Skip to main content

Follow clayclai on Twitter
The whole basis of the UN mandate for the NATO air campaign over Libya last year was that it was necessary to protect civilian lives and since it was clear to everybody from the beginning that any such air campaign would inadvertently take civilians lives, the question of just how many civilians NATO killed while protecting them has been hotly debated.

During the war, the Qaddafi regime tried to make it sound as though they were suffering under the type of massive assaults we have seen on civilians in Vietnam and other earlier wars. This view was echoed here by many in the anti-interventionist and pro-Qaddafi left as they protested the "massive civilian causalities" caused by NATO "saturation bombing."

The NATO campaign over Libya started on March 19, 2011 with a French strike on a column of Qaddafi tanks just as they were entering Benghazi. Now in Homs, Syria, the world is seeing what happens when the it fails to act and there are no air strikes against a dictator's artillery as he decides to turn them against his civilian population. So the release, March 2, 2012, of the UN International Commission of Inquiry on Libya Report, is a very timely one.

I have already discussed a NY Times study that put the number of civilians killed by NATO in Libya at between 40 and 70 and how they and Democracy Now tried to spin that. And while this UN report deals with many topics that I may have occasion to write about later, in this dairy I want to focus on NATO bombs, so let's just cut to the "money shot" on this question of Libyan civilian causalities caused by NATO.

611. The Commission documented five airstrikes leading to a total of 60 civilians killed and 55 injured.908 The Commission also investigated two NATO airstrikes which damaged civilian infrastructure and where no military target could be identified

They also talked about some of the steps NATO apparently took to avoid civilian casualties in this conflict:

The vast majority of NATO airstrikes did not result in civilian casualties or collateral damage to civilian objects, even where there was a significant potential for civilian harm. 609. For example, from 24-25 May 2011 NATO aircraft struck the Bab-al-Aziziyah facility, a large military compound and barracks in central Tripoli used by Qadhafi as a residence and headquarters. Numerous multi-story buildings used by Qadhafi's security forces were destroyed. The collapsed buildings show damage consistent with 2000lb bombs using delayed fuses: some of the buildings show clear entry holes extending through multiple floors, indicating an aerial bomb with a delayed fuse had exploded inside or underground, collapsing the buildings upon themselves and thus minimizing collateral damage. Several of the security buildings destroyed were less than 300 meters from civilian apartment buildings, close enough to be at risk of collateral damage from the strikes. While civilian apartment buildings were well within the collateral damage radius of the attack, not even the glass on these apartment buildings was broken. Weapons appeared to impact at angles pointing away from civilian housing to ensure flying debris did not impact them. Finally, many strikes were at night. This meant fewer civilians would be on the street and reduced the likelihood of civilian casualties.
About the methods used to compile this study, the report said:
the Commission's military expert, a former head of high-value targeting with a NATO member state government, investigated a total of 20 NATO airstrikes in Libya. This included a visual inspection of each site; detailed crater analysis; analysis of ejecta (material thrown out by the blast); and, where available, examination of the remnants of the munition itself. The Commission also looked for military signatures, in other words evidence that the site had been used for a military purpose. This might include, for example, the remains of weapons stored there, or military equipment such as communications aerials. The Commission also conducted 34 interviews with victims and witnesses. p.161
On the inflated claims of civilian causalities reported by the Qaddafi regime, the report said:
Findings i. Libyan Government claims 617. During the first visit of the Commission to Tripoli in April 2011, the Commission met with a Government health official who stated that 64 civilians had been killed by NATO bombardments. The Commission also received written reports from the Libyan authorities stating that strikes had resulted in the death of 500 civilians and 2,000 injured and that NATO had targeted schools, universities, mosques, and others civilian locations. According to the same sources, 56 schools and three universities were directly hit by these strikes. Furthermore, it was claimed that NATO airstrikes had resulted in the closure of 3,204 schools, leaving 437,787 students without access to education.910 The authorities did not provide any evidence of this at the time and the Commission was not in a position to assess the veracity of the information received.911 As stated in its first report, the Commission had not seen evidence either to suggest that civilian areas had been intentionally targeted by NATO forces, nor that it had engaged in indiscriminate attacks on civilians. 618. The Commission took account of subsequent claims by the Government in regard to civilian casualties, but testimony from former Government members and others, as well as its own interviews at the sites, confirmed to the Commission that the Government deliberately misstated the extent of civilian casualties.912 In some cases the Commission found the Libyan government claimed civilian casualties in airstrikes in areas where there had been no attacks at all. In one case, the Commission received a credible report of Libyan forces removing the bodies of children from a hospital morgue and took them to the site of a NATO airstrike.913

