Says the FT:

Libya lost billions of dollars on sophisticated financial products sold to Muammer Gaddafi’s sovereign wealth fund by some of the world’s leading financial institutions, according to a confidential Libyan government document… One of the most striking losses, outlined in an internal report for the Libyan Investment Authority, was a 98.5 per cent fall in the value of the sovereign wealth fund’s $1.2bn equity and currency derivatives portfolio. The disclosures – in a document obtained by the campaign group Global Witness – raise more questions about the west’s enthusiastic engagement with Libya, in spite of the Gaddafi regime’s reputation for brutality and corruption. Robert Palmer, campaigner for Global Witness, said: “It’s striking how many top financial institutions were prepared to do business with the Libyan regime, given the obvious concerns over the potential misuse of state assets for personal gain.”

Sooooo… they are sad that the Cold West was prepared to engage with Gaddafi and allow him to make money playing the markets. But if you believe that, isn’t it great that our financial institutions were so incompetent / corrupt / whatever that we managed to actually lose him money?

Meanwhile, the War isn’t going quite as quickly as one might hope. Some arabs safe in the West are starting to do the traditional “don’t trust the West” twaddle. But things grind on; we have inertia and lack-of-attention-span, which can be mistaken for patience.

Refs

* Exciting times in Libya

Comments

  1. #1 Kanu
    2011/05/26

    Send the Arabs back to where they came from. Hypocrits!

    [I'm hoping that was merely said in jest. I have no sympathy for Dr Larbi Sadiki, "Senior Lecturer in Middle East Politics at the University of Exeter", who appears to be a useless whinger unable to cope with the muddle of the real world. His So far, all NATO has been able to produce is a stalemate in Libya, scorn over civilian deaths and questions about its real intentions is utter offensive tripe - without the Western intervention Misrata would have fallen, and the revolution would probably have collapsed by now. But that isn't a reason for sending him "back" -W]

  2. #2 Birger Johansson
    2011/05/26

    Being a little bit at war is like being a little bit pregnant.
    The West can either go all in, crush the loyalist army and help with nation building once Gaddafi is gone, or get out and let Gaddafi massacre the insurgents.

    Question; If a democracy takes over in Libya, can they sue the ass off the companies that provided the “economic services”?
    Some of the arabs in the west have militant ideological/ religious beliefs but all those I personally know want pluralism. In a democracy they will have the majority. However, ALL are deeply suspicious of the motives of western governments, for very good historical reasons. Ask Dubya and his lapdog why that may be so… This has been an asset for extremists when recruiting followers but the democracy movement offers a positive alternative and should be supported.
    The hardliners will never change their minds but they can be marginalised just as the bitter communists in Eastern Europe have been marginalised.

    [I've no objection to people being suspicious of the West, I am too, and there is good reason for this. However, the particular piece of whinging I pointed to is just useless whinging, as far as I can see, of an all too typical variety -W]

  3. #3 Dunc
    2011/05/26

    isn’t it great that our financial institutions were so incompetent / corrupt / whatever that we managed to actually lose him money?

    No, because it’s not his money, it’s the money of the people of Libya. Gaddafi hasn’t personally lost anything here, and you can bet your ass that the people running “our” financial institutions didn’t lose on the deal either. So two groups of corrupt elites have made fortunes by looting from the poor. No wonder they don’t trust us.

  4. #4 Birger Johansson
    2011/05/26

    “So two groups of corrupt elites have made fortunes by looting from the poor. No wonder they don’t trust us.”

    Which is why I am in favour of an Icelandic “Throw a banker in a volcano” day :-)

    Corruption kills just as surely as nerve gas kills, the victims pass away waiting for health care that isn’t there.
    Since the really big criminals in financial institutions seem to have immunity, it is tempting to join into the fashion of going after people “who need killing” (recent example in Pakistan). I don’t particularly want to shoot the cleptocrats, it would be enough to send them to clear minefields in the countries whose dictators they have done business with. Or dump them on very small Caribbean islands.
    A job for Rorschach? The “V” guy?

  5. #5 Eli Rabett
    2011/05/26

    Think Serbia. Western air power coupled with a rag tag resistance on the ground wins in ~6 months or so because the better army (in this case not much better and full of mercs) can’t move and can’t get resupplied.

  6. #6 Yonatan
    2011/05/26

    Who are the ‘Libyan rebels’?

    i) some are genuine a la Tunisia, Egypt.
    ii) some are dodgy e.g. Gadhaffi ex Security chief, ex Finace chief
    iii) some are extremely dodgy e.g. al Quaeda supporters

    If you think any Western Government is doing what they are doing out of concern for the ordinary Libyan people, you are seriously deluded. These governments don’t even care for their own people.

