Looming Tragedy: Vision of the “New Libya”

Visit the “New Iraq”

Patriotism is the virtue of the vicious.

— Oscar Wilde, 1854-1900

As Eid, the great post Ramadan celebration of that month of abstinence, self sacrifice and reflection, dawned on Libya, marked there this year on August 31, the NATO “liberated” country, after seven months, looks a lot like  “liberated” Iraq after eight years.

Queues of cars now wait for petrol in another oil rich country, other queues form, carrying containers for water (the multi billion$ development of Libya’s vast underground aquifers had been dubbed the “eighth wonder of the world).  Shops are without food. The all is “absolute disaster”, according to an eminent legal observer, very familiar with the country. And with electricity largely off, those seeking knowledge as to whether friends and relatives are alive, injured, fled, dead, find internet and telephones dead.

As the terribly injured overwhelm hospitals, many are bombed, damaged or without power and pharmaceuticals. No power, no incubators, life support machines or surgery. Another country with a modern, developed infrastructure reduced to a pre-industrial age, with the rebuilding contracts reportedly already being divvied out — in the West.

NATO Members, however, eat, as their bombs destroy humanity and vital necessities for the living. Over a “working lunch”, on April 14, they “deplored violence” and underlined the: “need … to restore water, gas, electricity and other services …”

Still depriving others of the means to cook, or of any semblance of normality, at another “working lunch” (June 8) they further discussed their “clear mandate to protect civilians (and) populated areas …taking the upmost care to avoid civilian casualties.” This as “Tripoli experienced what were perhaps the heaviest daylight bombardments by NATO since the air strikes began in March.” (Guardian, June 8).

As they masticated and munched, they vowed to bring “a speedy resolution … to put an end to the violence”, under “Operation Unified Protector”.  There’s delusional and there’s, arguably, psychotic.

Just twenty four hours later, on  June 9, the decade long destruction of Afghanistan eclipsed Libya. NATO Defence Ministers met to declare it “NATO’s top operational priority.” General David Petraeus, returned from the ruins and about to be confirmed as CIA Head “explained … progress.”

“A working lunch commenced at 13.00 hours.”

A number of lunches later, on August 23, NATO spokeswoman, Oana Lungesco, re-affirmed their “mandate to protect civilians.” How this squares with hitting “over five thousand legitimate targets (in a) 24/7 operation (with) over twenty thousand sorties”, is confusing. Equally so is how destruction of services essential to maintaining life, State institutions, schools, hospitals, archeological sites and treasures, attacking of all which is illegal under swathes of international law, are included in this “legitimacy.”

By September 1, NATO operations from March  31st had reached “a total of 21,090, including 7,920 strike sorties.”

In context, this latest “shock and awe” brigandage is being rained down by a twenty-eight country alliance, on a country of under six-and-a-half million people (6,419,925) less than the population of London (7,754.000). The population of Tripoli is just 1,065,409 (or was, until unknown numbers of souls were liberated from their lives in a bombardment which, started with the unleashing of 110  Cruise missiles on March 20, eight years to the day – GMT- of the start of the Iraq invasion).

Coincidentally, the considerably Western-backed and funded “uprising” in Benghazi, which preceded the bombing, began on February 15, the eighth anniversary of  millions, in the largest global peace rally in history, from Manchester to Melbourne, Hong Kong to Honolulu, rallying against an attack on Iraq.

The invaders, though, have “learned from past mistakes.”  The “New Libya”, will not be like the “New Iraq” . It is surely beginning to look chillingly like it. A legitimate head of State again has a million$ bounty on his head and is “wanted dead or alive.” Since “boots are on the ground” only unofficially, the pack of playing cards with the “most wanted” on, has not yet been printed. But times are hard, and in 2003, the United States Playing Card Company, commissioned by the US Defence Intelligence Agency, received orders for 750,000 of the packs within a week.

Further, if the US and UK were blindly ignorant of Iraq’s social and tribal complexities, those of Libya are more so in orders of magnitude.

Just prior to the Iraq invasion, General Colin Powell was quoted as telling George W. Bush, that after the onslaught, “You will own twenty seven million people, Mr President.”

At the “Friends of Libya” gathering in Paris on September 1, hosted by Prime Minister Cameron and President Nicholas Sarkozy, a gloating, unnamed British official is quoted in the Economist as saying  that “NATO’s involvement in the Libyan uprising means that now we own it”.

Sarkozy – recipient, claims Quaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam, of  his family’s funding for his 2007 French Presidential election campaign  – is widely reported to have been promised one-third of Libya’s oil by the insurgents, the “National Transitional Council”, prior to NATO involvement. With “Friends” like these, Libya certainly needs no enemies.

