Qaddafi, Moral Interventionism, Libya, and the Arab Revolutionary Moment

20 Mar

Qaddafi, Moral Interventionism, Libya, and the Arab Revolutionary Moment

Long ago Qaddafi forfeited the domestic legitimacy of his rule, creating the moral and political conditions for an appropriate revolutionary challenge. Recently he has confirmed this assessment by referring to the disaffected portion of his own citizenry as ‘rats and dogs’ or ‘cockroaches,’ employing the bloodthirsty and vengeful language of a demented tyrant. Such a tragically criminal imposition of political abuse on the Libyan experience is a painful reality that exists beyond any reasonable doubt, but does it validate a UN authorized military intervention carried out by a revived partnership of those old colonial partners, France and Britain, and their post-colonial American imperial overseer?

From a personal perspective, my hopes are with the Libyan rebels, despite their reliance on violence and the opaqueness  of their political identity.  As many credible exile Libyan voices attest, it would seem highly likely that a rebel victory would benefit the people of Libya and would be a step in the right direction for the region, especially the Arab world, but does this entail supporting Western-led military intervention even if it is backed by the United Nations? I believe not.

Let us begin with some unknowns and uncertainties. There is no coherent political identity that can be confidently ascribed to the various anti-Qaddafi

forces, loosely referred to as ‘rebels.’ Just who are they, whom do they represent, and what are their political aspirations? It is worth observing that unlike the other regional events of 2011 the Libyan rising did not last long as a popular movement of a spontaneous character, or unfold as a specific reaction to some horrific incident as in Tunisia. It seemed, although there is some ambiguity in the media reports, that the Libyan oppositional movement was armed and reliant on military force almost from the start, and that its political character seems more in the nature of a traditional insurrection against the established order than a popular revolution in the manner of Tahrir Square inspired by democratic values. This violent political reaction to Qaddafi’s regime seems fully justified as an expression of Libyan self-determination, and as suggested deserves encouragement from world public opinion, including support from such soft power instruments as boycott, divestment, and maybe sanctions. By and large, the international community did not resort to interventionary threats and actions in Libya until the domestic tide turned in favor of Tripoli, which means that the intervention was called upon to overcome the apparent growing likelihood that Qaddafi would reestablish order in his favor, and therefore this international intrusion on the conflict represents a coercive effort to restructure a country’s governing process from without.

The main pretext given for the intervention was the vulnerability of Libyan civilians to the wrath of the Qaddafi regime. But there was little evidence that such wrath extends beyond the regime’s expected defense of the established order, although admittedly being here undertaken in a brutal manner, which itself is not unusual in such situation where a government and its leadership is fighting for their survival. How is this Libyan response different in character than the tactics relied upon by the regimes in Yemen and Bahrain, and in the face of far less of a threat to the status quo, and even that taking the form of political resistance, not military action. In Libya the opposition forces relied on heavy weapons, while elsewhere in the region the people were in the streets in massive numbers, and mostly with no weapons, although in a few instances, with very primitive ones (stones, simple guns) that mainly were used in retaliation for regime violence.

It may have been the case that the immediate Libyan governmental response was predictably brutal and militarist, and that the rebel opposition felt that it had no choice. But it should have been clear from the experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan that military intervention against a hated and brutal regime is not the end of the story, and before the ending is reached violence cascades to heights far beyond what would have likely resulted had there been no intervention. In the process heavy casualties are inflicted and massive displacements occur causing immense suffering for the entrapped and innocent population. In effect, overall historical trends vindicate trust in the dynamics of self-determination despite the fact that short-term disillusioning disasters may and do occur from time to time. These trends similarly underscore the inherently problematic character of intervention, even given the purest of motivations, which rarely, if ever, exists in world politics on the side of intervening parties.

But it can be asked, what about Rwanda, Bosnia (especially, the massacre at Srebrenica)? Are not these instances where humanitarian intervention should have been undertaken and was not? And didn’t the NATO War in Kosovo demonstrate that humanitarian intervention does sometimes spare a vulnerable population from the ordeal of genocidal ethnic cleansing? With respect to Rwanda and Bosnia, the threat of genocidal behavior was clearly established, and could likely have been prevented by a relatively small-scale intervention, and should have been undertaken despite the uncertainties. The facts surrounding the alleged genocidal threat in Kosovo remain contested, but there was a plausible basis for taking it seriously given what had happened a few years earlier in Bosnia. But just as the Libyan rebels raise some suspicion by seeking Euro-American military intervention, so did the KLA in Kosovo engage in terrorist provocations that led to violent Serb responses, allegedly setting the stage in 1999 for NATO’s ‘coalition of the willing.’ NATO went ahead in Kosovo without the benefit of a Security Council mandate, as here, for military action ‘by all necessary means.’ But with respect to Libya there is no firm evidence of a genocidal intention on Qaddafi’s, no humanitarian catastrophe in the making, and not even clear indications of the extent of civilian casualties resulting from the fighting. We should be asking why did Russia signal its intention to veto such authorization in relation to Kosovo, but not with respect to Libya. Perhaps, the Russian sense of identification with Serb interests goes a long way to explain its opportunistic pattern of standing in the way on the earlier occasion when interventionary forces gathered a head of steam in the late 1990s, while standing aside in 2011 in deference to the Euro-American juggernaut.

