Watching the meeting of the Security Council on the evening of March 17, one could only wonder in disbelief (1) Here the 15 member states of the Security Council, by a vote of 10 in favor and none opposed, with five abstentions, passed Security Council Resolution 1973.(2) This resolution authorized a foreign military assault on a sovereign nation. The Security Council gave the ok to Western former colonial powers and the US to carry out a military campaign including bombing and missile strikes against another UN member nation. How did the members of the Council justify this authorization of an attack on Libya? The “pretext”, the term used by the Prime Minister of the Russian Federation,Vladimir Putin, 4 days later, was that the aggression was for “the protection of the civilians.”
The source of the disbelief I felt sitting and watching Thursday’s meetings was that not only did Security Council members vote for, or support by their abstentions, the bombing of a UN member nation, but also that those members who spoke, 14 of them, presented a false portrayal of what was happening in Libya as the basis for their support for the resolution.
The false narrative they conjured up was that their military action was for the protection of unarmed civilians who were peacefully protesting for their rights. What is happening in Libya, however, is an armed insurrection against the government. The insurrection is being led by former Libyan government officials who defected and joined with other opposition forces. The Security Council resolution was crafted to provide foreign military intervention to aid this armed insurrection by attacking the military forces of the Libyan government along with other sites and installations.
Why had the Security Council so falsified the ongoing military assault against Libya?
The statement by the Deputy Ambassador to the UN for India, Manjeev Singh Puri, offered a clue to help unravel this puzzle.
Welcoming the appointment by the UN Secretary General of an envoy to Libya, Deputy Ambassador Puri said, “However, we have not had the benefit of his report or even a report from the Secretariat or his assessment as yet. That would have given us an objective analysis of the situation on the ground….The Council has today adopted a resolution that authorizes far-reaching measures under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, with relatively little credible information on the situation on the ground in Libya….”
A similar criticism of the lack of credible evidence had been raised when the UN General Assembly voted to remove Libya from its seat on the Human Rights Council. (3) There was no impartial report verifying the claims made against the Libyan government by the defectors and the armed opposition sources and biased news media . Instead these same claims were given prominence in Security Council decisions and in the continued reports of much of the English language media like the BBC, English language Aljazeera and other mainstream media news programs.
The voices of netizens discussing the Libyan conflict, however, have demonstrated that it is not difficult to have a more accurate grasp of what is happening in Libya.
Some examples of comments in online discussions give a sample of some sentiments of netizens (4):
“Armed civilians or ununiformed fighters have no place being supported or protected by our air power. They carry a gun and get targeted that is their look out, not our job to hit the other side.”
22 March 2011
“The thing is the rebels are ‘civilians’ when ever it suits us.”
23 March 2011
“Of course once you start bombing, there will clearly be plenty of collateral damage.
This then makes a complete mockery of the stated purpose of the intervention, to save innocent civilians.”
23 March 2011
“Yes tanks are not planes! Or in the air flying. The civilian protection has no place extending to armed rebels, they are not civilians.”
23 March 2011 3:52PM
“So we are supposed to accept this scenario that the Military aggression against Libya is to do with protecting the protesters, the revolution, innocent civilians, the rebels etc. This sounds very reminiscent of attacking Iraq because of WMD.”
22 March 2011 10:50PM
There are earlier online discussions and articles challenging the false portrayal of the conflict in Libya as unarmed civilians protesting for their rights.(5)
One of the narratives considered by many netizens is that there has been an insurrectionary movement against the Libyan government. It is this military insurrection that the UN Security Council is supporting using the false pretext that foreign military intervention into Libya is to provide protection for unarmed peaceful civilian protest. Actually, instead the reality is that the Security Council has chosen to join the military attack on the Libyan government, thereby jeopardizing the lives of unarmed civilians in Libya.
Several online sites feature articles or the reprint of articles documenting how Libyan government officials defected and conspired with other opposition forces and foreign intelligence officials to carry out an insurrection against the Libyan government.(6)
While some netizens support the armed insurrection, others oppose foreign intervention in the internal affairs of Libya. The pretense that the conflict in Libya is about the Libyan government’s mistreatment of peaceful civilian protest has been shattered on the Internet and in the battlefields of Libya. But at the UN Security Council the false narrative is alive and well and being used to bring untold foreign military might to intervene in the internal affairs of Libya.
