Canada’s role in Libya no-fly zone draws criticism

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.




Mar 24, 2011 at 4:07am

Old news and dull report.

Jas Girn

Mar 24, 2011 at 5:19am

We should not have been involved in Libya. We have no interest in their affairs. The Arab world would have launched their own attacks against Ghaddafi anyway. Now, I will not be surprised if terrorists attack Canada. We are so stupid. We should not get involved in Arab affairs. Their politics are insane and just let them deal with their insanity.

rush limbaugh's slippers

Mar 24, 2011 at 12:50pm

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 we let the Libyans alone and minded our own business, people like me would have to find real jobs doing something productive; moreover, reminding other cultures of their inferiority helps me feel good about myself” Byers told the Straight in a phone interview

Well Yeah!

Mar 24, 2011 at 2:05pm

No doubt.


Mar 24, 2011 at 4:34pm

Canada, get out. The conservatives is destroying Canadian principle of peacemaker for good. It's all the faulty of the Harper and Mackey, in very contrast to the 2003 Iraq war.

Change My Mind For Money

Mar 24, 2011 at 10:21pm

Read. Find out who represents you provincially and federally. You are responsible for the actions of the leaders you vote for.

Steve Y

Mar 24, 2011 at 10:49pm

There is a pretty big difference between too softly voiced criticism of Bahrain and being allied with the government of Bahrain against the Bahraini people. Let's remember, the UAE is our supposed "allies" who liberal and NDP mps were trying to defend from the mean conservatives who wouldn't let emirate air bankrupt Air Canada mere months ago.

While it is tempting to tell the whole M.E. that they are corrupt and evil and drop bombs on them all, we must intervene where we can. The alternative is letting Gaddafi kill thousands of innocent civilians and go back to getting contracts for lavalin and other large canadian firms. Unlike Gas, I find it unlikely the other Arabs would defend Tunisians. Again, where would it end? World war III probably.

rush limbaugh's slippers

Mar 25, 2011 at 8:50am

<b>we must intervene where we can.</b>

So what's stopping you Steve Y? Hop on a plane, and go fight for Freedom ® and Democracy ® . I'm sure the rebels would appreciate the help.

Are <b>you</b> part of the <b>we</b> that must intervene? Or do you mean that <b>someone else</b> must intervene when <b>I</b> think it's important?


Mar 25, 2011 at 8:51am

Canadian arms manufacturers and other companies sell goods all over the world to countries that use them to kill tens of thousands of their neighbouring countries citizens and their own, or to remove annoying villagers for mining or palm oil plantations.

It's tempting to act with other countries as if we were part of a modern British Empire, maintaining peace and civilization in the world like bringing freedom and democracy to the people of Iraq, a project PM Harper would certainly have approved of. Saddam was certainly as bad as Gaddafi; he killed thousands of his own citizens, and his army was easily defeated--just like the last US President said.

We don't have the right or the wisdom to use military force in a far-off country to interfere in their civil war. We may end up with the side we support in power, like the US did with the Taliban, in Afghanistan.

Second Nation

Mar 25, 2011 at 8:56am

Here's a headline: "activist is unhappy about <insert cause here>".

Hey - these stories write themselves!