Several weeks ago, CNN released explosive video footage confirmed to be of an actual slave auction of Black people outside of Tripoli in the war-torn nation of Libya. The people in the footage being sold for farm-work and other purposes for as low as $400 bear the visible signs of being “beaten and mutilated” as they were held in captivity, waiting to be sold to the highest bidder. Human rights groups and celebrities are understandably incensed that such atrocities are happening in this day and age, some going so far as to insist the U.S. “do something” to put a stop to these outrageous actions. Even the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley has condemned the beastly practice. Others have complained of what they say is inaction on the part of the Trump administration. But terrible as Trump and his administration are when it comes to human rights issues, those looking to point a finger of blame have to go back further than 2017 to find a culprit. They will have to go back to 2011, to a time when a different administration held power and decided that Muammar Gaddafi had to be removed from power in Libya regardless of who would have to endure the consequences of that fateful decision.
As the mainstream media outlets, their political allies and so-called human rights organizations sound the alarm over the human rights crisis in Libya and the reemergence of racialized chattel slavery, one can’t help but note that those who are shedding crocodile tears the loudest are the very same media corporations and humanitarian groups that pushed the hardest in 2011 for the U.S.-NATO bombing campaign that ultimately led to the Libyan government’s destruction. They express horror and shock at the aftereffects of the imperial crusade they pushed for even though they were warned that these very things would happen once Muammar Gaddafi was removed. It was they who spread the lie more than six years ago that the al-Qaeda-linked “rebels” Gaddafi was fighting against were part of a “popular democratic uprising” against a tyrannical leader, that the fight against Gaddafi was part of the larger ‘Arab Spring’ when in reality the Arab Spring by that time had come “to the end of its reach.” Imperialist media did their part in spreading false stories and racist propaganda about both dark-skinned Libyans and migrants who worked for Gaddafi and used these to incite hatred against the Libyan government. All of these stories, which were repeated without end, turned out to be false. The U.S. and NATO accused Gaddafi of “killing his own people” and responded with a mass murder of Libyan people.
The Grio states that “Libya is the primary conduit for African refugees making their way to Europe – fleeing poverty and civil war in their home countries – with 150,000 people making the journey each year for the past three years.” Somewhere between 2,000-3,000 people have died in the last year making the journey across the Mediterranean to Europe. Legal analyst and criminal defense attorney Yodit Tewolde says, “People make deals with smugglers” who assure them of their safety. Then these same smugglers turn around and “sell them to someone else. You’re lucky if you aren’t sold three or four times. A lot of times, you’re kidnapped or tortured. Sexual exploitation is a given.” The smugglers contact the families of the kidnapped and demand they pay ransom or else their loved one will be sold into slavery. According to the New York Times,
there are 700,000 to one million migrants in Libya, and more than 2,000 have died at sea this year… Their journey usually begins with a deadly trek through the vast deserts to Libya and then involves either braving the Mediterranean Sea on rickety boats headed to Europe or struggling to survive in one of the overcrowded detention centers run by smugglers on the Libyan coastline. Forced labor, sexual abuse and torture are widespread in these camps, according to the United Nations.
This same New York Times ridiculously describes Libya as having “slid into civil war” after a “popular revolt” in 2011, when the reality is that they were pushed. Buzzfeed takes a slightly different approach, citing how the situation worsened in 2011 “when the then-government was toppled by rebel forces”, neglecting to mention until the next paragraph and even then only very briefly that it happened “with the help of the US and NATO countries.” Surprisingly it’s The Root that most bluntly made the case for U.S. culpability when it stated “the Libyan slave trade is a direct result of the United States’ actions under President Barack Obama.”
Libya prior to the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 was a very different place, a place where the horrendously racist practices that are now taking place were strictly prohibited. As noted by Liberation News, “Libya was the most prosperous nation in all of Africa and by far one of the most supportive of nationalist and socialist movements. The Libyan government historically supported the Irish Republican Party, Palestinian Resistance to Zionist settler colonialism, and the militant fighters of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa.” (The U.S. on the other hand was usually on the wrong side of history in these struggles.) Say what one will about Gaddafi, but he was most certainly an anti-colonial leader. According to The Root, Gaddafi “spoke out about anti-black racism in the Arab community and was pushing for a single African currency” so that Africa could eventually become self-reliant. “This Libyan open-market slave trade did not exist under Qaddafi, and likely would not have, given his political might and advocacy of black and African liberation.”
He and his government were targeted by the imperialists because he used the nation’s resources to the benefit of Libya and not to the sole benefit of oil merchants. I previously wrote about this in detail in a 2013 post, In Syria, as in Libya, the United States is not on the peoples’ side.
Under Muammar Gaddafi’s leadership free education and health care was provided for most who resided in the nation’s borders, resulting in some of the highest literacy rates and longest life expectancy rates (the average was 77 years) on the African continent. Women had marriage rights which were quite liberal for a strictly Islamist nation, such as the right to initiate a divorce without the consent of her husband, and the right to hold on to her previous assets once the divorce was finalized. Once Gaddafi made crystal clear his determination to use Libya’s vast oil reserves for the benefit of his own people, he made many powerful enemies in the West. His initial plans to nationalize Libya’s oil reserves and his stern refusal to do business if it was not on Libya’s terms didn’t sit too well with Western oil executives, which is one of the reasons he’s been in American and European crosshairs ever since he led the overthrow of the monarchical regime of King Idris in 1969. When Gaddafi and the revolutionary forces behind him toppled King Idris, it marked the beginning of Libya’s true Independence (as Idris was a Western puppet above all else). Upon ascending to the country’s leadership he banished foreign military bases from within the country’s borders and initiated policies which were more socialist-oriented, allowing the country’s vast wealth to be shared more equally among the nation’s people. From that time on, the United States never really lost its desire to see Gaddafi gone, and the State Department’s frustration with him was apparent in a 2007 cable made public by Wiki-leaks. The cable makes note of a speech the Libyan leader made that the State Department found objectionable, a speech in which Gaddafi said that “oil companies are controlled by foreigners who have made millions from them – now, Libyans must take their place to profit from this money.” The State Department official goes on to express alarm over the fact that Libyans are apparently “pursuing increasingly nationalistic policies in the energy sector that could jeopardize efficient exploitation of Libya’s extensive oil and gas reserves.” This cable makes it abundantly clear that oil was the main motivating factor behind the West’s intervention in Libya on behalf of the rebel fighters. The U.S. and the oil executives it represents saw an opening to get their hands on Libya’s high-quality oil and ran with it.
