Government in Name Alone: How NATO’s new ‘Libyan government’ entrenched militia misrule

Originally published in Counterpunch magazine, June 2019

Image result for Abderrahman Swehli

Abderrahman Swehli, UK-backed Misrata militiaman whose support for the ‘Government of National Accord’ ensured it functioned as a front for the paramilitaries

By late 2015, the West’s Libya policy was in total disarray.

To the untrained eye, of course, it looked as though it had been in disarray from the start. The 2011 intervention had, after all, turned the country into a death squad free-for-all, destroying state authority, and drawing militias from across the region – including Boko Haram, Al Qaeda, and ISIS – to its vast territory to set up camps, loot state armouries, and train the fighters who went on to attack Tunisia, Nigeria, Algeria, Manchester and elsewhere. The 30,000-strong city of Tawergha – the only black African town on the Mediterranean – was completely ethnic cleansed by NATO’s proxies; it is now a ghost town, it’s former inhabitants scattered across refugee camps where they are still hunted down and killed to this day. Thousands of African migrants remain detained in illegal facilities by the country’s hundreds of militias, where they face regular torture and rape, and public slave auctions have been reintroduced. The country remains at war, without a functioning government, facing rampant inflation and regular power cuts. The criminal justice system has collapsed throughout much of the country, which remains under the control of ever more powerful and unaccountable armed groups. Per capita income has collapsed by more than a third, from $12,250 in 2010 to $7,820.28 in 2014, whilst the country has dropped 40 places in the UN’s human development index, from 53 in 2010 to 94 in 2015. Life expectancy has dropped by three years over the same time period.

If the goal was, as NATO proclaimed, to improve human rights, then, by any standards, the intervention was an utter disaster.

But no serious person ever believed it was really about that. NATO – with Britain leading the charge – was concerned about Gaddafi’s growing influence on the African continent, his role as a bulwark against US and UK military encroachment, and the money he was pouring into financial institutions explicitly designed to reduce African dependence on the IMF and World Bank. As with the previous intervention in Iraq, however, the goal was not only to remove this particular thorn-in-the-side but in fact to prevent the country from ever again re-emerging as a strong, unified independent power. The goal was not to change the government, then – but to prevent effective government altogether. To this end the leading NATO powers have consistently acted to ensure the country’s hundreds of rival militias are empowered and remain at war with one other. From this point of view, the West’s Libya policy has been a roaring success. But by 2015 it had come under serious threat.

Under the tutelage of the NATO-imposed government, the years following the 2011 bombardment saw the power of the militias entrenched. Rather than disbanding them, or attempting to bring them under a unified chain of command, the new regime began arming them and paying their salaries. Faced with few other prospects, young people flocked to join, and the number of militiamen grew from a maximum of 25,000 who fought in 2011 to 140,000 two years later. Naturally, those in charge of these armed gangs – accountable to no one but themselves – grew in power as their numbers and resources swelled, and turf warfare was common. The rule of the gun had become institutionalised.

By 2014, Libyans were sick of it. Seeing as the government was effectively toothless, hostage to the militias it had empowered, elections were largely seen as a waste of time at best, a process with no other function than to legitimise a dysfunctional status quo. Turnout in the 2014 elections was estimated at less than 20%, down from 60% two years earlier. Yet the result was nevertheless a blow to the militias, with their political sponsors – Libya’s equivalent of the Muslim Brotherhood – the biggest losers. The militias’ parliamentary patrons had suffered a decisive defeat; and one they did not accept. In July 2014, they launched an attack on Tripoli to drive the new government out of the capital. By August they had succeeded, and the newly elected House of Representatives was forced to relocate to Tobruk in the east. But the House of Representatives had two major assets on their side. Firstly, the Libyan National Army (LNA), the country’s largest and most effective single fighting force – had pledged its allegiance to them. Over the year that followed, the LNA made steady gains, and by the end of 2015, after almost two years of fighting, were on the verge of retaking Benghazi from a coalition of militias led by the Al Qaeda-affiliated Ansar al-Sharia. Secondly, as the elected parliament, they were internationally recognised as the legitimate government of Libya.

To add to NATO’s headaches, supporters of the pre-2011 government were growing in strength. Despite criminalisation – the notorious Law 37 had made open support for Gaddafi a crime punishable by life imprisonment – the ‘Green Resistance’, as it became known, was becoming ever more emboldened and popular. The stark difference between the relatively prosperous and stable lives people had led under Gaddafi, and the disaster which they were living now, became harder and harder to ignore. By August 2015, as a kangaroo court handed down death sentences to 8 former ministers, including Muammar Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam, the green movement was openly leading large public demonstrations across the country, even in ISIS-occupied Sirte. At the same time, the east of the country was moving towards a reconciliation with the Green Movement, with the House of Representatives allowing Gaddafi’s widow to return from exile, and the LNA openly recruiting Gaddafi loyalists, including Gaddafi’s Tuareg commander General Ali Kanna, into its forces.

And finally – particularly worrying for the forces of disorder that had unleashed chaos on Libya – an end to the civil war between the two parliaments even seemed to be finally in sight. The two warring sides – Operation Dawn, which supported the General National Congress, the parliament of the defeated militias, and Operation Dignity, the Libyan National Army-led operation in support of the elected House of Representatives – had signed a ceasefire in January 2015, and by November of that year had made substantial progress towards a compromise resolution of their differences.

If NATO wanted to stop these moves towards unity, reconciliation, and defeat of the militias, they would have to act fast. That’s where the UN came in.

The UN had created UNSMIL (the UN ‘Support Mission in Libya’) in 2011, ostensibly to promote reconciliation between the various militias which had emerged, and UNSMIL had then set up the ‘Libya Dialogue’ in September 2014, following the fall of Tripoli to the Libya Dawn faction. Clearly dominated by Libya’s conquerors – its meetings often took place in London or Rome, under the watchful eye of British, Italian, US and IMF officials – it was rejected by Libyan nationalists, who instead favoured direct negotiations, without outside interference. Thus, in December 2015, there were two parallel sets of negotiations taking place – the UNSMIL Libya Dialogue (boycotted by the GNC parliament) and the the so-called ‘Libya-Libya Dialogue’ involving direct, unmediated discussions between the heads of the two parliaments. Whilst the UNSMIL version seemed to be getting nowhere – with both sides sceptical of its Western overlords – the direct negotiations were bearing serious fruit. Meeting in Malta and Muscat in December 2015, the heads of both warring parliaments endorsed an initiative to create a unity government appointed by a prime minister and two deputies chosen in turn by both parliaments. But a workable agreement between Libyan parties, based on a principled rejection of outside interference, was the exact opposite of what the UN’s controllers were seeking. For over a year, UNSMIL had unsuccessfully attempted to persuade the two parliaments to support their own deeply flawed plan, the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA). Now, as the Libyans’ own process was gaining momentum, desperation was growing amongst Western officials that their plan was becoming marginalised.  As one EU diplomat candidly admitted, “the pressure to sign the accord came from Political Dialogue members who feared that the Libya-Libya initiative could gain popular traction”. Unsurprisingly, according to the International Crisis Group (ICG), “the most engaged Security Council permanent members – the U.S., UK and France – were particularly vocal in pushing the UN to finalise the deal”. The very powers who had destroyed Libya four years earlier were desperate that they not be sidelined by an independent Libyan initiative.

