Last week marked the sixth anniversary of the start of the civil unrest referred to in Western countries as the ‘Libyan Revolution’, which culminated in the murder of Muammar Gaddafi and the destruction of Libyan statehood. Speaking to RIA Novosti, Gaddafi’s cousin Ahmed Gaddaf al-Dam discussed the situation in Libya, and who was responsible.
Libya’s descent into chaos began on February 17, 2011, when protests in the city of Benghazi escalated to a widespread rebellion, concentrated mostly in the eastern portion of the country.
In March 2011, as government forces rallied and prepared to crush the revolt, French, British, US, Canadian and Italian forces and allies from Jordan, Qatar, the UAE and Sweden implemented a no-fly zone over Libyan airspace, and launched air strikes against Libyan Army forces.
The NATO operation ended in October 2011 following the capture, torture and execution of longtime Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi; the country has since descended into a state of chaos, leaving tens of thousands dead and millions displaced, with several factions, including Daesh and other terrorist groups, vying for control over pieces of the country.
Speaking to RIA Novosti about the condition Libya is in today, Ahmed Gaddaf al-Dam, Gaddafi’s cousin and a former aide to the Libyan leader, said that he is convinced that the NATO mission to destroy his country has not yet been completed.
Muammar Gaddafi warned Tony Blair in two fraught phone conversations in 2011 that his removal from the Libyan leadership would open a space for al-Qaida to seize control of the country and even launch an invasion of Europe.
The transcripts of the conversations have been published with Blair’s agreement by the UK foreign affairs select committee, which is conducting an inquiry into the western air campaign that led to the ousting and killing of Gaddafi in October 2011.
In the two calls the former British prime minister pleaded with Gaddafi to stand aside or end the violence.
The transcripts reveal the gulf in understanding between Gaddafi and the west over what was occurring in his country and the nature of the threat he was facing.
In the first call, at 11.15am on 25 February 2011, Gaddafi gave a warning in part borne out by future events: “They [jihadis] want to control the Mediterranean and then they will attack Europe.”
In the second call, at 3.25pm the same day, the Libyan leader said: “We are not fighting them, they are attacking us. I want to tell you the truth. It is not a difficult situation at all. The story is simply this: an organisation has laid down sleeping cells in north Africa. Called the al-Qaida organisation in north Africa … The sleeping cells in Libya are similar to dormant cells in America before 9/11.”
Gaddafi added: “I will have to arm the people and get ready for a fight. Libyan people will die, damage will be on the Med, Europe and the whole world. These armed groups are using the situation [in Libya] as a justification – and we shall fight them.”
Three weeks after the calls, a Nato-led coalition that included Britain began bombing raids that led to the overthrow of Gaddafi. He was finally deposed in August and murdered by opponents of his regime in October.
At one point in the conversations Gaddafi urged Blair to go to Libya to see the lack of violence in Tripoli, and held the telephone to a TV screen so Blair could hear people voicing their support for Gaddafi in the streets.
Blair said he had decided to act as an intermediary due to the contact he had with Gaddafi when he was prime minister. Both Washington and London knew of his phone calls to Gaddafi, he said.
During the calls Blair suggested he could engineer a peaceful exit for Gaddafi if he agreed to leave. Referring to him as the leader, Blair also insisted there was no attempt to colonise Libya. Gaddafi said he had to defy colonisation, insisting: “There is nothing here. No fight, no bloodshed. Come see yourself.”
Blair urged Gaddafi to give him a phone number so he could contact him urgently, and beseeched him to “do something that allows the process to start, end the bloodshed, start a new constitution”.
He told Gaddafi that if he made the right statements, ended violence, and lowered the political temperature, it might be possible to get the US and the EU to hold back from interfering.
“If you have a safe place to go, you should go there because this will not end peacefully and there has to be a process of change; that process of change can be managed and we have to find a way of managing it,” Blair said.
“The US and the EU are in a tough position right now and I need to take something back to them which ensures this ends peacefully. If people saw the leader stand aside people would be content with that. If this goes on for another day or two days, we will go past that point. I am saying this because I believe it deeply. If we cannot find a way out very quickly, we will be past the point of no return. If this does not happen very fast the people of Libya will make this very destructive.”
Blair ended the call by saying: “ I would like to offer a way out that is peaceful … keep the lines open.”
Commenting on the exchanges on Thursday, the foreign select committee chair, Crispin Blunt, said: “The transcripts supplied by Mr Blair provide a new insight into the private views of Colonel Gaddafi as his dictatorship began to crumble around him. The failure to follow Mr Blair’s calls to ‘keep the lines open’ and for these early conversations to initiate any peaceful compromise continue to reverberate.
