To help set the record straight, I recommend this brief article that’s drawn from a longer scholarly article. I quote “The conventional account of Libya’s conflict and NATO’s intervention is misleading in several key aspects. First, contrary to Western media reports, Qaddafi did not initiate Libya’s violence by targeting peaceful protesters. The United Nations and Amnesty International have documented that in all four Libyan cities initially consumed by civil conflict in mid-February 2011 — Benghazi, Al Bayda, Tripoli, and Misurata — violence was actually initiated by the protesters. The government responded to the rebels militarily but never intentionally targeted civilians or resorted to ‘indiscriminate’ force, as Western media claimed. Early press accounts exaggerated the death toll by a factor of ten, citing ‘more than 2,000 deaths’ in Benghazi during the initial days of the uprising, whereas Human Rights Watch (HRW) later documented only 233 deaths across all of Libya in that period.”
The author, Professor Alan J. Kuperman, refers only to media claims being “misleading”, but what’s of greater importance is that both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama publicly justified U.S. intervention in Libya upon these same false claims. The Libyan intervention was not purely a “well-meaning intervention” as Kuperman characterizes it in this article. Leaked e-mails reveal a number of ulterior political and power motives of Sarkozy, who led the charge to intervene and overthrow Gaddafi. Nevertheless, even though these other motives were certainly important and pertinent, my point in this blog is that false claims were the foundation of arguments that a UN and US intervention was justifiable on either humanitarian or R2P grounds. To this day, the U.S. officials most responsible for the intervention and its consequences (Obama, Clinton, Power and Rice) have not acknowledged that their public justifications at the time find no actual support in the facts of Gaddafi’s response to the rebellion.