Fear of the rival negotiations gaining momentum was not the only thing driving the west’s urgency to impose a ‘deal’, however. There was also real fear that the LNA might actually win the war. As one Western official told the ICG: “Not signing and endorsing the accord would have been a major defeat for those like us who had been advocating a negotiated power-sharing deal as the only solution to the Libya crisis. It would have meant a failure of the principle of negotiations, and that would have allowed those governments that throughout 2015 had advocated direct unilateral action in support of the HoR and its government to declare victory.” This is a clear admission that the LPA was aimed at giving a shot in the arm to the flailing militias, to bolster them and prevent their defeat in the face of a unified National Army representing the elected parliament.

The problem for supporters of the western-drafted LPA remained, however, its lack of support amongst Libyan stakeholders. For a start, neither parliament endorsed the agreement; indeed, said the ICG, “A substantial HoR majority opposed the military and security provisions” whilst the GNC were boycotting the talks altogether. Furthermore, the real powers on the ground – the armed groups actually in control of Libyan territory – were not consulted, and were mostly opposed to it. The ICG concluded that “In retrospect, proponents inflated support for the accord within the rival legislatures to justify going forward.  The claim of majority backing was factually dubious – many members supported an agreement in principle but differed widely on details – and politically misleading, since key opponents were outside the HoR and the GNC and had military power to intimidate supporters”.

Lacking support for its deal, but anxious to impose it to prevent the possibility of either a LNA victory or a Libyan-led negotiated settlement, the UN simply cobbled together a handpicked group of willing members from each parliament to sign up to their flawed blueprint (It was fitting that the man brought in to do this was named Martin Kobler). Thus, the Skhirat Agreement, as it became known, was signed by an arbitrary group of unrepresentative Libyans in Morocco on December 17th 2015. It was instantly anointed the holy bible of Libyan politics by the Western powers.  And yet, “There is no real political agreement”, a senior UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) official admitted. “This is an agreement to support those who seem trustworthy for the sake of saving the country”. Saving it, that is, from unity and independence. This was naked colonialism of the pure and shameless nineteenth century variety.

Nevertheless, the western-imposed LPA did initially manage to gain some degree of support, or at least acceptance, both within Libya, and amongst non-western powers abroad. Khalifa Haftar, leader of the LNA, whilst not officially endorsing the deal, did cooperate with it at first, meeting Kobler the day before its signing and proposing a close associate, Ali Qatrani, for the Presidency Council it created. Aguila Saleh, head of the House of Representatives, gave tentative support to the deal on 31st December 2015, two weeks after its signing. On the GNC side, the Misratan leader Abderrahman Swehli gave last minute support to the deal, bringing with him a large number of the Misratan militias, a move which, according the ICG, “changed the force balance in the deal’s favour”. And at the UN, Russian and Chinese support ensured the deal achieved Security Council endorsement on 23rd December.

The LPA’s support from Saleh and Haftar (briefly) and Russia (more long term) warrants closer scrutiny. After all, in hindsight at least, the LPA has functioned effectively to bolster and legitimise the very militias which Haftar’s Russian-backed LNA is fighting. In practice, the sole function of the GNA (Government of National Accord) which was created by the ‘agreement’ has been – much like that of its Syrian cousin, the erstwhile Free Syrian Army – the provision of international recognition, funding and weaponry to any militia that pledges nominal allegiance to it, without actually having to submit to any unified chain of command. The GNA truly is a Government in Name Alone.

Yet this was not necessarily obvious at the time. Not unlike Security Council 1973 which paved the way for NATO intervention in 2011, the LPA’s drafters made sure to include many tempting concessions to its potential opponents, safe in the knowledge they could simply be ignored once the deal was signed. In the case of UNSC 1973, provisions were made for negotiations to take place before any military action began, and for any intervention which did occur to be strictly limited to a no-fly zone and preventing the Libyan army retaking Benghazi. Much to the humiliation of the African Union, which had predicated its endorsement precisely on these measures, all of them were ignored by NATO even before the ink had dried.

In the case of the LPA, on paper, it looked like it was biased, if anything, towards the House of Representatives, not the militia-backed GNC. This was not entirely surprising, given that the HoR had participated in the ‘Libya Dialogue’ talks which preceded it, which the GNC had boycotted. Under the terms of the LPA, the HoR would remain the official Libyan parliament, and creation of any new government would be conditional on HoR ratification: effectively the HoR was granted power of veto over any arrangements which would emerge. For the HoR, and its supporters in the LNA and outside Libya, then, on the face of it, there was nothing to lose.

As with UNSC 1973, however, these provisions were to be entirely ignored. Under the terms of the agreement, a Presidency Council would be formed, made up of nominees from both parliaments. This Council would then appoint a government, which would be dependent on approval by the HoR. Yet, the UN Security Council itself violated the agreement within a week of its signing, by ‘recognising’ a government which had not only not yet been formed, but which, according to the terms of the LPA, could not be formed without HoR approval. This approval has never been granted; yet the GNA’s Cabinet was nonetheless created on January 2nd (where, lacking support in Libya, it operated from Tunisia) by the Council President, Fayez al-Sarraj, triggering a boycott of the Council by two of its (eastern) members. Given that under the terms of the LPA security decisions could only be taken by the Council with the unanimous support of its five deputies, the PC thus no longer had the authority to make these decisions. This too was simply ignored.

