More Elementary Thoughts on Libya and the States Now Attacking It



I believe that your " Very Elementary Thoughts on Thinking about Now" (March 22) had already been overtaken by events before you ever posted the piece.


UN Security Council Resolution 1973 was adopted on the evening of March 17 with no fewer than five abstentions, each by major states, two of which, as permanent members of the Council, were in positions to veto the resolution, and should have: Brazil, China, Germany, India, and Russia. 


In less than two days of 1973's adoption, Libya was under military attack by the United States and allies.  Now, in the five days since (March 19-24), whenever China and Russia express their concerns about this military attack exceeding what they understood 1973 to authorize, the UN Secretary-General reprimands them, rather than the states attacking Libya("Of course, there were some countries who abstained," an evasive Ban Ki-moon said in answer to a question about Russia's demand that the military attack on Libya stop, "but once [the resolution] is adopted, all the members of the United Nations have an obligation to fully cooperate so that this resolution will be implemented." — "Secretary-General's Press Conference," Tunis, Tunisia, March 22.)


As Marjorie Cohn warned on the same day that you posted your thoughts ("Stop Bombing Libya," March 22):

The military action in Libya sets a dangerous precedent of attacking countries where the leadership does not favor the pro-U.S. or pro-European Union countries. What will prevent the United States from stage-managing some protests, magnifying them in the corporate media as mass actions, and then bombing or attacking Venezuela, Cuba, Iran, or North Korea? During the Bush administration, Washington leveled baseless allegations to justify an illegal invasion of Iraq.

Although the "precedent" here is a fact long-recorded in the annals of American Power (as you point out with great clarity), nevertheless, something like this scenario really is being executed against Libya through the armed insurgency that was organized in the eastern part of Libya and used to attack the Qadhafi regime from the middle of February onward.  As Qadhadi's forces started to score victories over this armed insurgency (or, perhaps, as this armed insurgency simply pulled-back after its early offensive), the political leadership in the states now attacking Libya began to scream "crimes against humanity" and violations of "international humanitarian law" — and, with the establishment media repeating the charge, referred the forces loyal to Qadhafi to the International Criminal Court, while exempting themselves from the jurisdiction of the ICC.  (See S/RES/1970, para. 4-8; esp. para. 6, Feb. 26.)  This showed clearly that the government of Libya, the side in this armed struggle opposed by the Western states, would not only be denied the right to defend itself against armed attack, but would have its conduct treated uniquely as crimes. 

In your "Conclusion?," you plead: "[C]an't we then all also agree that at most limited protection of the opposition should occur and that as little as possible beyond that will be better than escalating intervention, and that in any event actions widening the assault into an interventionist war would be horrific for countless reasons?"

As the person making this plea, why doesn't it dawn on you to ask instead whether the issue is not upholding the UN Charter's protections for the government of Libya and the people of Libya from the great military powers attacking this government and this country?     

(By the way, a similar rewriting of a question needs to be put to Richard Falk. — If, as Falk writes, Qadhafi long ago "forfeited the legitimacy of his rule, creating the political conditions for an appropriate revolutionary challenge" ("Gaddafi, Moral Interventionism, Libya, and the Arab Revolutionary Moment," March 21), then at what stage or time in the past did the United States forfeit its right to act beyond its borders?  And why are we arguing about the legitimacy of Qadhafi's rule inside Libya, rather than about the lack of legitimacy of the states that in this case have marshaled the organs of the United Nations to launch their attack on Libya?)

David Peterson
Chicago, USA

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