In part 1 of this series, I looked at Sidney Blumenthal and Huma Abedin, two Clinton operatives who followed her to the State Department. In part 2, I looked at the Arab Spring and Clinton’s involvement. Next, I turn to her dalliance in Libya (not Benghazi yet).
Prior to hostilities in Libya, Qaddafi had closed up more than 20 terrorist camps in his country. After 9/11, he was assisting the US with the war on terror and in 2003 allowed the US to supervise the removal of his nuclear force. As the years passed, he seemed more silly than sinister. There was talk in 2005 that he was ready to relinquish control to his technocratic son Saif who had recruited Mahmoud Jibril to help restructure the Libyan economy.
Before the Libyan “revolution,” Libya had a budget surplus equal to 8.7% of GDP. It was producing 1.8 million barrels of oil per day and was on target to produce 3 million barrels a day. Following the revolution, the economy contracted by 41% and had a budget deficit equal to 17% of GDP. In short, Libya was a secure, prosperous, secular Islamic country before the revolution that was no threat to its neighbors.
In 1971, the United States had abandoned backing up its currency with gold. Arab and African OPEC nations had long objected to the vanishing purchasing power of their oil sales mandated to be made in US dollars. On April 11, 2011 Blumenthal sent Clinton an email claiming that Qaddafi had amassed 143 tons of gold and a similar amount of silver. The memo claimed that he was planning to establish a pan-African currency based on the Libyan gold dinar. In 2009, Qaddafi was head of the African Union and had secured the backing of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and Ben Ali in Tunisia to create the gold-backed alternative to the US dollar. Coincidentally, or not, the first Arab Spring protests occurred in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.
This should come as no surprise since there were plans to form an African Union modeled on the EU with their own currency as early as 2004. This may explain why French President Nicholas Sarkozy, who was one of the leading European leaders arguing against Qaddafi, described the Libyan leader as a “threat” to the financial security of the world. The US-backed rebels who hailed from the oil-rich eastern half of Libya centered around Benghazi had created a central bank long before the outcome of the battle was decided. They also created their own oil company to sell the oil coming from the Libyan fields. The creation of a central bank arising out of a rebellion within weeks was unheard of in financial circles.
Buried among the many released Hillary Clinton emails in the period leading up to the hostilities in Libya is a memo from Clinton unofficial adviser, Sidney Blumenthal, talking about the Libyan desire to create an African currency. He also sent her an unflattering memo about the true motives of France in hostilities in Libya since they were the loudest voices calling for action. Blumenthal argued that Qaddafi presented a danger to French influence in the region and Sarkozy had his eyes on Libyan oil. And for someone who was not a State Department employee, nearly one-third of all emails she received on the situation in Libya came from Blumenthal during her time at the State Department. Sometimes the brief came from an associate of Blumenthal- Tyler Drumheller- who had formed a company with him to develop economic and military contracts in Libya called Osprey. Those deals would also need approval of the State Department although he claims he was never out to curry favor with Clinton.
Some of the emails are strange and made no sense and were often attributed to “unnamed sources.” One suggested that Libyan elites wanted warm relations with Israel. That tidbit of information was passed onto Jake Sullivan, a State Department adviser, with a suggestion it be passed onto Israeli intelligence. Another said rebel leaders wanted to set up an autonomous region in eastern Libya. But many memos discussed Sarkozy’s motivations in Libya. In 2007, Qaddafi visited Paris to broker a $200 million arms deal. According to the French newspaper Le Monde, Sarkozy became disenchanted with Qaddafi and came to hate him after Qaddafi commented on “oppression” of women in France and urged young Muslims in Paris to “rise up.”
The Libyan civil war started with protests against strongman leader Qaddafi in mid-February 2011 and turned into armed conflict with rebels by early March. Almost immediately, Clinton announced that Qaddafi must go without further violence. Initially reluctant to establish a no-fly zone over Libya as Qaddafi loyalists mounted a counteroffensive, they- Obama and Clinton- changed their minds fearing what they called a potential humanitarian bloodbath. However, those fears were ill-founded. There was little reason to believe that the country faced a humanitarian crisis if Qaddafi succeeded in crushing the revolt. Tales of mass rapes and helicopters mowing down protesters were almost immediately debunked.
