THE BLOG

Libya: Divided and Ruled, by Foreign Capital

26/04/2013 16:25 BST | Updated 26/06/2013 10:12 BST

Less than two years ago the Western world rejoiced at the savage beating and subsequent death of Muammar Gaddafi. Libya became free, ready for democracy. Democracy in Libya's case meant a disproportional increase in sectarian violence and a puppet, Western-backed government (where, let it be clear, Gaddafi's former henchmen retained prominent roles) unfit to rule.

Elections had been postponed a year ago amid intensifying violence. Basic services such as garbage collecting, let alone hospitals and schools, are highly inefficient or absent in several cities.

The only freedom Libyans seem to enjoy is that of cursing their former, dead leader, though not exactly everyone is happy with the new situation.

Armed militias contend among themselves to control territories and refuse to bury their weapons. Islamic fundamentalism, as always in the aftermath of "humanitarian" wars, is on the rise. The streets of the Libyan capital are not safe at night. If this is freedom and democracy, it looks ugly indeed.

Now that a car bomb has targeted the French embassy in Tripoli, the ravaged Libyan nation is under the spotlight once again, but do not expect much light to be shed on the country's real situation.

French President Francoise Hollande routinely denounced the attack as an act of terrorism, urging the local authorities to find those responsible. Given the chaotic state Libya is in, it is unlikely that the fundamentally powerless government will even pretend to have the situation under control.

Hollande's predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, had been most vocal in advocating the invasion of Libya in 2011, only to eager to wipe out any trace of his friendly relationship with Gaddafi and get a hold of his coveted oil. Other Western democracies followed suit, happy to get rid of an uncomfortable ally who had once been a bitter enemy. The consequences of their actions are now knocking at their doors.

Western media returns to Libya only when violence backfires, like on September 11, 2012 when the American ambassador was killed in Benghazi. The reality is that since the fall of Gaddafi's regime, there hasn't been a single day of peace. Once NATO left and journalists returned to their home bureaus, the situation has steadily worsened. The disarmament plan and the reintegration of militias into the army have failed.

The only aspect that Western democracies have impeccably tended to is the oil business, which was back into full swing shortly after the regime fell. Where the profits of said businesses are going is not entirely clear.

We still know how the situation was before democracy came to Libya, thanks to the American Library of Congress and its study on the North African nation. The Federal Research Division carried out an in-depth study of Libya under Gaddafi, finding that among other things:

"The welfare available to Libyans included much more than was provided under the social security law: work injury and sickness compensation and disability, retirement, and survivors' pensions. Workers employed by foreign firms were entitled to the same social security benefits as workers employed by Libyan citizens. Subsidized food, inexpensive housing, free medical care and education, and profit-sharing were among the benefits that eased the lives of all citizens. The government protected the employed in their jobs and subsidized the underemployed and unemployed. In addition, there were nurseries to care for the children of working mothers, orphanages for homeless children, and homes for the aged. Education is free at all levels, and university students received substantial stipends."

All of the above is now (temporarily?) gone, but hey, who needs hospitals, schools and a welfare state when you have democracy?

Needless to say, oil, not freedom, is what France, Britain and the U.S. (and their allies, from Qatar to Italy) were after when they invaded Libya, armed the rebels and triggered the instability now reigning in Libya. A Wall Street Journal article dated April 15, 2011 makes it absolutely clear that the only thing that worried Western democracies at the time was the control over Libyan oil. It is only too logical then for the same freedom-loving forces to have abandoned the Libyan people to their tragic destiny once their resources were stolen, pardon, "secured."

It is in fact significant that the rebels in Benghazi had formed on March 19, 2011 the Central Bank of Benghazi (CBB) before even forming a transitional government. If banks had been nationalized under Gaddafi, the first thing rebels did was to seize Gaddafi's frozen assets to hand them over to the "liberators" (custodian banks in Britain and Switzerland might know a thing or thing regarding those assets...)

So while chaos reigns, violence and sectarian divisions keep worsening by the day, Libya remains obscured by Western media except when the violence they have helped to spread backfires. As lives are destroyed and the fate of a whole nation lingers in uncertainty, business, one suspect, is the only thing that goes on normally. The recent attack on the French embassy was not the first nor will be the last in a country where economic interests have long superseded humanitarian concerns.

This article has previously appeared on China.org.cn