opinion   |  column

COLUMN: Blame the US and NATO for Libyan slave trade



Reports of the ongoing African slave trade in Libya has rightfully outraged the world. 

The growing consciousness of this tragedy on social media has created much needed attention, causing many to decry the inhumanity of our world and the reemergence of the abhorrent and racist practice of slavery. 

Yet, when a story like this goes mainstream, it's important to ask what is missing from media reports. 

In this case, the missing link is obviously the United States and NATO overthrow of the anti-imperialist Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi in 2011. 

It is difficult to discuss the Libyan slave trade without making the objective link to the chaos caused by regime change, as well as the fact that many of the rebels supported by the US and NATO have since doubled as anti-black death squads. 

Barely any articles on this issue even mention Qaddafi’s overthrow, let alone US-NATO involvement. 

It is easy for the news media to forget that only six years ago, NATO ran 26,000 air strike sorties against a government that supported black liberation struggles around the world. 

Furthermore, repression of black Libyans and Africans by Western-backed rebels was noted in the earliest days of the war. The killing of black Libyans accused of being “Qaddafi mercenaries” began simultaneously with increased rebel military activity. 

Some rebels, found by the United Kingdom Parliament to be rife with “Islamic extremism” from the start, frequently called themselves “the brigade for purging slaves, black skin.” 

In 2011, Human Rights Watch was reporting that Libyan militias had destroyed the predominately black city of Tawergha. By 2013, it was found the militias had ethnically cleansed the city’s 40,000 residents. 

Therefore, the current slave trade in Libya is the result of a long process of genocide against blacks in North Africa, ignited directly by the US and NATO’s support for Islamic shock troops in 2011. 

Though silly with excitement at the time of Qaddafi’s overthrow, the New York Times now confesses “None of this would be possible if not for the political chaos in Libya since the civil war in 2011, when — with the involvement of a NATO coalition that included the United States — Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi was toppled. Migrants have become the gold that finances Libya’s warring factions.” 

How we use these facts to evaluate the legacy of Barack Obama’s tenure as president must become a larger discussion. 

Another infuriating part of the conversation is how Democrats can share a Facebook video about the Libyan slave trade and, in the next breath, share a teary-eyed praising of Obama and then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. 

Liberals are long overdue for a reality check about the foreign policy of the former administration and its legacy of smiley-faced, pragmatic militarism. 

Yet we must also depersonalize the subject of U.S. imperialism and its consequences beyond individual politicians. 

Any social movement that wants to change this darkening country must have at its core an uncompromising opposition to the U.S.’s foreign policy and its role as a global superpower. Decades of an unchecked, murderous military machine has turned our hearts black and minds dull. 

Our ability to stomach mass shootings and police violence at home is directly related to our tolerance for the torture of innocents in Guantanamo Bay, drone bombings of civilians or the glorification of the blood-stained U.S. soldier in the media. 

Questions of race, gender, violence and poverty all flow from the fact that our government is a global empire and dictatorship. Our wealth is stolen from Latin America, Africa and Asia. Only beginning to  dismantle our global military will salvage our national politics.

luwrobin@indiana.edu
@lucas__robinson

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