It should be of little surprise then that from the earliest days of the Libyan rebellions in March, 2011, the anti-Gaddafi forces called for Imperialist intervention into their affairs. They must have realized early on that they did not have sufficient support from the public to succeed on their own. The subsequent bombings carried out by NATO on March 19th were an answer to their call, the first in a series of bombings which would largely destroy the country’s agriculture. The bombing of Tripoli, Libya’s capital, in particular wiped out the lives of more than 1,300 people. A New York Times Business columnist summed up the U.S. imperialists’ position perfectly when he wrote, “A new government with close ties to NATO may be an easier partner for Western nations to deal with.”
If there was any doubt as to the nature of Libya’s anti-Gaddafi rebels, they should have been immediately put to rest once the Rebel forces took hold of Tripoli. As they ravaged the populous city, the armed rebels quickly set their sights on the Tripoli’s Black residents. Whether these residents were simply dark-skinned Libyans indigenous to the land or migrants from further within the African interior, the rebels made no distinction. In their minds all of them were “mercenaries” who’d been loyal to Gaddafi, and therefore they possessed no rights which they should respect. The Rebels went on a gruesome, brutal rampage through the entire city, torturing and murdering Black people upon sight, raping Black women, and locking away Black men, women and children in segregated cells. The U.N. Refugee Agency, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have all documented in minute detail some of these outrageous acts of humiliation and abuse. An investigative piece which appeared in the UK Independent exposed one such instance where the Rebels entered Abu Salim Hospital and slaughtered all the Black patients they could find even as they laid sick in their hospital beds. Homes were plundered and residents mercilessly executed with their hands tied behind their back. The capture of Tripoli, far from being the city’s “liberation”, proved to be a large-scale operation of ethnic cleansing.
The overthrow of Gaddafi by the U.S. and NATO aligned with al-Qaeda-linked rebels was led by the Obama administration at the urging of cabinet members such as then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who famously responded to the Libyan leader’s brutal murder by giving a hearty cackle and boasting, “We came, we saw, he died.” Such an action taken by the United States was in violation of the agreement that was made with the Libyan government just two years earlier, an agreement which held that if Gaddafi were to give up weapons of mass destruction the U.S. would no longer seek to invade or overthrow him. The almost immediate result of this imperial plunder also known as “humanitarian intervention” was a country enthralled in sectarian warfare, with refugees fleeing the chaos – chaos which enabled the rise of groups such ISIS and Boko Haram – for Europe.
Now as Hollywood celebrities, corporate media entities and human rights organizations rightly condemn the despicable auctioning of human beings as chattel, it’s not unreasonable to ask them why their platforms weren’t put to such use back in 2011 when such atrocities still could have been prevented. Or as Liberation News succinctly puts it,
where was the bourgeois press [when there was genocidal violence against Black Libyans and mass lynchings carried out by the so-called ‘rebels’ that the U.S. was backing]? Where was their ‘outrage’ and chastisement for the world ‘turning a blind eye?’ A year after the conflict began, some news outlets reported on the forced feeding of Black Libyans ‘the flag of Gaddafi,’ at the hands of the rebels. The flag symbolized the nationalist revolution in 1969 led by Gaddafi which kicked out U.S. imperialism’s bases and nationalized some of the commanding heights of the economy to create social welfare benefits for Libyan workers and farmers leading to the highest levels of human development in all of Africa.
In a revealing interview with Fox News last year in which then President Barack Obama reflected on the entirety of his presidency as its end was fast approaching, he listed the situation in Libya as “the worst mistake” to come out of his time in office. However, he did not express regret for what he and NATO did to the country, only expressing remorse that the United States and Europe didn’t do more in the aftermath of the country’s destruction. He even rather foolishly stated that still, despite all irrefutable evidence to the contrary, intervening in Libya “was the right thing to do.” To continue insisting that destroying Libya was “the right thing to do” using the false cover of humanitarianism is akin to insisting the administration of President George W. Bush was correct in invading and occupying Iraq because of ‘WMD’ or ‘helping to spread democracy.’ To counter this absurd defense, let us end with a strong condemnation of the imperialist leadership from a cleric and previous Special Adviser on New Media to former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathon, Reno Omokri, who wrote the following note on his Facebook.
When Gaddafi was in power, there was no slave trade of Black Africans in Libya. As a matter of fact, Gaddafi gave financial aid to Black African nations and almost single handedly funded the fight against White minority rule in the then Rhodesia (renamed Zimbabwe) and against apartheid in South Africa (Google it. Even Mandela said so openly in America).
Barack Obama staged his removal and now Black Africans are being sold in Libya and you think Obama is good and Gaddafi was bad?
All over Africa, from Libya, to Egypt, to Nigeria, Obama intervened without caring what Africans really wanted and saddled us with incompetent regimes that are taking Africans backward. History will not be kind to Obama!