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Libya

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The massacre in Manchester is a horrific event born out of the violence raging in a vast area stretching from Pakistan to Nigeria and Syria to South Sudan. Britain is on the outer periphery of this cauldron of war, but it would be surprising if we were not hit by sparks thrown up by these... Read More
Normally anybody who criticises Jeremy Corbyn is guaranteed knee-jerk support by the British media which apparently feels that it does not even have to pretend to be non-partisan when it comes to the Labour leader. The only political figure similarly subjected to automatic demonisation is Tony Blair, so when he fiercely attacked Corbyn last week... Read More
The Arab Spring reported and misreported
I was sceptical from an early stage about the Arab Spring uprisings leading to the replacement of authoritarian regimes by secular democracies. Optimistic forecasts I was hearing in the first heady months of 2011 sounded suspiciously similar to what I had heard in Kabul after the fall of the Taliban in 2001 and in Baghdad... Read More
The Libyan uprising always contained more extreme Islamists than portrayed by its supporters inside and outside Libya. There is a measure of truth in Muammar Gaddafi's claim to Tony Blair that the jihadis had "managed to set up local stations and in Benghazi have spread the thoughts and ideas of al Qaeda." His claims sound... Read More
There is a strong case against Clinton’s actions in Libya, but they relate to her support for the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011
Hillary Clinton was battered for 10 hours on 22 October by Republican Congressmen seeking to blame her for security failings, when she was secretary of state, that led to the murder of United States ambassador Christopher Stevens in the US consulate in Benghazi on 11 September 2012. The Republican purpose in grilling her for so... Read More
The wars that come back to haunt us
Few recall that David Cameron led Britain into one war in Libya that overthrew Gaddafi, but was disastrous for most Libyans. Without this conflict, the drowned bodies of would-be emigrants to Europe would not be washing up in their hundreds on Libyan beaches. To get the full flavour of what went wrong, it is worth... Read More
In 2011, there was jubilation at Gaddafi's demise. Not any more: the aftermath of foreign intervention is calamitous and bloody
Remember the time when Libya was being held up by the American, British, French and Qatari governments as a striking example of benign and successful foreign intervention? It is worth looking again at film of David Cameron grandstanding as liberator in Benghazi in September 2011 as he applauds the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi and tells... Read More
Melting Hopes
The image of the Libyan revolution in 2011 was something of a fabrication in which the decisive role of Nato air power was understated. The same may be true of the counter-revolution in Libya that is being ushered in by ex-general Kalifa Hifter’s slow-motion coup which gathered support last week but without making a decisive... Read More
Rival militias position themselves for civil war as country disintegrates
Libya is tipping toward all-out civil war as rival militias take sides for and against an attempted coup led by a renegade general that has pushed the central government towards disintegration. In a move likely to deepen the crisis, the army chief of staff, whose regular forces are weak and ill-armed, called on Islamist-led militias... Read More
Its government has no real power; militias are ever more entrenched, and now the state itself is under threat
The Libyan former prime minister Ali Zeidan fled last week after parliament voted him out of office. A North Korean-flagged oil tanker, the Morning Glory, illegally picked up a cargo of crude from rebels in the east of the country and sailed safely away, despite a government minister's threat that the vessel would be "turned... Read More
The real story of security after Gaddafi can be seen in the Foreign Office's advice to travellers
It is revealing to read Foreign and Commonwealth Office travel advisories addressed to British citizens about security, or the lack of it, in countries where the Government otherwise plays down the dangers. I used to enjoy reading scary FCO advisories about Iraq eight or nine years ago, warning travellers not to set foot there because... Read More
Lessons From the Kidnapping of Ali Zeidan
Seldom has the failure of a state been so openly and humiliatingly confirmed as happened in Libya last week with the brief kidnapping the Prime Minister Ali Zeidan from his hotel in Tripoli by a militia allied to the government and without a shot being fired. Despite his swift release, the message is very clear:... Read More
The perception that the militiamen had beat Gaddafi through their own strength in 2011 was an illusion helped along by Western media
Seldom has the failure of a state been so openly and humiliatingly confirmed as happened in Libya this morning with the brief kidnapping the Prime Minister Ali Zeidan from his hotel in Tripoli by a militia allied to the government and without a shot being fired. Despite his swift release, the message is very clear:... Read More
A Region in Turmoil
A little under two years ago, Philip Hammond, the Defence Secretary, urged British businessmen to begin “packing their suitcases” and to fly to Libya to share in the reconstruction of the country and exploit an anticipated boom in natural resources. Yet now Libya has almost entirely stopped producing oil as the government loses control of... Read More
Passing Time in Libya
