The general leaning towards barbarity acquires a certain method, immorality becomes a system, lawlessness gets its law givers and club law its law books.’ Karl Marx.
British Prime Minister David Cameron announced the start of Operation Odyssey Dawn on 19 March 2011 with the words: ‘We are doing what is necessary, legal and right.’ 112 cruise missiles were fired at Libya from US and British naval vessels. French and British RAF fighter airplanes flew from bases in their home countries to bomb Libya. This is the 46th separate British military operation in the Middle East and North Africa since the Second World War and it was sanctioned by United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 proposing ‘all necessary measures’ to stop the Libyan government attacking their opponents.
Cameron proceeded; ‘Our thoughts should be with those in our armed services who are putting their lives at risk in order to save the lives of others. They are the bravest of the brave.’ Since 1991 Britain and the US have been constantly at war. The RAF has flown thousands of missions since 1991, bombing Iraq, the former Yugoslavia and Afghanistan. In that time only one or two British air crews have been hit or downed. They fly over people, bomb them and return to base at practically no risk to themselves. This is not bravery. Unleashing missiles against which people have no defence and no means of retaliation is not bravery, it is murder – murder perpetrated by the British government with the blessing of the Labour Party opposition. These are not ‘precision’ weapons; civilians are killed as we have seen in the former Yugoslavia, Iraq and Afghanistan. Where was the no-fly zone over Gaza when the Israeli Defence Force killed over 1,400 Palestinians in 2008-2009? Where are the British, French and US soldiers saving the lives of people in Bahrain and Yemen as they are gunned down on their streets with weapons that British, US and French companies sold to brutal dictatorships now waging counter-revolution? Barbarism dressed in the garb of ‘humanitarianism’ barely conceals naked-self interest.
This war on Libya comes at a time when the British government faces increasing anger and growing opposition to its policy of spending cuts. ConDem government politicians will wring all the chauvinistic support they can get from this war. In 1982 the Thatcher-led Conservative government trailed Labour and the SDP/Liberal alliance in opinion polls. It launched the Falklands/Malvinas war that year, implemented economic measures that pushed unemployment to a post-Second World War record of over three million people – and was re-elected in 1983 with a landslide majority. This was made possible by the chauvinism generated by the war. Workers in Britain have every reason to oppose this imperialist attack on Libya; failure to do so will enfeeble our own attempts to defend ourselves. Just four MPs opposed the British government’s drive to war against Libya and the UN vote by supporting the Stop the War Coalition; three Labour MPs – Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and Paul Flynn – and the one Green MP, Caroline Lucas. There will be a Commons debate on 21 March; we can expect more jingoism.
The African Union voted against ‘any form of intervention’ in Libya. Brazil, India, China, Germany and Russia abstained in the UN vote. The Resolution states, ‘for all necessary measures short of an occupation force to protect civilians under threat of attack’. However, Cameron was explicit in his intentions for regime change in Libya: ‘It is not in our national interests for this man [Gaddafi] to lead a pariah state on the southern borders of Europe with all the problems that could entail.’ US President Obama said, Gaddafi ‘has lost his legitimacy and he has to leave’. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described Gaddafi as ‘a ruthless dictator…If he does not go he will just make trouble’. These are not the words of powers that will abide by the apparent limitations of Resolution 1973, which excludes ‘a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory’.
Imperialism will favour a weakened and pliant Libyan state, even the partition of the country between east and west, as long as it strengthens its grip on the Middle East and North Africa. The ruling class media in Britain will bang the chauvinist drum. We ask: What of the millions of poor and oppressed people throughout the region and the world who are rising up to save their lives and the planet? Their enemy resides in Washington, London and Paris, as does the enemy of the Libyan people. What of the lives of millions of people in Britain who are being driven into unemployment and poverty by the same forces that would dictate the fate of Libya? As Lenin foresaw, we are living in an era of wars and revolution.