Reprinted from Consortium News
President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron talk at the G8 Summit in Lough Erne, Northern Ireland, June 17, 2013.
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A British parliamentary inquiry into the Libyan fiasco has reported what should have been apparent from the start in 2011 -- and was to some of us-- that the West's military intervention to "protect" civilians in Benghazi was a cover for what became another disastrous "regime change" operation.
The report from the U.K.'s Foreign Affairs Committee confirms that the U.S. and other Western governments exaggerated the human rights threat posed by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and then quickly morphed the "humanitarian" mission into a military invasion that overthrew and killed Gaddafi, leaving behind political and social chaos.
The report's significance is that it shows how little was learned from the Iraq War fiasco in which George W. Bush's administration hyped and falsified intelligence to justify invading Iraq and killing its leader, Saddam Hussein. In both cases, U.K. leaders tagged along and the West's mainstream news media mostly served as unprofessional propaganda conduits, not as diligent watchdogs for the public.
Today, we are seeing an even more dangerous repetition of this pattern: demonizing Russian President Vladimir Putin, destabilizing the Russian economy and pressing for "regime change" in Moscow. Amid the latest propaganda orgy against Putin, virtually no one in the mainstream is exercising any restraint or finding any cautionary lessons from the Iraqi and Libyan examples.
Yet, with Russia, the risks are orders of magnitude greater than even the cases of Iraq and Libya -- and one might toss in the messy "regime change" projects in Ukraine and Syria. The prospect of political chaos in Moscow -- with extremists battling for power and control of the nuclear codes -- should finally inject some sense of responsibility in the West's politicians and media, but doesn't.
When it comes to Putin and Russia, it's the same ole hyperbole and falsehood that so disinformed the public regarding the "threats" from Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi. Just as President George W. Bush deceptively painted Hussein's supposed WMD as a danger to Americans and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton dishonestly portrayed Gaddafi as "genocidal," U.S. officials and pundits are depicting Putin as some cartoonish villain or some new Hitler.
And, just as The New York Times, Washington Post and other mainstream media outlets amplified the Iraq and Libyan propaganda to the American people -- rather than questioning and challenging it -- these supposedly journalistic entities are performing the same function regarding Russia. The chief difference is that now we're talking about the potential for nuclear annihilation. [See Consortiumnews.com's "The Existential Madness of Putin-Bashing."]
According to the new U.K. report on Libya, Britain's military intervention -- alongside the U.S. and France -- was based on "erroneous assumptions and an incomplete understanding" of the reality inside Libya, which included a lack of appreciation about the role of Islamic extremists in spearheading the opposition to Gaddafi.
In other words, Gaddafi was telling the truth when he accused the rebels around Benghazi of being penetrated by Islamic terrorists. The West, including the U.S. news media, took Gaddafi's vow to wipe out this element and distorted it into a claim that he intended to slaughter the region's civilians, thus stampeding the United Nations Security Council into approving an operation to protect them.
That mandate was then twisted into an excuse to decimate Libya's army and clear the way for anti-Gaddafi rebels to seize the capital of Tripoli and eventually hunt down, torture and murder Gaddafi.
Ignored Terror Evidence
Yet, there was evidence before this "regime change" occurred regarding the extremist nature of the anti-Gaddafi rebels as well as those seeking to overthrow Bashar al-Assad in Syria. As analysts Joseph Felter and Brian Fishman wrote in a pre-Libya-war report for West Point's Combating Terrorism Center, "the Syrian and Libyan governments share the United States' concerns about violent salafist/jihadi ideology and the violence perpetrated by its adherents."
At the start of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, President George W. Bush ordered the U.S. military to conduct a devastating aerial assault on Baghdad, known as .shock and awe..
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In the report entitled "Al-Qaeda's Foreign Fighters in Iraq," Felter and Fishman also analyzed Al Qaeda's documents captured in 2007 showing personnel records of militants who flocked to Iraq for the war. The documents revealed that eastern Libya (the base of the anti-Gaddafi rebellion) was a hotbed for suicide bombers traveling to Iraq to kill American troops.