One of the mysteries surrounding UN support for the Libyan intervention is why China and Russia expressed their opposition by abstaining rather than using their veto, why South Africa voted with the majority, and why Germany, India, and Brazil were content to abstain, yet seeming to express reservations sufficient to produce ‘no’ votes, which would have deprived the interventionist side of the nine affirmative votes that they needed to obtain authorization. Often the veto is used promiscuously, as recently by the United States, to shield Israel from condemnation for their settlement policy, but here the veto was not used when it could have served positive purposes, preventing a non-defensive and destructive military action that seems imprudent and almost certain in the future to be regarded as an unfortunate precedent.

The internal American debate on the use of force was more complex than usual, and cut across party lines. Three positions are worth distinguishing: realists, moral interventionists, moral and legal anti-interventionists. The realists, who usually carry the day when controversial military issues arise in foreign policy debates, on this occasion warned against the intervention, saying it was too uncertain in its effects and costs, that the U.S. was already overstretched in its overseas commitments, and that there were few American strategic interests involved. The moral interventionists, who were in control during the Bush II years, triumphantly reemerged in the company of hawkish Democrats such as Hilary Clinton and Joseph Biden, prevailing in the shaping of policy partly thanks to the push from London and Paris, the acquiescence of the Arab neighbors, and the loss of will on the part of Moscow and Beijing. It is hard to find a war that Republicans will not endorse, especially if the enemy can be personalized as anti-American and demonized as Qaddafi has been, and it always helps to have some oil in the ground! The anti-interventionists, who are generally reluctant about reliance on force in foreign policy except for self-defense, and additionally have doubts about the effectiveness of hard power tactics, especially under Western auspices. These opponents of intervention against Qaddafi were outmaneuvered, especially at the United Nations and in the sensationalist media that confused the Qaddafi horror show for no brainer/slam dunk reasoning on the question of intervention, treating it almost exclusively as a question of ‘how,’ rather than ‘whether,’ and once again failing to fulfill their role in a democratic society by giving no attention to the full spectrum of viewpoints, including the anti-intervention position.

Finally, there arises the question of the UN authorization itself by way of Security Council Resolution 1373. The way international law is generally understood, there is no doubt that the Security Council vote, however questionable on moral and political grounds and in relation to the Charter text and values, resolves the legal issue within the UN system. An earlier World Court decision, ironically involving Libya, concluded that even when the UN Security Council contravenes relevant norms of international law, its decisions are binding and authoritative. Here, the Security Council has reached a decision supportive of military intervention that is legal, but in my judgment not legitimate, being neither politically prudent nor morally acceptable. The states that abstained acted irresponsibly, or put differently, did not uphold either the spirit or letter of the Charter. The Charter in Article 2(7) establishes a prohibition on UN authority to intervene in matters ‘essentially within the domestic jurisdiction’ of member states unless there is a genuine issue of international peace and security present.  Here there was not the basis for an exception to non-intervention as even the claim was supposedly motivated solely to protect the civilian population of eastern Libya, and hence was squarely within the domestic jurisdiction of Libya.

Besides, the claim to intervene as stated was patently misleading and disingenuous as the obvious goals, as became manifest from the scale and nature of military action as soon as the operation commenced. The actual goals of the intervention were minimally to protect the armed rebels from being defeated, and possibly destroyed, and maximally, to achieve a regime change resulting in a new governing leadership for Libya that was friendly to the West, including buying fully into its liberal economic geopolitical policy compass. The missile attacks in the vicinity of Tripoli, especially the early missile hits on the Qaddafi compound are unmistakable signatures of this wider intention. As the Gulf War in 1991 demonstrated, once the Security Council authorizes military action of an unspecified character, it gives up any further responsibility for or effort to maintain operational control and accountability.