Another sticking point emerged in March 2016, when the GNA moved to Tripoli, opposed by both the GNC and the HoR. According to the LPA, to be integrated into state security forces, militias were required to give up their weapons. Lacking any enforcement power of its own, however, the GNA simply ignored this provision too, and effectively paid a cartel of, mostly Misratan, militias to provide it with protection. Meanwhile British, Italian and German warships were stationed off the city’s coastto cow incalcitrant forces into acquiescence, reportedly sending text messages to the various militias warning them not to attempt to resist the GNA’s imposition. Nevertheless, the GNA still only managed to gain control of three of the country’s ministries, with most of the ‘government’ operating from the city’s naval base. Unsurprisingly, it was once again “Most notably the U.S. and UK,” notes the ICG, who “were lobbying for moving the Presidency Council to Tripoli and recognising the unity government as the legitimate government as soon as possible, even without formal HoR endorsement”.

A report in the UK newspaper The Independent later that month revealed why these governments were in such a rush. On 25th March 2016, it reported on a leaked briefing from King Abdullah in Jordan confirming that British and American special forces were on the ground in Libya, working with the Misratan militias. Granting such militias pseudo-legitimacy through their association with the GNA was crucial to provide a semblance of legality to these operations – which were, after all, military operations in support of armed gangs at war with the country’s elected parliament.

The following month the takeover of the GNA by the western militias was formalised by the appointment of Abderrahman Swehli, representing a bloc of Misratan militia, as President of the High State Council. The High State Council was created by the LPA as an ‘advisory body’ to the GNA, to be composed of former members of the GNC, the parliament which had lost the 2014 elections. Swehli, says the ICG, was viewed by “many Libyans… as the architect of the July 2014 “Libya Dawn” operation and the “Libya Sunrise” siege of eastern oil terminals later that year.” He was the man, in other words, who had initiated the armed overthrow of the elected government following the 2014 elections.

Thus, what looked on paper like an arrangement favouring the HoR – who would retain a veto over appointments – against the GNC – whose role was supposed to be ‘advisory’ – came in practice to be a means of transferring legitimacy from the elected HoR to the (electorally defeated) Tripoli and Misratan militias backing the GNA, with the provisions relating to the HoR’s role simply ignored.

It did not take long for the US and UK to utilise this transfer of legitimacy to start channelling arms to their favoured factions. Within days of Serraj announcing in May that the GNA was ready to start work (triggering the resignation of another four ministers, given the blatant illegality of operating without approval from the elected parliament), the UN Security Council declared it would start arming the GNA (that is, the militias now working under its banner, but not its command). It is worth noting here that the UNSC had consistently refused to lift the arms embargo on Libya when the HoR was the internationally-recognised government, battling Al Qaeda and ISIS-aligned forces in Benghazi (forces which often had tacit support from the GNA).

Indeed, the very next month, Britain successfully lobbied the UNSC to adopt a resolution mandating existing EU anti-migrant naval operations in the Mediterranean (‘Operation Sophia’) to also enforce the UN arms embargo on Libya. Now that the embargo on the GNA militias had been removed, this meant specifically cutting off arms to the LNA.

Thus the LPA, and the GNA it created, have served to legitimise the militias that have laid waste to Libya, whilst delegitimising the Libyan National Army and the elected parliament. Part of the reason for this was the desire to see that the LNA did not take Sirte.

For years, the LNA had been at the forefront of the fight against Al Qaeda and ISIS in Libya, and had completed its liberation of Benghazi from their affiliates in February 2016. The militias aligned to the GNA, meanwhile, had generally been at best ambivalent about such groups. If Britain and the US were to keep Libya out of the hands of the LNA, therefore, it needed to ensure its own favoured militias retook ISIS territory, and not the LNA. Top of the agenda was Sirte. The city had fallen to ISIS in May 2015, and, following its successful Benghazi operation, the LNA then began the march to retake Sirte. This was when British special forces were inserted to make sure this did not happen. Ultimately, Sirte did fall to the British-led Misratan militias and not to the LNA, in an operation more or less completed by the end of the year.

Thus, the LPA – and the Government in Name Alone it created – achieved NATO’s goals of both scuppering the Libyan-led dialogue then underway, and arresting the progress of the Libyan National Army. It has done so by transferring legitimacy from the elected parliament to the various rival militias vying for control of western Libya – and in the process, it has bolstered and entrenched militia rule.

A recent report by the German Institute for International and Security Affairs gave a stark outline of the impact this has had on Tripoli. Titled “Tripoli’s Militia Cartel: How Ill-Conceived Stabilisation Blocks Political Progress, and Risks Renewed War”, it is worth quoting at length. The report wrote that, on its arrival in Tripoli, “The Presidency Council rapidly fell under the influence of the militias protecting it and made little effort to reach out to others”. Within a year, a cartel of four militias had established themselves as an effective oligopoly, running most of central Tripoli. “The UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) backed the militias’ expansion with its tacit approval,” the report adds, “as well as with advice to GNA officials who liaised with the armed groups…Under the Presidency Council’s watch, the militia oligopoly in Tripoli has consolidated into a cartel. The militias are no longer merely armed groups that exert their influence primarily through coercive force. They have grown into networks spanning politics, business, and the administration….To pursue [their] fraudulent practices, commanders in Tripoli’s large armed groups began placing agents throughout the administration. Since late 2016, new appointments in ministries and other government bodies have been overwhelmingly made under pressure from the militias. Through their representatives in the administration, the networks associated with the militias are increasingly able to operate in a coordinated manner across different institutions. According to politicians, militia leaders, and bureaucrats in Tripoli, the Presidency Council and the GNA have become a mere façade, behind which the armed groups and their associated interests are calling the shots.” By establishing protection rackets, kidnappings, and extorting local banks to help them operate black market currency rackets, these militias are becoming ever more wealthy. Yet these very wealth opportunities – created by the takeover of the GNA – make the ‘capture’ of Tripoli (and the GNA) an ever more attractive prize for the country’s other militias. Thus, concludes the report, “the militia cartel threatens to thwart the UN’s ongoing attempts at brokering a more viable political settlement and risks provoking a major new conflict over the capital”.

Indeed, it is pertinent that the report, published last April, predicted not only last summer’s violence in Tripoli – when the Seventh Brigade of Tarhouna (also a creation of the GNA), allied to discontented Misratan militias, attacked the capital in an attempt to wrest control from the cartel – but also the very locations from which it would occur:

“The stranglehold over the administration exerted by the militia cartel means that the profits from the pillaging of state funds now benefits a smaller groups of actors than at any point since 2011.Unsurprisingly, this is fuelling serious tensions. A handful of Misratan militias are also present in Tripoli and support the status quo there, but the bulk of that city’s armed groups, and many of its politicians, increasingly resent their marginalisation by the Tripoli cartel. In Zintan, which hosts the second largest forces in western Libya, after Misrata, such resentment is combined with the long-held desire to return to the capital and efface the humiliation suffered in 2014, when Zintani forces were forcibly dislodged from the capital by a Misratan-led coalition. The recent appointments of Zintani figures in senior positions in Tripoli are not sufficient to assuage these ambitions. Yet another force with designs on the capital is based in Tarhuna. Throughout the first months of 2018, actors from these three cities have attempted to build an alliance to enter Tripoli by force. The complexity of the alliances around the capital and engagement by UNSMIL have, to date, prevented such an offensive from happening. But the longer the current situation in Tripoli persists, the more likely it is that such forces will start a new conflict over the capital.”