On August 8, at the height of the Libyan revolution, and the NATO air campaign in support of it, the Qaddafi regime made the claim that NATO planes had killed 85 civilians in the town of Majer. If true, it would have been the biggest such NATO mishap of the war. At the time I spent not one, but two, diaries casting doubt on the claims of the Qaddafi regime about this because they were being widely repeated by the anti-interventionist and pro-Qaddafi left.

Did NATO kill 85 Libyan Villagers As Qaddafi Regime Contends?
SCOOP: My Lai or Qaddafi Lie? More on the 85 Civilians presumed killed by NATO
According to the UN report, this air strike on civilians did, in fact, take place, but the number killed was 34, not 85 as the Qaddafi regime claimed:
Cases i. Majer 619. The single largest case of civilian casualties from a NATO airstrike took place in the town of Majer in the area of Al Huwayjat on 8 August 2011. On August 9 2011, Libyan state media claimed 85 civilians had been killed.914 620. The Commission found that at approximately11:30pm six buildings were struck. Four of the buildings were unoccupied. However, five women and seven children were killed in one building. Moments later, four men were killed in a second building. Neighbours and family members from the area, some who were attending evening Ramadan prayers at the local mosque, arrived at the site to evacuate wounded. After the rescuers arrived and had removed the four bodies from the second residential dwelling, another bomb struck, killing 18 rescuers. Victims estimated the time between initial strikes and the final restrike that killed rescuers as between 10 and 15 minutes. It is not clear whether the second strike was a restrike (a strike made shortly after the first in order to target military forces moving in) or simply a second strike to hit targets missed in the first. 621. The Commission conducted a site survey on 4 December 2011. It was able to identify bomb fragments from multiple GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bombs, as well as the guidance section for at least one GBU-12. There was no sign of the type of weapon debris or military signatures in the ejecta which might suggest the buildings were weapons storage facilities, communications hubs, or had any military function. The buildings struck appeared to have been residential dwellings. The Commission examined the remains of the vehicles driven by the rescuers and confirmed they were civilian-type vehicles with no provision for weapon mounts. The Commission conducted interviews of witnesses and survivors of the attack and reviewed hospital records of those killed and wounded in the strike. The Commission documented a total of 34 civilians killed and 38 wounded.915 622.
Sixty civilian deaths is a relatively low number for an air campaign that involved thousands of strike missions in a war that took 30,000 lives on all sides. Now with Assad's bloody assault on Homs and other Syrian cities showing us what happens to civilians when a ruthless dictator applies tanks and artillery to a dissident population and there is no air cover, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the NATO mission over Libya resulted in saving many civilian lives.

Still, over half of those 60 tragic deaths were the 34 killed in this one strike, and even though there is no evidence that NATO specifically targeted them or any civilians, the UN did find evidence that their deaths were the result of the usual imperialist lack of concern for human life and capitalist willingness to cut corners so as to maximize profits:

Bomb remnants show that the guidance system on at least one of the bombs used in this attack was more than five years past its warranty date (October 2005).

