About the book

Table of Contents

Liberal Imperialism and the New Scramble for Africa

Chapter 1
Sirte: Keystone of Libyan Independence
  • Welcome to Sirte Today
  • From a Tent outside Sirte: Defining a New Libya
  • Sirte: An African Dream Turned into a Nightmare
  • Sirte, the New Pan-Africanism, and U.S. Scrutiny
  • Sirte’s Place in the Development of Libya
  • Sirte: Reforms, Divisions, and Raised Expectations

Chapter 2
Sirte: Touchstone of Imperialism

  • Sirte: Reagan, Regime Change, Rapprochement(?)
  • Sirte: MI6 and Early Islamist Attacks against Gaddafi
  • Barack Obama and How Empire Revisited Sirte
  • Sirte: Toxic to Empire
  • Sirte: Fantasy Land of the Insurgents
  • Sirte: Allah, Muammar, Libya—and Memory
  • Who Voted With Their Feet?
  • War Crimes: Civilians Targeted in NATO Attacks
  • Liberal Intervention and the Myth of “Protecting Civilians”
  • Liberating Sirte: Massacres, Looting, Torture, Racism
  • Save Benghazi, Slay Sirte: Under Cover of Humanitarian Intervention
  • Goal No. 1: Regime Change
  • Hunting for Gaddafi in Sirte
  • Celebration at the Safari Club

Chapter 3
Libyan Pan-Africanism and Its Discontents

  • Africa and the Green Book: Getting Past Eurocentrism
  • Mandela and Gaddafi: Moral Pan-Africanism
  • Libya, Gaddafi, and Pan-Africanism: Anti-Imperialism after Pan-Arabism
  • Libyan Aid and Investment in Africa
  • The Security Dimension of Libyan Pan-Africanism
  • CEN-SAD: A Victory for Libya
  • Against Africans: Roots of Racist Revolt within Libya
  • Post-Gaddafi: Closing Libya’s Door on Africa
Chapter 4
A War against Africa: AFRICOM, NATO, and Racism
  • AFRICOM: Militarizing U.S. Relations with Africa, and Gaddafi’s Defiance
  • Libyan Defiance
  • AFRICOM Overthrows an Opponent, Creating Opportunity for the U.S.
  • The Racist War: Racist Rebels and Racist Humanitarians
  • Airports and African Mercenaries: Origin of the No-Fly Zone
  • Social Media: Racial Hysteria Supporting Foreign Intervention
  • Mainstream Media: Disseminating and Inciting Racial Fear
  • Early Reports of Atrocities: Filed and Ignored
  • Rebel Bravado: Admissions of Mass Lynching
  • After the Fall of Tripoli: Ethnic Cleansing by the Insurgents
  • Who Cares About African Migrants or Black Libyans?

Chapter 5
Humanitarianism and the Invention of Emergency

  • “Genocide Prevention”
  • “Gaddafi is Bombing His Own People”
  • “Save Benghazi”
  • The UN and the Right to Speak for Libya
  • Amnesty International versus Libya
  • “Viagra-fueled Mass Rape”
  • “Protecting Civilians”
  • The Alternative to Intervention?

The Aftermath: A New War on Africa

  • African Reactions to Regime Change
  • Gaddafi is Gone. Oh no!
  • The African Union: Denouncing an Unnecessary and Provocative War
  • South Africa: The ANC against Regime Change, Recolonization
  • Uganda: The Rebels Condemn Themselves
  • Zimbabwe: NATO Liars and Brutal Aggressors
  • Regional Destabilization in the Aftermath of NATO
  • Empire or Dignity

List of Figures


Group photograph of the participants in the London Conference on Libya, March 29, 2011.


Muammar Gaddafi, President of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, speaking at the opening of the Fifth Summit of the African Union in Sirte, Libya, on July 4, 2005.


Map of Libya produced by the United Nations Cartographic Section. Sirte (Surt) is almost in the centre of the coast, and the Fezzan region lies to its south.


King Idris I of Libya shaking hands with U.S. Vice-President Richard Nixon in March of 1957.


Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, in his tent in the desert outside Sirte, speaking in an interview with the BBC in 1976.


Muammar Gaddafi’s famous tent, in the Bab-al-Aziziya complex in Tripoli.


Afriqiyah Airways, with the 9.9.99 logo on both the tail and engines.


Muammar Gaddafi, giving his first speech as Chairperson of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, during the 12th African Union Summit on February 2, 2009.


Muammar Gaddafi in a fleeting moment manages to obtain a handshake from Barack Obama, on July 9, 2009, at the G8 meeting in L’Aquila, Italy.


Vladimir Putin visiting Muammar Gaddafi in Libya on April 16, 2008.


The president of Russian Railways, Vladimir Yakunin (left) and the Secretary of the Libyan General People’s Congress sign a contract for the construction of the Sirte-Benghazi railway line in the presence of Vladimir Putin and Muammar Gaddafi on April 17, 2008.


