Libya: rewiring a country’s brain

greentearsJust prior to the NATO invasion in Libya, an international delegation of medical professionals reported that few nations lived in the comfort that the Libyan people enjoyed. Meanwhile the United Nations was preparing to bestow an award on Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and the Libyan Jamahiriya for their achievements in the area of human rights. As we all know, things have changed since then. After the Western “humanitarian war” replaced the Jamahiriya leadership that was responsible for the country’s prosperity with a puppet regime, Libya more and more has become a Somali-like failed state and a safe haven for terrorists. Currently human rights organizations around the world are sounding the alarm over rampant human rights abuses and war crimes in Libya. One of them is Dignity, the Danish Institute against Torture, which ironically carries the same name as the military operation led by Libyan General Khalifa Haftar – a CIA stooge jointly responsible for the ongoing chaos in the country, as well as for the 2012 war on the heroic city of Bani Walid whose people refused to bow to the Western invaders and their “rebels”. Dignity included 2,692 household interviews in its survey and completed its research in October 2013. The 38 page report called “Consequences of Torture and Organized Violence – Libya Needs Assessment Survey”, which was made public only recently, summarizes on page 5:

Every fifth household responded to having a family member disappeared, 11% reported having a household member arrested and 5% reported one killed. Of those arrested, 46% reported beatings, 20% positional torture or suspensions, 16% suffocation and from 3 to 5% reported having suffered sexual, thermal or electrical torture. In short our data support the allegations that widespread human rights violations and gross human rights violations have taken place in Libya.

The consequences at the level of the population are massive: 29% of individuals report anxiety and 30% report depression, while PTSD symptoms were reported by 6%. These results indicate that the respondents at the time of interview could still be in an acute or post-acute stage and have yet to reach the post-trauma stage, hence we predict that the prevalence of post-traumatic stress reactions will increase over time, if or when the internal conflict subsides.

Furthermore, our data show that internal displacement is major concern in Libya. A total of 18% of the respondents reported being internally displaced during the internal conflict, and 16% remains so at the time of the interview, indicating a major source of long-term human suffering and political instability.

In these times of distress and crisis respondents have had almost no access to international humanitarian assistance. Only 2% report having been helped by NGOs. Libyans overwhelmingly have resorted to local resources for social support: 72% indicate they used family networks and 48% friends, 43% Libyan medical doctors, 24% used religious leaders and 18% used traditional healers. In order to deal with life stress, 59% indicated they needed assistance in terms of justice, legal remedy and compensation, while 44% indicated they needed health and medical assistance.

One should keep in mind that the survey was conducted in 2013, a relatively calm year in Libya. With the increase and spread of violent conflict in 2014, the experience and effect of violence can be foreseen to be much higher and deeper. Libya’s situation prompted U.S. president Obama last August to proclaim that he “had to learn a lesson that still has ramifications to this day”, and that from now on he will ask the question, “Should we intervene, militarily? Do we have an answer for the day after?” With those words Obama most likely managed to make the thoughtless and ignorant feel sorry for the man who “naively believed that bombing Libya was the absolute right thing to do”, and who therefore deserves credit for admitting his faults and for learning from his mistakes. But is the current chaos and distress the result of something initially good, or at least something well-intended, gone terribly wrong, or was it planned all along? Numerous signs indicate that the latter is the case. As global events unfold, it becomes clear that every war is accompanied by another, invisible, war: the war that rewires people’s brains.

There was a time when it was believed that the brain would not change. Now it is known that the brain is sculpted by a lifetime of experiences that alter brain activity, which changes gene expression. It is possibly to manipulate the brain of individuals as well as collectively, so that it decodes reality in a way others want it to decode. All the time as we are having experiences, the brain is downloading data and from that data it is changing the way it communicates. Who gains control over the data can dictate the behaviour. Susan Greenfield writes in her new book Mind Change, “The internal processing of the brain will determine how you see the world. Whatever external inputs are being fed into your brain, the experience of that very moment will simultaneously change the organization of brain cells, and hence your thinking.” So anything that changes your brain, changes who you will be. Any behaviour changes reflect alterations in the brain. The opposite is also true: behaviour can change the brain.

When applying this to the situation the Libyan people are facing since the 2011 invasion, there is no doubt that both the individuals’ brains and the collective brain of the country have been altered by the violent conflict. The “peaceful pro-democracy protesters” of the February 17 movement – in fact heavily armed, western-backed insurgents who were bribed to assassinate Gaddafi – quickly became the uncontrollable terrorists that currently fight each other to gain control over the country and its resources, while wreaking enormous havoc among the civilian population. Youngsters who were brought into the street by misleading promises of freedom became disillusioned and depressed. Many war-hardened youths have joined one of the rival militias. Many others started to denounce the so-called revolution. Meanwhile the daily experience of the NATO-rebels’ violence has molded people’s brains and has numbed many Libyan civilians into hopelessness or lethargy. All of these aspects indicate brain alterations as a result of violent behaviour or as a result of suffering from violent behaviour – or both.

The war on Libya and the war on the Libyan people’s brains thus turned out to be a double-edged sword. Not only did it rid the Western neo-colonialists and imperialists from their biggest threat, Libya also has become a cradle and headquarters of the West’s much needed global enemy: the terrorist group that neither is Islamic nor is a state, but nonetheless calls itself Islamic State. In that light it is totally plausible that Libya as a nation had to be traumatized by the world’s most powerful military alliance and its mercenaries that already had done their dirty job in Iraq and Afghanistan, as it is much harder to change a resilient peoples’ land into a breeding ground for terrorist cells, which also largely exist of traumatized individuals. Amidst the ongoing chaos, one thing is clear: the deceptive agenda of the instigators of the 2011 insurgency that brought about the exact opposite of what was falsely portrayed as a paradise of freedom and democracy.



Categories: Libya

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