Sep 17, 2012
After the U.S. ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three officials were killed during a devastating assault in the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asked, “How could this happen in a country we helped liberate in a city that we helped save from destruction?”
No, the U.S. did not “help liberate” Libya. On the contrary, U.S. officials worked closely with the Qaddafi regime for more than a decade before it fell. The big international oil companies made great profits from Libyan oil. And the U.S. government partnered with the Qaddafi regime for more than a decade to safeguard oil investment in the explosive region. A new report by Human Rights Watch, “Delivered into Enemy Hands: U.S.-Led Abuse and Rendition of Opponents to Qaddafi’s Libya,” describes how opponents of the Qaddafi regime were first tortured by the U.S. CIA, which then turned the opponents over to the Qaddafi regime for further torture.
In February 2011, U.S. officials changed gears and withdrew their support for the Qaddafi regime, not because U.S. officials had suddenly “discovered” how brutal the Qaddafi regime was, but because, faced with growing opposition coming out of the Arab Spring, the Libyan military and police could no longer keep order.
The U.S. and its NATO allies backed “the rebels,” a large assortment of different militias, local strongmen, and former Qaddafi regime officials, by bombing many cities and towns. This bombing was credited with hastening Qaddafi’s fall in August 2011. President Obama even claimed that the U.S. military campaign in Libya was a new model for future interventions around the world. “We are seeing the strength of American leadership across the world,” said Obama.
The “strength of American leadership” led directly to the terrible toll taken by U.S. bombs and missiles on Libyan lives and the destruction of their cities and towns. But that went unmentioned.
Today, much of Libya continues to be torn apart by various rivalries and militias, in which there are frequent armed battles over control of territory and wealth, creating more casualties and destruction. And, while the international oil companies reap new riches from Libyan oil, there are no jobs for the Libyan population. There is not even any reconstruction of what had been destroyed during the civil war and by U.S. and NATO bombs and artillery.
It is in this explosive situation of continual fights between militias and gangs that the U.S. ambassador was assassinated.
This attack did not come as a surprise to U.S. officials. U.S. authorities in Libya had already been targeted many times. Just last month, a car carrying U.S. embassy personnel was attacked in what was considered to be an attempted car jacking. Two months before that, an IED attack was carried out against the U.S. Office in Benghazi.
Who knows what gangs or militias have been behind these attacks and the assassination, or what they are after? Nor is it clear what groups rushed to take advantage of the demonstrations against the video on the internet that erupted in Libya and elsewhere throughout the Middle East and the rest of North Africa. But no matter what reactionary aims may be behind some of these groups and militias, underlying these demonstrations is the overwhelming poverty, misery, violence and repression in Libya and throughout North Africa and the Middle East. And this is due, first of all, to the domination by imperialism, supported by, in Obama’s words, “the strength of American leadership.” This domination has turned the entire region into a powder keg, ready to explode at the smallest spark.
After the U.S. ambassador was killed, the U.S. Navy dispatched two warships off the coast of Libya, along with a contingent of marines and a small armada of drones. This is a show of force and a threat of continuing violence against not just the Libyan population, but the population of the entire region.