By Gulamhusein Abba
Principally the US, UK and France have started taking “all measures necessary” to stop Libya, a duly constituted, independent, sovereign nation from, in effect, putting down a rebellion by a few Libyan tribes who were determined to effect a regime change.
At time of writing, according to news reports, 112 Tomahawk cruise missiles were fired from American and British ships and submarines. French fighter jets fired salvos, carrying out several strikes in the rebel held east. RAF Tornados, flying from Norfolk, bombed targets near Tripoli. Tomahawk missiles fired from a Royal Navy submarine hit targets around the coastal cities of Tripoli and Misrata.
This pounding of Moammar Gadhafi’s forces and air defenses with cruise missiles and air strikes hit 20 to 22 targets leaving targeted tanks and jeeps burning and causing “various levels of damage”. Libyan state TV reported that civilian areas of Tripoli as well as fuel storage tanks supplying the western city of Misrata hat been hit. A Libyan government spokesman claimed that many civilians had been hurt and ambulance crews had been doing their best to save as many lives as they could.
The overriding reason for this essentially western military intervention is claimed to be saving the lives of innocent Libyans being “massacred” by Gadhafi. The justification was that the world could not stand idly by when such a massacre was being carried out.
No figures are available as to the number of people that have been killed by Gadhafi forces.
This military intervention raises questions about international law, more particularly as to how far can a government go in putting down a rebellion and when any outside power or coalition of powers or even the UN can throw in its weight to support one side or the other in what is essentially a civil war raging in an independent sovereign nation.
Without going into the legal and political implications, a couple of puzzling and disturbing questions arise.
If the intervention was because, as president Obama said, Gadhafi was shooting at his own people, what about Yemen and Bahrain? Are not those governments also firing “on their own people”? Strikingly absent is any real harsh denunciation or even criticism of these two governments.
And where were these “world leaders”, who today are carrying out strikes against Libya, when China was subjugating and colonizing Tibet or putting down the uprising in Tiananmen Square, shooting their own people? And why did these powers not intervene when Israel was firing mortars and missiles and dropping mega bombs, in wave after wave of “operations” bearing fancy names against Gazans who were trying to overthrow Israel’s long running, illegal and brutal occupation of their land?
Also, Obama has warned Libya that it will face the wrath of the combined forces of US, UK, Franc and several other members of the latest “coalition of the willing” if it prevents humanitarian aid reaching Libya. Fair enough. But why was such a warning not given to Israel when it prevented ships carrying humanitarian aid from reaching Gaza?
Is it any wonder that the rest of the world (5 countries - Russia, China. India, Germany and Brazil - abstained from the UN vote) looks with suspicion about the real motives of this selective concern for the rebellious tribes of Libya?
Further, the claim that the reason for and purpose of the intervention is solely to protect the ‘innocent Libyan civilians’ who are being “massacred’ by Gadhafi becomes suspect when persons like the former British ambassador to Libya, Oliver Miles says it was clear that the long-term aim of the military action by the latest ‘coalition of the willing’ was to overthrow Colnel Gadhafi, and the British Foreign Secretary, William Hague says he cannot see a future with Colnel Gadhafi in charge. He told Sky News bluntly “We want him to go”.
The US will do well to remember that not all enemies of our enemy are necessarily our friends and that sometimes the one chosen to replace an undesirable ruler turns out to be worse!