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Map of Libya.

Bored? Why not count the number of different spellings of Gadafi Gaddafi used in this article?

Libya is an Arab country region in northern Africa with a great deal of oil that is currently being fought over by various Islamist nutjobs, extra nutty Islamist nutjobs, nationalist nutjobs of various stripes, oppressed ethnic minorities,[note 1] who knows who else, much like another region, but since the Libyan refugees aren't fleeing to Europe in large quantities the media is busy elsewhere.

Libyans enjoyed a middle-class lifestyle and low poverty, especially for an African country, which had little to do with former leader Ghaddafi's crank economic ideas and a lot to do with Libya's high oil revenues.[1]

Libya's flag as of 2011 is a red-black-green tricolor with a star and crescent on the black portion. Previously, the Ghaddafi government preferred a boring solid green flag.

Libya was frequently involved in sponsoring terrorism during the 1980s, prompting Ronald Reagan to declare Ghadafi Public Enemy #1 and bomb the country in 1986. After 9/11, Libya attempted to kiss and make up with the Bush government and renounced terrorism. Under Dubya and the early Obama administration, US relations with Libya improved greatly, including the renewal of diplomatic ties.[2] Then it all went straight to hell when people suddenly found out that Ghaddafi was a lunatic dictator who gave speeches that went nowhere and seemed to genuinely believe people actually liked him.


Although now a desert, coastal Libya was once the fertile breadbasket of the Roman world, as the grand ruins of Leptis MagnaWikipedia demonstrate. Desertification followed, and the region became the flat, boring bit between Egypt and the Maghreb (the mountainous farmlands now in Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco), ruled by Cairo, Damascus, Baghdad, Istanbul, and Rome, the last of which flattened three of their colonies and merged the remains into Libya. Independence under King Idris came in 1951, and then little of note happened until Qadhafi took power in 1969. He turned Libya into a vast laboratory for his increasingly bizarre political theories, including something called "supermarket socialism", funded by new-found oil wealth. His overthrow was followed by elections in which the Libyans, after centuries of imperialist, fascist, royalist, and despotic rule, surprised the world (but not themselves) by choosing moderates to rule over them. And then it all went to hell.

2011 civil war[edit]

Smashed Libyan tanks near Misrata.

The 2011 rebellion in Libya was violent, more violent than the popular rebellions in Egypt, Yemen, and Bahrain but less so than the one in Syria .Qaddafi chose to fight the protests rather than do the decent thing and flee into exile in Venezuela or Zimbabwe with his billions. The government responded to peaceful demonstrations and funeral processions for those killed with an army with guns,[3] warplanes, and warships.[4] Many people were arrested and faced torture or execution, and the media was censored.

However, there is no disputing that the rebels carried out many massacres of dark-skinned Libyans.[5][6][7][8] Black people were routinely accused of being mercenaries and were often executed,[9] though the mercenary part was unlikely; Libya has/had many poor migrant workers from sub-Saharan Africa, which the locals disliked, so any excuse would do. Illegal imprisonment and torture by rebels continued after the fall of the Gaddafi government.[10]

Predictably, the peaceful demonstrators launched a general uprising. Overpowering security forces and seizing arms, they overran the eastern half of the country and established an interim government in Benghazi. The rebels began advancing across the country towards Tripoli. After suffering some initial defeats, Qaddaffi's forces stopped the rebels and began an advance through rebel-held territory towards Benghazi.

Despite resistance from Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and others at the Pentagon who worried about the over-extension of the U.S. military, the Obama administration and the Cameron and Sarkozy governments decided to intervene in the civil war. Resistance to the decision came from the political left (Dennis Kucinich), the libertarian right (Ron Paul), and the segments of the old center-right. Like Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, and George W. Bush before him, Obama did not seek congressional approval before intervening in Libya.

On March 5, 2011, the National Transitional Council announced that it was the only legitimate government in place. Starting with France on July 11, 2011, many western nations chose to recognize the NTC as the governing body of Libya and are attempting to do business by and through the NTC. The Libyan Contact Group was formally launched to help Libya deal with the Civil War and any transitions after the August 23, 2011, apparent takeover.

On March 19, 2011, at 16:00 GMT, a No-Fly Zone was imposed on Libya by the United Nations due to Gaddafi's heavy-handed response to the rebellion. The no-fly zone was led by the United States, United Kingdom, and France and involved Canada and a coalition of European and Arab states.[11] The No-Fly Zone came on the eve of the 8th anniversary of the Invasion of Iraq.

The Libyan government then panicked and declared a ceasefire, but continued its attacks. Government troops even managed to reach Benghazi and attack the city, though they were repulsed.

