If you turn on the TV, open a magazine or pick a newspaper, you’re more likely to hear more about “the United States,” instead of “Benghazi” or “Libya”. Previously, I used to get confused about the difference between “Libya” and “Syria” because I assumed that these two places were always at war; in my mind, men are always wearing white robes Arab robe, women are wearing a black veil, and there is always a desert… So, why it is important to talk about Benghazi and the attack in 2012?
The 2012 Benghazi attack refers to a coordinated attack against two United States government facilities in Benghazi, Libya on September 11 by members of the Islamic militant group Ansar al-Sharia, resulting in the deaths of four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens and U.S. Foreign Service Information Management Officer, Sean Smith. Generally, I will say, it is for learning about different perspectives and what is going on in the world. Sometimes, when people live in one single place, it is easy to think one certain way. I will introduce the Benghazi attack in 2012 through six episodes, in order to help us understand more about international relations between the US and Libya.
Libya, Syria, where are these countries located? Syria is a country in Western Asia, while Libya is located at the top North of Africa. The boarded countries of Libya are Egypt, Sudan, Chad, Niger, Algeria, and Tunisia. It is an Islamic country, and most people are Arabs. The spoken languages are Libyan Arabic, Tamazight — a branch of the Afroasiatic language family, and Italian. Tripoli is the capital, and Benghazi is the second largest city.
Historically, It used to belong to Arab Empire and Ottoman Empire. During the eighteenth century, because of the little help from Ottoman Empire and the advanced weapons of the Italian army, Libya became one of Italy’s colonies. After the WWII, a United Kingdom of Libya was proclaimed in 1951 with the support of United Nations. A Western-style parliament was established with a constitution, as the Times magazine comments, “scissored and pasted together from the laws of twelve other countries” (Time, 1951). No universities, and only a few doctors, engineers, and lawyers. However, after petroleum was found, the cooperations between Libya and other western countries enhanced. The US is one of the investors of the petroleum in Libya, who also plays a leading role and brings huge foreign aid as well. In return, the US (and the UK) got the approval to use the Wheelus Air Base in Tripoli and the al-Adem Air Base in Tobruk.
Facing the benefit of these oil and aid goes to a few people, however, drives to a bigger gap between the wealthy and poor in Libya. The king Idris abolished Libya’s federal system, which makes the government centralize economic and administrative at a national level, and then they will receive all taxes and oil revenues directly. Also, the reliance on the western nations didn’t bring a sense of security for Libyans. Thanks to the cruel colonial of Italy, the local resentment was transferred toward the US and Britain. In the 1967 Arab–Israeli War, the US’s support of Israel to against Arab states through the Air bases in Libya, worsen the Libyan hostilities. Young Muammar Gaddafi was one of the nationalists who opposed to the government. On 1 September 1969, the Revolutionary Command Council, composed by Gaddafi and his officers, occupied airports, police depots, radio stations, and government offices in Tripoli and Benghazi.
In the next episode, we will talk about the conflicts between Gaddafi and the U.S.
Appendix For Episode 1
The Constitution of Libya [1951-1969]
Briefing Paper 28: Assessment of the 1951 Libyan Constitution
The Libyan constitution of 1951 has emerged as an important reference point for political leaders important to that country’s transition to democracy. While re-establishing the past constitution’s executive monarchy is not a viable policy option, some politicians have argued that the rest of the constitution can remain and the monarchy be transformed into a presidential system. The constitution appears to be attractive because it contains provisions that protect human rights, promote transparency, and safeguard against anti democratic consolidations of power according to contemporary international standards.