middle east, muslims, politics

No-Fly Zone in Libya: let us be clear

What is “liberal intervention” but a deceptively labelled concept meant for making military intrusion possible? The abstract idea of a utopic and humanitarian bouquet of bombs and missiles may be easy to imagine in a world filled with disinformation, but history has taught us that such pseudo-events do not exist. Remember the former Yugoslavia? Remember Iraq and Afghanistan? Those who tell us that Libya 2011 is “unique” embrace the overbearing clichés  churned out by the corporate media.

Libyans must determine their own fate. If a no-fly zone is unquestionably what the rebelling Libyans want, then so be it. But let us harbour no illusions and tell it like it is. Full stop. A no-fly zone imposed upon Libya will be a serious, multifaceted, military operation controlled by the United States and its lapdog, the United Kingdom (perhaps also France). Russia and China have both expressed serious reservations. Thus, the usual suspects have returned, as have the vague “responsibility to protect” (R2P) non-ideologies they espouse. It is like a bad dream recurring over and over again.

The top-dogs of the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Central command, Robert Gates and General James Mattis respectively, have both concurred that the implementation of a no-fly zone means—without any doubt—the destruction of Libya’s air defenses. This appears to be a standard prerequisite for the sending of any jets from a “protecting power”. Getting the United Nations to back a no-fly zone is tough enough, given the reservations by Russia and China, but certain international agreements (rules of engagement) will have to also be addressed, just so the forces controlling the air do not shoot at each other—or a civilian airliner for that matter.

The implementation of a no-fly zone is also commonly perceived as a reduction of violence. This is not true. First of all, it is ludicrous to say that Qaddafi’s instruments of death are confined by the air. His usage of mercenaries (mainly as snipers) is infamous by now. Second, a no-fly zone would mean more—not less—planes and missiles flying through the skies. What will this do to the surrounding areas?  If the Qaddafi air force is as formidable as some R2P apologists will have it, then a battle in the skies will ensue. What will this mean for the people on the ground? Anti-aircraft weaponry also includes missiles shot from the ground, operated by their corresponding personnel. This means U.S.-U.K.-France troops directly on the ground in Libya. What will become of them when—God-willing—Qaddafi is ousted?

Furthermore, how serious is Qaddafi’s aerial power—actually? The official numbers are 227 fighter aircrafts and 35 attack helicopters. It is certainly a scary tally, and should not be underestimated. However, let us again be clear. Most Western countries have their planes repaired, maintained, and serviced around half of the time. The rate is astronomically higher in Libya. So far, not more than a few planes have attacked the rebels. The bombardment of Brega, a key oil port in eastern Libya (quite close to Qaddafi’s hometown of Sirte), was carried out by a single jet that dropped all but two bombs. Military and air force analysts have noted that “lone-wolf” operations are extremely rare to begin with, due to high risk, not to mention only to drop two bombs. This is the closest real indication of the Libyan air force one can get thus far. It means that either the Libyan air force has some seriously disenchanted pilots (the two bombs dropped on Brega were—according to some eye-witnesses—purposely off-target, and left no casualties), or that the fleet is so deficient that no more than one or two planes can get in the air at one time.

Given these ramifications, how desirable is a no-fly zone? Suffice it to say that a more serious assessment of Qaddafi’s military power will have to be done by the media (a difficult proposal given that the international media in Libya is  under lock-down and cannot move freely).

Wahid Burshan, a Libyan political analyst and activist, has expressed that “taking Libyan air defenses out…and things like that…in order for them [the U.S./U.K.-France] to manage the skies…could be problematic. The Libyan people may consider that hostile and it may tip the point to Qaddafi’s favour.” Burshan also pointed out on Al Jazeera English’s Inside Story that the military in Libya is not always 100% pro-Qaddafi, and seriously antagonizing the army may not be the best strategy. It may be useful to remember the two Libyan pilots who defected from the Qaddafi camp in February and landed their planes in Malta after a refusal to obey orders and bomb fellow Libyans.

At best, it seems that the Libyan people are divided on the idea of a U.S.-U.K.-France imposed no-fly zone. Based on all the information one can gather from rather opaque reports coming out of Libya, a no-fly zone may not be worth it right now—but a better assessment may be available to us and the people of Libya in the future.

