Libya Vida Loca

November 29, 2011

In the 2001 comedy film, Super Troopers, the nefarious Police Chief Grady gloatingly remarks to his rival in the state police, Captain O’Hagan (Brian Cox), “desperation is a stinky cologne”. I personally feel that triumphalism has similarly pungent qualities so I will refrain from indulging in my own feelings following the downfall and grisly demise of the former Libyan dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, and the end of his crime family’s 42-year despotic rule. Instead, I will focus on my bête noire du jour; the conspiracy theories floating around attempting to discredit the foreign intervention that took place in Libya this year.

"They love me all my people!" Yeah, not quite.

Probably the laziest conspiracy theory here would be the idea that NATO intervention in Libya was chiefly about greedy western imperialists trying to get their hands on Libyan oil. This is obviously silly, given Libya’s existing integration into international oil markets. In other words, they already had their hands on that oil and there would be absolutely no reason to endanger ongoing contracts (like the substantial one BP agreed with Libya in 2007 for drilling in the Gulf of Sirte) by embarking on what would be an unnecessary military campaign to topple the despot that they were doing perfectly good business with in the first place. This is further demonstrated by the fact that several European oil companies operating in Libya saw their profits hurt by the revolution there. Moreover, although it is an oil-exporting country, Libya’s oil reserves make up only 2% of world reserves and it is only the fourth largest producer of oil in Africa. Neighbouring Algeria, which also experienced civil unrest during the Arab Spring, produces a great deal more oil than Libya (to say nothing of Nigeria and the largest African producer of oil, Angola). If shadowy western forces were manipulating the UN Security Council and the mass media (and observing human rights NGOs, of course) to demonize and stitch-up a North African dictator then why not go after Algeria’s Abdelaziz Bouteflika instead? Accordingly, this conspiracy theory regarding Libyan oil is widely discredited and seems to have arisen purely from those for whom “no war for oil” has become a default slogan for their reflexive anti-western opinions.

A more intriguing conspiracy theory arose earlier this year regarding the supposed proposal by Muammar Gaddafi to introduce a gold currency, the Gold Dinar, to be used throughout Africa and the Middle East as the only currency accepted for oil purchases. The idea was that this gold currency would cause a global economic shift, crushing the Dollar and Euro, and would result in the Gold Dinar becoming the dominant international currency. The Gaddafi regime was, therefore, targeted and toppled by a manufactured Libyan uprising and NATO air campaign in order to prevent this happening. This story was circulated on a great many conspiracy theory sites, including those created by the excitable celebrity conspiracy nut, Alex Jones. Naturally, it also found its way into the multitude of pro-Gaddafi websites and blogs desperately trying to push the line that the “Brother Leader” was some diamond geezer that gave ordinary Libyans tonnes of free stuff and bravely resisted the evil colonial machinations of western imperialists. Although this conspiracy theory may have been constructed from existing rumours, stretched half-truths, and erroneous extrapolations, the origin of the succinct finished product appears to be none other than the Moscow propaganda mouthpiece, Russia Today (or RT, as it is now more commonly known), which broadcast this report in March. Whilst a plot concerning currency rather than oil may present a novel approach, it nevertheless does not withstand any serious scrutiny.

Gold, Jerry, gold!

It’s true that Muammar Gaddafi had talked about a gold currency for the region; in fact he had been talking about it since at least the mid 1990s and was as far along in realizing the proposal then as he was earlier this year, i.e. precisely nowhere. The Libyan despot said a lot of things. He was well-known for his “eccentricities”, which included his capacity for waffling utter nonsense at any given turn. Indeed, Christopher Hitchens recently expressed his misgivings over Gaddafi being killed by his captors on the grounds that, had the dictator been turned over to the International Criminal Court for prosecution, his inevitable tirades of gibberish in the dock at The Hague would soon eradicate any residual support for the man or his legacy. The Gaddafi plan for a Gold Dinar has to be understood in this context. Muammar Gaddafi also had few friends in the region, beyond poor African states he was bribing, largely due to decades of criminal meddling by the Libyan regime throughout North Africa and the Middle East. Note that the Arab League itself called for a no-fly zone to be imposed on Libya in the wake of the Libyan dictatorship’s brutal crackdown on the popular uprising and it officially recognized the National Transitional Council as the legitimate government of Libya in March of this year. These states were not remotely close to accepting some quixotic currency plan from Muammar Gaddafi at any time. The African Union also formally rejected his plans for a gold currency in 2010. Leaving aside the question of how a Gold Dinar that no other country in the Middle East or Africa was interested in adopting would ruin or even challenge the Dollar or Euro, is it even plausible that this was the intention of the late Libyan tyrant? The North African state’s gold reserves, although considerable, amount to only 5.6% of its total currency exchange reserves. The remaining 94.4% of Libya’s currency reserves are held in something other than gold and that something else is very probably Dollar or Euro based assets. If the proposed Gold Dinar was somehow able to undermine the Dollar and Euro, this would have inflicted far more damage to the Libyan economy overall than whatever meagre benefits the gold currency would have brought. As crazy and deluded as the Gaddafi crime family was, it was never that fucking stupid.