    PS anyone wan’t to buy a bridge? Buyer collects from Brooklyn.

    [People having been looking for (c), but haven't found it yet. As for our motives, I've already covered that -W]

  7. #7 Jesse
    2011/05/26

    Whether an Arab is safe in the west or not, doesn’t alter the fact that the Western powers have made it patently clear whose side they are on for oh, the past 100 years or so.

    Let’s recap.

    Mubarak = our BFF in Egypt.

    Ben Ali (Tunisia) = “an important ally in the war on terror”

    Saudi Arabia’s royal family = we give them active support — money, guns — so they can now use them on the people of Bahrain
    Bahrain = As I recall, they aren’t enemies either. It isn’t the bloody Russian fleet stationed there.

    Saleh = another BFF in the war on terror

    Oman = another “important ally”

    Jordan’s King = very good friend indeed

    UAE = friends

    Qaddafi = enemy

    Iran = enemy

    Iraq = Hussein was “bulwark against Islamic fundamentalism” (Safire, I believe) until he wasn’t.

    I didn’t get to the western support for Mohammed V, or the Algerians who had an election and then said “well, you (the FIS) won, but we don’t like the decision the people made so we’ll nullify it. Civil War? Cost of doing business.”

    That’s a score of 7.5 to 2. What sane Arab would believe the US ever, ever found democracy acceptable, given a choice?

    I don’t think the choice is let Qaddafi slaughter the people or go in guns blazing. The problem with “nation building” is that in every non-European nation it’s been tried in, the result has never, ever been a democracy. The justification is always “they aren’t ready for it, so we’ll support some strongman or other” or “we can’t trust them to obey orders and elect the people we like.”

    (When democracy comes it too often is in spite of US intervention, not because of it).

    [Wonderful. But entirely unconstructive. Be specific: were you in favour of the West helping to save Misrata, or would you have preferred us to do nothing and let Gaddafi retake it? -W]

  8. #8 MacTurk
    2011/05/27

    The article referenced is by an academic who has several conspiracy theories going on, none of which, surprisingly, match the facts on the ground. And by the way, the chances that “facts on the ground” will become serious “boots on the ground” ranges from miniscule to zero.

    The author is paranoid about a non-existent threat; resurgent European Imperialism.

    The statement that “It is progressing slowly and remaining inconclusive” is true, for progress, and false, for inconclusive. Misrata is now relatively safe, while Bengazi did not suffer the bloodbath it was lined up for. These are quite nice conclusions, especially for the inhabitants thereof…..

    Von Moltke the Younger stated that “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy”. Some else stated that “The war you start with is never the war you finish”. The recent deployment of attack helicopters by France and Britain will hopefully speed up the process.

    The basic issue is that it takes time to build up and adequately train a useful military force. While the engineers and technicians in Bengazi have done a great job of improvising armed vehicles, the provision of a centralised command and conntrol structure is more important in the long run, and that is really about internal politics. And over that, we have no real influence.

    Yonatan (no 6) wrote “Who are the ‘Libyan rebels’?
    i) some are genuine a la Tunisia, Egypt.
    ii) some are dodgy e.g. Gadhaffi ex Security chief, ex-Finance chief
    iii) some are extremely dodgy e.g. al Quaeda supporters”

    First, if you are only going to deal with rebels who are “pure of heart and noble in purpose(as in utterly disinterested)”, you will never deal with anyone at all.

    Of course people in Libya have different motives in rebelling and/or joining a rebellion. You deal with what you get in life. As outsiders in particular, we do not get to select the people who are going to rebel.

    Second, the evidence for the active organised presence of AlQaeda in Libya is very limited. I am deeply tired of various, mostly right-wing commentators bringing up the Islamist/al Qaeda boogey man at every occasion. No evidence for it in Tunisia, bugger all in Egypt, and seriously little in Libya either. But they love to be scared by their “Islamic monster under the bed”.

    “If you think any Western Government is doing what they are doing out of concern for the ordinary Libyan people, you are seriously deluded. These governments don’t even care for their own people”.

    However, they do want to be re-elected. And it is in our(Europe’s) backyard, so non-action would have consequences also.

    And how do you know that “These governments don’t even care for their own people”. Some evidence would be useful, no?

  9. #9 Ismail
    2011/05/27

    So because Arabs/Africans/Asians or any ‘other’ living in the West they cannot whinge!!!?

