The fog of war
First it was Italy that expressed misgivings about Nato’s continued bombing of Libya. Now two other coalition partners – Norway and Denmark – say they are fed up with the unprovoked war and are pulling out of the bombing force. British political journalist, Alex Stevenson writing in his blog, Politics.co.uk on July 27, also says Britain is running out of cards to play against Gaddafi.
‘Britain is struggling to get its way in the debate over Libya’s future – but that isn’t stopping it trying to do all it can to oust Muammar Gaddafi,’ Stevenson wrote.
‘The UK is having a tough time of it in Libya. Gaddafi, who was supposed to have folded months ago, remains as defiant as ever. The UK has committed itself to an open-ended conflict which has already seen RAF jets fly 17,000 sorties over Libyan airspace. If progress isn’t made by the time parliament returns in September, the government could find itself in political hot water from frustrated MPs.’
Stevenson is, perhaps, one of the few western journalists I know of to speak out against what I see as the illegal war against the maverick colonel.
I had an online chat about Libya a few days ago with a western journalist who, like me, thought Gaddafi was not being dealt a fair card. ‘If you believe that is the case, why don’t you guys come out and condemn it?’ I quipped. This was his response: ‘I think most journalists worked out long ago why Nato were aggressively pursuing regime change in Libya. Everything is usually about oil and money – and as autocrats go, none have ever been as benevolent to their citizens as Gaddafi. The west’s propaganda machine has convinced far too many of their so-called “just cause.’
Then he added, ‘You may hear differently, Jonny, but the truth of the matter is we are controlled by editors who are in turn controlled by the owners of the newspapers. In most cases they, the proprietors, have their own agenda and, therefore, it is not in their business interests to go against the status quo or the political climate of the state. Only people like Michael Moore in the US has the following to make his own documentaries about the truth.
‘If any of us do it, we then have to eventually look for another job as sooner or later we get called traitors [and] get blacklisted. If a journalist wants to keep working they can get away with almost anything except to condemn a situation when we have our own troops or pilots – rightly or wrongly – in a war-like engagement. It’s regarded, sadly, as the only demarcation line.’
So with the propaganda machine firmly in place and well oiled the military campaign continues despite the political and diplomatic options available. British Prime Minister David Cameron displayed Nato’s intransigence during his visit to South Africa in July where he had an embarrassing public spat with his host over the issue. ‘The difference is that President [Jacob Zuma] sees [the removal of Gaddafi] as the outcome of a political process, whereas I believe for a political process to work that [the military campaign] has to be the starting point.’ It must be noted that the African Union has pushed for greater diplomatic engagement with Tripoli.
While it is almost universally agreed that Gaddafi must go, many are questioning Nato’s right to effect the regime change by force of arms. To paraphrase what a friend said, ‘How can one man consume alcohol and another get legless for him?’ Every government has an opposition and for Nato to side with the Libyan opposition is hypocritical. Looking at the demographics in Libya, it beggars belief that Nato should get involved in the first place. Let us do some simple arithmetic here. According to the 2006 census, the population of Benghazi, the de facto capital of the so called rebel Transitional National Council (TNC), is about 671,000. Therefore, to be very generous, less than a million people out of a total population of just over six million, want Gaddafi out. That is less than 10 per cent
What I want to know is if such a small percentage of the population of any western country opposed their government and decided to take up arms, would Nato send its warplanes to help them? Former US president George W Bush won the 2000 US presidential elections by a whisker, with the result hotly disputed by his opponent Al Gore and his fellow Democrats. Would Gore have been justified if he had taken up arms after challenging and losing the results in court?
Let us come closer to home. In my own country Ghana, the current president, John Attah Mills won the 2008 elections by a margin of 0.46 per cent. Would the opposition New Patriotic Party been justified if it had taken up arms against Mills and his party? Would Nato have supported them and bombed the ruling government out of power? Let us ponder these issues very carefully and dispassionately!