on Tawergha at exactly the time rebels were assaulting it from the ground: no coincidence, i’m sure.
So this is one civilian population under threat of racially motivated reprisal attacks that NATO not only failed to protect, but *actively coordinated in assaulting*.
The U.N. Commission of Inquiry documents what happened to Tawergha and Tawerghans next:
‘The destruction of Tawergha has been done to render it uninhabitable. Murder, torture and cruel treatment, and pillaging which occurred during the hostilities constitute a war crime. Where they have continued since, they violate international human rights law . . . The torture and killing by Misratan thuwar would also, given the widespread and systematic manner in which they have occurred here, be capable of constituting a crime against humanity and the facts indicate crimes against humanity have taken place’.
30’000-40’000 townsfolk were driven out of their homes in an act of mass, collective punishment.
The Commission also document how there was indeed a racial aspect to this crime, saying that ‘One fighter told the Commission he thought that Tawerghans deserved “to be wiped off the face of the planet”. The language reportedly used by the Misratans during the arrests was often of a racist and derogatory nature, for example calling them “slaves”, “blacks”, and “animals”‘.
NATO was, then, deeply complicit in the perpetration of racially motivated Crimes against Humanity in Libya – crimes which are ongoing to this day, incidentally, to little or no international attention.
What NATO facilitated in Tawergha and other places is simply irreconcilable with the mandate to protect civilians. And as news of NATO-rebel atrocities against civilians gradually started to seep out, the narrative among supporters of the intervention seemed to subtly change from one of ‘protecting civilians’, to one of ‘getting rid of Gadaffi so that Libyans can have a chance of a better life in a stable, peaceful democracy’.
Those people might like to take a look at the state of Libya now, rather than continuing to pretend that it doesn’t exist, that the NATO intervention there was a ‘success’, and perhaps most extraordinarily, that it offers any kind of blueprint on how ‘we’ might save Syria in a similar fashion.