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Parry writes: "U.S. officials are pushing a dubious new scheme to 'unify' a shattered Libya, but the political risk at home is that voters will finally realize Hillary Clinton's responsibility for the mess."

A man surveys the scene after a NATO bombing in Libya. (photo: Jacobin)
A man surveys the scene after a NATO bombing in Libya. (photo: Jacobin)


Cleaning Up Hillary's Libyan Mess

By Robert Parry, Consortium News

02 April 16

 

illary Clinton’s signature project as Secretary of State – the “regime change” in Libya – is now sliding from the tragic to the tragicomic as her successors in the Obama administration adopt increasingly desperate strategies for imposing some kind of order on the once-prosperous North African country torn by civil war since Clinton pushed for the overthrow and murder of longtime Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

The problem that Clinton did much to create has grown more dangerous since Islamic State terrorists have gained a foothold in Sirte and begun their characteristic beheading of “infidels” as well as their plotting for terror attacks in nearby Europe.

There is also desperation among some Obama administration officials because the worsening Libyan fiasco threatens to undermine not only President Barack Obama’s legacy but Clinton’s drive for the Democratic presidential nomination and then the White House. So, the officials felt they had no choice but to throw caution to the wind or — to mix metaphors — some Hail Mary passes.

The latest daring move was a sea landing in Tripoli by the U.S./U.N-formulated “unity government,” which was cobbled together by Western officials in hotel rooms in Morocco and Tunisia. But instead of “unity,” the arrival by sea threatened to bring more disunity and war by seeking to muscle aside two rival governments.

The sea landing at a naval base in Tripoli became necessary because one of those rival governments refused to let the “unity” officials fly into Libya’s capital. So, instead, the “unity” leaders entered Libya by boat from Tunisia and are currently operating from the naval base where they landed.

With this unusual move, the Obama administration is reminding longtime national security analysts of other fiascos in which Washington sought to decide the futures of other countries by shaping a government externally, as with the Nicaraguan Contras in the 1980s and the Iraqi National Congress in 2003, and then imposing those chosen leaders on the locals.

(When I heard about the sea landing, I flashed back on images of Gen. Douglas MacArthur splashing ashore as he returned to the Philippines in World War II.)

Making the Scheme Work

But the new mystery is how this Libyan “unity government” expects to convince its rivals to accept its legitimacy without the military muscle to actually take over governance across Libya.

The Obama administration risks simply introducing a third rival government into the mix. Though the “unity government” drew participants from the other two governments, U.S. resistance to incorporating several key figures, including Gen. Khalifa Haftar, a military strongman in eastern Libya, has threatened to simply extend and possibly expand the civil war.

The U.S. scheme for establishing the authority of the “unity government” centers on using the $85 billion or so in foreign reserves in Libya’s Central Bank to bring other Libyan leaders onboard. But that strategy may test the question of whether the pen – poised over the Central Bank’s check book – is mightier than the sword, since the militias associated with the rival regimes have plenty of weapons.

Besides the carrot of handing out cash to compliant Libyan politicians and fighters, the Obama administration also is waving a stick, threatening to hit recalcitrant Libyans with financial sanctions or labeling them “terrorists” with all the legal and other dangers that such a designation carries.

But can these tactics – bribery and threats – actually unify a deeply divided Libya, especially when some of the powerful factions are Islamist and see their role as more than strictly political, though the Islamist faction in Tripoli is also opposed to the Islamic State?

I’m told that another unity plan that drew wider support from the competing factions and included Haftar as Libya’s new commander-in-chief was rejected by U.S. officials because of fears that Haftar might become another uncontrollable strongman like Gaddafi.

Nevertheless, Haftar and his troops are considered an important element in taking on the Islamic State and, according to intelligence sources, are already collaborating with U.S. and European special forces in that fight.

After the sea landing on Wednesday, the “unity government” began holding official meetings on Thursday, but inside the heavily guard naval base. How the “unity” Prime Minister Fayez Sirraj and six other members of the Presidency Council can extend their authority across Tripoli and then across Libya clearly remained a work in progress, however.

