Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Cheering People Dying? Or Spring Movements? Open Thread

It’s a fair point. As the sound of anti-craft fire combined with the distant crumps of explosions disturb the Libyan night, it’s a fair point: are we celebrating death? Are we cheering on exactly the same kind of indiscriminate slaughter which was unleashed in Vietnam and Cambodia, and more recently in Iraq? Democracy, founded on debate and dissent, should never try to silence those questions. It should ask them. Ask them of ourselves, and those in Government, or the Armed Forces, who seek to represent and defend us.

But for once, this isn’t about us. The uprisings in the Maghreb and Mashriq, the revolutions in the Arab World from Morocco to Yemen, Tunisia to Syria, have not been led by us. It’s a spring awakening, as important as 1968 or 1848.

Hat tip to Fogiv for the video

So let us not be diverted by CNN or the Pentagon, or indeed by Libyan or Russian State TV. I hear voices cheering across the Middle East – not for foreign intervention – but self determination.

In Libya’s case, those voices have been cheering the destruction of their dictator’s armed columns: this is not celebrating people dying, but the depletion of the military machine Gaddafi has  has built up over forty decades of oil revenues. They are cheering the routing of an army which is now less able to kill people. So while we worry, and wonder where this current UN intervention might lead, it’s worth considering the principles involved.

If you hate Violence, Sometimes you have to Fight It

Twenty years or so ago I was as near pacifist as you could get: a member of CND, I saw the world being threatened by bellicosity and Mutual Assured Destruction: my image of war was Vietnam rather than D-Day, Nicaragua, Chile, the Falklands.

My personal Rubicon was Sarajevo. As thousands died thanks to sniper fire, machine gun and mortar attacks, I began to question my anti war Chomskyite position. What if, as my Bosnian friends argued, the fast jets could silence the big guns on Mt Igman. Would I surrender my Anti American rhetoric so that another child would not be shot at her own mother’s funeral?

We were told any NATO intervention would lead to a quagmire. It took many more deaths, particularly 8000 men and boys around Srebrenica, before the fast jets flew, and the big guns were silenced, and the people cheered and wept for joy to see those flashes in the sky. I have friends from both Pristina and Sarajevo. They share none of the reservations about cheering people being killed. They could see this was a way of lessening the violence.

The Voices from the Street

One of those I’ve been listening to is the brave young journalist from Benghazi, Mohammed Nabbous, an important figure in the February 17th Revolution, who ran his own website Libya Alhurra. ‘

Here’s one of his messages “Tell the World”

‘Mo’ as he was known, with his perfect slightly Oxbridge inflected English, was a champion of democracy. He stayed up night and day to inform the world about the repressions going on in his homeland. He became a victim of those same forces when he was shot dead by Gaddafi’s snipers in Benghazi yesterday, leaving a widow and an unborn child.

Below is the devastating soundtrack of his last ever report by phone. Someone who risked and lost his life in the service of transparency and truth

May he rest in peace and his cause live on.

So this is the voice I listen to, not the ra-ra of right wing jingoists, or even the jargon of the military analysts, but of people yearning to be free, and demanding of us merely to give them that opportunity, merely to let them seek their own regime change without fearing the sniper’s bullet, the secret policeman’s baton, or the muzzle blast of a tank.

Now I’ve no doubt – as in Kosovo – there will be dark moments of doubt. The wrong buildings will be hit from 14,000 feet. Innocent civilians will die. Yesterday there were Four fresh graves in Tripoli: Soldiers suffocated in the blast wave of tanks outside Benghazi. There’s no nice way out of this. But events on the ground have moved rapidly. Instead of threatening no mercy on a city of a million, Gaddafi’s forces have already retreated 150 km.

I hope the loyalists back off their weapons, and return home to their families. Many of them, if not hired mercenaries, are only on the front line on pain of death (how many rebellious soldiers executed for not following through orders?): or have their family at home held hostage.

I’ve been listening to many voices coming out of Tripoli. Gaddafi doesn’t hold any sway of their hearts: he just has a gun to their heads. If he can be disarmed, the moral danger is lesser.  And if my experience of Kosovo or Bosnia is anything to go by, the people of Libya will make a huge moral distinction between these unintended innocent victims of war, and those innocent victims actively targeted by their own regime.

And let’s not forget – as the members of the military join the opposition in Yemen and Egypt votes in a new constitution – this is not about Western Intervention but Arab Self determination.

Libya has been an exception to the rule. Here, Gaddafi’s Praetorian Guard has shown no mercy to protesters, and was about to launch an all out assault on its own citizens. If those people are so determined they demand the UN intervene to disarm their military and reduce its killing power, who are we to deny them?

(Crossposted at Daily Kos)


  1. According to the AJE Live Blog

    The UN Refugee Agency says it has seen a decrease in the flow of Libyans leaving for Egypt in the past 48 hours.

    Some Libyans in Egypt have also returned to their country, a spokeswoman for the agency said.

