IRISH ANTI-WAR MOVEMENT PROTEST: NATO Bombing and the no-fly zone

NATO bombing is no solution
Full support for the Libyan uprising
No more western backing of tyrannical regimes

1. NATO bombing, no solutionJust eight years after they launched their shock-and-awe devastation of Baghdad and ten years after their invasion of Afghanistan, the same Western forces are pummelling yet another Muslim state with bombs, burning soldiers and tanks and killing civilians in the process.

Yet again, the claim is that their intervention is a question of moral principle. The passing of the UN security Resolution 1973 which authorised the bombing, was held up as an attempt to protect the Libyan rebels and stop Gaddafi brutally slaughtering his people. Why, then, did the same Western powers provide Gaddaffi with the arms that are now slaughtering the Libyan people?

Had NATO and the UN really wanted to support and protect the rebels, they could have acted differently. They could have sent arms directly to the rebels and dispatched anti-aircraft weaponry to Benghazi, Alzentan and Zintan, near the Tunisian border, and dropped weaponry and supplies to the rebels besieged in Ajdabiya and Misrata. They could have offered medical help and followed the example of many Libyan doctors in exile who hastened home to offer help to the injured. They could have simply united in recognising the Benghazi based National Council as the legitimate government of Libya.

So where lies the justification for the intervention? With 39.1 billion barrels of high quality oil reserves, and with the price of oil rising above $105 per barrel, western oil companies are keen to maintain their access to the Lybian oil fields. BP has huge investments there, but Italy and Spain are large buyers of Libyan oil, and most major European companies operate in Libya, including Spain's Repsol, Italy’s Eni, France's Total, Germany's Wintershall and Austria's OMV. As with Iraq, we cannot ignore that the question of oil looms large in this military intervention.

The NATO bombing has failed to halt the fighting or force Gadaffi’s forces into submission. It is actually making things worse. This is why even the dictator dominated Arab League have said that the bombing has gone well beyond a no-fly zone from the outset. The African Union has condemned the bombing as unjustified intervention in a civil war. These misgivings led Russia China Brazil, Germany and India to abstain in the original UN vote. Even in Britain, despite it being the first days of the military campaign, 43% of the population have already said they are against the action. The IAWM, too, calls for an immediate end to the bombing.

2. No partition and full support for the Libyan uprising and the Arab revolutions.
The IAWM gives its full support to the Libyan uprising. It condemns the hypocrisy of western governments which despite their humanitarian rhetoric, have failed to respond to the basic demands of Libya’s Transitional National Council (TNC). It asked for the recognition of the TNC, access to the billions in sequestrated regime funds in order to buy weapons and other crucial supplies, and an immediate halt to the “mercenary flights” that provided Gaddafi’s regime with its foot soldiers. Western governments refused to accept any of these demands. They objected to weapons sales as they said these could fall into the hands of “Islamist terrorists.” The western powers sought to
protect their own interests. They demanded that any future Libyan government would honour all contracts signed by Gaddafi, including oil concessions. They demanded that the strict repression of “Islamist” movements continue, and that any future government
maintain Libya’s role as a guardian against African migration into southern Europe. In other words, western intervention came at a price.

The NATO bombing is part of a wider western political strategy for the region. Cameron and Sarkozy, cheerleaders for this initiative, fear that the Arab uprisings may get out of hand and threaten to overturn their cosy relationships with the middle eastern regimes. They believe that it is time to put their stamp back on the region and force a halt to further radicalisation of the pro-democracy movements. Amr Moussa, former
foreign minister under Mubarak, prospective Egyptian president, and the head of the Arab League which agreed to back the UN resolution, represents the kind of interim government which the EU and the US would welcome.

Rather than pursuing a strategy which would further isolate Gaddafi, the west have turned their backs on the very forces that could help the Libyan rebels the most. They have ignored the repression occurring in the Yemen, Bahrain or Saudi. Instead of supporting other movements of protest across the region, they have effectively allowed dictatorial regimes to continue undisturbed. France clung on to supporting Ben Ali in Tunisia, in the beginning even offering to send their own riot police to help put down the protests. The Egyptian revolution was left on its own to force Mubarak from power. The brutal suppression of the protests in Yemen have been passed over in silence and the EU’s Catherine Ashton has defended Bahrain’s violent repression of pro-democracy protesters.

The only people that the Libyan rebels can trust are their fellow Arab peoples who are fighting courageously the same brand of tyrant as their own. If Libya’s neighbours, Egypt and Tunisia, lent their support – military, logistical, and practical – to the rebel strongholds in Libya, then that would help the Arabs peoples to take control of their revolutions. The best use that Egypt could make of the $1.3bn of military aid that it gets from the US would be to arm the Libyan rebels. Such measures would help to prevent an outcome that the west looks increasingly likely to favour – the partition of the country into a rebel-held east and a Gaddafi controlled rest of the country.

3. Ireland should recognise the Libyan National Council and call a halt to the NATO intervention.
The IAWM believes that our government should not close ranks behind the NAT0 bombing of Libya. Fine Gael has made no secret of its desire to increase Ireland’s cooperation with EU-NATO cooperation. Nor has it hidden its sympathy with Israel’s agenda in the Middle East. This FG led government looks set to increase Ireland’s military commitment to humanitarian intervention.

The only comments of our new Foreign minister on the crisis unfolding in Libya has been to hide behind the letter of the UN mandate. Eamon Gilmore has said that resolution 1973 “did not extend to regime change” in Libya and “must be confined to the protection of the civilian population”. We believe that among many people who voted for the Labour Party there is unease about where this military campaign will lead. It is simply not good enough for Eamon Gilmore to hide behind platitudes.

We call on Ireland to recognise the Libyan Transitional National Council and call a halt to the NATO bombing. | | Download Leaflets from Below