NATO’s anniversary, Libya’s nightmare

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On August 29 in Bani Walid, 170 kilometers southeast of Tripoli, a NATO strike hit two homes and killed five members of the Jfara family—two men, two women, and a nine-year-old girl.  The airstrike was carried out by NATO. Today, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is marking 70 years of its existence since its founding in 1949. Formed in the context of growing Soviet threat, the intent of the 29-member alliance was to secure peace in Europe, promote cooperation among its members, and guard their freedoms.

What is not spelt out in the April 1949 North Atlantic Treaty is a declaration to the effect that the scope of operations undertaken by the alliance shall extend to Africa. And this, in particular, is instructive: the alliance was mainly concerned with the incursion of Soviet-style economic and political structures in Western Europe.  It did not contemplate any threat emerging from Africa. As long as the Soviets are kept at bay, and its viral influence curtailed, they reasoned, there is no threat to fear from Africa.

The realities of subsequent years soon belied this policy reasoning, forcing the hands of the alliance into missions and operations in Africa. And beneath the façade of a healthy alliance projected at the anniversary commemoration lies deeper cracks as Macron and Trump trade barbs over the alliance’s priorities, with the latter insisting on more military spending from allies.  Clearly missing from the Agenda, regrettably is an almost convenient forgetfulness of countries plunged into disorder by the organization’s recent ‘foreign policy’ pursuits.

It’s been eight years since NATO-led a military intervention that toppled the Libyan leader and revolutionary Muammar Gaddafi, and it hasn’t been all roses and myrrh for the North African country which now stands further from peace than ever. NATO conducted roughly 9,700 strike sorties and dropped over 7,700 precision-guided bombs during the seven-month campaign, killing at least 72 civilians, with one-third of them being children, according to Human Rights Watch. These numbers are conservative at best, given the sheer scale of the operations, and yet NATO has to date, failed to acknowledge these casualties or to examine how and why they occurred.

Yes, the 2011 NATO intervention did bring down the reign of the west’s sworn enemy. But what it failed to do, if it cared at all or had the right to, was draw a post-war re-construction program to sustain Gaddafi’s massive economic legacies and guide Libya’s political direction.  As the alliance warplanes retreated, a political vacuum loomed large, and was soon exploited by rebel factions and ISIS seeking dominance in the region. The ensuing violence and instability set the country on a perilous course, killing thousands of civilians and destroying vital infrastructure.

Post-intervention Libya has faced political and economic collapse, with 7,578 violent deaths recorded between 2012 and 2018. Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced and weapons have spread across the region. Indeed, a lot of us might be privy to only the spectacular acts of violence that dominate mainstream media headlines. But the horrors facing ordinary Libyans every day are heart-wrenching; civilians face starvation, death through treatable illness and killing at the hands of callous policies. This is not only an atrocity in its own right, it also creates an ideal habitat for mass atrocity crimes including genocide and ethnic cleansing.  This sheds light on the failures and injustices of internationalized regimes such as NATO that prey on weak nations while bringing to ruin third world countries demonstrating political and economic resilience.

There can be no more compelling evidence of the futility of military interventions in fostering peace and democratic stability than the NATO mission in Libya. As the alliance celebrates its 70th anniversary, it must need to take stock of its sins in Libya and recognize the absurdity of dropping bombs to protect people.

Source: Shayawdeen Mohammed 

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