Global media are beaming with enthusiasm over the advancement of the “rebels” in Libya. The Independent, for example, ran a nearly sadistic weekend account of the coalition's raid which caught the forces of the regime amidst open space, with nowhere to hide, and left scores of crippled and burned bodies of Gadhafi's supporters scattered along the road to Benghazi. The people were either grilled in missile-hit tanks or came under shrapnel fire when they attempted to flee. The shocking details highlighted the actual meaning of the term “no-fly zone” in Libya's case and in fact exposed the violations of the Geneva Conventions and protocols which the UN Security Council Resolution 1973 – a de facto blessing of the aggression against Libya – served to justify. It is outrageous that, upon neutralizing Gadhafi's air defense, the coalition concluded that it had the right to kill en masse a sovereign country's servicemen who in any case simply had no right to disobey their commanders.
Regardless of any UN Security Council's resolutions, Libya should have the legitimate right to self-defense, while sanctioning an aggression is by definition illegal. Pentagon chief R. Gates admitted that the no-fly zone was an euphemism for war, but then, according to the customs of war, it had to be declared or Libya had to be confronted with an ultimatum. We have neither of that happen, but the international law still states explicitly that the laws and customs of war are just as applicable to military conflicts which began without a war being declared. The coalition should not feel that somehow it is authorized to disregard the norms which must be observed in armed conflicts of any nature.
The international law contains no regulations specific to air raids. They are subject to the 1907 and 1954 Hague Conventions as well as to the Geneva Conventions and their additional 1977 protocols pertinent to overland and maritime combat, which prohibit bombarding defenseless cities, cultural landmarks, etc. Since in all epochs wars were fought between states, the protection of potential victims falls into the sphere of the international law. As of today, the international humanitarian law is mainly based on the four August 12, 1949 Geneva Conventions and their additional protocols along with the IV Hague Convention of 1907. The latter established over a century ago that “The right of belligerents to adopt means of injuring the enemy is not unlimited”. Protocol I adopted additionally in 1977 reiterated the above, widening the scope of the requirement to encompass any armed conflict. Moreover, from the legal standpoint the means of injuring the enemy are divided into legitimate and illegitimate. The international law disallows third-party support for any side in a conflict and bans employing a country's citizens to fight against it even if they were enrolled in military service prior to the outbreak of the conflict. Bombing defenseless cities, villages, residences and buildings, ruining cultural landmarks and shrines, or destroying potentially hazardous systems like nuclear power plants or dams is illegal. Eyewitness reports of hospitals and dams being pounded by the coalition forces in Libya are available at the moment. Subjecting civilian populations to famine as a means of war is also prohibited, but the recent assets freeze imposed on Gadhafi's regime makes it impossible for the government to buy foodstuffs and therefore clearly makes the threat of famine among the Libyan leader's supporters real. A marine blockade is regarded as legitimate only when individual or collective right to self-defense is being exercised or if it is sanctioned by the UN Security Council, but even that is open to interpretation. A blockade imposed by an aggressor is definitely illegal. Enforcing the currently neglected international law must top the international community's agenda aimed at remedying the conflict in Libya, and serious efforts should be made to prevent the unpunished aggression and use of force in North Africa from setting a precedent that can be invoked elsewhere.
The air raids that were supposed to target Gadhafi's armed supporters and to help protect civilians in Libya but actually mow down people indiscriminately are causing a death toll much higher than that attributable to the regime's operations. From the standpoint of the international law, cruise missile attacks against Libya, air raids, the hammering of residential areas, parks, and utilities, the dispatch of naval forces and marines to Libya's shores, the assets freeze due to which the Libyan population is facing the threat of famine altogether constitute an aggression against Libya.
Last week, quite a few US politicians – fromthe Republican and the Democrat camps alike — directed biting criticism at Washington for getting involved in the offensive against Libya. Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Republican John Boehner sent a letter to B. Obama requesting that the US President clarify the US objectives behind the mission. Congressman Dennis Kusinic, a democrat, stresed in an address to Obama that the US should not be funding the campaign in Libya, while putting NATO at the helm was no solution as the US is covering 25% of the costs of the alliance's operation. Protest rallies against the UN intervention in Libya convened in major US cities.
Mark S. Sheetz, Fellow in International Security at the John F. Kennedy School of Government of Harvard University, wrote in a post at the Foreign Policy portal on March 23: «The key lesson that states like Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia will draw from the military intervention in Libya is to keep a nuclear development program if you have one and go get one if you do not. One has to believe that Qaddafi is now tormenting himself at night with the question: "Why did I ever agree to give up my WMD programs?» . In fact, the list of countries now learning the lesson may be even longer than suggetsted above.
To be continued