UN OFFERS A TYRANT’S LAST REFUGE
National Post, February 26, 2011
It would take the dark menacing imagination of Flann O’Brien, the fabulator of the absurd terrible world of his greatest novel, The Third Policeman, to be capable of equal encounter with some of the collateral absurdities that touch on the brutal crisis in Libya.
As we in the West hear of the tyrant (funny how that word is so much more visible in the last week or so than it has been in the dispatches prior to the uprising) threatening, or having ordered, strafing raids from jet aircraft against his own citizens; of helicopter gunships being called up for—grim euphemism—crowd control; talk of rivers of blood from Gaddafi himself and his reptile offspring—I am still, in the midst of all these greater matters of direst consequence, struck by the consideration that Libya, this Libya, (as of this writing) is still on the UN Human Rights Council. [Ed: See “Hall of Shame link, below].
The UNHRC is not just any old UN human rights quango, the wonderful Brit term for those perpetual motion bureaucratic machines, which in one guise or another, under various palate-crushing acronyms, pullulate in the UN like flies on four-day-old fish left in the sun. This is, make no mistake here, the UN’s top Human Rights organization. This is the one with clout. The one with prestige. This is the one, if I may deploy a Dowdism, of “unquestionable moral authority.”
So it was that, with reports coming out of Libya of the madman-dictator threatening ruin on his country, vengeance on his enemies, the country about to go up in flames (there are unceasing rumours about firing the oil fields), even an imminent prospect of civil war, I read just two days ago, as all this was going on, that: “Libya’s seat on the UN’s top human rights body looks secure for now, as a Western-led initiative to condemn it for its violent response to anti-government protests stops short of calling for its expulsion.” In the entire universal history of pathetic gestures is there one to top this?
That as of Friday, the position of Libya on the UN’s top human rights body was still secure.
Some states since that moment have awakened from their customary torpor, and indeed called for its expulsion, but after what the world has seen this week, and known for decades, does anyone have the slightest belief that efforts now to haul Libya off the UN Human Rights Council is anything more than the callous waste of time and desperate hypocrisy that putting Libya on the Human Rights Council was to begin with? Why was the tyrant’s chamber of Libya ever, ever on a UN Human Rights council is the real question. A question that speaks to the moral ambiguity, even moral blindness of the entire United Nations apparatus.…
One reason why tyrants have so long a lease in our brave new world is that temporizing, accommodating, trimming organizations like the UN give them, over the years, the bureaucratic sheen that allows them to present themselves as somewhat normal.… Come crisis times, as this week, and everybody is suddenly ready with a unanimous cry of Horror! Horror!…
It’s kind of pathetic now to be hearing the mewling from certain human rights’ advocates trying to “alert” the world community to the depth of Gadaffi’s depravity, and the extinction of human rights under his regime. Real concern would have manifested itself differently: for example, when all the NGOs of conscience and all their allied associations were so busy mapping the failings of Israel over the decades, where was the equal diligence, the equal industry and passion in mapping the real and massive horrors of a state which actually deserved such attention?…
The UNHRC is a perfect emblem and symbol of the entire organization to which it belongs. The UN does not help the world any longer. As the Libya case manifests, it is an impediment.
AN ADMINISTRATION ADRIFT
Stephen F. Hayes
Weekly Standard, March 1, 2011
On February 15, thousands of demonstrators filled the streets of several Libyan cities demanding the departure of the strongman who has ruled the north African nation for more than four decades. The Libyan regime immediately ordered state-backed militias and mercenaries to put down the violence, with force. A bloody battle followed. As the crackdown began, and then escalated, it was early afternoon on February 16, halfway around the world in the State Department briefing room, when the Obama administration faced questions about how it regarded Muammar Qaddafi.
“Is Qaddafi a dictator?” State Department spokesman P. J. Crowley, at the podium for his daily briefing, smiled at the question and turned his head to call on another reporter. “Are you stumped?” “I’m not stumped,” Crowley responded tartly. “So what’s your answer to the question? Is he a dictator?” Crowley smirked. “I don’t think he came to office through a democratic process.”
It wasn’t a trick question. Qaddafi has survived as the unelected leader of Libya through a combination of wanton brutality and strategic bribery. His reign has been characterized by the systematic suppression of his own people and the eager exportation of terror.