“The international community will be watching and supporting” Libya, said Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, adding requirements to the new Libyan constitution. There is a “clear road map to democracy”. Afghan and Iraqi puppets now joined by Libyan ones.

When it comes to the rebuilding of Libya, “investors can’t call the tune”, was one theme, it must be “Libyan led.” UK Foreign Secretary William Hague blew that lie. Britain, he said: “would not be left behind”.  Much focus was on rebuilding the oil industry. Heaven forbid that too follows the Iraq model, with the bereaved, dispossessed and invaded blowing up the pipelines – and contractors.

It also transpires that the UK’s surely mis-titled “International Development Minister”, former oil trader, Alan Duncan, allegedly had a hand in, and connections to, Swiss based energy giant Vitol, which established links with the NTC rebels, whilst starving Gaddafi’s troops of transportation fuels.

Vitol President, Ian Taylor, has allegedly donated very large sums to Cameron’s Tory Party. Opposition MPs are citing a  possible covert  “Libyan Oil Cell”, an allegedly billion$ deal, questioning whether Mr Duncan’s fingerprints are on it.

As to the Conference, there was one dissenting voice. Bertrand Badie, an expert on international relations, told Xinhua:

I think this conference is very bad sign, because starting a process of state building by an international conference dominated by western powers …

But even he did not mention mind-bending illegalities.

The half day carve-up (sorry, “meeting”) regarding assets of another sovereign land was followed by “a dinner”, according to a US State Department spokeswoman.

Incidentally, the Paris Cabal took place on the 42nd anniversary of the Free Officers Movement bringing Gaddafi to power (September 1, 1969.)

“You are either with us, or you are with the terrorists’, said George W. Bush on November 1, 2002. Ten years is certainly a long time in politics. There are many who would say they are now funded by the same US and protected by the might of NATO.

Activist Sandra Barr, has compiled just a small snapshot of  a vast tragedy. Afew incidents amongst uncounted others, “collateral” humanity, to add to a pitiless twenty year rampage through mortality, legality, basic values and all the normal hold precious:

May 13,  2011: The murder of 11 Muslim Imams in Brega.

April 30,  2011: The bombing of the Downs Syndrome School in Tripoli

April 30,  2011: The bombing of a Gaddafi residence, murdering Saif Gaddafi, his friend and 3 Gaddafi children.

June 12, 2011: The bombing of the University of Tripoli. Death toll not yet established.

July 22, 2011: The bombing of the Great Man made Waterway irrigation system, which supplies most Libyans with their drinking water.

July 23,  2011: The bombing of the factory which makes the pipes for the water system, and the murder of 6 of its employees.

August 8,  2011: The bombing of the Hospital at Zliten. Resulting in the murder of a minimum of 50 human beings, many of them children. The bombing of hospitals is against all international laws, and a most grievous crime.

August 9,  2011: The bombing of the village of Majer, resulting in the murder of 85 civilians. 33 Children, 32 women and 20 men.

The persistent ongoing bombing of the civilian population in Zliten and Tripoli, death toll not yet established.

David Cameron has admitted that UK special services have assisted the terrorists on the ground in defiance of the UN mandate.

Today, Cameron has gone further, admitting that British forces played a “key role.”

Ms Barr demands the ICC take a stance. Sadly, it would amaze if they did.

On May 1 Muammar Gaddafi’s youngest son, Saif al-Arab, and three grandchildren were reported killed in an allied air strike on Tripoli. Another nauseating anniversary: George W. Bush, declaring: “Mission Accomplished” – the destruction of Iraq.

One can only fervently pray that we do not hear another sickening, “Viceroy” Paul Bremer wannabe, declaring: “Ladies and gentlemen, we got ‘im’,  with accompanying kangaroo court and lynchings.

The “New Libya”, it seems, with its formerly free, high quality health care, is anyway in bit of trouble. This full page advertisement by Medcines san Frontieres appeared in today’s Mail and Guardian (SA):

Tripoli, Libya: Months of conflict have put extreme strain on the Libyan health system.

We desperately need more staff” – Jonathan Whittal, MSF Emergency Coordinator Tripoli, August 23.


Trauma surgeons
Orthopaedic Surgeons
ER Doctors
OT Nurses
Obstetricians and Midwives.

Available for short term contracts (3-4 weeks) – able to leave IMMEDIATELY.

MSF has been working in eastern Libya since February.

Another “liberation”,  another unimaginable,  international, criminal tragedy.

Felicity Arbuthnot is a journalist with special knowledge of Iraq. Author, with Nikki van der Gaag, of Baghdad in the Great City series for World Almanac books, she has also been Senior Researcher for two Award winning documentaries on Iraq, John Pilger's Paying the Price: Killing the Children of Iraq and Denis Halliday Returns for RTE (Ireland.) Read other articles by Felicity.