Thursday, March 16, 2023

12 Years - Untold Misery - No Accountability

This Saturday will be the 12th anniversary of one of the worst American foreign policy decisions of this century. I rank it third after the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the 2021 negotiated surrender to the Taliban in Afghanistan.

While time has mostly held to account those responsible for the 2003 Iraq invasion and perhaps things are too fresh and political for a true accountability for the Afghanistan disgrace, there is no excuse for the complete lack of accountability for what was done to Libya in 2011.

All three disgraces, as it is with most military operations by the USA in the last 60 years, does not owe its disgrace to the military being tasked to execute an operation, but with the failure of the politicians and diplomats to understand what the ultimate goal was, the nature of the nation they were sending their military in to, and any type of long term plan for success.

I often make the snarky comment about grown adults trying to match the heights when they peaked the summer before their senior year in high school at the Model UN convention … and I do this for a reason. 

Two months in to what we called “Operation Odyssey Dawn”  just look at this quote from those how got us ear-deep in to the over throw of Gadhafi,

Top Senate Democrats and Republicans agreed Monday on a resolution backing limited U.S. involvement in the NATO-led military campaign against Libya, days after the expiration of the legal deadline for President Barack Obama to seek full-blown congressional authorization.

Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, D-Mass., and Sen. John McCain, the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee, introduced the non-binding resolution along with five other Republicans and Democrats.

The measure supports the limited use of military force and concurs with Obama that the stated goal of U.S. policy "is to achieve the departure from power of Moammar Gadhafi and his family, including through the use of non-military means, so that a peaceful transition can begin to an inclusive government that ensures freedom, opportunity and justice for the people of Libya."

If you recall, it was a US led operation starting on 19 MAR 11, but was handed over to NATO as part of President Obama’s “lead from behind” mindset;

"While we are no longer in the lead, U.S. support for the NATO-based coalition remains crucial to assuring the success of international efforts to protect civilians from the actions of the Gadhafi regime," Obama wrote. "Congressional action in support of the mission would underline the U.S. commitment to this remarkable international effort. Such a resolution is also important in the context of our constitutional framework, as it would demonstrate a unity of purpose among the political branches on this important national security matter."

As I did then, I am still in alignment with former Sen. Lugar (R-IN) who saw the issue the same way I did;

Lugar argued that the administration's inability to engage with Congress "has left the American people without a clear understanding of the U.S. interests at stake in Libya and how they relate to the other important challenges we currently face as a country. Nor do the American people understand what costs they will be asked to bear in connection with our Libya operations, and what other priorities will have to be sacrificed to support these operations."

Let’s step back a bit to look at how it began. 

As with most things, the bad idea started at the UN with UNSCR 1973. On 18 MAR 11, President Obama made the following statement;

The United States, the United Kingdom, France, and Arab states agree that a cease-fire must be implemented immediately. That means all attacks against civilians must stop. Qaddafi must stop his troops from advancing on Benghazi, pull them back from Ajdabiya, Misrata, and Zawiya, and establish water, electricity and gas supplies to all areas. Humanitarian assistance must be allowed to reach the people of Libya.… Let me be clear, these terms are not negotiable. These terms are not subject to negotiation. If Qaddafi does not comply with the resolution, the international community will impose consequences, and the resolution will be enforced through military action.

Our focus has been clear: protecting innocent civilians within Libya, and holding the Qaddafi regime accountable.

Left unchecked, we have every reason to believe that Qaddafi would commit atrocities against his people. Many thousands could die. A humanitarian crisis would ensue. The entire region could be destabilized, endangering many of our allies and partners. The calls of the Libyan people for help would go unanswered. The democratic values that we stand for would be overrun. Moreover, the words of the international community would be rendered hollow.

… the United States is prepared to act as part of an international coalition.… I have directed Secretary Gates and our military to coordinate their planning, and tomorrow Secretary Clinton will travel to Paris for a meeting with our European allies and Arab partners about the enforcement of Resolution 1973. We will provide the unique capabilities that we can bring to bear to stop the violence against civilians, including enabling our European alliesand Arab partners to effectively enforce a no fly zone.

The United States is not going to deploy ground troops into Libya. And we are not going to use force to go beyond a well-defined goal—specifically, the protection of civilians in Libya.

So, how did that work out for the “civilians in Libya”? It is hard – for reasons you should have figured out by now, if not you soon will – to get good casualty numbers, but here’s a snapshot from almost three years ago.