The GNA is absolutely not a Government of National Accord. It does not govern, it is not national, and it does not promote accord. Rather, it is a Government in Name Alone, a colonial imposition designed purely to legitimise western support for destabilising militias at the expense of the country’s elected parliament and most effective unified force. It is time for Libya’s factions to return to their own negotiations – and to reject, once and for all, the interference of the foreign powers which have destroyed, and continue to destroy, their country.

 

Libya’s relentless decline represents a continuation of the NATO war

New opinion polls, economic statistics and human rights reports from Libya point to one conclusion: western policy to keep Libya weak and divided is a resounding success.

Line graph. The percentage of Libyans who are thriving dropped from 31% in 2012 to 19% in 2018.

A poll released by Gallup this week demonstrates the increasing desperation facing Libyans even before the latest round of fighting began last month. The poll, based on telephone interviews with over a thousand Libyans conducted over July and August last year, reveals that record numbers of Libyans lacked money for food and shelter over the previous year, and a record low are deemed to be ‘thriving’. 43% said they lacked money for food at some point over the previous year – a number which has been consistently rising since the annual poll began in 2015 – whilst 37% said they had lacked money for shelter, almost double the 22% recorded in 2012. Respondents were then asked to give a rating between nought and ten for both their life today, and their expected life in five years, and were classified as ‘thriving’ if they gave an answer of at least seven and eight respectively. Only 19% did so.

 

A majority of 52% said their local economies were getting worse, quadruple the 2012 figure of 13%. Most damningly, perhaps, over a third of Libyans now say they would like to leave their homeland permanently.

 

The Gallup poll, however, is but the latest in a plethora of reports detailing Libya’s unrelenting decline since 2011. The UN’s Human Development Index, published annually, ranks 169 countries according to measures such as life expectancy, access to education, and healthcare. Under Gaddafi’s rule, Libya stood at an impressive 53 on the scale, in the top third of countries worldwide and officially classified as ‘high human development’, with the longest life expectancy and lowest infant mortality rates on the African continent. Since then life expectancy has dropped three years, from 74.5 to 71.6, under pressure of ongoing warfare and the collapse of public services, whilst the country’s overall ranking has dropped 55 places to 108, almost into the bottom third of countries overall.

 

Another indicator of decine comes from the UK Foreign Office’s biannual economic factsheet. The latest, published last month, reveals that Libya has an annual inflation rate of 23.1% – that is, its currency is losing a quarter of its value every year – whilst it ranks 186 out of 189 countries for ‘ease of doing business’, one place ahead of Yemen. Per capita income has fallen every year since 2011, and now stands at $6,692, a little over half its pre-invasion level of $12,250.

 

Amnesty International’s annual report makes even more devastating reading. In 2010, their Libya report did not record any ‘grave’ or ‘serious’ human rights violations, such as torture or extrajudicial killing,  that year. Fast forward to 2018, however, and we read that “torture was widespread in prisons, where thousands were held without charge,” adding that “many detainees had been held since 2011 with no judicial oversight or means to challenge the legality of their detention.” In particular, “migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers were subjected to widespread and systematic serious human rights violations and abuses at the hands of state officials”. The report adds that “Up to 20,000 people were held in detention centres in Libya run by…the Ministry of the Interior of the GNA. They were held in horrific conditions of extreme overcrowding, lacking access to medical care and adequate nutrition, and systematically subjected to torture and other ill-treatment, including sexual violence, severe beatings and extortion.” In addition, “armed groups and criminal gangs ran thousands of illicit holding sites throughout the country as part of a lucrative people-smuggling business”, some of whom, it noted, were selling off their detainees in open slave markets. Meanwhile “armed groups and militias abducted and unlawfully detained hundreds of people because of their opinions, origin, perceived political affiliations or perceived wealth,” including “political activists, lawyers, human rights activists and other civilians”. Whereas the 2010 report noted that “freedom of expression, association and assembly continued to be severely curtailed”, there was no suggestion that journalists’ lives were at risk. By 2018, however, “Journalists, activists and human rights defenders were particularly vulnerable to harassment, attacks and enforced disappearance by armed groups and militias aligned with various authorities of rival governments.” Overall, “an environment of impunity continued to prevail, leaving perpetrators of serious abuses emboldened and without fear of accountability”.

 

This massive deterioration of all aspects of Libyan society since NATO’s 2011 war – whether in terms of social welfare, economic conditions or basic human rights – has necessitated some serious intellectual contortions by its defenders. According to them, Libya’s collapse has nothing to do with NATO’s destruction of its state apparatus, but rather result from either Gaddafi himself (still causing havoc from beyond the grave) or from subsequent ‘mistakes’. Florence Gaub, for example – who, in a clear nod to her colonial intellectual lineage, calls herself ‘Florence of Arabia’ – argues in her book, The Cauldron, that “NATO’s intervention in Libya was soundly conceived and executed”. The reversal of all development indicators since 2011 is, for Gaub and co, attributable to policies before 2011 and after 2011, but never to the fateful events of 2011 themself; indeed, for such analysts, the intervention set the country up for a success which it foolishly squandered.

 

Yet the link between that intervention and Libya’s current problems is hard to deny: after all, it was precisely NATO’s war that destroyed the state’s security and public service infrastructure, and left power fragmented in the hands of the rival militias now slugging it out. Whilst Gaub and others are right that decisions taken since then – such as the ill-fated move in 2012 to pay militia wages without integrating them into a unified command structure, or the law the same year granting effective immunity from prosecution to militiamen – have helped entrench instability and factional rivalries, the reality is that this is not a divergence from, but rather a continuation of, 2011. When it comes to western policy towards the global South, Clausewitz gets inverted: politics truly is war by other means. And the aim of that war – as was clear in 2011 and has since become ever clearer – was nothing less than the permanent prevention of Libya’s re-emergence as a strong, unified, independent state.