Using a slightly altered language, the UN Charter embedded a social contract with its membership that privileged the politics of self-determination and was heavily weighted against the politics of intervention. Neither position is absolute, but what seems to have happened with respect to Libya is that intervention was privileged and self-determination cast aside. It is an instance of normatively dubious practice trumping the legal/moral ethos of containing geopolitical discretion in relation to obligatory rules governing the use of force and the duty of non-intervention.  We do not know yet what will happen in Libya, but we already know enough to oppose such a precedent that exhibits so many unfortunate characteristics.  It is time to restore the global social contract between territorial sovereign states and the organized international community, which not only corresponds with the outlawry of aggressive war but also reflects the movement of history in support of the soft power struggles of the non-Western peoples of the world.

If ordinary citizens were allowed to have foreign policy doctrines mine would be this: without high levels of confidence in a proposed course of military action, the UN should never agree to allow states to engage in violent action that kills people. And if this cautionary principle is ignored, governments should expect that their behavior would be widely viewed in the public as a species of international criminality, and the UN is likely to be regarded as more of a creature of politics than law and morality. For these reasons it would have been my preference to have had the abstainers in the Security Council voting against Resolution 1973. It is likely that the coalition of the willing would have gone forward in any event, but at least without the apparent UN seal of approval.

32 Responses to “Qaddafi, Moral Interventionism, Libya, and the Arab Revolutionary Moment”

  1. kester2 March 20, 2011 at 5:32 pm #

    I completely disagree with your assessment. It is time to complete the task of setting up the R2P regime that was prompted by the massacres you mention but subsequently sidelined due to its implications for the powerful. Without any motive to protect the unilateral actions of any UN member state, the oversight of all dictatorial and oppressive regimes to prevent their assaults on their own citizens must be welcomed as a necessary advance in our ongoing development of International cooperation.

    Appealing to the rule of law and advising caution when faced by the actions of psychopaths is irrational. We may not know what the Libyan result might be (it’s really not our business), but those who interfere with their words are equally guilty of interventionism.

  2. Ray Joseph Cormier March 20, 2011 at 5:47 pm #

    There is enough proof now the West is fighting on the side of the armed rebels. WE didn’t see the Tunisians, Egyptians, the Yemenis or the Bahrainians in tank battles or having trucks with rocket launchers and other military equipment fighting the established order.

    I am posting this not because I support Gadaffi the Dictator, but the hypocrisy of the powers of this world reeks to High Heaven, and thinking their intervention will bring Peace and Security to the region, it will do the opposite.

    It took over three weeks before the outrage of the world’s ordinary people found their voices and moved the Western Powers to call for a stop to the carnage from the air by the IDF.

    Gaza, the ghetto/prison was sealed of with no way out for civilians.

    So are the paths of all that forget God; and the hypocrite’s hope shall perish:
    Whose hope shall be cut off, and whose trust shall be a spider’s web.
    He shall lean upon his house, but it shall not stand: he shall hold it fast, but it shall not endure. Job 8:13-15

    Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him.
    He also shall be my salvation: for a hypocrite shall not come before him. Job 13:15-16

    For the congregation of hypocrites shall be desolate, and fire shall consume the tabernacles of bribery.
    They conceive mischief, and bring forth vanity, and their belly prepares deceit. Job 15:34-35

    For you have hid their heart from understanding: therefore you will not exalt them.
    He that speaks flattery to his friends, even the eyes of his children shall fail.
    He has made me also a byword of the people; and aforetime I was as a tabret.
    My eye also is dim by reason of sorrow, and all my members are as a shadow.
    Upright men shall be astonished at this, and the innocent shall stir up himself against the hypocrite.
    The righteous also shall hold on his way, and he that has clean hands shall be stronger and stronger.
    But as for you all, do you return, and come now: for I cannot find one wise man among you.
    Job 17:3-10

    Do you not know this of old, since man was placed upon earth,
    That the triumphing of the wicked is short, and the joy of the hypocrite but for a moment?
    Though his excellency mount up to the heavens, and his head reach unto the clouds;
    Yet he shall perish for ever like his own dung: they which have seen him shall say, Where is he? Job 20:7-7

    For what is the hope of the hypocrite, though he has gained, when God takes away his soul?
    Will God hear his cry when trouble comes upon him? Job 27:8-9

    But the hypocrites in heart heap up wrath: they cry not when he binds them.
    They die in youth, and their life is among the unclean. Job 36:13-14

    When you see a cloud rise out of the west, straightway you say, There comes a shower; and so it is.
    And when you see the south wind blow, you say, There will be heat; and it comes to pass.
    You hypocrites, you can discern the face of the sky and of the earth; but how is it that you do not discern this time? Luke 12:54-56

    And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory.
    And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.
    For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth (Pope. Kings, Princes, Presidents, Prime Ministers, CEOs, the very Rich) have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies.
    And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that you be not partakers of her sins, and that you receive not of her plagues.
    For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities.
    Revelation 18

  3. Ed Kendrick March 20, 2011 at 8:10 pm #

    With oil flow from Egypt stopped now for about a month, securing Libyan oil for Israel became a priority. Obama wouldn’t move his little finger without Israel’s permission and blessings.

