US, NATO’s role in invasion 12 years ago cannot be forgotten in Libyan floods
Published: Sep 17, 2023 08:39 PM
Illustration: Liu Xidan/GT

Illustration: Liu Xidan/GT

Libya has been ravaged by flooding spurred by Storm Daniel, with the latest figure by authorities suggesting that at least 11,300 have been killed. The international community has rightly described the incident as a humanitarian tragedy, and many people have justly pointed out the pressing need for urgent action to mitigate the deleterious effects of climate change. But there's another element to this that's not being discussed, namely the role of NATO during its invasion 12 years ago.

In March 2011, the US requested the UN Security Council to implement a no-fly zone over Libya due to alleged human rights abuses by the government of then-leader Muammar Gaddafi. China, India, Brazil, Russia and Germany abstained during this session - but some countries, including Russia, warned that Washington was using the crisis to implement a classic regime-change operation. 

The critics were correct. For eight months, NATO forces bombed the country to oblivion. This severely exacerbated the country's humanitarian situation, plunging the country into poverty and political turmoil. Writing for the Ecologist in 2015, journalist Nafeez Ahmed noted that NATO forces had deliberately bombed the African nation's water supplies, including its "complex national irrigation system that had been carefully built and maintained over decades to overcome" water shortages. 

This report suggests that the country's civilian infrastructures, including water facilities, were destroyed. While this report does not go into detail about key structures related to the current flooding, such as dams, and that's likely because this was not a serious issue at the time in a country that is primarily desert, this cannot be ruled out. The extent of NATO's damages during the 2011 campaign demands further investigation and reparations.

There already, in fact, exists a precedent for this situation. In 1986, the US lost a case before the International Court of Justice against Nicaragua over the "unlawful use of force" against the Central American country. Specific violations included attacks on Nicaraguan civilian infrastructures and naval vessels, placing mines in the country's ports, invading Managua's airspace, and supporting guerilla groups - called the Contras - against the national government. To this day, the US owes the country reparations but refuses to pay or even recognize the ruling as legitimate. 

Besides, the sanctions imposed by the US-led West have severely hindered Libya's socio-economic recovery. Till today, sanctions still pose a serious threat to Libya's economy, and the reconstruction process is progressing slowly. Moreover, the long-term failure of the US and the West to fulfill their international moral and aid obligations has made it difficult for Libya to rebuild internally. 

As the one to blame for the chaotic situation in Libya and an important external promoter of conflicts, the US-led West has not taken up its due responsibilities and obligations to help the Libyan people. For example, after the disaster occurred, as the biggest external party responsible for the Libyan problem, the US and European countries have been stingy in providing assistance. The US only provided $1 million in humanitarian aid, and the UK promised to provide £1 million in aid. The assistance from Western countries is like a drop in the bucket.

It must also be said that, while Americans recently rallied around their nation to commemorate the tragic events of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the floods in Libya were taking place, already killing more people than died during the attacks by Al Qaeda against the US.

The media has been silent about these issues. It indicates, first and foremost, a fundamental disregard for human life but also the sort of selective application of humanity that underpins dangerous chauvinism. While American society mourns for its fallen compatriots, it seems indifferent to the ongoing suffering of the victims of American imperialism. Recently, President Joe Biden announced a new round of aid for Vietnam War veterans exposed to the chemical weapon known as "Agent Orange" but, even as he embarked on a trip to Vietnam, he didn't even mention the people in the Asian country that are still experiencing disability and birth defects. The empire is founded on hypocrisy. It wags its finger about supposed values while disregarding them when they suit its own interests, representing the pinnacle of cynicism. The US needs a reckoning; a recognition of its crimes coupled with reflection and understanding. 

The author is a Prague-based American journalist, columnist and political commentator. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn