by Sean Jobst
May 17, 2011
This is the first part in a series about the current intervention in Libya. Part One is about the humanitarian justifications given for the war and whether the world is really behind this intervention. Part Two will be about the actual reasons why foreign governments are intervening in Libya. Part Three will be about the true nature of the rebels – who are they, what are they after, and the race- and tribal- based crimes occurring in rebel-controlled Libya. Part Four will conclude with the real financial and economic reasons behind this war: controlling the oil and gold reserves, opening up Libya for private bankers, and the privatization of water resources.
Was there an impending massacre in Benghazi?
On March 15th, Reuters quoted Soliman Bouchuiguir, president of the Geneva-based Libyan League for Human Rights, as saying it Qadhafi’s forces attacked Benghazi, there would be “a real bloodbath, a massacre like we saw in Rwanda.”(1) On the flip side, the Qadhafi regime was claiming the exact opposite, with the Libyan army announcing it was going to Benghazi on a “humanitarian mission” to “save” the residents from rebel control.(2)
So both sides of Libya’s civil war evoked humanitarian justifications in the battle for contro of Benghazi, but what about the veracity of the claims that Qadhafi’s military was preparing to massacre civilians in the city? Its important to examine this claim, as this was the immediate justification used for Western intervention in Libya.
Even an article in the New York Times opined: “And like the chiefs of the Libyan state news media, the rebels feel no loyalty to the truth in shaping their propaganda, claiming nonexistent battlefield victories, asserting they were still fighting in a key city days after it fell to Qaddafi forces, and making vastly inflated claims of his barbaric behavior.”(3) The best evidence he did not plan genocide in Benghazi was that he did not perpetrate it in the cities he either fully or partially recaptured.
We can also look at Qadhafi’s record in Misrata. Human Rights Watch released data that revealed he was not deliberately massacring civilians, but rather that his forces were concentrating on rebel targets. In two months of war, only 257 people out of this city with a population of 400,000 were killed. Of the 949 wounded, only 22 were women which meant if Qadhafi was indiscriminately targeting civilians, women would comprise about half of the total casualties.(4)
“Evidence is now in that President Barack Obama grossly exaggerated the humanitarian threat to justify military action in Libya,” writes Alan J. Kuperman, professor of public affairs at the University of Texas.
“Intervention did not prevent genocide, because no such bloodbath was in the offing. To the contrary, by emboldening rebellion, US interference has prolonged Libya’s civil war and the resultant suffering of innocents.”(5)
The myth of humanitarian intervention
What is happening in Libya is a civil war between the Qadhafi regime and a group of rebels, along with Western intervention to support a political agenda. None of the participants in the war are fighting for truly humanitarian concerns. We know this about the Qadhafi regime, despite its propaganda claims. But more obscured is how this is also the case for the rebels and their Western backers, given the extent of their global media apparatus that has allowed them to pose as fighting for high-minded reasons unlike the bogeyman Qadhafi.
Even those wars couched in humanitarian terms are definitively different from simple peacekeeping operations. There is an ideological underpinning behind such interventions, based on imposing a settlement through force of arms. This is contrary to peacekeeping operations, which are by definition neutral and based on overseeing a settlement between two parties that have agreed to specific terms. Although touted as based on principles of “human rights” as expressed in the United Nations Charter, such interventions are in direct violation of another basic principle of international law: national sovereignty.
“If the intervention is successful – as it likely will be given that interventions are invariably by powerful countries against weaker ones – the practical result is to turn the victims into victors. By doing that, the humanitarian warriors are doing more than simply protecting the weak. They are also defining a nation’s history.”(6)
The simple fact is that such interventions use force to impose the will of a stronger country upon a weaker country. There is no other way around it. It has nothing to do with “protecting” civilians, especially as it relates to Libya. If so, why are civilians in Misrata or Benghazi to be “protected” but those in Tripoli are subject to bombardment?
