Making Peace Vigil

Standing up for peace

LIBYA: WHY WASN’T IT AN ELECTION ISSUE?

Posted by strattof on May 26, 2011

On March 19 2011, six and-a-half weeks before the Canadian election, a US-led coalition of western forces began to bombard Libya with cruise missiles and air attacks.

Although Canada contributed military personnel and equipment to the mission, parliament was not consulted until after military action had been taken. Still, with scarcely any debate, all three opposition parties gave their consent to Canada’s involvement in this war.  

The stated goal of the mission is to enforce United Nations Security Council resolution #1973: ‘to take all necessary measures short of occupation to protect civilians…under threat of attack.’ This resolution marks the first military implementation of the doctrine of Responsibility to Protect, or R2P as it is sometimes called, a set of norms adopted by the UN over the last decade. The latest of many pretexts used by western powers to justify military intervention in the affairs of poorer countries, R2P has no legal basis in the UN Charter, as it infringes on national sovereignty. (To learn more about R2P, go to: https://makingpeace.wordpress.com/)

On April 25, one week before the Canadian election, the coalition forces, now under NATO command, began bombing Libyan government compounds. The aim of this and later air strikes, one of which killed three of Muammar Qaddafi’s grandchildren, seems to have been to eliminate the Libyan leader. Is this the real goal of the mission: to remove Muammar Qaddafi from power?  

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.

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 does not always do the bidding of western nations.

When he took power in a military coup in 1969, Colonel Qaddafi nationalized the Libyan oil industry. 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, opened up the Libyan oil industry to western investors. More recently, he began to threaten to renationalize it or to replace western businesses with companies from China, India, Russia, and Brazil.

POST–ELECTION ISSUES

 1. Civilian casualties: The declared goal of the mission is to protect civilians from Colonel Qaddafi’s security forces. There are already credible reports of civilian deaths resulting from NATO air strikes. As the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq demonstrate, aerial bombings by western forces pose an enormous danger to civilian populations. The use of unmanned drones in Libya increases the risk of civilian deaths.

2. Mission creep: Resolution #1973 authorizes international forces to act to protect civilians. It does not authorize them to support one side in a civil war or to remove Qaddafi from power. Targeted killings are in violation of international law.

3. Cost to Canadian taxpayers: How many millions (or will it be billions?) is the Libyan mission going to cost Canadians? A military expert, cited in the Leader-Post, says he’d “be surprised if it was anything less than $100 million” per month. That’s enough to build 435 affordable housing units every month.

4. Endless war: When Parliament resumes on June 2, one of the first items on the agenda will be an extension of the war in Libya. NDP foreign affairs critic, Paul Dewar, says the Official Opposition will not oppose an extension. When will this war end? Will it be another endless war?

TAKE ACTION: CITIZEN ENGAGEMENT AND EMPOWERMENT

  • Let Prime Minister Stephen Harper know you don’t want Canadians killing Libyans in the name of protecting Libyans; you don’t want any more of your tax dollars spent on the war in Libya; you want Canada out of Libya now: pm@pm.gc.ca or 613-992-4211.
  • Send the same message to the Leader of the Opposition, Jack Layton: Layton.J@parl.gc.ca or 416-405-8914.

 Democracy is much more than elections. In a true democracy, it is what happens between elections that really matters.

Stay informed: Read a daily newspaper. Watch the TV news. Listen to Human Rights Radio (Friday, noon–1 pm, CJTR FM 91.3). Visit Democracy Now! online (http://www.democracynow.org/).  

Make your voice heard: Engage in political discussions. Write letters to the editor. Contact your MP. Join us at the vigil (Every Thursday, noon–12:30 pm, Scarth Street at 11th Avenue).

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