However on July 10 2023 “The Times’’ provided a glimpse of the murky underworld of coup d’etats on its front page. It is journalism at its finest.
Headline: FRANKO – UK plot to oust Gaddafi was a disaster, admits spy chief – Charles Bremmer
‘’The French inspired campaign with Britain to overthrow Colonel Gaddafi in 2011 was a disastrous error, according to France’s spy chief in Libya at the time.
The messy inside story of the secret operations to bring down the Libyan dictator has been told by Jean-Francois Lhuiller, a former Tripoli station chief of the Directorate General for External Security (DGSE). His book has angered the secret service where he worked for 27 years.
Lhuillier, 69, a Lieutenant Colonel at his retirement in 2014, has also embarrassed the DGSE by revealing the dysfunctions of an agency that has enjoyed fame with The Bureau, the television series about its operatives.
In The Tripoli Man: Memoirs of a Secret Agent and media appearances, Lhuillier describes executing what he calls the incomprehensible decision by President Sarkozy to back rebels against Gaddafi after he had built a relationship with the Mercurial tyrant.
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‘’The military operation was brilliantly run but it was not thought through politically and had disastrous consequences. There was trickery because Gaddafi was extending his hand to the West. Not only didn’t we grasp the hand that was being extended to us but we also cut the head off. I find that completely immoral to have done that’’ he told France 2 television.
‘’We eliminated Gaddafi and destroyed his country without worrying that it was a rampart against Islamist terrorism. The consequences of this disastrous expedition were not foreseen. It was incomprehensible that Sarkozy wanted his scap.’’
Lhuillier does not address the allegations that led to Sarkozy being sent for trial in May on charges of accepting campaign finance from Gaddafi in 2007. However, he recounts his close dealings with Gaddafi’s inner circle, who say they delivered millions to Sarkozy.
Throughout the book, Lhuillier refers to the DGSE by its insiders’ name ‘’la Boite’’ slang for ‘’the firm’’. He denies claims that French agents killed Gaddafi – the dictator died after being beaten by rebels in October 2011 – but he confirms that forces from the ‘’action service’’ of the DGSE were operating with the rebels in Libya and he indicates that Britain’s SAS was there too.
As an example of secrecy inside the DGSE, a Scotsman named “Pierce” invited Lhuillier to lunch in Tunisia to ask him to put the SAS in touch with DGSE soldiers in Libya. ‘’So it was member of a foreign service who informed me about the presence of my colleagues in the country…. I put on a big smile and pretended that I knew,’’ he said.
The allied operation in which the French and British bombed Gaddafi’s forces and armed rebels, was staged after Sarkozy persuaded David Cameron to join in. Lhuillier describes the intervention as French led, but the British sometimes outsmarted them.
In March 2011, the head of the DGSE flew to Tunisia to meet Moussa Koussa Gaddafi’s foreign minister, to persuade him to defect to France. As the French were arranging a plane, they found that M16 had snatched him from under their noses and flown him to London. ‘’No doubt our British allies must have made a more generous offer,’’ he says.
The fit looking former commando is bitter about the arrival of civilian command and personal in the DGSE, although it is still part of the military. The change was ordered after the debacle of the Rainbow Warrior in 1985, when La Boite, acting under orders, sank the Greenpeace ship in New Zealand.
Diluted by the mass recruitment of civilians, the agency has become bloated and lost its military values of loyalty, trust and initiative, he writes.
The DGSE, now headed by Bernard Emie, a 64-year-old diplomat, is upset that it was not asked to vet the book, which appeared without its knowledge. ‘’By publishing such works, former members of the service are breaking their oath [of secrecy] and damaging the institution.’’ It said.’’
A huge number of eminent scholars have committed their entire career to establishing that there is clear distinction between coup d’etats and other forms of violence such as banditry, kidnapping, insurgency, riots etc. The determinant factor revolves around whether or not regime change is contemplated as the ultimate outcome. Other issues that would have to be resolved relate to sovereignty, territory and security.
The concept of bloodless coup d’etat is a matter that requires further interrogation. In any case, it is a very rare occurrence. We can delve as far back into ancient history, death and despair by the losers. It is the victors who can lay claim to triumph and proceed to jubilate and rejoice.
With every coup d’etat the stakes are very high. Scholars have been able to penetrate the DNA of coups from planning to execution and whatever follows afterwards. According to Professor Alan Goddard – Smith women are poorly represented in coup plotting!! However, ironically when coup d’etats fail women and children suffer massive collateral damage.
Penalties go beyond execution of the coup plotters. Whoever is remotely connected with them becomes victims.
I was somewhat intrigued by the treatise of Dr Alex Morris who has devoted the last five decades on research into what he calls ‘’volcano eruptions’’ as a euphemism for regime change through means other than through the ballot box. The range covers assassinations, invasion, battles e.t.c. even when the coveted prize is not necessarily territory but a damsel. It goes back several centuries with special attention to Roman and Greek empires as well as the much older civilizations. In China, Japan and India. Thankfully, Africa is not ignored entirely. Anyway, eminent professors of history and literary giants have gone to great length to make the point that much of the work of William Shakespeare revolves around coups with Julius Caesar as the prime example. Somehow, the supernatural always creeps into the drama.