Reviewing the events of the Security Council meeting at 6 pm on March 17 can be instructive.
Leading off the statements at the meeting was French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe who spoke before the vote. He described the situation in Libya, explaining, “Throughout the country, violence against the civilian population has only increased….We must not give free rein to warmongers; we must not abandon civilian populations, the victims of brutal repression, to their fate….”
In Juppe’s statement, there is no mention of an armed insurrection seeking to overthrow the Libyan government or that Security Council Resolution 1973 had been crafted to bring the military might of the Western powers into open support for the armed insurrection. Instead the picture Juppe portrays is one of helpless civilians who are under threat of massacre by a barbaric government.
Juppe made the only statement before the vote. After the vote, 13 nations offered statements of explanation of their active (by voting for) or passive (by abstaining) support for the resolution.
In the first statement after the vote, the Lebanese Ambassador, Nawaf Salam, denounced what he called, “the violent acts and atrocious crimes being carried out by Libyan authorities against their people.” “The resolution”, he said, “is aimed at protecting Libyan civilians.” He offered no proof to support such accusations.
The British Ambassador, Sir Mark Lyall Grant, accused the Libyan regime of preparing a violent assault on a city of one million people. Again no proof was offered to support his accusation. Instead merely the claim the resolution is “to protect civilian and civilian populated areas under threat of attack.” There was no mention in his statement of the armed insurrectionary forces in areas of Libya waging a battle against the Libyan government or that there could be civilians in Libya who do not support the insurrection and who do not want to see foreign forces determine the fate of their government or what government they will have.
Only when Germany spoke to explain why it abstained, did one hear that there is an “Interim Transitional National Council” that Germany regards as an important interlocutor.
The German Ambassador, Peter Wittig, said that Germany had “decided not to support a military option.” But Germany did not vote against the resolution nor mention that the underlying issue is the Security Council taking the side of an armed insurrection against the government of Libya, and that the claim of support for civilians was but, as Putin saw it, almost a week later, “a pretext.”
The US Ambassador, Susan Rice, in her turn repeated that the resolution’s purpose is “to protect innocent civilians.”
Only when the Council heard from India’s Deputy Ambassador, was there the acknowledgment of the lack of credible information to provide an objective assessment as the basis for the Council’s vote. Also India’s Deputy Ambassador referred to a plan by the African Union to send “a high-level panel to Libya to make serious efforts for a peaceful end to the crisis there.” It was, however, impossible for the African Union high level panel to go as planned because of the foreign bombing and military assault that the Resolution had thrust on Libya.
Though stressing the need for “political efforts…to address the situation,” India abstained rather than voting against the resolution.
Another abstention was cast by Ambassador Maria Luiza Riberio Viotti of Brazil. She explained that the government of Brazil had publicly condemned the use of violence against “unarmed demonstrators…..” What that had to do with the armed insurrection against the Libyan government she failed to explain. Instead the image her statement portrayed could have been that of the nonviolent struggle in Egypt of unarmed civilians demonstrating for political rights. Her statement was not a statement that matched the reality in Libya.
She did question paragraph 4 of the resolution as to whether it “will lead to the realization of our common objective — the immediate end to violence and the protection of civilians.”(6) But if the resolution had been crafted to protect an armed rebellion against the Libyan government then her statement only contributed to the smoke and mirrors being spread around the Security Council chambers. The provisions of the UN charter require an effort to use peaceful means to settle conflicts that endanger international peace and security. Also the charter supports the obligation to respect the sovereignty of member states. No Security Council member explained how the military actions they were authorizing did not violate any of the obligations of the Charter. (7)
The meeting continued with others speaking. When Ambassador Vitaly Churkin of the Russian Federation, made his statement, he complained about departures from Security Council practices by those drafting the resolution, and their failure to answer questions posed by other members of the Council. “Furthermore,” said Churkin, “the draft was morphing before our very eyes…. Provisions were introduced into the text that could potentially open the door to large-scale military intervention.”