Note that serious reservations for a no-fly zone as of now is not grounded in the opinion that it simply will not work. It may work, especially given Libya’s weak defenses. Rather, serious reservations arise out of several concerns: (1) once Western powers are involved in the Libyan revolution, they are involved in that revolution’s future outcomes—and the future of Libya—Qaddafi or no Qaddafi, (2) the information regarding the will of the Libyans themselves is extremely opaque, and a serious cost-benefit decision has yet to be made by Libyans, and (3) despite some calls not to compare Libya’s situation to other similar (proposed) interventions previously, serious analysts take into account the past behaviour of Western powers.

On that last point, let us just say that suspicion is a much understated sentiment as of now. Given that Prime Minister Cameron recently returned from a trip selling arms to his Gulf despot friends, the principle motivation for this R2P inspired spirit of intervention is just too hard to take seriously.

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middle east, obama, politics, war on terror

American Hypocrisy vs. Wikileaks

Published on:  The Canadian Charger, September 7th, 2010 (http://tiny.cc/lf4rd)

A lot has been written about Wikileaks since the whistle-blowing organization leaked its 92,000-document cache on the carnage in Afghanistan caused by the American war and occupation.

Since then, the U.S. military establishment, and all those who profit from it, have tried their utmost to smear the organization, especially co-founder Julian Assange.

Assange has felt the weight of being the public face of Wikileaks.

From charges of molestation and rape in Sweden (unfounded and dropped) to constant admonishment from the White House/Pentagon, the effects of exposing governmental secrets has exacted a price.

For Wikileaks and Assange, it’s a matter of staying afloat in the storm. (The organization is Internet-based, and has no more than a handful of staff.)

For those of us who constitute the public, however, it is important to note how the American military establishment is trying to defend itself.

In times of such desperation, the White House and the Pentagon have resorted to a high level of hypocrisy.

Take, for example, the now infamous July 29 remark by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen: “Mr. Assange can say whatever he likes about the greater good he thinks he and his source are doing, but the truth is they might already have on their hands the blood of some young soldier or that of an Afghan family.” (emphasis added)

Now, feast your eyes on this statement from the Pentagon, and reported by the mainstream Washington Post on Aug. 11: “‘We have yet to see any harm come to anyone in Afghanistan that we can directly tie to exposure in the Wikileaks documents,’ [Pentagon spokesman Geoff] Morrell said.”

Any rational human being can see Mullen’s statement as a pathetic attempt at deflection.

Sure, it’s plausible that the massive leak may have negative consequences, but to say that Assange and Wikileaks already have blood on their hands is pure fabrication.

Instead of implementing some sort of investigation to review the war effort, Mullen has tried to deflect attention onto Wikileaks itself.

For exposing the truth, Wikileaks has been portrayed as a treasonous and irresponsible organization hell-bent on destroying America’s credibility, and the corporate media has largely followed this narrative.

For anyone who has actually taken a look at the released “war logs,” however, they represent a damning exposé of America’s military effort in Afghanistan.

It’s no secret that innocent civilians have been dying in under NATO’s occupation, but the war logs give the public the full picture of how the killing has been done.

The size of the logs alone indicates the enormity and scope of the military ground operations—from sniper ops, to air raids, to nighttime raids.

The devil, however, is in the details.

Case by case, the huge trove of exposed secret documents is littered with “CIV KIAs” (civilians killed in action) and “CIV WIAs” (civilians wounded in action).

The Guardian, one of three mainstream outlets that was given the war logs—the other two were The New York Times and Der Spiegelspecified the activities of Task Force 373, an “undisclosed ‘black’ unit” of U.S. special operations forces focused on killing top Taliban and al-Qa‘ida officials.

The logs also reveal that Task Force 373 killed civilian men and women. This is only one sinister example out of a gargantuan pile of revealing data.

So, when someone like Mullen or Defence Secretary Robert Gates talks about “blood,” it’s not unreasonable to think they ought to be talking about themselves.

For example, a November 2009 nighttime raid in Paktia province ended up killing two pregnant Afghan women, a teenage Afghan girl, as well as an Afghan police officer and his brother.

U.S. soldiers covered up the incident by digging out the bullets from the corpses and washing the wounds with alcohol.

Perhaps the previous Afghan war commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal said it best: “We’ve shot an amazing number of people and killed a number and, to my knowledge, none has proven to have been a real threat to the force.”

This is the reality of war, a reality that people like Julian Assange want to put right in front of our face.

We all should start saying the following about Adm. Mike Mullen: “Mr. Mullen can say whatever he likes about the greater good he thinks he is doing, but the truth is that he definitely has on his hands the blood of many young soldiers, and that of countless Afghan families.”

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