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UK Inquiry Blames Cameron for Libya Chaos; Libya Remains Fractured Despite Unity Deal; The Fight for a Liberal Center Ground. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired September 14, 2016 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:10] MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN HOST: Tonight on the program, inaccurate intelligence and no coherent strategy.
Words from a damning report on the British intervention in Libya.
Coming up, the inquiry's findings and is there any hope for the future of Libya? A country plagued by chaos.
Also tonight, Britain's former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg on what he calls the fantasy of a smooth Brexit and the rise of politicians like
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NICK CLEGG, BRITAIN'S FORMER DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: It's becoming increasingly easy right now for populists on the right and the left to give
kind of easy answers to complex problems.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: Good evening, everyone. Welcome to the program.
I'm Michael Holmes sitting in for Christiane Amanpour.
Well, it has been a bad summer for David Cameron after leading the UK to a Brexit he didn't even want, stepping down as British prime minister, and
then this week announcing he will leave parliament.
The former UK leader is now being blasted by his former colleagues for leaving Libya in chaos.
UK parliamentary report out today says Cameron helped lead an ill-conceived intervention based on flawed intelligence and that he bears responsibility
for the country's collapse. An intervention they believe helped ISIS grow in North Africa.
Well, Libya has indeed descended into chaos ever since the 2011 ouster of Muammar Gaddafi. Competing governments and militias all fighting for power
while ISIS has stepped into the vacuum and gained a foothold.
All the while, of course, a massive and dangerous human smuggling scheme has developed to ship migrants overseas from Libyan shores.
All right, first, let's go to Stephen Gethins. He is a member of parliament for the Scottish National Party. He was part of the committee
that wrote that report, joins me now from London.
Mr. Gethins, thanks so much for doing so.
Embarking on military action based on erroneous information about a threat, having no plan for what to do when the leader is overthrown and not fully
exploring a political alternative.
We could be talking about Iraq, but we're talking about Libya. No lessons learned?
STEPHEN GETHINS, BRITISH PARLIAMENT MEMBER: We, we certainly could be. And I think in our report when we took evidence from a wide range of
ministers who were involved from the military from other specialists.
I think that one of the most disconcerting elements of this is that we're seeing many of the same mistakes that were made in Iraq being made in
Libya. And that has to be a concern for all of us.
HOLMES: The military action, of course, in Libya was sparked initially by what was described as an imminent government attack on the civilian
population in Benghazi. That's how it was sold or justified.
This report, of course, says those threats were exaggerate. And I want to read a quote to you from it, which I'm sure you're familiar with.
HOLMES: The British government could not verify the actual threat to civilians posed by the Gadhafi regime. It selectively took elements of
Muammar Gadhafi's rhetoric at face value and it failed to identify the militant, Islamist extremist element in the rebellion.
In putting this report together, do you think the government, the prime minister knew that the threats weren't as serious as what the world was
being told at the time.
GETHINS: Well, who knows what was going through their mind. But one thing that really concerns me there, and then you're right. You've read out a
key part of the report there about verifying the danger to civilians and also creating the power vacuum.
One of the most serious things that a prime minister, or for that matter, a member of parliament can agree to, is to send your country to war, to send
men and women in harm's way and act in a way that has very serious consequences.
Now I would have hoped that all of these issues had been looked at with everybody around the table. And that doesn't seem to have taken place.
So these were -- we're very concerned about this. And then you see the long-term consequences of that, which is a power vacuum in Libya, which is
a failed state on Europe's doorstep. With the Libyan people who are paying for the consequences of that action even now.
HOLMES: In reality, the options were do nothing, perhaps risk a bloodbath, perhaps not. Or carry out a full-scale intervention, which no one at the
time had the appetite for. Or a kind of a half and half, which is really what they did. And it failed. The report talks of not taking a more
political route. When Britain really had good political contacts there.
Why wasn't that pursued with more vigour?
