Friday, 18 November 2011

Keep on warring for the free world : the fate of Libya and Gaddafi

Anyone seeking the truth about what exactly happened in Libya this year may well wish to read Hugh Roberts' essay "Who said Gaddafi had to go? " published in a recent issue of The London Review of Books.
It's a long read but it offers an opportunity to reflect on the history that lay behind the soundbites emanating from the  mouths of the democratically elected leaders of the free world about the events leading to the regime change in Libya during 2011.

In the following brief excerpt Roberts considers the UK'S, the USA's and France's statements in February 2011  about Gaddafi's acts of "genocide". Some may find it uncomfortable, as I do,  since I can't accept  the concept of any state being  able to "legitimately" kill its own people but there is another point here and it is that powerful states arrogate the power to decide arbitrarily that the people of other states  are expendable and may be slaughtered. 
(The full text of the essay can be found here : Hugh Roberts: Who said Gaddafi had to go? ).

‘Killing his own people’ is a hand-me-down line from the previous regime change war against Saddam Hussein. In both cases it suggested two things: that the despot was a monster and that he represented nothing in the society he ruled. It is tendentious and dishonest to say simply that Gaddafi was ‘killing his own people’; he was killing those of his people who were rebelling. He was doing in this respect what every government in history has done when faced with a rebellion. We are all free to prefer the rebels to the government in any given case. But the relative merits of the two sides aren’t the issue in such situations: the issue is the right of a state to defend itself against violent subversion. That right, once taken for granted as the corollary of sovereignty, is now compromised. Theoretically, it is qualified by certain rules. But, as we have seen, the invocation of rules (e.g. no genocide) can go together with a cynical exaggeration and distortion of the facts by other states. There are in fact no reliable rules. A state may repress a revolt if the permanent veto-holding powers on the Security Council allow it to (e.g. Bahrain, but also Sri Lanka) and not otherwise. And if a state thinks it can take this informal authorisation to defend itself as read because it is on good terms with London, Paris and Washington and is honouring all its agreements with them, as Libya was, it had better beware. Terms can change without warning from one day to the next. The matter is now arbitrary, and arbitrariness is the opposite of law.'

Hugh Roberts, London Review of Books, November 17, 2011

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