America and the Drowning of Derna

Photograph Source: ERCC – Emergency Response Coordination Centre – CC BY 4.0

Two weeks ago cyclone  Daniel swept across northern Africa. In Libya, it obliterated two dams above  Derna, sweeping away the Libyan city, and drowning unknown thousands of people.

The dams were built by  Muammar Ghadaffi, who was born a  goat-herder, near Derna. Rising through the military, he engineered a  successful coup in 1969 against colonially-appointed King Idris.

Gaddafi was a socialist. He nationalized oil and kicked out US military bases. He redistributed property, ended homelessness, established women’s equality and wage parity, free university education, and doubled wages. He built hospitals, eliminating malaria and TB.  He created the largest water system in the world from the Nubian aquifer. He supported the Arab and later the African Union, and socialist groups around the world. Libya became the most prosperous country in Africa.

Because of his policies, the US and NATO were hostile to Gaddafi. Like many world leaders who fear assassinations or overthrow, he curtailed civil liberties. He was accused of terrorist acts. In 2011, rebels, supported by the US and NATO, captured, sodomized and butchered him.

Gaddafi maintained the Derna dams during his administration. They would not have broken if he had been in power. Today, unhappily, Libya is in total collapse. Thus, our government, eternal escort of chaos, again burdens us with responsibility, this time for the Derna drownings.

It’s hard to forget the gaiety  of Hilary Clinton who chirped, “We came, we saw, he died!”

Indeed….and sobering to recognize yet again the kinds of people we choose as our leaders.

Ellen Taylor can be reached at