May 4, 2016 - Mustafa Fetouri

May 4, 2016
Mustafa Fetouri

There is rhetoric and there is reality, and the relationship between the tow can be tricky, especially in the so-called former war zones of the Middle East like Iraq and Libya. It isn’t that the rhetoric is false, just that it is incomplete in ways that make its implications untrue.

For example, rhetoric says the U.S. and the U.K. liberated Iraq from the tyrant Saddam Hussein. True as far as it goes, but that’s nowhere near the reality than, for almost everyone who lived in Iraq under Saddam’s tyranny, and still lives in Iraq today, life is demonstrably worse than it was 13 years ago. Close to 4 million Iraqis are IDPs, Internally Displaced Persons, refugees within their own country.

This doesn’t even mention the 5 million former Iraqis who now live as refugees or exiles abroad. Their lives are, with a few exceptions, as bad as or worse than those IDPs. Their country is a ruin of battered or misappropriated buildings, dysfunctional infrastructure and government that is weak, corrupt and still dominated by outsiders…Americans and Iranians. Their nation is divided into three mutually hostile segments…Sunni and Shi’ite Arabs and Kurds.

The rhetoric about Libya is radically similar: an armed intervention by NATO and American forces, bolstered by local Libyan groups on the ground, overthrew and killed the tyrant Muammar Gaddafi. True, but as in Iraq, that intervention has ruined more lives than improved them, and for the same terrible reason: the international forces that created “regime change” had neither a plan nor much interest in what happened after the bad old regime has been changed.

In the case of Libya, what happened next, our guest today, distinguished Libyan journalist, academic and economic analyst Mustafa Fetouri says, was predicted, with remarkable accuracy, by Gaddafi’s son and projected heir Saif al-Islam Gaddafi…the collapse of the unified Libyan state, the substitution of a chaos of competing tribal and regional interests, all of them heavily armed. In Libya, too, there are refugees in and out of the country, but most people are still in their homes. Unfortunately, the basics of life, dependable power, accessible money, stable prices for food and medicine, systems of public education, law and order are either missing or hollow shells of what most people would want.

Politically, recent rhetoric says, the U.N. has created a Government of National Accord, and it has set up shop in the capital city, Tripoli. True, perhaps, but hardly true enough to matter. The government is in Tripoli, at a naval base where it came ashore after its attempt to fly into the country were blocked. It has offices in town, but cannot safely use them so they stay at the base. They are under a kind of siege by forces who had created a semi-government in opposition to another fractional regime based now in the eastern city of Tobruk. The Tobruk government sometimes uses rhetoric to suggest they’ll unite under the GNA, but in reality, they have refused to do so, in part because their military chief doesn’t want to cede authority to a civilian regime.

Reading Room

Mustafa Fetouri is an independent Libyan academic, financial analyst and an award winning journalist who writes for the online news platform Al-Monitor, and The National an English-language newspaper published in Abu Dhabi,United Arab Emirates.

“Will families of Libyan airstrike victims ever get justice?” – Al-Monitor

“Libya’s militias take justice into their own hands” – Al-Monitor

“Five years on, predictions by Gaddafi’s son come true” – Al-Monitor

“Five years on, displaced Libyans languish in camps” – Al-Monitor

“After years of crisis in Libya, what will the West do this time around?” – The National

“Many challenges ahead for Libya’s new government” – The National

“Libyan unity government moves into ministries” – The National

“Libya remains embroiled in chaos long after the 2011 revolution” – The National

“Any US attack on Sirte must keep residents in mind” – The National

“How ISIL fighters are maintaining their grip on Qaddafi’s home city” – The National

“Egyptian migrants killed in clash with Libyan smugglers: official” – Yahoo! News

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