By Bill Van Auken in the USA:
UN vote clears way for US-NATO attack on Libya
18 March 2011
The United Nations Security Council Thursday night approved a resolution that paves the way for the United States and other major imperialist powers to conduct a direct military intervention in Libya under the pretense of a “humanitarian” mission to protect civilian lives.
The resolution, sponsored by the US, France, Britain and Lebanon, goes far beyond earlier proposals for a no-fly zone, authorizing the use of military force including “all necessary measures … to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack.” These “areas” include Benghazi, the city of one million which remains the sole stronghold of the revolt that began against the Gaddafi dictatorship one month ago. The sole limitation placed by the resolution is its exclusion of “a foreign occupation force on any part of Libyan territory.”
The vote sets the stage for a bombardment of Libya by US, French and British warplanes. French Prime Minister Francois Fillon told France-2 Television that military action could begin within hours of the resolution’s approval. And the Associated Press cited an unnamed member of the British Parliament as saying, “British forces were on stand by for air strikes and could be mobilized as soon as Thursday night.”
American military officials have already warned that even the imposition of a no-fly zone entails the prior destruction of Libya’s air defense capabilities, meaning a major bombing campaign against Libya that will undoubtedly entail “collateral damage” measured in the killing and maiming of Libyan civilians.
The Wall Street Journal quoted Pentagon officials as saying, “Options included using cruise missiles to take out fixed Libyan military sites and air-defense systems … Manned and unmanned aircraft could also be used against Col. Gaddafi’s tanks, personnel carriers and infantry positions, with sorties being flown out of US and North Atlantic Treaty Organization bases in the southern Mediterranean.”
Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday, Gen. Norton Schwartz, the chief of the US Air Force, said that a no-fly zone would take “upwards of a week” to prepare, signaling a sustained bombing campaign. He also warned that in addition to US warplanes based in the US and Europe, aircraft would also have to be diverted from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Like others military officials, Schwartz said that the imposition of the no-fly zone would “not be sufficient” to halt the advance of forces loyal to the dictatorship of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, which have swept steadily eastward toward Benghazi over the past 10 days. Clearly, what is being prepared are air strikes against Gaddafi’s ground forces. The prospect of carrying out a bombing raid aimed at assassinating Gaddafi has also been broached.
These plans for war are motivated not by any desire to protect the Libyan people or further the cause of democracy, as its proponents within the UN Security Council proclaimed. The impending intervention in the oil-rich North African country is driven by profit interests and geopolitical imperatives that have nothing to do with the “humanitarian” pretenses of the major powers. The aim is to exploit the civil war in Libya to impose a regime that is even more subordinate to these powers and to the major Western oil conglomerates intent on exploiting the country’s resources.
The gross hypocrisy and cynicism of the imperialist powers backing the intervention was underscored by the choice of French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé to motivate the UN resolution. Juppé, who invoked the “Arab spring” as one of the “great revolutions that change the course of history,” recently assumed his post after his predecessor, Michèle Alliot-Marie, was forced to resign over a scandal involving her close political and private relations with the ousted Tunisian dictator Ben Ali. Juppé’s government was in the process of shipping anti-riot gear to its former colony when the mass protest forced the dictator to flee.
US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, who had worked to insert the “all necessary measures” language allowing for an open-ended military assault on Libya, praised the passage of the resolution, declaring, “The future of Libya should be decided by the people of Libya.”
This is unquestionably the case. The task of overthrowing the right-wing dictatorship of the Gaddafi clique is that of the workers and oppressed of Libya, who had begun to carry it out. The aim of the US-backed intervention, however, is precisely to abort any genuine revolution and ensure that any regime that replaces Gaddafi serves not the interests of the Libyan people, but rather the demands of Washington and Big Oil. The US hopes to use Libya, moreover, as a base of operations for suppressing revolutionary movements of workers throughout the region.