Green Square, Tripoli (July 1, 2011): a part of the immense crowd that turned out to cheer a speech by Muammar Gaddafi.


U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton disembarks from a U.S. Air Force transport in Tripoli on October 18, 2011.


U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton greets grateful rebel militia commanders on her arrival in Tripoli on October 18, 2011.


Muammar Gaddafi, in a famously long speech at the 64th session of the UN General Assembly in New York on September 23, 2009, tears into the violations of the UN Charter by the great powers and the inconsistencies and contradictions of the UN system.


The Gaddafi Mosque in Kampala, Uganda.


Benghazi residents hold Italian, British, French, American, Qatari and Libyan rebel flags outside the city’s main courthouse on April 13, 2011, as a sign of gratitude and support for Western intervention.


A billboard in Cape Coast, Ghana featuring the late Ghanaian President, John Atta Mills, and U.S. President Barack Obama.


A discarded wrapper of “Obama Biscuits” found on Kokrobite beach, Ghana, November 2009.


U.S. General Carter F. Ham, Commander of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), March 9, 2011.


The headquarters of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, built by China.


Mocking anti-imperialism: On November 26, 2011, U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Gene Cretz, stands by the iconic statue of a fist crushing a U.S. fighter jet, long a feature of Muammar Gaddafi’s compound in Tripoli. The statue was stolen and relocated to Misrata by militias who thoroughly defaced it.


U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice shakes hands with Libyan Foreign Minister equivalent Abd Arrahman Shalgam in September 2008. Muatassim Gaddafi is in the upper right, and Musa Kusa is in the centre.


U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton welcomes Muatassim Gaddafi at the U.S. State Department on April 21, 2009.


General Carter F. Ham, AFRICOM commander, speaks on March 24, 2011, to Sailors and Marines aboard amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge as part of Joint Task Force Odyssey Dawn, established to provide operational and tactical command and control of U.S. military forces in the Mediterranean during the war against Libya.


The guided-missile destroyer, USS Barry, launches a Tomahawk missile on March 19, 2011, as part of AFRICOM’s Operation Odyssey Dawn, one of approximately 110 cruise missiles fired from U.S. and British ships and submarines against Libya. Most were fired in the middle of the night.


Map from a March 20, 2011, U.S. Department of Defense briefing showing fighting between rebel and government forces in Libya, and the withdrawal of Gaddafi’s forces from Benghazi.


U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and African Union Commission Chairperson Jean Ping shake hands after their bilateral meeting, at the U.S. State Department on April 21, 2011.


Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda, Uganda’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations. Rugunda spoke on behalf of the African Union on the war in Libya.


South African President Jacob Zuma meets with Muammar Gaddafi in Libya on May 30, 2011, as part of an African Union effort to find a peaceful resolution to the conflict.


As the host of the 15th African Union Summit, held in Uganda, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni welcomes Muammar Gaddafi at the Speke Resort, Munyonyo.


Robert Mugabe, President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, addresses the general debate of the 66th session of the General Assembly on September 22, 2011.


All of the sources cited in text are provided in this PDF file which contains clickable links for all online sources.


Finalist, Mavis Gallant Prize, Quebec Writers FederationThis solidly-documented book is Maximilian Forte’s courageous initiative to unveil the real reasons behind NATO’s intervention in Libya …. The author analyses how well-meaning civil rights NGO’s were manipulated into supporting U.S. military policies and commercial interests under the guise of protecting civil rights. The author develops his postulates through an in-depth analysis of documents from before, during and after the war.” ~ Declaration by the jury, Mavis Gallant Prize, Quebec Writers' Federation


Stephen Gowans speaking about Slouching Towards Sirte, on the Taylor Report:

Slouching Towards Sirte is a penetrating critique, not only of the NATO intervention in Libya, but of the concept of humanitarian intervention and imperialism in our time. It is the definitive treatment of NATO’s war on Libya. It is difficult to imagine it will be surpassed.” ~ Stephen Gowans, What’s Left (HTML) (mirror) (PDF) (PDF)

very powerful and heart-breaking. I think it will be the definitive work on the subject.” ~ Daniel M. Kovalik

Maximilian Forte challenges many of the prevailing notions, both of the left and right, about Libya and the reasons behind the NATO intervention there which toppled the government of Muammar these times in which we live, it is critical to be wary of any claims by the Western powers, especially the U.S., that they are going to war to protect human rights, for it is almost invariably the case that the war ends up violating more human rights than it protects. Indeed, human rights have sadly become the Trojan Horse the U.S. and its allies NGOs use to justify violent intervention into foreign lands. So, while the Trojan Horse story led to the famous maxim, 'Beware of Greeks bearing gifts,' I would counsel the people of the poorer Global South, to 'Beware of Westerners bearing human rights.' Certainly, Forte shows why this advice should be heeded.” ~ Daniel M. Kovalik, CounterPunch (HTML) (HTML Español) (PDF)