The impact of Libya’s nine-year war on civilians is “incalculable”, a UN official has said, with rising casualties and nearly 900,000 people now needing assistance.

Yacoub El Hillo said on Monday a 55-point road map for ending the war in Libya – agreed to by 12 key leaders at a conference in Berlin on January 19 – has seen “serious violations” in the last 10 days with fighting in and around the capital, Tripoli.

The protracted conflict is “severely impacting civilians in all parts of the country on a scale never seen before”, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Libya said in a video briefing to journalists from Tripoli.

El Hillo said “the increasing use of explosive weapons has resulted in unnecessary loss of life”, pointing to attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure, particularly health facilities, that have doubled since 2019, resulting in at least 650 civilians killed or wounded.

He cited a UN mine expert in Libya who said last week the country has the world’s largest uncontrolled ammunition stockpile, with an estimated 150,000 to 200,000 tonnes of uncontrolled munitions across the country.

Libya “is also the largest theatre for drone technology”, El Hillo said, stressing “everyone has something flying in the Libyan sky, it seems”.

It is only worse now.

President Obama had only been in office for a little under two years when this kicked off, and he was not a foreign policy guy in any way – and his Vice President was notoriously wrong on almost every foreign policy issue of the previous three decades – so this was a project of his foreign policy advisors.

So, after President Obama and Vice President Biden next to him, who was driving this clown car? 

  • Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
  • UN Ambassador Susan Rice.
  • National Security Advisor Thomas Donilon .
  • …and don’t forget Samantha “Responsibility to Protect” Power as the Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights on the National Security Council.

Some might add SECDEF Gates and those in Congress – but they were either performing their cabinet role as in Gates or were reacting as for those in Congress.

Why has there been no accountability? Who in then press is willing to charge at Obama, Clinton, Rice or Donilon over a few million souls dead, maimed, displaced, or missing in migration? Seriously, let me know in comments.

Good luck with that.

So, the rolling nightmare of military action driven by bad diplomatic theory, boosted by unmoored academic emotionalism, and enabled by political ass-covering continues.

The latest horror to show up as we look at the 12th anniversary? As reported by Francois Murphy at Reuters;

U.N. nuclear watchdog inspectors have found that roughly 2.5 tons of natural uranium have gone missing from a Libyan site that is not under government control, the watchdog told member states in a statement on Wednesday seen by Reuters.

The finding is the result of an inspection originally planned for last year that "had to be postponed because of the security situation in the region" and was finally carried out on Tuesday, according to the confidential statement by International Atomic Energy Agency chief Rafael Grossi.

IAEA inspectors "found that 10 drums containing approximately 2.5 tons of natural uranium in the form of UOC (uranium ore concentrate) previously declared by (Libya) ... as being stored at that location were not present at the location," the one-page statement said.

The agency would carry out "further activities" to determine the circumstances of the uranium's removal from the site, which it did not name, and where it is now, the statement added.

"The loss of knowledge about the present location of nuclear material may present a radiological risk, as well as nuclear security concerns," it said, adding that reaching the site required "complex logistics".

Gaddafi – however you spell his name – was a nasty bit of work, but he decided to stay inside his cage after 2003,

In 2003 Libya under then-leader Muammar Gaddafi renounced its nuclear weapons programme, which had obtained centrifuges that can enrich uranium as well as design information for a nuclear bomb, though it made little progress towards a bomb.

Not good enough. We took sub-optimal and made it worse;

Libya has had little peace since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising ousted Gaddafi. Since 2014, political control has been split between rival eastern and western factions, with the last major bout of conflict ending in 2020.

Libya's interim government, put in place in early 2021 through a U.N.-backed peace plan, was only supposed to last until an election scheduled for December of that year that has still not been held, and its legitimacy is now also disputed.

A dozen years and no accountability later we have an immeasurable number of dead, wounded and displaced well in to the millions – orders of magnitude more suffering than Gadaffi’s goons would have inflicted on Benghazi.

Russia’s Wagner PMC learned much of their skills now in use in Ukraine and Syria. The Turks and the French almost came to war at sea, Egypt’s western border is a mess, untold dislocation, chaos, death, and political instability from migration across the Mediterranean continues.  

Without accountability there can be no learning. Without learning, the habits and theories that led to this festering wound will be repeated elsewhere.

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