Tag: Human Rights Council

LIBYA AND THE UN: ‘TYRANT’S LAST REFUGE,’ OR ‘RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTECT?”

 

 

 

UN OFFERS A TYRANT’S LAST REFUGE
Rex Murphy

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
Editorial

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?
John Bolton
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.

LIBYA AND THE UN: ‘TYRANT’S LAST REFUGE,’ OR ‘RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTECT?”

 

 

 

UN OFFERS A TYRANT’S LAST REFUGE
Rex Murphy

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
Editorial

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?
John Bolton
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.

GADHAFI, THE UN & THE U.S.: TRAGEDY, AND FAILURES, IN THE DESERT

 

 

 

DICTATOR LOSES GRIP IN DESERT
Charles Levinson, Margaret Coker, & Tahani Karrar-Lewsley
Wall Street Journal, February 23, 2011

 

On the ground in the eastern chunk of this oil-rich desert nation, the signs of rebellion are plain to see in the armories of a military base near Baida: Weapons crates lie busted open and empty. Rifles are missing from their racks. Left behind are helmets and gas masks and cleaning kits—things that can’t shoot.

For four days, rebels newly armed with anti-aircraft guns and Kalashnikovs battled forces loyal to Libyan strongman Col. Moammar Gadhafi and commanded by one of his sons. After days of firefights, feints and an ambush on unarmed local sheiks, the regime forces surrendered their hold on the vital local airport Tuesday morning—placing nearly all of eastern Libya outside Col. Gadhafi’s control.

The battle for Baida airport is one example of how quickly the tide across Libya has turned against Col. Gadhafi. A brutal crackdown by pro-Gadhafi forces across the country has left at least 300 dead over six days, civil-rights groups say.

On Tuesday, Libya’s top policeman, a longtime Gadhafi loyalist, joined the string of diplomats, soldiers and others to abandon their leader of 42 years. In a video aired on the Al Jazeera news channel Tuesday, Interior Minister Abdel Fattah Younes al-Abidi announced his support for anti-Gadhafi protesters and called on Libya’s armed forces to switch loyalties. It was unclear how much influence he has over the key security forces considered die-hard loyalists to the regime, such as the armed revolutionary committees or the military units controlled by Col. Gadhafi’s family members.

The defections came as Libya teetered. In the country’s eastern half, an anti-Gadhafi stronghold where protests began just last week, only one additional airport, in the region’s main city of Benghazi, remained in government control. In the coastal city of Tobruq, also in the east, Libya’s historic red, black and green flag, which was barred during Col. Gadhafi’s four-decade reign, flew over many buildings. The all-green flag of the Gadhafi regime was nowhere to be seen.

In the capital of Tripoli—a traditional stronghold of Col. Gadhafi’s power—the leader publicly defied protesters seeking to end his rule. He vowed to remain in the country “until the end.” “I am not going to leave this land. I will die here as a martyr,” he said in a rambling, 80-minute address on state television. He vowed to take back the eastern cities under rebel control and show no mercy to those he says have acted against the nation.

Around midnight, following the leader’s speech, Tripoli residents reported heavy machine-gun battles in the capital’s center and a near-constant wail of sirens. Residents say carloads of the leader’s supporters cruised around the city in the early evening, waving green flags as a symbol for their loyalty to Col. Gadhafi. Pro-Gadhafi security agents roamed the city, blaring a message over bull horns and loud speakers that people forming in groups on the streets would be shot, two residents of the capital said.…

With Col. Gadhafi inciting more clashes and the streets around Tripoli still heavily patrolled by uniformed security forces, many Libyans feared that the nation could fracture on tribal or regional lines. “We’ve been calling for an end to Gadhafi’s rule for years,” said Hafed Al-Ghwell, a U.S.-based Libyan opposition activist. “But what we’ve always feared is the day after. Right now it looks like the worst-case scenario is coming true—that Libya becomes like Somalia, with every strongman with a gun ruling his own fiefdom.…”

 

THE UN’S LIBYA FAILURES
Editorial
Jerusalem Post, February 21, 2011

 

It was an old and festering wound in Libyans’ collective memory that was the immediate cause of the bloody clashes that broke out in the streets of Benghazi last Tuesday evening. A group of families whose sons were brutally massacred by the Libyan authorities would not abandon their quest for justice. They refused to be rebuffed yet again by state officials.

In 1996, an estimated 1,200 prisoners, mostly opponents of Muammar Gaddafi’s dictatorial regime, were rounded up and gunned down in the space of a few hours in Tripoli’s infamous Abu Salim prison. The victims’ bodies were reportedly removed from the prison in wheelbarrows and refrigerated trucks and buried in mass graves. To this day, the Libyan authorities refuse to disclose the whereabouts of these graves. It wasn’t until 2004 that Gaddafi admitted that the massacre had taken place.…

Neither the Abu Salim prison massacre nor the many other human rights abuses perpetrated by Gaddafi’s regime over the past four decades have been singled out for censure by the world’s purported protector of human rights—the UN’s Human Rights Council.

