Is our intervention in Libya already back-firing in our faces?


8:50 am - November 7th 2011

by Ben Mitchell    


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I was never a supporter of the West’s military intervention in Libya. All I could think of were ulterior motives: oil, defence contracts, geo-political influence in such a vital and unstable part of the world.

Also, why help Libya but not other countries rising up against tyranny?

The Economist wrote that not intervening everywhere was no reason not to intervene somewhere. I accepted this as a plausible argument, but still found myself against intervention.

Whilst we were defending and arming Libyan rebels in their fight for freedom, there was the danger that the same people, years down the line, could end up ruling just as brutally and fiercely as Gaddafi. We’ve been here many times before haven’t we?

A Human Rights Watch report out this week backs up some of these reservations. It builds on similar reports that have gone before it, detailing instances of dreadful human rights abuses committed by the rebels against supposed Gaddafi loyalists:

Militias from the city of Misrata are terrorizing the displaced residents of the nearby town of Tawergha, accusing them of having committed atrocities with Gaddafi forces in Misrata. The entire town of 30,000 people is abandoned – some of it ransacked and burned – and Misrata brigade commanders say the residents of Tawergha should never return.”

Human Rights Watch interviewed dozens of Tawerghans across the country, including 26 people in detention in and around Misrata and 35 displaced people staying in Tripoli, Heisha, and Hun. They gave credible accounts of some Misrata militias shooting unarmed Tawerghans, and of arbitrary arrests and beatings of Tawerghan detainees, in a few cases leading to death.

As Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch, rightfully pointed out:

Revenge against the people from Tawergha, whatever the accusations against them, undermines the goal of the Libyan revolution.

This report came off the back of one released a few weeks ago by Amnesty International telling of torture meted out against anyone suspected of being tied to the Gaddafi regime.

They found that:

Captured Gaddafi soldiers, suspected loyalists and alleged mercenaries [were] being tortured into ‘confessing’ to pro-Gaddafi crimes.
….
sub-Saharan Africans suspected of being mercenaries make up between a third and a half of those detained.

Many were released, with little evidence found to back up these accusations.

Back in September, the BBC drew attention to reprisals being waged against black African migrants living in Libya’s capital, Tripoli. Many had been accused by the rebels of working for Colonel Gaddafi as ‘mercenaries,’ rather than doing the casual manual labour that they claim they had been doing.

Hundreds of migrant workers were rounded up and imprisoned, with claims that their homes had been looted, and women and girls subjected to beatings and rape.

The lessons of all these reports is surely that we know very little about the people we’ve supported.

What’s going to come next? Whatever it is, surely we’ve already given it our tacit approval?

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About the author
Ben Mitchell is an occasional contributor. He is a freelance political analyst providing commentary on current affairs. Blogs more frequently at Left Foot Forward and Ben Mitchell Writes.
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Story Filed Under: Africa ,Blog ,Foreign affairs

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Reader comments


human rights is the new weapons of mass destruction, the lie to start a war, pretext to raping a sovereign nation.

We didn’t start the Arab Spring or the revolt in Benghazi. The people did that themselves.
I supported the night of NATO bombing that stopped the government forces retaking that city in march. After that I’m not so sure. But whatever my misgivings, it seems that a large proportion of Libyans wanted NATO to continue it’s bombing.

It’s kind of tough for people who were seen to be on the Gaddafi side. There’s not much we can do about it. It’s out of our hands and we can only look on from the sidelines.
I did think it was somewhat disingenuous for NATO and the west to insist though that they were only concerned with saving lives, while they were bombing the hell out of Sirte, and even bombed Gaddafi’s convoy of cars trying to flee the city. Sirte had been a peaceful island of calm untill our bombing led to it’s bloody fall, and it may be one of those places that never get rebuilt in the same way. The wealthy people there will probably all try to get overseas. Many to the UK no doubt.

The revolution was over the moment the army sided with Gaddaffi, from then on it was a civil war. So this result is not surprising.

4. Rob the crip

Yes yes but will we get the Oil…….

Do we even get the oil though?

As for the fact that the rebels have rather different standards of behaviour to the NYT and Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, well, Human Rights Watch must be shocked, shocked to their very core–and so am I. No, really…

6. flyingrodent

Well, Human Rights Watch must be shocked, shocked to their very core

HRW’s leading lights were among the strongest advocates for military intervention to “protect civilians” – one of their senior directors personally lobbied Barack Obama for it, if I recall correctly.

You’d think that an organisation like HRQ, with that level of experience with civil wars, wouldn’t be shocked by the horrible things that always happen in civil wars. Maybe they figured that, because they’d backed this one, it might turn out different from all the other civil wars.

Is what has emerged post-Gaddafi a perfect society, with no human rights abuses at all? Of course not.

Will we end up with something a good deal better than Gaddafi? Probably.

“I was never a supporter of the West’s military intervention in Libya. All I could think of were ulterior motives: oil, defence contracts, geo-political influence in such a vital and unstable part of the world.”

Even if there were ulterior motives, the end result is still largely beneficial. Yes, the rebels aren’t perfect but it’s an improvement.

