Magazine article The Spectator

Benghazi Notebook

Magazine article The Spectator

Benghazi Notebook

Article excerpt

In their interview in the Christmas edition of The Spectator , Fraser Nelson and James Forsyth asked the Prime Minister whether he now considered that his intervention in Libya had been a mistake. David Cameron accepted that matters could have gone better since the fall of Gaddafi, but insisted that 'what we were doing was preventing a mass genocide'. Like Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, Gaddafi's genocide seems to have been a fiction. It was reiterated over and over again by government and in the media in order to whip up support for the imposition a no-fly zone in March 2011. However, there was never any convincing evidence. Later that summer the International Crisis Group concluded that 'There are grounds for questioning the more sensational reports that the regime was using its air force to slaughter demonstrators, let alone engaging in anything remotely warranting use of the term "genocide".'

Whatever the true reason for the Franco-British intervention in Libya, there is no question that it resulted in disaster, as The Spectator warned at the time. When I arrived in Benghazi last week, I asked to be taken to Liberation Square, where Mr Cameron promised Libyans that he would 'stand with you as you build your country and build your democracy for the future'. I was told this would not be possible as, in common with almost all of central Benghazi, it was in rebel hands. One third of the population have been driven from their homes, the economy has collapsed by 50 per cent, the school system doesn't work and assassination squads roam the streets. When I visited the mayor of Benghazi in his temporary office (the town hall being in rebel hands), he told me that since the fall of Gaddafi, 'We have lived through the worst five years of our history.'

Meanwhile Britain is making matters even worse, supposing that was possible, by failing to support the Libyan government. Based in the east of the country, it is internationally recognised, having been democratically elected in the spring of 2014. It has, sensibly enough, sought to take control over its own resources and finances by establishing a national oil company and a central bank, but has been blocked at every turn by Britain and the international community. This means that it has no money to fund schools, hospitals or support public services, let alone fight the latest menace to have turned up on its doorstep -- Daesh.

A month ago the Libyan prime minister, Abdullah al-Thani, wrote to Philip Hammond offering to cooperate against Daesh, and also the people-smuggling rackets that funnel migrants from sub-Saharan Africa across the Mediterranean into Europe. …

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