The Obama Legacy Part VI: The Destruction of Libya and the US military Invasion of Africa by Danny Haiphong
In his two terms in office, President Obama has put nearly the whole of Africa under U.S. military sway. He was the first U.S. president to bomb an African country -- Libya, whose “nationalized oil reserves and plans to use gold as the chief reserve currency in Africa threatened US capitalist penetration in Africa.” Obama rewrote international law, invoking “Responsibility to Protect” as “justification for the destruction of sovereign nations.”
“With the Libyan state destroyed, the US has been able to further expand militarily all over the continent.”
Endless war has been a staple of the Obama era. The first Black President's imperialist record is so expansive that it could not possibly be fit into a singular piece on his legacy. Obama's endless military incursions in Africa have been the least covered area of US foreign policy in the corporate media. From the outset of his selection in 2008, President Obama quietly militarized the African continent without the knowledge or consultation of the vast majority of the US population. In 2011, Obama's policy of militarization exploded into full-scale war on the nation of Libya.
The US imperial campaign against Libya marked a watershed moment in the Obama legacy. The overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi by way of US-NATO sorties and jihadists made Obama the first Black President to bomb an African country. In addition, Obama became the first President to invoke the so-called R2P (Responsibility to Protect) doctrine as a justification for what he called a "humanitarian intervention." The Obama war doctrine rewrote the rules of war in the realm of international law. "Humanitarian intervention" and the "Responsibility to Protect" provided a more effective justification for the destruction of sovereign nations.
“Obama became the first President to invoke the so-called R2P (Responsibility to Protect) doctrine as a justification for what he called a ‘humanitarian intervention.’"
Obama’s promotion of racist, colonialist lies about Libya helped muster public support to destabilize the most prosperous nation on the continent. According to President Obama and the corporate media, Gaddafi was a genocidal butcher of his own people. So-called mercenaries loyal to Gaddafi were accused of committing genocide against "peaceful" protesters. The "Libyan Revolution" was thrown into the so-called Arab Spring against brutal tyrants in North Africa. Mythological tales of Gaddafi's loyalists using Viagra to rape women and children were run around the clock by the corporate media and its masters in Washington.
What actually occurred in Libya was US-NATO sponsored genocide. Obama received plenty of help from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies, which provided jihadist mercenaries with the necessary financial and military aid to wage war on Libya. Black Libyans were brutally lynched by jihadist mercenaries in Gaddafi's hometown of Sirte. Over 30,000 US-NATO bombs were dropped on Libya over the course of the six-month military invasion that began in March of 2011. Tens of thousands of Libyans died and the Libyan state was effectively dissolved.
When Gaddafi was illegally murdered by jihadists in October of 2011, Obama's Secretary of State Hillary Clinton cackled "we came, we saw, he died" in an interview with the corporate press. The imperial hubris of Secretary Clinton was completely supported by Obama. Not only did he destroy Libya, but also later in 2016 described the aftermath of the intervention as a "mistake." Yet leaked emails from the investigation of Hillary Clinton's server scandal have proven that the war against Libya was waged for economic and geopolitical reasons. Libya's nationalized oil reserves and plans to use gold as the chief reserve currency in Africa threatened US capitalist penetration in Africa. So Obama led the charge to destroy this effort by sending Libya into a state of never ending chaos.
“AFRICOM has locked African nations into military subservience.”
Today, Libya remains in the control of terrorists. The Libya prior to 2011 that possessed free healthcare, education, and numerous subsidies to support the wellbeing of the Libyan people no longer exists. Libya's role in supporting African liberation in South Africa, Namibia, and Angola has been, for now, relegated to the history books. Libya once was a proud state that rejected US military presence on the continent, seeing it as an obstacle to Pan-African unity. With the Libyan state destroyed, the US has been able to further expand militarily all over the continent.
And it has been President Obama, not George W. Bush, who has presided over the rapid neo-colonization of Africa through military means. Under Obama, the US African Command (AFRICOM) has penetrated every African country but Zimbabwe and Eritrea. AFRICOM has locked African nations into military subservience. In 2014, the US conducted 674 military operations in Africa. According to a recent Freedom of Information Act request by Intercept, the US currently has Special Forces deployed in more than twenty African nations. US imperialism supposedly sees "enemies" everywhere in the form of jihadist groups. Yet it was the US-NATO alliance that empowered the spread of jihadists throughout Africa by arming them to destroy Libya.
“The US currently has Special Forces deployed in more than twenty African nations.”
The US has fueled instability in Africa as the primary means to undermine Chinese investment in the resource-rich continent. In 2013, China's investment in Africa was estimated to total 200 billion USD. Nations such as oil rich Nigeria and mineral rich Democratic Republic of Congo have found Chinese investment to be far more mutually beneficial than trade with US multinational corporations. This has threatened the capitalist class in control of the US imperialist system. When Obama was elected, he made it a point to subvert China with the only weapon left in its arsenal: military force.
However, China is a rising global power and the US is not. US imperialism is in crisis and its military policy in Africa is a reflection of decline. The militarization of Africa led by Obama has done nothing but spread chaos from North to South, East to West. China still leads the US by tens of billions of US dollars per year in terms of real investment in Africa. And the regional catastrophes that Obama's Africa policy has created are not going away. The rise of Boko Haram and the international jihadist terrorist network threatens to make the continent ungovernable. This may not be what US corporations want, but its all US policy is going to give.
“Nations such as oil rich Nigeria and mineral rich Democratic Republic of Congo have found Chinese investment to be far more mutually beneficial than trade with US multinational corporations.”
President Obama’s staunch support for the US military takeover of Africa has not stopped him from claiming identification with African people. However, Obama's identification with Africa has not stopped him from condemning the continent for homophobia or chastising African nations to forget about colonialism. Obama has yet to condemn Rwanda and Uganda for its support of proxies that have murdered over 6 million in the Democratic Republic of Congo since 1996. The Obama legacy in Africa should thus be characterized as the highest stage of hypocrisy. Obama received a Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 only to intensify African dependency on US imperialism, especially militarily.
The struggle for African liberation will continue long after Obama is out of the White House. His Africa policy will serve as the largest obstacle to efforts to rid the continent of neo-colonialism once and for all. The US military network currently operating in nearly every Africa country serves the purpose of arresting the ongoing process of self-determination. Solidarity efforts in the US mainland must recognize that the fate of Africa will determine the course of struggle worldwide. Obama expanded the US military state’s footprint in Africa. Africa’s liberation thus means the rejection of everything he has stood for.
Danny Haiphong is an Asian activist and political analyst in the Boston area. He can be reached at [email protected]