[14:05:00] GETHINS: Well, one thing that we looked at -- we would have thought, if you're going to take military action, you explore every single
level of political engagement you possibly can until you've exhausted that.
And what we found that that political engagement had not been exhausted. So there may have been opportunities to have dealt with this issue, without
the involvement of the military. And that's something that we found from interrogating the ministers and looking at that decision-making process,
which ultimately failed.
HOLMES: You know, another thing that's striking is the -- forgive me, but the utter naivete or ignorance of local social dynamics. I was there in
Libya in 2011, with the Zintan rebels, when they came off the Nafusa mountains and headed for the coast.
Libya, like Iraq, is and has always been a place of familial and tribal affiliations above all with sense of nation way down the list of
Do you think that these disparate tribal groups would come together to fight a common enemy. And then not go home and return to fight with each
other. That was staggeringly naive.
Did you agree with that?
GETHINS: It was. But, look, one thing likely you'll be well-aware of is like Iraq and Syria, Libya is a complicated, multiethnic place with many
disparate communities. And that's something that was known.
And one thing that we saw that there's -- there are many things that you will never know unless you have the benefit of hindsight. The problems
that existed in Libya were not amongst them.
And ways that we find that, that these were not things that you should have been talking about with the benefit of hindsight. You should have had the
foresight to foretold some of those problems. And as well as that multi- ethic, multi-community dimension, especially when you have the collapse of a centralized state, which has been there for decades exacerbating the
problem with the collapse of the state, you also had the militants who were already there. And we saw that the space that was created for so-called
ISIS, Daesh, is well in that area.
And that's created problems for the Libyan people, but also for Europe, given that Libya is just on our doorstep. And you correctly identified the
issue of people trafficking and this exacerbating refugee and migration crisis.
HOLMES: Stephen Gethins, Member of Parliament for the Scottish National Party, on that committee, appreciate your time today.
GETHINS: Thank you.
HOLMES: Well, as that report says, Libya has indeed descended into chaos in the five years since that intervention.
And joining me now to talk more about the situation there is Mohamed Eljarh. He is a fellow with the Atlantic Council.
Always good to speak with you. And you're a man who knows the country well.
That unity deal brokered by the United Nations signed by rival factions back in December. But Libya remains fractured, politically, doesn't it?
Government in Tripoli, but others elsewhere in the country.
Is there any hope of reconciliation under one government?
MOHAMED ELJARH, NON-RESIDENT FELLOW, ATLANTIC COUNCIL: You're absolutely right, Michael. Libya remains a deeply divided country. A country that
lacks a representative government. A government that has recognition or legitimacy within Libya.
The only internationally recognized government that we have now is the presidential council, which is based in Tripoli.
However, that presidential council remains very deeply divided. And it still is not recognized by the parliament in eastern Libya. And the recent
development that have taken place, over the last few days with the Libyan National Army has taken control of Libya's main oil terminals, in eastern
and central Libya is also an indication of the fact that one side is now becoming much more powerful on the ground and is unlikely to accept
compromise as the international community would have hoped for.
So basically what's happening now, is that the U.N.-backed government is toothless on the ground. It does not control the oil. It does not even
control the capital Tripoli.
But the bizarre thing is that the international community continues sticking to this presidential council with the claim that it is
internationally recognized, ignoring the fact that it does not control territory. That it is not recognized within Libya and that it lacks
legitimacy within Libya. And that's hugely problematic for Libya.
HOLMES: Well, indeed, being internationally recognized. We're not recognizing the county that tends to be governing is going to be
You are often on the ground in Libya right now, experiencing life there.
I'm curious how Libyans, ordinary Libyans, not militia, not fighters, how do ordinary Libyans view the intervention by the west in light of this
ELJARH: Absolutely. I mean, many Libyans feel very frustrated and disappointed by the international community's actions in Libya. And
particularly at the fact that there was no real commitment, despite the fact that Libyans actually in reality didn't want any boots on the ground,
et cetera, but they wanted engagement. They wanted help.