Ambassador Churkin said he unsuccessfully tried to submit an alternative draft resolution on March 16 calling for a ceasefire and backing the efforts of the Special Envoy for the Secretary General to Libya, the investigation of what is happening in Libya by the Human Rights Council, and the African Union endeavors to achieve a peaceful settlement of the conflict in Libya.
But nowhere did he condemn that the resolution was to support armed fighters against the Libyan government, using as a pretext the claim that it was created to defend nonviolent protesting civilians. Nor did he explain why his government was supporting the resolution despite the problems he had pointed out, by not voting against it and thus failing to use its veto.
Of the three African members of the Security Council, one did not explain its vote in favor of the resolution (Gabon), one spoke of “the need to protect civilians under attack” (Nigeria) and the other African member referred to “concern with the deteriorating political and humanitarian situation in Libya which is fast becoming a full-blown civil war .”(South Africa).
Baso Sangqu, the South African Ambassador to the UN, said that South Africa commended, “the decision of the African Union Peace and Security Council to dispatch an ad hoc high-level committee to Libya” to work toward a political solution to the conflict. His statement also portrayed the false image that the Security Council had passed the resolution to protect “the lives of defenseless civilians…..” South Africa, too, helped to hide that the essence of SC resolution 1973 was to give foreign military support to the armed rebellion against Libya.
South Africa was one of the five nations who had agreed to send a high level delegation on behalf of the African Union to Libya to negotiate a political solution. South Africa voted in favor of SC Resolution 1973, acting in sharp contrast to the decision of the African Union to reject any foreign military action and to support a political resolution to the crisis. A Security Council resolution requires nine votes in favor to pass. Because five other Security Council members had abstained, there were only 10 members who could vote in favor of the resolution. If only 2 of the African nations had abstained, the resolution would have gotten only 8 votes, one short of the 9 votes needed to be approved. So the votes of the African Union members on the Security Council were decisive in passing a resolution that was in sharp contradiction with the decision of the African Union on the course of action it should take about the situation in Libya.
Finally at the end of the meeting, the Chinese Ambassador to the UN, Li Baodong explained China’s vote. China abstained, he said, because it “attaches great importance to the position by the 22-member Arab League on the establishment of a no-fly zone over Libya.” He also said that China attached, “great importance to the position of African countries and the African Union. These two organization had disagreed in their approach to the conflict in Libya. Instead of China taking the responsibility to determine whether there was a good reason to veto the resolution given two such conflicting decisions from the relevant regional organizations, China supported the resolution by abstaining.
The resolution China supported with its abstention had “sidelined” the African Union’s effort to work for a political solution, according to John Ping the Secretary General of the African Union.(8) This process was to start on March 21 with a delegation to Libya.
The question I was left with after the Security Council meeting on March 17 which passed Resolution 1973, was: How could 15 Ambassadors from diverse nations all portray the reality in Libya by this same false narrative?
During the Bush and Blair campaign against Iraq in 2003, the UN Security Council did not vote to authorize the US and British invasion. At the time, sufficient Security Council members opposed this action by the Security Council to prevent such a vote from taking place.
On March 17, however, all 15 members voted for, or at least supported by an abstention, an undefined and unfettered military action by undefined forces, including a bombing campaign against Libya. Along with supporting the resolution by a vote for or abstaining, these 15 member nations acted to misrepresent the act of aggression they were authorizing.
Searching for an understanding of what was happening in Libya, I came upon the discrepancy between the action taken by the UN Security Council and the descriptions of what was happening in Libya that were being discussed by netizens. There were many debates online. Many netizens were concerned with the actions of the armed insurrection against the Libya government. In their discussions, and in many posts, netizens plainly stated whether they agreed or disagreed with those who were part of the armed insurrection against the Libyan government. Most netizens, however, did not create a false narrative misrepresenting armed fighters as unarmed civilians
Their discussions online differed substantially from the false narrative being spread by Security Council members and by news media like BBC (UK), Aljazeera (Qatar) and much of the mainstream US media.
The online discussion, reports and analyses demonstrated that the mainstream news media and the Security Council no longer had the ability to monopolize how the narrative would be framed which described the crisis in Libya.
One of the many ways that the foreign intervention into the internal struggle in Libya is being justified is to call it an example of the need for putting into practice the “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P) doctrine.
