U.S. needs Libya inquiry

Why not a Chilcot Commission equivalent on Libya?

Some weeks ago, the Chilcot Commission in Britain released its long-awaited report on the Iraq War of 2003, clearly implying that then-Prime Minister Tony Blair and his staff had engaged in egregiously deceptive (if not outrightly criminal) activity in promoting that disastrous invasion and its aftermath. At that time, former Sun foreign correspondent Frederic Hill asserted in an op-ed that a similar such inquiry was long overdue in the United States as well, pointing out that the manipulative and highly dishonest role of the Cheney-Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz cabal made those Bush administration officials at least as responsible as Mr. Blair for the catastrophic outcome that ensued ("Where is our Iraq report?" July 8).

Mr. Hill was absolutely right to have made such an argument. Now, however, another British parliamentary commission has produced another scathing political indictment, not of the Iraq fiasco but of its kissing cousin, the 2011 U.S.-British-French invasion of Libya and the overthrow and assassination of Moammar Gadhafi. The immediate upshot of that report's publication was that David Cameron, the ex-PM, was forced by political pressure to resign the seat in the House of Commons that he had retained since leaving 10 Downing Street earlier this summer.

The report states that the initial pretext for the military intervention — namely, to protect civilians in Benghazi from an allegedly impending massacre by Mr. Gadhafi's forces — was accomplished within 24 hours. Whatever danger, real or imagined, that had previously existed was nullified, gone. Then, with an amazing lack of political deliberation, the operation morphed into one of regime change with the imposition of not only a no-fly zone, but also a no-drive zone enforced against the Libyan government's military.

The report strongly contends that none of the political principals from the invading countries gave even a proverbial nanosecond's consideration as to what would happen the day after Mr. Gadhafi was eliminated. It then details what did, in fact, occur: the outbreak of tribal warfare, the sinking of Libya into utter economic chaos, the creation of a refugee problem in the millions, the seizure of the old regime's huge cache of weapons for distribution to various jihadist groupings all over the globe and the rapid rise of ISIS and al-Qaida to positions of hegemony in Libya. The only thing missing in its bill of particulars is the 2012 assassination of Ambassador Chris Stevens and other Americans by some of the self-same "freedom fighters" that the West had armed and protected a year earlier in its zeal to oust Mr. Gadhafi.

Without stating it in so many words, the authors clearly indicate that the Western leaders were either oblivious to the potential consequences of their actions, in which case they would qualify as the biggest incompetents in memory, or they were aware and proceeded in wanton disregard of the outcome. Neither alternative constitutes a particularly glowing picture.

There is no reasonable doubt that Mr. Cameron is guilty of the crimes and blunders attributed to him by the parliamentary commission. His ignominious exit from political office is more than well-deserved. But this truly does cry out for the question posed by Mr. Hill in a different context: When in the blazes does the U.S. counterpart of this British commission convene?

If Prime Minister Cameron is culpable, then the same applies to President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — perhaps 10 or 100 times over! Those two were the lead actors in the whole Libyan disaster. Mr. Cameron and French leader Nicolas Sarkozy played important, but ultimately, supporting roles, nothing more nor less.

The Libyan invasion may have been of shorter duration and smaller cost than the Iraq War. But it was just as much a crime against humanity. It is past time that the perpetrators on both sides of the Atlantic be held to account.

Doug Mallouk, Catonsville

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