Renewed military intervention in Libya: A lesson not learned

Renewed military intervention in Libya: A lesson not learned
Comment: Despite refusing the option of foreign intervention on several occasions, the Libyan unity government has swiftly aligned itself with aggressive military intent, writes Ramona Wadi.
5 min read
05 Aug, 2016
IS will serve as an excuse for subjugating Libya to necolonial domination, writes Wadi [AFP]

Talk of another military intervention in Libya after NATO's destruction of the country in 2011, was never a farfetched conjecture. The only concern was amalgamating western intent with agreement from within Libya.

Five years after Muammar Gaddafi's lynching, shifting the dynamics of accountability to another intervention was imperative, if only for diplomatic intent.

Two main premises formed the basis of discussion on international intervention: Human trafficking and IS. Human trafficking, which in western discourse has nothing to do with altruism but rather provides an excuse for border control, forced repatriations and surveillance, was left to NATO. In the words of NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, "We agreed that the alliance can do more in the Mediterranean."

Action against IS, however, required the consent of the Libyan unity government, as specified earlier in May. It can also be argued that the formation of the unity government was also intended to facilitate a second open-ended intervention in Libya.

Indeed, US Secretary of State John Kerry deemed the entity "the only way to generate the cohesion necessary to defeat Daesh [IS]". The foundations for collaboration over future intervention had already been consolidated as early as May 2016.

Seeking a second fabricated "liberation"

Yesterday, the US launched airstrikes upon Sirte - the main IS stronghold in Libya - at the request of the Libyan unity government. According to a Pentagon statement, "These actions and those we have taken previously will help deny ISIL a safe haven in Libya from which it could attack the United States and our allies."

Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook stated, "The US stands with the international community in supporting the GNA [Government of National Accord] as it strives to restore stability and security to Libya."

The formation of the unity government was also intended to facilitate a second open-ended intervention in Libya

The rhetoric was echoed by the Libyan unity government's Prime Minister Fayes Sarraj, who confirmed, as did the UN, the entity's request for intervention, adding, "This is the time for the international community to live up to its promises to the Libyan people."

Italy, which had already declared its willingness to allow NATO to operate from the country's military bases, has refused to confirm whether the US was allowed access in order to carry out the renewed bombing of Sirte, stating only that "the operations were conducted with proper notification and coordination of our partner nations."

More clarification was obtained through a report in Military Times, which declared the airstrikes on Sirte an endeavour of AFRICOM, and part of a three-phase plan defined by the usual condescending euphemisms implying a false sense of victory.

Monday's airstrikes on Sirte were the third phase known as Operation Odyssey Lightning. Prior to the airstrikes, Operation Odyssey Resolve involved intelligence and surveillance, while Operation Junction Serpent provided target information.

Ambiguous US intervention facilitates IS

The renewed airstrikes on Libya are not only a continuation of the NATO invasion of 2011 but also a practical recapitulation of the "War on Terror" metaphor coined by former US President George W Bush.

On September 18 2001, US Congress passed a bill on the "Authorisation for use of Military Force", which contains the broad pretext of allowing the US to "exercise its rights to self-defence and to protect United States citizens both at home and abroad."

The bill also stipulated that military force can be used against entities deemed as planning, authorising, committing or aiding terrorist attacks "in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organisations or persons".

Another form of terror parallel to IS, which consists of US and NATO intervention, is allowed to operate unscathed by international law

Such a sweeping statement has been applied to the terror unleashed in Libya by IS, while conveniently eliminating the fact that the US has been at the helm of perpetrating and instigating worldwide terror. One might remember the admission, earlier in 2011, that the rebels funded by the US had ties to al-Qaeda.

It is highly unlikely, therefore, that the US will strive to eliminate IS, given it is the latest phenomenon that sustains the imperial power's penchant for indiscriminate bombing.

At best, IS will serve as the reason for Libya being subjugated to new forms of colonial domination and the much celebrated precision strikes will cause “heavy losses” for IS without eliminating them.

Given the worldwide celebratory glee at the 2011 NATO invasion, it is unlikely that the renewed bombing of Libya will elicit any condemnations. The formula for intervention is similar to 2011.

UN authorisation was this time replaced by a demand from the UN-backed Libyan unity government, which clearly exposes the reason why the government was formed in the first place – as a necessary pawn to foment some form of legitimacy for intervention within the wider framework of a failed state, brokered by the UN and the international community.

The reversal and projection of terror has propagated the illusion that a single entity - in the current circumstances IS - is responsible for the terror unleashed in Libya and elsewhere in the world.

However, another form of terror parallel to IS, which consists of US and NATO intervention, is allowed to operate unscathed by international law - the reason being that the international community has indeed approved of terror, as long as there is legislation behind such action.

It is time to reinvent the convenient metaphor of the "war on terror" into "war as perpetual terror".

Ramona Wadi is an independent researcher, freelance journalist, book reviewer and blogger specialising in the struggle for memory in Chile and Palestine, colonial violence and the manipulation of international law. Follow her on Twitter: @walzerscent

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.