The whole Western ideology of US supremacy and “Western democracy to rule the whole world” is now on its death bed, as recently stated by UK Prime Minister Theresa May when meeting with Donald Trump.
Interview by Giulia Di Marcantonio, L’Indro, 21.2.2017.
Republished interview with the Italian newspaper L’Indro, the English version: In your opinion, the right solution for the Libya crisis could be the introduction of Saif Al Islam as the new head of State in Libya.
Hanne Nabintu Herland, historian and bestselling author living in the Middle East who has over the years written extensively on Middle Eastern issues: – US President Donald Trump has stated that it was a mistake to “take out” Gaddafi, and that Libya would be a 100 % better state if Gaddafi had remained in power. Gaddafi was, as we remember, a sworn enemy of the Al Qaida extremists.
The current Libyan mess is largely due to failed American policies. The Obama/Clinton administration was famous for their support to solely sunni-Wahhabi extremists and Al Qaida affiliated groups, mainly funded by Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The Judicial Watch retrieved Defence Intelligence Report from 2012 shows how the Obama administration stated that Al Qaida in Iraq, Salafists and The Muslim Brotherhood were their chosen allies also in the Syria war. This, of course, remains a brutal scandal, as Al Qaida in Iraq was named ISI in the same document, where the Americans suggesting that “Al Qaida in Iraq could form an Islamic State”.
US involvement in pushing Al Qaida extremists to power, is one of our times’ greatest scandals. This has destabilized the whole North Africa, now causing destabilization also in European countries due to the large influx of illegal immigrants.It is probable that the Trump administration understands this situation, and would consider supporting Saif al-Islam Gaddafi who now has the tribal leaders united behind him and a clear majority of the Libyan people.
This would mean the end of ISIS in Libya, which would contribute to stabilizing the whole North Africa region. It may also stop the massive wave of illegal immigration into Europe. We all recall how Muammar Gaddafi had an agreement with Italy on halting, from the Libyan side, the ongoing human trafficking which was a problem also prior to 2011. It would be in everybody’s interest to achieve peace in Libya, and the golden moment is to do it now.
L’Indro: – Would this solution have some consequences for Trump’s Administration at a national level and at an international one? If yes, which ones?
Herland: – It would certainly give president Trump a great name in history as a peace broker in Libya. Trump’s hard-line view on extremists is already receiving praise in the region. President Assad in Syria has stated his support to Trump’ ban on immigrants from various countries, as Syria confirms that many terrorists are among them. Also, the Gulf states have supported Trump on this.
Libya is now notoriously controlled by ISIS interlinked militia, which, according to local reports, also terrorize the current Western supported Tripoli government. This government, frankly, has little power, the Libyan prisons are reportedly ISIS and Libyan Islamic Fighting Group controlled. Its leader Abdulhakim Belhadj is a long term Al Qaida affiliate.
To create order in Libya by supporting Saif al-Islam is, as far as I can see, the best path forward, as he has his power legitimized in the Libyan people. After all, who the people wants to lead them, should lead the nation forward.
L’Indro: – Within the Think Tank network, which one supports your solution? Which one, instead, do not? Why?
Herland: – The whole Western ideology of US supremacy and “Western democracy to rule the whole world” is now on its final death bed, as recently stated by UK Prime Minister Theresa May when meeting with Donald Trump. Trump is currently turning the tables completely in Washington and calling for people’s revolt against authoritarian elites. Brexit represented somewhat the same in the UK. The highly likely new president Marine le Pen in France has stated that Europeans need to take control over their own destinies and drop the war-mongering cult in NATO. The alliances within the Think Tank network now cross the Left-Right divide and go more along the lines of “libertarian versus elitist authoritarian”. As libertarians, we belong to the new Europe that will form tomorrow, and leave these outdated technocrats behind. The EU structure itself is outdated, unable to solve the problems in Europe, clogging up in elitist, technocratic structures in Brussels.
L’Indro: – Does the Trump’s Administration have the capabilities for supporting your proposal? Does it have the appropriate instruments to hold up the consequent operations?
Herland: – We will have to see whether Trump is able to free himself from the warmongering neo-conservative and CIA hawks in Washington who chronically ask for more wars on foreign soil. These are, of course, powerful people who none the less have been gut kicked by Trump, quite frankly. The result of the ongoing political revolution in America remains to be seen.
L’Indro: – Russia has explicitly taken part of the Libyan conflict. If USA decides to support Saif Al-Islam, how do you think that Russia could react? Would there be some consequences about the bilateral relations between the White House and the Kremlin?