The international coalition (illegally) responded with air and naval attacks on Libyan targets. It began simultaneously enforcing a no-fly zone and attacking Kaddafi soldiers on the ground, including targets in Tripoli. The Libyan air defenses proved worthless, as they could not even shoot down or even damage a single plane. The rebels then launched another advance with some success but were eventually stopped by Khaddafi forces after they adapted to strikes.

On August 21, the Libyan rebels surprised the world by capturing much of Tripoli in hours, with little resistance. Apparently, the Rebel Alliance rebel high command organized a multi-pronged assault, including sneaking large quantities of weapons and ammo into Tripoli to arm their supporters in the city.

On October 20, 2011, rebels took control of Sirte, Kadaffi's birthplace and the location of his last stronghold, effectively ending the war. Khadaffi was captured and died in rebel hands, ostensibly dying of the many wounds sustained during the gunfight, according to rebel leaders, but much more likely tortured and killed by his captors, according to many unofficial sources.

The rebel leadership established itself as the transitional government of Libya relatively successfully, although conflicts with Gaddafi loyalist militias have continued or reoccurred in some regions.[12][13]

After the war but before the peace[edit]

Following the first election of the General National Congress, peace mostly reigned supreme, but with a weak central government often unable to stand up to militias in many areas. At one point, they even lost control of Tripoli Airport for a while.[14] In September 2012, things came to a head when demonstrations against the Innocence of Muslims turned violent, and four Americans, including the ambassador, were killed in Benghazi. Moderate Benghazians rebelled against the local militia, Ansar al-Sharia, which enabled the government to gain the upper hand and attempt to disband the militias altogether.[15]

The GNC has 200 seats, with 120 of those belonging to independents (thus giving them the mantle of kingmaker). The Prime Minister, Ali Zeidan, was a human rights lawyer picked to head the government, but he admits he has little experience in government, so he's largely at a loss on how to deal with domestic issues. His goal, and that of the GNC, is to restore a sense of stability in a county mired with an ineffectual government, a floundering economy, infighting between the various guerrillas and militias, systematic targeting of government forces by warlords, militarism from the guerrillas and militias, continued detention and human rights abuses of alleged pro-Gaddafi prisoners and foreign migrants, and a general decline in the production of Libyan oil.

Post-2014 Libyan Civil War (or whatever the hell is happening there now)[edit]

Factions in the war. The UN-backed government is in green.

And now, Libya is in the midst of its second civil war between the deposed GNC in Tripoli and the new government in Tobruk. The Tobruk government was regarded as more secular and authoritarian, with GNC supporters branding it as a second coming of the evil regime. The GNC was regarded as being Islamist and too close to terrorists by the Tobruk supporters.

A peace deal and roadmap for a new unity government was signed in December 2015, paving the way for a united, free Libya...well, not exactly. An old troublemaker, ISIS, decided to sneak in and set up shop. They seized the city of Derna in 2014, but their hold on it was tenuous, and they lost it to a popular uprising of Islamists in 2015. ISIS is still pouting camped out in the southern countryside near the city. Then, ISIS seized Sirte, a central city on the coast. The country was still divided, and ISIS slowly advanced along the coast while no one noticed. Today they hold 50 kilometers (31 miles) of coastline directly south of Italy and a total territory of over 30,000 km2 (20,000 mi2). They have attacked several oil terminals because why not.[16] This has been enough to prompt airstrikes from Western countries.[17] Makes you wonder what their motive is.

U.S. President Barack Obama accused British Prime Minister David Cameron of allowing Libya to become, in his words, a 'shit show' after the U.S.-led NATO intervention.[18]

In May 2016, anti-ISIS forces, mainly Misratan militias, announced a counteroffensive against ISIS after the latter came dangerously close to reaching Misrata. The offensive was a success, and the main ISIS base, Sirte, was put under a months-long siege. After half a year of brutal fighting and over 2,500 killed, the last blocks of the city were liberated from ISIS.[19]


See also[edit]


  1. The Amazigh people, who happen to be the original inhabitants of Libya


  1. African Economic Outlook: Libya
  3. Libya protests: More than 100 killed as army fires on unarmed demonstrators by Jo Adetunji, Peter Beaumont and Martin Chulov The Guardian
  4. Libya protests: 140 'massacred' as Gaddafi sends in snipers to crush dissent by Nick Meo. Daily Telegraph
  9. I played basketball for Gaddafi, BBC
  14. Tripoli airport briefly seized by disgruntled militia
  15. Militia blamed for killing US ambassador forced out of Libya and Libyan authorities give Islamist militia two days to leave their bases