The image of these “unity” officials, representing what’s called the Government of National Accord, holed up with their backs to the sea at a naval base, unable to dispatch their subordinates to take control of government buildings and ministries, recalls how the previous internationally recognized government, the House of Representatives or HOR, met on a cruise ship in Tobruk in the east.

Meanwhile, HOR’s chief rival, the General National Congress, renamed the National Salvation government, insisted on its legitimacy in Tripoli, but its control, too, was limited to several Libyan cities.

On Wednesday, National Salvation leader Khalifa Ghwell called the “unity” officials at the naval base “infiltrators” and demanded their surrender. Representatives of the “unity government” then threatened to deliver its rivals’ names to Interpol and the U.N. for “supporting terrorism.”

On Friday, the European Union imposed asset freezes on Ghwell and the leaders of the rival parliaments in Tripoli and in Tobruk. According to some accounts, the mix of carrots and sticks has achieved some progress for the “unity government” as 10 towns and cities in western Libya indicated their support for the new leadership.

Shortly after being selected by U.S. and U.N. officials to head the “unity government,” Sirraj reached out to Haftar in a meeting on Jan. 30, 2016, but the move upset U.S. officials who favored isolating Haftar from the new government.

Political Stakes

The success or failure of this latest Obama administration effort to impose some order on Libya – and get the participants in the civil war to concentrate their fire on the Islamic State – could have consequences politically in the United States as well.

The continuing crisis threatens to remind Democratic primary voters about Hillary Clinton’s role in sparking the chaos in 2011 when she pressured President Obama to counter a military offensive by Gaddafi against what he called Islamic terrorists operating in the east.

Though Clinton and other “liberal interventionists” around Obama insisted that the goal was simply to protect Libyans from a possible slaughter, the U.S.-backed airstrikes inside Libya quickly expanded into a “regime change” operation, slaughtering much of the Libyan army.

Clinton’s State Department email exchanges revealed that her aides saw the Libyan war as a chance to pronounce a “Clinton doctrine,” bragging about how Clinton’s clever use of “smart power” could get rid of demonized foreign leaders like Gaddafi. But the Clinton team was thwarted when President Obama seized the spotlight when Gaddafi’s government fell.

But Clinton didn’t miss a second chance to take credit on Oct. 20, 2011, after militants captured Gaddafi, sodomized him with a knife and then murdered him. Appearing on a TV interview, Clinton celebrated Gaddafi’s demise with the quip, “we came; we saw; he died.”

However, with Gaddafi and his largely secular regime out of the way, Islamic militants expanded their power over the country. Some were terrorists, just as Gaddafi had warned.

One Islamic terror group attacked the U.S. consulate in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012, killing U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other American personnel, an incident that Clinton called the worst moment of her four-year tenure as Secretary of State.

As the violence spread, the United States and other Western countries abandoned their embassies in Tripoli. Once prosperous with many social services, Libya descended into the category of failed state with the Islamic State taking advantage of the power vacuum to seize control of Sirte and other territory. In one grisly incident, Islamic State militants marched Coptic Christians onto a beach and beheaded them.

Yet, on the campaign trail, Clinton continues to defend her judgment in instigating the Libyan war. She claims that Gaddafi had “American blood on his hands,” although she doesn’t spell out exactly what she’s referring to. There remain serious questions about the two primary incidents blamed on Libya in which Americans died – the 1986 La Belle bombing in Berlin and the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988.

But whatever Gaddafi’s guilt in that earlier era, he renounced terrorism during George W. Bush’s presidency and surrendered his unconventional military arsenal. He even assisted Bush’s “war on terror.” So, Gaddafi’s grisly fate has become a cautionary tale for what can happen to a leader who makes major security concessions to the United States.

The aftermath of the Clinton-instigated “regime change” in Libya also shows how little Clinton and other U.S. officials learned from the Iraq War disaster. Clinton has rejected any comparisons between her vote for the Iraq War in 2002 and her orchestration of the Libyan war in 2011, saying that “conflating” them is wrong. She also has sought to shift blame onto European allies who also pushed for the war.