Herland: – Russia has, of course, been the brilliant winner in the past years’ international scene, working from realism instead of US wishful thinking and idealism. If it was up to Russia alone, this crisis would have been solved long ago. The point now is to the the US engaged in a more constructive way than under the previous Obama administration. As a matter of fact, we would never have had a Libya war in the first place. The Americans are the obstacle, also in Syria, in their chronic funding of sunni-Wahhabi extremists, with the support of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey. We need this to end and peace to return to Libya as well as Syria. The US foreign policy in the region is the problem, not Russia’s.
L’Indro: – As you write in your article: ‘Could Muhammar Gheddafi’s son Saif Al-Islam solve the Libyan crisis?’, during 2011 the mainstream media of USA and Europe didn’t report the massive support for Gheddafi. Why did the western media describe Muhammar Gheddafi as an authoritarian political figure?
(Watch France24 documentary March, 2017 after having visited Zindan and speaking to Saif al-Islam’s captors who became his friends)
Herland: – Muammar Gaddafi, who obviously also made mistakes during his long reign, nonetheless belonged to the moderate Muslim fraction, harshly sceptical of Al Qaida and Saudi Arabia. Yet, USA under Obama/Clinton solely supported the sunni-Saudi-Qatari view. Since 90 % of the American media is owned by only 6 companies, the American mainstream media is easily controlled to only saying that which fits the US-Saudi narrative.
In 2011, Western media reported gross amounts of propaganda in order to legitimize the no-fly-zone. The long-standing ties between the US and Saudi are well known. These are economic ties, petrodollar ties and so on. Look, Hillary Clinton’s Clinton Foundation has received millions and millions from, for example, Qatar. Clinton got very rich, benefitting from the misery of local Libyans. Her laughter when hearing about Gaddafi’s death, illustrates which ruthless gang of bandits the US had as its leaders, devoid of empathy, devoid of respect for international law and national sovereignty. It is a shocking testament to the moral downfall of the West.
This was the reason why Western media were so excited about “the Arab spring” which basically overthrew moderate Muslim, Arab nationalist rulers and replaced them by sunni-extremists such as The Muslim Brotherhood in country after country. How can Western media support Islamism in this way? I guess they have been subjected to some sort of “sorcery”, as many a reporter and journalist clearly does not understand what he is actually doing. During the Libya war in 2011, the Western media followed the sunni-Wahhabi extremist narrative and only reported that which fit into the Obama-Saudi Arabian world-view. This is largely the reason why Gaddafi was demonized.
L’Indro: – Do you believe that the Libyan crisis was the final purpose premeditated by USA, in order to guarantee their interests?
Herland: – Libya was very rich, with approximately 155 billion USD investments through the Libyan Investment Authority alone, its Central Bank volt had 144 ton with gold. It took the rebels only days before they established a “new Central Bank in Benghazi,” a most peculiar action. Who benefitted from this? The US sanctions against Libya meant a freeze of the 155 billion, in 2015 only 67 billion were released back to the current Libyan Tripoli government. What happened to the discrepancy? Who took what? There has been documented enormous looting from Libyan funds, both by Westerners as well as Libyans and others.
Yes, Wikileaks and Judicial Watch retrieved material clearly show that the Libya war premeditated. Many argue that the true motive for the NATO backed military coup in Libya was halting Muammar Gaddafi’s plan for uniting African nations under one currency, the gold dinar. He also aspired the implementation of a non-Western led African IMF/World Bank and turning away from using the American dollar. Had he succeeded, the Western domination of Africa would largely have been stopped. The importance of Qatar and Saudi Arabia would also have been greatly diminished. Qatar has, from the start, funded the Libyan war and supplied militarily. The rumor on the ground in Libya, is that it was a group Qatari soldiers/mercinaries that also killed Gaddafi.
L’Indro: – Libya has a strong tribal structure. The current instability in the Country and its crisis represent some inevitable and a predictable consequences for abolishing its tribal order. Which role could Saif al-Islam play in guaranteeing Libya’s unity?
Herland: – This remains to be seen. Yet, it was Saif al-Islam who freed the Bulgarian nurses in Benghazi, led the large-scale Benghazi housing projects and worked diligently to democratize Libya. It was also Saif al-Islam who led the Reconciliation Project in 2006, the same year the US reopened its embassy in Libya, and Saif led the peaceful release of political prisoners, like Abdelhakim Belhadj and Khaled Sharef, most of whom joined the rebels and are controlling Tripoli now.
