Commentary. ‘If someone wants to play war, we’re not going to just stand idly by,’ threatened Minister Salvini. What exactly does he have in mind?

Our forgotten Libya

We are so busy trying to tease out the hidden actors behind the Libyan crisis that we are no longer willing to see what is clearly before our eyes.

It’s easier to blame the devious Macron who is supposedly the force behind Haftar’s military prowess, and, of course, the dirty oil money from Saudi Arabia—the same money which we’re all too happy to accept in exchange for weapons to use in the conflict in Yemen, since they’re our privileged clients after all—or the United States’ decision to “distance themselves” while still secretly backing the role of the Saudis; or, indeed, Putin, who is waiting on the sidelines until the West makes a complete mess of things, just as he did in Syria.

All these various explanations make it all too easy to forget the responsibility of our governments, both of the center-right and center-left, which have been at the helm in Italy over the past eight years. And they also serve to cover up another small but crucial fact: in March-April 2011, Italy suffered its greatest historical defeat since the Second World War: even though we had signed several agreements with Gaddhafi, we accepted NATO’s disastrous war.

Was it the fault of shifty Sarkozy, jealous of the oil deals secured by Italy and also intending to cover up the fact that he had received funds from Tripoli for his election campaign? Sure, that’s all true. But where was Italy in all of this? Obediently lining up behind the French fighter-bombers, offering them our military bases and intelligence, taking an active part in the war, and even calling the wholesale destruction a “Revolution”—something quite a few journalists were also happy to do.

Forgetfulness has its uses: like every instance of memory-holing, it helps the current leaders of the country and lets them proceed smoothly along the same duplicitous, indecisive and careless path. We are talking, of course, about the Conte government. Salvini and Moavero have gone to Libya several times to prop up the puppet government of Serraj, which is, as the endlessly-repeated mantra keeps reminding us, “recognized by the international community and the United Nations”—too bad it isn’t also recognized by the Libyans. Since Gaddhafi was branded a “dictator” and removed from power, we have been trying to set up the most accommodating puppet figure in his place.

And yet, there is also the double-dealing of Prime Minister Conte. It’s not enough that there are so many photos of him meeting both Serraj and Haftar together—as he himself has admitted, he is in contact with both and is talking with Haftar, the supposed “enemy,” all the time.

Wasn’t it Conte who wanted to earn Trump’s favor in order to be “inside the control room” of the Libyan crisis? Well, who is in that mythical “control room” now? Italy, with its traditional petty ways—now with the extra addition of an unusual level of incompetence in domestic policy, which becomes a shining beacon of ineptness when it comes to foreign policy.

For one example, the government is divided once again on the issue of a possible military intervention. It’s not enough that we already have 400 soldiers in Misrata, protecting a crucial hospital, who are now finding themselves suddenly right behind the front lines of this “new” war. “New” is a dubious adjective to use here: after all, since the end of the NATO intervention in October 2011 with the killing of Gaddhafi—found by the militias thanks to US intel—there have been dozens of armed attempts to oust Serraj’s government. What, indeed, were the over 700 existing militias—according to UN estimates—going to do but start new armed conflicts? They are all controlling small parts of the country just across the Mediterranean from us, a country which, bereft of representative political institutions, is now divided into at least four separate and mutually hostile entities: Tripolitania, Cirenaica, Fezzan, and, last but not least, the regions of Sirte, Derna and deep Fezzan, where ISIS and Al-Qaeda have taken root.

“If someone wants to play war, we’re not going to just stand idly by,” threatened Minister Salvini. What exactly does he have in mind?

This shows clearly that those who are in charge on “our side” are feeling the jolt of adrenaline which comes with dreaming up another Italian military intervention—and that they’re conveniently forgetting the havoc we have already caused there. Maybe Salvini thinks he’s in the clear because of the fact that back in 2011, the Lega was opposed to “Our War”—as the headline in il manifesto of March 22, 2011 called it, a headline we agreed on together with Valentino Parlato. But only a month later, through Bossi, the Lega somehow found a way to agree with President Berlusconi on a bipartisan joint parliamentary motion of support for that bipartisan war—one that even the Democratic Party opposition applauded. Later on, in an interview on Sky TG24 four years ago, Salvini was playing the innocent: “Who was the idiot who brought war to Libya?” We can only say: would the real idiot please stand up?

If the winds of war are blowing once again, this is, of course, because now there are Italian oil interests in Libya at stake, and, even more importantly, the real criminal operation behind it all: stopping the fleeing migrants at all costs. Indeed, we are not interested in Libya becoming independent, unified, democratic and peaceful. The important thing for us is that the watchdog of the so-called “Libyan Coast Guard” should remain in place to stop the boats full of people fleeing war and African misery and the hell of the concentration camps, prisons and torture, all at the hands of the Libyan militias.

These days, there are even some—such as the most hyper-sovereignist of all the Lega politicians, MEP Marco Zanni—who are sounding the alarm against a supposed “plot” to undermine that extraordinary achievement of the Italian government, the closing of the ports. It is obvious to everyone that, faced with this developing humanitarian crisis, which is driving even Libyans themselves to flee, not to mention those who were trying to escape it before, we will no longer be able to keep our shores off limits. But fear not—the ports will stay closed all the same, because “luckily” Salvini’s interventionist plan will save the day: this was the government’s message delivered through Undersecretary Garavaglia.

The government, however, remains divided, with Defense Minister Trenta from the M5S—who, it should be pointed out, has no intention of stopping the sale of bombs to be used in Yemen, or the F-35 purchases—saying clearly that there would be no military intervention. However, even she conveniently forgot the fact that Italian soldiers are already there, and already facing danger at this very moment.

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