Posts Tagged ‘Libya’

Wednesday News Review

30/03/2011, 06:42:10 AM

Creep and compromise

After a day-long conference in London on how to move forward the political process in Libya, other developments included: An admission the Coalition did not yet fully know who made up the opposition, which came after Nato said American intelligence had shown “flickers” of al Qaeda among the rebels; A suggestion the Coalition would be prepared to see Colonel Gaddafi go into exile if a country was willing to take him; A claim by the Italians that several nations were working on a deal involving a ceasefire, exile for Gaddafi and a talks framework between Libya’s tribal leaders and opposition figures; Nick Clegg warning about the “danger of overreaching” during a speech in Mexico, but stressing liberal interventionism must be upheld. – Daily Herald

David Cameron today promised a “new beginning for Libya” was within sight as Britain held open the door for Colonel Gaddafi to flee into exile. He vowed that the UK and other allies would not abandon the people rising up against the dictator. Foreign Secretary William Hague had earlier made it clear that Britain may be willing to allow Gaddafi to flee into exile. Piling the pressure on the dictator, America and Britain also refused to rule out arming the rebels. Mr Hague signalled that Britain may be willing to allow the tyrant to escape to a safe haven as part of a deal to end the bloodshed. “We are not in control of where he might go. I am not going to choose Colonel Gaddafi’s retirement home,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. Italy has already proposed an exit route into exile for Gaddafi – and Turkey has offered to act as a mediator to end the conflict. – Evening Standard (more…)

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The Sunday Review: “In Retrospect”, by Bob McNamara

27/03/2011, 03:11:13 PM

by Anthony Painter

“We must recognise that the consequences of large-scale military operations…are inherently difficult to predict and control. Therefore, they must be avoided, excepting only when our nation’s security is clearly and directly threatened”.

Strange as it may seem, I have never been a fan of the political memoir. They are invariably poorly written, historical distortions that lack any sort of reflection and are instead an exercise in settling scores and re-justification. They are aimed at cementing the author’s “place in history” rather than helping a nation to reflect on its history and improve itself in the process. They always fail in this objective. There is one noble exception: Bob McNamara’s In Retrospect: the tragedy and lessons of Vietnam.

The former secretary of defense – with personal responsibility for escalating the Vietnam war under both Presidents Kennedy and Johnson – could have fallen back on the domino theory or some such to defend his actions. Instead, right up front, he is brutally honest:

“We were wrong, terribly wrong. We owe it to future generations to explain why”.

Two things made me re-read In Retrospect. First, the launch of military action in Libya. Remember that Vietnam started as a smallish operation with 16,000 military “advisers” to train the South Vietnamese to defend themselves and ended with 543,400 troops in Vietnam by 1973. These things can acquire a deadly logic all of their own. Second, Tony Blair’s piece in the Wall Street Journal expanding an aggressive view of the role of the west in North Africa and the Middle East- failing to heed McNamara’s warnings. (more…)

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The week Uncut

26/03/2011, 10:30:52 AM

In case you missed them, these were the best read pieces on Uncut in the last seven days:

Tom Watson decided to back Cameron… and then changed his mind

Dan Hodges says Libya is not Cameron’s first war, it’s Blair’s last

Sally Bercow predicted the usual Tory fare on budget day

Atul Hatwal reveals how the fuel stabiliser will hike household energy bills

Peter Watt asks: where’s the social care in the health and social care bill?

Rob Marchant doesn’t want Ed to march for the alternative

Jonathan Todd thinks Miliband can own the future in a way Cameron can’t

…and in this weeks Half a minute Harris, Tom backed Theresa May on student visas

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Libya is not Cameron’s first war. It is Tony Blair’s last.