Secondly, what many also have forgotten is that Libya under Muammar Gaddafi was Africa’s richest country, a socialist state with large scale benefits to families, free education for both men and woman, a middle-income country, according to the UN. It was a well-functioning welfare state. Today, six years on, one third of the Libyan people live below the poverty line. Intelligence sources state that as much as 70 % of the Libyan people, would have a Gaddafi return in order to reinstate that type of living standard. Sources on the ground, say that 80 % of the Libyan people hope for the return of a well-functioning state under Saif al-Islam, who in the past has proven his will to distribute wealth and create stability for the Libyans.
Thirdly, the tribal issue. What most in the West do not understand is that the tribal structures in Africa determine, by an “African form of elective democracy”, who is to rule the nation. This form of African democracy, is of course not respected in the West. Yet, practically all of Africa has an underlying structure along these traditional lines. After the fall of Gaddafi and break-up of the national army, tribal leaders had to rule each man his tribe. Total mess was the result.
Regardless of who the West backs, you will still get total mess unless the tribes are united behind the candidate. The Libyan tribes are now united behind London School of Economics educated, long term liberal reformer and democracy advocate, Saif al-Islam. Along the lines of traditional alliances, al-Islam has been able to reunite the tribes. It will be very hard for anyone to govern Libya without this support. ISIS and Libyan Islamic Fighting Group structures are now, to add, faltering in Libya and many of them are already leaving the country, as they lack support among the broad part of the Libyans. We know the Russians support General Haftor. It remains to be seen how the power play in Libyan politics will spill out.
Saif al-Islams liberalization and democratization record shows his intentions for Libya and illustrates what kind of ally one will will have in him. What many have forgotten today, is that Libya since 2003 had opened up towards the West, liberalized its economy, deescalated the military, solved the Lockierbie crisis and paid damages to the families of the victims. President Bush even hailed Gaddafi for this effort. Much of this work, was due to the diligent effort of London School of Economics educated Saif al-Islam, Gaddafi’s son, who had been instrumental in Libyan democratic reform. Already in March, 2011, US defence agencies stated that it was impossible to verify that “Gaddafi had attacked his own people”. Russian intelligence proved the same. Since then, floods of lies have been presented. Of course, Gaddafi made mistakes, but he had, since 2003 gradually opened up the country. Answered in question 6 and 8.
L’Indro: – Would Salif Al-Islam represent an inclusive solution for the Libyan crisis? Would he be able to guarantee a democratic and inclusive Government?
Herland: – Again, Saif al-Islam’s liberal and democracy seeking achievements and merits before 2011, gives a good indication of what kind of reconciliatory leader he will be. Secondly, the charter of the Popular Front of the Liberation Movement in Libya, signed December 25th, 2016 clearly states that the aim is to regain the country’s independence, provide stability to Libya and the region, implement justice, the rule of law, human rights without any excluding or marginalization of the variety of the multicultural ethnic and religious fabric of the pluralism in Libya. Thirdly, the Libyan tribes would not accept his leadership if they are not certain that he has Libya’s best in mind. The Libyan people will also, eventually have the right to self determine who will be their leader, and knowing Africa – I am myself born and raised in Africa south of Sahara – the tribal leaders’ advise will hold authority.
L’Indro: – Today Libya is divided into two different forces. On one side there is the ‘Strong man’ of Cyrenaica, the General Halifa Haftar, in Tobruk. On the other side there is the Government of National Accord, placed in Tripoli, whose political leader is Fayyez Al-Sarraj. Does the Salif Al-Islam’s solution risk to add a third faction in the Libyan framework?
Herland: – Well, Al-Sarraj reportedly tried to visit the South and the Tawhareg tribe in December, and was met with thousands of Libyans shouting “Allah, Muammar, Libya, One”, the Green movement slogan. Apparently, he quickly returned to Tripoli without daring to stay there for the night. Tripoli is weak and in a mess under its current regime, and seems unable to free itself from the control of militia groups such as Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. Its weakness currently illustrated by the Tripoli government this week again asking for NATO backing. It is important that NATO does not end up working against the majority of the Libyan people and the now unified tribes.
Libyans all over Libya now show their support for the reconciliation project of Saif al-Islam, who has been acquitted by the Libyan courts and now await the solution of the ICC case, which has been highly politicized since its beginning. Regarding Russia supported General Haftar, who lived for many years in the USA and only came to Libya in 2011, it is hard for him to rule a country without the support of many of the Libyan tribes. The outcome is yet to be seen. Frankly, if the US and Russia jointly supported a solution, we could see an end to the Libyan nightmare. My agenda as an European intellectual is to push for this, the whole problem was caused by Western intervention in the first place.
Giulia Di Marcantonio. L’Indro 21. February, 2017.