Making Peace Vigil

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LIBYA: IS WAR THE ANSWER?

Posted by strattof on April 1, 2011

On March 19 2011, the 8th anniversary of the US “Shock and Awe” invasion of Iraq, a coalition of western forces began to bombard Libya with cruise missiles and air attacks.

The US-led coalition, dubbed Odyssey Dawn, includes Britain, France, Italy, and Canada. Its stated goal is to enforce the United Nations Security Council resolution # 1973: 1) “to take all necessary measures to protect civilians…under threat of attack” and 2) to establish a no-fly zone in Libyan airspace “to help protect civilians.”

However, as both Prime Minister Stephen Harper and President Obama have indicated, Odyssey Dawn is less about advancing humanitarian welfare and more about achieving the political goal of regime change: the removal of Libyan president Muammar Qaddafi from power.

Canada has sent six F18s, the frigate HMCS Charlottetown, and 430 military personnel to Libya. Parliament was not consulted until military action had already been taken. Still, with scarcely any debate, all three opposition leaders gave their consent to the mission. Now, for the first time ever, Canada is engaged in two wars simultaneously.

Earlier this week, in a bid to play-down the US role in the Libyan mission, the US-led coalition began to hand over control of military operations to NATO. The new commander of the now NATO military campaign in Libya is a Canadian, Lieutenant-General Charles Bouchard.  

WHY LIBYA?

How can we account for the difference in the response of western nations to the uprising in Libya, as compared to the uprisings in other Arab countries, such as Egypt or Yemen? There was no talk in Ottawa about helping the people of Egypt overthrow their dictatorial ruler. Indeed, Prime Minister Stephen Harper continued to back President Hosni Mubarak up until the very last moment. Similarly, western nations have been almost entirely silent in the face of Yemeni   government forces gunning down their own citizens. Yet these same nations all clamoured first for sanctions and then for military action against Libya.  

OIL: Western countries wish to gain more control over Libya’s energy sector. While Libya only produces about 2% of the world’s oil, it has Africa’s largest proven oil reserves. Libyan oil is also easy to access and high in quality, so production and refinery costs are low.

FINANCIAL INVESTMENTS: Western companies have massive investments in Libya. Canadian business interests in Libya include Suncor Energy, SNC-Lavalin, and Bombardier. All told, Canada has $2.2 billion worth of investments in Libya.

In the weeks preceding the passing of Security Council resolution # 1973, Colonel Qaddafi threatened that Libya would replace western businesses with companies from China, India, Russia, and Brazil.

If western governments were serious about democracy, they would not have done business with the Qaddafi regime in the first place. And most certainly, arms sales would have been prohibited. However, most of the military equipment that Qaddafi forces are now using to suppress the Libyan people comes from western countries, including Canada, which, between 2007 and 2009, exported $86,682 worth of arms to Libya. In 2008 alone, the US sold $46 million worth of weapons to Libya.

COMPLIANCE: In contrast to the leaders of many Arab nations, including Egypt and Yemen, Colonel Qaddafi has not always been compliant with the wishes of western nations.

1. When Colonel Qaddafi took over in a military coup in 1969, he nationalized the oil industry.

2. In the 1970s and 1980s, when the US was calling Nelson Mandela a terrorist, Colonel Qaddafi funded the African National Congress in its struggle against apartheid in South Africa.  

3. Colonel Qaddafi also used Libyan oil money to support the Palestine Liberation Organization in its struggle against Israel.  

4. The Qaddafi regime has been linked to the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie Scotland, as well as to other bombings and political assassinations in Europe.

5. For 25 years, Colonel Qaddafi tried to acquire nuclear weapons.

After 9/11, American authorities listed Libya as a “rogue state,” and hence as a target for western aggression. In 2003, after the “Shock and Awe” bombing campaign that leveled so much of Baghdad, Colonel Qaddafi, in a bid to save Libya from such devastation, began to make concessions to the west, opening up the Libyan economy to western investors and pledging to dismantle Libyan weapons of mass destruction.

Still, unlike many other western-backed dictators, such as Egypt’s Mubarak, Colonel Qaddafi has never become completely subservient to western powers, continuing in his support of the Palestinian people and regularly threatening to renationalize or reorient Libya’s oil business.     

CONSEQUENCES OF MILITARY INTERVENTION

  • Civilian casualties: The declared goal of the mission is to protect civilians from Colonel Qaddafi’s security forces. As the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq demonstrate, aerial bombings by western forces pose an enormous danger to civilian populations.     
  • Coalition casualties: Even though it’s a very lopsided war, it’s still a war. The other side is bound to inflict some damage.   
  • Building and infrastructure damage: What a waste of Libyan resources! Who is going to pay for the rebuilding of roads and communication facilities destroyed by the bombing?
  • A big bill for Canadian taxpayers: How many millions (or will it be billions?) is this mission going to cost Canadians?  Why is nobody in Ottawa asking this question?  This is money that could be spent on healthcare, education, and affordable housing.
  • An escalation of the Libyan conflict: The no-fly zone imposed on Iraq in the 1990s did not lead to peace but to a protracted civil war.
  • The strengthening of the Qaddafi regime: As more and more civilians are killed, Libyans may begin to perceive the military action as another instance of western countries bombing a Muslim nation.
  • The weakening of the Libyan democracy movement: Western intervention takes the initiative away from the Libyan people, who start to lose control of their country’s future.  
  • The plundering of Libyan resources by western corporations: In Iraq the plundering is almost complete. In Afghanistan it is under way.
  • The establishment of US-NATO military bases in Libya: The US has military bases in over 150 countries, including Egypt, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates.
  • The weakening of western democracies: As in Canada, none of the western leaders consulted elected representatives until after military action had been taken.

OTHER OPTIONS

It is wrong to stand by and watch civilian protesters being slaughtered by the forces of a dictator. However, the choice is not between doing nothing and taking military action. There are many other viable options:

1.Explore alternatives that make it possible to end the killing of civilians immediately and do no additional harm to civilians. Such alternatives would include ●pursuing a political solution ●seeking to negotiate a ceasefire ●creating a political framework for negotiations between opposing forces and the regime in order to initiate a peaceful transition.

2.Give the dictator an exit strategy. Because the west has not given Qaddafi an easy out, he has no option but to fight to the death.

3.Freeze assets.

4.Obtain diplomatic and political sanctions against the dictatorship.

5.Expel the dictatorial government from international organizations.

6.Impose economic and military weapons embargoes. Better yet, refuse to do business with or sell arms to dictators in the first place.

Sources for the information in this leaflet include:

Saskatchewan Peace News 18.1 (March 2011): To subscribe to this very informative local publication, contact the Regina Peace Council: peace.council@accesscomm.ca or 949-1222.

Democracy Now! This daily independent radio-TV news program, hosted by Amy Goodman, provides audiences with perspectives rarely heard in the mainstream media. It is available on line at http://www.democracynow.org/   

From Dictatorship To Democracy by Gene Sharp: Sharp argues that non-violent struggle is the only way to successfully bring down dictators. It is claimed that the protest movement that toppled President Mubarak in Egypt was influenced by Sharp’s ideas. From Dictatorship To Democracy is available on line at http://www.aeinstein.org/   

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One Response to “LIBYA: IS WAR THE ANSWER?”

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