Even while claiming to be protecting the Libyan people, Western bombings over Libya are destroying infrastructure and put its economy to a standstill. “The current imperial warmongers leading the attack on Libya, just like their predecessors, are not engaged in anything remotely resembling a humanitarian mission: they are destroying the fundamental basis of the civilian lives they claim to be saving.”(7)
The intervening Western governments care nothing about Qadhafi’s human rights violations, for that certainly didn’t prevent them from dealing with Qadhafi or their corporations from signing lucrative contracts with his government. The intervention in Libya soon revealed its actual intent. “Intervention quickly exceeded the UN Mandate of civilian protection by bombing Libyan forces in retreat or based in bastions of Khadafy support, such as Sirte, where they threatened no civilians.”(8)
Those governments which couch their intervention in high-sounding humanitarian notions, are the same ones occupying other countries and supporting tyrannical regimes with human rights violations. Yet we are supposed to believe these notions are anything but convenient and opportunistic propaganda. Seems such wars are served up with a nice glass of kool-aid for domestic consumption.
Friendly fire meets ‘collateral damage’
Adding further to the contradictions behind this spectacle, friendly fire has converged with “collateral damage” as NATO air strikes have also killed civilians and rebels. On April 7th, NATO planes killed between five and 13 rebel fighters near Ajdabiyya.(9) This was soon followed by a NATO airstrike on a rebel convoy outside Brega that killed at least five rebel fighters. This caused one rebel to say: “We don’t want NATO anymore!”(10)
Yet the rebel leaders remained enthusiastic about the NATO intervention, even apologizing for its actions. “This was not a NATO airstrike; on the contrary, it was conducted by Qadhafi’s brigades using SIAI Marchetti SF-260 planes,” rebel spokesman Col. Ahmad Bani told al-Arabiya television.(11) Despite his fervent denials, the next day British Rear Adm. Russell Harding, the deputy commander of the NATO operation, confirmed that indeed it had been a NATO airstrike and he further refused to apologize.(12)
Clearly the rebel leaders have a vested interest in downplaying these incidents. This is even though the attack against their convoy prevented rebel fighters from being able to regroup outside Brega.(13) On May 13, a NATO air strike in Brega killed 11 imams who were there on a peace mission.(14) As one Libyan revolutionary said: “Bombs will not differentiate between those who are pro-Qaddafi and who are against him.”(15)
Myth of an international consensus behind intervention
The primary legal basis for the intervention came with the United Nations resolution that called for a “no-fly-zone” and was instituted on March 17. It did not provide a mandate for actual involvement in the civil war, although it quickly spiraled into that. “United Nations Security Council resolution 1973 has worked like a Trojan horse, allowing the Anglo-French-American consortium – and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) – to become the UN’s air force in its support of an armed uprising.”(16)
This was a vote of the Security Council and not the General Assembly, which does include the vast majority of countries in the world. Nearly all countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America have never signed onto the resolution, much less actual intervention. The intervention has been only the perogative of a small collection of countries from NATO and the Arab League, but even within these two organizations there has been no consensus.
Out of 28 members of NATO, only 12 countries are supporting the intervention and the only non-NATO country fully supporting it is Qatar.(17) Only six of these NATO countries are active in the air war against Libya, including the U.S., U.K., France and Denmark. UN Resolution 1973 was not supported by key powers such as China, Russia, Brazil, India and Germany.(18) Both Germany and Russia were against the no-fly-zone.(19) Germany even pulled its forces out of NATO when the intervention was announced.(20)
The no-fly-zone was allegedly supported by a mandate of the Arab countries and Western proponents of intervention have played up this assertion to justify it. Actually, out of 22 members of the Arab League, only 11 were even present at the meeting. Six of these were members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and tend to go with Saudi Arabia, which was backing the intervention to divert attention from its brutal crackdown of a peaceful pro-democracy protest movement in Bahrain. Syria and Algeria voted against it, which means in total only nine out of 22 Arab countries voted for the no-fly-zone. The most enthusiastic of the Arab countries has been Qatar, which recognized the rebel government only a day after it secured a lucrative oil deal with the rebels.(21)
The only thing we can conclude about Western financial and political elites who keep talking about “the international community,” is this term applies only to the powerful countries and all others need not apply, since they apparently are irrelevant to the discussion. Globalization is nothing but the concentration of wealth and power into the hands of this small elite, and they continue to make decisions affecting billions behind closed doors. They think they are entitled to do whatever they want and then impose their will upon other countries, using as cannon fodder the poor of the Western countries whom they hold in contempt. Domestic and foreign policies are now revealed as distributing wealth from the working- and middle- classes to the wealthy private bankers.