Though her Democratic rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders, hasn’t highlighted her key role in the Libya fiasco, Clinton can expect a tougher approach from the Republicans if she wins the nomination. The problem with the Republicans, however, is that they have obsessed over the details of the Benghazi incident, spinning all sorts of conspiracy theories, missing the forest for the trees.

Clinton’s ultimate vulnerability on Libya is that she was a principal author of another disastrous “regime change” that has spread chaos not only across the Middle East and North Africa but into Europe, where the entire European Union project, a major post-World War II accomplishment, is now in danger.

Clinton may claim she has lots of foreign policy experience, but the hard truth is that much of her experience has involved making grievous mistakes and bloody miscalculations.



Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).

e-max.it: your social media marketing partner
 

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+57 # Activista 2016-04-02 14:20
" So, Gaddafi’s grisly fate has become a cautionary tale for what can happen to a leader who makes major security concessions to the United States."
exactly - look at
www.msnbc.com/msnbc/obama-nixed-cia-plan-could-have-stopped-isis-officials
CIA claims that is Obama would give YES to their covert plan to "remove" = assassinate Assad, that there would not be ISIS -
and of course: "Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said she advocated having the CIA arm the rebels in 2012, siding with Petraeus in internal White House debates."
Clinton is VERY dangerous egomaniac.
 
 
+81 # grandlakeguy 2016-04-02 17:24
Just imagine the havoc Hillary can cause if she becomes President.
Those that are eagerly awaiting the end of days must be very excited.
They can already smell the sulphur in the air.

Stop this madness... support BERNIE!
 
 
+65 # donaldmead 2016-04-02 17:29
As Libya is a failed state, HRC is a failed leader.
 
 
+54 # Femihumanist 2016-04-02 18:15
Quoting donaldmead:
As Libya is a failed state, HRC is a failed leader.


She's more than a "failed" leader; she's terrifying and despicable.
 
 
+32 # tigerlillie 2016-04-02 18:13
Hillary Clinton, that expert at getting things done.
 
 
+56 # dandevries 2016-04-02 18:22
"Clinton may claim she has lots of foreign policy experience, but the hard truth is that much of her experience has involved making grievous mistakes and bloody miscalculations."

INDEED!
 
 
+45 # jdd 2016-04-02 18:25
If Bernie is serious he will stop conceding to her "foreign policy experience," and expose "Secretary Clinton" as nothing but a bloody, murderous, disaster. Obama's attempts to cover for her, and his, folly is contemptible.
 
 
+18 # wrknight 2016-04-03 06:47
Clinton's foreign policy achievements: Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Honduras, Ukraine, Russia.

Need anyone say any more?
 
 
+53 # turtleislander 2016-04-02 18:33
The fatuous arrogance in US policy leaves me speechless and trying to bring some air into my lungs.
WHY do they think so naturally and narrowly that they have any business at all interfering anywhere they wish? They cant even run this country. That fabled "inside the beltway bubble" must be filled with powerful hallucinogenic vapors.
 
 
+35 # PABLO DIABLO 2016-04-02 18:47
Hillary's problem = that great Groucho Marx quote?

"The secret of success is sincerity. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made."
 
 
-26 # Robbee 2016-04-02 18:50
if hill clears bernie, she will be our nation's "peace" candidate - that is, unless the repugs nominate someone other than crud or rump, or another warhead!

behind door #1! "i will carpet bomb isis into oblivion!"

behind door #2! "i will bomb the shit out of isis! on my first day in office, i will tear up the no-nuclear-bomb -making treaty with iran ... a bad deal! the worst ever!"

behind door #3! "war is never a first choice!"

- what passes for intelligent comment around here is falling into the trap of thinking that, if hill becomes our dem nominee, she will not be our nation's "peace" candidate!

unsaid above, we all prefer bernie's muslim armies plan! but bernie is not our nation's only "peace" candidate! - go bernie! - then, whether bernie or not, go dem nominee!
 
