ATTACK ON LIBYA March 20, 2011Posted by wmmbb in North Africa.
An alliance of military powers, including France, the United Kingdom and the United States, have launched air and missile strikes on targets in Libya.
The Gaddafi Government is claiming that a number of civilians have already been killed that, if true, would contravene the UN resolution. The Guardian News Blog provided a summary of the military action:
• American and European warplanes and ships have been bombing Libyan bases and positions of Muammar Gaddafi’s military. There have been 110 cruise missiles fired, according to Britain and the US, and one large airbase alone is reported to have been hit with 40 bombs from an American stealth bomber. Meanwhile aircraft continue to arrive at Mediterranean bases from allied countries including Canada, Denmark and Spain.
• Libyan state TV has said there are 48 dead and 150 wounded from the attacks. Some reports suggest pro-Gaddafi fighters have been removing bodies from morgues of people who died in previous clashes and placing them at locations bombed by the allies to make it look like civilians have been hit.
• Condemnation of the attacks has come from China and Russia – who abstained from the UN security council vote approving military action against Libya. Both countries are routinely opposed to foreign military intervention in any country. The Arab League also called for a ceasefire, and the Venezuelan president, Hugo Chávez, led a chorus of protest by Libya’s Latin American allies.
• Gaddafi is reported to be holed up at the highly fortified Aziziya military compound where he lives in Tripoli, surrounded by thousands of loyalists who appear to have either offered themselves as a human shield or are looking for protection themselves. By telephone the Libyan dictator warned on state television that there would be chaos across the Mediterranean and North Africa because of the attacks on his country.
The purpose of the attack was to stop Gaddafi using aerial bombing, artillery and tank fire against civilian targets. What happens when the aerial attacks are called off? Is this precedent going to be followed from now on when civilians are subject to military attacks? My sense is that the scale and intensity of the aerial attacks are disproportionate to the intended objectives.
A recent posting on The Guardian blog suggests some answers:
10.15am: From a windy open field just outside Benghazi, our correspondent Chris McGreal, tells me that the power of the rockets launched by the French was significant and had ripped through tanks being used by Libyan forces which now stood burning.
He said military vehicles were “the principal advantage Gaddafi has over the rebels” and the attacks were likely to demoralise the Libyan forces.
The attack had been stealthy, coming with little warning.
“There was anger among the rebels that it took a good 24 hours for the attack to take place,” he said “but there is now a sense the tide has turned.”
Juan Cole suggests the UN Protection Mission is open-ended, not limited to taking down the capacity of the Gaddafi Government to effect air strikes against civilian populations.
Marwan Bishara at al Jazeera suggested prior to the attacks:
The most effective and constructive way to use the newly mandated use of force by the UN Security Council is to use as little of it, as accurately, as selectively as possible, and ideally not use it at all. It is still possible for the threat of the use of international force, coupled with domestic popular pressure, to bring down the weakened regime.
The worn out story is that is very easy to get involved, but it then proves difficult and costly to then get out of them.
Abdel al-Bari Atwan in http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/mar/18/relief-fade-real-impact-libya-intervention identifies six problems with the intervention:
Finally, there is the worry that the Arab spring will be derailed by events in Libya. If uprising plus violent suppression equals western intervention, the long-suffering Arab subjects of the region’s remaining autocrats might be coerced into sticking with the status quo.
The Libyan people face a long period of violent upheaval whatever happens. But it is only through their own steadfastness and struggle that they will finally win the peaceful and democratic state they long for.
On the this observation Chris Floyd notes:
The last point may be the crux of the matter. Western leaders have obviously been casting about for some way to put the brakes on the Arab Awakening before it sweeps away any more of their reliable client-dictators. Libya presents the perfect opportunity for them to muddy the waters, and try to turn the whole movement into the usual murky, bloody quagmire of global power politics.
John Quiggin, via Larvatus Prodeo, points out the Yemen Government has used the favourite tactic of using snipers against peaceful protesters causing the Human Rights Minister to resign. In recent months drones were flying against Yemen rebels on the pretext they were part of the air force of that country.
The Turkish PM has called for a quick end to the UN action in Libya to allow the people to sort out their future for themselves.