I have a set of questions for Glenn Greenwald. I ask them in the spirit of open and reasoned dialogue and am genuinely interested in his response. He is a hero of mine for his stances against torture and against government surveillance, and because he himself was suggested by security firms to the Bank of America as a surveillance target. We agree on almost everything except the Libyan intervention. So what? Even inside a family not everyone agrees on politics.
One week ago, the 28 nations of NATO agreed to take charge of the UN-authorized humanitarian intervention in Libya.
So my question is, does that decision not lay a moral obligation on the US to lend support to the effort of its allies? British, French, Canadian, Danish, and Norwegian fighter jets flying over Libya are coming under anti-aircraft fire from the minions of Col. Qaddafi. The United States had the most robust ability to take those anti-aircraft batteries out, which it largely did. Should the United States have said, well, too bad, we are not getting involved over there? Had Washington responded in that way, and had NATO allies lost jets to Qaddafi’s rockets, would not the allies have had a legitimate grounds for absolute fury?
Although NATO operations in Libya may not be an Article 5 matter, when NATO undertakes a major military mission it would be deadly to the alliance for the United States to sit it out. [It came to me later that Qaddafi has threatened to bomb European passenger jets, which may be an Article 5 issue.] (The NATO charter or Treaty of Washington (4 April 1949) contains an Article 5 which states that an attack on one is an attack on all, but limits those attacks to North America and Europe, though it also speaks of maintaining security in the ‘North Atlantic region’.)
I’d like to remind everyone that NATO did invoke article 5 with regard to the September 11 attacks, which led to a substantial NATO presence in Afghanistan in support of the US war on al-Qaeda and its Taliban backers. Coalition deaths in that struggle include 362 British troops, 155 Canadian troops, 55 French troops, and 40 Danish ones.
While these death tolls are smaller than the American ones, they are very large for the countries concerned, especially since their publics (with the exception of the UK) almost universally desperately did not want to be in Afghanistan. If, having made this supreme sacrifice so many times for the sake of their NATO alliance with the United States, these countries now met with a yawn from Washington and a disinterested wave saying ‘so long folks, you are on your own’ — surely it would mean the end of NATO and would likely send America’s stock in Europe into the toilet.
So my question is whether, given that NATO allies such as Britain and France were so insistent on meeting their UN obligations with regard to Libya and on bringing NATO allies into the effort, would it have been worth breaking up NATO and destroying America’s longstanding alliances in order to stay completely out of Libya? Note that even Turkey, which initially opposed NATO involvement, in the end acquiesced in it and even offered to patrol Libyan ports as part of its obligations to the organization.
It seems to me that there is certainly no question that NATO’s intervention in Libya is authorized by UN Security Council resolution 1973. If not, the Security Council, which has been petitioned by Libya several times, can say so. It is the arbiter of whether its resolution is being implemented.
It should also be remembered that under resolutions 1970 and 1973 the Libyan regime of Muammar Qaddafi is an outlaw regime.
“Demands the immediate establishment of a cease-fire and a complete end to violence and all attacks against, and abuses of, civilians…”
In contrast, Qaddafi’s forces are actively shelling civilians and civilian facilities in Misrata, the country’s third largest city, as well as elsewhere in Zintan and elsewhere. Qaddafi has not complied with the UNSC demand for a cease-fire and end to all attacks against civilians. Note that the transitional government in Benghazi has in contrast offered Qaddafi a ceasefire if he will cease attacking his people.
Likewise, resolution 1973
‘ Demands that the Libyan authorities comply with their obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law, human rights and refugee law and take all measures to protect civilians and meet their basic needs, and to ensure the rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian assistance; ‘
Qaddafi actually cut off water to Misrata. He isn’t complying with his human rights and humanitarian obligations.
So the NATO effort in Libya is what the UNSC called for. Given the legality and legitimacy of NATO actions, does not the US have a moral responsibility to support our allies, especially given what they have been doing for us?