 
+43 # jdd 2016-04-02 20:35
You don't get it. Her record is war, war, war, and bomb, bomb, bomb. The goal now is to stop her from getting the nomination. She was the biggest hawk in Obama's cabinet, moreso than the Joint Chiefs and Bush holdover Sec. of Defense Gates, who resigned over her inability to reason regarding Libya. Bernie's muslim army plan is folly. He often refers to the Saudis, Hillary's head-chopping monarchical favorites, who are the chief sponsors of state terrorism and are pressently committing genocide against Yemen. NATO member Turkey, which has the largest "muslim" army in the region is also an ISIS enabler and destabilizing influence. The "muslim armies' which actually are fighting ISIS are the Syrian Arab army, the Kurdish militias, the Iranian volunteers and their Hezbollah allies. Except for the Kurds, these forces have been the focus of armed attack by Hillary and Obama. So Bernie needs to cut the " Yes, Sec. Clinton, Assad is a dictator" nonsense, point out her role Libya disaster, and support Sec. Kerry's effort to join in Russia's initiatives toward a negotiated peace in Syria while finishing off ISIS and Al-Nusra.
 
 
-19 # Robbee 2016-04-02 19:01
this is prophylactic post to ward off obligatory GOP trolling, every time hill's name comes up in a story -

citizen, note that your pledge amounts to GOP catfishing undemocratic progressives! - # Inspired Citizen 2016-02-23 14:27 "... Bernie or lose the general election ... is a pledge."

# Inspired Citizen 2016-02-21 10:34 "... to apply the leverage RAP is building ..."

- "leverage" bernie NEVER ASKED FOR AND DOESN'T WANT! DO THIS ONLY IF YOU INSIST ON RUNNING AND LOSING BERNIE'S CAMPAIGN FOR HIM!

outing false-flag ops! - our local hill-haters have been self-identifyin g here as GOP trolls for months and months!

- citizen, at long last! thanks! outs RAP! - Republicans Against Progress - says - # Inspired Citizen 2015-12-10 18:10 "It's going to be #BerrnieOrElse the GOP. That's RAP's promise!"

- and says - # jsluka 2015-08-30 17:22 "I will not vote for Hillary Clinton ... It would be better for a Rethuglican to get elected, and bring on the revolution!"

- humbug! as says # Scott Galindez 2015-10-20 10:28 “Its not leverage; threats backfire, especially empty ones. Bernie will not run as an independent. Bernie needs enough delegates at that convention to win, not signers on a petition making an undemocratic threat.”

our local autocrats! pledgers! want us to voluntarily, unilaterally disarm our progressive vote! - citizen’s is false-flag attack on hill! and false-flag support for bernie! - listen to bernie! - down with RAP! - down with GOP! - go bernie!
 
 
+38 # Vardoz 2016-04-02 19:44
Hillary was an awful secretary of state.
 
 
-19 # Robbee 2016-04-02 20:08
says - # Vardoz 2016-04-02 19:44
Hillary was an awful secretary of state.

THAT'S RIGHT! vardoz! hill was secretary of state - for 4 recent years! - that's exactly why hill will float like a butterfly, sting like a bee! run circles around crud or rump, or any other warhead in a face-to-face debate! - that's how she handles bernie anytime they face-off against each other! she knows how to squalk foreign policy like no other candidate!

and yet, bernie concedes - "... on her worst day, Hillary Clinton will be an infinitely better candidate and President than the Republican candidate on his best day."

vardoz, we've gotta stop helping our enemies, namely, GOP slime!! and their puppet-masters, the 1%! and stop attacking our friends!

you've gotta stop thinking you're helping bernie fix our plutocracy and instead start listening to what bernie says! - he's got some really good ideas, you know? he's got a plan! - a plan for if he wins the dem nomination, and, another plan, for if he doesn't! - a plan for if he wins the presidency and another plan for whether he wins it or not, what we need to do as a nation to restore our democracy! - if you can, think beyond voting for bernie! - if you can, think about how not voting dem elects some GOP slime! - if you can, bother to restore democracy!

does it ever occur to you that bernie's plan to restore democracy is a constitutional amendment for public funding, only, of all federal, state and local elections?
 