My reflections on interviewing Noam Chomsky about Libya

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(Write up of my original interview here

I interviewed Noam Chomsky in October 2011, but it was not published for two months, because none of the newspapers, magazines and journals who usually print my work wanted to run it. This was despite the fact that several of them were initially very enthusiastic – at least, that is, until they saw it. In the end, having been rejected by all the major publications of the Western left, it was published by Al-Ahram Weekly, an Egyptian newspaper.

It was controversial because Chomsky is such a popular figure amongst the British and American left, and my article was critical of Chomsky’s position on Libya. One person even refused to believe that the interview was real, and accused me of having made the whole thing up! Some saw it as sectarian, dividing the anti-war movement by unnecessarily criticising one of its leading voices. But as a supporter of the war against Libya, at least in its initial phase, Chomsky could hardly be considered part of the anti-war movement at that moment. It seems pretty obvious to me that the real sectarians in the anti-imperialist and anti-war movements are those who support wars against anti-imperialist states, not those who criticize former anti-war activists for switching sides. Ironically, although many people expressed the sentiment that I was wrong to criticize Chomsky, he himself told me afterwards that he actually prefers ‘confrontational’ interviews like the one with me (although he said he was not used to having them from this side).

One criticism I took more seriously was that as a British citizen, my focus should be on exposing the devious role of British power in the world – not pointing fingers across the Atlantic as if British imperialism no longer exists, as so many in the British left are wont to do. I agree with that. But nevertheless, I do believe that, as a hero to so many in the British left, Chomsky’s positions helped also to facilitate elements of British public opinion behind a British war. Challenging his argument, I felt, was therefore an essential part of the process of challenging British imperialism as well.

Chomsky’s position on the war was that the initial ‘intervention’ was justified, but that it then morphed into something different ( which he termed a ‘second intervention’), which he did not support. This position still makes no sense to me. To offer an analogy: imagine a notorious, mass murdering robber coming to your house, armed to the teeth, asking if he can come in to read the gas meter. Chomsky’s argument seems to be that you should let him in, but if he deviates from his invented task and – as is rather more likely – instead starts to rob and murder, we should at that point build a mass movement to pressure him to stop it. My argument – and that of others who opposed NATO’s intervention – was that the door should be kept firmly shut to these proven criminals.

In fact, it was worse than this, because the initial intervention was not designed to check the gas meter but to destroy Libya’s air defence system (to create a ‘no-fly zone’). All those who supported this, therefore, helped to pave the way for what Chomsky calls the ‘second intervention’ that they opposed, by supporting the destruction of all possible defences against this ‘second intervention’. Further, by calling for the first intervention, they were also helping to build ideological support for the second.

As I put it in subsequent written correspondence with Chomsky:

You have to admit that it is quite a complex position to argue simultaneously: 

a) that the rebels are a progressive movement that should be supported, 
b) that Gaddafi is a monster who should be overthrown, 
c) that although the rebels are calling on NATO to overthrow that monster,  we should focus on organising a huge movement to prevent NATO doing exactly that and
d) arguing all this at the exact moment we have just supported the resolution that was openly designed to facilitate what we are now opposing.”

This was not the first time that Chomsky had supported Western aggression against the third world. In the run up to the Iraq war in 1991, he was asked in an interview what he thought should be done against Iraq, given that he did not support bombing. His reply was: economic sanctions. In the event, both bombing and economic sanctions were imposed, with the latter being far more deadly, killing an estimated 1.5million people, including 500,000 children, and causing the resignation of 3 high ranking UN officials involved, who argued that the sanctions constituted a form of genocide. Once they were underway, Chomsky campaigned against these sanctions. But it is instructive to note that, just as with the case of Libya, at the crucial moment when public opinion was being prepared, he was calling for the very thing he later came to oppose.

This illustrates something interesting about Chomsky and other ‘radical liberals’ promoted in the mainstream media (albeit at the margins), that I had not fully comprehended before: they are tolerated precisely because their criticism is only vocal at moments when it is likely to be ineffective. The crucial moment in the war against Libya was during the run-up. This was the moment when everything was in the balance and criticism might have had some effect. Once it was underway, it would be much more difficult to stop it. Once it was underway, therefore, criticism was tolerated, because it was too late. This helps explain why people like Chomsky are able to hold impressive positions at prestigious American universities, and their views are even promoted, to an extent, through occasional interviews on mainstream TV channels. It is important for imperialism to allow, and even encourage, a certain level of criticism and dissent, because this allows it to pose as a respecter of pluralism and civil liberties. By tolerating those who criticize imperialist policies, but only at moments when that criticism is impotent, imperialism gets the best of both worlds.

Something else I later came to realize, reflecting on this interview, was that radical liberals like Chomsky are fundamentally not anti-imperialists. They object to some of the methods and policies of imperialism, but do not actually dispute the right of imperialist states to wage wars against third world peoples. They seem to believe that, in an imperfect world, only the imperialist states have the muscle to intervene, and that humanitarian interventions are sometimes necessary. Therefore we should call on those states to intervene, but hold them to account when they do so. This relates to another fundamental problem with Chomsky’s brand of ‘radical’ liberalism: the tendency to think the main problem facing the world is all these nasty third world dictators. The West itself is only seen as a problem inasmuch as it supports these nasty people. We are bad only because we support them. They are the real ‘bad guys’, and we (the West) are bad only because we sometimes tarnish our purity by association with them (or sometimes because we act like them). In reality, of course, this has the problem on its head – the ‘third world dictators’ that really cause problems do so precisely when they act as conduits for Western control and plunder: the real and fundamental problem facing the world. In other words, for Chomsky, imperialism itself is not the

main problem facing the world’s peoples, but a secondary problem. During the Cold War, when support for anti-communist strongmen was the West’s preferred method of maintaining global control (Suharto, Pinochet, Mobutu et al), this difference might almost have seemed academic. Radical liberals and anti-imperialists were largely on the same side, united in opposition to this unholy alliance. However, in the current climate – when it is not the propping up of strongmen, but the destruction of all independent third world states, which is the imperial order of the day – the difference is critical. For Chomsky, Western aggression against ‘dictators’ (a catch-all term covering any leader with significant authority in a strong, sovereign state) is to be supported – within certain legal limits of course, and always ‘held to account’.

This also explains Chomsky’s bizarre method of ‘opposing’ the war, when he eventually decided to do so. Rather than highlight those things about Gaddafi that the West objected to, such as his support for African unity and development, opposition to Western military involvement in Africa, ‘resource nationalism’ etc – and thus exposing the real reasons for the war – he tried to paint a picture of Gaddafi as being somehow ‘in bed with the West’. Presumably, in his mind, this would expose the warmongers, because it would show that they were as bad as Gaddafi. In reality, this approach merely served to confuse, demoralize, and ultimately weaken the anti-war movement, by obscuring the fundamental tension between the imperialist and anti-imperialist agendas that was the real driving force behind the conflict.

