Political Promise

Conspiracy in Libya? Intervention is Saving Lives

In Peter Storey on April 21, 2011 at 8:00 am

Peter Storey is responding to Michael Pickles’ article yesterday, ‘The Great Libyan Conspiracy’.  He agrees with the UN intervention in Libya, not to remove Gaddafi from power, but from a humanitarian perspective.

I would just like to clarify at the start of this article that I am no neo-conservative. I do not believe we should enter every despotic regime guns blazing to bring democracy. One thing I do believe in, however, is humanitarian intervention.

With regards to Michael Pickles’ article, I believe there are a few things that need clearing up, especially historically.
Although my knowledge of the Balkans in the 1990s is somewhat limited (and so I shall choose to not deal with it), my knowledge of the causes of the Rwandan genocide is quite extensive and so I will provide a brief history lesson. The assassination of President Juvénal Habyarimana in 1994 provided the spark to the genocide in Rwanda. However, it was the decade long devaluation in the price of coffee (Rwanda’s main export), land shortages, overpopulation and the unsatisfactory end to the Rwandan Civil War (1990-1993) that truly caused the genocide. The Tutsi minority provided a perfect scapegoat as they were victims of persecution for decades and were the persecutors of the Hutu majority for centuries before that.

All this may seem like quite a nice history lesson, but one may be wondering how it relates to Libya and Mr. Pickles’ article. Firstly, although Mr. Pickles is correct in saying Habyarimana’s regime hadn’t been around for 30 years, it had been around for over twenty years. Habyarimana’s government bided their time and unleashed their genocide with the spark of the assassination. Even before the assassination, Habyarimana had ordered in the infamous machetes to commit such atrocities. Therefore, unlike Mr. Pickles assertion, Rwanda was not plunged into genocide by ‘a small number of genocidal maniacs’; they were plunged into genocide through the cold calculations of a regime that was clinging to power. Sound similar to Gaddafi and his sons? Rwanda was not a failed state – it was too successful a state.

Secondly, Rwanda, like Libya today, was dealing with a leader who was trying to reassert himself. Habyarimana’s regime was weak by this stage in their rule due to domestic issues (as explained), having to compromise with the Tutsi’s to end the Civil War and through having international pressure placed upon them to democratise Rwanda. Tutsis were made the scapegoats. For Colonel Gaddafi, he is also under obvious threats to his legitimacy and is in the middle of an armed insurrection as Rwanda had faced in the Civil War. If one were to listen to Gaddafi’s infamous rants lately, one would see him trying to scapegoat all sorts of groups, from the Western powers to Al-Qaeda. Clearly, if Gaddaffi were to reassert himself in the East, I’m sure he could magically root out a very large number of ‘Al Qaida members’ and have them shot.

Let me be clear at this stage; Tutsis were not a race. They were a socioeconomic grouping and the Habyarimana regime did not only advocate the killing of this loose group, they also advocated the killing of any sympathisers. As such, many Hutu were also killed. I’m not saying that something like this will happen in Libya, but there is a chance.

It is apparent that the Rwanda of 1994 and the Libya of 2011 have a lot more in common than Mr. Pickles would like to think.

With regards to the section on Libyan army deserters, I think it is difficult to justify that the amount of coalition planes in the skies above Libya will be enough to distract the vast majority of the Libyan army from the fact that they are fighting their own people, whilst a tiny minority are shooting at foreign planes. On top of this, Gaddafi still retains a significant amount of support in the army, especially in his mercenaries. I believe that all those that wanted to jump ship by this time from the Libyan military would have done so and any rebel sympathisers in the army take no solace in the fact that a few of them are taking pot-shots at planes.

One last issue I take with Mr. Pickles’ article is how he declares the intervention not to be internationally backed. Compare Libya to Iraq, Afghanistan, the Ivory Coast, or any other country that has had some sort of intervention in lately. What one will find is that it has usually been one or maybe a few powers intervening.

In this scenario, however, it is the UN, NATO, the Arab League and the African Union. Whilst the UN and AU are only offering political assistance, it still shows how this conflict wants to be resolved by the international community. The coalition including members of the Arab League is also significant; now it cannot be seen as total Western imperialism. Although Mr Pickles is right in saying that the regimes aiding may not have many democratic credentials themselves, it does not discredit the united mission of the diverse coalition.

Of course China and Russia are not wishing to intervene. They will never support anything along these lines because it will set a precedent that they will view as dangerous for intervention in domestic affairs. They see this intervention as a threat to their own autonomy; it is not them taking the moral high-ground by any stretch of the imagination.

