If Libya Is a Success, What Would Be a Failure?

You must surely fear for the reputation of your species when you hear the deaths of some 10,000 people referred to as "successful." Until this week, I used to regard an away win at Celtic Park as "successful." I would casually refer to a drive from Bedfordshire to Aberdeenshire as being "successful" – barring crashes of course – or would praise a recently cooked dish as being a great "success." However, this week we were all witness to the monumental decline of the extravagantly used adjective. I shall never again be able to define an event as "successful"; no matter how remarkable. And this is all thanks to Liam Fox. 

On Monday (6th June), Britain’s Defense Secretary Liam Fox spoke at a Conservative Intelligence conference – a Tory think-tank – outlining his views on the war in Libya. He used the term "extraordinarily successful" in assessing Britain’s role within the NATO-run operations in the Middle East, and more specifically, Libya. He openly declared his pride in the fact that Britain had "set the pace" in spite of steep spending cuts being implemented on military spending budgets. His rhetoric then began sounding as though he had spent time flicking casually through a military aircraft catalogue. "Typhoon." "Tornado." "Apache." You name it, he bragged about it.  

What Mr Fox – forgive me, Dr Fox – failed to disclose was the fact that these "effectively performing" aircrafts had killed approximately 800 civilians, including three of Colonel Gadhafi’s very own defenseless grandchildren. But silly me. Naturally, these murders – sorry, deaths – are a "success." Just like our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have been a "success." Just like our dealing of the Israeli-Palestine conflict has been a "success." "Success" is all we know. Needless to say, Libya has not been a "success." Rather, it has been an ongoing embarrassment. A shameful imperial invasion designed to secure our future oil supply. Nobody with an ounce of power would admit to this, but this is the sad, sobering reality. 

Initially, military intervention was sold to us on the basis of "humanitarian" grounds. A no-fly zone was instigated and attacks against command-and-control centers were authorized. Following several months of "stalemate," NATO has stepped up its bombings against Gadhafi and his loyalists. Regrettably, what NATO fails to recognize is that for every fanatical obstinate military stalwart of Gadhafi’s, it also kills three or four innocent bystanders. Slaughtered. Murdered. Assassinated. However you put it, it is not pleasant. Rough justice. But let us not forget, a "success." Even so-called "pacifists" such as American President Barack Obama, Labor leader Ed Miliband – who ardently condemned the war in Iraq – and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg – who has also spoken of his antiwar feelings in the past – notably backed this vicious foray onto foreign soil.

With military officials becoming more honest surrounding the likelihood of a long drawn-out war against Colonel Gadhafi and his merry men, it begs the question; has it all been worth it? Whilst the argument of acting on "humanitarian" grounds seemed feasible at the time, to me it was mortifying. That is not to say I wanted to see Gadhafi slaughter his people. Far from it. However, when Britain has sat back and watched people being murdered in Sarajevo during the Bosnian War and continues to sit back and watch pro-democracy protesters in Bahrain, Yemen, and Syria being callously shot to death, how can you fail to be cynical over our involvement in Libya? The whole situation stinks. 

With objectives now including the removal of Muammar Gadhafi it seems the world will soon observe the assassination of another infamous martyr. Although originally NATO’s aims were said to be solely on protecting civilians, they have now admitted that a Libya with Gadhafi at the helm is unthinkable. Why is that exactly? Would it be because a man whose family has been executed or a man whose country has been bombed to pieces would not want to trade oil anymore? Surely not. And how daft of me. Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz of Saudi Arabia is what we prefer. Or Bashar al-Assad of Syria. These men never commit war crimes or human rights injustices. I think not.  

The deep, dark reality is that Mr Fox and his cronies must refer to Libya as being a "successful" mission purely because it is the exact opposite. To admit its flaws would be political suicide. A sign of weakness. That British stiff-upper-lip must be deployed and a touch of Alan Clark arrogance if we are going to exit this farce with any decorum. Unfortunately, dignity and democracy died a long time ago and no matter how much Liam Fox packages the event in shiny rose-tinted wrapping, we can all see its authentic horrors. The innocent victims, the ruined cities, the broken nation. The word "successful" should never be seen the same way ever again, for if this horrendous, sickening affair can be described thus, what on earth would failure look like?

Author: Scott A. Hill

Scott Hill is an independent journalist from Bedfordshire, UK. He specializes in domestic and global politics and is inspired by the writings of Robert Fisk, John Pilger, and Christopher Hitchens.