Making Peace Vigil

Standing up for peace

LIBYA: THE BOMBING CONTINUES

Posted by strattof on August 2, 2011

Last month the Canadian parliament voted to extend Canada’s involvement in the NATO military operation in Libya to the end of September. Even the NDP and the Bloc, political parties that sometimes claim to be on the side of peace, voted for the extension. The only dissenting MP was Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party.

The stated goal of the NATO campaign, now in its 5th month, is to protect Libyan civilians from Muammar Qaddafi’s security forces. However, as is indicated by the relentless bombing of government buildings in Tripoli–airstrikes that have already killed one of Colonial Qaddafi’s sons and three of his young grandchildren–the real goal of the mission is “regime change”: to eliminate Colonel Qaddafi.

The recognition by the US and other western nations, including Canada, of the Transitional National Council, an anti-Qaddafi political body based in Benghazi, as Libya’s “legitimate governing authority” is a further indication that getting rid of Colonel Qaddafi is the real goal of the NATO campaign.  

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.

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 overthrew the US puppet government of King Idris in 1969, Colonel Qaddafi nationalized Libyan oil resources, thus making sure that Libyans benefited from their country’s oil wealth. He also closed the US military air base in Libya, the biggest in the region.

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.

At no point has Colonel Qaddafi been willing to allow the US to establish a military base in Libya. Following the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia and their overthrow of US puppet regimes, Washington became particularly anxious to have a military base in Libya.

THE COSTS OF WAR

HUMAN COSTS

The declared goal of the Libyan campaign is to protect civilians from attacks by Colonel Qaddafi’s forces. But, as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq demonstrate, aerial bombings pose an enormous danger to civilian populations.

As of mid-July, NATO had carried out about 5,600 airstrikes. According to Libya’s prosecutor general, these airstrikes have been responsible for the death of 1,108 civilians and the wounding of 4,500 more. So far, NATO has only accepted responsibility for 9 civilian deaths.

There are, however, credible reports of many more civilian casualties resulting from NATO airstrikes. For example, the Vatican news agency reported that, in Tripoli alone, at least 40 civilians died as a result of airstrikes in the first two days of the bombing campaign.

While NATO forces have suffered no casualties, many rebel fighters have been killed, some of them by misguided NATO airstrikes. Many members of Colonel Qaddafi’s security forces have also been killed.

In other words, NATO is killing Libyans in the name of protecting Libyans.

DOLLAR COSTS

As of June 2, the Libyan campaign had cost Canadian taxpayers $26 million. According to Minister of National Defence, Peter MacKay, the price tag by the end of September will more than double to $60 million.

OPPORTUNITY COSTS

What $60 million will get us:

  • 261 affordable housing units
  •  5,569 regulated childcare spaces

INFRASTRUCTURE COSTS

Colonel Qaddafi used much of Libya’s oil money to build schools, hospitals, roads, power stations, water treatment plants, and communication centres. Much of this infrastructure, the fundamental basis of civilian life, has been destroyed by NATO bombs.

POLITICAL COSTS

  • The Canadian parliament was not consulted until after Canada had gone to war against Libya, an undermining of democratic principles.
  • Targeted killings are in violation of international law.
  • It is against international law to intervene in a civil war.

TAKE ACTION

  • 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.

YOU CAN BOMB THE WORLD TO PIECES BUT YOU CAN’T BOMB THE WORLD TO PEACE

MICHAEL FRANTI

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