At the end of the day, of course, Chomsky is who he is: a radical liberal who believes imperialism can and should be reformed and ‘held to account’ rather than ended. We should not expect him to be anything else. Genuine anti-imperialists need to develop their own analysis of events, and ultimately their own political movement and leadership, and not rely on the ‘respectable’ opposition offered to us by the ruling class. This is the fundamental lesson I learnt from interviewing Noam Chomsky.

After Gaddafi: the West’s reconquest of Africa

 

Exactly six years ago, on October 20th 2011, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi was murdered, joining a long list of African revolutionaries martyred by the West for daring to dream of continental independence. Earlier that day, Gaddafi’s hometown of Sirte had been occupied by Western-backed militias, following a month-long battle during which NATO and their ‘rebel’ allies pounded the city’s hospitals and residents with artillery, cut off its water and electricity, and publicly proclaimed their desire to ‘starve [the city] into submission’. The last defenders of the city, including Gaddafi, fled Sirte that morning, but their convoy was tracked and strafed by NATO jets, killing 95 people. Gaddafi escaped the wreckage but was captured shortly afterwards. I will spare you the gruesome details, which the Western media gloatingly broadcast across the world as a triumphant snuff movie, suffice to say that he was tortured and eventually shot dead. We now know, if testimony from NATO’s key Libyan ally Mahmoud Jibril is to be believed, that it was a foreign agent, likely French, who delivered the fatal bullet. His death was the culmination of not only seven months of NATO aggression, but of a campaign against Gaddafi and his movement that the West had been waging for over three decades.

Yet it was also the opening salvo in a new war – a war for the military recolonisation of Africa.

The year 2009, two years before Gaddafi’s murder, was a pivotal one for US-African relations. First, because China surpassed the US as the continent’s largest trading partner; and second, because Gaddafi was elected President of the African Union. The significance of both for the decline of US influence on the continent could not be clearer. Whilst Gaddafi was spearheading attempts to unite Africa politically, committing serious amounts of Libyan oil wealth to make this dream a reality, China was quietly smashing the West’s monopoly over export markets and investment finance. Africa no longer had to go cap-in-hand to the IMF for loans, agreeing to whatever self-defeating terms were on offer, but could turn to China – or indeed Libya – for investment. And if the US threatened to cut them off from their markets, China would happily buy up whatever was on offer. Western economic domination of Africa was under threat as never before.

The response from the West, of course, was a military one. Economic dependence on the West – rapidly being shattered by Libya and China –  would be replaced by a new military dependence. If African countries would no longer come begging for Western loans, export markets and investment finance, they would have to be put in a position where they would come begging for Western military aid.

To this end, AFRICOM – the US army’s new ‘African command’ – had been launched the previous year, but humiliatingly for George W Bush, not a single African country would agree to host its HQ; instead, it was forced to open shop in Stuttgart, Germany. Gaddafi had led African opposition to AFRICOM, as exasperated US diplomatic memos later revealed by wikileaks made clear. And US pleas to African leaders to embrace AFRICOM in the ‘fight against terrorism’ fell on deaf ears. After all, as Muattisim Gaddafi, head of Libyan security, had explained to Hillary Clinton in 2009, North Africa already had an effective security system in place, through the African Union’s ‘standby forces’, on the one hand, and CEN-SAD on the other. CEN-SAD was a regional security organisation of Sahel and Saharan states, with a well-functioning security system, with Libya as the lynchpin. The sophisticated Libyan-led counter-terror structure meant there was simply no need for a US military presence. The job of Western planners, then, was to create such a need.

NATO’s destruction of Libya simultaneously achieved three strategic goals for the West’s plans for military expansion in Africa. Most obviously, it removed the biggest obstacle and opponent of such expansion, Gaddafi himself. With Gaddafi gone, and with a quiescent pro-NATO puppet government in charge of Libya, there was no longer any chance that Libya would any longer act as a powerful force against Western militarism: quite the contrary – Libya’s new government was utterly dependent on such militarism, and knew it. Secondly, NATO’s aggression served to bring about a total collapse of the delicate but effective North African security system, which had been underpinned by Libya. And finally, NATO’s annihilation of the Libyan state effectively turned the country over to the region’s death squads and terror groups. These groups were then able to loot Libya’s military arsenals and set up training camps at their leisure, using these to expand operations right across the region. It is no coincidence that almost all of the recent terror attacks in North Africa – not to mention Manchester – have been either prepared in Libya or perpetrated by fighters trained in Libya. Boko Haram, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, ISIS, Mali’s Ansar Dine, and literally dozens of others, have all greatly benefitted from the destruction of Libya. By ensuring the spread of terror groups across the region, the Western powers had magically created a demand for their military assistance which hitherto did not exist. They had literally created a protection racket for Africa. In an excellent piece of research published last year, Nick Turse notes how the increase in AFRICOM operations across the continent has correlated precisely with the rise in terror threats: it’s growth, he notes, has been accompanied by “increasing numbers of lethal terror attacks across the continent including those in Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon,Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Niger,Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Tunisia. In fact, data from the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism at the University of Marylandshows that attacks have spiked over the last decade, roughly coinciding with AFRICOM’s establishment. In 2007, just before it became an independent command, there were fewer than 400 such incidents annually in sub-Saharan Africa. Last year, the number reached nearly 2,000.” By AFRICOM’s own official standards, of course, this is a demonstration of massive failure. Viewed from the perspective of the protection racket, however, it is a resounding success, with US military power smoothly reproducing the conditions for its own expansion.

This is the Africa policy Trump has now inherited. But because this policy has rarely been understood as the protection racket it really is, many commentators have, as with so many of Trump’s policies, mistakenly believed he is somehow ‘ignoring’ or ‘reversing’ the approach of his predecessors. In fact, far from abandoning this approach, Trump is escalating it with relish.

What the Trump administration is doing, as it is doing in pretty much every policy area, is stripping the previous policy of its ‘soft power’ niceties to reveal and extend the iron fist which has in fact been in the driving seat all along. Trump, with his open disdain for Africa, has effectively ended US development aid for Africa – slashing overall African aid levels by one third, and transferring responsibility for much of the rest from the Agency for International Development to the Pentagon – whilst openly tying aid to the advancement of “US national security objectives”. In other words, the US has made a strategic decision to drop the carrot in favour of the stick. Given the overwhelming superiority of Chinese development assistance, this is unsurprising. The US has decided to stop trying to compete in this area, and instead to ruthlessly and unambiguously pursue the military approach which the Bush and Obama administrations had already mapped out.

