Friday, February 25, 2011

Libya : Why military intervention by the US, Egypt or Tunisia would cost more lives than it would save and boost support for Gaddafi

My last two posts were on why Libyan defectors' claims about Gaddafi and Lockerbie may be lies like Iraqi defectors' claims on WMD; and on western governments' ulterior motive in Iraq, Libya, Iran and Venezuela - oil profits.

This post looks at the calls for military intervention by the US, Egypt or Tunisia - and suggestions for a 'no fly zone' to stop Gaddafi bombing rebels and whether these would be likely to save lives or cost them

Given the methods used by Coalition forces in Iraq – systematic torture and targeting civilians for instance – and the “El Salvador option” death squads and torturers they helped train for the new government - military intervention by the US and it’s allies would not be likely to result in any lives saved. Despite much propaganda most Iraqis were not better off as a result of the 2003 invasion and far more lives were lost than saved (1) – (3).

There are suggestions (for instance from Ian Birrel, a Guardian columnist and former speech writer to David Cameron)  that the Tunisian or Egyptian military could intervene to overthrow Gaddafi with UN Security Council approval, but these countries’ militaries don’t even have a good record on how they treat their own people and are both still run by dictatorships themselves (despite David Cameron’s attempts to portray any country he’s still promoting arms sales to as democracy, Egypt and Kuwait remain dictatorships) (4).

The Egyptian military have been involved in have recently been involved in the torture of opponents of the dictatorship according to Amnesty International (see 'Egyptian military urged to halt torture of detainees' Amnesty 17th February 2011). It doesn’t seem likely that either dictatorship would particularly want to promote democracy in the Arab world either.

An example of this kind of US and European government backed “humanitarian intervention” by proxy took place between 2006 and January 2009 in Somalia, when the US government backed an Ethiopian invasion of Somalia to overthrow the Islamic Courts Union which had just won a civil war with non Islamic fundamentalist,, but extremely brutal, warlords’ militias (5) – (6).

This resulted in Ethiopian army units raping and torturing Somalian villagers and slitting villagers’ throats as if they were goats according to witnesses who spoke to Amnesty International. The UN reported that there was a humanitarian crisis worse than in Darfur during the Sudanese genocide in both Somalia and among the 4.5 million inhabitants and refugees in the Ogaden region disputed between it and Ethiopia , many of whose people are Somali rebels who oppose Ethiopian rule. This was largely due to Ethiopian forces and their US backed Somalian warlord allies preventing food getting to areas held by their enemies and firing indiscriminately on entire towns and villages. Survivors said Ethiopian forces even killed children and a million refugees were left in Somalia and it’s neighbours. The Ethiopians eventually gave up due to heavy casualties and withdrew, just like the US in Iraq. All the killing and chaos did nothing to prevent Al Qa’ida operating in Somalia. As in Iraq, if anything the chaos made it easier for it to do so (5) – (12).

Once again oil and gas profits and control of a major export route (via the Gulf of Yemen or ‘Gulf of Aden’ between Somalia and Yemen – where Western oil companies are already operating) was probably a key motive for US involvement in Somalia too. Several oil companies - Agip of Italy , BP Amoco , and US company Conoco - have exploration and drilling rights for oil and gas which they negotiated with the murderous US-backed dictator Siad Barre before his overthrow in 1991 by his chief of police Mohammed Aidid. Those contracts remain on hold due to civil war. The bloody US-led Operation 'Restore Hope' in 1993 saw the killing of many UN peacekeepers and hundreds of Somali civilians - but failed to resolve the civil war in favour of America's protege - Barre's former interior minister Abdikassim Hassan (13) – (14).

Sending NATO fighter jets to enforce a no-fly zone in Libya has been suggested by President Sarkozy of France and by former Labour MP and Minister David Owen, to stop Gaddafi using planes on his own people. This did save some Kurdish lives from Saddam's helicopters in Iraq, but soon began to involve constant bombing by the USAF and RAF, killing Iraqi civilians along with military – and ramped up massively during ‘Operation Desert Fox’ under Clinton (which was the cause of Saddam  refusing to re-admit UN weapons inspectors until 2002, not a response to it – and they left, on US government directions, he didn’t expel them); and in the months before the March 2003 invasion under Bush (15) – (18).

Gaddafi would also most likely gain support among Libyans from any foreign military intervention in the country, which is why, in his televised speech, he asked them “Do you want America to occupy you, like Afghanistan and Iraq?” (19)

Many Iraqis who hated Saddam would fight foreign invaders or occupiers. The same would happen in Libya. Even a no-fly zone would have to be enforced by shooting down Libyan jets - and this and foreign fighter jets over Libyan skies would persuade many Libyans an invasion or occupation like Iraq was coming. This doesn't rule out a no-fly zone if Gaddafi begins having civilians bombed on a large scale, but has to be taken into account.

It’s better to let Gaddafi’s regime fall as more and more Libyans (including army units and tribal leaders with their armed followers) turn against him – and in future stop selling arms to dictatorships before the fact that they use them to kill their people in large numbers becomes headline news, instead of afterwards (20) – (21).

(1) = BBC News 23 Apr 2004 ‘Picture emerges of Falluja siege’,

(2) = Guardian 17 Apr 2004 ‘'Getting aid past US snipers is impossible'’,

(3) = Also see the links below and numbered sources listed for them, and and

(4) = 23 Feb 2011 ‘On Libya we can't let ourselves be scarred by Iraq’

(5) = USA Today 26 Dec 2006 ‘U.S. backs Ethiopian attacks in Somalia’

(6) = 23 Feb 2011 ‘On Libya we can't let ourselves be scarred by Iraq’

(7) = Napoleon A. Bamfo (2010) ‘Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia in 2006: Motives and lessons learned’, African Journal of Political Science and International Relations vol 4(2), Feb 2010, pages 55 -65,

(8) = Independent 22 Nov 2007, 'Somalia war-refugee crisis surpasses Darfur in its horror',

(9) = Independent 03 Dec 2007 'Humanitarian crisis' facing Ethiopia, says UN',

(10) = Independent 09 Feb 2008, 'Somalia: The World's forgotten catastrophe',

(11) = Amnesty International 06 May 2008 ‘Routine killings of civilians in Somalia’,

(12) = See (5) above

(13) = Los Angeles Times 18 Jan 1993 'The oil factor in Somalia', or  LATimes archive link

(14) = US Energy Information Administration ‘Yemen – Background’,

(15) = New York Times 18 Aug 1999 ‘With Little Notice, U.S. Planes Have Been Striking Iraq All Year’,

(16) = New Statesman 17 Aug 2000 ‘Labour claims its actions are lawful while it bombs Iraq, starves its people and sells arms to corrupt states’,

(17) = Guardian 19 Feb 2001 ‘Raid shows Bush-Blair bond on Iraq’,

(18) = Counterpunch 04 Dec 2002 ‘No-Fly Zones Over Iraq : Washington's Undeclared War on "Saddam's Victiims"’,

(19) = Channel 4 News 22 Feb 2011 ‘Gaddafi – I am not going to leave this land’,

(20) = Reuters 20 Feb 2011 ‘Libyan unit "defects" as more Arab protests simmer’,

(21) = Al Jazeera 21 Feb 2011 ‘Libya revolt spreads to Tripoli’,

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