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Libya – chaos and tragedy

19 September 2023

RAF Typhoon taking off for operations over Libya in June 2011, the first time this aircraft flew on combat missions. Photo Sgt Pete Mobbs via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0).

The chaotic political and conflict situations in Libya have contributed to the tragically huge death toll from floods. Two dams above the coastal town of Derna breached on 10 September after extreme rainfall, leaving at least 10,000 dead and as many missing.

Media reports have claimed that the death toll and slow rescue work are due to the lack of coherent government in Libya. Poorly maintained local infrastructure is blamed on the era of the Qaddafi government, from 1969 to 2011.

But that does not explain the current chaotic political situation in the country. For example it has no functioning weather service, which the WMO believes contributed to the number of casualties.

Failed state

Western powers helped to make Libya a failed state. On 17 March 2011, UN Security Council resolution 1973 approved a no-fly-zone resolution on Libya. The British, French and US governments pushed through this resolution, claiming that its only purpose was to protect civilians.

Military intervention by a NATO-led coalition began two days later. But three weeks before NATO’s attack, William Burns, then US deputy secretary of state and later President Biden’s CIA director, talked with British foreign secretary William Hague about a “post-Qaddafi” Libya. This strongly suggests they intended to overthrow Muammar Qaddafi and to effect a change of regime, which went far beyond action authorised by the UN resolution.

‘They went far beyond action authorised by the UN.’

In the following seven months NATO and its allies then launched over 14,000 air attacks on Libya and helped to overthrow its government. They then abandoned the Libyan people to over a decade of chaos. The country is split between terrorist factions, and endured a period of open civil war.


A succession of UN-backed governments has proven ineffective and unstable. The country is currently divided between rival claimants and promised elections have been deferred. There is no end in sight to internal conflicts or foreign interference.

Libya’s borders are now as open as any liberal could wish for. As a result it has become a base for international terrorists such as Islamic State and a major centre for people trafficking and other criminal activities.


Eleven EU states – Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, France, Italy, Spain, Britain, Bulgaria, Greece, Netherlands, and Romania – participated in the bombing of Libya – along with USA, Norway, Canada, Turkey, Jordan, Qatar and United Arab Emirates. They claimed this intervention was to bring peace, freedom, human rights, and democracy to Libya. It resulted, as generally with NATO interventions, in bringing war, tyranny, and loss of any human rights and democracy.

The United Nations and “the international community” have grievously betrayed and failed the people of Libya. Those who helped to destroy Libya should be held accountable.