For more background on the Libyan Revolution and links to lots of information see my other writings at the DailyKos and WikiLeaks Central:
Libya in the news today
Amnesty International on Libya again
The Current Situation in Libya
Democracy Now & Amy Goodman gets it wrong again.
Why is Chris Hedges calling for "boots on the ground" in Libya?
The Worm Has Turned: Good Film on Libyan Revolution from PressTV
Why NATO's mission in Libya isn't over yet
Libya's Freedom Fighters: How They Won
Racism in Libya
Abdul Rahman Gave his Eyes to See the End of Qaddafi
BREAKING: Secret files reveal Dennis Kucinich talks with Qaddafi Regime
BREAKING: Libyan TNC won't extradite Lockerbie bomber
Who really beat Qaddafi?
#Feb17: @NATO Please help MEDEVAC wounded from #Libya
What should those that opposed NATO's intervention in Libya demand now?
BREAKING: Qaddafi's Tripoli Compound Falls!
Does PDA Support Qaddafi?
BREAKING: Operation Mermaid Dawn, the Battle to Liberate Tripoli is Joined
Helter Skelter: Qaddafi's African Adventure
Qaddafi's Long Arm
SCOOP: My Lai or Qaddafi Lie? More on the 85 Civilians presumed killed by NATO
Did NATO kill 85 Libyan Villagers As Qaddafi Regime Contends?
CCDS Statement on Libya - a Critique
The Assassination of General Abdul Fattah Younis
NATO over Tripoli - Air Strikes in the Age of Twitter
How Many Libyans has NATO Killed?
Qaddafi Terror Files Start to Trickle Out!
Have Libyan Rebels Committed Human Rights Abuses?
Tripoli Green Square Reality Check
Behind the Green Curtain: Libya Today
Gilbert Achcar on the Libyan situation and the Left
NATO slammed for Libya civilian deaths NOT!
2011-07-01 Qaddafi's Million Man March
NATO's Game Plan in Libya
February 21st - Tripoli's Long Night
Did Qaddafi Bomb Peaceful Protesters?
Tripoli Burn Notice
Libyans, Palestinians & Israelis
'Brother' Qaddafi Indicted plus Libya & Syria: Dueling Rally Photofinishs
An Open Letter to ANSWER
ANSWER answers me
2011-06-22 No Libyans allowed at ANSWER Libya Forum
Are they throwing babies out of incubators yet?
Continuing Discussion with a Gaddafi Supporter
Boston Globe oped supports Gaddafi with fraudulent journalism
2011-04-13 Doha summit supports Libyan rebels
Current Events in Libya
Amonpour Plays Softball with Gaddafi
Arming Gaddfi
North African Revolution Continues
Is Libya Next? Anonymous Debates New Operation
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (7+ / 0-)

    Remember history, Clay Claiborne, Director Vietnam: American Holocaust - narrated by Martin Sheen

    by Clay Claiborne on Mon Mar 05, 2012 at 12:58:50 PM PST

  •  this is horrible, (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Pozzo, flhiii88, General Goose, Quicklund

    and i personally only very reluctantly supported the international community's taking action in libya, but i look at the devastation of homs, syria and think that's what benghazi would have been had the international community not taken action in libya. there was no good answer. we all should grieve the civilian casualties.

    The cold passion for truth hunts in no pack. -Robinson Jeffers

    by Laurence Lewis on Mon Mar 05, 2012 at 01:09:03 PM PST

  •  I won't doubt the UN here (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Pozzo, flhiii88, General Goose

    But how many civilians did Gaddafi kill, and would continue to kill had he not been deposed.

  •  So a question (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    hagagaga, Pozzo

    Does the report estimate what the civilian death toll would have been without NATO intervention?

    Republican Family Values: Using the daughters from your first wife to convince everybody that your second wife is lying about your third wife.

    by jsfox on Mon Mar 05, 2012 at 01:16:06 PM PST

    •  Or how many people (0+ / 0-)

      ... the "freedom fighters" have tortured and killed since?

      "Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored." - Aldous Huxley

      by Pluto on Mon Mar 05, 2012 at 01:17:31 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  So, provide a link (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        hagagaga, Pozzo

        Surely someone must have researched that.

        But I doubt very much that it will support your case that the NATO intervention was a bad idea.