    Thanks for your courage about 9-11. How about taking it up a notch and noting that the complicity of mass media, Hollywood, the Congress, and the Courts are big clues as to the many Israeli-ZIonist connections to planning, orchestrating and covering up 9-11?

    The shadow government of the US can enforce UN resolutions on Libya and give Israel a pass–and a veto–at every atrocity and crime.

  4. deepaktripathi March 21, 2011 at 3:55 am #

    A comparison between the intervention now underway in Libya in support of armed rebels, including some military units, and the recent events in Bahrain, most notably the Saudi intervention, at once highlight the tragic contradictions. On Libya, the US, France and Britain outmaneuvered the doubters in the UN Security Council. On Bahrain, any resolution calling for a humanitarian intervention to protect peaceful demonstrators from the two-thirds Shi’ite majority against the brutality of the forces of the Sunni ruling family was most unlikely to come before the Security Council. But even if such a resolution would have been put forward, there would have been one or more Western vetoes.

    As events have transpired, the West has succeeded in intervening in Libya for “humanitarian reasons” while the West’s closest ally in the Arab World Saudi Arabia (the leader of Sunni Islam) has moved its troops into Bahrain to crush peaceful Shi’ite (majority) opposition with greater brutality – in the name of stability.

  5. notexactlyhuman March 21, 2011 at 3:13 pm #

    Who are the psychopaths, and how do you distinguish them? By their accumulated body counts? And what of America, who arms for profit more psychopaths than any other nation, including its own citizens? This Cult of Death wreaks of rotten flesh. Had the “rebels” not taken up arms, I would have believed the uprising in Libya to be a force of good, like that of Tunisia and Egypt. But the moment I saw photos of Libyans cruising in crowded pickup trucks, brandishing rocket launchers, assault rifles, and driving tanks, looking like a rabid Rwandan death squad straight out of the 90’s, it was over, and the bombs began raining down from Ghaddafi’s US armament. Libya was/is a setup. But, hey, BP is still pumping oil. That’s all that really matters, right. And now the oil companies will be off the hook from paying extortion moneys; paying Ghaddafi’s terrorism fines.

    But there are a few things that we Americans can look into to determine our nation’s plausible moral authority in areas of intervention. The most important being the US Military’s blatant racism.

    “Whilst no doubt much of the reporting will attempt to portray this as a rogue element with the US army it worth noting significant changes in recent practice that enable and indeed foster a culture of dehumanised barbarism with the military. Much of this is a actually a result of fewer and fewer american’s actually sigining up for the US continual military programme in support of neo-liberal expansionism. So much so that the Army dropped its prohibition on neo-nazi’s joining the army in 2009. Matt Kennard writing in July 2009 said:

    ‎”I spoke with neo-Nazi soldiers who had served in Iraq and the picture they painted was truly awful: the level of hatred for Arabs they evinced made me shudder to think what effect this had in the war zone. I talked to non-extremist veterans who said the general culture of racism towards Iraqis or “hajjis” would make it difficult even to notice a white supremacist soldier as everybody was at it, including the brass.”

    “We had clean body bags set up so we could sort the flesh,” she said. “Sometimes things come in with nametags. Or sometimes one is Hispanic and you could tell who was Hispanic and who was the white guy. We tried separating flesh. It was ridiculous. We would open a body bag and there was nothing but vaporized flesh. There were not four hands or a whole leg in a bag. We tried to distribute the mush evenly throughout the bags. We were trying to do the best we could sorting it out. We had the last body bag come in. We opened up the body bag and it was filled with the heads. I looked at four before looking away. Not only did we have to look at them, we had to pick them up and figure out who it belonged to. The eyes were looking back at us. We got used to a lot of it. But the heads worked the other way. They affected us more strongly as time passed. We saw on the heads the expressions of fright and horror. It made us wonder what we were doing here.”

  6. Ron Keehn March 21, 2011 at 9:40 pm #

    Your poor dead parents must be rolling over in their graves with shame.

    When do you plan on testifying to another useless & one-sided UN body about the slaughter of 5 innocent Israelis, including a 3 month old with a slashed throat?

    You should be ashamed.

