The rationale for NATO’s entry into the Libyan conflict was based on humanitarian principles. The United Nations Security Council passed resolution 1973 on March 17 and NATO followed up with actions that the alliance and its partner Qatar claimed conformed to the resolution. The sole purpose of NATO’s involvement was to protect the Libyan population.
The outcome has been anything but humanitarian. Tens of thousands of Libyans are injured or dead. The nation’s infrastructure is in tatters. One city, Sirte, was destroyed during the final push, while another city, the non-Arab Black Libyan town of Tawergha, is absent its entire population, 25,000 residents.
The overriding purpose of the Security Council resolution was to protect civilians. The resolution affirmed that member states of the UN will, “take all necessary measures … to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, including Benghazi, while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory…” UN, March 17
The second military action was an arms embargo: “ensure strict implementation of the arms embargo” outlined in UN Security Council resolution 1970 (2011). That resolution is clear: “all Member States shall immediately take the necessary measures to prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer to the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, from or through their territories or by their nationals, or using their flag vessels or aircraft, of arms and related materiel of all types.” UN, February 25, 2011
At no point did any UN Security Council resolution authorize NATO and Qatar to take sides in the conflict, to commit acts of war that benefitted one side, or to assure that one side or the other emerged victorious.
NATO went well beyond the bounds of the UN mandate. It allowed the mission’s one nation that was not a part of NATO, Qatar, to violate the arms embargo, to provide troops, and to use those troops to coordinate NATO air strikes with NTC rebels on the ground. As a result, NATO and the NTC rebels were acting as one, fighting an aggressive war against the Libyan government
NATO misrepresented its role as “nothing more, nothing less” than those actions mandated by the Security Council resolution, 1973. However, by allowing in ground troops as well as thousands of tons of weapons, and coordinating air strikes for the benefit of opponents of the Libyan government, NATO engaged in war that meets even the narrowest definitions of preemptive war. That is a violation of international law.
By waging war instead of protecting civilians, all parties to the effort engaged in an elaborate ongoing war crime against the very civilians that they were supposed to protect.
Author: Michael Collins
Publication: The Daily Censored, November 2, 2011
Evaluator: Alfredo V. Moran, UC Merced Alumni
Student Researcher: Andrea Perez, Sonoma State University
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