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NATO: ‘A ghost orbiting forever lost’

NATO: ‘A ghost orbiting forever lost’

There are many similarities between Libya and Iraq. The landscapes are crusty and pancake flat. The housing is similarly spartan, and relentlessly dun. Because of a history of sanctions and the caprice of their leadership, Libyans and Iraqis alike have benefitted little from their country’s oil wealth. Both countries suffer from corruption, human right abuses and neglect. In February this year when protests in Tunis and Cairo sent heavy tremors in Tripoli, most political analysts thought the protest would usher in an ancien regime in Tripoli. But protesters met stiff resistance from Gaddafi’s loyal Republican guards. Bullets were fired and arrests were made. NATO under the dictates of UN adopted Resolution 1973 to protect civilians and enforced a no-fly zone over Libya. This adds another parallel to that of Iraq in 1991. Yet still, the situation in Libya continues to tilt towards violence and lawlessness especially as cracks start to emerge among NATO members and Gaddafi stoically continues to cling on to power.  (Photo: Idrissa Koroma, author)

In 1967, an American poet Robert Lowell who was remanded for pacifism during the Second World War, marched on the Pentagon in Washington for America’s war against Vietnam. In front of a posse of huddled crowd, he read one of his finest poems “Waking Early Sunday Morning”. The last line of that poem reads: a ghost orbiting for forever lost. Lowell understood the consequences of America’s chosen role as the world’s policeman. He had a premonition of what the future held for a nation that was, because of its imperial ambition and sense of its own higher moral purpose, destined repeatedly to be ensnared in conflicts in distant land. His comments against hawkish America back then, resonates the operations of NATO in Libya now. More especially so as the military campaign in Libya is running out of steam, there are signs that the operation is sliding into a mission creep.

However, NATO members espoused the doctrine of liberal interventionism on humanitarian grounds. Their objective was to put an end into the murderous actions of Gaddafi. The rebels strengthened and supported though, as cynics says that the Arabs have never done democracy and ridicule the Libyan rebels as a hotchpotch of chancers with bogus claims to be democratic while having nasty jihadists in their midst. And behind it lies the spectre of NATO sliding into yet another quagmire, as they did in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, the controversy over interventionism has been conducted in absolutist terms. Some believe the Manichean view that democracy can be imposed on failed states through bombing and external agents (NATO), rather than peoples power which led to the removal of both Tunisia and Egypt presidents earlier this year. Others see intervention into a sovereign state as a new form of neo-imperialism and the occupation of territories. Tony Blair, emboldened by the success of his actions in the NATO-led intervention on Serbia during the Kosovo war in 1999 and Sierra Leone in 2000 to wipe out the West Side Boys, interventionism became an absolutist dogma. He said “there was a moral obligation to intervene to make the world a better place”. But in all this, there seem to be double speaking and inconsistencies. Why intervening in Libya – Is it for oil? – and not in Yemen or Syria, where civilians are being fired at with live ammunitions by despots who are every bit as repugnant as Gaddafi?

I relished an essay titled “A Few Words on Non-intervention” written by the renowned philosopher J S Mill in 1859, still one of the best among the once I have perused. He wrote this essay on the height of the Crimean war and the construction of the Suez Canal in Egypt. Mill was not totally against foreign intervention, as a servant of imperialism himself but, he set limits on when a country should intervene in the internal affairs of another, especially during a civil conflict. He believed that there are likely strings attached to any form of foreign intervention rather than humanitarian plight. In this regard, Mill is saying that the intervention in Libya by NATO is about oil! He said that if people did not have “a sufficient love of liberty to be able to wrest it from merely domestic oppressors, the liberty which is bestowed on them by other hands rather than their own, will have nothing real, nothing permanent”. So, how prepared the rebels are in Libya to free themselves from the fettered shackles of Colonel Gaddafi? I believe they are just a bunch of naive and inexperienced gladiators ready to stake their lives at all cost to get ‘freedom’ through a regime change.

Apparently, the four months old bombing campaign by NATO if it was instituted genuinely to protect civilians and not to target Gaddafi, I presumed, for the Lockerbie plane crash in 1988, would have produced positive results. NATO itself faces acute problems of its own, which has created further stalemate on their operations in Libya. There are apparent signs of dissensions and schisms among NATO members.

It is seemingly clear that no member country wants to take a leading role in the operations in Libya, in relation to the huge financial burden that lies ahead. America, the leading NATO financier is facing pressure from the dominant Republican congress to reduce its deficit, especially cutting military spending. Last week, the decision to vote against president Obama, by the house of congress to fund NATO’s operations in Libya vindicate this claim. Here in the UK the coalition government was forced to lay bare it expenditures so far, on the operations of NATO in Libya, which was a staggering underestimated amounts of £250M to the annoyance of taxpayers. Furthermore, the conspicuous refusals of Russia, China and Germany to join the coalition forces compound the problems further. The lack of finance and international support reflect the scepticism about the merits of military action, and exudes the visual cracks that are inhibiting the mission. Hence, it also leaves the operations threadbare and exposed to failings.

When I flick listlessly through the cable TV spectrum to listening to Sky news or Aljazeera; am always maudlin and angry to see scrupulously clean mansions slide into rubble and innocent civilians kill by NATO systematic bombing of Tripoli mask behind destroying Gaddafi’s command and control centres. Consequently, the indiscriminate bombing campaign designed by NATO had done little to protect innocent civilians. But just reinforces the palsied grip of Gaddafi’s ‘gerontocracy’ further. Hence, the country’s transformation into a dystopia, complete. I eschewed war, having experienced it in Sierra Leone my country of birth, and believe that wars are so horrible and could make horrible situations more horribly complex. Therefore, I honestly believed that, if there are no sentiments attached and no interests at stake, the only solution to the Libyan impasse should be a DIALOGUE and not a Kosovo or Iraq style of intervention. Moreover, I honestly believed that NATO has done more harm to civilians than protecting them, so it’s glaring for them to be prosecuted. Under international jurisprudence, the indiscriminate bombings when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directly or indirectly against any civilian population, with the knowledge of the attack qualifies as a crime against humanity. It’s pretty clear to me that NATO and its cohort clear this bar – the atrocities in Libya have been widespread, systematic and committed through the express order of NATO central command. The hierarchy of terror is clear with no smokescreen of anarchy to haze the blame.

But they will never accept this senseless slaying of unarmed civilians. And because of the haste they have rushed to intervene as they sought to police the earth, ghosts orbiting forever lost.

Idrissa Koroma (Babito)

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