The BBC News website reported on 28 July 2015 that “A court in Libya has sentenced Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, son of deposed leader Col Muammar Gaddafi, and eight others to death over war crimes linked to the 2011 revolution.“ The report refers to prosecutors who stated that Saif Gaddafi was part of his father’s plans to “quell, by all means, the civilian demonstrations against the Gaddafi regime”.
While the BBC also reported concerns by human rights organisations “about the fairness of Libya’s judicial system” it failed to adequately address the historical context of Libya. Significantly, Libya has virtually disappeared from the news media agenda and there is not much interest to critically investigate why Libya and its leaders were targeted by Western NATO powers. In fact, Saif Gaddafi’s sentence marks only the latest episode in what could be described as Libya’s torment.
As Richard Lance Keeble has documented, the 2011 NATO intervention in Libya, which brutally ousted Muammar Gaddafi, was part of a “long-standing strategy of the US, French and UK secret states to remove Gaddafi”. Soon after the toppling of King Idris in 1969, Gaddafi had become “the target of covert operations – many of them launched from Chad – by the French, Americans, Israelis and British,” writes Keeble. Funds for the CIA-led secret war against Libya came from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Morocco, Israel and Iraq.
Low Intensity Conflict (LIC) strategy was implemented against Libya already during the 1980s and included the following tactical elements: plans to invade Libya, the funding of various secret armies and opposition groups within Libya, covert operations against Libya and punctual air raids such as the 1986 struck of Tripoli by US air force and navy bombers which killed Hana, Gaddafi’s adopted daughter aged 15 month.
Such are common tactics applied against sovereign states if they defy Western geo-strategic and commercial interests. Libya’s “crime” constituted its support for an African Union and strive towards political and economic independency. Western powers’ greatest concerns are independent nationalistic states in the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere because they share the desire to block foreign access to their resources and currencies. LIC strategy thus further includes the logistic and military support of radical Islamist groups to counter the influence of nationalistic leaders who tend to govern secular states.
That is why the NATO powers sided with Gaddafi’s enemies. The conflict in Libya constituted an orchestrated civil war rather than a civilian uprising. The March 2011 NATO intervention was based on a media propaganda campaign that provided a misleading account of civilian suffering and was supported by special interest groups with links to the Israel Lobby and the Gulf monarchies. For instance, an early call for the establishment of a no-fly-zone in Libya was made by the Brookings Institution which according to academics John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt is “part of the pro-Israel chorus.”
It turned out that the NATO intervention in March 2011 went beyond establishing a no-fly-zone as the real aim of the attack was regime change. In fact, the NATO-led “humanitarian intervention” was far more deadly for Libyan civilians than the fighting that had preceded it.
Today, Libya lies in shambles: the country is dominated by radical Islamist currents – the same forces that Western powers supported to oust Gaddafi. As the Guardian reported in February 2015:
“…Libya is wracked by violence, factionalism and political polarisation – and by the growing menace of jihadi extremism. Two rival governments, parliaments, prime ministers and military forces claim legitimacy. One side is the Islamist-dominated Libya Dawn coalition in Tripoli, the capital. The other camp, Dignity, which is recognised internationally, is based in Tobruk and Bayda. Hundreds of rival militias exist across the country. In recent months the homegrown fighters of Ansar al-Sharia have been challenged by Islamic State (Isis), who released a video showing the beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians.
Oil production, the source of most state revenues, has declined massively. Cash is running out and basic services are facing collapse as the financial situation deteriorates. Hopes for change generated by the Arab spring and the demise of Gaddafi’s dictatorship have faded into despair and dysfunction.”
Saif Gaddafi’s trial is the latest episode in the tragedy and farce that has afflicted Libya. Real justice would mean to bring to court the leaders of the NATO powers that have tormented Libya, the Middle East and North Africa.