    [Nope. He can whinge. And I can call him a whinger. And you can whinge about me calling him a whinger -W]

    How tolerant of you guys! Are you the ones whinging? This writer whose work I have read over the years is the only one who foreshadowed the Arab revolutions, as from my own reading he is an author who criticises Arab dictatorships more than anyone else I’ve read in the past 5 years. Read widely and inform yourselves. Mac Turc is spot on…We should be able whomever we are to criticise our elected governments, scrutinise them, and ensure they are kept in check…

    [Indeed. And I should be able to scrutinise our govt-paid "intellectuals" (for such is he) and call him a pointless whinger-from-safety, which is what he is -W]

    We have to ask ourselves one question raised in Sadiki’s article and missed by most: is the Libya mission still about ‘protection of civilians’?

    [You can ask it, but it is a stupid question. a better question is, "will, in the end, the interests of the civilians be best served by getting rid of Gaddafi, and is the West helping in that"? and the answer is Yes -W]

    If now we want an invasion or whatever: we go back to the UN for a new mandate! Not send Arabs and Muslims back to where they come from…You are free to entertain ideas about sending all of the ‘others’back to where they come from: but don’t write about it openly IN JEST…

    [Ah, have we reached the limits of freedom then? You're quite happy to prescribe limits on what I may say (albeit based on a misreading of what I said), whereas our whinger may say what he likes, with no restrictions? -W]

  10. #10 Ismail
    2011/05/27

    Mac : SPOT ON IN SARCASM SO THAT YOU DON’T DELUDE YOURSELF!!!
    Read more history my friend before you start ranting about ‘reality': whose reality? Yours? Of course, Europeans are benign, altruistic, never exploit, and do all for the love of the black eyes of Africans/Arabs..etc. No one is allowed to scrutinise the West or God forbid that becomes ‘whingers’…that should sent to Guantanamo Bay or back to where they came from!!!

  11. #11 Jesse
    2011/05/28

    I was addressing this:

    “Meanwhile, the War isn’t going quite as quickly as one might hope. Some arabs safe in the West are starting to do the traditional “don’t trust the West” twaddle.”

    [OK, so I phrased that badly. What he said was twaddle, at least in part because warning people not to trust the West is stupid - everyone should know that by now -W]

    Would I want the west to intervene in Misrata in particular? Honestly I am not sure I have a good answer — as I said, I don’t think the choices are so binary. For example, one might simply freeze the Libyan government’s assets and impose an arms embargo while supplying the rebel forces.

    [Yep, so you are another one of the folk sitting in safety who simply carp. The folk in Misrata don't agree with you - they want more intervention, not less, but are very happy to have got something. They know what you seem to have missed - that freezing assets etc (which we've already done) isn't going to have any useful effect in the near future, would have led to Misrata falling into Gaddafi's hands, and the deaths of a lot of brave people. But you would put your ideological purity above their lives -W]

    What concerns me is that when this kind of stuff happens the instinct seems to be to send troops and the result is usually pretty terrible for the people in the relevant country.

    [Excellent. Then you'll be very pleased that we've promised not to send in any troops I hope. I agree that we fouled up very badly in Iraq and Afghanistan. Or indeed, Vietnam, if you want to go back. That isn't an argument for inaction, though -W]

    Just about every single outside-imposed leader from the US on any country has been horrific, with the possible exception of Japan and Germany. Then it becomes this big freaking mystery that people in the relevant countries don’t like us. Holy self-fulfilling prophecy, Batman!

    [Err yes. Which is why (or at least, which is grounds to welcome that) we've made no attempt to do so this time. You *do* welcome that, don't you? -W]

    So no, I am not in favor of Qaddafi. But I am not convinced that outside intervention in a civil war of this nature is a fantastic idea.

    [Feel free to say that from your place of safety. The people of Misrata, for obvious reasons, don't agree with you -W]

    Given the history of intervention from Europe and the US in Africa and elsewhere, I am wary because I think there is a very real possibility that, for instance, the rebels will unseat Qaddafi, and then Washington will send in the spooks and whoever to make sure that a “stable and friendly” government is in place, and that government will proceed to kill or jail everyone who opposes the next big oil deal.

    I’d love to be proven wrong.

    [Being wary is the correct attitude. Doing nothing but carping isn't -W]

    By the way one of the interesting things about sovereign wealth funds is that the one in Libya had little personal connection to Qaddafi.

