A Crisis Deepens in Libya but Where Are the Cameras?

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A Crisis Deepens in Libya but Where Are the Cameras?

Africa, Armed Conflicts, Featured, Global, Headlines, Human Rights, Humanitarian Emergencies, IPS UN: Inside the Glasshouse, Migration & Refugees, Poverty & SDGs, TerraViva United Nations UNITED NATIONS, Feb 16 2018 (IPS) – Perhaps no major political or humanitarian disaster is as overlooked as the ongoing crisis in Libya. For example, although the New York Times in September 2017 published a total of seven articles mentioning Libya, only one of them touched on the violence ripping it apart. Even the Times’ gesture merely highlighted the latest permutation of the US government’s foreign military decisions. The article, by Eric Schmitt, cited the Pentagon’s Africa Command and stated that the United States military had carried out a half-dozen “precision strikes” on an Islamic State training camp in Libya, killing 17 militants in the first American air strike in “the strife-torn North African nation” since Donald Trump was inaugurated as president. Two of the Times’s September 2017 articles on Libya are about the Trump administration’s travel ban, which affects Libyans, among others. One is about Libyans seeking asylum in Germany only to find “hatred,” and the other is about the threats, including racism and violence, that sub-Saharan African migrants using Libya as a route to Europe face in that country. Contrast the current media coverage of Libya with that of the period just before the NATO military action that led to the squalid death of Libyan president Muammar Gaddafi. In February 2011 alone—a month before the US, Britain and France began bombing that country to oust Gaddafi—the New York Times carried well over a hundred articles on Libya. One editorial, on 24 February 2011, confidently asserted that “unless some way is found to stop him, Gaddafi will slaughter hundreds or even thousands of his own people in his desperation to hang on to power.” However, months after the dictator’s enemies, aided by Western powers, had overrun the country, the same paper ran a telling story by veteran correspondent Rod Nordland entitled “Libya Counts More Martyrs than Bodies.” “Where are the dead?” he asked, referring to the mass killings that Gaddafi had been accused of planning. No evidence of such killings was to be found anywhere in the country. Here’s what is currently happening in Libya, which is unlikely to be covered in corporate media. On 28 August 2017, Ghassan Salamé, the special representative of the secretary-general and head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya, told the Security Council that on his first night in the capital, Tripoli, after taking the job, “I fell asleep to the protracted staccato of gunfire.” Civilians, he said, “are killed or injured across Libya as a result of sporadic armed clashes… Thousands are also detained for prolonged periods of time, many with no prospects of a fair trial.” Libya’s current state is one of near anarchy. A UN-led initiative resulted in a Libyan Political Agreement in December 2015 and a so-called Government of National Accord (GNA), bringing together two warring “governments,” the Council of Deputies (elected in 2014) and the Islamist General National Congress (GNC). The GNA is backed by the UN and is internationally recognised. Its authority, however, is both unclear and limited; the country’s capital, Tripoli, the haven of the GNC, is still contested and riven by violence. The components of the GNA still compete for authority, legitimacy and control over state resources and infrastructure. In effect, there are still two competing, even warring, governments in the country, and there is no leader commanding anything approaching national clout, let alone support or legitimacy. Oil production in Libya reached 1 million barrels a day in early October 2017, far below the 1.6 million it produced before the crisis. Salamé said that the “impression of a now well-rooted political economy of predation is palpable, as if the country were fueling its own crisis with its own resources to the benefit of the few and the frustration of the many.” When a convoy of UN personnel was attacked with gunfire and rocket-propelled grenades on 28 June 2017 by militant groups in the country, Salamé reported that the active “presence of ISIS, Al Qaida–affiliated terrorist groups, foreign fighters and mercenaries, the trafficking of arms and the cross-border black market economy are challenges which extend across Libya’s borders and impact its neighbours and the wider international community.” Yet this was not a major news item in mainstream US media. In June, UN investigators reported that terrorists, militants, mercenaries, and partisans have been targeting the two “governments” in the country, as well as residential areas, with improvised explosive devices, causing the death and injury of many civilians. The investigators reported summary executions of civilians, mass killings and bodies
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On February 18, 2018
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