This doctrine, supposedly applies to situations where violence is being directed against unarmed civilians and the government fails to protect those civilians. In Libya, there is an armed insurrection against a sovereign government and there are civilians who do not support that insurrection. It could be argued that the Libyan government is fulfilling its obligation to protect its sovereignty by fighting against the armed insurrection. Carrying out an armed insurrection against a government is not the same as nonviolent civilians peacefully protesting for their rights.
By breaching the sovereignty of Libya and the Libyan people with Resolution 1973, the UN Security Council has taken away the right of the Libyan people to determine their own government. The Security Council has chosen the side of the insurrection against the Libyan government, and by so doing it has violated Article 2(1) of the UN Charter that, “The Organization is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its Members.”
In a talk presented at the United Nations in 2009, Jean Bricmont, a university professor in Belgium, who has written on these issues, explained how the R2P doctrine is but a new version of the discredited doctrine of humanitarian intervention. “The very starting point of the United Nations,” Bricmont explained in his talk, “was to save humankind from ‘the scourge of war,’ with reference to the two World Wars. This was to be done precisely by strict respect for national sovereignty, in order to prevent Great Powers from intervening militarily against weaker ones, regardless of the pretext.” (9)
Bricmont explains that it is only the respect for sovereignty that protects the people of the small nations from the self serving interests of the great powers. “The necessary respect for national sovereignty means that the ultimate sovereign of each nation state is the people of that state whose right to replace unjust governments cannot be taken over by supposedly benevolent outsiders.”
Why did no member of the Security Council speak up about the fact that Resolution 1973 by its attack on sovereignty is a violation of the UN Charter? The UN charter in article 2(1)and article 2(7) upholds the sovereign equality of all member states and the principle that the charter cannot be used to authorize intervention into the internal affairs of member states. Only in cases where international peace and security is in jeopardy can the Security Council make a case for the use of Chapter 7 of the charter. Chapter 7 refers to situations involving aggression against other states or other acts which are threats to peaceful relations among nations. The Security Council made no case that any of the conditions for the use of Chapter 7 apply in the Libyan situation.
This is but one of the questions that is unanswered even weeks after Resolution 1973 was passed. Other questions raised by the March 17 Security Council meeting include: Why did veto holding members like Russia and China go along with the resolution by abstaining? Why did no member vote against the resolution or speak up during the meeting to challenge the inconsistency between the alleged purpose to “protect unarmed civilians” and the actual purpose of the resolution, i.e. to protect the armed insurrection against the Libyan state and provide support for the insurrection by foreign military intervention. To have admitted this discrepancy, however, would have exposed that the resolution is contrary to the obligations under the UN Charter. Whether they intended it or not, all members of the Security Council who spoke at the meeting on March 17 or who voted or abstained from the vote in support of the resolution, took part in concealing the violation of the charter represented by Resolution 1973.
The UN is now faced with the challenge of how to respond to the action of the Security Council members in passing Resolution 1973. The deceitful nature of the resolution has been uncovered in articles and discussions by netizens, but also occasionally in some few articles in the mainstream media (9). Also some members of the African Union have begun to speak up about the failure represented by the 3 African members of the Security Council voting in favor of the resolution, making it possible for the resolution to pass. An increasing number of nations are beginning to recognize they, too, can be subjected to similar acts of aggression as that imposed by the UN Security Council on Libya. This is, as one African president said, an impetus for nations to increase their purchase of military weapons.(10)
Nations, including Indonesia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba, Uruguay, Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina, Ecuador, and Nicaragua are publicly condemning the Resolution and offering to help settle the conflict in Libya by supporting dialogue between the government and those involved in the insurrection.(11)
In a letter to the Security Council dated March 19, Libya requested that the Security Council hold an emergency meeting on the subject of the aggression unleashed on Libya’s territory and people with the Security Council action on Resolution 1973. (12) In the request, Libya stated that the resolution was not “to protect civilians as is purported but rather to strike civilian sites, economic facilities and sites belonging to the armed peoples’ on Duty.” The Security Council refused Libya’s request for such a meeting. No member of the Security Council acted to support the request so as to make it mandatory under the provisional rules of procedure of the Security Council.