 
+27 # lfeuille 2016-04-02 20:31
1. This makes absolutely no sense. How can being a terrible Sec. of State be an advantage.

2. Bernie says infinitely better, I say minimally better.

3. Our enemies are not restricted to the GOP> Corporate war loving Democrats are included.

4. Clinton will not advance any of Bernie's plans to restore democracy, especially not public funding.
 
 
+36 # DaveM 2016-04-02 20:13
The United States has a longstanding policy which, greatly simplified, relies on the belief that if a dictatorship is overthrown, "democracy" will succeed it. The only problem is that it doesn't work. Mind, the U.S. has done its share of placing or keeping dictators in power when they "support U.S. interests".

A far better idea, to my mind, is to recognize unconditionally the sovereignty of other nations and to leave them alone, even if we don't like them. Central America did not turn "American", the Middle East is not going to do so, nor will Cuba. Perhaps if we as a nation came to accept such things and laid off on various "foreign adventures", all concerned would in due course be far more happy and properous for it.

We DO NOT "have to destroy the village to save it".
 
 
+17 # economagic 2016-04-02 21:06
In-bleepin'-dee d! Franco comes immediately to mind, as "Democracy Now!" had a segment Thursday on one of the last survivors of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, complete with a recording of Woodie Guthrie singing one of his pro-democracy songs, and one of the Brigade member saying they knew that the Great War would resume if they failed, and that they would fail without at least a little support from the US government -- which of course never came. Franco remained as our man in Spain until 1975.

But even before him there were 35 years of others as bad or worse in Latin America and elsewhere.

"I’m told that another unity plan . . . was rejected by U.S. officials because of fears that Haftar might become another uncontrollable strongman like Gaddafi."

Control in that situation is an illusion, as it is in many others. It is impossible more or less in proportion to the degree to which it is deemed "necessary."

This is one area in which the neolibs and the neoCONS agree, both of them disastrously wrong. Are they even distinct groups, or like the Dems and the Reps merely two sides of the same duopoly? And are their "failures" part of the plan?

It seems clear that many self-styled "defenders of classical liberalism" are what we call "ultra-conserva tives," trying to transplant the remedies for the tyrannies of the 18th century unaltered into the 21st. We have one here in NC, our very own Pope, a guy name of Art, despite his utter lack of artfulness.
 
 
+13 # wrknight 2016-04-03 06:58
Quoting DaveM:
The United States has a longstanding policy which, greatly simplified, relies on the belief that if a dictatorship is overthrown, "democracy" will succeed it. The only problem is that it doesn't work.

Not quite. The U.S. policy relies on the belief that if it overthrows a government that is unfriendly to U.S. capitalist interests, a government that is friendly to U.S. capitalist interests will succeed it. The democracy part is irrelevant.

You are right, though, that it doesn't work.
 
 
-19 # Robbee 2016-04-02 21:50
lists - # lfeuille 2016-04-02 20:31
1. This makes absolutely no sense. How can being a terrible Sec. of State be an advantage. - BECAUSE HILL KNOWS THE WORLD BETTER THAN ANY OTHER CANDIDATE! - IN ALL DEBATES SHE KICKS, AND WILL KICK, ASS!

2. Bernie says infinitely better, I say minimally better. - OKAY? I GET YOU? HOW MUCH SMARTER THAN BERNIE ARE YUU? HOW COME YOU DON'T RUN FOR PREZ?

3. Our enemies are not restricted to the GOP> Corporate war loving Democrats are included. OKAY? WHO ARE OUR ENEMIES? WOMEN? BLACKS? LATINOS? UNION MEMBERS? ARE ALL THESE GROUPS OUT TO GET YOU?