Established in 2006 with a mandate to reform its predecessor, the UN Commission on Human Rights, the HRC has in the past five years issued some 50 resolutions that condemn countries; of those, 35 have been focused on Israel, and not one has been issued against Libya. Even as of Monday evening, as protesters were being shot down in the streets of Libya, no emergency session of the HRC had been called by its members, which include the U.S. and the EU, as Hillel Neuer, the executive director of UN Watch, noted in a soon-to-appear interview with The Jerusalem Post’s Ilan Evyatar. Neuer called this omission by the HRC and its members “not only a let-down to the many Libyans risking their lives for freedom, but a shirking of [the HRC’s] obligations.”

Indeed, instead of being condemned, Libya has been lionized. In May 2010, Libya was, absurdly, elected as a member of the HRC, a move that was not blocked by the Obama administration (as Iran’s bid for membership was). This was the culmination of a steady ascendancy to every important diplomatic body at the UN—including the African Union chairmanship, the UN Security Council and the presidency of the UN General Assembly. In a 100-minute rant given before the assembly in September 2009, his first since he took control of Libya in a military coup in 1969, Gaddafi exploited the opportunity to liken the UN Security Council to a “terror council” because of the veto rights enjoyed by the U.S. and the other four UNSC permanent members.

A month earlier, the man U.S. president Richard Nixon had referred to as the “mad dog of the Middle East” met with former presidential candidate Sen. John McCain. “Late evening with Col. Kaddafi at his ‘ranch’ in Libya—interesting meeting with an interesting man,” McCain tweeted the next day. Several weeks later, this “interesting man” ignored McCain’s request not to give a “hero’s welcome” to freed Lockerbie bomber Abdel Basset Ali al- Megrahi, a former Libyan intelligence agent.

While engagement has proved a dismal failure, other methods have been more effective. It should be recalled that it was in the wake of the U.S.’s invasion of Iraq that Gaddafi, anxious not to become America’s next target, magnanimously offered to scrap his nascent nuclear program.

Although the U.S. no longer enjoys the kind of influence it had in the region after the Iraq invasion, the Obama administration can move from a defensive strategy in the UN of vetoing the many anti-Israel resolutions, to an offensive approach—along with other democracies—singling out countries like Libya in a concerted shame campaign.

Perhaps if more pressure had been brought to bear against Gaddafi when he just might have been ready to listen, Libya’s citizens would not now be getting shot down in the streets by a “mad dog” regime. At the very least, the UN would have retained a modicum of moral legitimacy.

 

LIBYA’S LEGACY
Michael J. Totten
New Republic, February 23, 2011

 

Not since Saddam Hussein’s regime was demolished in 2003 has an Arab head of state run a more ruthlessly repressive terror state than Muammar Qaddafi in Libya. Tunisia’s Zine el Abidine Ben Ali and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak were small-government libertarians by comparison. The implications of the uprising in Libya are therefore much bigger than they were in Tunisia or Egypt: If ordinary citizens can overthrow Qaddafi, of all people, every other despot in the region may look vulnerable—including Ali Khamenei and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran.

I managed to finagle a visa for myself just after Libyan-American relations defrosted in 2004, and the U.S. government lifted the travel ban. I was one of the first Americans to legally visit the country in decades, and what I saw there was appalling. The capital looks and feels gruesomely communist, which wasn’t surprising, considering that Qaddafi’s “Green Book,” where he fleshes out his lunatic ideology, is a bizarre mixture of the Communist Manifesto and the Koran (though references to Islam are stripped out). What did surprise me was how much terror he instilled in the hearts and minds of his people. No one I met said they liked him. No one would even speak of him unless there were no other Libyans present. Some were even afraid to utter his name, as though saying it out loud might conjure him.… “We keep our heads down and our mouths shut. We do our jobs, we go home. If I talk, they will take me out of my house in the night and put me in prison,” [one shopkeeper told me when we were alone.]

The system he runs is basically Stalinist and one of the last total surveillance police states in the world. Freedom House ranks Libya near North Korea and Turkmenistan, the most oppressive countries by far, in its utter dearth of human and political rights. I believe it. Obvious intelligence agents worked my hotel lobby, staring at and listening to everyone, and the U.S. State Department warned Americans at the time that even hotel rooms for foreigners likely were bugged.

Posters bearing the boss’s face are typical in dictatorships, but, in Libya, Qaddafi’s arrogant portrait is everywhere, on every street and in every shop. State propaganda appears on billboards along the sides of the road out in the desert. He even carved “Al Fateh Forever,” the name of his “revolution,” into the side of a mountain. The only way you can truly get away from him is to venture into the roadless sand seas of the Sahara.

The contrast between Libya and its neighbors is stark. When I visited Tunisia just a few months before going to Tripoli, I met plenty of people willing to criticize Ben Ali even when others were present. Sure, they lowered their voices, but they didn’t cower in fear. Egypt under Mubarak was even more open. I spoke to dissident bloggers like “Big Pharaoh” and “Sandmonkey” in restaurants and bars, and they didn’t care if anyone heard them slagging the president. Cairo’s mukhabarat didn’t seem to mind what anyone said as long as they didn’t act on their disgruntlement. Granted, regimes like these wouldn’t have lasted decades if they were easy to get rid of, but, ultimately, they lack the staying power of the hard totalitarian states.

