The claim constantly made by NATO governments that they have intervened militarily in Libya to protect civilians and promote democracy is obviously untrue when compared with their actions (and lack of them) in other countries.
Gaddafi’s forces certainly seem to have been killing civilians, but if that was the real motive for NATO intervention, rather than a useful pretext to cover other motives, why is there no intervention in Syria, where around 1,300 civilians are estimated to have been killed so far by snipers and tanks? (1). Why did the US and various EU governments continue to back Saleh’s dictatorship in Yemen as his snipers daily killed unarmed protesters, including children? (only stopping when it was clear Saleh wasn’t going to survive in power). Why do they continue to back the government of Bahrain after it did the same and attacked hospitals, ambulances, nurses and doctors; disappeared at least 500 people ; and charged doctors with treason for treating the wounded? Why did they continue training Bahraini military officers in the UK during the killings? Why is the British government continuing to provide British military training to Saudi snipers, especially when Saudi troops have moved into Bahrain, with many people (including Robert Fisk) believing the harshness of the crackdown and the reversal of King Al Khalifa’s previous reforms are the result of the Saudis now being the real rulers of Bahrain, in a quiet military ccupation which may have made Al Khalifa a powerless puppet of the Saudi monarchy? At the least, Saudis snipers trained by UK forces have been training Bahraini snipers – and Bahraini snipers have targeted civilians (2) – (5).
The targeting of civilians and ambulances by US snipers in the assault on Fallujah during the Iraq war; and systematic torture by Coalition forces in Iraq and US forces in Afghanistan (albeit under Bush rather than Obama), along with US backing for the ‘El Salvador option’ in Iraq via training for police commando and ‘counter-terrorist’ death squads there, also severely undermine the idea that the US is likely to intervene militarily to protect civilians, prevent human rights abuses and promote democracy (6) – (11).
Clearly the NATO intervention in Libya is not primarily motivated by human rights or democracy or concern to protect civilians. It’s primarily about NATO governments getting votes back home by being seen to defend civilians against one dictator who has been presented as the man behind the Lockerbie bombing; and about securing oil contracts for their firms on more favourable terms; as well as trying to ensure oil prices don’t rise to the point that economic growth in their own countries is threatened, which would be likely to lose them elections.
(1) = BBC News 19 Jun 2011 ‘Syria troops 'raid town' near Turkey border’, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/mobile/world-middle-east-13822249
(2) = PA 16 Jun 2011 ‘Bahrain medics accused of treason’, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/bahrain-medics-accused-of-treason-2293728.html
(3) = Independent 30 May 2011 ‘UK trained Bahraini army officers even after crackdown began’, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/uk-trained-bahraini-army-officers-even-after-crackdown-began-2290781.html
(4) = guardian.co.uk 28 May 2011 ‘UK training Saudi forces used to crush Arab spring’,http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/may/28/uk-training-saudi-troops
(5) = Independent 14 Jun 2011 ‘Robert Fisk: I saw these brave doctors trying to save lives – these charges are a pack of lies’, http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/fisk/robert-fisk-i-saw-these-brave-doctors-trying-to-save-lives-ndash-these-charges-are-a-pack-of-lies-2297100.html
(6) = Guardian 17 Apr 2004 ‘'Getting aid past US snipers is impossible'’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2004/apr/17/iraq
(7) = BBC News 23 Apr 2004 ‘Picture emerges of Fallujah siege’, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/3653223.stm
(8) = On torture in Afghanistan and Iraq see sources on this link
(9) = BBC News 27 Jan 2005 ‘‘Salvador Option’ mooted for Iraq’, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/from_our_own_correspondent/4209595.stm
(10) = NYT magazine 01 May 2005 ‘The Way of the Commandos’, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/05/01/magazine/01ARMY.html
(11) = The Nation 03 Jun 2009 ‘Iraq's New Death Squad', http://www.thenation.com/article/iraqs-new-death-squad ,(Shane Bauer, the journalist who investigated and wrote the article is currently being held in jail by the Iranian government on the ludicrous charge that he is a ‘US agent’)