As hostilities in Libya escalate, some contradictions take shape
by Sonia Verma, Globe & Mail, Jun 9, 2011
It remains unclear whether the UN-NATO alliance will succeed in its mission to protect civilians while forcing dictator [leader] Col Moammar Gaddafi out of power. Can it do both? It’s the most intense bombing that Tripoli has seen since UN-NATO’s air campaign in Libya began two months ago. This week’s punishing daytime air strikes on Colonel Moammar Gadhafi’s sprawling [residential-barracks] compound were the strongest sign yet that the [UN] Alliance’s efforts to oust the Libyan dictator [leader] are picking up speed under the command of Canadian Lieutenant-General Charles Bouchard. However, they also highlighted the central dissonance [inconsistency between actions & stated beliefs] of the newly extended mission itself, which seeks to both protect civilians and trigger regime change [assassinate nation's leader]. The looming question is whether it's possible to do both at once.
Until this week, the war in Libya has been a stalemate: Col. Gadhafi held Tripoli, while the rebels claimed Benghazi. While UN-NATO bombs pounded the regime’s military assets, the dividing front line remained essentially unchanged. But the conflict has changed gears this week. The UN Alliance ratcheted up its air campaign, British and French attack helicopters struck inside Libya for the first time and thousands of new refugees are streaming across the border to Tunisia. It remains unclear, however, whether UN-NATO will ultimately succeed in its mission to protect Libyan civilians while forcing Col. Gadhafi out of power, which was its initial objective.
Matthew Waxman, an associate professor of law at Columbia Law School argues: “We’re using the threat of force to coerce Gadhafi into stopping his reign of terror, but by threatening his survival we may be closing any option he has other than to try to hold on and fight his way out. There’s also a tremendously high civilian toll to what’s become a drawn out civil war [one-sided war by combined UN superpowers against third-world nation].”
The escalation of hostilities raises some uncomfortable contradictions:
THEY SAID THE CONFLICT WOULD BE WEEKS LONG
BUT NOW THERE SEEMS TO BE NO END IN SIGHT
When the 28-country alliance, which includes Canada, began air strikes over Libya in March, member nations said it would take three months for the rebels to be in a position to topple Col. Gadhafi. The length of the NATO mission has now doubled, with Ottawa set to debate whether or not Canada should continue to play a roll. “We’ve got to be patient. I think we are making progress in Libya. The leaders were very clear in the G8 that [Gadhafi] must go, and we do support the extension,” federal Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird recently told reporters in Ottawa. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently said “time is working against Gadhafi.” She could be right: As time drags on, rebel forces become better trained and Col. Gadhafi’s supporters seem to be melting away.
THEY SAID THEY WENT IN TO PROTECT CIVLIANS
BUT NOW THEY ARE PUMMELLING TRIPOLI
The extended mission has also resulted in the loss of life – at least 15,000 according to a Libyan rebel spokesman. And one-sixth of Libya’s population of six million has so far been displaced by the war. The Gadhafi regime has made its own claims, taking foreign journalists in Tripoli on elaborate tours of NATO “bomb sites” strewn with bodies. Many journalists believe the devastation is staged. Still, NATO strikes have resulted in some civilian deaths. On Wednesday, Col. Gadhafi’s daughter, Aisha, filed a war crimes lawsuit in Belgium over the April 30 NATO strike on her father’s compound. That attack claimed Col. Gadhafi’s youngest son, Saif al-Arab, but it also killed Ms. Gadhafi’s infant daughter, brother and two nephews. “We think that bombing a civilian home where a man and three children were living is not part of the mandate given to the members of the United Nations by the Security Council resolutions on Libya,” Luc Brossolet, Ms. Gadhafi’s French lawyer, told Belgium’s Le Soir newspaper. NATO has said it is bombing the Libyan leader’s compounds because they serve as “command and control centres.” The Libyan government said 31 people were killed on Tuesday when NATO warplanes carried out 60 strikes on the capital. NATO said it could not verify the Libyan claims, insisting it is doing its best to avoid civilian deaths.
THEY SAID THEY DON'T WANT TO KILL GADDAFI
BUT THEY BOMB HIS HEADQUARTERS AND KILL HIS SON
Within hours of the April 30 bombing raid that killed [Gaddafi's son] Mr. al-Arab, NATO issued a statement to emphasize he was not the target: “All NATO’s targets are military in nature and have been clearly linked to the Gadhafi regime’s systematic attacks on the Libyan population and populated areas. We do not target individuals,” said Lt.-Gen. Bouchard, commander of the NATO Operation. The wording – differentiating between Col. Gadhafi and his military machinery – was seen as crucial at the time to fend off criticism, notably from Russia, that NATO had overstepped the scope of its mission by targeting the Gadhafi family. This week’s targets, however, included six command and control centres, two anti-aircraft guns, a radar system and a vehicle storage facility, according to NATO. The heaviest damage, however, occurred at Col. Gadhafi’s Bab al-Aziziya compound, where several buildings were levelled. The Libyan leader has been in hiding in the capital, and has rarely been seen or heard in recent weeks. After this week’s attack on Tuesday, state television broadcast an audio clip in which he said: “We will not surrender: we have only one choice to the end. Death, victory, it does not matter, we are not surrendering.”
THEY PROMISE MILLIONS IN HUMANITARIAN AID
BUT THE UN SAYS 'AN AID CRIS COULD BE LOOMING'
As the crisis in Libya heated up, the international community vowed humanitarian assistance. So far, however, it has fallen far short of what has been promised. “The UN issued its latest appeal for $407-million of critically needed humanitarian aid three weeks ago. As of today, all of the UN aid agencies in Libya have received less than half of the required funding in the form of either actual cash or pledges,” political scientist Micah Zenko writes in a paper published this week by the Council of Foreign Relations. Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees stated: “An aid crisis could be looming... It is apparent that the combined impact of protracted conflict and sanctions are eroding the government’s ability to effectively deliver assistance.”
As hostilities in Libya escalate, some contradictions take shape, Globe & Mail, Jun 9, 2011
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