(Neil Clark, "Guardian", elektronsko izdanje, nedelja, 20. mart 2011.)
In 1999 and 2003 this was the very week Britain went to war – or, as the government put it, liberate people and protect civilians.
It's March, the sun is shining and spring is just around the corner. Oh, and Britain is bombing a foreign country again. If you've got a distinct feeling of deja vu about what's been going on this weekend, then it's hardly surprising.
In this very week in 1999 Britain took a leading role in the bombing of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
And on this very day in 2003, Britain took a leading role in the bombing – and invasion – of Iraq.
And now we're at it again in Libya.
We're being told we have to intervene in Libya to "protect the Libyan people" from being murdered by the forces of Gaddafi. We're told that having declared a ceasefire, Gaddafi "stepped up the attacks" on civilians. And that doing nothing about the dictator is simply not an option.
Now all this could be true – but our experience of other March military assaults in which Britain has played a prominent role suggests we should, at the very least, treat with one huge barrow-load of salt the claims currently being made about why we're going to war.
Back in March 1999 we were told that we had to intervene because the Yugoslav leader, Slobodan Milosevic, was "set on a Hitler-style genocide equivalent to the extermination of the Jews during world war two". That wasn't true.
In March 2003 we were told that we had to invade Iraq, because Saddam had WMDs that "could be activated within 45 minutes".
That wasn't true either.
Far from Milosevic engaging in a "Hitler-style genocide", what was occurring in Kosovo was a civil war between Yugoslav forces and the western-backed Kosovo Liberation Army, with atrocities committed on both sides. And the claims about Iraqi WMD were pure hogwash put forward to justify a military intervention to topple a regime that the west, having supported in the 1980s, now wanted out.
Both in 1999 and 2003 our leaders lied to us about the real reasons for our country's involvement in military conflict. How can we be sure that what is happening in 2011 is any different?
If the US, Britain and France are acting out of genuine humanitarian concerns for Libyan civilians, why has there been no discussion of similar action against the government in Bahrain – which last week invited into the country military forces from that great democracy Saudi Arabia to crush pro-democracy protests – or against the regime in Yemen, where 45 anti-government protesters were killed on Thursday?
The other lesson to draw from the previous March conflicts is that military interventions – sold to the public as reasonably straightforward operations against dictators with little public support – rarely go to plan. Nato thought that a few days of heavy bombardment would force Milosevic to cave in – they were wrong: the war lasted 78 days and at the end of it the Yugoslav federal army was undefeated.
The invasion of Iraq, its neocon cheerleaders assured us, would be a cakewalk, with grateful Iraqis – all of whom hated Saddam Hussein – lining up to hand bouquets of flowers to their "liberators".
And today, supporters of the Libyan action, such as the Tory MP Colonel Bob Stewart, predict that Gaddafi's forces are likely to desert. But what if the advocates of military action are wrong – as they were in 1999 and 2003? What if support for Gaddafi within Libya is stronger than we have been led to believe? Then we could be involved in yet another Middle Eastern quagmire.
The Libyan intervention is of course different in one respect from the assaults on Yugoslavia and Iraq in that it has been officially sanctioned by the UN security council. But UN backing doesn't mean that we shouldn't remain cynical about the real reasons for the attack.
For all the talk of "liberating" the people and protecting civilians, the wars against Yugoslavia and Iraq were classic imperialist ventures whose real aim was to extend western economic and military hegemony. It's unlikely that this latest March assault on an independent sovereign state is any different.
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