22/03/2011, 11:30:43 AM

by Dan Hodges

In Saturday’s Independent, Robert Fisk, the venerable if jaundiced middle east sage, posted a missing persons bulletin:

“Why we have not heard from Lord Blair of Isfahan recently? Surely he should be up there, clapping his hands with glee at another humanitarian intervention. Perhaps he is just resting between parts. Or maybe, like the dragons in Spenser’s Faerie Queene, he is quietly vomiting forth Catholic tracts with all the enthusiasm of a Gaddafi in full flow”.

Unfortunately, about an hour after this latest condemnation of Western imperialism / inaction / barbarity / pusillanimity (delete as appropriate), up popped the man himself:

“The decision to impose a no-fly zone and authorise all necessary measures to protect threatened civilians comes not a moment too soon. It is a shift to a policy of intervention that I welcome. Such a policy will be difficult and unpredictable. But it is surely better than watching in real time as the Libyan people’s legitimate aspiration for a better form of government and way of life is snuffed out by tanks and planes”.

Fisk may know Libya like the back of Colonel Gaddafi’s hand, but he certainly doesn’t know Tony Blair. The clear implication of his jibe is that military intervention against Gaddafi is a rebuke to our former prime minister and his policy of enticing the Libyan dictator back into the international fold. A further shredding of his already tattered foreign policy legacy.

Robert, you couldn’t be more wrong. Libya isn’t an embarrassment for Tony Blair. It’s his validation. (more…)

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Why I changed my mind and abstained on the Libya vote

21/03/2011, 11:59:55 PM

by Tom Watson

David Cameron’s assured performance at the dispatch box during the Libya statement on Friday worried me. He was confident, authoritative and re-assuring. It was like watching Tony Blair introducing the debate before we went to war in Iraq.

I was concerned that there wasn’t sufficient support amongst our key allies and, crucially, arab states to make military intervention credible.

I asked the PM:

“Now that the UN has reasserted its authority with this resolution, it is important that Gaddafi be in no doubt that there is an overwhelming military force to carry it out. In that light, how many countries does the prime minister wish to provide military assets, and how many of them come from the arab league”?

The PM replied:

“The hon. gentleman makes a good point. Obviously, we want the widest alliance possible. I do not think it would be right for me to name at the dispatch box those countries that are considering participation, but there is a wide number. Clearly, at the heart of this are the Americans, the French and the British, but other European countries are coming forward, and there are also some in the arab league, including a number I have spoken to, who have talked about active participation – about playing a part in this. One of the purposes of the meeting tomorrow in Paris will be to bring together the widest possible coalition of those who want to support it, and I believe, particularly as this has such strong UN backing, that it will be a very wide coalition indeed”.

I left the chamber with a lot of unanswered questions:

1.What are the objectives of this mission?

2.What are the limits of the UN resolution?

3.What is our exit strategy?

4.How much is it going to cost?

5.Have we the appropriate military capacity?

6.How strong is the international coalition? (more…)

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Why I’m voting with Cameron in support of bombing Libya

20/03/2011, 11:02:47 AM

by Tom Watson

Now that we know what we know about Iraq I vowed I’d never take a prime minister on trust again. Yet this is what I’m going to have to do tomorrow. My vote will be with Sarkozy and Cameron – and the united nations.

I have huge reservations. I have little choice. I have to believe that they’ll be true to their words: there won’t be a ground war. There won’t be an occupation. There has to be a plan, right? Parliament will be consulted regularly.

Cameron assured the House that the arab league states want this. I have to believe him.

And given that allied forces are already shooting out tanks, airfields and strategic targets, a vote against military intervention on Monday only undermines our country’s political strength on the world stage.

I have an ominous déjà vu feeling though. I asked the PM to say which countries were providing military assets to the coalition. He couldn’t tell me, or perhaps chose not to. Either way, it doesn’t instill confidence that this mission is entirely thought through. But I also understand the need for speed. When innocents are getting bombed there is little time for debate.

The UN resolution wasn’t supported by our key allies the Germans. It’s a cause for concern.

I’m extremely concerned that other dictators will use the focus onLibya to brutalise peaceful protests in their country. 45 protestors were shot dead in Yemen on Friday, for example.

