Vancouver antiwar activist Derrick O’Keefe has slammed the western-led military action in Libya as a case of “selective intervention”.
O’Keefe specifically criticized Canada’s participation in the UN Security Council–authorized imposition of a no-fly zone in the North African nation where strongman Col. Moammar Gadhafi wants to end a revolt against his regime.
“While Canada has been very gung-ho to go to war with Libya, they’ve essentially said nothing criticizing Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries invading Bahrain to help crush the democracy protests there,” O’Keefe told the Straight in a phone interview. “And so Canada is in alliance with Bahrain and Yemen and those other regimes against their own people.”
The cochair of the Canadian Peace Alliance was referring to the brutal suppression of protests in Bahrain. On March 14, the Arab kingdom brought in troops from Saudi Arabia and other allied nations to help quell unrest. Bahrain is the home of the U.S. navy’s 5th Fleet, which polices the Persian Gulf, Red Sea, Arabian Sea, and much of the east coast of Africa.
Dozens of democracy protesters have been killed in Yemen since demonstrations erupted in this Arab country in January this year.
Ironically, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen are members of the Arab League, which called on the UN to intervene in Libya, where rebels are fighting to put an end to Gadhafi’s rule.
“The Libyan affair should be sorted out by the Libyan people and the people of the region,” O’Keefe said. “Unfortunately, I think what we’ve seen is the big western powers taking advantage of the situation to reimpose their control somewhat in an area of the world that they’ve started to lose control of with the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia.”
Long-time autocrats in Egypt and Tunisia, who were friendly to western powers, fell from power early this year following protests.
The UN–sanctioned intervention in Libya has earned praise from Michael Byers, a UBC professor of global politics and international law, as a strategic deed for democracy.
“I would suggest that if Gadhafi had been allowed to crush the revolution in Libya through the use of force against his own people, that might have actually stopped the spread of democracy in North Africa and the Middle East,” Byers told the Straight in a phone interview.
Byers is aware of criticisms that western powers have acted selectively by engaging in military action in Libya with the stated purpose of protecting civilian lives but not in other countries like Bahrain and Yemen.
“The response to that is, ”˜Can you imagine France, the U.K., and the United States simultaneously imposing no-fly zones and striking targets in all those countries?” Byers asked. “And the answer is ”˜No’. The other answer is that Gadhafi took the situation to a new and different level in Libya by using warplanes against his own people.”
Byers acknowledged that western powers may have motives other than democracy’s ends. “I’m not naive that Libya does have more strategic importance than, for instance, Rwanda had in 1994 when there was no UN action,” he said.