Though Western media and much of the entire world have long forgotten about Libya, we never will. While the Nobel Peace Prize winning "humanitarian" minded architect of the 2011 US-NATO intervention (and author of Libya's current hell) continues to pen his presidential memoir in the midst of an epic retirement tour of yachts, golf courses, and hidden celebrity islands, Libya still burns out of control.
As we've recently noted, the mass flow of migrants and asylum seeking refugees is not going away and remains a political flashpoint for European front line countries reeling from the immigrant wave. In an updated situation report on Libya issued earlier this summer, the United Nation's World Food Program (WFP) published some shocking numbers:
Civilians in Libya continue to suffer as a result of conflict, insecurity, political instability and a collapsing economy. According to the 2017 Humanitarian Response Plan, 1.3 million people are in need of emergency humanitarian assistance.
July 2017 UN figures. Source: UN World Food Program (WFP)
This means 20% of the entire Libyan population (estimated at 6.4 million according to the UN) is still in dire need of basic necessities of life such as food and housing. The WFP further notes on its main Libya page that Africa's fourth largest country enjoyed economic stability and independence until 2011 - the year Gaddafi was overthrown and murdered at the hands of NATO sponsored militants (bold emphasis is WFP's):
At that time Libya, as one of the world’s most prolific oil-producing nations, maintained large trade surpluses. Although the country’s oil wealth did not percolate down to the wages of ordinary citizens, until 2011 the cost of food at household level was offset to some extent by a welfare state that offered free education and healthcare. Now, the country has a trade deficit and is gripped by a civil war opposing tribal groups, Islamist groups, various other militias and administration forces.
Libya’s population is suffering a major humanitarian crisis. This involves poverty, insecurity, gender-based violence, mass displacement, shortages of food and cash in banks, and frequent power cuts.
In 2010, a year before the NATO war, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) assigned a Human Development Index (HDI) ranking of 53 to Libya (out of 169 countries ranked, Libya ranked highest on the African continent). The HDI is a composite statistic which measures comparative quality of life around the world with regard to education, lifespan, wages, and general standard of living. For example, Libya ranked above Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Brazil, and South Africa for multiple years running through 2010 and was categorized as having "High Human Development". Libya has now fallen to 102 in the world according to the UN's 2016 HDI report.
Right up until the eve of NATO's air campaign against the Libyan state, international media outlets understood and acknowledged the country's high human development rankings, though it later became inconvenient to present the empirical data. A February 2011 BBC report summarized as follows:
During Muammar Gaddafi’s 42-year rule, Libya has made great strides socially and economically thanks to its vast oil income, but tribes and clans continue to be part of the demographic landscape.
Women in Libya are free to work and to dress as they like, subject to family constraints. Life expectancy is in the seventies. And per capita income – while not as high as could be expected given Libya’s oil wealth and relatively small population of 6.5m – is estimated at $12,000 (£9,000), according to the World Bank.
Illiteracy has been almost wiped out, as has homelessness – a chronic problem in the pre-Gaddafi era, where corrugated iron shacks dotted many urban centres around the country.
Libya went from an HDI ranking of 53 (with an HDI Value shown above) in 2010 to 102 in 2016. The UN identifies 2011 as the beginning of a continuing "mass displacement" of Libyans as the country remains in war-torn chaos. Chart source: Actualitix.
World Bank GNI numbers through 2016.
The 2011 war and aftermath essentially created a failed state with a once economically independent population now turned largely dependent on foreign aid and relief. Now considered to be at "emergency levels" of need, prior to NATO intervention Libya was not even on the WFP's radar:
Before the crisis, the World Food Programme (WFP) had a minimal presence in Libya, with the country operating only as a logistics corridor between Sudan and Chad.
How's that for "Arab Spring" blossoming of democracy, freedom, and prosperity courtesy of France, Britain, and the US?
Via Wiki Commons, "History of Libya under Muammar Gaddafi" Gross Domestic Product (based on Purchasing Power Parity methodology)
Not surprisingly, as of this week there are still "respected" members of the press willing to defend regime change experiments and "democracy promotion" abroad while quoting Iraq War architects like Elliot Abrams (thankfully Trump nixed him for a State Dept. position). They will perpetually live on in their own fanciful unreality while filling up columns in places like the Washington Post.
The ever-insightful Adam Curtis characterized the state of unreality under which most in the West still live when he concluded a 2012 post-mortem analysis on Libya - a very fitting conclusion to the still unfolding yet already forgotten about story of NATO's dirty little "humanitarian" war:
The question at the heart of this whole story is - Who was the ventriloquist? And who was the dummy?
Maybe we were the dummy? By allowing perception management with its simplifications, falsehoods and exaggerations to create a simplified vision of the world - we fell into a fake universe of certainty when really we were just watching a pantomime.
And now as the Arab Spring unfolds and reveals the true chaos and messiness of the real world - above all the horror of what is happening in Syria - we find ourselves completely unable to understand it or even know what to do. So those stories get ignored while we follow others with clearer and more simplified dramas which have what seem to be obvious goodies and baddies - thank god for Iran, North Korea and Jimmy Savile.
It is unlikely that even the hard empirical data will awaken either neocons or liberal interventionists from their pantomime regime change fantasies.