4. Clinton will not advance any of Bernie's plans to restore democracy, especially not public funding. THAT'S EXACTLY WHY WE SHOULD PREFER BERNIE! I THINK YOU'VE GOT IT!
 
 
+8 # Billsy 2016-04-03 14:09
All Caps does not make your argument any more compelling. Much of the electorate is totally fed up with politics corrupted by wealthy campaign donors. We desire either the strongest candidate advocating for an end to corruption, Sanders, or the one with the biggest tough-talking mouth, Trump who has zero chance of becoming President as he's alienated women, latinos, people of color and anyone with an IQ over 75.

You have a clear cut choice between the GOP candidate, funded by the fossil fuel industry, Clinton who is funded by Wall St., or Sanders who is funded by citizen donors. This is the best chance in years for fundamental change.
 
 
0 # USuncutMN 2016-04-03 01:33
I take issue; these are not conspiracy theories.
She and Sid and Teneo, Osprey and Tyler Drumheller -- and quite a few others including Huma -- were up to plenty of cloak and dagger.
The RePUGs didn't go far enough.
 
 
+12 # Texas Aggie 2016-04-03 05:12
Gaddafi had “American blood on his hands,”

Anyone who supported the Iraq invasion has American blood on their hands. Anyone who supported the destruction of Libya has the blood of women and children on her hands. Anyone who supported the military coup in Honduras and then sent the refugees fleeing the death squads back to Honduras to be killed has a LOT of innocent blood on her hands. Anyone who supported the Israeli invasions of Gaza and their occupation of the West Bank has the blood of thousands of innocents on her hands.

Someone needs to ask her if that is a good enough reason to take her out as well.
 
 
+2 # WaaDoo 2016-04-03 10:07
Just show HRC offering the Staples "easy" .... uh, I mean, "reset" button to a Russian diplomat. Classic example of the amateurs in present admin. dealing with the professionals. HRC actions on Libya were treasonous. "Reset" button, just childish..
 
 
+7 # Roger Kotila 2016-04-03 11:07
"Clinton may claim she has lots of foreign policy experience, but the hard truth is that much of her experience has involved making grievous mistakes and bloody miscalculations ."

Reporter Parry's description of the Clinton-backed attack on Libya as simply a "grievous mistake" and "bloody miscalculation" avoids what this geopolitical strategy really was: A world crime. The invasion of Iraq, too, was not a "mistake", it was another world crime.

Which raises an important question: Should Clinton and the other officials responsible for the carnage in the Middle East be indicted by the International Criminal Court? (It won't happen because American/NATO authorities who start wars and overthrow governments are above the law. That's why we need to replace the UN Charter with the Earth Constitution. It's time for a "new UN", one which can enforce world law upon government leaders who commit war crimes, crimes of aggression, crimes against humanity, etc.
 
 
-5 # Robbee 2016-04-03 15:47
says - # Billsy 2016-04-03 14:09
"... Trump who has zero chance of becoming President ...

- yet some right here on rsn pledge to make him prez!

threatens GOP troll!- Inspired Citizen 2016-03-20 13:13
"... either Unite Behind Bernie or else (RAP promises) Trump as the next President.”

hill worse than rump! snarls GOP troll - # Inspired Citizen 2016-03-17 15:51 "... Clinton more dangerous than Trump.”

citizen, note that your pledge amounts to GOP catfishing for progressive votes! - # Inspired Citizen 2016-02-23 14:27 "... Bernie or lose the general election ... is a pledge."

outing false-flag ops! - our local hill-haters have been self-identifyin g here as GOP trolls for months and months!

- citizen, at long last! thanks! outs RAP! - Republicans Against Progress - says - # Inspired Citizen 2015-12-10 18:10 "It's going to be #BerrnieOrElse the GOP. That's RAP's promise!"

- and says - # jsluka 2015-08-30 17:22 "I will not vote for Hillary Clinton ... It would be better for a Rethuglican to get elected, and bring on the revolution!"

citizen's is false-flag attack on hill! and false-flag support for bernie! - listen to bernie! - down with RAP! - down with GOP! - go bernie!
 

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