Our Readers' Opinions
September 23, 2011
Libya: Distortion, omission and lies

by Curtis M. King Fri, Sept 23. 2011

Last week I presented a snapshot of Libya’s 20th century history; included were the ‘road to revolution’ and a brief outline of the success of the Gadafy-led revolution. This article focuses on Gadafy’s Government’s relationship with the West, its transgressions and atonement.{{more}}

Libya’s adoption of socialism and Pan-Arabism, and its pledge to eliminate Israel, and Western influence from Africa and the Arab world put it on a collision course with the major Western powers.

In the 1970’s, Libya gave arms and financial support to several organizations labeled by the Western countries as terrorist organizations. Some of these organizations included: the Irish Republican Army that fought for a United Ireland; The Palestine Liberation Organization whose struggle was the establishment of a homeland for Palestinians; Umkhonto We Sizwe, the military wing of the African National Congress during its fight against the racist (apartheid) Governments in South Africa; the Moro National Liberation Front which was dedicated to the overthrow of the Ferdinand Marcos regime in the Philippines; and the Basque Separatist movement of Spain. It also supported the Polisario Front, a group dedicated to end Spanish Colonialism in what was referred to as Spanish Sahara in North Africa. Support was extended to some rogue Governments, such as Mengistu’s Ethiopia and Idi Amin’s Uganda. Libya also played a key role in the 1973 oil crisis (Embargo) intended to pressure the western nations into giving up their support for Israel.

Up to this time, Libya had not done anything that was not done by the USA and Western Europe. They, like Libya, supported rebel forces and some notorious governments in keeping with their ‘Cold War’ Foreign Policy interests. The United States, for example, provided support for the right -wing UNITA rebels in Angola, the Contras in Nicaragua, Cuba’s opposition groups as well as some notorious governments such as the racist regimes in South Africa and Rhodesia, the Shah in Iran, Pinochet in Chile, Marcos in the Philippines, Jean Claude Duvalier in Haiti, among others.

There was, however, a significant shift in relations between Libya and the West during the 1980s. Libyan diplomats and officials during this period were frequently accused of and in some instances charged for involvement in terrorist activities. This led to Libya’s isolation from the International community. Four (4)of the more serious infractions included the killing of a police woman in Britain; the bombing of a night Club in West Berlin; and the bombing of two airlines, Pan Am Flight 103 and UTA Flight 772 killing 171 and 270 persons, respectively.

In retaliation, the USA in 1986 unilaterally bombed what it termed ‘Military Targets’ in Tripoli and Benghazi. In 1989, the US shot down two Libyan fighter jets in the Gulf of Sidra which is claimed by Libya. The UN Security Council in 1992 demanded that Libya surrender the suspects, cooperate with the investigations of the two incidents involving the bombing of the aircrafts, pay compensation to the victims’ families and cease all support for terrorism. When Libya failed to comply, the UN Security Council by resolution (748 in March 1992) imposed international sanctions on Libya. Further sanctions were approved in 1993.

In 1999, Libya commenced a period of atonement for its earlier transgressions. It accepted responsibility for the actions of its officials and met the conditions of the UN Security Council. It turned over suspects for trial and paid compensations for the British Police women. Moreover, a payment of US$ 1.5 billion was made to the United States to compensate terrorism-related deaths and physical injuries. It also paid France US$170 million for the Victims of UTA Flight 772. Significantly, Libya abandoned its Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) programmes.

Libya’s atonement led to its normalization of relations with the USA and the Western European states. The USA is said to have coined the catch phrase ‘the Libyan Model’. According to the U.S., the model was an example intended to show what can be achieved through negotiation, rather than force, when there is goodwill on both sides. Thus, following the British who by 1999 had re-established relations with Gadafy’s Government, the USA lifted the economic sanctions against Libya in 2004 and resumed official relations.

For its part, Libya held several high level meetings with the USA and Western European government officials including Secretaries of State Condoleezza Rice, Hilary Clinton, Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Silvio Berlusconi. Trade and Investment agreements were signed with several countries, including the U.S.A (as late as May 2010), Britain and Italy. Recent revelation of cooperation in the fight against terrorism between Libya’s Intelligence Service and the CIA (USA) and MI6 (U.K.) during Gadafy’s time indicates how seriously these relations were taken.

Thus, Libya’s isolation which was occasioned by its transgressions ended with its atonement, that is, its decisions to dismantle its WMD, renounce terrorism and pay compensation to the West. So complete was Libya’s acceptance that Libya served on the board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency for 2007-2008. It gained a two year non-permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council representing the African Group from 2008-2009. In 2009 Libya became the Chair of the African Union for one year and has hosted several AU summits. Libya assumed the Presidency of the U.N. General Assembly and the Arab League in 2009 and 2010, respectively. It hosted Arab Summits in March and October 2010.

What then could have led to the complete turn around and hostility by the USA and NATO towards Gadafy’s Libya? Why are the forces of NATO in Libya? Is it to save civilian lives? Or is there some other hidden motive? These questions will be explored in the next and final article.

[email protected]