In her travels, Clinton found that there was increasing support for military intervention in Libya in Europe and the Arab world. Clinton managed to beat back opposition to a no-fly zone expressed by Defense Secretary Robert Gates. She later convinced others that further military action may be needed beyond a no-fly zone and received the support of several countries, particularly the UAE and Qatar. At the UN Security Council, Sergei Lavrov of Russia opposed the action, but was convinced to abstain rather than veto any measure. Once the resolution was secure, Clinton ordered that all negotiations with Qaddafi, who was urging a ceasefire at the time, be discontinued.
It was later reported that at this time a senior Libyan military official had contacted Rear Adm. Charles Kubic arguing for a 72-hour ceasefire to allow Qaddafi to exit the country along with his family. Passing the information to superiors, he was told to drop all contact with his Libyan counterparts and that the order came from “outside the Pentagon.” Of course, Obama and Clinton deny ever hearing of the proposal. But, Qaddafi had also appealed for a ceasefire through other intermediaries including the African Union, Malta, Turkey, Greece, and the UN. To assert that she was unaware of any ceasefire suggestions is a bald-faced lie.
Qaddafi was barely holding on, having been surprised by the strength of the rebels because of the Qatari arms shipment. However, once NATO forces intervened, it was only a matter of time before his regime fell. As the Libyan revolution was spinning out of control, it became difficult to determine who was actually supporting the rebels. There was obviously the Qatari money and the Thani family and his Muslim Brotherhood allies. It had also become obvious that Hillary Clinton became entrenched in the idea of regime change even though Libya posed no risk to any US interests.
So what was Clinton’s game here? Her past demonstrated an interest in the Middle East since a lot of funding for the Clinton Foundation came from here, especially Qatar. It is likely she was fed some advice from Abedin and Ann Woods Patterson who was the ambassador to Egypt starting in 2011 and had friends in Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. There was also Gehad el-Haddad who worked with the Clinton Foundation while also working as an English-language spokesman for the Brotherhood starting in February 2011.
One thing was certain- the West had decided on Jibril as the replacement for Qaddafi. He went to Paris and held talks with Sarkozy convincing him of the commitment of the rebels. He also later met with Hillary Clinton for 45 minutes. Also at that meeting was Christopher Stevens who was to be appointed as Special Envoy to the eventual interim government. On March 29th, at a meeting held in London, sheikh Al-Thani convinced those present to support the transitional government which had already formed. In late summer, Clinton remained in contact with the government in Qatar. On September 4 at a conference held at the request of Sarkozy and British prime minister David Cameron, it was decided that the new government would be headed by Mustafa Abdul Jalil and Mahmoud Jibril.
In September 2011, NATO engaged in a bombing campaign designed to kick Qaddafi out of power. Throughout it all, Defense Secretary Robert Gates was against military action in Libya arguing that he already had two wars on his plate.
For many, it meant no sense why Qaddafi had to go, but also why he could not just be exiled and why he had to be murdered. As Hillary Clinton jokingly said afterward, “We came, we saw, he died.” Since the beginning, Clinton had insisted that the effort was to protect civilians from the murderous Qaddafi regime. But as Gates later revealed, that line was pure fiction on the part of Clinton. NATO interpreted the UN resolution as taking all necessary steps to drive Qaddafi from power and destroy his military capabilities.
The man Washington brought in to lead the rebels in March 2011 was Khalifa Hifter who was living a quiet life in exile in the DC suburbs of Virginia. However, it was Mahmoud Jibril who was the preferred post-Qaddafi leader for Libya since he was considered a secularist reformer.
The legacy of Clinton in Libya is crystal clear. She used contested intelligence from people like Blumenthal and urged Obama to wage a war against a dictator, make a joke about his death and declare the operation a success after failing to properly prepare for the aftermath and watch radical Muslims rush in to fill the power vacuum. It sounds suspiciously like what she often blamed Dick Cheney of doing.
Next: Clinton and Putin and the roots of mutual hatred