    • Richard Falk March 21, 2011 at 11:22 pm #

      It was a horrific incident, but before assuming Palestinian responsibility you
      should look at the existing evidence, which points to a Thai migrant worker
      who was employed by the family, and then escaped to a nearby village, and has not been captured. The Palestinian Authority has offered to conduct with Israel a joint inquiry into these events. It us disturbing that the media has not allowed for a better understanding of the incident.

      • Daniel March 22, 2011 at 2:14 pm #

        If it turns out that this was committed by the PA, will you go back to
        The UN and condemn it?

  7. deepaktripathi March 22, 2011 at 12:38 am #

    Paul Craig Roberts, a conservative critic of the George W. Bush and Obama administrations, makes a relevant point in a comment in the Foreign Policy Journal:

    “The over-riding issue for the US is that its president has launched a way without any consultation whatsoever with the US Congress, which under the Constitution
    has the power to decide whether to go to war. Rep. Kucinich says that Obama has committed an impeachable offense, and he surely has. However, the castrated and impotent Congress will never again stand up to the executive branch in defense of Congress’ powers. The US has entered the age of the caesars.”

    • Richard Falk March 22, 2011 at 12:49 am #

      Thanks, Deepak, for your relevant comments on the Libyan intervention. I think the constitutional issue is important, and I agree with Roberts that there is no political will in either the Congress or media to take issue with this imperial conception of presidential control over war/peace issues. Such a situation amounts to a voluntary abandonment of one of the essential features of democratic governance, republican style.

  8. Richard Rubenstein March 22, 2011 at 7:54 am #

    As usual, Richard Falk gets it right. This war is unjust for several reasons, above all, in my view, because there was not one serious effort at nonviolent conflict resolution made before initiating the US/European attacks.
    I argue this at greater length at
    Falk’s comments should be widely read and quoted.

    • Richard Falk March 22, 2011 at 10:21 am #

      Thanks, Rich, and I agree very much with your emphasis on the importance of a diplomatic failure as a necessary, if not sufficient, condition for any resort to military measures.

  9. Daniel March 22, 2011 at 1:40 pm #

    The United States is not imperialist. Get your facts straight, please.

    • Ray Joseph Cormier March 23, 2011 at 5:39 am #

      Definition of IMPERIALISM
      : imperial government, authority, or system
      : the policy, practice, or advocacy of extending the power and dominion of a nation especially by direct territorial acquisitions or by gaining indirect control over the political or economic life of other areas; broadly : the extension or imposition of power, authority, or influence

  10. Marie Edwards March 23, 2011 at 6:55 pm #

    I thought the best might be, I distribute an article from counterpunch that agrees with my first hand knowledge regarding Libya.

    March 23, 2011
    Blood in the Desert
    Bombing Libya: 1986 – 2011

    In 1987 I was a member of the 1st US Peace Delegation to Libya. We went there to commemorate the 1st anniversary of the US bombing of Libya in 1986.

    In April 1986 US warplanes struck Tripoli at 2 am. They bombed the Gaddafi family residence, wounding several of his family members and killing his 15-month-old daughter. My daughter was about the same age at the time and I really, really felt it.

    The US planes also bombed a civilian apartment complex, miles from any military targets, killing dozens of children as they slept. I helped place flowers on the graves of these children in the Martyrs Cemetery located in the middle of the old Italian race track in Tripoli.
    This past Sunday morning I woke up and turned on the news to see a grieving Libyan family burying their 3-year-old daughter, killed as she slept by the latest US attack on Libya.

    Over the past quarter century I have followed developments in Libya and since moving here to Eritrea in 2006 have even had Col. Gaddafi spend the night in his tent on the beach down the road from our home on the Red Sea.

    The USA seems to need an Arab or Muslim boogeyman to hate. Before Osama Bin Laden there was Saddam Hussein and before Saddam Hussein there was Muammar Gaddafi. With such a long history involved it seems that almost everyone needs to be brought up to date on what is really going on in Libya.

    First, some history. In 1969 when Col. Gaddafi came to power by overthrowing the Libyan king in a military coup, Libyan’s were one of the poorest people in the world with an annual per capita income of less than $60.
    Today, thanks to the “Arab Socialism” policy of the government as well as bountiful petroleum exports, the Libyan people enjoy one of the highest standards of living in the Arab world. Most Libyan families own their own home and most Libyan families own an automobile.
    The free public health system in Libya is one of the best in the Arab world and Libya’s free education system up to the graduate level is as good if not better than any other in the region.

    So the question is, why has a revolt broken out?
    The answer, which I have been intensely researching for the past month is not a simple one.