Crowley’s answer—uncertain, hesitant, and morally ambiguous—would come to symbolize the Obama administration’s response to the massacre in Libya. Within days there were numerous, credible reports that the Libyan regime was using fighter jets to strafe protesters. Regime-hired mercenaries from other African countries roamed the streets of Libyan cities exercising Qaddafi-style restraint.…
Early in the morning on February 21, Qaddafi’s son took to Libyan state television with a rambling speech that included warnings of further violence. “We will fight to the last minute, until the last bullet,” he said. A top Libyan diplomat who had defended Qaddafi for years at the United Nations warned of “genocide.” Ibrahim Dabbashi said: “His son yesterday somehow declared war on the Libyan people, and as we translate his words, I think he means that he will kill as much as he can from the Libyan people and he will destroy as much as he can from the country.”
A senior Obama administration official was more sanguine about the prospect of Qaddafi changing his ways. “We are analyzing the speech of Saif al-Islam Qaddafi to see what possibilities it contains for meaningful reform,” the senior official said. Meanwhile, Libyan diplomats across the world resigned their posts. Senior Libyan military officials refused orders to kill their fellow countrymen. And protesters urged the West—and the United States—to respond.
On February 21, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton denounced generic “violence” and called for an end to the “unacceptable bloodshed” in Libya without directly condemning Qaddafi and those who were carrying out his orders. That same day, after nearly a week of tumult, the State Department issued its first recommendation that American embassy families leave Libya, according to NBC’s Chuck Todd.
The following day, at an interview in his Pentagon office with four journalists, including two from The Weekly Standard, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said that the ongoing slaughter in Libya was “an issue we have to address.”
“Has there been a NATO discussion about this at all?” “No, no,” Gates said. “Not even a pre-discussion discussion?” “No. I think it’s all happened so fast.”
Gates was asked whether the United States could quickly establish a no-fly zone in Libya. “Probably not. I mean we just don’t have the capabilities there in terms of, you know, the next day or two.” “What’s in the bag? What do you have, what do we have that could speed there?”
Gates responded: “We don’t have—I don’t think we have a carrier in the [Mediterranean Sea] right now. The Enterprise is down off of Somalia. We’ve had the [USS] Kearsarge in the Red Sea, but mainly if some kind of an evacuation were needed from Egypt. But nothing that we would be able to do right away.”
The lack of urgency from the administration’s leading hawk was alarming.… The president spent February 22 in Ohio at meetings on his small business initiative. And though he spoke publicly several times throughout the day, President Obama said nothing about Libya.…
If Qaddafi had been worried that he might see American jets overhead or even U.S. Marines on the shores of Tripoli, the plans Obama announced [Feb. 23] no doubt came as a relief. Undersecretary of State Bill Burns, the president said, would be traveling to Europe for consultations with allies, and five days later Secretary Clinton would be flying to Geneva for additional meetings.
If that sounds like a State Department-heavy approach to the situation, it was. The State Department, having failed to remove its embassy personnel before Tripoli was a warzone, told the White House that any show of strength, even a strong condemnation of Qaddafi, risked the lives of Americans in country. The situation was further complicated by the fact that the United States had pulled its ambassador from Libya in January—leaving the embassy without a leader. So State had urged a cautious approach. The prospect of another American hostage crisis was paralyzing.…
Think about that. The State Department spokesman couldn’t say whether Muammar Qaddafi is a dictator. An administration official saw in a speech promising war the possibility of peace. Despite tumult and unrest in neighboring Egypt and Tunisia, the Obama administration apparently made few preparations to evacuate diplomatic personnel and their families and did virtually no planning for the possibility of a regime-led slaughter. The president did not speak out about the unfolding crisis because it didn’t fit his schedule. He responded by flying diplomats to Europe for meetings.
The president found his footing after a slow start on Egypt. And for a moment it seemed that the reactive, almost passive foreign policy that guided his first two years would change. It did not. Which leads to one question: Is Barack Obama afraid of American power?