To this end, Trump has stepped up drone attacks, removing the (limited) restrictions that had been in place during the Obama era. The result has been a ramping up of civilian casualties, and consequently of the resentment and hatred which fuels militant recruitment. It is unlikely to be a coincidence, for example, that the Al Shabaab truck bombing that killed over 300 people in Mogadishu last weekend was carried out by men from a town in which had suffered a major drone attack on civilians, including women and children, in August. Indeed, a detailed study by the United Nations recently concluded that in “a majority of cases, state action appears to be the primary factor finally pushing individuals into violent extremism in Africa”. Of more than 500 former members of militant organisations interviewed for the report, 71% pointed to “government action”, including “killing of a family member or friend” or “arrest of a family member or friend” as the incident that prompted them to join a group. And so the cycle continues: drone attacks breed recruitment, which breeds further terror attacks, which leaves the states involved more dependent on US military support. Thus does the West create the demand for its own ‘products’.

It does so in another way as well. Alexander Cockburn, in his book ‘Kill Chain’, explains how the policy of ‘targeted killings’ – another Obama policy ramped up under Trump – also increases the militancy of insurgent groups. Cockburn, reporting on a discussion with US soldiers about the efficacy of targeted killings, wrote that: “When the topic of conversation came round to ways of defeating the [roadside] bombs, everyone was in agreement. ‘They would have charts up on the wall showing the insurgent cells they were facing, often with the names and pictures of the guys running them,’ Rivolo remembers. ‘When we asked about going after the high-value individuals and what effect it was having, they’d say, ‘Oh yeah, we killed that guy last month, and we’re getting more IEDs than ever.’ They all said the same thing, point blank: ‘[O]nce you knock them off, a day later you have a new guy who’s smarter, younger, more aggressive and is out for revenge.”’

Alex de Waal has noted how this is certainly true in Somalia, where, he notes,“each dead leader is followed by a more radical deputy. After a failed attempt in January 2007, the United States killed al Shabaab’s commander, Aden Hashi Farah Ayro, in a May 2008 air strike. Ayro’s successor, Ahmed Abdi Godane (alias Mukhtar Abu Zubair), was worse, affiliating the organization with al Qaeda. The United States succeeded in assassinating Godane in September 2014. In turn, Godane was succeeded by an even more determined extremist, Ahmad Omar (Abu Ubaidah).” It was presumably Omar who ordered the recent attack in Mogadishu, the worst in the country’s recent history. “If targeted killing remains a central strategy of the War on Terror”, De Waal wrote, “it is set to be an endless war.”

But endless war is the whole point. For not only does it force African countries, finally freeing themselves from dependence on the IMF, into dependence on AFRICOM; it also undermines China’s blossoming relationship with Africa.

Chinese trade and investment in Africa continues to grow apace. According to the China-Africa Research Initiative at John Hopkins University, Chinese FDI stocks in Africa have risen from just 2% of the value of US stocks in 2003 to 55% in 2015, when they totalled US$35 billion. This proportion is likely to rapidly increase, given that “Between 2009 and 2012, China’s direct investment in Africa grew at an annual rate of 20.5%, while levels of US FDI flows to Africa declined by US$8 billion in the wake of the global financial crisis”. Chinese-African trade, meanwhile, topped $100billion in 2015.

China’s signature ‘One Belt One Road’ policy – to which President Xi Jinping has pledged $124billion  to create global trade routes designed to facilitate $2trillion worth of annual trade – will also help to improve African links with China. Trump’s policy towards the project was summarised by Steve Bannon, his ideological mentor and former chief strategist, in just eight words: “Let’s go screw up One Belt One Road”. The West’s deeply destabilising Africa policy – of simultaneously creating the conditions for armed groups to thrive whilst offering protection against them – goes some way towards realising this ambitious goal. Removing Gaddafi was just the first step.

This article was originally published on RT.com

A public meeting “Remembering Gaddafi, supporting the Libyan resistance” will be held in London in Housman’s bookshop, King’s Cross, on Saturday October 21st at 6.30pm. All welcome.

 

Just like the war on drugs, the war on people smuggling is designed to fail

 

This piece was first published in May 2016

refugee boat

Operation Sophia has contributed to a 42% increase in fatal drownings by encouraging people smugglers to shift to flimsy rubber dinghies. 

The British-led “war on people smuggling”, escalated last week by David Cameron, appears to be modelled on the failed “war on drugs” – and a new House of Lords report shows it is already producing the same disastrous results.

On 19th April 2015, the sinking of a single refugee boat off the coast of Lampedusa led to the drowning of over 700 people. By the end of the month, an estimated 1300 had drowned in the same way, making it the deadliest month on record in the Mediterranean refugee crisis. The tragedy was the direct result of a successful British-led campaign to end the Italian search-and-rescue operation Mare Nostrum, which had prevented such mass drownings before its closure in October 2014. Those events led to a public outcry and pressure to restart search-and-rescue operations; but resisting such pressure, on 23rd April 2015 the European Council instead adopted a British-drafted resolution vowing to “undertake systematic efforts to identify, capture and destroy [refugee] vessels”. The EU was giving notice that its response to the refugee crisis would no longer be based on humanitarian commitments, but on military force. It was, not coincidentally, a proposal originally made by the British fascist Nick Griffin five years earlier.

I wrote at the time that such a policy suffered all the basic economic flaws of the disastrous three-decades long ‘war on drugs’, and would lead to the same devastating results. Focusing on bombing supply without addressing demand, as any economics student could tell you, will push up prices, whilst concentrating the trade in the hands of the most ruthless and militarized providers. As a consequence, it would make the trade deadlier and more profitable but would not reduce it, as demand would remain unaffected. This has been precisely the outcome of the war on drugs, as the murder toll in Mexico’s Jalisco province – 100,000 in the eight years – grimly demonstrates. And, as a House of Lords report earlier this month shows, the same results are starting to emerge from the EU’s war on migration.

