They Made A Desert and Called it Peace

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To ravage, to slaughter, to usurp under false titles, they call empire; and where they make a desert, they call it peace – Calgacus

Libya is currently engaged in a brutal civil war with foreign armies either already involved (Turkey) or poised to intervene (Egypt).

This is not the first time Libya has fallen under the evil influence of a conqueror, the last despot to cast his evil shadow over the North African nation was Benito Mussolini, the comical Italian dictator with the jutting chin, the belicose rhetoric and a complete absence of testicoli.

So I grabbed her by the pussy… like this!

Benito the clown had ludicrous dreams of rebuilding the Roman Empire, but quickly found out that the armed forces he had so expensively re-equipped were only good for terrorising native tribesmen, often needing illegal weapons to make up for the Italian soldier’s lack of martial spirit.

The first victim of Il Duce’s penchant for Empire building was Libya, a country that Italy had seized from the collapsing Ottoman Empire in 1912, cynically taking advantage of the ongoing Balkan Wars which were occupying the bulk of the Ottoman forces.

The Italians called this victory, the civilised world called it cowardly acts of genocide.

Of course, the Libyans did not take too kindly to a bunch of neo-Roman spaghetti chompers taking over their lands and a fierce resistance arose immediately.

Italy’s army barely survived WW1 and needed radical overhaul and re-organisation, which Mussolini did immediately after coming to power. Sadly, this meant politically acceptable generals became the norm, men lacking in character and competence to such a degree that even their German ally Rommel had no respect for them during the disastrous Western Desert Campaign of WW2.

We will conquer the world with our tiny swords and snazzy uniforms.

The first test of Mussolini’s ‘new Roman legions’ came in Libya, where troublesome tribesmen were refusing to give in to the Italians; it was called a ‘pacification’, but in reality, it was a series of ruthless and genocidal crimes against humanity.

Pacification of Libya

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Pacification of Libya, or the Second Italo-Senussi War, was a long, bloody conflict in Italian Libya between Italian military forces (composed mainly of colonial troops from Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia) and indigenous rebels associated with the Senussi Order. The war lasted from 1923 until 1932, when the principal Senussi leader, Omar al-Mukhtar, was captured and executed.

Events leading to World War II

Fighting took place in all of Italian Libya’s three provinces (Tripolitania, Fezzan, and Cyrenaica), but was most intense and prolonged in the mountainous Jebel Akhdar region of Cyrenaica. The “pacification” resulted in mass deaths of the indigenous people of Cyrenaica, totaling one quarter of the region’s population of 225,000. Italy committed multiple war crimes during the conflict, including the use of chemical weapons, episodes of executing surrendering combatants, and the mass killing of civilians. Italian authorities forcibly expelled 100,000 Bedouin Cyrenaicans, half the population of Cyrenaica, from their settlements, many of which were then given to Italian settlers.

You can hardly blame the Italian soldiers for performing so poorly, they were provided with some of the worst weapons of war ever devised, such as this Breda M30 LMG.

Whole towns were raped, children butchered without mercy, poison gas used against civilians, it was almost as if Mussolini was seeking to make up for his own inadequacies as a man by having his armies behave like beasts.

The Frankfurter Zeitung reporter and author Muhammad Asad interviewed a man from Kufra after its seizure by the Italians in his book The Road to Mecca.

“How did Kufra fall?”

With a weary gesture, Sidi Umar motioned to one of his men to come closer: “Let this man tell thee the story…He is one of the few who have escaped from Kufra. He came to me only yesterday.” The man from Kufra sat down on his haunches before me and pulled his ragged burnus around him. He spoke slowly, without any tremor of emotion in his voice; but his gaunt face seemed to mirror all the horrors he had witnessed.

“They came upon us in three columns, from three sides, with many armoured cars and heavy cannon. Their aeroplanes came down low and bombed houses and mosques and palm groves. We had only a few hundred men able to carry arms; the rest were women and children and old men. We defended house after house, but they were too strong for us, and in the end only the village of Al-Hawari was left to us. Our rifles were useless against their armoured cars; and they overwhelmed us. Only a few of us escaped. I hid myself in the palm orchards waiting for a chance to make my way through the Italian lines; and all through the night I could hear the screams of the women as they were being raped by the Italian soldiers and Eritrean askaris. On the following day an old woman came to my hiding place and brought me water and bread. She told me that the Italian general had assembled all the surviving people before the tomb of Sayyid Muhammad al-Mahdi; and before their eyes he tore a copy of the Koran into pieces, threw it to the ground and set his boot upon it, shouting, “Let your beduin prophet help you now, if he can!” And then he ordered the palm trees of the oasis to be cut down and the wells destroyed and all the books of Sayyid Ahmad’s library burned. And on the next day he commanded that some of our elders and ulama [scholars] be taken up in an aeroplane – and they were hurled out of the plane high above the ground to be smashed to death…And all through the second night I heard from my hiding place the cries of our women and the laughter of the soldiers, and their rifle shots…At last I crept out into the desert in the dark of night and found a stray camel and rode away…”

— Muhammad Asad, The Road to Mecca

Graziani and Badoglio in Ethiopia, 1935, where they butchered unknown numbers of innocent civilians.

Generals Graziani and Badoglio who commanded this farcical display of empire building would later get their comeuppance when they invaded Egypt in late 1940, or rather, they crossed the frontier, marched until they felt like a rest, set up camp and then waited to be surrounded and surrendered almost en masse. The fact that the Italian army numbered over 130,000 men and were utterly humiliated by a British force of less than 20,000 says much for the ability of the Italian generals, the obsolete Italian weapons and equipment and the morale of the Italian soldier, fighting a war they had no interest in.

Italian prisoners captured at Sidi Barrani are marched into captivity.

The British drove the Italians all the way to Al Agheila in the far west of Libya and but for want of working vehicles and Churchill’s lunatic diversion of the best fighting troops to the doomed Greek Campaign, Italy would have lost everything it possessed in North Africa. Of course, Herr Rommel then arrived and waltzed back and forth across the desert with the British for another two years before Italy was finally invaded and promptly sued for peace.

Mussolini got his when Italian partisans strung him up outside a Milanese petrol station alongside his mistress Clara Petacci, sadly, no Libyan was there that day to stick a bayonet up Il Duce’s fat arse…

Sic Semper Tyranis….

Author Details
Ian Greenhalgh is a photographer and historian with a particular interest in military history and the real causes of conflicts.

His studies in history and background in the media industry have given him a keen insight into the use of mass media as a creator of conflict in the modern world.

His favored areas of study include state-sponsored terrorism, media manufactured reality and the role of intelligence services in manipulation of populations and the perception of events.
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