US expands bombing/drone war to 7th majority-Muslim nation: Libya
Okay, I have, something else to talk about, a topic related to the previous ones. And as I go through this, I want you to be asking yourself how much you have heard about this, in fact, have you heard about it at all? Has any of it been mentioned, even obliquely, on the campaign trail by anyone on either side?
Three weeks ago, I told you that the Obama administration was drawing up plans for a new military intervention in Libya. The first one, in 2011, was sold as a humanitarian effort to protect Libyan civilians from a massacre but was actually a cover for assisting in overthrowing Muammar Qaddafi.
That effort was strongly endorsed by Hillary Clinton; indeed a major New York Times two-part story shows how she was the major factor in convincing Obama to do it, up to and including arming favored opposition groups. That plan went so well that after Qaddafi was killed, Libya descended into the chaos of a multi-sided civil war which has killed thousands and refugeed hundreds of thousands and from which it has not emerged. In the famous words of Rick Perry, oops.
Oh, but it's different this time! This time it's not about protecting civilians or any such nonsense, it's about opening a new front in the fight against ISIS ISIS ISIS! by taking "decisive military action" against some groups in Libya laying claim to the name.
I also said those three weeks ago that this is being planned without any debate in Congress, without any remotely plausible claims of lawful authority, without regard to the fact that it was Barack Obama himself who said in 2007 that "The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation," and without, it seems, any consideration of how similar "decisive actions" have lead only to deepening US military involvement in Syria and Iraq, with "boots on the ground" in both places playing an increasingly hands-on role.
Okay, that was three weeks ago. What you need to know now is that our Nobel Peace Prize president, Generalissimo Hopey-Changey, has acted on those plans, bombing an ISIS-controlled area in western Libya, killing approximately 40 people, including two hostages - still without any Congressional debate, much less authorization, but with the open acknowledgement that there may be more such attacks as top military officials, such as Gen. Donald Bolduc, commander of US special operations forces in Africa, are saying that Daesh is already too strong in Libya to be "rolled back" without direct US military involvement.
Not only was this bombing done without the approval of Congress, it was done without the approval or even knowledge of the only recognized government in Libya, which decried it as "a clear and flagrant violation of sovereignty of the Libyan state."
But there's more: The US military has also deployed special operations troops to Libya, boots on the ground, to give aid and training to - you guessed it - favored militias, assuming, as we did in Iraq and have done in Syria to such great success, that we can pick out "the good guys" who will fight Daesh for us from "the bad guys" who won't. Remember the classic definition of insanity?*
There's something else you need to understand: I referred to "the only recognized government" because there are three forces, each claiming to be the legitimate government. One, the recognized one, was elected or at least came in through an election, even if it was one marked by threats and violence to the point where voting didn't even occur some places and produced a turnout of just 18%.
After that election, Islamist parties that did poorly - gaining only 30 of 200 seats in the unicameral legislature (called the Council of Deputies) - staged a coup, forcing the new government to flee the capitol of Tripoli for the eastern city of Tobruk. The Libyan Supreme Court, still in Tripoli and all but literally under the gun, annulled the election as unconstitutional, which the Islamist parties used as a basis for saying that they are the rightful government rather than the one set in Tobruk, even though that one is still the one internationally recognized.
To make this more complicated, in January the UN Security Council recognized or more accurately created a third government, which is really just a means to push for the other two governments to join with them in a national unity government. To give you an idea of the state that Libya is in, this third government is based in Tunisia because it would be too dangerous in Libya itself.
And what's our answer to this clusterfuck of social and political chaos? More bombs! More "boots on the ground!" More trying to pick out the militias with the white hats from the militias with the black hats! More more more!
And I have to be fair here, I do. It's not just the US.
The UK has also sent special forces into Libya, working with the US to aid those select local militias. What's more, French special forces, including some openly operating on the front lines, were already there.
And that may be just the beginning. The new, UN-created "government" was consciously designed to be able to provide a pretext for justifying future, deeper military involvement by "inviting" or "requesting" such a wider war. After all, US Secretary of War Ashton Carter says, he is "certain they will want help."
The US, the UK, France, and Italy have all promised to expand their military campaigns against Daesh in Libya if that "national unity government" is ever created - failing which, some fig leaf excuse can always be found, even assuming our various Generalissimos feel the need for one in a way they have not so far.
Bottom line here for us as Americans: In 2015, the US dropped nearly 24,000 bombs on six nations, every one of them Muslim-majority. We are now waging bombing and drone campaigns in at least seven countries that we, the public, know of: Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya.
And it never seems to occur to us that what we're doing isn't working. It isn't making us more secure, it's making the lives of tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, of people in those countries less secure, lives which it appears we only care about as some metric in a war that shows no sign of ending or indeed doing anything other than slowly expanding, a war that has turned even those with humane instincts - and I will say I include Barack Obama in that number - into people who are cold and aloof in matters of life and death, war and peace, safety and destruction, where bombing runs are just another errand, just another everyday chore - and I include Barack Obama in that number as well.
Indeed, when that report came out a few weeks ago about the plan for a new bombing campaign in Libya, the one I cited three weeks ago, the White House pointed out in a daily press briefing that it has actually already carried out airstrikes in Libya since the 2011 war, so, y'know, what's the big deal?
The big deal is the hardening of the soul that this demonstrates, the ossification of the spirit that enables someone to present bombing another nation as a minor, almost routine matter, that enables someone to forget that what lies on the other end of that minor matter is shredded limbs and shattered lives, the remnants of what moments before were living, breathing human beings.
But, comes the response, they are the enemy! They want to kill us! They are monsters, cruel, unrelenting, unforgiving! Which, for some portion of those we destroy, would be true. Fanaticism always gives rise to brutalities in whatever form it arises, with ultimately only the justifications, not the brutalities, varying.
So yes, terrorism - or, more accurately and the distinction is important, the ideologies that drive terrorism - must be resisted. The question is not if, but how and the fact is, the undeniable fact is, what we're doing hasn't worked. It isn't working. It won't work until we realize that we keep thinking of terrorism, of driven fanaticism, as a matter of people when it is in reality a matter of ideology, a matter of an idea. And you can't bomb an idea into submission unless you're prepared to essentially commit genocide.
We have been told so many times in so many ways that the "fight against terrorism" will be an "extended campaign." Likely so.
But the truth is that our best targets for "attack" in this "extended campaign" are not the actual terrorists (who number in the thousands) but the tens of thousands, the millions, among who they recruit and from who they draw their strength. Our best weapons are bread and butter, not bombs; our best tactic reconstruction, not retaliation; our best strategy justice, not jingoism. The best way to minimize terrorism is to ensure that the dispossessed and the spiritually seeking have a genuine stake in the world and don't see us as invaders or as grasping bullies - and the best way not to be seen as an invader or a grasping bully is not to be one.
That last paragraph is pretty much the same thing I wrote in an op-ed in the weeks after 9/11. In the ensuring more than 14 years, I have found no reason to change my mind.
*Insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.
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