Tuesday, June 21, 2011

NATO Makes Major Push Against Libya, Killing Civilians Amid Growing World Outrage

NATO Makes Major Push Against Libya, Killing Civilians Amid Growing World Outrage

Activists speak out in the US, UK and Africa demanding an end to the war

By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire

Two NATO airstrikes on June 19 and 20 exposed even further the criminal nature of the imperialist war against the North African state of Libya. On June 19 NATO forces struck a civilian residential area in Tripoli, the capital, killing 9 people in a household including two children.

The following day on June 20, another 15 civilians were killed in NATO bombings of a residential area near Zawiya in the west of the country. Libyan spokesman Musa Ibrahim noted that the attacks in the Surman area included eight rockets that struck five houses and a farm.

According to Ibrahim, one of the homes belonged to a government aid Khaled el-Kweldi, who was not at the residence. However, Khaleda el-Kweldi, a 6-year-old girl, was killed along with Khalid el-Kweldi, who is 4-years-old. Salam Lanouri, who is 6-years-old, was also killed.

In reference to the June 20 attacks, a NATO statement claimed that the objective of the strike was to destroy a military missile site. Nonetheless, the NATO press release said that “it appears that one weapon did not strike the intended target and that there may have been a weapons system failure.” (CNN, June 20)

NATO Lt.-Gen. Charles Bouchard stated that the military alliance “regrets the loss of innocent lives.” However, this was not the first time that NATO strikes have killed civilians who are both supporters and opponents of the government in Tripoli. In fact the same day as the strikes against Tripoli, opposition combatants from the western-backed Transitional National Council based in Benghazi were also killed in airstrikes.

Libyan governmental spokesman Ibrahim said of the NATO attacks that “This is cold-blooded murder. Is this the protection of civilians? Is this really the search for peace and democracy in Libya, to attack peaceful neighborhoods of Tripoli?” (CNN, June 20)

The NATO statement also said that during the course of the air war since March 19, there have been more than 11,500 bombing operations over Libya “and every mission is planned and executed with tremendous care to avoid civilian casualties. NATO remains fully committed to this operation.” (CNN, June 20)

Ibrahim, speaking for the Gaddafi government, holds NATO, U.S. President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and others “responsible morally and legally for these murders and crimes.” In addition to killing civilians in Tripoli and Surman, the NATO forces reportedly described airstrikes against vehicles aligned with the opposition TNC as “unfortunate” in the area around al-Brega.

NATO stated in relations to the airstrikes that killed their allies on the ground that “a column of military vehicles, including tanks,” were spotted where Libyan governmental forces “had been operating.” The western military alliance characterized the situation around al-Brega as “a particularly complex and fluid battle scenario. We regret any possible loss of life or injuries caused by the unfortunate incident,” NATO said.

Opposition to the Libya War Broadens

A recent press conference in New York called by several activist organizations denounced the US/NATO war against Libya. Speakers included Minister Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, former U.S. Congressman and Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney, who had recently returned from Libya, former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark and others.

In the Republic of South Africa, the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) held its congress in Midrand, outside Johannesburg, which attracted thousands of young people from inside the country and around the African continent. The congress went on record denouncing the attacks against Libya as an imperialist war and criticizing the African leaders who voted for the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 that provided the pseudo-legal rationale for the total military onslaught against the oil-producing state.

Deputy Secretary General of the Pan-African Youth Union (PAYU), an affiliate of the African Union, Tendai Wenyika, who is also a member of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union Patriot Front (ZANU-PF) Youth League, told the thousands of delegates to thunderous applause that “This congress comes at a time when imperialism has raised its ugly head again. Young people should not allow Africa to be sold out for the love of sugar.” (South African Mail & Guardian, June 17)

The PAYU spokesperson also criticized the African Union parent body for endorsing the western-backed presidential contender Alassane Ouattara who took office after a French military coup in Ivory Coast during April. “In Ivory Coast, imperialism was allowed to reign, by our African heads of state,” she said.

Other representatives from Namibia and Ghana spoke to the ANCYL congress. Ghana’s ruling National Democratic Congress youth leader Ludwig Hlordze said that “The history of Africa cannot be written without the ANC Youth League.” He continued by saying that “Julius Malema,” the re-elected president of the ANCYL, “Africa will continue to support you to make sure that the mineral resources of our continent remain here.” (South African Mail & Guardian, June 17)

Meanwhile acrimony within the U.S. Congress continued over the White House failure to provide answers regarding the mission and length of the war on Libya. On June 15, ten members of the House of Representatives filed suit in federal court against the Obama administration saying the War Power Act of 1973, which grew out of the mass struggle against the Vietnam War, was being violated.

The administration declared that the military actions against Libya were “limited” and this was not considered a war. Yet thousands of people have died in Libya and on the seas offshore from the country.

Anti-war forces in the U.S. have escalated their demands for the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces from the region. The International Action Center in New York has re-issued its petition drafted in May demanding that the Congress and the people call the administration to account for the violation of the War Powers Act.

Thousands of people have responded to the IAC petition and its impact has prompted action and debate from various political wings of the Congress. Over 60 percent of the people oppose the war in the U.S. proving that there is no public mandate for the onslaught in Libya.

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