To conclude, there is no ‘great Libyan conspiracy’. The British Armed Forces are too overstretched to be deployed, America is taking a back-seat role in the coalition and the UN mandate clearly states that there cannot be an occupation force. Yes, there is the history we have with Gaddafi over Lockerbie and other international terrorism, and I’m certain this played a factor in Cameron, Obama and Sarkozy jointly confirming their intention was to remove Gaddafi. However, let’s be clear – Libya, by far, is the country in the Middle East that requires international humanitarian intervention more than any other. Yes, it may be controversial, but it is necessary.

  1. Dear Mr. Storey,
    I detect you have some passions with the humanitarian crisis that is unfolding in Libya and I respect that. And I agree there is a humanitarian crisis unfolding there. I think the best way to alleviate the situation is to pump money into various organizations and UN specialized agencies that are dealing with the refugees flowing into Tunisia and Egypt. What I cannot accept is that the current no-fly zone being treated as part of some humanitarian operation. The no-fly zone was brought in by a SC resolution that most SC members did not vote for. I take the words and actions of Germany and India more seriously than Russia and China, and since both India and Germany did not support that SC resolution, and since both those countries contribute greatly to humanitarian causes, framing the no-fly zone or SC intervention as a humanitarian affair lacks serious credibility. Many countries, including those from the Arab League and the AU, have been condemning the bombings, by us, and were asking it to be stopped.
    Your present the case of Rwanda the same way I did, a case of a terror regime. An agenda was set to deliberately scapegoat and exterminate an identified people – the Tutsi. Where is the parallel in Libya? There is none. Qaddafi is killing those who are taking arms against him in a revolution seeking to oust him. Qaddafi is responding to a situation, he is not deliberately initiating an agenda to scapegoat and exterminate an identified people for some political end. I used the term genocidal maniacs to describe the small numbers of people responsible for the Rwandan genocide quite aptly. If you say there is more than a few, OK, I fail to see how the term becomes irrelevant. It’s either a couple of genocidal maniacs ordering battalions to kill innocent people or a regime of genocidal maniacs ordering more battalions to kill innocent people. You mentioned that the Rwandan genocide had its origins in a civil war. How does that relate to Libya? What is happening in Libya did not originate from some previous civil war or electoral fraud. The mass media is calling it a civil war arbitrarily. The revolution in Libya is happening across the board in Libyan society and the Libyan military. Qaddafi is keeping his authority intact by hiring mercenaries due to defections both politically and militarily. A new state is emerging from the one that is withering away under Qaddafi. You yourself touched on that difference between Qaddafi’s Libya and Habyarimana’s Rwanda without realizing. You explained that Habyarimana was responding to the consequences of a civil war, but Qaddafi wasn’t.
    You take issue to my observation that the intervention is not internationally backed – how? Before I proceed you brought in NATO and the Arab league, well discard them please. NATO is a military alliance and the Arab League composes of Kings, princes and military rulers… they are not charitable or humanitarian organizations forming part of the international community. If you actually read what many UN countries and AU counties and the rest are saying are two 1) condemnations of both sides and 2) stop the bombing being carried out under the no-fly zone. That is my observation. We have accidentally bombed and killed some rebels and I think some innocent civilians whatever the error. My concern is that when this becomes a repetition, to me it seems to be, my fear is that this could hatch ill-will against us by the Libyan people. It will distract their grievance against Qaddafi towards us and the Libyan revolution could be seriously undermined when the anger and focus of the Libyan people are split due to split grievances.
    My belief in how certain Western leaders are conspiring in regime change on the back of the no-fly zone stems from two burning observations;
    1) There has been (and probably will continue) a very active bombing of command centres in Libya. Our aircrafts are ordered to bomb command cerntres when they should really be enforcing the no-fly zone by challenging Libyan aircrafts and military units caught in violation. I think the idea behind the bombing of command centres is to kill Qaddafi or his sons or both, therefore achieving the objective of regime change.
    2) No similar actions are unfolding for places in a similar situation as Libya, for example; Bahrain, Yemen, Jordan and Syria and that is just the Middle East, what about places like Darfur? Remember Darfur? Where is the no-fly zone there? How about Sri-Lanka? Because our leaders are inconsistent with how they base their justifications or reasons that is why I suspect an exterior motive, a conspiracy, behind this particular intervention in Libya.
    3) Calls for Qaddafi to just go. What does that mean? How is that to be carried out legally within international law? Where will he go exactly? We are entering an ill-defined area here, but calls for him to go by a few Western leaders I find very suspicious.
    4) To address your conclusion, we do not need a big army for regime change, a simple bomb in the right command centre will just do and that is what is happening. Furthermore to you conclusion, do you advocate and demand similar international humanitarian interventions, they way you understand it, for places like Bahrain? For Yemen? For Darfur. For how many countries? If you do not or make excuses of logistical impossibilities than it just goes on to show that this Libyan intervention cannot be framed as a humanitarian intervention solely.
    Gaddafi was about to be removed by the Libyan people in a revolution the same way with Tunisia and Egypt. However, unlike the other two examples the protesters who should have remained peaceful saw the splintering off of armed revolutionaries. With our intervention, we have set into motion where Libya will be another Iraq for us in terms of committing ourselves to state-building (since we are actively bombing parts of it) that means spending more money we do not have. And if we do not deliver, the Libyan people will hold a grudge against us and hold us responsible for the destruction, not just pinning it down all on Qaddafi.

