Trey Gowdy and totally not political committee are spending the day asking tough questions of Hillary Clinton, to get to the bottom of the key issues around the 2012 Benghazi consulate attack. These questions cut right to the heart of the whole matter, like “how about that Sidney Blumenthal,” “what’s the deal with Sidney Blumenthal, anyway,” “what did Sidney Blumenthal know and when did he know it,” and “is Sidney Blumenthal more of a PlayStation or Xbox guy?” An entire nation hangs on every crucial Sidney Blumenthal-related revelation.
Meanwhile, though, in case you were curious, there’s been stuff happening in Libya.
You know, Congressman Gowdy, Libya. The country where Benghazi actually is? The country we helped break, leading to the violence and chaos that contributed to the 2012 attack?
Well, whatever. Maybe the rest of you care. About two weeks ago, the UN proposed, and a bunch of Western countries (the US, UK, France, Spain, Italy, and Germany) heartily endorsed, a unity government for Libya. This would bring together the country’s two competing governments, one currently in Tripoli and the other in sort of semi-exile in Tobruk, and hopefully end that part of Libya’s civil war. If it’s done right, it might even avoid an outcome where the Tobruk government’s top general, Khalifa Haftar, winds up running the country as Muammar Gaddafi v. 2.0, although that still may very well be where Libya is headed.
The problem here is that no actual Libyans have agreed to the UN plan (on the plus side, they have agreed on the need for an agreement, or something like that). This includes the Tobruk government, which has the better claim on power since it was actually elected (albeit in a hopelessly compromised election undertaken in the midst of a civil war) and has international recognition, though its claims on legitimacy were actually harmed earlier this month when its parliament voted to extend its own term in office (that’s…not really how these things are supposed to work). Tobruk flat-out rejected the UN’s unity government plan earlier this week, but interestingly enough there’s evidence to suggest that it rejected the UN plan without putting it to a vote in the Tobruk parliament. The Tripoli government, AKA the General National Congress (GNC) has also expressed concerns that the unity plan doesn’t do enough to ensure that the government will be rooted in Islamic law. It’s kind of tough to implement your plan for Libyan peace without buy-in from any Libyans.
The UN plan, for what its worth, would create a hydra of an executive, with a prime minister and three deputies, one from each of the country’s main regions (which are based on the three Ottoman provinces that were united to form Libya: Cyrenaica in the east, Tripolitania in the northwest, and Fezzan in the southwest).
The Tobruk government would form the lower house of a new united parliament, with the GNC forming the upper house (whose role is described as “advisory,” but that doesn’t seem to be clearly defined, at least not based on the reporting that I’ve seen about the UN plan). I don’t want to tell the fine folks at the UN how to do their jobs, but these seems a little facile maybe? “Hey, there are two factions, each one has its own legislature…how about a two-chambered legislature?” If there were 10 factions fighting in Libya (hell, there probably are more than that if you drill down deep enough), would we be looking at a 10 chamber parliament? I guess it’s an OK compromise (with more authority winding up with Tobruk because the GNC is totally unelected, where as Tobruk was elected but maybe not legitimately), but it’s definitely splitting the baby and you can understand why it might take both sides a while to warm up to it.
Just to take us out of the realm of intensive Sidney Blumenthal-ing and abstract Libyan politicking, let’s finish this talking about the real Benghazi, the place where those real attacks really happened and people were really killed so that some horrendous asshole could one day make a fucking political TV ad about it. Back in July, the AP described the city of Benghazi as “shattered,” its courthouse (“the birthplace of the uprising against Moammar Gadhafi”) “a shelled out ruin.” Benghazi is nominally controlled by the Tobruk government, but in reality it’s in almost total anarchy, with various bits of ground held by forces loyal to Tobruk, fighters who have pledged themselves to ISIS, fighters affiliated with al-Qaeda, and other unrelated militias. Benghazi used to be a beautiful city (so I read, anyway), and now it looks like this:
— Khaled Butou (@mazighie) January 21, 2015
People in Benghazi and all throughout Libya are dying, being displaced, trying desperately to flee to an inhospitable Europe under the most decrepit conditions. And obviously you’d like to see the West and its international organizations, like the UN, step in and fix things, or at least provide the framework upon which they can be fixed. But, you know, we Westerners helped break this country in the first place. Oh, Gaddafi bears most of the blame; dictatorships like his work deliberately to corrode a society’s ability to govern itself, so that when they finally go (one way or another) whatever’s left of the state collapses, usually violently. Still, our intervention in 2011, however well-intentioned, pulled the pin on a grenade that blew Libya to smithereens. Now we’re scrambling around in the rubble, trying to find that pin so we can jam it back into a grenade that’s long-since exploded. We’ve helped to bring about probably the only outcome for a post-Gaddafi Libya that’s left the country demonstrably worse than it would have been had the Arab Spring never happened.
As I write this, Hillary Clinton’s Benghazi testimony has been going on for roughly 38 hours, with a scant 27 hours to go, but so far we haven’t heard, and I guarantee we won’t hear, anything about what’s happening in Libya right now, courtesy (in part) of our actions. And sure, maybe this Benghazi Committee isn’t the forum for that kind of talk. But I’m fairly confident you won’t hear anything about what’s really happening in Libya right now from any other Congressional committees either, or from anybody in the executive branch, mostly because it won’t have any impact on the presidential campaign and the whole thing is really kind of embarrassing for everyone concerned.
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