The United Nations Security Council voted on March 19 to approve a military intervention into Libya, with 10 votes in favour and five absentions.
It was presented as a response to calls from besieged rebels fighting the Muammar Gaddafi dictatorship for a “no-fly zone” to protect them, especially in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi. The rebels also said they opposed “Western intervention”.
However, the resolution opened the way for a much greater intervention. It authorised any action short of military occupation needed to “protect civilians”. Already, British SAS forces are reported to be on the ground.
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Cracks in support for the intervention opened almost as soon as the bombings started. On March 20, Amr Moussa, Secretary General of the Arab League — which had called for a “no-fly zone” — criticised the Western forces for targeting civilians.
On March 26, the forces attacking Libya were formally placed under NATO command.
Attacks by Gaddafi’s forces on Libyan towns have continued despite the Western bombing. The Gaddafi regime has also accused Western forces of targeting and killing civilians.
The Western forces deny this, but even the Western media has included some disturbing reports. This includes reports French forceshave bombed Libyan soldiers as they fled fighting and US forces shooting six villagers to “rescue” a US pilot — despite the villagers supporting the Western intervention.
It remains unclear whether the Western forces, who are divided over strategy, will go as far as imposing “regime change” on Libya.
The bombing campaign has included attacks on Gaddafi’s compound in the Libyan capital, Tripoli. Western forces have refused to rule out an attempt to kill Gaddafi.
Gaddafi’s dictatorship deserves to fall and those Libyans fighting his rule deserve support. But Western military intervention is no solution — any more than it was in Iraq or Afghanistan.
The West’s hypocrisy is blatant. At the same time as the West attacked Libya, US-backed regimes in Bahrain and Yemen sought to brutally crush the pro-democracy uprisings.
Bahrain was invaded by the armed forces of the Gulf Cooperation Council on March 15 — led by forces of the absolute monarchy in Saudi Arabia.
The March 25 Sydney Morning Herald said Robert Cooper, one of the EU’s highest-ranking diplomats, had dismissed the Bahrain violence, in which dozens have died, by saying: “Accidents happen.”
In Yemen, a horrific massacre of pro-democracy protesters took place on March 18. Snipers opened fire on unarmed protesters in the capital, Sana’a, shooting more than 40 people dead.
Yet reports on these crimes are largely absent from the corporate media.
Israel has carried out a series of attacks on Gaza since March 18, which a March 25 Xinhua.com article said had killed 10 people. Israel’s crimes take place with Western support and US military aid.
The “humanitarian” nature of US rockets was shown on March 17, when a pilotless US drone slaughtered more than 40 civilians in Pakistan. The October 12, 2010 Der Spiegel reported that CIA sources said more than 700 Pakistani civilians died in US drone attacks in 2009.
In Iraq, the horrors of the torture at Abu Ghraib and the merciless gunning down of civilians by US soldiers exposed by WikiLeaks in the “Collateral Murder” video were not exceptions — such atrocities took place daily.
The medical journal Lancet has estimated the number of deaths caused by the war in Iraq is more than one million people.
The Western forces’ claims to be acting out of humanitarian concerns for Libyans, or to be helping the Libyan pro-democracy revolution, have no credibility.
Western powers have propped up Arab dictators for decades. In turn, these regimes have been willing to impose neoliberal policies that open up countries in the oil-rich region to Western corporate interests.
Of course, the rebels celebrated the halting of Gaddafi’s offensive on Benghazi as a result of Western attacks. But the Western powers that are presenting themselves as saviours are not friends of the Libyan people or the Libyan revolution.
The Libyan rebels deserve support in their struggle to overthrow Gaddafi — who was armed by Western governments.
There were alternatives to the Western attacks that would have strengthened the poorly-armed Libyan rebels — including the provision of badly needed anti-aircraft weapons.
But what is occurring is not simple “support” from Western governments to Libyan rebels, it is a Western intervention with its own aims and agenda.
To support the West’s war but then to demand it not go too far is like supporting a train starting to move and then calling for it to stop after five metres when you don’t control the levers — and those who do have their own interests.
The struggle in Libya is part of the regional revolt that has spread, in different forms and levels of intensity, from Tunisia across to Iran.
This revolt has shaken — and in two cases overthrown — pro-Western dictatorships. The Arab revolution is a threat to Western domination of the region.
At the same time as Libya is bombed by the West, Western client states in other Arab countries are trying to drown the revolutions in blood.
These are two parts of the same strategy to undermine and destroy the Arab revolution.
The imperialists are seeking to crush revolts in Yemen, Bahrain and elsewhere, while in Libya they are seeking to use Gaddafi’s crimes to reassert themselves, take the initiative back from the Arab street and legitimise Western military invasions.
Gaddafi deserves to fall, but an imperialist-imposed regime change would not be a victory for the Libyan or Arab revolutions — it would be a victory for Western imperialism.
This is the lesson of the terrible US-led invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan — both justified on the grounds of the “need to act” against horrendous regimes.
Tunisia and Egypt have shown that liberation from dictatorships come from the people themselves — not Western bombs.
In Australia, the Greens have rightly opposed the wars on Afghanistan and Iraq — and won much respect for their stance.
Unfortunately, the Greens have joined with Labor and the Coalition to give support to the Western attack on Libya. The Greens have pointed to the UN’s endorsement of the attack and have defended it on humanitarian grounds.
In New Zealand, however, the Greens have rightly opposed the war. NZ Greens MP Keith Locke said on March 23: “Regime change is on the agenda, as it was in Iraq.”
The Australian Greens should take the lead from their NZ counterparts and reconsider their position.
Stripped of its cynical “humanitarian” rhetoric, Libya is the West’s latest imperialist war. This war should be opposed. It is not being waged in the interests of Libyan people.