Libya: Are we witnessing a betrayal in progress?

We’ve written before of our doubts about the motivations behind foreign intervention in Libya. Sadly, those doubts are gaining momentum with every passing day. It’s only a few days since Major General Michael Laurie went public with the revelation that “(he) knew at the time that the purpose of the (Iraq) dossier was precisely to make a case for war”: a timely reminder of the potential for ministers to tell the public one story, and to act with entirely different intentions. Almost-simultaneously, we’re discovering a collection of suggestions both that Western military action in Libya may be driven by ulterior motives, and — just as disturbingly — that the Libyan people believe otherwise.

If it’s true that, as Noam Chomsky says, the cloak of humanitarian intervention is shrouding an agenda to install a more compliant dictator than Gaddafi, what will become of the momentous sense of hope that’s inspiring ordinary Libyans to sacrifice comfort, jobs, and even their lives for a cause they believe in? According to this CBS story from the US, many Libyans are prepared to die for freedom. What will happen if, further along the line, it becomes apparent that they are in fact dying to serve an imperialist agenda? How will those who have lost relatives, or who have been maimed in conflict, and who have already suffered through severe resource shortages, respond if Gaddafi is unseated and they are placed under the yoke of another dictator?

We can only imagine the sense of rage, humiliation, and bitterness they are likely to experience — and the ways they may choose to exact their revenge.

It’s true that, for now, rebels have claimed control of Misrata. If it turns out that NATO air strikes are fully in support of their self-definition, and that rebels do succeed in establishing a free Libya, we’ll be delighted. Statements such as defence secretary Liam Fox‘s call to ‘up the ante‘, however, do not instill any great hope within us. Nor do calls from head of the Armed Forces in the UK, General Sir David Richards, to intensify the bombing campaign against Gaddafi.

Between them, they seem to have given up any pretence that protection of civilians is their primary aim. Both are clearly hell-bent on removing Gaddafi, an objective for which they still have no UN mandate. As the dramatic situation in Libya continues to unfold, are we feeding the hopes and dreams of the Libyan people only to dash them cruelly at a later date? Are we feeding a potential surge in counter-insurgency and terrorism? If so, when will we take responsibility for our own behaviour and recognise the consequences of our actions?

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