Ceasefire in Libya, Humanitarian Intervention at Home

April 18, 2011

Brooklyn For Peace strongly opposed military intervention in Libya before the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1973 on March 17, 2011. Notwithstanding that we deplore the Qaddafi regime and its armed attacks on what was originally a peaceful opposition, we defend the opposition’s right to protest the current government and seek an alternative. But we continue to doubt the wisdom, justice and effectiveness of this military intervention-the alternative to continued military intervention is an immediate ceasefire and violence reduction, with a view to a negotiated resolution of what is now a political stand-off. Either the UN or the African Union might broker such a cease fire.

We do not, and cannot know, what Qaddafi might have done had the UN not authorized a no-fly zone and endorsed the responsibility to protect civilians. Some insist that a mass slaughter of civilians was inevitable; others argue that rebel fighters would have been targeted but not the civilians in Libya’s second largest and economically vital city. As is inevitable in any military action, civilians have likely been killed by the NATO intervention, and more will doubtless suffer the same fate as the intervention grinds on. How one protects civilians by taking actions that inevitably take the lives of civilians is but one of many hypocrisies that riddle the NATO actions.

Resolution 1973 does not call for regime change, but Presidents Obama and Sarkozy and Prime Minister Cameron insist Qaddafi must go. That Resolution does not permit taking sides in what is now a civil war, but NATO has already bombed civil government installations in Tripoli; the CIA is already on the ground in Eastern Libya and sophisticated arms of undetermined origin are flowing into opposition held territories despite a UN endorsed arms embargo. The US/NATO intervention has not broken Qaddafi’s military power-and it is plain that his regime has significant popular support in the country. There is a grave danger that the US and NATO will become bogged down in yet another Middle East war, which now appears stalemated, and will be faced with nation building, a task at which the US has proven itself singularly incompetent in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A ceasefire, for which some of the rebels have called, would prevent escalation, with all the accompanying deaths and destruction of homes and businesses. It would create a space in which a peaceful political transition in Libya could be negotiated. US and NATO intervention threatens to dominate and distort the Libyan revolution, which should remain in Libyan hands.

The effects of the US intervention in Libya are deeply disturbing. With little fanfare, President Obama has embraced the Bush/Cheney view that the President unilaterally without Congressional approval has the power to involve the US in wars. “Wars of choice,” a polite term for what was condemned at the Nuremberg trials as the supreme crime of aggressive war, are now a regularized, almost knee jerk, aspect of US foreign policy, the policy of first resort. The US is now involved in three wars against Muslim countries in the Middle East and is heavily involved in drone attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen. War as a way of life is immoral and dangerous for US security, liberty and prosperity; for the security and democratic development of countries where we fight; and for the health of the planetary environment.

War as a way of life diverts vital resources away from the pressing humanitarian crisis at home. Foreclosures mount, jobs disappear, teachers are fired, health care budgets are slashed, homelessness mounts. Calls for ending social security and privatizing Medicare escalate. Union rights are under attack and inequality has reached staggering proportions as the rich are given huge tax cuts. Fear has become enshrined in our culture.

Americans face a frightening economic and social crisis that must be addressed, in part by challenging corporate power and an unfair tax system. But we must also change our interventionist foreign policy in the Middle East and elsewhere; drastically cut the military budget and move the money toward urgent domestic priorities.

E-mail nowar@brooklynpeace.org to work with Brooklyn For Peace on this issue.