When’s A War Is Not A War But A No-Fly Zone

March 28, 2011

Dan Majestic writes from Washington: There are wars and there are wars that are called no-fly zones. Yes, ladies and gents of the international community, you have been duped into approving a seemingly innocent plan to save Libyan civilians from the wrath of the vicious tyrant Colonel Gaddafi, without realising that the whole thing was actually a cleverly concealed war. Should have read the text of the UN Security Council resolution more carefully when it was still a draft. The phrase ‘using all means’ stands for just that: using all means. And that, in any speak, means war.

While Prime Minister David Cameron and President Nicolas Sarkozy have their own reasons for starting a war in North Africa that all have to do with the mess in their respective nations, it’s very hard to understand why, say, President Barack Obama allowed himself to be dragged into a military conflict when he is desperately trying to get out of the one in Afghanistan? Was it by any chance that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told him that it would be a great idea to stand shoulder to shoulder with Britain and France and bomb Libya into democracy? Mrs Clinton was conducting all the hush-hush diplomacy with her British and French counterparts and if she would have signalled to them that she is not exactly thrilled about the plan, the whole thing would have fallen apart. And even the despots in the Arab League would then have had second thoughts about calling on the UN to approve the introduction of a no-fly zone, to keep the heat off them while they deal with their own civilians.

But let us cast a cynical glance at what is happening in Libya that is blessed by the no-fly zone. The coalition’s bombers are pounding the ground, taking out government forces on the ground to let the rebels take control of major cities and move closer to the capital Tripoli. In effect, what we are seeing is rebel groups fighting Gaddafi’s army with full air support, not to mention cruise missiles launched from the sea. Innocent civilians, who are supposed to be protected, are smack in the middle of it all. Looks odd from the point of view of the initial idea.

But the most amazing thing about this conflict is that no one really knows who these rebels are. The hastily organised National Council that already has an ‘embassy’ in Paris does not really represent all the groups. In fact, it looks like it has very limited influence over the anti-government forces who seem to be getting more and more arms that are supposedly taken off Gaddafi troops. It does start to look a bit suspicious, considering that their main stronghold in Benghazi is a port.

The cracks in the international community are already appearing, with Germany and Italy negotiating a deal for Gaddafi to have a safe exit from Libya and Russia stressing that the coalition is overstepping the boundaries of the UN resolution. Turkey has come forward offering to mediate a ceasefire as soon as possible, but predictably Britain and America have rejected the idea, saying that the bombing will continue until government forces pull out of Ajdabiya, Misrata and Zawiya and, bizarrely, establish water, electricity and gas supplies. You’d think that restoring these supplies could only be done after the ceasefire is announced.

A conference on Libya opens in London tomorrow. Expect more tough talk from the magnificent trio of US, Britain and France. And the bombing to continue.

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