[14:10:08] They wanted help with collecting arms, for example. Dismantling militias, etcetera. And that never happened from the international
community. Basically, they just took a back seat.
And that was very naive on the part of Libyans, but also on the part of the international community. But I think what's becoming more problematic now,
in the eyes of some Libyan factions is the role of the international community now, and their failure to help actually restore security or basic
services in Libya. For example, the health sector in Libya is almost collapsed now.
People are struggling to get cash out of banks. The exchange rate for the Libyan dinar in the parallel market, that's the only place where you can
get U.S. dollars or Euros, is five times the official rate. And it does not seem to be going anywhere.
And this internationally recognized government they're trying to back in order to sort these problems out, has proven to be a failure. And the
reason for that is because the international community has --
HOLMES: In the opinion of some, the country is verging on being broke. And that indeed, it just adds to the desperate nature of things.
I mean, we were talking earlier about the disparate nature of the tribal groups, the various militia. I'm wondering how the presence of ISIS in the
country is viewed by this various militia.
Is there unity on the threat that ISIS poses to Libyan stability?
ELJARH: Unfortunately, ISIS did not unite Libyans. We see that. For example, groups from the city of Misurata are fighting Islamic State in
Misurata -- sorry in Sirte. And then we have the Libyan National Army in eastern Libya fighting Islamic State in Benghazi and elsewhere in eastern
But there is a huge disconnect. These two groups still see each other as enemies. And, unfortunately, despite the hopes that the presence of
Islamic State would unite Libyan factions together, it actually did not, in the end.
And there is still huge disconnect between the various groups that are fighting the Islamic State. But the problem is once the Islamic State is
defeated, and it will be defeated very soon possibly in Libya, the question is how will these armed groups react against each other? Will they
actually go to the table and try and find a power-sharing agreement? Or will they...
HOLMES: They certainly didn't --
ELJARH: ...point the gun against each other.
HOLMES: Well, they certainly didn't after they came together and got rid of Muammar Gadhafi. They went back to their old ways.
I've only got a minute left, but I wanted, Mohammed, to get your thoughts.
As I said, the countries by some accounts almost broke, can you see a unified Libya under central government in the future. Very quickly.
ELJARH: I think it can happen. If we work with the actual forces on the ground. And we try to be more practical on the ground by those who control
the territory that includes the Libyan National Army and forces from the city of Misurata, then it is possible.
But if we try, if we continue to be vague and we try and work on vague agenda, agenda that's not prescriptive enough, then I think it will be very
difficult to see a united government in Libya.
HOLMES: Mohammed Eljarh, non-resident fellow with the Atlantic Council, thank you so much. Always good to get your thoughts.
The man who knows the country well.
Coming up, we're going to have more from the UK as former deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg talks to me about politics and its extremes, that's
[14:15:22] HOLMES: And welcome back, everyone.
The European Union is facing an existential crisis so said Jean-Claude Juncker today. The president of the European Commission giving his first
state of the union address since Britain's shock vote to live the EU.
Now my next guest, Nick Clegg, was one of the most vocal British politicians to argue in favor of staying in the EU. He was, of course,
deputy prime minister for five years in a coalition with the conservatives.
He's just written all about his time in office and his case for liberalism in a new book called "Politics Between the Extremes."
HOLMES: Nick Clegg, thanks for being with us on the program.
It was interesting. I read one review of the book that said you were, quote, "Commendably candid about your mistakes."
What were your biggest mistakes? The ones you would most like a do-over on.
NICK CLEGG, FORMER DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER, CONSERVATIVE PARTY: Oh, I think the thing that I problem regret the most is that I didn't manage to use the
early momentum that existed in the United Kingdom back in 2010 to really kind of change the system. Because we've got a really clapped-out
political system in the UK.