“...bold and incendiary...Forte doesn’t skimp on documentary evidence to make his case....A complex depiction of collusion and willful ignorance among NATO nations—and most especially, the United States—emerges....Forte’s allegations that NATO’s war was manufactured by liberal interventionists and 'iPad imperialists' whose agenda to disrupt African independence and execute regime change under the 'fig leaf' of saving lives are chilling—and persuasive. So too is the timeline of events between the start of the protests and the propagandist hysteria promulgated online....In this provocative and unabashedly direct book, Forte speaks truth to power.” ~ Amy O'Loughlin, ForeWord Reviews (HTML) (PDF)

“Forte, a Montreal based activist and anthropologist, provides a compelling counter-narrative to mainstream media accounts of the war on Libya and the overthrow and assassination of Muammar Gaddafi. Slouching Towards Sirte has an excellent analysis of the contradictions and paradoxes of Gaddafi’s pan-Africanism and Libyan anti-Black racism while arguing persuasively that regime change in Libya is but a preview of US strategy in Africa through AFRICOM.” ~ 10 Books for 2012, The Public Archive

“an ethnography of U.S. culture and the way it enabled and contributed to the destruction of Libya. It is also a meticulously documented study in hypocrisy: that of the U.S. elite, of the Gulf ruling classes who have lately welded their agenda directly onto that of the United States, and of the liberal bombardiers who emerged in the crucible of the 'humanitarian' wars of the 1990s only to reemerge as cheerleaders for the destruction of another Arab country in 2011. Finally, it is a study of the breakdown of the anti-war principles of leftists in the United States and Europe, so many of whom, for so long, sustained an infatuation with confused rebels whose leadership early on had their hand out to the U.S. empire...” ~ Max Ajl, The Monthly Review (April 2013, pp. 55-59) [also available here]

Thoroughly researched and impeccably referenced, it tells the story of the real aims and real consequences of the war on Libya in its historical perspective. Its author, Maximilian Forte, is well placed to do so. A professor of social anthropology in Montreal, much of his writing and research in recent years has been dedicated to the new imperialism, and especially its ‘humanitarian’ cover. He was amongst the first to really expose violent racism within the Libyan insurrection, and its role in facilitating NATO’s goals in Africa, and has provided consistently excellent analyses of the media coverage surrounding the conflict....Forte’s book is a must-read for anyone seriously interested in understanding the motives and consequences of the West’s onslaught against Libya and African development.” ~ Dan Glazebrook, Ceasefire Magazine

The anti-imperialist movement of the 20th century had Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth. Today, we have Maximilian Forte’s Slouching Towards Sirte: NATO’s War on Libya and Africa.” ~ Donnchadh Mac an Ghoill

“In Slouching Towards Sirte, Maximilian Forte focuses on the terrible consequences of the U.S.-NATO onslaught in the town of Sirte, a Qaddafi stronghold which was nearly completely destroyed. Forte documents the use of indiscriminate firepower by rebels, the targeting of civilians and civilian rescuers, and abuses committed at checkpoints designed to control population movement...” ~ Jeremy Kuzmarov is J.P. Walker assistant professor of history, University of Tulsa, Z Communications

...excellent book....As Forte writes with bitter irony, the propaganda surrounding the Libyan war demands 'vigilance and scepticism in the face of the heady claims of our own inherent goodness which can only find its highest expression in the form of aerial bombardment'. Alas, vigilance and scepticism are in short supply within the corporate media.” ~ David Edwards, Media Lens

“But the shine [of NATO's intervention] was, from the start, an illusion, as Maximilian Forte proves in his important new book, Slouching Towards Sirte. Forte thoroughly chronicles NATO’s bombing of Libya and the crimes against humanity for which NATO is responsible....Self-described humanitarians would do well to consider how their advocacy of the Libyan campaign not only caused extensive death and human rights violations but may prove to have helped usher in decades of more war in this continent.” ~ Greg Shupak, Jacobin

Slouching Towards Sirte is a scholarly and well-documented account that gives reader the impression that 'humanitarian missions' and the so-called 'Responsibility to Protect' are just an ideological facade and smokescreen used to mask the raw imposition of power and punishment on the nations whose leaders dare to oppose the "new world order" of liberal democracy.... Undoubtedly, the publishing this book has laid the ground-work for critical anthropology. On the whole, the book is a powerful argument against the humanitarian myth promoted by western powers to mask the imposition of their dominance on other societies. Unfortunately, this fact is ignored by many, who ostrich-like prefer to put their heads in sand.” ~ Damir Mirkovic, Professor Emeritus, Brandon University

