Home > Interviews, LIBYA > NATO’s involvement in Libya: “Now we own it” – INTERVIEW

NATO’s involvement in Libya: “Now we own it” – INTERVIEW

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Laaska News  Sept. 1,2011
John Robles                                      AUDIO

© Collage: Voice of Russia

Interview with Marjorie Cohn, a professor of law at Thomas Jefferson School in San Diego and the editor of The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration and Abuse.

I’d like to ask you a few questions about the situation in Libya. What are your views on the future of Gaddafi? What do you think will happen with him? And what is NATO’s role in the region legally? Do you think they’ve overstepped their mandate?

Yes, the Security Council Resolution 1973 does not authorize regime change. And yet everything that NATO and certainly the US have done is moving in that direction. In fact, some months ago, shortly after the invasion of Libya by NATO, President Obama, Nicolas Sarkozy and David Cameron – all wrote an op-ed in the International Herald Tribune that said that NATO force would fight in Libya until Gaddafi is gone, even though this resolution does not sanction regime change. And now the rebels are saying that allowing Gaddafi’s family to stay in Algeria is, what they call, an ’act of aggression’. So, they are clearly out to get Gaddafi and his family.

The rebels made a statement today that they want to capture Gaddafi, try him and execute him.

Yes, when you put somebody on trial you don’t pronounce the sentence until the trial is over. Their saying they want to try and execute him sounds like a kangaroo court to me. Gaddafi, if at all, should be tried by an international tribunal that is objective and is not going to engage in reprisals. Certainly, Gaddafi is not a great guy but there are massacres of civilians documented by NATO, in other words, NATO has conducted massacres, including one earlier this month in Majer, Libya, where family members, eye- witnesses and Libyan government officials said that NATO’s air strikes at Majer killed 85 people, including 33 children, 32 women and 20 men. Reporters and visitors saw 30 of the bodies at a local morgue, including a mother and two children. We don’t know how many civilians have been killed by the NATO bombs, even though the stated purpose of the NATO intervention was to protect civilians.

What can the international community or people in general do to see that justice is done?

I think that publicizing what is really happening is the most important thing – and that’s what you and I are doing right now. The Daily Beast publication in the US came out with a piece today by John Barry, saying that the US military is conducting a secret war in Libya and has helped NATO with everything from munitions to surveillance aircraft, that the US military has spent $1 billion and played a far larger role in Libya than it has acknowledged and that there is an emerging covert intervention strategy, deploying far more forces than the Obama Administration wants to advertize.I think it’s important to get at why the US and its NATO allies are so intent on getting rid of Gaddafi. Libya played an important role in financing the African Bank, which allowed African nations to avoid dealing with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Libya also financed an African Telecommunications System that saved African countries hundreds of millions of dollars, allowing them to bypass western-controlled networks. He also raised the standard of living. I’m not saying he is a great guy, but Libya is the largest oil producer in Africa, the twelfth largest in the world, and its oil resources are very important for NATO’s European allies. The manager of the rebel-controlled Arabian Gulf Oil Company, Libya’s largest oil producer, said: “We don’t have a problem with western countries. But we may have some political issues with Russia, China and Brazil, because those last three countries are not involved in the NATO mission in Libya.”

And a British official told The Economist that NATO’s involvement in Libya means that: “Now we own it.” So, there is going to be a lot of instability because of this organization that NATO has recognized, the National Transitional Council, which evidently doesn’t necessarily support the rebels in Libya.

I think you are going to see a lot of chaos with a lot of covert, behind-the-scenes choreographing of what’s going to happen in Libya. And, quite frankly, I’d be surprised if they do actually find Gaddafi, if not just to kill him the way they killed Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. If you look at the events leading up to the NATO invasion, they talked about relying on this responsibility to protect doctrine. It’s not enshrined in any international treaty, it’s not part of customary international law.

But it says that the international community through the United Nations has the responsibility to use appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian and other peaceful means in accordance with Chapters 6 and 8 of the UN Charter to help protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.

Chapter 6 of the UN Charter requires parties to seek a solution peacefully by negotiation. And yet they did not do that. Instead of pursuing an immediate ceasefire, immediate military action was taken. And the military force being used by NATO exceeds the bounds of “all necessary measures”, authorization and this resolution 1973. After the passage of the resolution Libya immediately offered to accept international monitors and Gaddafi offered to step down and leave Libya, but those offers were immediately rejected.

And another thing that is very interesting is the double standard in the use of military force to protect civilians in Bahrain, where NATO force was being used to quell anti-government protest because that’s where the US Fifth Fleet is stationed. And The Asia Times reported that before the invasion of Libya the US made a deal with Saudi Arabia where the Saudis would invade Bahrain to help put down the anti-democracy protesters and Saudi Arabia would enlist the support of the Arab League for a no-fly zone over Libya. The Arab League support for a no-fly zone effectively neutralized opposition from China and Russia to Security Council Resolution 1973. But, as I said, NATO has gone far beyond a no-fly zone.

VOR
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