Ketil Fred Hansen
Associate Professor, history and political science, UiS. Hansen has a PhD in African history.

The French journalists Arfi and Laske investigate the real reasons behind the bombing of Libya in 2011.

While the former Foreign Minister of Norway Jan Petersen, together with his little team of investigators, are busily investigating Norway’s bombing of Libya, the journalists Fabrice Arfi and Karl Laske’s painstakingly detailed investigation of the relevant source material has proven that «protecting civilians» merely served as a pretext for getting rid of the unpredictable Gaddafi in 2011. Preventing Gaddafi’s financial contributions to Sarkozy’s electoral campaign from becoming known was one of the most important motives behind the bombing campaign. Arfi and Laske argue that Al Jazeera’s blood-drenched frontline reports were used to influence Western public opinion into demanding concrete action from their elected officials. And concrete action was what they got when the UN Security Council passed resolution 1973 on protecting civilians in Libya. We now know how unwise that decision was.

«The reality the authors describe exceeds most James Bond movies.»

Real-life crime

The 400-page book has the feel of a suspense novel, and if the text hadn’t been generously supplied with footnotes one might have suspected the authors of exaggerating for effect. But the reality the authors describe exceeds most James Bond movies. One chapter is devoted to the then president Sarkozy’s confidant ambassador Boris Boillon, dubbed «Sarko boy» by the French news media. He was stopped by French custom officials at the Gare du Nord in Paris carrying 350,000 euros and 40,000 dollars in cash and was later convicted on corruption and money-laundering charges. Another is devoted to Gaddafi’s former minister of oil Shukri Ghanem, who was found drowned in the Danube on April 29, 2012.

Collar. Abdullah al-Salheen and Col. Ali Alrabti in front of a F1ED Mirage (credit: Col. Ali Alrabti)

The day before, the French news website Mediapart (for whom the authors work) published a document stating that Sarkozy received 50 million euros from Gaddafi to finance his 2007 presidential campaign. The chapter shows that the cause of Ghanem’s death was probably homicide rather than a random heart attack. Ghanem allegedly transferred 30 million euros from the state-owned Libyan oil company to Sarkozy’s campaign. In parenthesis, it’s tempting to add that Ghanem also signed the deal between the Norwegian fertilizer giant Yara and Libya establishing a Tripoli-based joint venture almost exactly two years before the Libyan capital was bombed by Norwegian F-16 fighter jets. When Yara was convicted on corruption charges relating to its Libyan activities in 2014, the evidence included payments of five million dollars made to Ghanem’s son in Switzerland.

«GADDAFI threatened France’s influence in Africa by investing in neighbouring countries and by providing them with generous economic aid.»

 A suspense novel, then. But this is also investigative journalism at its very best. I will focus this review on the quarter of the book that deals with the 2011 war in Libya. We can all remember how Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg late on Friday, March 18 decided that Norway would contribute to the implantation of resolution 1973. Less than 48 hours after the resolution was passed, Stoltenberg received Sarkozy’s invitation to come to Paris for discussions on how it should be enforced. All the big names were present: The US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the General Secretary of the UN Ban Ki-moon and Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron.

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