Suppose just for a moment that what I am about to tell you is what really happened. Suppose for a moment what I am about to tell you is the truth that diplomats and elites do not want you to know.
First off, it will help you to understand that the world exists at two different levels: the one the elites want us to see, hear about, and is written about by the press; the other, which exists only for elites, takes place in a totally different realm, where only the few live.
In order to understand what really happened at Benghazi, this is the first in a series of articles that will provide the background to what led up to the diplomatic disaster that cost the United States the lives of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, Foreign Service Information Management Officer (IMO) Sean Smith, and CIA contractors and former Navy SEALS Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty.
In 1969, Muammar al-Qaddafi rose to power via a military coup. At NO POINT am I saying Qaddafi was a GOOD GUY, but I want to convey how he ran his country.
In the early part of his iron-fisted rule, Qaddafi was a known sponsor of terrorism against the Western World. There were many training camps for terrorists throughout the desert, an unpopulated part of the country. Most Libyans live along the Mediterranean coast between Tripoli and Al Bayda, and most of the population are Sunni Muslim.
Shortly after Qaddafi took over the government, he nationalized the oil and gas industry, but still allowed joint ventures with outside corporations. His government utilized their huge crude oil income to build and maintain a relatively strong economy. Moreover, he used that income to attempt to develop agriculture and industry to diversify his country’s economy. It didn’t always work when crude oil prices were low. Still, Libya’s per capita income was among the highest on the African continent. His government established a welfare state, which provided medical care and education at minimal cost to the people. Libya imported goods predominately from Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, and South Korea, while it exported petroleum to Italy, Germany, Spain, France, Tunisia, and Turkey. Libya has had a positive trade balance since the 1960s. Additionally, the country and Qaddafi accumulated a large amount of gold bullion, 4.6 million ounces worth more than $8 billion dollars, received as payment for both legal and illegal activities. Some came from when Qaddafi overthrew the King of Libya. I will deal with the gold in a later blog.
Their school system has a similar structure to the Western World through the ninth grade. After ninth grade, a student, male and female, may choose between higher education or vocational training. About 80% of the adult population is literate, and the government sponsors an adult educational program to attempt to increase that number.
As the oil and gas industry grew, the population did as well, including an influx of foreign workers. By the end of the 20th century and into the 21st century, death rates had greatly declined while birth rates were very high. Therefore, Libya has a young population. Their infant mortality rate was not only the lowest on the African continent, but well below the world’s average.
Qaddafi allowed some of the most liberal women’s rights of any Arab country. Women were allowed to receive an education, drive and hold jobs. He passed a law requiring equal pay for equal work. Young women marriages were banned. In 2008, there Libya had their first female commercial pilot. Qaddafi even had several female bodyguards.
Despite all this, Qaddafi was your usual despot. He ran Libya as an authoritarian state, with power concentrated among members of his inner circle of relatives and security chiefs. However, there was still a large segment of the population, which reasonably good lifestyles, comparable to the Western World. That is, up until the year 2011, when the “civil war” began.
Qaddafi’s relationship with the outside world was quite different. Beginning in the 1980s, Qaddafi and Libya were one of the main sponsors of worldwide terrorism. Because of the high crude oil prices at the beginning of the 1980s, Qaddafi had deep pockets filled with cash and was willing to fund the torment of the Western World. In 1986, Qaddafi sponsored the bombing of the LaBelle Discotheque in West Berlin, in which three individuals were killed and two hundred twenty-nine were injured, including seventy-nine U.S. soldiers. Ten days later, U.S. coalition forces struck Libya with jets and Tomahawk missiles, including landing one in the Qaddafi compound.
In 1988, Qaddafi responded to the attack on Libya by carrying out his most brazen, notorious deed: sponsoring the taking down of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. In all, 243 passengers, 16 crew members and 11 Lockerbie residents were killed. Following a joint investigation completed in 1991 by the British MI5, Scotland Yard and the FBI, it was determined that two Libyan intelligence agents were behind the Pan Am 103 bombing disaster. Stiff sanctions were placed against Libya. After several years of fighting with Qaddafi, in 1999 he agreed to turn over the two agents. They were tried in the Netherlands. One of the agents was convicted, while the other was acquitted. In 2003, Libya accepted responsibility for the bombing. The next year, the U.S. government and Libya agreed to a payment of eight million dollars to each victim’s family. Three years after Pan Am went bankrupt, the international court awarded it thirty million dollars from the Libyan government for its lawsuit over the Lockerbie incident.
Following the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, Qaddafi attempted to improve his image with the Western World by offering assistance with al Qaeda’s North African camps. But in reality, he was still only looking out for himself. The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, the al Qaeda affiliate, he assisted in taking them down, previously tried to oust him from power.
However, on March 1, 2003, Qaddafi’s true character re-emerged when he got into a television feud with Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah regarding Saudi-allowed U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia. Qaddafi said, “King Fahd told me that his country was threatened and he would co-operate with the devil to protect it.”
Crown Prince Abdullah retorted, “Saudi Arabia is a Muslim country and not an agent of colonialism like you and others. You, who brought you to power? Don’t talk about matters that you fail to prove. Your lies precede you, while the grave is ahead of you.”
I will pick up with the history here in the next blog.