Wednesday, 16 March 2011

We must support rebels in Libya

[This is the heading over a letter from Duncan McFarlane published in The Herald on 15 March. It reads as follows:]

Too many people, including myself, have been looking at what’s happening in Libya with wariness after war propaganda from Kosovo in 1999 and Iraq from 2002.

There is propaganda today: Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi’s trial was a sham and no-one knows who carried out the Lockerbie bombing; and Muammar Gaddafi has never used chemical weapons against Libyan rebels.

What’s happening in Libya is like Iraq in 1991, when there were rebellions with majority support against the dictatorship, but the dictatorship crushed them because the US and its allies allowed them to, on the calculation that a successful Shia rebellion would increase Iranian influence in Iraq. Similarly the Barack Obama administration is wary of supporting rebels, some of whom, such as the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), have been allies of Al Qaeda.

The rebels are mostly not LIFG. If we don’t back them the likelihood is they will be massacred just like Shia rebels and civilians in the south of Iraq were in 1991. It’s right to be uncertain of reports based on past propaganda; and right to remember the ulterior motives of most governments, but we know from Gaddafi’s past practice that many who criticised him will be killed in public hangings or private disappearances if his forces win.


  1. I notice the writer of the letter does not mention how we should deal with the Bahrain situation and the arrival of Saudi armed forces there who, right now, are brutalising protesters. Many have been arrested and will no doubt be tortured before being killed. Very odd that he has chosen to remain silent on this and not be demanding we take action on that front too.

    Let's merge two well known words and make one of them - democracy - say more accurately what it really means for many in the West: let's call it depocrisy.

  2. Hi Jo - i did write blog posts about Bahrain and the hypocrisy of the US and British governments continuing to back the monarchy there as it shot protesters even before that letter -

    and several more since on Bahrain and US and British backing for Saleh as his snipers shot civilians including dozens of children, including

    I also wrote letters to papers about it, but none were published.

    The only reason i didn't include these in the letter above is that beyond 350 words there is no chance of getting a letter published in the Herald.

    I'm well aware that protecting civilians isn't NATO's motive and that at best they would be doing the right thing for the wrong reasons. While i thought it was justified to bomb tanks, artillery and rocket launchers shelling cities, NATO have since shown no concern for avoiding civilian deaths in their bombing campaign in Tripoli where they've bombed the family homes and compounds of members of Gaddafi's family and government - killing dozens of children for only one of their targets (Gaddafi's youngest adult son - the least significant one - and even in that case they killed two young children with him and there's no evidence it saved a single civilian life anywhere else)

    I believe NATO and the rebels should accept Gaddafi's offer of elections supervised by international observers in return for a cesefire. It may or may not be a genuine offer, but even the chance it could be genuine is worth trying as an alternative to more civilians killed by Gaddafi's rockets and NATO's bombs, possibly followed by an Iraq style guerilla war.