When will the West own up to the role it's played in the implosion of Libya?

No one even considers whether we bear some responsibility for this appalling situation

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The Independent Online

The scenes witnessed this week – of the 21 Christians being marched along the beach in Libya, in their orange jumpsuits, and their subsequent beheadings – which I pointedly refused to watch online – marked a new low point in the advance of Isis.

We also see scenes every week of large numbers of migrants crossing the Mediterranean from Libya in search of a new life in Europe.

What I find astonishing is that no one even considers whether, perhaps, we bear some responsibility for this appalling situation. The bravado of the then President Sarkozy and Prime Minister Cameron for yet another foreign bombing engagement surprised me at the time we were taking this action in Libya.

What was even more astonishing, despite years of questionable grind in Afghanistan and Iraq, was the lack of criticism from elected politicians in the UK. Indeed, when the House of Commons voted on the Libyan military intervention, only 12 MPs out of 650 voiced their opposition.

A further irony of the earlier part of the bombing campaign was that the Royal Air Force was making 3,500-mile round trips from Norfolk because Britain had no active aircraft carriers. We were told that the mission was a necessity to stop a potential massacre in Benghazi. We had decided to take sides with the “rebels” against Colonel Gaddafi. As an opponent of the bombings, one of my principle concerns, which I raised at the time, was: did we know who the rebels were, and was it not a fact that the British Army in Iraq had found that many of the most extreme militants had indeed come from Eastern Libya?

Gaddafi.jpg
libya has been under an UN arms embargo since 2011 when Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown (Getty Images)

These comments and the objections of a dozen MPs were simply brushed aside by a media consensus that our political class must be right. I am in no doubt that Libya after our intervention is in a far worse state than it was under Gaddafi. I know that when I say these things, I will be portrayed as being a Gaddafi supporter. But not only is that untrue, it is also not the point.

Libya is one of an endless series of military interventions in which we have left things worse than before we intervened. And you only need to look as far as how Christians are targeted across the Middle East and North Africa region to see what kind of road we have paved for the terrorists of Isis. In Iraq, in Syria, in Libya and beyond, Christians have not only been thrown to the lions as a result of our hasty, shoestring interventions, but what are we doing to assist them now that our government has created the conditions in which they can be so easily rounded on? I would say whatever it is, it is nowhere near enough given our complicity in their slaughter.

I wonder whether we will ever learn. Perhaps one point of optimism is that William Hague has now gone as Foreign Secretary after attempting to get the House of Commons to re-run Libya on a grander scale in Syria. If in the next parliament, Ukip are fortunate enough to find themselves in a position of numerical influence, we will not support foreign military interventions unless we can clearly see that such actions are in the national interest, and that there is a clear strategic endgame in sight.

I say this not as pacifist, but as somebody who believes that going to war is the most serious thing any government can do. It is an undertaking that in recent times has been taken far too lightly.

 

I don’t vet people photographed with me

So, this week I’ve been named Villain of the Year by NME magazine, been slated by Noel Gallagher, and been criticised for having a selfie taken with someone who turned out to be among the Chelsea fans allegedly involved in the disgraceful incident on the Paris Metro.

I suppose I had better confess, on the latter point – that I don’t fully vet people who approach me outside of pubs and ask for selfies. I hold my hands up to that. I don’t ask for their ID, I don’t ask for their political views, I don’t ask for a CRB check, and mostly, I just try and carry on having a pint and letting them get a bit of fun out of meeting me. And that’s that!

Of course I utterly condemn what those Chelsea fans did to a black man trying to get onto a train. That some papers chose to put my picture on their front page – as if I’m associated with the guy who was reportedly involved – is utterly reprehensible. But we’ve seen a bit of the nasty media tactics this week, haven’t we?

Having said that, I’m quite chuffed  to follow the likes of Kanye West and  Harry Styles as NME’s Villain of the  Year. Maybe I’ve truly made it now! Although I have a feeling  my daughters might not agree.

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