Until now, the Prime Minister and others have presented the intervention in Libya as proof that the lessons from Iraq had been learnt. Specifically, they have claimed, the anarchy that followed the ousting of Saddam Hussein was avoided. A UN document we disclose today suggests this boast may have been made too soon.
The document, compiled by the Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, after a recent visit, indicates that the differences between Iraq and Libya are less stark than we have been led to believe. Rival militias, he says, are out of control; torture, mistreatment and illegal detention are commonplace. Prisoners include many women, suspected of links with the old regime. The country is awash with looted weapons, and violence is spreading. All this offers a salutary corrective to the sanitised view that suits our political leaders. Regime change is not something that outsiders should assist lightly, or perhaps at all.