        In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference. - Yogi Berra En théorie, il n'ya aucune différence entre théorie et pratique, mais en pratique, il ya toujours une différence. - Yogi Berra

        by blue aardvark on Mon Mar 05, 2012 at 01:26:07 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  As always, "my case" (0+ / 0-)

          ...will be demonstrated by directly-related future events.

          Such is the burden of prescience.

          (:::cough::: Afghanistan :::cough:::)

          "Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored." - Aldous Huxley

          by Pluto on Mon Mar 05, 2012 at 01:28:53 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Still waiting for that pipeline (5+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Sky Net, hagagaga, Pozzo, Quicklund, cryonaut

            that everyone assured us was the real reason for the war.

            Ten years and counting, and not one inch of pipe laid ... and yes, there are routes that don't pass near Taliban territory.

            Such is the burden of being overly cynical.

            In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference. - Yogi Berra En théorie, il n'ya aucune différence entre théorie et pratique, mais en pratique, il ya toujours une différence. - Yogi Berra

            by blue aardvark on Mon Mar 05, 2012 at 01:30:53 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  What pipeline are you talking about? (0+ / 0-)

              That is not what I was referring to. I'm referring to the destruction of the American economy.

              However, I believe I once did say that China was paying for our military/janitorial work in Afghanistan (true) in order to clear the way for oil to enter eastern Cina.

              Mission accomplished. We are hurrying as fast as we can to drag our sorry loser asses out of there.

              China gets approval for Afghanistan oil exploration bid

              China has gained potential access to millions of barrels of oil after it won approval for oil exploration and extraction in Afghanistan.

              The country's cabinet approved a deal to allow China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) to develop oil blocks in the Amu Darya Basin.

              "The Afghan cabinet has ordered mines minister Wahidullah Shahrani to sign an oil exploration contract for Amu Darya with China National Petroleum Corporation," Afghanistan president's office said in a statement.


              As for below, you gotta keep up. Christ, who doesn't know about Libya's oil nationalization threat?

              Start with Wikileaks.


              Then go on to Financial Times.


              Now the independent oil companies have moved into Libya. Happy days are here again!

              Then go to Google News so you can catch up with the events of the past 18 months. Search "Lybia oil nationalize,"

              Then you can converse with an informed person.

              "Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored." - Aldous Huxley

              by Pluto on Mon Mar 05, 2012 at 02:28:33 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

          •  Half-sight isn't prescience (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            You're confused, I suspect, because you perceive only one side of each coin.

      •  Amnesty International put that number at 12 (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Remember history, Clay Claiborne, Director Vietnam: American Holocaust - narrated by Martin Sheen

        by Clay Claiborne on Mon Mar 05, 2012 at 01:52:57 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Does that include the butchering of Gaddafi? (0+ / 0-)

          Everybody counts differently. And 4,000 are still "missing."

          Deaths caused by rebel forces

          Among the security forces there had been more than 1,700 dead, including civilians in support of the government, alleged mercenaries [11] and government soldiers. There have been many reports that members of the security forces have been killed by both the government and the opposition.

          On February 18, two policemen were hanged by protesters in Benghazi.[12] Also, on the same day, 50 alleged African mercenaries, mostly from Chad, were executed by the protesters in Bayda. Some of them were killed when protestors burned down the police station in which they locked them up[13] and at least 15 were lynched in front of the courthouse in Bayda.[14] The bodies of some of them were put on display and caught on video.[15][16] By February 23, the government confirmed that 111 soldiers had been killed.[17]

          On February 23, a group of 22 government soldiers attempted to make a breakout from an air base near Derna, which had been under siege for days by rebel fighters. Within hours, all of them were captured and eventually 12 of them were shot execution style while a 13th was hanged by the opposition forces.[18] Between February 15 and May 22, 37 former government loyalists were killed in Benghazi in revenge killings by some opposition groups.[19]

          Toward the end of the Battle of Misrata (February 18, 2011 – May 15, 2011), at least 27 sub-Saharan Africans from Mali, Niger or Chad, who were accused of being mercenaries, were executed by rebel forces.[20]

          In any event, the CIA armed and trained "rebels" did the job they were paid to do.