The boredom of travel is frequently understated by travel writers. They dwell on the exhilarating time spent on the Nile and the Grand Canal or seeing the wonders of Istanbul and Damascus rather than the hours of tedium in airport lounges and hotels bedrooms. What is true for tourists is true for foreign correspondents. For... Read More
A Legacy of Hatred
Libyans voted in their first democratic election yesterday to choose an interim national assembly to rule the country after the overthrow of Mu'ammer Gaddafi. International interest in this crucial election has been sparse compared to the wall-to-wall coverage by the foreign media during the eight-month war. Throughout the Libyan crisis, human rights organisations have on... Read More
“This was always a civil war, and the victors are not merciful”
The detention of 7,000 people in prisons and camps by the anti-Gaddafi forces is not surprising. The conflict in Libya was always much more of a civil war between Libyans than foreign governments pretended or the foreign media reported. The winning anti-Gaddafi militia are not proving merciful. Often they have had relatives killed in the... Read More
The Killing of Ahmed Abdullah al-Ghadamsi
I first met Ahmed Abdullah al-Ghadamsi in Tripoli last August about seven weeks before he was killed in one of the last battles of the Libyan war. I was staying in the Radisson Blu, a large hotel that overlooks the harbor and overfilled with journalists who had poured into the Libyan capital after the rebels... Read More
To the victors go the spOILs
David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy were careful during their first visit to Libya since the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi to avoid anything evoking comparisons with President Bush's "Mission Accomplished" rhetoric after the occupation of Iraq. They know how his imperial arrogance and premature declaration of victory came back to haunt him. Their caution is sensible... Read More
The Post-Victory Question in Tripoli
Tripoli In Libya effective rebel military control is visibly outfacing the establishment of political stability. There are checkpoints everywhere in Tripoli and along the coast road east and west. Security is surprisingly good, given that the war in these heavily populated areas has only just ended. Even the rattle of gunfire from jubilant rebels shooting... Read More
Signs of Trouble Ahead
Tripoli Rebel militiamen, many of them former prisoners of Muammar Gaddafi, have an iron grip on Tripoli, but wonder who will hold long-term power in Libya. Issam, a bearded Islamist who controls a district of the revolutionary stronghold of Souq al-Jumaa, holds permits which allow him to field 70 local militiamen with arms. "We do... Read More
Better Not Be Black
Tripoli. Yassin Bahr, a tall thin Senegalese in torn blue jeans, volubly denies that he was ever a mercenary or fought for Muammar Gaddafi. Speaking in quick nervous sentences, Mr Bahr tries to convince a suspicious local militia leader in charge of the police station in the Faraj district of Tripoli, that he is a... Read More
"Can You Vacate Your Room?"
Tripoli. The new rulers of Libya, the Transitional National Council (TNC), have arrived in town. I know this because they just kicked me out of my painfully acquired hotel room when they took over the whole of the eighth floor of the Radisson Blu Hotel where I am staying. My eviction did not elicit much... Read More
So Who’s In Charge Here?
Tripoli Freedom from fear has not yet reached the people of Tripoli. Streets are empty and shops shuttered. For miles there is nobody to be seen in the city, aside from militiamen dressed in T-shirts, shorts and an occasional item of uniform, manning barricades made out of old chairs, assorted rubbish and shrubs in pots... Read More
Now What in Libya?
The civil war in Libya went on longer than expected, but the fall of Tripoli came faster than was forecast. As in Kabul in 2001 and Baghdad in 2003, there was no last-ditch stand by the defeated regime, whose supporters appear to have melted away once they saw that defeat was inevitable. While it is... Read More
Many Militiamen Say They Will Not Take Orders From Transitional National Council
The end of Muammar Gaddafi's 41 years in power appears to be in hand as the rebels close in on Tripoli, though it is not clear if the old regime will collapse without a fight for the capital. It still has the men and the material to draw out the conflict, but its supporters may... Read More
Dubious Allies
Rebels, from the Wars of the Roses up to the present civil war in Libya, usually try to postpone splitting into factions and murdering each other until after they have seized power and are in full control. However deep their divisions, they keep them secret from the outside world. Not so the Libyan rebels. Members... Read More
Follow the Oil and the Money
In keeping with the British Government's well-established record of comical ineptitude in dealing with Libya, foreign secretary William Hague chose to recognize the rebel leaders in Benghazi as the legitimate government of the country at the very moment some of them may have been shooting or torturing to death their chief military commander. The exact... Read More
NATO in Libya
Air strikes are becoming the main Western means of controlling the Middle East and South Asia without putting soldiers on the ground where they might suffer politically damaging casualties. Britain, France and the US have used only airpower to wage war in Libya over the last four months. The US is also stepping up its... Read More
Getting It Wrong, Again and Again
The horrible Foreign Office clich?, used for decades by diplomats and politicians to justify Britain's military alliance with the US, claims that "it enables Britain to punch above her weight internationally". A moment's reflection on this dictum should lead to the conclusion that a boxer who persists in getting into the ring with bigger opponents... Read More
14,931 NATO Sorties and for What?
