First it was Iraq. Today it’s Libya. For the invasion of Iraq, Prime Minister Tony Blair ended up on the pillory of the British Parliament. This time it’s David Cameron’s turn. The story is more or less the same: The intervention against Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya in March 2011 based on Resolution 1973 of the U.N. Security Council should never have happened.
False assumptions, lack of understanding of the real situation, inconsistent strategy — after more than a year of investigations, the findings of the Foreign Affairs Commission are virtually identical to the results of the Chilcot report released in July on the invasion of Iraq, which Blair and his collaborator American President George W. Bush ordered and has become a permanent and total war.
For all of that, we’re back to square one. History repeats itself. The errors, originating from the vested interests, are now erupting in all their gravity: Iraq and Libya have gone from being villainous countries to becoming non-states, bankrupt and dissolved nations, the prey of terror groups, militias and opposing authorities. In Baghdad, the government is corrupt and dysfunctional; in Tripoli, there is no consensus in the unity leadership, but external and internal enemies control a large part of the country.
It’s a true bedlam. Even U.S. President Barack Obama himself described the Libyan chaos in an interview with The Atlantic in March as “a shit show” created by Cameron and former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who plotted and guided the NATO intervention. Obama’s statements certainly did not help the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, who was Secretary of State in 2011. And the London parliamentary report does not help her either.
The report says: “Through his decision-making in the National Security Council, former Prime Minister David Cameron was ultimately responsible for the failure to develop a coherent Libya strategy. U.K. strategy was founded on erroneous assumptions and an incomplete understanding of the evidence.”
Again, inaccurate intelligence work has come to light, a bad report — the same thing that “duped” his predecessor. The botched intelligence apparently precluded the prime minister from understanding that it was a mistake to force a regime change without having a real alternative, equally stable and accepted by the population and tribes who run Libya. The intelligence apparatus did not know it — but many analysts, newspapers and civil organizations opposed to the war were well aware of it.
“The consequence was political and economic collapse, inter-militia and inter-tribal welfare, humanitarian and migrant crises, widespread human rights violations and the growth of ISIL in North Africa,” according to the report.
The south of the country is in the hands of tribal and Islamist militias who run human and arms trafficking rings; ISIS has expanded toward desert areas, attracting fighters from sub-Saharan Africa and the Maghreb; Cyrenaica is controlled by General Khalifa Haftar, who recently took possession of the four major oil ports along the coast from Sirte to Benghazi; the population is suffering an economic crisis with no services.
London has not noticed any of this, it seems, and neither did it want to use the close contacts it had with the Libyan regime (Blair, in particular, frequently spoke with Gaddafi, the last time in February 2011). London did not notice the certain destabilization of a country held together on the fragile balance of patronage systems, nor the opening of the Libyan ports to Islamist groups that were already raging in the Middle East and Northern Africa. Those that Gaddafi would have never allowed to grow and expand in the country.
“The possibility that militant extremist groups would attempt to benefit from the rebellion should not have been the preserve of hindsight,” the Commission wrote. “Libyan connections with transnational militant extremist groups were known before 2011, because many Libyans had participated in the Iraq insurgency and in Afghanistan with al-Qaeda.”
Cameron had always refused to appear before the Commission, but said in other venues that the real fault rests on the Libyan people who did not take advantage of the opportunity they were given.
This is Cameron’s legacy in foreign policy. The same that Sarkozy left behind. France has not learned its lesson: In recent months, France supported Haftar’s troops in the battlefield, the commander of the Tobruk parliament opposing the unity government established by the U.N. Again partisan interests, in this case oil related, push toward the ultimate disintegration.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded to the Commission: “Muammar Gaddafi was unpredictable, and he had the means and motivation to carry out his threats. His actions could not be ignored, and required decisive and collective international action.” The ministry does not specify what threats: At the time, the colonel, once a pariah of the international community, had been welcomed back with full honors.