Wednesday, February 23, 2011

It's Just An Issue Between The Libyan People And Their Leader.

In September, 2005, when the United States of America pleaded for Canada's help in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, we did not respond this way: "Again, you know, this ultimately and fundamentally an issue between, you know, the American government, its leader, and the American people." Instead, within days, three Canadian warships and a Coast Guard vessel, loaded with relief supplies and carrying 1,000 Canadian Forces members, set sail for New Orleans.

From the beginning, Libyans have been pleading for help. All they've heard from President Obama, apart from one or two of the usual mutterings of shock and dismay, is silence. And this, yesterday, from State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley: "Again, you know, this ultimately and fundamentally an issue between, you know, the Libyan government, its leader, and the Libyan people."

After nervously waiting and watching to see what other heads of state might say (by the way, thank you President Alan Garcia of Peru, you are now the leader of the free world), the American president has at last mustered the courage to add his timid voice to what is now an ever-louder chorus for some kind of intervention. The aircraft carrier USS Enterprise is only days away from the Libyan coast. Its fighter jets are only minutes away. We'll see.

But we musn't be mean to the nice people in the White House. After all, this has to be a multilateral thing. It has to go through the UN Security Council and the UN Human Rights Council. Good luck with that.

Meanwhile, I see Sarah Leah Whitson of Human Rights Watch has a kind of "Well I'll be dashed, I appear to have been quite wrong about that charming Saif Gaddafi" exculpation in today's LA Times. She might have at least said sorry for the Springtime for Hitler bouquet she presented to the Gaddafis a couple of years back, but these days, one takes whatever cold comfort comes along. Props for Sarah.

Do keep an eye on the February 17 movement. For a glimpse of the way the UN Human Rights Council machine covers up the Gaddafis' crimes (Libya is a UNHRC member in good standing) while Big Mo and the boys rob the Libyan people blind and trample their human rights into the sand, it works like this:


Blogger James O'Hearn said...

I agree, somewhat, with your point that something needs to be done here, but the situation in Libya is far different than Katrina.

Canadian warships could sail to New Orleans because their help was needed, invited, and they knew they would not be mistaken as an invading force.

As illegitimate as the recognized government of Libya is, it is still the recognized government, and they have not invited help in. Yes, the government could send the DART team in, but what happens when other groups pop up claiming to be the legitimate government? Any action on our part ends up affecting the political landscape. Or what happens if our forces get caught in between tribal schisms?

Even if a mass of people are pleading for help, once our soldiers are on Libyan soil, all it takes is another group of people to see them as invaders, and suddenly Canada is in the middle of another war.

Personally I want the US, or Canada, or the UK to just go in there, full force, knock the shit out of every sclerotic, despotic structure in the damn place, and start bringing modernity in.

But that isn't going to happen. And though that does not preclude a more limited response, I think the fear is that Libya is looking a lot like an Afghanistan in the making, and the phrase "Fools Rush In" is echoing loudly in the minds of the decision makers.

Parliament has been a collection of jackasses lately regarding our commitments abroad, and I'd lay down good money that were Harper to send ships to Libya, Iggy, Layton, and Duceppe would be on TV howling about unilateral actions not authorized by the UN.

One thing I hope the US can do is to redirect their humanitarian fleet, which has been circling between South America and Africa on the Atlantic, and send them up to sit just offshore from Libya.

Overall, though, this whole thing is so frustrating, mostly because the bloody UN is so ass-clown useless, yet all authority for legitimate action rests with them.

You know, say what you want about the Bush years, but at least when the Tsunami hit, the US Navy was all over the relief effort within hours. It took the UN weeks to get into gear. It would be a real irony if Obama's actions made Bush look like the better humanitarian.

9:48 PM  
Blogger dmurrell said...

The corporate media, so far, have been silent about the huge fortune the Ghadafi family has amassed. So I was surprised to watch a CTV News Network piece -- replaying a piece from a U.S. newtwork -- highlighting the fact that this notorious family has amassed perhaps between $32-billion to $36-billion, moast of which is overseas.

The confiscation of Libyan wealth is something you should look into, Terry, since the mainstream media seems uninterested in this.

12:39 PM  
Blogger Terry Glavin said...

It's the principle, James. It is universal. It is exactly the same. It should not (and does not) matter whether a so-called "legitimate government" (are you kidding me?) is asking for intervention. Libya is no longer a functioning state, if you haven't noticed.

Even under international law (see Section VII i.e Responsibility to Protect) the principle is established and clear. The Libyans are begging for help. Do you really think that if they got it in the form of an MK82 party crasher piercing Gaddafi's tent they'd be out protesting against "western imperialism"? Give your head a shake. There will be people in the "Arab world" and on American university campuses bleating about that no matter what the White House does anyway.

This is an historic moment. It's 1956 Budapest, 1968 Prague, 1989 Berlin, 1917 Moscow, 1848 Paris. . . take your pick. Millions of Arabs will be telling stories about these moments in the years to come.

"So, grandpa, what did the the United States do to help us?"

