It’s one year after the war in Libya and no one dares to make an assessment of its aftermath. The colonial powers declared they were supporting a democratic revolution against a tyrant. In fact, they have once more divided the country and restored the Senussi Dynasty to power in the eastern region of Cyrenaica. The Jamahiriya of Gadhafi’s time, a strange hybrid of Proudhonian anarchy and autocracy, has given way to a liberal chaos where torture and murder have become the norm while the multinationals are on a permanent binge.
One of the effects of weapons of mass distraction is to erase recent events and facts from memory, making them nearly untraceable. Thus, the day March 19, which marked the start of the land and sea bombardment campaign against Libya supposedly “to protect civilians,” passed without notice.
Over seven months, U.S. and NATO air forces carried out 30,000 missions of which 10,000 were offensive air strikes, using more than 40,000 bombs and missiles. Additionally, Special Forces were infiltrated into Libya, among them thousands of easily concealed Qatari commandos. They also financed and armed tribal groups hostile to the Tripoli government and supported Islamic groups what only months earlier were watchlisted as terrorists. The operation in its entirety was directed by Washington, according to the U.S. Ambassador to NATO, first under the rubric of Africom and then of NATO, but always under direct U.S. command.
The Libyan state was thus demolished and Gadhafi himself assassinated, while the whole undertaking was being exalted as an “inspiring revolution,” as Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta described it, that the United States are proud to have played a role in "by creating a unique alliance against tyranny and for freedom." The results are now clear to see.
The central state is fragmenting. Cyrenaica, where two-thirds of Libyan oil is located, declared itself a semi-autonomous region with, at its head, Ahmed al-Zubair al Senussi. The choice has symbolic significance. He is the great grandson of King Idris, placed on the throne by Great Britain and the United States. In return, through the 1950’s and 60’s, he granted them military bases and oilfields, concessions that ended when the king was deposed in 1969 and ones which his great grandson will not hesitate to restore.
Fezzan, a region that also has significant oilfields, also wants to be independent. All that remains to Tripolitania are the oilfields bordering the coasts of the capital, Tripoli. The big petroleum companies, to whom Gadhafi’s Libya conceded only narrow profit margins, are now obtaining optimal conditions for themselves by playing regional and local chiefs off against each other.
Abdel Jalil, the leader of the Transitional National Council speaks of “conspiracy” and threatens to “use force” but he is no champion of Libyan independence, convinced as he is that the period of Italian colonialism was “an era of development.” In the meantime, the U.N. Security Council is extending its “support mission in Libya” and congratulating itself on “positive developments” that “are improving the possibilities for a democratic, peaceful and prosperous future”.
The Council could not, however, avoid expressing its “preoccupation” with the “ongoing illegal detention, torture and extrajudicial killings.” These are the work of the armed militias that are part and parcel of the “divide and conquer” strategy of the new empire. The armed militias are being employed in further wars in other countries, witness the fact that in Tripoli there is currently a training camp for “Syrian rebels.”
In Libya the first victims were the immigrants from Sub-Saharan Africa who were persecuted and compelled to flee. In Niger along, some 200,000-250,000 have returned home, deprived of a source of income that sustained millions of people. Many of them, driven to despair, have lost their lives trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe. The shipwrecked, like the five just buried in Lampedusa, are also the victims of the war that started one year ago, a war that since has gone down the memory hole.
Translated from French by Michele Stoddard.