Prime minister David Cameron welcomed the death of Gaddafi, saying it marked a “historic transition” for Libya.
But Britain’s relations with the dictator have not always been so frosty.
Cameron’s government was approving arms sales to the Libyan regime right up to the start of the February uprising that nearly toppled Gaddafi.
Western powers switched sides to back the rebels only after that revolution stalled in the face of brutal repression by Gaddafi’s forces.
Diplomats worked throughout the 1990s to bring Gaddafi into the West’s orbit.
Full relations between Britain and Libya were restored in July 1999.
In March 2004 Tony Blair signed up Gaddafi as a partner in the “war on terror”. He praised Gaddafi for making “common cause with us against Al Qaida, extremists and terrorism”.
Coincidentally it was announced on the same day that the Anglo-Dutch oil company Shell had signed a £550 million deal with Libya.
The European Union’s (EU) arms embargo against Libya was lifted a few months later.
Over the next five years, EU governments signed off on around £728 million in arms export licences to Libya. Britain accounted for £104 million of this total, or 14 percent.
And Western governments were also keen to do a deal with Gaddafi to stop African migrant workers from entering Europe.
As recently as last year the EU was planning to pay Gaddafi £4.1 billion a year to keep the route across the Mediterranean Sea from Libya to Italy sealed.
Gaddafi was invited to Rome to meet Italy’s prime minister. He delivered a racist rant about how an “influx of starving and ignorant Africans” was threatening to turn Europe “black” as “there are millions who want to come in”.
“That’s for Lockerbie” said the Sun’s front page after Gaddafi’s death. The 1988 bombing of a Pan Am airliner over the Scottish town of Lockerbie claimed 270 lives. But the establishment does not want the truth revealed.
The case has been subject to the needs of imperial powers from beginning to end. Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi was framed for the attack.
Libya handed over Megrahi to get sanctions on the country lifted. Then a deal was done to return Megrahi to Libya.
The whole sorry story is an indictment of the cynicism, hypocrisy and deceit of the British and US governments.
For more see www.socialistworker.co.uk//art.php?id=18869