"Ah, dear grandchild, I am impressed you are aware of that minor country north of Brazil that used to be important. They had a very handsome president at the time. If I recall correctly he sent his secretary of state - Claxton, Clifton? I forget - to Geneva, with instructions to negotiate with the tyrants who used to oppress us on the wording of a resolution to revoke Gaddafi's free drink tickets in the UNCHR lounge."

12:51 PM  
Blogger Terry Glavin said...

DAVE: Agreed but very hard to "look into."

These people are on it though:

See also: ". . .average annual illicit outflows from developing countries averaging $725 billion to $810 billion", that's annually, 2002 to 2008.

2:36 PM  
Blogger Aymenn Jawad said...

Hi Terry:

I agree with your arguments here (by the way, vis-à-vis Julian Assange, it seems you had it right on his character and I had it wrong). I presume you are aware of Daniel Ortega's declaration of 'solidarity' with Gaddafi. On a related note, may I ask what you thought of the Sandinista government back in the 1980s?


1:18 AM  
Blogger Terry Glavin said...

I was totally pro-Sandinista in the overthrow of Somoza and the immediate aftermath. Was among the first of my crowd to lose enthusiasm. It was their treatment of the costenos, esp. the Miskitos; all a bit blurry now, but well recall the tragedy was the only "resistance" was the Contras.

4:24 AM  
Blogger Graeme said...

And a Canadian company is building prisons there "to international human rights standards." Utterly vile.

5:31 AM  
Blogger Louise said...

Good on President Garcia, but I have to ask, how many Peruvian nationals are waiting in Tripoli or elsewhere (or trying to get to Tripoli) so they can be safely evacuated?

As we have seen, the Libyan regime has considerable control over the speed and efficiency, or even the very existence, of the process of evacuating foreign nationals.

They call the shots about who gets landing/docking rights and as such, they can delay the departure of foreigners and by extension, any overt action on the part of the countries whose people are stranded there.

And then there's the Skylink insurance thingy, just to make things interesting.

God-Damned-Daffy can do a lot of damage in the meantime, and can instantly declare hudna once every foreign national is out which could very well leave him lying in his luxurious tent until the next time the spirit moves him to crack down of the betrayers of the revolution.

It's all very fine to declare a no-fly zone, which will undoubtedly reduce Ghadafi's capacity to rape, pillage and murder, but the keyword there is reduce, not eliminate, and maybe just postpone.

In the meantime, we have the world paralyzed due to their fear of being too much like the much reviled Dubya. After all, Libya has oil and no blood for oil is the new modus operandi.

7:30 AM  
Blogger Old Brooktrout said...

Every progressive Canadian should be reading Terry's blog. Every fricking day.

11:02 AM  
Blogger James O'Hearn said...

You know, when the US went into Iraq, I didn't care about WMD, or any of those other reasons and justifications. All the stories I had read of mass graves, gas attacks on civilians (especially Kurds), and the brutal physical and psychological repression of the people seemed reason enough to me.

I work with a number of Iraqis, and while I'll sit politely quiet when they go off on an anti-US tangent, whenever I quietly and innocently ask if it was better under Saddam, the discussion ends. I see the psychological effects of a life under such a regime in these people, every day in how they frame their thoughts, their actions, and their responses.

But I also see how hope has slowly grown in them, as they talk about visiting their families in Iraq during holidays, and bringing their relatives over to Dubai for a vacation - something they would never have been able to do before.

These colleagues will never, ever state that the invasion of Iraq was a good thing, but their very actions, freedom, and the strides they take towards making a better future for their families says it all.

In regards to Libya, I agree with you 100% that Momo needs to take a dirt nap. But my point was that in reality, (and as the actions of the Obama administration currently reveal), there is an overwhelming unwillingness to take military action to defend lives. Christopher Hitchen's latest article pretty much summed up my feelings about our useless, impotent leaders.

I think this is a crucial time for the Speechifyin' Hopeychanger. Americans are being execute by pirates, and thousands are being massacred by a mad dictator and his paid gunmen. And while I want to think that 5th and 6th Fleets are going to spring into action, I've got a feeling that all we'll see is an appearance on Oprah or the View.

You know... this thing in Libya... it's the sort of thing the 101st Airborne was made and trained for... Too bad Canada doesn't have them around any more.

12:12 PM  
Blogger Terry Glavin said...

You got it, James.

Harper says Gaddafi should be sent to the War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague. Libya isn't a signatory to the Rome convention, so the only thing that means a UN Security Council resolution referring him to the Hague. Like Bashir in Sudan was. Libya was the dang chair of the UN Security Council a couple years back.

The whole thing read like a really bad movie script.

Drones. The eastern tribes should put up an offer: First country to take out Gaddafi gets first dibs on cut-price oil for a year; nobody else gets a drop.

6:32 PM  
Blogger Louise said...

James O'Hearn: "You know, when the US went into Iraq, I didn't care about WMD, or any of those other reasons and justifications. All the stories I had read of mass graves, gas attacks on civilians (especially Kurds), and the brutal physical and psychological repression of the people seemed reason enough to me." I wonder. Were we separated at birth?

7:41 AM  

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