          And that's what counts.

          You know, I bet most Americans don't know that Libyans had the highest standard of living in the Middle East.

          It was all those oil profits trickling down to the people, just like in Norway.

          "Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored." - Aldous Huxley

          by Pluto on Mon Mar 05, 2012 at 02:40:21 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  No (0+ / 0-)

      Remember history, Clay Claiborne, Director Vietnam: American Holocaust - narrated by Martin Sheen

      by Clay Claiborne on Mon Mar 05, 2012 at 01:51:03 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  How many people would Qaddafi (6+ / 0-)

    had killed in the rebelling cities had there been no NATO air cover?

    I think 60 is about right.

    As a per day average.

    For the first month or two.

    I will bet if you could ask the families of the 60 dead if they support the NATO air strikes you'd get over 90% support. Just a guess, of course.

    In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference. - Yogi Berra En théorie, il n'ya aucune différence entre théorie et pratique, mais en pratique, il ya toujours une différence. - Yogi Berra

    by blue aardvark on Mon Mar 05, 2012 at 01:23:32 PM PST

  •  pretty few... I am surprised. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Quicklund, Pozzo

    Good operation overall. Thanks President Obama.

  •  Complete garbage (0+ / 0-)

    This is propaganda for the imperialist slaughter in Libya and the counter-revolutionary reign of terror that NATO has brought it into the country. Instead of focusing on the concrete problems facing Libya i.e. the tens of thousands of prisoners and detainees languishing, the absence of social services, no jobs for young people, the crippling debt that the country now finds itself in, the cruel revenge against people of Tawergha, Sirte, and elsewhere, what we have here is an effort to whitewash NATO's destruction of a nation.

    You're not only cherry-picking from the report, but also distorting what it says. The report does not conclude that NATO throughout 2011 killed 60 people in Libya, but says that out of the 20 air strikes it documented, casualties amounted to 60 civilians killed.

    There is simply no way that NATO's war against Libya led to the deaths of 60 people. Way back in March 2011, when the war started, the Vatican's Bishop Martinelli in Tripoli reported the deaths of 40 civilians just in the Tajoura district. Then there was the incident during which Gaddafi's infant grand-children were murdered, which does not seem to have been included in the UN Commission's report.

    We also have the assessments of journalist Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, who confirmed the fact NATO targeted and hit "Water facilities, hospitals, medical clinics, schools, food facilities, hotels, civilian vehicles, restaurants, homes, government office buildings, and residential areas have all been bombed. This includes the Libyan Supreme Court, a civilian bus, a Down’s Syndrome facility, a children’s vaccination centre, and Nasser University."

    Furthermore, the credibility of this UN Commission that purported to investigate events in Libya must be questioned. The chairman of the Commission, Philip Kirsch, comes from the regime of a NATO country and is currently the President of the so-called ICT, which at NATO's behest has shown hostility towards Libya with the charges leveled against Leader Gaddafi. Another member of the Commission is Asma Khader, who served as the Jordanian despot's Minister of Culture and Government spokesperson. These people come from places that are hostile against Libya and took part or supported the aggression against the country, which brings their credibility into question.

    The bias of the Commission is confirmed by the assessments of the Russian Government representatives, who conclude that their report is flawed:

    “We consider the assessments included in the commission’s report regarding Gaddafi’s death and especially civilian causalities as a result of the NATO military campaign in Libya inadequate,” Dolgov told RIA Novosti

    “The commission should have display more perseverance to get relevant and comprehensive information from both NATO and the new Libyan authorities regarding the deaths of civilians as a result of actions by opposition military units and the alliance’s military campaign,” Dolgov said

    “Unfortunately, many of those crimes, if not the majority, have not been investigated and those guilty have not been punished,” he said, adding that Gaddafi’s controversial death following his capture by opposition fighters in October last year was among the cases that have to be carefully examined.

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site