States like Libya, that is. Tunisia is pleasant, prosperous, and heavily Frenchified, while Egypt is a poverty-stricken shambles, but Ben Ali and Mubarak were both pragmatic, standard issue authoritarians. Qaddafi, by comparison, is an emotionally unstable ideological megalomaniac. He says he’s the sun of Africa and swears to unite the Arabs and Africans underneath him. He has repeatedly threatened to ban money and schools, and he treats his country, communist-style, like a mad scientist’s laboratory. What I knew when I was there holds true today, even as his grip on power seems shaky: This guy is not going to liberalize, and he is not going to go quietly.

Indeed, his instruments of internal repression are proving as ruthless as promised in the face of strong civilian protests. (Libya’s second largest city of Benghazi and third largest city of Bayda are now reported to be in the hands of the opposition and under the guardianship of citizen militias and officers who have switched sides.) They’re busy assaulting demonstrators not with rubber bullets and tear gas but with artillery fire, attack helicopters, and war planes. Qaddafi has even imported mercenaries from Sub-Saharan Africa in case his own military officers flinch at orders to murder their neighbors (which some of them have, joining the demonstrators in the streets).

Ben Ali and Mubarak were low-hanging fruit, but, if a tyrant as vicious and murderous as Qaddafi can be taken out, it would seem just about anyone can be. If the people of Libya manage to overthrow him, it might even inspire Iran’s Green Movement to finish what it started in 2009 and push all the way to the end. But if Qaddafi survives by mass murder, which he just might, and if the world lets him get away with it, the Iranian regime and other despotic governments will take comfort in the knowledge that they, too, might do the same without consequence.

 

OBAMA’S PATHETIC RESPONSE TO LIBYA
Elliott Abrams
Weekly Standard, February 23, 2011

 

With a thousand Libyans (and perhaps many more) dead already from the Qaddafi regime’s attacks on its own population, and with reports of thousands of mercenaries and militiamen streaming toward Tripoli, President Obama finally spoke to the nation about this violence on Wednesday afternoon. He announced solemnly that he was sending Secretary of State Clinton to Geneva to visit the U.N. Human Rights Council and “hold consultations”—next Monday! But fear not: Undersecretary of State Bill Burns is apparently traveling sooner than that to “several stops in Europe” and then even in the actual Middle East, to “intensify our consultations.”

This is not so much a feeble response as a non-response. It is an announcement to Qaddafi that we won’t even get the secretary of State moving for five more days—five more days of likely slaughter. The verbs the president employed in his remarks are toothless: we will “monitor” and “coordinate” and “consult.” We will “speak with one voice.” While he “strongly” condemned “the use of violence in Libya” the president could not bring himself to condemn the regime or its leader, the man who is imposing this reign of terror. He did say “the Libyan government has a responsibility to refrain from violence, to allow humanitarian assistance to reach those in need, and to respect the rights of its people. It must be held accountable for its failure to meet those responsibilities, and face the cost of continued violations of human rights.” But at what cost? He did not say. The closest the president came to speaking of action was this: “I’ve also asked my administration to prepare the full range of options that we have to respond to this crisis. This includes those actions we may take and those we will coordinate with our allies and partners, or those that we’ll carry out through multilateral institutions.” No one knows what this means, but it presumably may mean sanctions. Maybe. Next week. Because “prepare” is not an action verb either.

Some parts of the world are way ahead of us. Denunciations came faster and have been stronger in Europe, and yesterday Amre Moussa suspended Libya from the Arab League. That’s a good test. When Amre Moussa, the long-time secretary general of the Arab League, is ahead of you in denouncing human rights violations, you are reacting a bit slowly.

The administration has followed its near silence over Iran in June 2009 and its wavering on Egypt last month with days of silence on Libya. Finally the president has spoken and said next to nothing. For a superpower this is an embarrassment. Belgium and Luxembourg can consult and coordinate and monitor; can we do no more? How about sending Stuart Levey (leaving Treasury soon but still there) off to get freezes on all Qaddafi family assets? Instead of sending Hillary Clinton to the Human Rights Council, how about sending the Marine commandant or the chief of staff of the Air Force to NATO headquarters? Perhaps that message would be a bit more likely to capture Qaddafi’s attention. How about demanding indictments of Qaddafi for war crimes right now?

The administration has quietly told reporters that it can say no more, lest Americans in Libya be attacked by the regime or taken hostage. That’s a real concern, but once again silence is the right response for countries with no options and no capabilities. For us, the right reaction to such threats and such fears is to call Musa Kusa, Qaddafi’s long-time intelligence chief, and tell him that if the regime attacks any American we will find him wherever he is, however long it takes, and he will meet the same fate as Saddam Hussein. And tell him to pass that on to Qaddafi.