The key facts? There was no “mass rape” ordered by Gadhafi, a claim repeated many times by Hillary Clinton (and eventually refuted by Amnesty International, the UN and even the U.S. Army). There was no bombing of protesters (a fact admitted to by the CIA’s Robert Gates). There was no plan for a “massacre” in Benghazi. Gadhafi offered amnesty to any insurgents who laid down their arms — in contrast the “no mercy” theme played by the Western powers. All of these facts are to be found in Slouching Towards Sirte: NATO’s War on Libya and Africa by Maximilian Forte.” ~ Murray Dobbin

“Maximilian Forte’s book on the Libyan war, Slouching Towards Sirte, is another powerful (and hence marginalized) study of the imperial powers in violent action, and with painful results, but supported by the UN, media, NGOs and a significant body of liberals and leftists who had persuaded themselves that this was a humanitarian enterprise. Forte shows compellingly that it wasn’t the least little bit humanitarian, either in the intent of its principals (the United States, France, and Great Britain) or in its results. As in the earlier cases of 'humanitarian intervention\ the Libyan program rested intellectually and ideologically on a set of supposedly justifying events and threats that were fabricated, selective, and/or otherwise misleading, but which were quickly institutionalized within the Western propaganda system.” ~ Edward S. Herman



December 12, 2012. Interviewed by Brendan Stone, CFMU 93.3 FM, “Unusual Sources” (Maximilian C. Forte does not let us forget about what happened in Libya - from the propaganda build-up to the NATO intervention to the punishing aftermath. His new book, Slouching Towards Sirte, serves as both an investigation and a warning: what happened to Libya can happen elsewhere). Click here for the podcast and program information, or listen here and here, or simply listen to the file below:

December 14, 2012. Interviewed by Scotty Reid, Black Talk Radio News ("interview with Dr. Maximilian C. Forte. He works in the Department of Sociology & Anthropology at Concordia University and has a new book out titled Slouching Towards Sirte: NATO's War on Libya and Africa. The book looks at among other things, the overthrow of the Gaddafi government in Libya, the lies told to achieve this and the racist aftermath). Apologies: the audio quality is not the best:

January 20, 2013. Program information: "The NATO mission in Libya back in 2011 was very popular. But is everyone convinced with a democratic Libya? The Political Bouillon asks Dr. Maximilian C. Forte what he thinks about this new Libya."

January 28, 2013. Interviewed by Phil Taylor of The Taylor Report (University of Toronto, CIUT 89.5 FM). ("Phil gets to interview Maximillian C. Forte on his new book, "Slouching Towards Sirte." He also comments on the applicability of his book to Syria and Mali.") Click here for the podcast and program information, or listen using the player below.

Interviewed for Shadow War in the Sahara, 2014, by Roberto Coen and Eric Nadler. Documentary, 52 min. Paris: Crescendo Films, released in 2015 (with participation of CNC, support by Media programme of EU; co-produced with Transformer Films and ARTE). See extracts below:


The intervention in Libya is increasingly recognized as a disaster within mainstream discussion. But was it a disaster for the U.S. and NATO? In this Hamilton, Ontario launch of his book, “Slouching Towards Sirte,” Professor Maximilian C. Forte discusses the causes and consequences of NATO’s 2011 “attack on Libya and Africa.” Forte “argues that the war on Libya was not about human rights, nor entirely about oil, but about a larger process of militarizing U.S. relations with Africa.”

Now, you can download an MP3 recording of Prof. Forte’s June 18 lecture, below:

MP3 Link

MP3 Information



About humanitarian imperialism, Max Forte writes:

“Desperate to finally be seen as the liberators of Arabs, rescuing poor victims with the finest of American exports (human rights), some would understandably feel compelled to exploit the suffering of others (residents fleeing Sirte) and turn that into something worthy of celebration. This is an example of the abduction process at the centre of Western, liberal humanitarianism: it can only function by first directly or indirectly creating the suffering of others, and by then seeing every hand as an outstretched hand, pleading or welcoming. We see (or imagine) helpless others, gobbling morsels of food that we hand them, brown mouths chugging down water from our plastic bottles, and we feel accomplished. Our moral might is reaffirmed by the physical plight of others. Clearly, the humanitarian relation is not a relation between equals. We are not our “brothers’ keepers” then, but rather we are more like animal keepers. Bombing for us is really just an animal management technology, and our relationship to the world remains a zoological one.” (Slouching Towards Sirte, p. 97).

Maximilian C. Forte is a Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Concordia University in Montréal, Québec. He teaches courses in the field of political anthropology dealing with “the new imperialism,” cultural imperialism, Indigenous resistance movements and philosophies, theories and histories of colonialism, and critiques of the mass media. He writes regularly for the Zero Anthropology Project, with additional articles in Global Research, CounterPunch, MRzine, and was formerly a columnist for Al Jazeera Arabic.