On September 10, Cyclone Daniel made landfall in eastern Libya, where it caused 4,000 deaths and left 10,000 people missing, presumed dead. It also caused massive damage to Libya’s infrastructure, destroying many homes, washing away bridges, flooding roads and ruining crops and fields. Many countries responded rapidly, sending humanitarian aid, medicines and rescue equipment to alleviate the suffering of the Libyan people affected by this unprecedented catastrophe. Teams of emergency response specialists were also dispatched, including highly experienced rescue teams from Russia, who worked around the clock for ten days to eliminate the consequences of Cyclone Daniel in the most challenging and worst affected areas of Eastern Libya. According to Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova, the Russian rescue teams faithfully completed their mission in eastern Libya, accomplishing a huge amount of work.
Many political analysts have noted that the catastrophe united Libyans from across the country in solidarity with their fellow citizens in the devastated east of the country. The question is, will Libya’s polarized politicians do the same, or will they just go back to their old ways? It is to be hoped that this catastrophe, with its high death toll, will compel politicians on both sides to see the bigger picture and prioritize Libya’s consolidation and unification above their own narrow self-interest.
What is more, many people, both in Libya and abroad, are beginning to look at the reasons why Cyclone Daniel had such catastrophic consequences in the country, and, as they do so, they are beginning to relive their memories of another tragic period in Libya’s history – the catastrophic events of 2011. As readers may remember, in March 2011 the US asked the UN Security Council to impose a no-fly zone over Libya in response to alleged human rights violations by Muammar Gaddafi’s government. China, India, Brazil, Russia and Germany abstained during this session, and some countries, including Russia, also warned that Washington was openly and blatantly exploiting the crisis in the country to put into effect a textbook regime change operation. Operations of this kind, aimed at replacing governments that the US disapproves, have been planned and put into effect in many countries around the world.
And as further events demonstrated, the critics were right. For eight months, NATO forces bombed the country without any opposition, destroying towns and villages, killing innocent civilians, and severely damaging infrastructure that had nothing to do with the military. This seriously exacerbated the humanitarian situation in what was once a rich and prosperous country, plunging it into poverty and sowing the seeds of political turmoil.
In a 2015 article in The Ecologist, Nafeez Ahmed accused NATO forces of deliberately bombing the African country’s water infrastructure, including its “complex national irrigation system that had been carefully built and maintained over decades to overcome this problem [i.e. the problem of water scarcity].” As Nafeez Ahmed demonstrates in his article, many of Libya’s civilian infrastructure sites, including water supply facilities, were destroyed. His article does not specifically deal with flooding – which is not normally a serious problem in Libya – and therefore he does not refer to the key structures, including dams, whose failure contributed to the recent catastrophe. Nevertheless, it is impossible to rule out a link between the NATO bombing and the flooding.
It is no secret that under the leadership of Muammar Gaddafi, Libya ( or the Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, as the country was formally known) developed an ambitious plan to reinforce the dams and build many new dams that would no doubt have withstood this year’s Cyclone Daniel, and the country would have avoided the devastation that in fact occurred. But the Libyan leader was cynically and treacherously assassinated on the orders of NATO and the US. The world watched on with distaste as Hillary Clinton, then US Secretary of State, received the news of Muammar Gaddafi’s death, her face distorted with hatred. Without trying to hide her joy, she joked: “We came, we saw, he died.” However, Hillary Clinton then spent several years in a psychiatric hospital, and this fact reveals a lot about the metal state of the US leadership, particularly the current ageing and senile President.
A full investigation is needed into the large-scale major damage caused by NATO and the US in their 2011 campaign, and compensation needs to be paid. And there is, in fact, a precedent for this. In a 1986 lawsuit brought by Nicaragua, the International Court of Justice ruled against the US, finding that it was guilty of the “unlawful use of force” against the claimant. Specifically, the US was found guilty of violations including attacks on Nicaragua’s civilian infrastructure and naval vessels, mining its ports, invading the airspace above the capital, Managua, and supporting the terrorist Contras against the national government. The “democratic” United States still owes Nicaragua reparations, but has refused to pay or accept the legitimacy of the court’s decision, preferring to brandish its military cudgel left and right.
What is more, the sanctions imposed on Libya by the West, headed by the USA, have seriously impeded its social and economic recovery. The sanctions still pose a serious threat to the country’s economy, and the recovery process has been very slow. Moreover, the long-term failure of the US and the West to fulfill their international – and moral – obligations, and to provide aid, has hampered Libya’s internal reconstruction. It appears that West hopes to regain its economic stranglehold over Libya and to pump black gold from the country’s rich underground deposits without hindrance.
As the party responsible for the chaotic, deplorable situation in Libya, and an important external initiator of conflicts, the West, led by the US, has failed to meet its responsibilities to assist the Libyan people. For example, in the aftermath of the catastrophe, the US and European countries, the main external contributors to Libya’s problems, were less than generous when it came to sending assistance. The US has only provided $1 million dollars’ worth of humanitarian aid, while the UK has only pledged £1 million. Compared with the amount contributed by the Arab states and by many other, much poorer countries, the West’s support is merely a drop in the ocean, and deserves to be met with a contemptuous smile. Especially considering the huge amounts that the US and NATO are spending on their support for the Ukrainian neo-Nazis who have unleashed a war against Russia. It is quite obvious that if the West had been held morally and financially accountable for the collapse of the once wealthy and prosperous Libya under Muammar Gaddafi, its leaders might have thought twice before launching a war against Russia.
It should also be noted that while Americans have recently rallied together as a nation to commemorate the tragic 9/11 terrorist attacks (masterminded, according to the official US version, by Al-Qaeda), the floods in Libya have already claimed more victims than were killed in those attacks. However, experts are still arguing and have yet to reach a unanimous conclusion about who is really to blame for the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York. All the original documents relating to those events have been classified, and journalists and researchers are not able to view them.
But media in the West are still silent on this subject. This demonstrates, first and foremost, a fundamental disregard for human life, and a selectivity in its concern for human suffering that betrays a dangerous chauvinism. While US society mourns the death of their fellow Americans, they appear to be indifferent to the ongoing suffering experienced by the countless victims of American imperialism.
President Joe Biden recently announced a new round of aid for Vietnam War veterans who were exposed to the chemical defoliant known as Agent Orange. But while on the subject of Vietnam, he said nothing about the Vietnamese who continue to suffer from disabilities and high rates of birth defects. Vietnam is still prohibited from exporting fruit, vegetables and grain because the earth in that much-suffering land is still polluted by the toxic chemicals which the US applied in such large quantities. The Russian President Vladimir Putin has described the USA as an “empire of lies,” citing its characteristic deceitfulness, disrespect, arrogance and hypocrisy. By trumpeting its so-called values, while disregarding these when it is in its interest to do so, the US displays exceptional cynicism, impudence and boorishness. The US needs to pay back the debt it owes: to admit its crimes, reflect on and appreciate the harm it has done, and make reparations to those countries on every continent who have suffered from US aggression and wars.
Victor Mikhin, Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.