In another letter to the Security Council dated March 24, Libya stated that it had accepted the ceasefire required by Resolution 1973, but that only set it up as the target for “military aggression led by the United States of America, France, and Britain that has resulted in casualties among defenceless civilians. This is contrary to the letter and substance of the provisions of resolution 1973 (2011) concerning the protection of civilians and the ceasefire.”(13)
Netizens observing the role played by the UN in authorizing the use of force against Libya have spoken out in condemnation that the UN is a party to such action.
“The military intervention on the part of the rebels violated the prohibition against the use of force of the UN charter and is therefore always within the reach of international law,” wrote one netizen in a discussion in the German online magazine Telepolis.(14)
Another wrote, “The UN is no longer what it once was. Today it is an instrument for wars of aggression. This is especially true for the Security Council which has become an instrument of Insecurity.”
The action of the UN Security Council to authorize foreign intervention in support of an armed insurrection against the government of a sovereign member state of the UN under the specious claim of “protection” of “unarmed civilians” makes suspect all other actions of the UN Security Council. The process by which the UN deals with this violation of its charter and of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Libya will have a long term effect on the respect for the UN by people around the world and on the future of the UN itself.
In a late breaking development as this article is being completed, Reuters reports that in response to the refusal of the US government to grant a visa to Ali Abdussalam Treki, the Libyan designated representative to the UN after its former representatives defected, Father D’escoto Brockmann, of Nicaragua, and former President of the General Assembly, is coming to NY. “The Nicaraguan government said in a statement that (Father D’Escoto Brockmann) has flown to the U.N. headquarters in New York to “support our Libyan brothers in their diplomatic battle to enforce respect for its sovereignty.”(15)
In a more recent development, as of April 1, Father Miguel D’Escoto Brockmann has been appointed as the alternative Nicaraguan representative to the United Nations by the Nicaraguan government.
1.Transcript of Security Council meeting on March 17, 2011.
2.UN Security Council Resolution 1973 S/2011/1973
3. “Venezuela slams U.S. at suspension of Libya from Human Rights Council”, Xinhua, updated,
“A decision like this could only take place after an objective and credible investigation that confirms the veracity of the facts, ” he said. “No country can be condemned a priori. We consider this decision precipitated, without first awaiting the results of the Independent International Inquiry Commission designated by the Human Rights Council.”
4. Comments from discussion of article on Comment Is Free at the Guardian
5. See for example the website http://www.globalresearch.ca
6. See for example:Franco Bechi, “French Plans to Topple Gaddafi on Track Since Last November”, Libero, March
7. See para 4 of Security Council Resolution 1973
“The resolution authorizes member states…..to take all necessary measures” without defining what these are or what the requirements or limits of these are.
8. John Ping in interview with journalist. Reference to be added.
9. Jean Bricmont, “A More Just World and the Responsibility to Protect (R2P): How are the weak ever to be protected from the strong?
(Presentation to the Untied Nations General Assembly on July 23, 2009. Available online in the Amateur Computerist Vol 19 No 1, page 24.)
http://www.ais.org/~jrh/acn/ACn19-1.pdf page 24
10. Henry Masaka, “Museveni blasts West over Libya attack”, “New Vision”, March 21, 2011.
11. See for example, on Indonesia’s action:
“Indonesia urges ceasefire in Libya”, The Jakarta Post, March 28, 2011.
12 See Letter from Libya to the Security Council S/2011/161
13. See Letter from Libya to the Security Council S/2011/178
14. Telepolis. These comments are from the discussion of the article
Re: Bombardieren für den Frieden Re: Bombing for Peace,18. März 2011 14:38 March 2011 14:38
“Die militärische Intervention zugunsten der Aufständischen verletzt das Gewaltverbot der UN-Charta und ist deshalb immer völkerrechtswidrig.“
“Leider ist die UN nicht mehr, was sie mal war.
Heute dient sie als Rechtfertigungsinstrument für Angriffskriege.
Das gilt vor allem für den UN-‘Sicherheitsrat’, der zum Unsicherheitsrat geworden ist.”
15. “Nicaragua says to help Libya after a visa ban”, Reuters, March 30, 2011.