Westminster looks great. Prime Minister's discretion looks great. But you know, the way policies are funded, the way that votes are allocated. The
way that the House of Lords isn't elected, all of that is in desperate need of change.
So I really regret that for one reason or another, I wasn't able to get those changes that I wanted through.
HOLMES: After the rather terrible election results, you -- you made a comment. I want to play it for people now if we can roll that tape.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLEGG: Fear and grievance have won. Liberalism has lost. But it is more precious than ever. And we must keep fighting for it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: Well, just over a year later, with Brexit and a new conservative prime minister, has the flame of British liberalism been extinguished? Is
there anything that gives you hope?
CLEGG: Look, a lot of people are frightened. You've got millions of our fellow citizens, understandably are frightened and fearful of the future.
They're worried about their jobs. They're worried about terrorism. They're worried about violence. They're worried about whether their kids
are going to get decent jobs and decent housing.
And in response it's becoming increasingly easy right now for populists on the right and the left to give kind of easy answers to complex problems and
garner a lot of support.
You know, Donald Trump says all of our problems will disappear if we build a wall against the Mexicans. Nigel Farage said all our problems will
disappear if the UK pulls out of the EU. And so on and so forth.
At some point, at some point, all democracies are going to have to return to the complex painstaking job of grappling with the world the way it is.
Not the way we would like it to be.
HOLMES: And when it comes to Brexit, I mean, you had dire predictions. You were staunchly against Brexit, of course. But the reality is the UK is
stuck with it.
And one quote from you, you said, "I regard the referendum outcome as one of the greatest acts of national self-immolation in modern times, which
over the long term will probably lead to the break-up of the UK, social damage and to the fabric of our society and to all intents and purposes the
end of Britain's role as a major world power," unquote.
Really? Is it that potentially bad?
CLEGG: Yes, I think it is. Brexit has not happened. But when it finally does happen, I think it's going to, it's going to confront the United
Kingdom with some really, really difficult choices. Because you know what, in a globalized world, you cannot expect to have, you know, all the good
bits of an international club like the European Union and expect everyone else to deal with the bad bits.
HOLMES: Sir, but you are in many ways the quintessential European.
HOLMES: You've been a member of the European parliament. You speak five languages, which is fantastic. Your wife is Spanish.
I wonder whether you and others failed to understand the Brexit constituency.
Did you understand what the anger was all about?
CLEGG: No. I don't think anyone understood or anticipated the level of anger and frustration. Legitimate anger and frustration amongst many
people who in many ways when they were presented with a choice in the referendum, they weren't really deciding did they like this European
directive, or did they like that European commissioner, or did they like that bit of red tape or not.
For many people, the referendum was simply a question of, do you like the status quo the way -- you know, the way things are.
And a lot of people turned around, understand it and said, no, we don't. And they did so for a whole bunch of reasons. Many of which, not all of
which. Many of which in my opinion, and I explain this in the book, have very little to do with the European Union itself.
HOLMES: Again, the president of the European Commission, Jean Claude Junker saying again on Tuesday that Britain, quote, "Could not have ala
carte access," end quote, to the benefits of the EU after Brexit.
And let's face it. Implementing Article 50, that's not so far away. And then you've got two years to put everything in place.
Will it be in place?
CLEGG: No, I don't. I think it's a complete fantasy this idea that this is all going to be done and dusted in two years. That we're going to be
able to pull out of this complex arrangement. We've been a member of for 43 years. Replace it with our own domestic legislation. Negotiate a new
free trade deal with the European Union. Negotiate a new free trade deal with the 50 other countries around the world with whom we have trade
agreements through the European Union. Then become a new independent member of the world trade organization, at the behest of 160 other -- I
mean, look, the list goes on.
It is complete fantasy, this idea, that that's all going to be done and dusted in 24 months.