Pro-Gaddafi forces ambushed rebels advancing towards the capital Tripoli yesterday and recaptured lost territory, undermining US intelligence claims that the rebels are gaining the upper hand in the fighting. Rebel units, backed by NATO airstrikes, had seized the village of Al-Qawalish and were hoping to use it as a springboard to take Garyan, a town... Read More
Don't Believe Everything You See and Read
In the first months of the Arab Spring, foreign journalists got well-merited credit for helping to foment and publicize popular uprisings against the region's despots. Satellite TV stations such as Al Jazeera Arabic, in particular, struck at the roots of power in Arab police states, by making official censorship irrelevant and by competing successfully against... Read More
NATO's Pretexts Take a Beating
Human rights organizations have cast doubt on claims of mass rape and other abuses perpetrated by forces loyal to Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, which have been widely used to justify Nato's war in Libya. Nato leaders, opposition groups and the media have produced a stream of stories since the start of the insurrection on February 15,... Read More
Remember the Kuwaiti Incubators!
In war, accounts of atrocities need to be treated with scepticism. Surveying a battlefield where he had once fought, the great Confederate general Stonewall Jackson turned to an aide and asked: "Did you ever think, sir, what an opportunity a battlefield affords liars?" He meant that in war people, motivated by fear, self-interest or a... Read More
"Foreign Intervention is Turning Into an Old-Style Imperial Venture"
Flames billow up from the hulks of eight Libyan navy vessels destroyed by Nato air attacks as they lay in ports along the Libyan coast. Their destruction shows how Colonel Muammar Gaddafi is being squeezed militarily, but also the degree to which the US, France and Britain, and not the Libyan rebels, are now the... Read More
"This is the Weakness of Journalism"
In Baghdad at the end of last year Waled Hamid brought a peculiar court case against a man who had sold him a house. Mr Hamid said the vendor deliberately failed to tell him that the house was haunted and was in an area notorious for ghosts that scream and hammer on the doors of... Read More
Qaddafi Remains Defiant
Benghazi Libya's rebel leaders yesterday rejected an attempt by an African Union delegation to broker a ceasefire, saying they would negotiate only on the condition that Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and his family give up power. The delegation, which arrived in Benghazi after talks with Colonel Gaddafi in Tripoli, had proposed a ceasefire, a humanitarian corridor... Read More
War of the Pick-Up Trucks
Ajdabiya. Plumes of black smoke rose over Ajdabiya yesterday as rockets and mortar bombs exploded in this empty town that pro-Qaddafi troops and rebel militiamen have now been fighting each other to control for several weeks. As the battles continued, Muammar Qaddafi met with African leaders in Tripoli to try to negotiate an end to... Read More
The Real Disaster in Libya will Come After the Fall
The president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, is expected to announce reforms today including the end of the 50-year-old state of emergency, to try to defuse protests as thousands of people continue to confront troops. President Assad needs to convince Syrians that he is sincere in promising to dismantle the arbitrary powers of the ruling Ba'ath... Read More
Bombing Libya
In the next few weeks Colonel Muammar Gaddafi is likely to lose power. The forces arrayed against him are too strong. His own political and military support is too weak. The US, Britain and France are scarcely going to permit a stalemate to develop whereby he clings on to Tripoli and parts of western Libya... Read More
Don't Think, Recognize!
There is something frivolous and absurd about France's sudden recognition of the Libyan rebel leadership in Benghazi as a sort of quasi-government. Presumably it’s intended to give the impression Nicolas Sarkozy has a grip on events, it is evidence he does not know what to do any more than other European leaders. The recognition of... Read More
Arab League's Call for No-Fly Zone May be Too Little, Too Late
Acall for action from the Arab League sounds like a contradiction in terms, given the 22-member organization's reputation for ineffectiveness. Its request for the UN Security Council to impose a no-fly zone over Libya may come too little, too late for the Libyan rebels whose military weakness has been underlined in the past few days... Read More
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Patrick Cockburn
About Patrick Cockburn

Patrick Cockburn is the Middle East correspondent for the British newspaper The Independent. He was awarded the 2005 Martha Gellhorn prize for war reporting. His book on his years covering the war in Iraq, The Occupation: War and Resistance in Iraq (Verso) was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for non-fiction.


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