Questions grow over legality of NATO’s war in Libya
Increasing numbers of commentators are coming to the realization that the U.S./NATO intervention in the Libyan civil war exceeds the UN mandate that originally authorized the establishment of a no-fly zone in order to protect Libyan civilians, and is therefore illegal. As veteran war correspondent Chris Hedges — who initially supported the efforts to stop Gaddafi forces from entering Benghazi six months ago — writes today at Truthdig,
The NATO airstrikes on the city of Sirte expose the hypocrisy of our “humanitarian” intervention in Libya. Sirte is the last Gadhafi stronghold and the home to Gadhafi’s tribe. The armed Libyan factions within the rebel alliance are waiting like panting hound dogs outside the city limits. They are determined, once the airstrikes are over, not only to rid the world of Gadhafi but all those within his tribe who benefited from his 42-year rule. The besieging of Sirte by NATO warplanes, which are dropping huge iron fragmentation bombs that will kill scores if not hundreds of innocents, mocks the justification for intervention laid out in a United Nations Security Council resolution.
The U.N., when this began six months ago, authorized “all necessary measures … to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack.” We have, as always happens in war, become the monster we sought to defeat. We destroy in order to save. Libya’s ruling National Transitional Council estimates that the number of Libyans killed in the last six months, including civilians and combatants, has exceeded 50,000. Our intervention, as in Iraq and Afghanistan, has probably claimed more victims than those killed by the former regime. But this intervention, like the others, was never, despite all the high-blown rhetoric surrounding it, about protecting or saving Libyan lives. It was about the domination of oil fields by Western corporations.
Former British Ambassador Craig Murray recently noted at Consortiumnews that NATO’s attack on Sirte, a city where leader Muammar Gaddafi still has widespread support, calls into question the very basis for the Western intervention:
There is no cause to doubt that, for whatever reason, the support of the people of Sirte for Gaddafi is genuine. That this means they deserve to be pounded into submission is less obvious to me.
The disconnect between the UN mandate “to protect civilians” while facilitating negotiation, and NATO’s actual actions as the anti-Gaddafi forces’ air force and special forces, is startling. …
It is worth reminding everyone something never mentioned, that UNSCR 1973 which established the no-fly zone and mandate to protect civilians had “the aim of facilitating dialogue to lead to the political reforms necessary to find a peaceful and sustainable solution.”
That is in Operative Para 2 of the Resolution.
Plainly the people of Sirte hold a different view than the “rebels” as to who should run the country. NATO has in effect declared being in Gaddafi’s political camp a capital offence.
There is no way the massive assault on Sirte is “facilitating dialogue.” It is rather killing those who do not hold the NATO approved opinion. That is the actual truth. It is extremely plain.
Belgian philosopher Jean Bricmont recently stated on RT America that as it pertains to the Libyan conflict, “international law is dead.”
As Bricmont and Diana Johnstone recently wrote at Counterpunch.org,
On March 17, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1973 which gave that particular “coalition of the willing” the green light to start their little war by securing control of Libyan air space, which was subsequently used to bomb whatever NATO chose to bomb. The coalition leaders clearly expected the grateful citizens to take advantage of this vigorous “protection” to overthrow Moammer Gaddafi who allegedly wanted to “kill his own people”. Based on the assumption that Libya was neatly divided between “the people” on one side and the “evil dictator” on the other, this overthrow was expected to occur within days. In Western eyes, Gaddafi was a worse dictator than Tunisia’s Ben Ali or Egypt’s Mubarak, who fell without NATO intervention, so Gaddafi should have fallen that much faster.
Five months later, all the assumptions on which the war was based have proved to be more or less false. Human rights organizations have failed to find evidence of the “crimes against humanity” allegedly ordered by Gaddafi against “his own people”. The recognition of the Transitional National Council (TNC) as the “sole legitimate representative of the Libyan people” by Western governments has gone from premature to grotesque. NATO has entered and exacerbated a civil war that looks like a stalemate.
With nearly a thousand people killed in Gaddafi’s home town of Sirte in recent days, it is becoming increasingly clear that an even greater bloodbath may loom. Ali Tarhouni, a senior official of the NATO-backed rebels, was quoted by the Associated Press as saying “Sometimes to avoid bloodshed you must shed blood – and the faster we do this the less blood will be shed.”
NATO’s rebels set a four-day deadline for Gaddafi’s remaining strongholds, including Sirte, to surrender or face a final crushing military strike.
The deadline for surrender came and went yesterday with no signs of a truce, and fighters began planning to enter the towns of Sirte and Bani Walid, the last pro-Gaddafi strongholds. Whatever lays in store for the future, it is safe to assume that with international law cast aside from day one, human rights and international norms will not be high on the list of priorities.