It hardly needed a Foreign Affairs Committee report to tell us that the 2011 military actions in Libya turned into a massive humanitarian disaster, but if you want to read the full report it can be found here: Libyan intervention based on erroneous assumptions; David Cameron ultimately responsible
The intervention in Libya happened eight years after the disastrous invasion and occupation of Iraq had resulted in the creation of a violent and lawless power vacuum in the region in which Islamist fanatics thrived, eventually culminating in the rise of ISIL/Daesh.
The very first lesson that should have been learned in Iraq was that toppling a government (no matter how bad it is) is a terrible idea if there isn't an extremely robust and coherent plan for what comes next. If the plan is inadequate it results in a power vacuum and huge numbers of innocent civilians end up suffering the appalling consequences.
It's absolutely clear from the fact that only fifteen of the UK's 650 MPs voted against David Cameron's gung-ho military action in Libya that the British political establishment completely ignored what should have been the most obvious conclusion from the humanitarian disaster in Iraq.
Findings of the Libya report
The Foreign Affairs Committee report is absolutely damning. Here are some of the key findings:
- "A policy which had [supposedly] intended to protect civilians drifted towards [the illegal policy of] regime change and was not underpinned by strategy to support and shape post-Gaddafi Libya".
- "Decisions were not based on accurate intelligence."
- "The UK Government failed to identify that the threat to civilians [from Gadaffi] was overstated."
- "The UK Government failed to identify that the rebels included a significant Islamist element."
- "The consequences of the military action were political and economic collapse, inter-militia and inter-tribal welfare, humanitarian and migrant crises, widespread human rights violations, the spread of Gaddafi regime weapons across the region and the growth of ISIL in North Africa."
- Libya purchased some £30 billion of weapons and ammunition between 1969 and 2010. After the collapse of the Gaddafi regime, some weapons fell into the hands of the militias. Other Libyan weapons and ammunition were trafficked across North and West Africa and the Middle East.
- "The international community’s inability to secure weapons abandoned by the Gaddafi regime fuelled instability in Libya and enabled and increased terrorism across North and West Africa and the Middle East ... It is probable that none of the states that intervened in Libya would have been prepared to commit the necessary military and political resources to secure stocks of weapons and ammunition. That consideration should have informed their calculation to intervene."
- "Political instability in Libya has led to a permissive environment for terrorist groups in which to operate, including ISIL affiliated groups."
- "ISIL has used its presence in Libya to train terrorists. For example, Sefeddine Rezgui, the gunman who killed Western holidaymakers in Tunisia in June 2015, was trained by ISIL at its base in Sabratha along with the two gunmen who killed 22 tourists at the Bardo museum in Tunis."
- "Political engagement might have delivered civilian protection, regime change and reform at a lesser cost to the UK and Libya. The UK would have lost nothing by trying these instead of focusing exclusively on [the illegal concept of] regime change by military means."
- "Former Prime Minister David Cameron was ultimately responsible for the failure to develop a coherent Libya strategy."
- The UK’s actions in Libya were part of an ill-conceived intervention, the results of which are still playing out today.
David Cameron's gung-ho rush into Libya resulted in many of the same disastrous outcomes as Blair's invasion and occupation of Iraq. Political and economic collapse, sectarian warfare, a huge refugee crisis, untold civilian suffering and a continuing legacy of violence and chaos, and the empowerment of ISIL/Daesh.
The factor that makes the intervention in Libya so much worse is not the scale of it, which has never quite reached the utter devastation Blair achieved in Iraq, but the fact that Cameron's gung-ho warmongering in Libya proved beyond doubt that the British political establishment had completely refused to learn the single most important lesson from Iraq: Toppling a government (no matter how harsh it is) tends to make things an awful lot worse if it is done without a robust and coherent plan for what comes next.
The 15 MPs who had the sense to vote against Cameron's warmongering
13 MPs and two "tellers" voted against military action in Libya. Here is the full list of the tiny minority of MPs who demonstrated that they had sense enough to learn the most important lesson from the Iraq catastrophe:
Graham Allen (Labour)
John Baron (Conservative)
Ronnie Campbell (Labour)
Jeremy Corbyn (Labour)
Mark Durkan (SDLP)
Barry Gardiner (Labour)
Roger Godsiff (Labour)
Caroline Lucas (Green)
John McDonnell (Labour)
Linda Riordan (Labour)
Margaret Ritchie (SDLP)
Dennis Skinner (Labour)
Mike Wood (Labour)
Katy Clark (Labour)
Yasmin Qureshi (Labour)
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