HOLMES: Something you write there that I want to get to. Here in the United States, we're in the middle of the most socially divisive election
campaign in memory. And Brexit, of course, created its own divides. And you have, again, Jean Claude Juncker speaking about surging incidents of
hate crimes in Britain in the wake of the Brexit.
Do you worry about those social divides? What is the lasting impact of them? They're not going to go away?
CLEGG: I think we should all worry, enormously about this. What we're seeing, you see it in the highly divisive, polarized and shrill
presidential debate in the United States. But you see it in France. You see it in the Netherlands. You see it in Germany. You see it in the UK.
Is that there's a very stark difference now between those people who feel pretty comfortable with globalization. They feel open to the outside
Yes, they're worried about things. But they're broadly optimistic. And an increasingly large number of people who feel kind of left out.
Disenfranchised, overlooked. They're not listened to.
And they're understandably very angry. And, you know, it's absolutely essential that all politicians, whatever persuasion try and give answers to
those many millions of people who feel disaffected from the way things are.
I happen to believe for instance in the UK that that is better done by giving people, you know, decent jobs and better housing rather than
spending the next five, ten years arguing over the minutia of our membership with the European Union.
HOLMES: But the thing is, I mean, in particular in the United States, I mean, Donald Trump can speak untruths. He can, you know, sort of dance
around reality. And the reality is that 40 percent of voters still think that's my guy.
What do you think of the rise of Trump, Marine Le Pen, Geert Wilders and others, divisive political figures who only get more popular? What can
liberal politicians like you do to fight back?
CLEGG: Well I think we have to be much more outspoken and aggressive. I mean, it's not only the lies, because all of those characters you
mentioned, they lie. They make up stuff.
But because they speak the same language of rage and anger and frustration that many people feel, they emotionally connect with voters.
And you know, moderate politicians need to be, I think, far more aggressive in showing how, how false and dishonest these simplistic populist solutions
Many, many of the commitments that Donald Trump has just spraying about at the moment will never happen in a month of Sunday. So I think maybe more,
you know, more reasonable politicians need to be more unreasonable in exposing the sheer mendacity of a lot of the populists' claims. But also
more compelling and optimistic about how -- you know, mainstream politics is not just keeping the status quo the way it is. It's also the best way
of actually changing stuff for the better.
HOLMES: Fascinating discussion.
Former Deputy British Prime Minister Nick Clegg, thanks so much.
CLEGG: Thank you.
HOLMES: And when we come back, on the program, countries driven to extremes for a much different reason, the continuation of the human race.
We imagine a world desperately trying to bring about a baby boom, when we come back.
[14:26:23] HOLMES: And a final thought for tonight, imagine a world tick- tick-ticking away. That's an image the government of Italy is keen to promoting. Encouraging women to listen to their increasingly loud
biological clocks, announcing a, quote, "Fertility day" on September 22nd with advertisements like this one right here. Pushing home the overt
message - "Beauty has no age limit. Fertility does."
But it's not been too popular, needless to say. The ads criticized for being offensive to women. But it has gotten people talking about why a
nation famed for its sexy, sultry and fashionable people, has one of the lowest birth rates in Europe.
It's not alone, though. Many other countries are having to encourage their populist to start making babies.
Denmark had the none too subtle "Do it for Denmark" campaign. Which saw one travel company offer a reward of three years of baby supplies if a
couple conceived on one of their holidays. How would you prove it?
In Singapore's, Hey Baby campaign, you had thousands of dollars on offer to help support new families.
While in a bid to hold Japan's plummeting populace, state funds have been used to freeze women's eggs. And there's even government sponsored speed-
dating, which has a clientele including Buddhist nuns and monks. So they're doing God's work.
Well, that is our program for tonight. And, remember, you can listen to our podcast. You can see us online at Amanpour.com. And follow us on
Facebook and Twitter. I'm @HolmesCNN.
Thanks for watching and good-bye for now from the CNN Center.