    The revolt started in Benghazi in eastern Libya. A very important point not mentioned anywhere in the international media is the fact that due to geographic location, being one of the closest point to Europe from the African continent, Benghazi has over the past 15 years or so become the epicenter of African migration to Europe. At one point over a thousand African migrants a day were pouring into Libya in hopes of arranging transport to Europe.

    The human trafficking industry, one of the most evil, inhumane businesses on the planet, grew into a billion dollar a year industry in Benghazi. A large, viscous underworld mafia set down deep roots in Benghazi, employing thousands in various capacities and corrupting Libyan police and government officials. It has only been in the past year or so that the Libyan government, with help from Italy, has finally brought this cancer under control. With their livelihood destroyed and many of their leaders in prison, the human trafficking mafia has been at the forefront in funding and supporting the Libyan rebellion. Many of the human trafficking gangs and other lumpen elements in Benghazi are known for racist pogroms against African guest workers where over the past decade they regularly robbed and murdered Africans in Benghazi and its surrounding neighborhoods. Since the rebellion in Benghazi broke out several hundred Sudanese, Somali, Ethiopian and Eritrean guest workers have been robbed and murdered by racist rebel militias, a fact well hidden by the international media.
    Benghazi has also long been a well-known center of religious extremism. Libyan fanatics who spent time in Afghanistan are concentrated there and a number of terrorist cells have been carrying out bombings and assassinations of government officials in Benghazi over the past two decades. One cell, calling itself the Fighting Islamic Group, declared itself an Al Qaeda affiliate back in 2007. These cells were the first to take up arms against the Libyan government.

    The last, and most difficult problem that has been festering in Libya is based on well known backward cultural beliefs in Libyan society. Libyans will not take jobs they consider “dirty”. Back in 1987 the Libyan English Department students who were our escorts talked openly about this problem. Libyan youth who finish their education will not take entry-level jobs that involve any menial work. They expect to have immediate employment in well-paid positions with good salaries, nice apartments and new automobiles.

    The Libyan government has been forced to import hundreds of thousands of guest workers to do the “dirty work” Libyans refuse to do, first from sub-Saharan Africa, and later from Asia.

    The result of this is that thousands of Libyan youth are unemployed, living at home off of their families and this parasitical existence has lead to a serious social problem. Alcohol, banned in Libya, and drug abuse among the youth has been a growing problem.

    All of these diverse social problems came to a head when the Arab street began its uprising against their Western supported elite’s, first in Libya’s neighbor Tunisia and then Libya’s other neighbor, Egypt.

    When the first demonstrations of discontented youth took place in Benghazi the loose coalition of terrorist cells and human trafficking gangs immediately took advantage of the turmoil to attack the high security prisons outside of Benghazi where their comrades were locked up. With the release of their leadership the rebellion began attacking police stations and government offices and Benghazi residents began to wake up to the sight of dead bodies of police officers hanging from freeway overpasses.

    The Libyan government lead by Col. Gaddafi has always been careful to not allow a large, powerful regular army to develop, instead relying on a system of “revolutionary committees” to run local communities and oversee security in the country.

    These “revolutionary committees” had never been seriously tested and were slow to respond to the rapidly spreading rebellion. Eventually the Libyan government was able to organize itself and took the offensive against the rebellion. The rebels, mostly untrained youth and loosely organized militias were driven from their newly won territory and it became apparent that their rebellion would fail. Even high ranking US intelligence officials admitted as such publicly. It is now widely recognized, at least in the Arab and African world, that the majority of Libyans support their government lead by Col. Gaddafi and that the rebellion is supported by a minority of Libyans. The end of the rebellion seemed to have become inevitable.

    With the Libyan government military forces on the outskirts of Benghazi and the rebellion seemingly doomed, a decision was made in USA along with its henchmen in London and Paris to attack Libya and overthrow the Libyan government lead by Col. Gaddafi.
    Libya is an oil rich nation, close to Europe, with the largest proven oil reserves on the African continent. With such an enormous prize at stake the decision was made to launch an attack on Libya, a massacre really, for there is no defense today against cruise missiles and high altitude bombing, especially when it is done only at night, to hell with civilian casualties.

    After their attacks and invasions of Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia few people in the world believe the western claims of attacking Libya out of concern for preventing civilian loss of life. The USA and its European allies are taking a very dangerous gamble in attacking Libya today. With the Arab countries facing the possibility of real revolutionary situations developing, by which I mean armed revolts against their western backed elite’s, the attack on Libya could eventually ignite the very explosion the west is so desperate to prevent.