THE RELUCTANT AMERICAN
Wall Street Journal, March 1, 2011
The rebellion in Libya is moving quickly, with antiregime forces consolidating their hold over the east, setting up a provisional government and restarting oil exports. From his bunker in Tripoli, Moammar Gadhafi vows to fight to the end while his elite units and African mercenaries kill the Libyan people to protect him and his sons.
Not moving rapidly has been the world’s sole superpower, which remains behind the curve, struggling to respond and reluctant to lead. President Obama waited until last Wednesday to make his first public statement. He didn’t mention Gadhafi by name and deferred to the Europeans to push for U.N. sanctions. White House officials are now explaining his reticence by saying the U.S. couldn’t act forcefully until all Americans were evacuated from Libya.…
[This “explanation”] has told the next rogue regime in Gadhafi-like straits how easy it is to paralyze U.S. policy. You don’t even need to hold Americans hostage. All you need to do is keep them around with an implicit threat that you might do so. This will not make it easier to get Americans out of harm’s way in the next crisis.
Throughout the Libyan uprising, European leaders—especially Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy—haven’t been tongue- or action-tied by the plight of their nationals. This weekend, German and British special forces rescued a couple hundred of their nationals in covert missions without Libyan assent. The U.S. sent a catamaran and ferry to Tripoli, after Libya denied permission for a plane to land. The ships were stuck in port for two days due to bad weather and finally brought the 167 Americans out by Friday night.
European leaders continue to show more energy than President Obama. Mr. Cameron said he is working with allies on a plan to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya to prevent Gadhafi from using his air force against rebel forces.… If only Secretary of State Hillary Clinton could be as direct. Speaking before the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, which voted to “suspend” Libya’s membership yesterday, she said that “we will continue to explore all possible options for actions.… Nothing is off the table.” But she didn’t put much on the table.…
The U.S. could begin to exceed a Belgian level of global leadership by reaching out to the opposition and extending formal recognition to their provisional government. Though this might make Mr. Obama uncomfortable, America remains a global power with exceptional standing to provide a new Libyan government with legitimacy. We should also be prepared to sell arms to the opposition if they request it. The U.N.’s new arms embargo isn’t likely to deter anyone who is still willing to sell Gadhafi arms at this point, but it might cause some countries not to arm the opposition. The world made that blunder in Bosnia.
The moral and strategic case for U.S. leadership in Libya is obvious. A terrorist regime is slaughtering people who will appreciate America’s support and protection. A bloody civil war could create chaos that turns Libya into a northern African failed state, an ideal home for terrorist groups. The U.S. should support a provisional government that can take over when the regime collapses to restore order with as little bloodshed as possible. What is Mr. Obama waiting for?
A UNITED NATIONS COURT FOR GADHAFI?
Wall Street Journal, March 1, 2011
President Obama has trumpeted Saturday’s U.N. Security Council decision to refer Moammar Gadhafi to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for prosecution. Although Gadhafi deserves punishment, the ICC will not accomplish it. Invoking this marginal organization as an instrument of justice is simply an abdication of responsibility. It pretends to an address an international crisis while actually doing the opposite.
The ICC is one of the world’s most illegitimate multilateral institutions. The court’s vast prosecutorial authority is unaccountable to any democratic polity. Americans rejected this approach at our founding, separating the prosecutorial and judicial powers and placing the prosecutors under elected executive branch officials to ensure accountability and legitimacy. The Bush administration wisely reversed the Clinton administration’s endorsement of the ICC by “unsigning” its foundational treaty in 2002. It then secured more than 100 bilateral agreements to prevent U.S. citizens from being transferred into ICC custody.
To date, the ICC has been weak and ineffective, essentially acting as a European court for African miscreants. Nonetheless, its prosecutor is an international version of our own post-Watergate “independent counsel” model. Based on the execrable record of these prosecutors, the U.S. Congress, with broad bipartisan support, allowed the law authorizing the appointment of these counsels to sunset in 1999, although there has been sporadic resort to such procedures since.
Under whatever guise, the independent-counsel approach has led to gross miscarriages of justice, such as Patrick Fitzgerald’s 2003-07 investigation of how Valerie Plame’s CIA employment became public. In that case, one target, Scooter Libby, was pursued into the ground while others more culpable were allowed to emerge unscathed.