The Security Council vote was 10 in favor and five abstentions. The countries abstaining included Russia, China, Germany, Brazil and India. While, as permanent members of the council, both Russia and China had the power to defeat the resolution by casting “no” votes, they chose not to do so, ensuring that the UN continued to fulfill its function as a rubber stamp for the demands of the major imperialist powers.
In their statements explaining their abstentions, however, the ambassadors of the five countries made clear that the impending attack on Libya has nothing to do with any consensus by the “world community” to protect the Libyan people, but rather is the outcome of a conspiracy worked out in secret between Washington, London and Paris.
Russia’s UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin said that the measure “opens the door to large scale military intervention” and stressed that questions had been raised in the prior discussions of the resolution as to how it would be enforced, by what military forces and under what rules of engagement, but there had been “no answers.”
India’s ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri noted that while the UN Security Council had appointed a special envoy on the situation in Libya, it had received “no report on the situation on the ground” and was acting despite having “little credible information.” He said that there had been no explanation as to how the resolution was to be enforced, “by whom and with what measures.” He expressed concern over the fate of Libya’s “sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity.”
Singh also voiced reservations about a range of new economic sanctions, which target, among other entities, Libya’s national oil company. He said that the measures could disrupt trade and investment by member states.
Germany’s ambassador, Peter Wittig, warned that the authorization of the use of military force increased the “the likelihood of large-scale loss of life” and said that Germany’s armed forces would take no part in the intervention.
China’s ambassador Li Baodong, the acting president of the Security Council also voiced reservations, but then justified Beijing’s failure to veto the measure by invoking the vote last weekend of the Arab League calling on the UN to implement a no-fly zone.
NATO has also claimed this vote as somehow legitimizing intervention by demonstrating “regional support.” The reality is that the Arab League is itself composed of a collection of dictatorships, monarchies and emirates that in no way represent the desires or interests of the Arab people. Many of them are actively engaged in the violent suppression of popular upheavals.
While Washington has stressed that any intervention against Libya should include direct participation by the Arab countries, it appears that their involvement will be minimal. Following the visit to Cairo by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a spokeswoman for the Egyptian Foreign Ministry told Reuters: “Egypt will not be among those Arab states. We will not be involved in any military intervention. No intervention, period.”
On Thursday, the Arab League could name only two countries prepared to join the US-NATO assault: Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Both ruled by royal dynasties, the two emirates are direct participants in Saudi Arabia’s intervention in Bahrain to suppress the mass movement against the ruling monarchy. While security forces have shot protesters dead in the streets, invaded hospitals and carried out a reign of terror in Shia villages, none of the supposed champions of democracy in Libya are proposing any UN intervention in Bahrain, the headquarters of the US Fifth Fleet.
Meanwhile, the Rightist minority government in the Netherlands has said that it wants to participate in war on Libya; see also here. Participating in the bloody war in Afghanistan does not seem to be enough for them.
One “good” thing about the United Nations resolution is that it excludes foreign ground troops in Libya. However, yesterday evening, before the resolution was voted, a reporter of Dutch NOS TV in eastern Libya said foreign soldiers were already present in that part of Libya though they tried to look inconspicuous. Earlier, Libyan rebels had arrested and expelled British SAS soldiers.
Libya declared an immediate ceasefire and halted military operations against rebels today in a bid to prevent Western air strikes after the UN authorised a no-fly zone over the country: here.
Campaigners staged a mass demonstration outside Downing Street last night in opposition to Britain’s pursuit of military intervention in Libya.
Robert Naiman, Truthout: “It’s a great thing that the Obama administration has resisted calls for unilateral US military action in Libya, and instead is working through the United Nations Security Council, as it is required to do by the United Nations Charter. Now, the administration needs to follow through on this commitment to international law by ensuring that foreign military intervention remains within the four corners of what the UN Security Council has approved. If it does not, and instead Western powers take the view that we now have a blank check to do whatever we want, the certain consequence will be that it will be much more difficult to achieve Security Council action in a similar situation in the future, and those who complain that the Security Council is too cautious will have only themselves to blame”: here.