We don’t know what Libya will look like if we can’t rid the country of Gaddafi. We don’t know what it will look like if we do.

There are hazardous times ahead. The future is uncertain. Cameron gets my vote tomorrow, but please God let this be over swiftly.

Tom Watson is Labour MP for West Bromwich East.

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Thursday News Review

03/03/2011, 06:48:53 AM

Brega sends Gaddafi’s forces packing

Attacks by Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s fighter jets and artillery have been repulsed by the rebels threatening to end his 41-year rule of Libya. While the dictator sounded a defiant note during a public appearance in Tripoli, a surprise assault by his forces using 122mm heavy artillery on the town of Brega was repelled after bloody fighting in the town. And air strikes on an arms dump outside Ajdabiya again failed to ignite the enormous weapons stockpiles hidden in bunkers filmed by Sky News earlier in the week. Eyewitnesses say the battle in Brega was waged across sand dunes on the edge of town and around its university. Col Gaddafi’s air force again struck by dropping bombs on the university, but failed to stem the rebel counter-attack. While their forces have managed to hold off pro-Gaddafi onslaughts so far, opposition leaders continue to plead for outside airstrikes to help them oust the ruler. The question is now whether or not the rebels can turn their counterattack into a more sustained offensive and move the pro-Gaddafi lines further west after days of stalemate between them and the regime. – Sky News

A bloody counter-attack by crazed Colonel Gaddafi flopped yesterday – as the Mad Dog’s forces fled with their tails between their legs. Two hundred troops still loyal to Libya’s tyrant swooped to seize back a key oil port from democracy campaigners – arriving in a convoy of 50 sports utility vehicles. The handful of rebels guarding it were caught napping by the surprise dawn attack and scarpered in terror. Jubilant Gaddafi, 68, later went on state TV to launch another rant at armies of protesters out to end his four decades of iron rule. But his glee at retaking the country’s second biggest oil and gas terminal – Brega – was short-lived. By mid-morning rebel reinforcements were already streaming out of the nearby city of Ajdabiya in pick-up trucks – defying warplanes sent to bomb them. Soon it was the turn of Gaddafi’s men to run for their lives. By mid-afternoon they had retreated to the campus of a university – where they found themselves cornered. Late last night the tyrant was enraged to learn they had all fled. The hapless last stand at the university was summed up by a bomb dropped by one of Gaddafi’s warplanes. It harmlessly hit the nearby beach in an explosion of sand. – the Sun

Off to the polls in Wales and Barnsley

On election night the vast majority of candidates face the very public humiliation of losing, and years of commuting and committees await the winner. But just as there are men and women who feel compelled to jump into the arena and get their name on a ballot, so there are also people who give up their evenings and weekends to take part in even less glamorous campaigns. The issue of whether the Assembly should gain new – strictly defined – powers to make laws in the 20 areas for which it is responsible is not a topic of conversation that you will often hear at the hairdresser’s or during half-time at the Millennium Stadium. But on Thursday, the people of Wales will be asked to vote on this very topic. When just 38.2% of people cast a vote in the 2003 election to decide who they wanted to be in charge of Wales’ education, transport and health services, what chance is there that even this number will take part in the referendum? However, for two women in Wales this is too important a question to be left to the political anoraks and the constitutional obsessives. Neither is a professional politician, and each holds down a demanding day-job. But each cares passionately that you should take a few minutes to think about whether you want the Assembly to become a more powerful institution – and both of them want you to vote on March 3. Rachel Banner, an English teacher and Labour activist from Pontypool, campaigns for a No vote with True Wales. Cathy Owens, programme director for Wales for Amnesty International, is convinced the Assembly is ready for the next stage of devolution and works with Yes For Wales. And they both want you on their sides. – Western Mail (more…)

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Ed’s not going to take down Gaddafi with a sustained blast of the Reith lectures

01/03/2011, 07:00:52 AM

by Dan Hodges

Libya has turned into the first international crisis of David Cameron’s premiership. And he’s flunked it. When an ash cloud stranded thousands of British holidaymakers, the previous government deployed the Royal Navy. With the Middle East aflame, and hundreds of British workers in peril, this government turned to the heavy metal band, Iron Maiden.  Bruce Dickinson, the group’s lead singer, is also marketing director and chief pilot of charter airline, Astraeus, one of the first to land at Tripoli to begin a belated evacuation. The RAF heroes of 633 squadron have been pensioned off for the heroes of flight 666.