Champions of the ICC theorize it will deter future crimes. Reality proves otherwise. The court has been operational since 2002, so the most persuasive evidence is that almost 10 years after the court’s inception, Gadhafi was sufficiently unimpressed that he is doing what comes naturally for terrorists and dictators. History is full of cases where even military force or the threat of retaliation failed to deter aggression or gross criminality. If the West is not prepared to use cold steel against Gadhafi, why should he or any future barbarian worry about the ICC?…
A new Libyan government should be responsible for dealing with Gadhafi’s atrocities. Every crime he is responsible for, from the terrorist bomb that destroyed Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988, to his current street massacres, has been done in the name of the Libyan people. They are the ones who should judge Gadhafi, as Iraqis did with Saddam Hussein.…
Obviously, Libya is in no condition today to deal with Gadhafi and his cohorts. But if he and his key aides survive the current violence, they can be incarcerated and tried later, with international assistance to new Libyan authorities if appropriate. Immediate logistical difficulties do not justify shifting the moral and political responsibility of dealing with Gadhafi away from his countrymen to remote international bureaucrats.
Mr. Obama’s ready embrace of the International Criminal Court exemplifies his infatuation with handling threats to international peace and security as though they were simply local street crimes. It also reflects his overall approach to international affairs: a passive, legalistic America, deferring to international bodies, content to be one of 15 Security Council members rather than leading from the front.
LIBYA AND THE RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTECT
Irwin Cotler & Jared
NY Times, February 28, 2011
In response to Muammar el-Qaddafi’s continued assaults on civilians in Libya, the United Nations Security Council adopted a unanimous and historic resolution in an unusual Saturday night session.
It imposed an arms embargo on Libya, targeted financial sanctions and travel bans against Qaddafi, his family members and senior regime officials, and referred the situation to the International Criminal Court for investigation and potential prosecution of those involved in what was referred to as possible crimes against humanity.
In its statement condemning the violence, the Security Council included a critical reference to Libya’s “responsibility to protect” (RtoP) its own citizens from mass atrocities.
At the U.N. World Summit in 2005, more than 150 heads of state and government unanimously adopted a declaration on the responsibility to protect authorizing international collective action “to protect [a state’s] population from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity” if that state is unable or unwilling to protect its citizens, or worse, as in the case of Libya, if that state is the author of such criminality.
Since then, the doctrine has been only applied once—in the case of Kenya’s post-election violence in 2007-2008. And this is the first time it has been explicitly invoked by the Security Council regarding the situation in a specific country.…
The Libya resolution is a major step forward, both for the people of Libya and in the international community’s stated commitment to end mass atrocities. But lest we get too excited too early about what is happening in regard to Libya, it is important to understand these developments and how much more needs to be done.
First, the firm response to the situation in Libya has only been possible because of the combination of Qaddafi’s horrific actions targeting civilians, his self-destructive comments demonstrating both his intent and disconnection from reality, and the mass defection of his ambassadors, military and civil servants in Libya and around the world.
Collectively, there is just no one left to defend him. Any resistance to tough action in the Security Council was reportedly overcome by a strong and unequivocal letter in support of the proposed resolution by Libya’s permanent representative to the United Nations, who later broke down in tears begging the body to save his country.
Second, although the Security Council has taken stronger action in a shorter period of time than it ever has before on any other mass-atrocity situation, travel bans, financial sanctions and international criminal investigations won’t have a demonstrable impact on civilians on the ground in the short-term. Qaddafi, his family and his regime are fighting for their lives, and these are far-off consequences that only begin to matter if they survive in power.
Third, while critical steps have been taken, more must be done to complete the transition of power and avoid the chaos and loss of life that would be caused if the world watches Libya descend into a full-blown civil war.…
The Security Council should adopt a new resolution to immediately extend recognition to the nascent provisional government of the country, authorize a NATO-supported no-flight zone over Libya to preclude any bombing of civilians, and permit all U.N. members to provide direct support to the provisional government…[including] the rapid deployment of an African Union-European Union force to the country.
The situation in Libya is a test case for the Security Council.… [It] must do more—and fast. It is our collective responsibility to ensure RtoP is an effective approach to protect people and human rights.