“The committee will want to consider whether Gaddafi’s prophetic warning of the rise of extremist militant groups following the collapse of the regime was wrongly ignored because of Gaddafi’s otherwise delusional take on international affairs. The evidence that the committee has taken so far in this inquiry suggests that western policymakers were rather less perceptive than Gaddafi about the risks of intervention for both the Libyan people and the western interests.”
The alliance, he recalled, had intervened in the country as a united front, but then began supporting disparate armed groups which opposed one another all across the country.
All the while, “NATO itself was never divided, and sought only to manage the conflict.
They did not want it to end.
It became clear that the West’s plan, which started off with coming to kill Gaddafi and to destroy Libya, has yet to be fully implemented. The West continues to nurture [various] groups to ensure that the conflict does not end for as long as possible.”
Not long before his death, Gaddafi warned Western powers that Libya would disintegrate if he was removed from power. Six years on, his predictions have turned into a grim reality, Gaddaf al-Dam noted.
“If the problem lay in the need for Gaddafi or Saddam Hussein to give up power, as some have claimed, then why is all this senseless destruction and killing still going on [now that they are gone]?
In this war, fueled by pro-Western forces, there are no winners.”
As for Gaddafi’s predictions, Gaddaf al-Dam pointed out that the Libyan leader “was a historian and a revolutionary, with his own life experience.
He had information about the threats to the Middle East.
He warned about it back in the 1980s –all of this is documented.
And now, unfortunately, it’s clear that he has successfully predicted exactly what has come to pass in the Middle East.”
Responsibility for the current chaos in Libya lies squarely on the shoulders of the Security Council, which approved the no-fly zone, and NATO, which implemented it, Gaddaf al-Dam said.
They shoulder the responsibility “for the violations which were committed in Libya – for the tremendous destruction of the country’s infrastructure, for the deaths, for the displacement of a third of the country’s population, for the prisons, where tens of thousands languish, for the wounded, for the stolen billions, the stolen antiquities, gold, uranium, but most importantly – for the humiliation of the dignity of Libyans, who are living as beggars across the planet.”
Gaddaf al-Dam recalled that in 2011, the Libyan state had approximately $600 billion worth of assets inside and outside the country, including $200 billion in bank accounts abroad, along with tons of gold and silver.
Six years on, all of this has been plundered. “During these six years, not a single brick has been laid. T
he streets of the capital have no electricity, the water supply has been turned off, wages are not paid.” Schools are not functioning.
“This all a time bomb, and poses a threat to the future.”
Obama, Gaddaf al-Dam recalled, has acknowledged his mistake. So too did the UK’s Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Commons, and former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Now, he said, “Libyans demand an apology. Those who make mistakes must fix them.”
“First, the international community must apologize for the things they have done to Libyans, and then begin to correct the mistakes.
Then we will extend our hands to one another to rebuild our homeland, and return our sons.”
The current US and EU-supported Libyan government, which supported the February 2011 ‘revolution’, and who present themselves as the representatives of the entire Libyan people, must give up, must leave, Gaddaf al-Dam insisted.
“And we will build a new Libyan government for all Libyans, without exceptions – under a new flag, which unites everyone, or just under the white flag of peace.
It is crucial to create an impartial and neutral government, not the cabinet of supporters of the events of February 2011, as is happening now.”
“It is necessary to revive the army, about 70,000 of whom are now living in Tunisia and Egypt, as well as the police and the judicial system,” he noted.
“The internally displaced persons must return home, and prisoners should be released. We need a general amnesty, and free elections under the auspices of the international community. All of this can be solved; we have the necessary knowledge and traditions.”
Just as importantly, Gaddaf al-Dam stressed, “all of this can be done without external political and military intervention, which only exacerbates confrontation.”
Asked whether he, as a politician, and the supporters of the old Gaddafi government could find support in Libya today, Gaddaf al-Dam said that the answer was ‘yes’.
“This is our country. Besides, we are not the ruling political party which collapsed, as happened in in Tunisia or Egypt. We are the social, political and military foundation of the Libyan state.”
For now though, he added, “we are looking at the situation from the outside, because we do not want to be implicated in this catastrophe.
We do not want to be puppets, implementing the plans of the imperialists, who want to turn Libya into a dumping ground for its waste, to appropriate our wealth and build their military bases here. We want peace for Libya – we want to heal the wounds of Libyans.”
“No one can participate in the construction of a state if he does not take part in dialogue and the search for solutions,” Gaddaf al-Dam noted.
“We are an important component when it comes to the Libyan settlement. It’s not possible to continue to ignore over 60% of Libyans. These people simply have not yet taken up arms, even though they were the real army, the police, the real political leaders, the lawyers and representatives of tribes who refused to betray themselves,” he concluded.