The EU’s ‘Operation Sophia’ entered into its second phase – the capture and destruction of refugee boats – last October. Since then, according to European border agency Frontex, it has destroyed 114 vessels and arrested 69 ‘suspected smugglers’. This is supposed to act as a deterrent to ‘people smugglers’, thereby limiting the opportunities for would-be refugees to flee to Europe. It has not worked. As noted by the House of Lords EU Committee’s report, “The mission does not… in any meaningful way deter the flow of migrants, disrupt the smugglers’ networks, or impede the business of people smuggling on the central Mediterranean routeThere is therefore little prospect of Operation Sophia overturning the business model of people smuggling”. Indeed, numbers crossing the Mediterranean this March – almost 10,000 – were three times higher than March 2015.

That the EU’s military campaign would not deter refugee flows was entirely obvious to the witnesses interviewed by the House of Lords Committee, given that the policy does nothing to address the demand for ‘people smuggling’ services. The opening sentence of the report was a quote from Peter Roberts of the Royal United Services Institute that “migrants in boats are symptoms, not causes, of the problem.” Another witness, Steve Symonds of Amnesty International’s Refugee and Migrant Rights Programme, agreed: “If you do not have an answer to the situation of those people, we are sceptical about the mere targeting of the smugglers”, adding that the conflicts from which refugees were fleeing were “becoming more protracted and intractable and they are spreading”. Summing up, the Committee wrote: We conclude that a military response can never, in itself, solve the problem of irregular migration. As long as there is need for asylum from refugees and demand from economic migrants, the business of people smuggling will continue to exist and the networks will adapt to changing circumstances.

 

Whilst unable to reduce the numbers crossing the sea, however, Operation Sophia has had an effect on those crossings: it has made them more dangerous. As the Lords report noted, the destruction of vessels has simply caused the smugglers to shift from using wooden boats to rubber dinghies, which are even more unsafe. In addition, Cameron’s plans to return fleeing refugees to war-torn Libya is likely to escalate the death toll even further. On this proposal, made earlier this year, migration expert Professor Brad Blitz commented: “It’s just outrageous. Libya is a country that is divided, which cannot guarantee human rights, which has produced hundreds of thousands of displaced peopleIf the concern is to prevent deaths, as [Cameron] has said, then really he should be promoting safe passage, rather than diverting people so that they have to seek longer and more dangerous routes.”

The Committee also heard evidence that the EU’s militarized approach is changing the business model of refugee transport in other ways. According to Edward Hobart, Migration Envoy for the British Foreign Office, although there was “plenty of activity that [was] in the grey market or illegal or irresponsible”, at the moment there were no “large-scale organised crime groups.” This, however, was likely to change. Said the report: “Mr Hobart did see a likelihood of an ‘increase in criminal activity.’ He explained that a symptom of better control … at the border, will be an increased opportunity for organised crime.’ As EU borders become more challenging to navigate, migrants will be more likely to turn to smugglers to facilitate their illegal crossings”. Criminal gangs, that is, are likely to be boosted, not deterred, by Operation Sophia. And in an ominous hint of what is to come, Lieutenant General Wosolsobe referred to one incident in which armed men had prevented the destruction of a boat. As the non-violent providers are put out of business, this is likely to become increasingly common. Just as the war on drugs has concentrated the trade in the hands of the most violent paramilitary groups, so too the war on refugees will put nonviolent groups out of business whilst ensuring that only the best armed will thrive.

And these groups will find themselves amassing ever greater profits: noted the report, “Mr Symonds was sceptical of the EU’s efforts to barricade its external border. Analysis had shown that stronger policing of the EU’s external borders had effected only ‘the movement of ever larger numbers of people around different routes by different journeys, usually at greater danger and cost to them, so of greater profit to smugglers.’”

In Latin America, this combination of concentrating the trade in the hands of violent gangs and increasing their profits has given drug smuggling groups the financial and military muscle to buy police protection for their activities. In Mexico, for example, where the drug war has been massively stepped up since 2007, “Drug Trafficking Organisations have operated….with near total impunity in the face of compromised security forces” whilst “official corruption is widespread”. The quotes are from official US Embassy cables from 2010.

 

Again, the EU’s military approach is likely to have the same effects on the refugee transport business in Libya, entrenching corruption and providing the most violent paramilitary groups with the financial means to buy themselves police protection. The report noted that “smugglers are part of the fabric of Libyan political and economic life. Mr Patrick Kingsley, Migration Correspondent, Guardian Media Group, explained that smugglers are often ‘connected to militias’, ‘have important roles to play in their local communities’, and ‘provide quite a lot of money to the local community’. The ‘people at the top are going to be protected to some extent, even by people who are major players in Libyan politics.

In sum, then, the House of Lords is clear on the results of ‘Operation Sophia’: it has failed to deter migration, increased the risk of death for refugees, and is militarizing the trade whilst boosting its profits. The likely result will be a growth in the political and economic power of the most violent paramilitaries currently involved in the trade.

So why did David Cameron last week announce an escalation in this disastrous militarization strategy? Speaking at the G7 conference in Japan, he promised to send another warship to join Operation Sophia, this time hoping to extend its mission into Libyan territorial waters.

Does he not have access to the House of Lords’ report? Is he completely ignorant of the devastating consequences of the war on drugs? Does he lack even a schoolboy level understanding of the basic economic laws of supply and demand? The English ruling class, from India to Iraq, have always presented themselves as essentially well-meaning buffoons when it comes to foreign policy; “absent-minded imperialists” who, with the best will in the world, end up bumbling into the destruction of entire regions due to their misguided commitment to the civilizing mission or to ‘faulty intelligence’. Personally, I don’t buy it.

More likely is that Cameron is pursuing this seemingly counter-productive strategy for two reasons: to justify the re-occupation of Libya, and to facilitate the boosting of his chosen death squads of the so-called ‘Libya Dawn’. Indeed, the Times noted last Thursday that British special forces are already fighting alongside Libya Dawn, the paramilitary force at war with the elected government based in Tobruk. MI6 and the CIA learnt in the 1980s that facilitating the mujahadeen’s takeover of the region’s heroin trade was a great way to allow their allies to fund themselves outside of Congressional approval. It looks like Cameron is planning to repeat the trick for the Libyan death squads’ people smuggling business.

This piece was originally published by RT

Theresa May’s personal role in facilitating terror attacks

As Home Secretary, Theresa May ensured that counter-terror police were overruled to allow the Manchester bomber and his father – a known member of Al Qaeda’s Libyan affiliate, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group – to train and fight in Libya. The same policy allowed literally hundreds of ‘subjects of interest’ to shuttle back and forth between Britain and the training camps and battlefields of Libya and Syria as part of Britain’s campaign to destroy those states. As far as she and her government are concerned, the murdered victims of the Manchester and London Bridge attacks are merely collateral damage. Apparently this story is of no interest whatsoever to any serious media outlet.