Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Had Western powers done nothing, they would have been accused of sitting idly by, indifferent to the suffering of a Muslim population. Having done something, they are accused of doing too much, and chances are good that at some point, calls for revenge over the supposedly “indiscriminate” loss of Muslim life will then be converted into a reason for more “defensive jihad” — which is ultimately jihad waiting for an excuse.
In all of this, the sense of entitlement of Amr Moussa and the Arab League to order around other nations to do its dirty work — and take the flak, in all senses of the word, for the military intervention — is staggering. One is reminded of the appalling remarks attributed to King Fahd in 1993:
“I summon my blue-eyed slaves anytime it pleases me. I command the Americans to send me their bravest soldiers to die for me. Anytime I clap my hands a stupid genie called the American ambassador appears to do my bidding. When the Americans die in my service their bodies are frozen in metal boxes by the US Embassy and American airplanes carry them away, as if they never existed. Truly, America is my favorite slave.”
That seems to be more or less the attitude at work here. The word out of the British Foreign Office about Amr Moussa is not surprising, though, combining two tactics we see a great deal of: complaining that controversial comments have been misquoted, and claiming something fell through the cracks on the way between Arabic and English.
America, France and Britain — the leaders of the coalition’s air attacks on Libya — were struggling to maintain international support for their actions, as they faced stinging criticism about mission creep from the leader of the Arab League, as well as from China and Russia.
Critics claimed that the coalition of the willing may have been acting disproportionately and had come perilously close to making Gaddafi’s departure an explicit goal of UN policy.
Russia, which abstained on the UN vote last week, called for “an end to indiscriminate force”.
Despite denials from coalition forces, Alexander Lukashevich, Russia’s foreign ministry spokesman, said that the coalition had hit non-military targets.
He suggested that 48 civilians had been killed. “We believe a mandate given by the UN security council resolution — a controversial move in itself — should not be used to achieve goals outside its provisions, which only see measures necessary to protect civilian population,” he said.
The Arab League secretary general, Amr Moussa, also startled western governments when he denounced the air attacks only a week after the league had called for creation of a no-fly zone.
Moussa, who is a candidate for the Egyptian presidency, said: “What has happened in Libya differs from the goal of imposing a no-fly zone and what we want is the protection of civilians and not bombing other civilians.”
The Foreign Office later said Moussa claimed he had been misquoted, or had put his criticism more strongly in Arabic than in English. “We will continue to work with our Arab partners to enforce the resolution for the good of the Libyan people,” the FO said.
The Arab League had, though, been called to an emergency session to discuss the scale of the attacks.
The British defence secretary, Liam Fox, said the scale was in line with UN resolutions that had been “essential in terms of the Gaddafi regime’s ability to prosecute attacks on their own people”. He also said it was possible that Gaddafi himself could become a target of air attacks if the safety of civilians could be guaranteed.
Ahead of a Commons debate and vote tomorrow, leading figures in David Cameron’s cabinet were under pressure to clarify whether the explicit purpose of the attacks was to render Gaddafi’s regime so powerless that it collapses.
Speaking on the Politics Show, Fox said: “Mission accomplished would mean the Libyan people free to control their own destiny. This is very clear — the international community wants his regime to end and wants the Libyan people to control for themselves their own country.”
He then added: “Regime change is not an objective, but it may come about as a result of what is happening amongst the people of Libya.”…