    It is impossible to say where the attacks on Libya by the west will lead, to a Kosovo repeat or eventual victory for the Libyan government headed by Col. Gaddafi?
    The one thing that is certain is that the Libyan people will pay a steep price to keep their country, a price that will inevitably have to be paid in Libyan blood.
    I am already making plans to visit Libya this time next year, hopefully as part of the 2nd US Peace Delegation to Libya. God only knows how many flowers we will need for all the graves of Libyan children killed in this latest massacre committed by the USA and it European partners.

    Thomas C. Mountain is Asmara, Eritrea. He can be reached at: thomascmountain at yahoo dot com

    • arosha September 30, 2011 at 3:19 am #

      II would like to say…you are wrong to large extent…in regards to that “the Libyan people enjoy one of the highest standards of living in the Arab World”..this is just on the theory “when you divide the national income, which are completely from oil” on the Libyan population…”which are the lowest in MENA” yes it seems that we libyan got the highest!!!!
      …but on the reality…there are more than one million suffering from poverty…Living in houses of tin .. and can not get extensions of water and electricity …There are thousands of families who are begging for food from relative and neighbours….health care is free as it seems, but we paid to much from our wellness” because what is there are dustbins not hospitals…the thing that you do not know “if you are going to have injection you must go the nearest pharmacy to buy (Needle injection) because it is not available in the hospital..”This is just a simple example”.
      Ambulance cars are not available for the ordinary people, it just for the special groups such as Qaddafi’s followers or what so called revolutionary committees.every thing for them nothing for the others who been described as Rats.
      Libya receives an income reached 18 billion dollar every year…and most of Libyans get less than 200 dollar a month …do you know if you get a new child the government will increase the monthly salary by just 5 Libyan dinars, and one can of milk for child cost 4.5 Libyan dinar, and one bag of children diaper cost 10 dinar, and one can of cereal cost 6 what 5 dinar a month can do…!!!!!
      I can give a thousand of examples for our suffering from low standards of living. I am ordinary Libyan a mother of four children, I did not receive any support for my Autism child, I sold my jewels to take my daughter to Jordan just for diagnosing, in Jordan after years of confusion I been told “my daughter is an autism”…!!!
      In regards to Qaddafi dictatorship…go to web and see his crimes your eyes not after 17 of Feb but before that…he simply has turned our life upside down…!!! we were not a normal country….like others in the world…!!!! ( by the way I am not native English speaker)

      • Richard Falk September 30, 2011 at 4:56 am #

        I take seriously your criticisms of my presentation of the Libyan reality. My understanding was not
        based on statistics alone, but on friends and eye witnesses who seemed familiar with the realities
        in the country. It now seems that Qaddafi, assuredly a criminal leader, favored some tribes, especially
        in the interior, and deprived others. Thanks for your careful comment.

  11. sudhan March 24, 2011 at 11:19 am #

    Those who challenged dictator Qaddafi

    As the Libyan crisis continues, we witness a vast array of views within the ranks of anti-imperialist activists and radical writers. Richard Falk’s present article is one such example. In this article he has raised many questions about the military intervention by the Western powers and the role of the Libyan opposition who have challenged Qaddafi’s long dictatorial regime.

    Although he rightly says that Qaddafi had forfeited the legitimacy of his rule because of his long rule, maintained by an oppressive closed system, his views on the opposition that rose to challenge the despot need some critical assessment. I am commenting on only one or two points.

    Does the anti-Qaddafi opposition that eventually rose against the dictator has no political identity or no political aspirations? For the last 41 years, the vast majority of Libyans had seen only the oppressive political order of Qaddafi; they had no chance to evolve an independent political identity. He did not allow any such activity or freedom to meet or express views. He had a vast authoritarian system in place throughout Libya where no opposite viewpoint was tolerated. Despite such an oppressive system, it is quite possible that ordinary men and women were dissatisfied his rule and his policies. Not hard to imagine that they must had had their hopes and aspirations for freedom, democracy and the end of his tyranny. This is despite the fact that he has some loyal followers who have been mesmerised by their ‘great leader’.

    We should keep in mind that the pro-democracy movement that challenged Qaddafi cannot be regarded to have arisen due to some sort of conspiracy either. There were discontented elements within the military, bureaucracy and civil society. Libya was and is part of the common ossified Arab political order in the Middle East and North Africa. But the uprising that started in Tunisia gave inspiration to the Arab masses everywhere including Libya. That also means that Libyan pro-democracy movement has a general political context.

    The popular uprising against Qaddafi was not confined to any one place even though Qaddafi had his major base of support in Tripoli. The people who stood against the heavily armed forces of Qaddafi are mostly ordinary people who had little or no training in the use of weapons. Their weapons have been small arms and rifles that are hardly a match to what the Qaddafi’s loyal forces have. When Qaddafi and his son Saif (the ‘PhD’ man!) threatened to take Benghazi by military force without any mercy to the rebels they meant what they said. By a clever propaganda trick the regime announced the first ceasefire and used the interval to bring the army and heavy weapons to crush Benghazi. The bloodbath of the people in Benghazi was averted when the French intervened and destroyed Libyan tanks and heavy armour.