(1) Mohammed Abbas, “Gaddafi forces seize key town, G8 stalls on no-fly,” Reuters, March 15, 2011, <http://af.reuters.com/article/topNews/idAFJOE72E00M20110315>.
(2) “Libyan army: going to Benghazi on ‘humanitarian’ task,” Reuters, March 15, 2011, <http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/03/15/libya-benghazi-army-idUSLDE72E2OG20110315>.
(3) David D. Kirkpatrick and Kareem Fahim, “Hopes for a Qaddafi Exit, and Worries of What Comes Next,” The New York Times, March, 22, 2011, <http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9504E3D91531F931A15750C0A9679D8B63>.
(4) Alan J. Kuperman, “False pretense for war in Libya?,” The Boston Globe, April 14, 2011, <www.boston.com/bostonglobe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2011/04/14/false_pretense_for_war_in_libya/>.
(6) George Friedman, “Immaculate Intervention: The Wars of Humanitarianism,” April 5, 2011, <http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/20110404-immaculate-intervention-wars-humanitarianism>.
(7) James Petras and Robin E. Abaya, “The Euro-US War on Libya: Official Lies and Misconceptions of Critics,” March 30, 2011, <www.thepeoplesvoice.org/TPV3/Voices.php/2011/03/30/the-euro-us-war-on-libya-official-lies>.
(8) Kuperman, op. cit.
(9) Wyre Davies, “Libyan rebels near Ajdabiyya ‘Killed in NATO air strike’,” BBC, 7 April 2011, <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-12997181>.
(10) Sebastian Abbot, “NATO air strike hits Libya rebel convoy,” The San Francisco Chronicle, April 8, 2011, p. A-4.
(11) Davies, op. cit.
(12) “NATO Confirms Its Planes Stuck Libyan Rebels,” FOX News, April 8, 2011, <http://www.foxnews.com/world/2011/04/08/nato-confirms-planes-struck-libyan-rebels/>.
(13) Ben Farmer and Richard Spencer, “Libya: more rebels killed in Nato air strikes,” The Telegraph, 7 April 2011, <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/libya/8436032/Libya-more-rebels-killed-in-Nato-air-strikes.html>.
(14) Andrew Gilligan, “Libya: Nato air strike ‘kills 11 imams’,” The Telegraph, 13 May 2011, <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/libya/8513402/Libya-Nato-air-strike-kills-11-imams.html>.
(15) Saoud Salem, “The signs of the defeat of the Libyan revolution – Statement by a Libyan anarchist,” 17 March 2011, <http://www.ainfos.ca/en/ainfos24901.html>.
(16) Pepe Escobar, “There’s no business like war business,” Asia Times Online, March 30, 2011, <http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/MC30Ak01.html>.
(18) Ron Ridenour, “Libya Fact Sheet,” Dissident Voice, May 5, 2011, <http://dissidentvoice.org/2011/05/libya-fact-sheet/>.
(19) Mohammed Abbas, “Gaddafi forces seize key town, G8 stalls on no-fly,” Reuters, March 15, 2011, <http://af.reuters.com/article/topNews/idAFJOE72E00M20110315>.
(20) “Who’s in charge? Germans pull forces out of NATO as Libyan coalition falls apart,” Daily Mail, 23 March 2011, <http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1368693/Libya-war-Germans-pull-forces-NATO-Libyan-coalition-falls-apart.html>.
(21) Escobar, op. cit.