World — March 14, 2011 at 5:48 PM

Taming the tiger

Libyan leader, Colonel Muammar Gadhafi, had it coming. For weeks his forces wreaked havoc in breakaway regions of his country. He ignored calls from world leaders to stop the blood bath as his forces advanced to regain control of lost territories. He and his son Saif al-Islam Gadhafi on different occasions boasted on television to the opposition that they were coming and that no mercy will be shown. The opposition, mere civilians tired of Gadhafi’s 42 years dictatorship, pleaded with the international community for help. They want a no-fly zone imposed on Libya to stop Gadhafi’s murderous air assault on them. But help was slow to come, and Gadhafi’s forces continued their offensive unhindered.

At first it looked like the world would stand by and do nothing as a brutal dictator mercilessly crushed his people. Then a little glimmer of hope as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO, quickly assembled an emergency meeting to discuss what action, if any, to take. To the surprise of many NATO’s ministers rose from that conclave and announced through its Secretary-General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, that it would do nothing because, according to it, the opposition had not shown demonstrateable need for it to act. “Firstly, there must be a demonstrable need. Secondly, there must be a clear legal basis, and, thirdly, strong regional support”, Rasmussen said on television.

It was as if the NATO ministers who attended that meeting had taken bribe from Ghadafi. For, it was unfathomable how they came to their conclusion after seeing the bloodshed and carnage unleashed by Ghadafi forces. Did the NATO ministers not see the report on CNN’s AC 360 for March 10, 2011 and hosted by Anderson Cooper? In that show BillNeely of Britain’s ITV and the first reporter into Zawiyah after it fell to Gadhafi’s forces gave a chilling report of decimation.

Here’s some of Neely’s account: “It was a scene of utter devastation. I have covered a lot of violence, but I have never seen anything quite like that in such a confined space; the mosque, the minaret completely demolished. We saw many, many tanks being loaded up on transporters completely burned- out, bulldozers and diggers pushing away dozens of burned-out militia vehicles, quite an extraordinary fight that the rebels put up for seven days. I mean, take the worst terrorist bombing that you have seen, add a tank battle, and throw in an artillery barrage, and you get some idea of the devastation in that square.” The loss of lives including civilians, women and children, and the opposition’s plea to the international community for help is not enough demonstrateable need in NATO’s view? What world is NATO living in?

Okay, I get it; maybe NATO didn’t want to get involved because of the way it was founded. NATO is an intergovernmental military alliance based on the North Atlantic Treaty which was signed 4 April 1949. Headquartered in Brussels, Belgium the organization constitutes a system of collective defense whereby its member states agree to mutual defense in response to attack by any external party. Here’s my beef: If NATO knew that the premise of its foundation would prevent it from taking action then why not just say so? Not that we would agree with it if it said so but, at least, we would know from whence it was coming from. The notion that the opposition had not shown demonstrateable need for it to intercede is not only offensive but makes no sense.

We know NATO was borne out of a moral obligation to protect member countries from external aggressions. But times have changed and NATO ought to broaden its mandate. To posses the superior military power that NATO has, and not use it to protect lives regardless of geographical affiliation constitutes a critical moral lapse in judgment. By refusing to do nothing about Ghadafi’s massacre in Libya NATO lost its soul, and I hope that it finds it soon. What its inaction seems to imply is that Libya is not in Europe or North America and therefore was not its business.

Realizing its blunder the organization quickly made an about-face and is now engaged in damage control. It quickly came out with a statement supporting the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 which passed Thursday March, 18 2011 and which authorizes “all necessary measures” to protect civilians in Libya from pro-Gaddafi forces, including a no-fly zone.

No sooner had the United Nations coalition forces started bombing to enforce the Security Council’s resolution than Gadhafi declared a unilateral cease fire. But no one is paying him any attention because we know it is a ploy to buy time. The campaign to enforce the Security Council resolution must continue to ensure complete degradation of his air power so that he can no longer bomb and kill his people.

Ghadafi by refusing a cease fire call from the international community is like an out of control tiger on steroid. He refuses to scale back his onslaught thereby manifesting evidence of a man that is out of touch with reality. In fact, he made mockery of the cease fire by flagrantly disobeying it. He would tell the world, through a spokesperson, that he was complying with the cease fire initiative while in truth his forces were still shelling and his war planes still dropping bombs.

What kind of leader would kill his people just to stay in power? A leader is not supposed to kill the people he should protect. Gadhafi by killing his people because they dared to revolt against his totalitarian regime has lost legitimacy to rule. He must realize that he does not own Libya. Libya is not his personal property and as such he and his children cannot treat it like a business empire of theirs. Like a train that has run its course Gadhafi’s time is up. He must pack up and get out so that Libyans can take back their country. His thinking that only he knows what’s best for the rest of the population is delusional on his part.

Thank God for the United Nations action to tame this tiger from its ferocious prowl. Now, rather than worry about the retake of Benghazi he is preoccupied with the sound of tomahawk and cruise missiles as they deliver punishing blows on his air defense systems and military strongholds. Further, the sound of American-made F-16 fighter jets and other brands from France or Britain must be doing something to his psych called déjà vu. Recall that in April 1986 U.S. jets bombed a Gadhafi compound in Tripoli after Libya was found responsible for a bomb blast at a Berlin discotheque frequented by U.S. troops.

As catastrophic as the bombings are, not many people feel sorry for Gadhafi. He brought this on himself and, unfortunately, on Libya too. He had the opportunity to prevent it. There was ample time for him to take cue from Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and step down or follow the footstep of Tunisia’s Ben Ali and flee the country. Instead, he chose the unwise option of daring the world like the proverbial fly that stubbornly followed the coffin into the grave. Even United States President, Barak Obama, for reasons best known to him was slow to take action, and he has been criticized for that. Maybe he (Obama) hoped that by not quickly getting involved Gadhafi will see the hand writing on the wall and leave, thereby making his job easier. After all, he had waited it out in the case of Egypt and Tunisia.

The intimation by coalition force member countries, including the Arab league, that its mandate is to protect civilians only without targeting Gadhafi, is hogwash and comical. How do you protect someone or something in perpetuity without consideration to remove whatever it is that is creating the vulnerability? Does the coalition force plan to stay in Libya indefinitely until Gadhafi dies in office of natural cause or until he willingly relinquishes power? Does anyone really believe Gadhafi will willingly surrender power? This is not possible because such a move will be in direct conflict with his ego. Therefore, the use of force is necessary to make him comply with international norms.

The question now is, can the United Nations claim victory if Gadhafi still remained in power at the end of it all? If that happens, what type of country will be left behind; a Libya of two heads of state? Or shall we say two countries (Libya 1 and Libya 2) living side by side peacefully? Should this scenario play out, wouldn’t United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 have caused more harm than good?

The dice is cast, and there is no going back. Merely pushing Gadhafi back to contain him is not enough. There is no guarantee that he will not start killing his people again. The United Nations must finish the job properly. Gadhafi must be tamed, caged, and dispatched by any means necessary. We do not want another Sudan (1985), Rwanda (1994), Bosnia Herzegovina (1995 – 1999), Kosovo (1998 – 1999) or Democratic Republic of the Congo (1997 – 2003).

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