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MPs slam David Cameron’s Libya intervention ‘failure’

This article is over 7 years, 8 months old
David Cameron’s imperialist war on Libya in 2011 is to blame for the chaos in the country today, writes Alistair Farrow
Issue 2522
Bomber Cameron flies into battle
Bomber Cameron flies into battle (Pic: Crown Copyright)

Former prime minister David Cameron carried out “an opportunistic policy of regime change” in Libya, according to a report by the Foreign Affairs Select Committee last week.

The war’s dire consequences were laid bare in the MPs’ report.

It blamed Cameron for “political and economic collapse, humanitarian and migrant crises, widespread human rights violations, the spread of Gaddafi regime weapons across the region and the growth of [Isis] in North Africa.”

It said he “was ultimately responsible for the failure to develop a coherent Libya strategy”.

Cameron should be held to account. But just 13 MPs voted against intervention, among them Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell.

“Humanitarian intervention” was the lie used to justify Cameron’s war.

This was the line pushed by both Liam Fox and William Hague, Britain’s defence and foreign secretaries at the time. They said British bombing in Libya was about helping the rebellion against Gaddafi.

The report shows this was false.

One of the real reasons for the intervention was to stem the revolutionary tide sweeping across the Middle East in 2011.

Different Western powers backed intervention to defend and further their own interests.

An aide to former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton described then French prime minister Nicolas Sarkozy’s motivations as “a desire to gain a greater share of Libyan oil production”.

This was as true of Britain as it was of France.

Benghazi in the east of Libya had become a focal point for an uprising against Gaddafi.


The National Transitional Council (NTC) was formed out of the uprising but heavy military losses and setbacks meant it looked to Western powers for support.

That led to compromises when it came to constructing a government after Gaddafi was deposed.

Western powers, in particular Britain, could have released Gaddafi’s offshore funds to the NTC. Instead, they provided conditional military support, with US and British special forces directly involved.

The main condition for this support, in addition to access to oilfields, was the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA)—a creation of Cameron’s government.

This is held up by the report’s authors as “the only game in town”.

But it cannot form a government, largely because the country is being pulled apart by factions supported by different imperial powers.

The GNA has little control of the country outside of Tripoli in the west.

General Khalifa Haftar’s eastern government has recently been supported by US, Italian and British bombing missions, further increasing hostility between the two governments. Haftar is said to control 80 percent of Libya’s oil production.

Regional powers such as the Saudi regime also back militias with money and weapons.

And British and US special forces have been operating in the country for years, guarding oilfields alongside private security teams and training soldiers.

Between the competing imperial powers stoking civil war the hopes of the ordinary people who joined the 2011 uprising against Gaddafi have been crushed.

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