Exactly six years ago, on October 20th, 2011, Muammar Gaddafi was murdered, joining a long list of African revolutionaries martyred by the West for daring to dream of continental independence.
Earlier that day, Gaddafi’s hometown of Sirte had been occupied by Western-backed militias, following a month-long battle during which NATO and its ‘rebel’ allies pounded the city’s hospitals and homes with artillery, cut off its water and electricity, and publicly proclaimed their desire to ‘starve [the city] into submission’.
The last defenders of the city, including Gaddafi, fled Sirte that morning, but their convoy was tracked and strafed by NATO jets, killing 95 people.
Gaddafi escaped the wreckage but was captured shortly afterward. I will spare you the gruesome details, which the Western media gloatingly broadcast across the world as a triumphant snuff movie, suffice to say that he was tortured and eventually shot dead.
We now know, if testimony from NATO’s key Libyan ally Mahmoud Jibril is to be believed, it was a foreign agent, likely French, who delivered the fatal bullet.
His death was the culmination of not only seven months of NATO aggression, but of a campaign against Gaddafi and his movement, the West had been waging for over three decades.
Yet it was also the opening salvo in a new war – a war for the militarily recolonization of Africa.
The year 2009, two years before Gaddafi’s murder, was a pivotal one for US-African relations. First, because China overtook the US as the continent’s largest trading partner; and second because Gaddafi was elected president of the African Union.
The significance of both for the decline of US influence on the continent could not be clearer.
While Gaddafi was spearheading attempts to unite Africa politically, committing serious amounts of Libyan oil wealth to make this dream a reality, China was quietly smashing the West’s monopoly over export markets and investment finance. Africa no longer had to go cap-in-hand to the IMF for loans, agreeing to whatever self-defeating terms were on offer, but could turn to China – or indeed Libya – for investment.
And if the US threatened to cut them off from their markets, China would happily buy up whatever was on offer. Western economic domination of Africa was under threat as never before.
The response from the West, of course, was a military one. Economic dependence on the West – rapidly being shattered by Libya and China – would be replaced by a new military dependence. If African countries would no longer come begging for Western loans, export markets, and investment finance, they would have to be put in a position where they would come begging for Western military aid.
To this end, AFRICOM – the US army’s new ‘African command’ – had been launched the previous year, but humiliatingly for George W. Bush, not a single African country would agree to host its HQ; instead, it was forced to open shop in Stuttgart, Germany. Gaddafi had led African opposition to AFRICOM, as exasperated US diplomatic memos later revealed by WikiLeaks made clear. And US pleas to African leaders to embrace AFRICOM in the ‘fight against terrorism’ fell on deaf ears.
After all, as Mutassim Gaddafi, head of Libyan security, had explained to Hillary Clinton in 2009, North Africa already had an effective security system in place, through the African Union’s ‘standby forces,’ on the one hand, and CEN-SAD on the other. CEN-SAD was a regional security organization of Sahel and Saharan states, with a well-functioning security system, with Libya as the lynchpin. The sophisticated Libyan-led counter-terror structure meant there was simply no need for a US military presence. The job of Western planners, then, was to create such a need.
NATO’s destruction of Libya simultaneously achieved three strategic goals for the West’s plans for military expansion in Africa. Most obviously, it removed the biggest obstacle and opponent of such expansion, Gaddafi himself. With Gaddafi gone, and with a quiescent pro-NATO puppet government in charge of Libya, there was no longer any chance that Libya would act as a powerful force against Western militarism. Quite the contrary – Libya’s new government was utterly dependent on such militarism and knew it.
Secondly, NATO’s aggression served to bring about a total collapse of the delicate but effective North African security system, which had been underpinned by Libya. And finally, NATO’s annihilation of the Libyan state effectively turned the country over to the region’s death squads and terror groups. These groups were then able to loot Libya’s military arsenals and set up training camps at their leisure, using these to expand operations right across the region.
It is no coincidence that almost all of the recent terror attacks in North Africa – not to mention Manchester – have been either prepared in Libya or perpetrated by fighters trained in Libya. Boko Haram, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, ISIS, Mali’s Ansar Dine, and literally dozens of others, have all greatly benefited from the destruction of Libya.
By ensuring the spread of terror groups across the region, the Western powers had magically created a demand for their military assistance which hitherto did not exist. They had literally created a protection racket for Africa.
In an excellent piece of research published last year, Nick Turse wrote how the increase in AFRICOM operations across the continent has correlated precisely with the rise in terror threats. Its growth, he said, has been accompanied by “increasing numbers of lethal terror attacks across the continent including those in Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Tunisia.
In fact, data from the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism at the University of Maryland shows that attacks have spiked over the last decade, roughly coinciding with AFRICOM’s establishment.
In 2007, just before it became an independent command, there were fewer than 400 such incidents annually in sub-Saharan Africa. Last year, the number reached nearly 2,000. By AFRICOM’s own official standards, of course, this is a demonstration of a massive failure. Viewed from the perspective of the protection racket, however, it is a resounding success, with US military power smoothly reproducing the conditions for its own expansion.
This is the Africa policy Trump has now inherited. But because this policy has rarely been understood as the protection racket it really is, many commentators have, as with so many of Trump’s policies, mistakenly believed he is somehow ‘ignoring’ or ‘reversing’ the approach of his predecessors. In fact, far from abandoning this approach, Trump is escalating it with relish.
What the Trump administration is doing, as it is doing in pretty much every policy area, is stripping the previous policy of its ‘soft power’ niceties to reveal and extend the iron fist which has in fact been in the driving seat all along. Trump, with his open disdain for Africa, has effectively ended US development aid for Africa – slashing overall African aid levels by one third, and transferring responsibility for much of the rest from the Agency for International Development to the Pentagon – while openly tying aid to the advancement of “US national security objectives.”
‘US has enough roles’: #Trump not interested in #Libya nation-building
Photo: Esam Omran Al-Fetori / Reuter