by Yusuf Dhia-Allah (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 41, No. 6, Ramadan, 1433)
In Israeli-NATO “liberated” Libya, endless violence has forced many people to hark back to the days of Qaddafi rule.
The mayhem unleashed by Western-backed militias in Libya has reached such a crisis that many people now wish for the days of Colonel Muammar Qaddafi’s rule. Large swathes of the country resemble war zones with rival militias slugging it out and kidnapping people at random, often never to be seen again. Each militia runs its own prisons where torture is rampant. Libya’s reality, however, receives little reflection in the Western media or on al-Jazeera, which acted as cheerleader for NATO bombings as the country was being being bombed back to the Stone Age during the April–October 2011 blitzkrieg. The sanitized Western narrative posits that democracy has been delivered to Libya; there has been an election and people have made their choice. To the delight of the West, secularists have “won” led by the National Forces Alliance headed by their man, Mahmoud Jibril. Missing from this narrative is the use of cruise missiles and 1,000-pound bombs to “deliver” democracy to the Libyan people. Cruise missiles and bombs make no distinction between military installations and schools, hospitals, apartment blocks and civilians. According to independent observers, at least 80,000 civilians were killed in NATO bombing attacks using the spurious United Nations Security Council resolution that was supposed to implement a no fly zone over Libya. The Libyan casualty figures have not been mentioned anywhere in Western media reports. NATO had adopted the attitude that unless it could confirm the number of dead through its own sources, it would not acknowledge them. Given that Western troops were not on the ground in areas under attack, there was little likelihood of confirming the death and destruction NATO planes rained from the air.
According to this sanitized version, the mayhem is just a minor uptick in violence that will soon subside. In any case, the violence does not affect Western multinationals locking up contracts for Libya’s sweet crude. They have their man — Mahmoud Jibril, the man with the deathly stare — at the helm of affairs, now anointed by people’s “vote.” With his small frame and medium height, Jibril is not an imposing figure but he sends chill down the spine of anyone that stares into his glassy eyes.
Jibril is no revolutionary. That is what the West — and the US in particular — likes about him. He is reliable and can be counted on to do what he is told. Before he bolted from Qaddafi’s cabinet, he was head of Libya’s National Planning Council and the National Economic Development Board, experience that serves him well to pander to his Western masters. Not surprisingly, both US President Barack Obama and theEuropean Union leaders hailed the elections. The result suited the West’s agenda. Obama proclaimed Jibril’s victory as “another milestone in the country’s transition to democracy.” His European allies that were in the forefront of the Libyan bombing campaign, chimed in with Libya’s first elections as the “dawn of a new era.”
New era for whom, one wonders. Certainly not for the people of Libya who are beginning to have serious doubts about Qaddafi’s ouster from power and murder. Large swathes of the country are up in arms against the new Western-installed dispensation. Pro-Qaddafi militias have made Bani Walid their stronghold but that is not the only part of the country where Qaddafi loyalists hold sway. Al-Azizyah, al-Shaqayqiah, al-Jamil, Raqdalayn, al-‘Ajaylat, al-Qarbuli and Tarhoona are other areas where Qaddafi loyalists have congregated. Because of its close proximity to Misrata, Tawargha has been ransacked by anti-Qaddafi militias from Misrata that lies to the north. Almost all of Tawargha’s 30,000 inhabitants have been forced to flee. Not a single building has been left intact. At least 1,000 people from Tawargha have been kidnapped and kept in appallingly bad conditions by Misratan and other anti-Qaddafi militias. Dark-skinned Libyans and African workers from such places as Niger have also had to bear the brunt of militia-perpetrated violence.
The situation in Bani Walid is the exact opposite. There, no anti-Qaddafi elements are left. There is no government presence in the town. What is surprising is that even major cities like Tripoli and Benghazi are now evenly divided between pro- and anti-Qaddafi forces. The situation in Libya can best be described as a country whose people are split along tribal and regional lines.
The divisions run deep. With millions of weapons in the hands of militias, the law and order situation has virtually broken down. The police are not motivated to take any steps to prevent looting and killing. They are not sure who is in charge. Such uncertainty has deepened people’s fears. Even foreign missions in Libya have not been spared. It is not clear who was behind the attacks but accusing fingers have been pointed at al-Qaeda that was welcomed in Libya by the same Western forces that are now egging it on in Syriaagainst the government of Bashar al-Asad.
Will the announcement of the election results bringing a secularist into power, help restore peace and stability? Not many Libyans repose much hope in the just concluded electoral process or the people that have been at the helm of affairs since Qaddafi’s overthrow. People want results, not platitudes. The current interim Prime Minister Abdurrahim al-Keib said the announcement of the election results was “a time of celebration.” It certainly did not bring any cheer to the people even though al-Keib claimed: “Everybody in Libya is happy. And we are thankful to those partners and friends [NATO powers] who have helped us to get to this point.” Inside the carefully protected bubble in Tripoli, there may be happiness and celebration but out in the streets, chaos rules with thuggish militias terrorising people.
On July 16, the sham trials of political philosopher Dr. Ahmed Ibrahim, General Mansour Dowe and Islamic scholar Sheikh Khalid Tantoush began in Misrata. In the brutal environment of Libya, justice is in short supply. These people can consider themselves fortunate, as Amnesty International noted in its report about Libya in June. It highlighted the case of a 21-year-old woman dragged out of her home, suspended from the ceiling while being whipped with cables as boiling water was poured over her head. What was her crime? She was accused of being a “Qaddafi loyalist.” Amnesty’s report mentions hundreds of such cases.
It is in this environment that elections were launched on July 7. When the results were announced, it gave the National Forces Alliance, led by Mahmoud Jibril, the former interim prime minister, 39 out of 80 seats reserved for political parties. The Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Justice and Construction Party had gained 17. The other 120 seats in the 200-member General National Assembly were for independent candidates. It is the 120 independent candidates that will determine the direction of the new assembly that will have legislative powers. Whether it will also have a say in drafting the new constitution is unclear but if the manner in which the political process has unfolded, Jibril and his Western masters would want to make sure the newly elected members do not get carried away by their success or by notions of democracy.
The political process is carefully controlled and political structures that emerge out of it will ensure that Western interests are fully protected. Further, Libya now provides a springboard for Washington’s African adventurism whose foundation was laid with Obama’s election in 2008 and whose contours are beginning to emerge in places like Uganda, the Congo and Mali.