  2. ‘the cold calculations of a regime that was clinging to power.’ Sounds like western capitalism to me.

    ‘Compare Libya to Iraq, Afghanistan, the Ivory Coast, or any other country that has had some sort of intervention in lately. What one will find is that it has usually been one or maybe a few powers intervening.’
    I don’t think saying it’s more backed than the previous failures is really enough to say it’s got international backing. It has the backing of the ruling classes of many of the nations of the world. The ones who are completely out of touch with reality and see soldiers and lives as commodities and political assets. 2/3s of the UK opposed the no fly zone when it first came in, I reckon with this proposed further intervention that will be increased even more. You should look at the support of the people, not the support of the leaders.

    ‘America is taking a back-seat role in the coalition and the UN mandate clearly states that there cannot be an occupation force.’ The first part is not true: Just a couple of days ago America announced to the international press, along with the English and the French, that they want a further involvement. The letter said they effectively wanted to bend and manipulate the UN resolution so they could do as much militarily as they possibly could, I assume with the aim that a few of our guys die so they have a ‘mandate’ to put in the ground troops, though that may be me jumping to conclusions.

    ‘Libya, by far, is the country in the Middle East that requires international humanitarian intervention more than any other.’
    You didn’t provide any evidence for this in your article. Libya is the only country in the middle east to have descended into a sort of civil war, but in Libya at least there is a resistance, they are capable of fighting. In the other countries there is less violence reported because the rebellion just gets crushed with the might of the military of the country.

  3. With respect to the author of this article and fellow commentors on it I think a wider issue is being missed. The intervention including the No-Fly Zone and the strikes on Loyalist ground forces (UN backed or not, that is debatable) is rooted in cheap politics governed by easy answers, to a rather difficult situation. Cameron and Obama seem to be trying to pass off this belief that we can throw a few planes over, without putting in much advanced military hardware or tactics and then wait for things to stabilise. But the real question is how do we want this to end? Or rather how can it end.
    1. A Ghadaffi run Libya. Back to the status quo. Except it won’t be like before, because the resolve of NATO and the West will constantly be mocked and tested by Ghadaffi and his sons from then on. Any guarantees of amnesties or fair treatment for former rebels we can forget about. And what’s worse Libya will happily go back to the days of living outside of any influence from the Western world. And any prospect of reform will be unlikely to appear for many years. And Ghadaffi may very well go back to sponsoring terrorism, back to the 1980s effectively.
    2. Partition of Libya. I doubt this can work, since many historical divisions of nation states have always been shakey affairs. It is almost inevitable that border clashes will occur and Ghaddafi will implement some kind of asymmetrical warfare campaign to terrorise the rebels into submission or complete chaos. And then there is the question of who would actually enforce the partition, since countries have been lukewarm to do much to help already.
    3. We push for a short war by pulling out all of the stops. The US would bring in their advanced planes eg. Spectre Gunships, B2s and B52s and attack any Ghaddafi loyalist target. Arms dumps, command and communication points, oil outlets, ports, tank depots etc. On the rebel side we make support contingent on commitments to a peaceful settlement leading eventually to a representative interim government that will decide the future of the country. Ghaddafi will be made a target for killing or capturing, preferably the latter. But in true Hitlerian style I am sure he’ll go down with his rotten ship.

    Going in on the pretext of defending civilians is limited and patronising to any common person’s intelligence. Do the rebels count as civilians or just anyone unarmed? The narrow pretext of the UN Resolution was deliberately supported by the Obama-Cameron brain trust to conduct a worry-free kind of intervention. No intervention should be worry free OR skirt around hard questions. I say we do this all the way or not at all. Loud and proud regime change, or shut up in the name of dignity. That’s my 2 cents.

  4. Not only did NATO and others flatly dismissed Qaddafi’s proposal to have talks and to explore a ceasefire, according to the BBC they (i.e. including us, our government) launched whatever device and killed Qaddafi’s son and his grandsons in a building they were staying at. Storey, is this still a humanitarian intervention? This no-fly zone is serving a non-humanitarian purpose as devised by Cameron, Sarkozy, Obama and other conspirators along with their princely Arab collaborators.

    My fear is that when or if Qaddafi is cornered he does something really crazy maybe not just in Libya, but maybe here in the UK where innocent people will pay the price.

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