It is common knowledge that the 2011 US-led NATO intervention to bring down Muammar Gaddafi Libya resulted in a vacuum allowing terror groups like ISIS to gain a foothold in that country.
Despite the consequences of that invasion, the West is now making similar moves with Syria. Just as the Obama administration demonized Gaddafi in 2011, highlighting his human rights abuses and insisting he must be removed from power to protect the Libyan people, the Trump administration is now pointing to Bashar al-Assad's many sins in Syria against his people. I can't help but notice the similarities in the two instances. Although I understand Gadaffi at the time of his ouster was playing nice with the United States where Assad Al-Bashar is not, I am not sure regime change at the hands of the US is the answer.
This week, we learned another unintended consequence of “humanitarian intervention-” the growth of the human slave trade.
The Guardian reports that “violence, extortion, and slave labor” have been the norm for people trafficked through Libya. The slave trade has recently grown there. Today, people are selling other human beings in the open market.
According to Mohammed Abdiker, head of operations and emergencies for the International Office of Migration, reports of ‘slave markets’ for migrants is just another outrageous thing happening in Libya. The situation is dangerous. Experience should be our teacher. This, or worse, is what we can expect will happen in Syria.
Libya is commonly used as a point of exit for refugees running away from other parts of the African continent. Since Gaddafi was overthrown in 2011, the Guardian reports “the vast, sparsely populated country has slid into violent chaos and migrants with little cash, and usually no papers are particularly vulnerable.” It sounds like a perfect storm for ISIS to come in and fill the void.
A survivor from Senegal said he was passing through Libya from Niger with a group of other migrants attempting to flee their home countries. They had paid a smuggler to transport them via bus to the coast where they would risk taking a boat to Europe. However, rather than take them to the coast, the smuggler took them to a dusty lot in Sabha, Libya. According to Livia Manente, an IOM officer who interviews survivors, “their driver suddenly said the middlemen had not passed on his fees and put his passengers up for sale.”
Other migrants confirmed his story, independently describing the kinds of slave markets, as well as kinds of private prisons all over in Libya. IOM Italy had confirmed similar stories from migrants landing in Italy. The Senegalese survivor was taken to a makeshift prison
Those held inside are forced to work without pay, or on meager rations, and their captors regularly call family at home demanding a ransom. His captors asked for 300,000 West African francs (about $495.00), then sold him on to a larger jail where the demand doubled without explanation
"When migrants were held too long without having a their ransom paid for them, they were killed. Some wasted away on meager rations in unsanitary conditions, dying of hunger and disease, but the overall numbers never fell. If the number of migrants goes down, because of death or someone is ransomed, the kidnappers just go to the market and buy another one,” Manente said.
Giuseppe Loprete, IOM Niger’s chief of mission, confirmed these disturbing reports. “It’s very clear they see themselves as being treated as slaves,” he said.
Even as the United States government entertains the idea of regime change in Syria as a solution to the crises in that country, it is evident that ousting dictators, however detestable they may be, is not effective.
Libya is evidence. It was once a stable region, yet it continues to devolve from the fallout of Western “humanitarian” intervention. Human beings are dragged into emerging slave trades. Rapes and kidnappings plague the population. It is increasingly obvious that more destabilization of that region will only create even more suffering in unforeseen ways.
Most Americans- Republicans, Democrats, and Independents now accept they were talked into a war with Iraq with disastrous consequences. There was more uncertainty about the war on Libya in 2011 as we saw it descended into chaos. Now we have this ongoing proxy war on Syria and this Cold War showdown with Russia. All of which creates more refugees and none of which serves the United States.
Today, Democrats don’t want to admit that they have been manipulated into supporting new imperial adventures against Libya, Syria, Ukraine, and Russia by the Obama administration as it pulls some of the same heart strings that George W. Bush’s administration did in 2002-2003.
Do I have the answer to the Syrian suffering? I do not. Perhaps we could pressure Russia or other countries through the EU into nonmilitary intervention. There must be other ways to coerce Assad Al Bashar into doing the right thing for his people. That is for diplomats to figure out. I just hope President Trump does not commit troops to Syria. Something tells me this will only end poorly for us.