Libya: International Peace Bureau condemns military strikes and urges political negotiations to protect the civilian population

Libya: International Peace Bureau condemns
military strikes and urges political negotiations
to protect the civilian population

21 March 2011. A new historical era opened three months ago with the popular
uprisings in Tunisia and then Egypt, the first of the ‘Arab spring’ season.
These rebellions brought hope to millions and youthful energy to societies
suffering decades of repression, injustice, inequality, especially gender
inequality, and increasing economic hardship. The Libyan revolt was inspired
by these largely nonviolent victories, but, as the world has witnessed with
dismay, has rapidly become militarized and is now embroiled in a full-scale
civil war.


The western powers’ fateful decision to push through the UN Security Council
a resolution to authorize military strikes and a no-fly zone has transformed
the situation into one reminiscent of the Iraq crisis of 2003. While
supporting the objective of protecting the civilian population, in Benghazi
and elsewhere, IPB condemns yet more armed attacks by western powers on yet
another Muslim country. Have these same powers learned nothing from their
disastrous failures over the last 10 years? It is clear that non-military
methods have not been utterly exhausted. Were all economic sanctions imposed
and enforced? Was massive electronic jamming put into operation? Were all
oil and gas sales cancelled? – and will we ever be told?


Western media fascination with the minutiae of battle tends to obscure
historical memory, without which any clear assessment is impossible. Have we
all forgotten who sold arms to, and struck energy deals with, Col. Gaddafi
in the first place? Do the phrases ‘no-fly zone’ and ‘air strikes’ not bring
back painful memories of the slide into disastrous occupations in Iraq and


There is no lack of alternative courses of action. In IPB’s view, the most
urgent task, and the most effective way to carry out the UN-mandated
‘Responsibility to Protect’ the civilian population, is to engage
immediately both the Gaddafi regime and the rebels in serious negotiations.
These should focus, first on a genuine and multi-lateral ceasefire, and then
on the foundations of a political settlement based on participatory
democracy. The UN already has a special representative in place in Tripoli.
Cynical or not, Gaddafi has made a ceasefire gesture – which could be used
as a starting point. Western states, especially the US and the former
colonial powers, should keep out. The UN Secretary-General and a panel of
highly respected figures from the Muslim world should be invited to take
part in whatever talks can be arranged. An offer to call off the air strikes
could be used as a confidence-building measure. In the medium-term,
consideration should be given to a UN-authorised peacekeeping presence,
preferably not composed of western military forces, with a classical
peace-keeping (not peace-enforcement) mandate. Why is it that investment in
mediation, diplomacy, trust-building and similar efforts is always a tiny
fraction of the money spent on armed intervention?


Arab peoples have shown that they have the courage to break away from past
habits and have demonstrated impressive discipline and dignity in
confronting their oppressors. The western world should now respond by
finding the courage to break with its own past habits, and to apply the
enormous creativity of its own societies in the search for new ways of
resolving conflicts. Success in Libya - or indeed elsewhere in the region -
would offer tremendous inspiration to peoples locked in deadly conflict in
other regions.


It is still not too late for those leading this latest military gamble to
pull out of the quagmire that looms ahead. We urge the world to mobilise now
against war and foreign intervention, and in favour of negotiated solutions.

What is done in the coming days and weeks will determine the possibilities
for a long-term settlement. Foreign bombing only threatens a wider
conflagration with unpredictable consequences.


There are all kinds of wider considerations to be explored, and important
lessons that need to be assimilated. In particular, that the five permanent
members of the Security Council cannot continue to police the world as if we
were still in 1945; and that it is time for a global outcry against the
massive expenditure devoted to the military system ($1,500 billion per
annum), and in particular the international arms trade, with its
accompanying corruption and double standards.

The International Peace Bureau is clear on its own priorities. We need to
disarm in order to develop. The basic needs of the population must be
catered for as the absolute priority, not as a by-product of ‘national
security’. We appeal to the arms-producing countries and industries to
urgently start converting military research and production to civilian
purposes. The world will never achieve the Millennium Development Goals if
it fails to abandon the military-dominated way of thinking and action. We
have learned in recent years that democracy cannot be imposed, and that
regime change is only a matter for the population itself. The time is now
ripe to assist the people in the Middle East/North Africa region in building
societies based on the vision of a culture of peace, as hoped for by peoples
everywhere. Such a programme was agreed by the UN in the preparation of the
International Year for a Culture of Peace in 2000 and the following Decade
on a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence that has just come to an end, and
that must now be energetically renewed.

The International Peace Bureau is dedicated to the vision of a World Without
War. We are a Nobel Peace Laureate (1910), and over the years 13 of our
officers have been recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize. Our 320 member
organisations in 70 countries, and individual members, form a global network
which brings together expertise and campaigning experience in a common
cause. Our main programme centres on Sustainable Disarmament for Sustainable
Development. We welcome your participation.

Current project: Global Day of Action on Military Spending, April 12, 2011:

Colin Archer, Secretary-General International Peace Bureau 41 rue de Zurich,
1201 Geneva, Switzerland. Tel: +41-22-731-6429, Fax: 738-9419