Last week saw the 7th anniversary of the death of Muhammar Gaddafi. Attempting to flee from rebel forces, his convoy was attacked by NATO bombers leading to his capture, torture and execution by rebel militants. Stripped naked, beaten then placed into an ambulance, his corpse was later put on public display for all to see.
Now 7 years on Libya remains in a state of perpetual warfare. Factions, including large swaths of Salafists, fight each other for control of oil fields. The slave trade has returned, with migrants now facing capture by corrupt officials turned slavers. The so-called Islamic State since the fall of Gaddafi has gained a strong foothold in the region.
This same time last year, whilst all these events were occurring, Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary stated that the Libyan city Sirte could be the new Dubai, adding, “all they have to do is clear the dead bodies away”.
This callous remark shows not only the former foreign secretary’s contempt for events in the region, but it can also sum up the general western attitude toward Libya as well. Libya remains, along with Iraq, one of the most glaring examples of the failure of western foreign policy in modern times. Instead of creating vibrant democracies, the west ended up creating sectarian hotbeds in what were both formerly secular nations.
The intervention by NATO forces in Libya remains a damning critique of the Responsibility to Protect commitment by the United Nations. At first a commitment to prevent genocide and crimes against humanity, it has instead been used as an excuse by the west for their interventions into the global south. These invasions have created larger humanitarian disasters than Gaddafi or Saddam could ever have been capable of committing.
Gaddafi’s legacy is mixed with those on the left. He is seen by anti-imperialists as a strong supporter of African and Arab unity and as a new theorist on the development of socialism in the third world. However, others see him as a dictator with little regard for human rights. Whatever one’s personal feelings are about Gaddafi, it cannot be denied that his economic and social reforms did improve the lives of many Libyans. Libya, once the subject of colonial rule, was transformed into the richest state in Africa all the while religious sectarianism was staved off.
Now any example of Gaddafi’s tyranny has been multiplied tenfold. The Islamic socialist values outlined in Gaddafi’s Green Book have been banned and warlords now control splintered regions with an iron fist. Elections have been abject failures with low turnouts and high violence resulting in splits and a lack of credibility to the current Libyan government. Human rights activists have been persecuted and even killed.
All the while events in Libya have been treat like little more than a footnote in the western political scene. Politicians such as Barack Obama and David Cameron who once wholeheartedly supported Gaddafi’s overthrow now have little time for the nation they so enthusiastically intervened in. Any mention of Libya is simply said by those who see it as a ripe opportunity for western capitalist development as shown by Boris Johnson’s comments last year.
In the end Libya today, 7 years after Gaddafi’s lynching, is a prime example of a failed state helped created by western intervention. Events in Libya show an illustration of neo-colonialism in its most naked form. A catastrophic failure that offers little but way of bloodshed to citizens.