At times like this, there is frequently a populist rush to judgment. “Something must be done”, goes the cry, even though operational and political realities make the situation far more difficult and complex. This is not one of those times. Ministers had sufficient warning of the spreading unrest in the region in general, and Libya in particular, yet they clearly had no coherent strategy in place for the evacuation of British nationals.

In fact, it is amazing that there appear to be no settled contingency plans for the rapid deployment of military or other assets to remove our citizens from areas of potential instability. It doesn’t need a doctorate in international relations to tell you that Colonel Gaddafi is a fruit cake with the potential to tip his country into chaos at the drop of a pair of his designer shades. Surely one of our chaps in the FCO should have twigged that a guy who calls himself “the Brotherly Leader and Guide of the First of September Great Revolution of the Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya” is worth keeping a wary eye on. (more…)

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Tuesday News Review

01/03/2011, 06:52:58 AM

Leaders clash over Libya

In a statement to the House of Commons the prime minister said would “not rule out in any way” the use of military force against Gaddafi. “We must not tolerate this regime using military force against its own people,” he said. “In that context I have asked the Ministry of Defence and the Chief of the Defence Staff to work with our allies on plans for a military no-fly zone.” He added: “My message to Colonel Gaddafi is simple: Go now.” On Friday Cameron authorised a military operation to rescue Britons stranded in the Libyan desert. The move followed days of heavy criticism levelled at the Foreign Office’s initial rescue efforts. And he said on Saturday two RAF C130 aircraft flew into the Eastern desert and picked up 74 British nationals and 102 foreign nationals at three different locations. – ePolitix

Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, was obliged to endorse this firm anti-Gaddafi line, but attempted instead to develop an anti-Cameron line, by demanding an apology from the Prime Minister for the delay of about a day and a half in evacuating some British citizens from Libya. Mr Miliband’s demand was shot down in the no-fly zone which Mr Cameron proceeded to create over the Leader of the Opposition. For as the Prime Minister retorted to Mr Miliband: “If apologies are in order, perhaps he should think of one about the appalling dodgy dealing with Libya under the last government.” – Daily Telegraph (more…)

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Carry on up the Suez: gutless and incompetent Tories bring shame on us all

25/02/2011, 04:30:59 PM

by Jonathan Todd

The epoch changing events in the Middle East, lest we forget, were precipitated by Tarek el-Tayyib Mohamed Ben Bouazizi. Just over a month later, Karim Medhat Ennarah, an Egyptian protester told the Guardian, with tears in his eyes, that:

“For 18 days we have withstood teargas, rubber bullets, live ammunition, Molotov cocktails, thugs on horseback, the scepticism and fear of our loved ones, and the worst sort of ambivalence from an international community that claims to care about democracy. But we held our ground. We did it”.

In the intervening period, the most that William Hague could do to respond to the beauty and bravery of these protestors was to mouth almost exactly the same measly words as Hosni Mubarak about an orderly transition. Britain managed to be dismissed as at best irrelevant, as Krishnan Guru-Murthy noted, both by the Mubarek regime and by those risking their lives to overthrow it.

Our Garibaldi, David Cameron, wasn’t content. He set off on a crusade for freedom. He was the first western leader to visit post-revolutionary Egypt. All very noble. But are arms really the first thing required in the birth pangs of democracy? And is the most fundamental right of British citizens not protection from indiscriminate violence? (more…)

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