    • Richard Falk March 26, 2011 at 4:47 am #

      Thanks for this thoughtful comment. Libya is a close call, and your views are important qualifications that need to be fully considered.

  12. heidi morrison March 25, 2011 at 11:06 pm #

    Thank you for spelling out this issue so clearly and informatively.

  13. Ray Joseph Cormier March 26, 2011 at 5:33 am #

    It is now 26 years ago the political atmospheres of the time were so poisoned, it appeared the US and the Soviets were heading for a clash for the 1st time since the Cuban Missile crisis.

    I was moved to make this Public statement. Please don’t misinterpret my intentions in posting this. I am well aware all of this is greater than I, but it is recorded in Time.

    This was long before the world was being held hostage to the War on Terrorism, Libya being the latest phase of that ongoing War that will expand to it’s illogical conclusion – Armageddon, the war to end all wars and possibly humanity itself.

    On Remembrance Day 1985, in the presence of The Governor-General of Canada, The Prime Minister and other government Leaders, the Military, Ambassadors of the Nations and 25,000 people Cormier publicly declared,

    “Hear O people and Nations, even to the ends of the Earth, the Word of the Lord God who is, and was, and is to come, The Almighty. The Lord has a controversy with the people.

    Do you do well to honour the dead, and yet, deny the God of the Living? Why do you follow the vain traditions of men, and make of no effect, the principles of God?

    You come here for one hour one day a year in a great show of public patriotism, and then forgetting, go back to work and make the same careless mistakes made by the generations prior to the 1st and 2nd World Wars.

    Hitler was killed, but it’s his legacy that remains. A Soviet-American military-industrial complex consuming $trillions of dollars every year, holding the entire World hostage…………”

    “Hostage” was the last word he said perched on a bus shelter roof, as police got up and grabbed his megaphone. He was arrested for shouting, causing a disturbance, convicted and fined $250. He appealed without a lawyer to The Supreme Court of Canada.

  14. washi March 31, 2011 at 2:40 pm #

    I’d like to ask about Security Council Resolution 1373. There were nine affirmative votes. China and Russia abstained.
    Now taken from Charter of the UN, chapter V, article 27:

    1. Each member of the Security Council shall have one vote.
    2. Decisions of the Security Council on procedural matters shall be made by an affirmative vote of nine members.
    3. Decisions of the Security Council on all other matters shall be made by an affirmative vote of nine members including the concurring votes of the permanent members; provided that, in decisions under Chapter VI, and under paragraph 3 of Article 52, a party to a dispute shall abstain from voting.

    I suppose this voting wasn’t about procedural matter. Russion and China abstained. If I read the charter correctly, the resolution shouldn’t be deemed as passed. Or did I miss something?

    • Richard Falk March 31, 2011 at 11:46 pm #

      You are quite right, given the text of Article 27 of the UN Charter that requires a valid decision of the Security Council to be a result of “an affirmative vote of nine members including the concurring votes of the permanent members.” Obviously, among the abstaining states were Russia and China, permanent members, and textually this is a not a valid decision. However, Security Council going back to the period of the Korean War in the early 1950s has treated absences and abstentions as not constituting a veto, and not blocking a decision. This was arguably understood in this case by the abstainers. Therefore, the question is whether a treaty such as the UN Charter can be amended by practice that violates its actual language.

      • washi April 1, 2011 at 12:03 am #

        Thank you for your answer. I believe that this is not the case, when treaty can be amended by practice that violates its language. Because you raised the question about posibility to do so, do you believe there is such case or know about situation, when it might be acceptible.

        I find it surprising that noone challenged the resolution when the charter provides only one reading (in my opinion). Or at least I don’t know about anyone.

      • Richard Falk April 1, 2011 at 10:22 am #

        Your further question requires a long answer that I am not able to provide at this time.

        The point is important, but during the Coid War this interpretative tactic was generally supported as a way to soften the impact of the veto, and to give permanent members a middle way between blocking a decision and supporting it.

        I am not defending this approach, but it is established, and since there has been no objection voiced by Member states it has been treated by now as

  15. washi April 1, 2011 at 1:44 pm #

    Once again thank you for your time to answer my questions. You helped me to understand the situation.


  1. Qaddafi, Moral Interventionism, Libya, and the Arab Revolutionary Moment « | Reasons to Kill - March 22, 2011

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