Abdel Bari Atwan was born in Gaza, Palestine but has lived in London since 1979. He has been the editor of London-based al-Quds al-Arabi, an independent, pan-Arab daily newspaper since 1989. He is the author of The Secret History of al-Qa’ida, and A Country of Words, his memoir. His, often controversial, opinions are frequently sought by print and broadcast journalists the world over and he is well-known for his lively and passionate debating style. A frequent guest on television shows in the west and the middle-east, Atwan also lectures worldwide and contributes to international conferences on a regular basis. In May 2010 Middle East Magazine named Abdel Bari Atwan one of the 50 most influential Arabs.
The Trap of The No-Fly Zone
21 March 2011
Looking at US missiles raining down on Libyan cities and military sites, and listening to the accompanying intensive propaganda campaign, one cannot but recall Iraq and the carpet bombing that targeted that country twice: first on the pretext of liberating Kuwait early in 1991 and, second, on the pretext of destroying Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction in March 2003, exactly eight years ago.
True, the international community cannot stand idly by as it sees the Libyan leader, Mu’ammar al-Qadhafi, and his sons’ bloody battalions mercilessly slaughter the Libyan people. But one cannot avoid noticing the Western nations’ selectivity, intervening militarily to protect particular Arab revolutions while completely ignoring others.
Backed by Britain and France, with cover from the Arab League and participation by Qatar and the UAE, the United States fired 112 cruise missiles in a first assault from its aircraft carriers in the Mediterranean on the pretext of protecting Libyan civilians. But what of the civilians whom these missiles killed? Are they not Libyans too? Or is slaughter by Al-Qadhafi’s gangs a taboo while slaughter by US missiles permissible?
Before going any further, and to dispel any misunderstanding, I want to assert that I have supported and still support the Libyan revolution right from the beginning, just as I supported and still support all Arab revolutions. Further more, I regard Col Al-Qadhafi’s regime as the worst regime in all epochs of Libya’s history. I felt utterly disgusted every time I saw his corrupt sons brag and threaten the Libyan people as though they were their slaves, and as though Libya were their ranch, plundering its wealth as they please. However, I am not at all convinced that this Western military intervention is out of concern for the Libyan people, and am more persuaded that it is for their oil and wealth. Otherwise, why the suspicious silence about the massacres to which the Yemeni people are being subjected within the sight and hearing of the world? Is it because there is no oil in Yemen, or because the Yemeni people are like the Palestinians – people who do not deserve protection, or for both reasons?
I was exasperated when I heard Arab League Secretary General Amr Musa express his “objection” to the Western coalition’s bombardment of the Libyan territories. He stressed that the bombardment differed from the objective of imposing a no-fly zone, namely to protect civilians, not bombard other civilians. In a documented interview with the German daily Der Spiegel, Musa backed foreign intervention in Libya even before the Arab foreign ministers met at the Arab League headquarters to discuss the imposition of a no-fly zone. He now seeks to evade the catastrophic consequences of his position, which he took in the last month of his chairmanship of the Arab League, because he is more concerned with his ambition to succeed in the forthcoming Egyptian presidential elections.
The objective of imposing a no-fly zone was surely to protect all Libyan civilians without exception, and to prevent Col Al-Qadhafi from using his aircrafts to terrify his people and commit massacres. However, we notice that Western selectivity does not stop at the Arab revolutions, but extends to the Libyan people themselves. The Libyans who have been taken prisoners by the Libyan regime, voluntarily or involuntarily, are apparently regarded as culprits by the Western coalition and its leaders, and deserve to be killed.
We live in an era of lies and disinformation the like of which we have only seen before the US destructive war on Iraq. Participating in this campaign of lies and misinformation are giant Arab and foreign media institutions. We read and heard about Col Al-Qadhafi’s aircraft bombing apparently unarmed Libyan civilians in Benghazi, Al-Bayda, Tobruk, and Misratah; what a surprise then to see an aircraft belonging to the Libyan revolutionaries shot down over Tripoli. So we have a right to ask whether or not the no-fly zone also applies to aircraft belonging to the Libyan revolutionaries.
We do not know how long Col Al-Qadhafi will stay in power, just as we cannot speculate about his capability of remaining steadfast. Yet if the Libyan people fight against foreign aggression, like their brethren in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somalia, they will not fight because they wish to be ruled by the Libyan leader or for the hereditary succession of his sons. They will fight because they have a noble and honourable legacy in resisting colonialist invaders of their land, who violate their honour and national dignity.
What is happening in Libya is a plain invasion aimed at changing the ruling regime by military force the way the neoconservatives and their boss, President George Bush, did. This is because the Libyan leader has served his purpose and the last drop of his usefulness has been squeezed. From the viewpoint of the Western nations, it is time to get rid of the Libyan leader like getting rid of a used handkerchief. The Western nations jumped on the bandwagon of the Libyan revolution to exploit and use it for their own interest.
Had not the Western nations, notably the United States and Britain, promised to rehabilitate the Libyan regime after it paid compensation for the Lockerbie victims (3 bn dollars), and deposited its entire financial surplus (200bn dollars) in European and US banks? Did Britain, which currently leads the aggression against Libya, not release Abd-al-Basit al-Miqrahi, who was convicted of blowing up the Pan-Am airliner over Lockerbie, as a quid pro quo for the return of the British Petroleum company to operate in Libya with huge oil prospecting contracts? Did Sayf-al-Islam al-Qadhafi, the Libyan leader’s “heir apparent” not say that Tony Blair, former British prime minister and the neoconservatives’ philosopher, was a personal friend of the family, and that he would stay in the home of his family every time he visited Tripoli?
If this hypocrite West, which claims it is concerned for the Libyan people and for promoting democracy and human rights, is honest about its intentions and statements, why did it not stipulate that a democratic change should take place in return for lifting sanctions and re-establishing diplomatic ties with the Libyan regime?
When the dust settles and the truth comes out Libya may be divided, or partitioned. We will not be surprised if a civil war erupts, or if Libya turns into a failed state, like Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Yemen. We would not wish this to happen to Libya, but was this not the outcome of Western intervention in the countries of the Middle East, and even in the Balkan region?
Al-Qa’idah organization, which the West fears, thrives in failed states which the West helps set up through military intervention. After all, Al-Qa’idah has encamped in Iraq, Somalia, and Yemen, thanks to Western intervention, or to the alignment of these countries’ dictatorships with the Western plans. The al-Qa’idah leader must be rubbing his hands in jubilation as he sees Libya falls easily into the lap of his organization after the Western nations’ intervention. Anyway, Al-Qa’idah is a stone’s throw from Libya, and its offshoot in the Islamic Maghreb is currently the second strongest after its counterpart in Yemen.
The US intervention in Libya will be bloody, and the end game and outcome is not known. We lost a million martyrs in Iraq in a similar intervention, and only God knows how many we will lose in this new war, as history repeats itself, and as the same claims and lies are repeated.
- Libya: Nato Assuming Command of No-Fly Zone – AllAfrica.com (news.google.com)
- Relief will fade as we see the real impact of intervention in Libya | Abdel al-Bari Atwan (guardian.co.uk)
- Open thread for night owls: Three foes of intervention in Libya, and one supporter with misgivings (dailykos.com)
- Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: The hypocrisy behind this intervention (independent.co.uk)
- France says Libyan airspace “under control” (salon.com)