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Libya: Whither International Law?

For those who think that anything good is going to come out of this NATO led war in Libya, and feel that it is a mainly a question of some wrongly supporting Gadaffi, I beg to differ. The choices really are-

1.  A government in power under Gadaffi; or

2. A government “bombed into power” by NATO; or

3.  A Western-style elected government, which plan, from the onset of the rebel uprising, the African Union had stated in a detailed plan and Gadaffi had accepted.

Now, since number 1 is history, and number 2 is being resisted in a civil war 6 months on – and – no one on the NATO side had permitted option 3, then we are left with choices 1 or 2. Honest reasoning compels one to  ask the question whether there is strong support for Gadaffi in Libya, and if there is and he is willing to be subjected to a Western style ballot – where then is the “democratic” credibility in not having avoided the civil war and effected the AU plan with a choice at the Western style ballot? But, the answer comes back that the African Union was ignored and over-ridden by US foreign policy and Hillary Clinton treated grown African  men, speaking down to and dictating to them,  as boys in Addis Ababa – and Africa is to have no voice or say in the continent’s destiny, unless it is designed by, dictated to, and approved by the US, France and Britain.

The honest answer is not to be found in the official fig-leaf cover of “democracy” or NATO’s “humanitarian mission”. These types of operations have a long history, in respect of which the United States of America has been a leader in implementation of similar belligerencies around the world:-

Go to YouTube and insert:-  CIA Secret Wars w/ Col. John Stockwell: Gross Millions Dead

NATO’s operation in Libya, if one were to compare what that  insider CIA person has revealed in the John Stockwell video (above), should lead one to understand from whence the militarist motivation for the Libyan operation came. This Libya war supported by the US, reliant on propelled third-party actors,  and advanced  by NATO,  has nothing to do with the promotion of “democracy” in Libya. If the West’s entreaties to Gadaffi had anything to do with Western style democracy being implanted in Libya, one already had the precedent of Gadaffi having disposed of his WMD programme, so there was sufficient indication that he would be responsive to Western non-violent urgings. He had already co-operated with Western intelligence services, which goes some considerable way to having relations that signalled that he was not unreachable on all fronts. If  Gadaffi had built up and retained  an arsenal of inter-continental ballistic missiles and other significant forms of WMDs that could be fired into Europe or the US, assuredly this type of  on-going operation against Libya would not have taken place. This may seem a cynical observation, but I consider it true. When the US/NATO mission ultimately reaches Iran, one will find it interesting to see how that war is pursued, having due regard for the military capabilities of the Iranian government.

I cannot see anytime in the near future much good, for the Libyan people en masse,  coming out of the whole Libyan exercise to oust Gadaffi. With Western domination of Libyan oil, as with the US presence in Iraq, the future for Libya looks very bleak – IMF loans, World Bank indebtedness, privatization of the best sectors of the Libyan economy ( health care, education and its vast water supplies included), McDonald’s galore and with Libya moving from a debt free nation to indebtedness to the West, a plethora of cultural, racial and tribal tensions unleashed  such  that Western backed leadership will prove unlikely to manage ( because the UK and France simply are not interested in) the best interest of the Libyan people. Will the rebel faction be able to maintain and control political power in Libya without NATO backing? I suspect not. Yet, any and all foreign military presence will continue to be resisted by the Gadaffi faction, or the like-minded nationalist political heirs of Gadaffi, if Gadaffi is assassinated any time in the near future.

There is unlikely to be any truly representative elections being held any time in the near future, with all factions being represented (cf. the failure in Afghanistan to unite tribes and effect representative electoral process over a decade accompanied by  the beating that NATO is taking after a decade of occupation). France and the UK will be jostling to get their share of the oil, on terms disproportionately favourable to Western oil interests, as  payback for the military support given by  NATO to the  “bombed in” NTC administration. China has already played a strategic international card  in recognising the NTC, with an assurance obtained that the existing pre-NTC contracts with Libya will be honoured. Russia too has played both sides against the economic middle, in certain ways. Russian  media is largely condemnatory of the legal violations and excesses of NATO, but at the international legal level, it too has recognised the NTC. That is  simply called – acting with national economic self-interest. Chavez and his ALBA group of Latin American and Caribbean countries refuse any acknowledgement of the NTC and are taking active steps in the UN in opposition to the NTC. Meanwhile, Gadaffi loyalists fight on – on the ground in Libya.

If the NATO forces can partition Libya, this will be done; if NATO can defeat the Gaddafi  faction it will do so with overt and covert support for  its implanted “government”; if NATO can assassinate Gadaffi, it will do so; whatever slices of the oil wealth  can be claimed for themselves by the UK and France  – assuredly will be claimed. International law in Libya, when considering NATO’s actions, is literally coming out of the barrel of guns.

I am saying categorically that the point is not whether some or most inside or outside of Libya  support Gadaffi or oppose him to any degree (clearly, many inside Libya do – despite 6 months of bombing by the world’s most advanced militarized nations).

The salient points of international concern  are:

1. Is the world to see the upholding of the principles of the United Nations Charter for the promotion of peace in the world and settlement of international disputes by peaceful means; is Article 2 of the UN Charter to remain the basis on which nations can under international law lawfully go to war, or by reference to Article 51 ( self-defence) as a legitimate basis to engage in belligerent international action?

2. Does the   concept of sovereignty have applicability in the international community, and  more particularly has the concept  been respected in the case of Libya?

3.  Did either UN Resolutions 1970 or 1973 permit the NATO nations lawfully to bomb and to arm and support a faction in Libya to obtain regime change?

4.   Will the actions of the US and the European branch of NATO use Libya as an international precedent for incursions into any resource rich country, or rely on  the casus belli of “humanitarianism” as a basis to oppose militarily any nation that deigns to advance any truly independent national polices, not in accordance with NATO’s wishes?

The answers to these types of questions will yield one of two results:-

1.  A world that is committed to peace and respect for the rule of international law; or

2.   A world of unending and perpetual warfare where covert support for  uprisings deemed to be in the interest of the US/NATO will increase with concomitant global instability on a massive scale for  most of humankind as covert militarism becomes manifestly more blatant, outrageously illegal and overt.

The rule of international law may be deemed by some to be some sort of legalistic abstraction. Indeed, international law can seem distant and far removed from one’s daily existence. However, does the idea that there are domestic laws, which prohibit the theft of your car, your TV, and personal property of whatever type, have tangible meaning when a neighbour steals your car and you go to the police to have the law enforced?

The real problem, however, in international law in the case of Libya, is that when the thieves and Rule-Makers are themselves the Rule-Breakers – then to whom does one turn for justice – the UN? Mao Tse-Tung’s power from the barrel of a gun edict takes on new meaning (“Political power grows from the barrel of a gun” – “Politics is war without bloodshed, while war is politics with bloodshed”) – since now NATO’s war surfaces with undeniable  bloody meaning, as the framework of international legality has capsized in Libya,  and is substantially compromised by reference to the barrels of many Libyan and NATO guns.

This is in no way a war in Libya about or for “democracy”. Plain and simple – this is an imperialist and neo-colonial war, and one heavily motivated by the desire for  the control and domination of Libyan oil.

Courtenay Barnett  is an Attorney-At-Law. Visit  www.globaljusticeonline.com.

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