The news network RT is currently held in very high regard by conspiracy theorists and self-styled anti-western “activists” alike because it overtly panders to both the kooky interests of the former and the adolescent prejudices of the latter. Hilariously, such people will often assert that RT is a reliable and legitimate alternative to the “mainstream media” (i.e. all other media sources) despite it being a pro-Russian propaganda agency that is massively subsidized by Moscow, employs nearly twice as many staff as Fox News, and is viewed by some 200 million people worldwide. It is well-known for giving a platform to all manner of batshit-crazy fringe figures and their views, including 9/11 Trooferism and the prediction that the U.S. would dissolve amidst civil war into six separate territories by July 2010. Although I knew of the channel, and was conscious of its pro-Russian angle, I first became aware of precisely how crude and unabashed its propaganda could be when I happened upon a report into the sinking of the Cheonan featuring a Canadian man spewing immediately obvious bollocks about the incident along the lines of it being a “new Gulf of Tonkin” false flag operation carried out by the US and South Korean governments in order to provoke North Korea into an all-out war. It appears to be a familiar practice by RT to present all manner of crank activists and bloggers as expert analysts and commentators or, worse, as legitimate journalists, as they did when covering the conflict in Libya, and it seems to procure these preposterous figures from conspiracy theory groups that it has some kind of working relationship with such as The Centre for Research on Globalization, based in Canada, and The Voltaire Network, created by French crackpot Thierry Meyssan, author of ‘9/11: The Big Lie’. Contributors from both groups, including Meyssan himself, were in Tripoli spouting pro-Gaddafi propaganda and misinformation for RT broadcasts until the rebels entered the Libyan capital on August 21, whereupon they promptly shat themselves, fearing the rebels had seen their pro-regime, anti-rebel, anti-NATO “reports” and, in a moment of delicious irony, frantically begged for NATO airlifts out of the country. It should be noted that mere hours before the rebels entered Tripoli, these ridiculous shills were reporting from their hotels that the advance on Tripoli was a great big NATO lie, indicating quite clearly that they were merely repeating whatever was being fed to them by the remnants of the crumbling Gaddafi regime.

RT’s angle is abundantly clear, its sustained slew of sham reports denouncing NATO coming as it did amidst Russia’s official opposition to military intervention in Libya. Russia had a long-time, lucrative ally and client in Gaddafi with the end of his rule and the subsequent radical change in the political landscape of Libya signifying an immediate threat to Russian interests there. It is only to be expected, then, that a Moscow mouthpiece began running its “alternative” view on the Libyan uprising right on cue but what is somewhat surprising is quite how many useful idiots wilfully lapped this stuff up. In this sense, it can be said that vehement credulity is the stinkiest cologne of all.



  1. Nice title! So why did we get involved in Libya?

  2. Thanks, I daresay the entire post may have been an elaborate excuse to use that title. As to your question…..

    *Runs out back door, jumps into open top car with engine running, roars off at speed clutching at cap*

    Ah, I was hoping I wouldn’t get called on that, content just to take aim at the softballs of conspiracy theory and a dodgy Russkie pseudo-news channel. Okay, here goes….

    I think it may largely have been the international community being forced into taking the least painful course of damage control, in terms of regional stability, with the added bonus of seizing an opportunity to rid themselves of a long-term pain-in-the-arse who proved pretty much overnight that he wasn’t some reformed, viable partner but exactly the viscious liability he always appeared to be. Gaddafi didn’t even offer any insincere political concessions to the rebels, he simply said they were “rats and cockroaches”(dehumanizing rhetoric identical in tone to the Rwandan genocide, note) and that he was going to crush them without mercy. European leaders who had been making nice with the guy lately were faced with the very real threat of him carrying out a North African Srebrenica massacre in Benghazi, destined to be captured on plenty of camera phones, and later juxtaposed with them smiling and shaking his hand. This is to say nothing of how the deteriotating conditions in Libya as a whole would affect the wider region (refugee numbers took their toll on North Africa and Europe anyway, would have been much worse if Gaddafi was left to his own murderous devices). Finally, if the end result meant the removal/death/capture of a plutocratic gangster regime that had fucked with plenty of people in the decades it was at its bullshit, that would be a benefit to Libya and the entire world, irrespective of what followed in its wake.

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