    One expert put it well when he said Qaddafi was always more interested in power than wealth. He may be a dictator and a tyrant. But he was never a big spender like the Saudi royal family, and in fact a number of other world leaders who have met him have remarked on his asceticism. (For instance, he always kept his former military rank, rather than promoting himself to General a la Franco). In that sense Qaddafi wasn’t making any money off the thing, not personally. It’s quite possible that he personally has no assets — that is, that he really doesn’t have anything at all squirreled away anyplace. While many dictators have done this, he might not be among them, and it would fit with his odd self-image as a nomad.

    [I'm not truely sure that is a thing to welcome. If Gaddafi made no attempt to enrich himself (I'll assume for a moment that is true) it is likely because he saw himself as permanent dictator (or whatever euphemism he used to hide from himself his dictatorship). The state was his: why should he bother steal from himself? -W]

  12. #12 Jesse
    2011/05/28

    “…warning people not to trust the West is stupid..”

    You keep saying that when a stackload of history gives people every reason to run screaming the other way when anyone from Europe shows up at the door.

    [Now you are being dishonest, or careless, and I don't know which. I said "warning people not to trust the West is stupid - everyone should know that by now", by which I meant that everyone, by now, should know not to trust the West; and this is why pretending wisdom by warning people of it is stupid -W]

    I think if the folks running the Arab revolts had been warned they wouldn’t be where they are now. Same for the Iranians, or whatever country you care to name.

    [Run that by me again? You're saying, of the successful revolts, that if they had been warned they wouldn't be where they are now, viz, having successfully overthrown the old regimes? And you think that would be good? Weird -W]

    As to intervention: yes I am safe. So are you. You volunteering? No? The whole “you can say that from safety” thing is a straw man and you know it. Unless you are volunteering to go.

    [Err no. You've missed the point, yet again. You are the one saying "we don't need the West to intervene, these people would have been safe without such. The people of Misrata don't agree with you. You, had you been in Misrata and unable to leave, would not have said so - you'd have changed your tune pretty sharpish. I, had I been in Misrata, would have been in favour of intervention, and still am. So my position is consistent. Yours is hypocritical: you're in favour of ideological purity when it comes to other peoples lives, but not your own -W]

    And I don’t think saying “Hold the hell on, are we sure we know what the hell we are doing, and not leaving an opening for yet another horrible history of Western interference” is carping.

    The problem with Iraq and Afghanistan both was simple: people did not want us there (or wanted us to leave and we declined to do so). Similar issues cold come up in Libya, and in fact is touched on here (by someone who is not safe, so I hope he passes muster)

    [The problems with I or A were not simple, but that was indeed one component. I'e invited you, before, to note that we have (this time) rather pointedly said we're not going to put people in; you have (rather obviously) failed to address that point -W]

    http://english.aljazeera.net/news/africa/2011/04/20114240556575343.html

    Now I grant you that conversation is a bit old.

    [Ah, you didn't like the bits like "The situation is now in favour of Misurata, especially with the NATO air strikes" I take it? -W]

    More recently there have been negotiations underway.

    http://english.aljazeera.net/news/africa/2011/05/2011528143329921352.html

    Qaddafi may have seen himself as a permanent dictator. (Though I think even he knows he has to die eventually). My point about the wealth was just that Qaddafi was a smart enough political operator to use it rather differently than the Saudi royals would. He would do things like build schools and roads and such. Libya was one of the better-developed north African nations as a result. This doesn’t make Qaddafi a good guy, just a smarter one than many dictators in the region. Heck, even Stalin knew enough to offer people something. (Terror by itself never works in holding a regime together — you have to offer a carrot as well as a stick).

  13. #13 Jesse
    2011/05/31

    You keep saying that when a stackload of history gives people every reason to run screaming the other way when anyone from Europe shows up at the door.

    [Now you are being dishonest, or careless, and I don't know which. I said "warning people not to trust the West is stupid - everyone should know that by now", by which I meant that everyone, by now, should know not to trust the West; and this is why pretending wisdom by warning people of it is stupid -W]

    I’m sorry. I think i misread you terribly, and for that I apologize. (It looked like you were one of those people who is saying “trust us the West always has good intentions.”

    I think I totally missed that. Sorry.

    As tot he other stuff the Arab Revolt I was speaking of was the one against the Ottomans back in WW I, (or really, the 1920s). Anyhow, at that point the Brits, French US to a lesser extent said “why yes, we’re all about your freedom…” ans we see how that worked out. I wasn’t speaking of the current ones though I realize that Arab Revolt, which to many means the ones in the Levant in that period might not mean the same thing now.

    As to saying we won’t send troops this time I think that is all to the good.

    As I said, I am sorry I misread you.

    [OK, that's good. We weren't as far apart as I thought -W]

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