In what sense? What constitutes an improvement and how do the rebels meet this criteria? Inquiring minds want to know.

It’s amazing how the morons still peddle the lies about protecting civilians

I suppose if you say it often enough it must be true.

We can all sit back contented at a job well done, safe in the knowledge that we don’t have to live with the consequences.

12. Man of truth telling

The nerve of you people!!
When this started there were a few sane, non-appeasing people on here who stated that it was insane for us to get involved, pointless to get involved, that we were giving support to rabid Islamist maniacs who had spent years killing our troops and so called islamist rebels were just as bad as Gaddafi abs a worse threat to us!!

And a avalanche of abuse was hurled at such remarks! Insults about being fascist, racist, BNP mutters, Islamophobes…etc etc!

And now you have the nerve to wonder if we should have got involved in this latest entry into the bogus Arab Spring (Islamist takeover more like) and act shocked at how mad and bad your so called rebels are!

Guess you should have listened to those naughty Islamophobes!

When a ‘revolution’ is praised by and supported by the likes of Cameron and Sarkozy, not to mention the Qatari government, then questions should be raised. The forces now in power in Libya seem to be mainly ex-Gaddafi regime heavies and undisciplined militias, often comprised of violent Islamist elements.

What struck me about the anti-Gaddafi movements, especially the militias, was their lack of any political programme, apart from a TNC statement for foreign consumption that incorporated all the obligatory ‘equality and diversity’ clichés (and which have been studiously ignored when it comes to black Libyans) and various Islamist slogans. Usually, opposition movements, be they armed militias or political currents, issue a manifesto or credo, outlining their demands, often at great length. Very little of that here.

I am no fan of the deposed Gaddafi regime, it was repressive and at times grotesque, but, like the Ba’athist one in Iraq, it did try to introduce some modernising, secular reforms. I can see the post-Gaddafi Libya being like the post-Saddam Iraq: containing all the vices of the deposed system but very few of its benefits.

14. Man of truth

And for people appeasing Islam saying you can’t judge what happens when it gains any kind of power…Well yet again the ‘Islamophobes’ (LOL!) were right on the money as usual!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oc5OMPg1BZw

“Rebels to Radicals: Islam extremism sweeps ‘liberated’ Libya ”

Hang your heads in shame! Or of course cheer as your religion of Western hate choice wins another round!

15. Man of truth

AH! The Lefty apologists hide!

16. Man of truth telling oh yes

AHHH!! The Lefty apologists are silent and hide.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Is our intervention in Libya already back-firing in our faces? http://t.co/FeAVlD8w

  2. Paul Bernal

    “@libcon: Is our intervention in Libya already back-firing in our faces? http://t.co/emS8wauS” An enemy of an enemy isn't always a friend…

  3. Jeffrey Newman

    Is our intervention in Libya already back-firing in our faces? http://t.co/FeAVlD8w

  4. Jose Aguiar

    Is our intervention in Libya already back-firing in our faces? http://t.co/FeAVlD8w

  5. Jonathan Davis

    Is our intervention in Libya already back-firing in our faces? http://t.co/FeAVlD8w

  6. Janet Graham

    Is our intervention in Libya already back-firing in our faces? http://t.co/FeAVlD8w

  7. Alex Braithwaite

    Is our intervention in Libya already back-firing in our faces? | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/JooGQ65C via @libcon

  8. Kieran Thorpe

    Largely unreported by the Western media, widespread atrocities are being committed by ex-rebels in post-Gaddafi Libya http://t.co/cDr18ZOV

  9. Ed A.

    Largely unreported by the Western media, widespread atrocities are being committed by ex-rebels in post-Gaddafi Libya http://t.co/cDr18ZOV

  10. Daniel Jenkins

    Largely unreported by the Western media, widespread atrocities are being committed by ex-rebels in post-Gaddafi Libya http://t.co/cDr18ZOV

  11. Brian Pelan

    Largely unreported by the Western media, widespread atrocities are being committed by ex-rebels in post-Gaddafi Libya http://t.co/cDr18ZOV

  12. Oxford Kevin

    Largely unreported by the Western media, widespread atrocities are being committed by ex-rebels in post-Gaddafi Libya http://t.co/cDr18ZOV

  13. Nathan Jones

    Largely unreported by the Western media, widespread atrocities are being committed by ex-rebels in post-Gaddafi Libya http://t.co/cDr18ZOV

  14. Andrew Murray

    Largely unreported by the Western media, widespread atrocities are being committed by ex-rebels in post-Gaddafi Libya http://t.co/cDr18ZOV

  15. D.Kay || Lady Fash

    Largely unreported by the Western media, widespread atrocities are being committed by ex-rebels in post-Gaddafi Libya http://t.co/cDr18ZOV

  16. Ayo Obe

    Largely unreported by the Western media, widespread atrocities are being committed by ex-rebels in post-Gaddafi Libya http://t.co/cDr18ZOV

  17. Steve Preston

    Largely unreported by the Western media, widespread atrocities are being committed by ex-rebels in post-Gaddafi Libya http://t.co/cDr18ZOV





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