  2. Some things are as simple as the schoolyard. Milosovic was not going to stop killing civilians, neither will Gaddafi. ‘Sorry you supported the mad killer, sorry you got killed, someone move that body out of the way, there is more work to do.’

    There is no moral dilemma. You can reduce death and suffering by causing death and suffering. Morality 101 students can be left to angst over that apparent contradiction, in the meantime killing the killers is a more pressing moral imperative.

  3. HappyinVT

    I read the comments in a diary at another site that took people to task for “cheering” the UN action but I suspect many of those same people will be cheering and/or making inappropriate comments when Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld etc pass on.  What’s the difference?

    Supporting the coalition is different from cheering.  It breaks my heart that people on either side of the conflict will die ~ have died.  I have no idea if what we’re doing is the right thing; we may not know for years.  But I do firmly believe that we would have seen a slaughter had Gaddafi not been stopped.  And that makes me fervently hope that this ends soon, really soon.

    Btw, this video breaks my heart…

  4. HappyinVT


    UK defence secretary Liam Fox has told BBC Radio 5 that targeting Gaddafi himself – something the United States has thus far denied doing – could “potentially be a possibility” if civilians would not be harmed.

    Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, responded negatively to Fox’s comments. He said expanding the coalition’s goals could divide it and that it was “unwise” to set such specific goals that might be unachievable.…  

    Let the Libyan rebels take out Gaddafi in whatever manner they deem appropriate.  The West, in particular the US, needs to leave him alone.  

  5. HappyinVT


    Hakim Al Masmari, editor in chief of the Yemen Post to Al Jazeera: We expect the fall of the regime in the next 24 hours at max.…  

    A number of top officials have resigned and joined the opposition:

    The list (see below) of people who resigned or defected from president Ali Abdullah Saleh’s regime is growing rapidly. The latest to join the list is Yemen’s ambassador to Egypt.

    Army Officers:

    Brigadier Ali Mohsen Saleh, head of the North Western Military Zone

    Brigadier Hameed Al koshebi, head of brigade 310 in Omran area

    Brigadier Mohammed Ali Mohsen, head of the Eastern Division

    Brigadier Nasser Eljahori, head of brigade 121

    General Ali Abdullaha Aliewa, adviser of the Yemeni supreme leader of the army

    General Faisal Rajab, based in the southern province of Lahij

    “Dozens of officers of various ranks” – AFP


    Abdel-Wahhab Tawaf, Ambassador to Syria

    Mohammed Ali al-Ahwal, Ambassador to Saudi Arabia

    Ambassador to Jordan

    Ambassador to Lebanon

    Ambassador to Kuwait

    Ambassador to China

    Ambassador to the UN

    Local Officials :

    Ahmed Qaatabi, Governor of Yemen’s southern province of Aden

    Himyar al-Ahmar, Deputy Speaker of Parliament

    Mayor of Aden

    3 MPs

    Tribal Leaders:

    Sheikh Sadeq bin Abdullah Bin Hussein Alahmer, the leader of Hashed tribes

    Yes, Yemen is different than Libya for those wondering why we haven’t acted the same toward both.

  6. creamer

      A lot of my concerns involve the aftermath of the fighting. Best case Gadaffi leaves, then what? Who’s in charge?

    If another Colonel steps in do we allow that? Do we insist on legitimate elections? Has anyone from the rebels side stated elections as a goal?

    I fear us being sucked in deeper and deeper. With Hammas winning the election in Gaza a few years ago the temptation to meddle will be great for the West.

    And while I know its an unpopular opinion, fighting one more war and proping up another country I find objectionable when we have so many issues at home to face up to.

  7. DTOzone

    I think we can put to bed any believe that Obama holds any sway over these people…Democrats included.  

  8. HappyinVT


    Fox News reports that Gaddafi’s regime has used journalists as human shields. The US broadcaster said an attack on Gaddafi’s compound on Sunday had to be curtailed because of journalists nearby.

    “British sources confirmed that seven Storm Shadow missiles were ready to be fired from a British aircraft, but the strikes had to be curtailed due to crews from CNN, Reuters and other organizations nearby. Officials from Libya’s Ministry of Information brought those journalists to the area to show them damage from the initial attack and to effectively use them as human shields”…  

    I generally give FNC little credit but British officials did say yesterday that a mission did not continue because there were civilians present.  It’s not a stretch to suppose it was this mission.  And FNC does do some good reporting although I refuse to give them eyeballs.

  9. spacemanspiff

    Not very good when it comes to hitting the floor. Can’t do any windmills. But when it comes to breakdancing while standing up I consider myself decent (no way even close to these guys) enough to get GO SPIFFY! GO SPIFFY GO SPIFFY! chants going when I break out my moves.

    Just wanted to share after watching the fogiv video for the eleventyhundreth time.

  10. virginislandsguy

    NATO is meeting today (Wed) to formalize post-US theater command.

    @FMCL reports:

    Currently two E-8C Joint STARS airborne, both Oceanic near Canada, FEMUR 14 tail nr 00-2000 and WHIP 14 tail nr 95-0122 heading #Libya?

    Joint STARS per Wikipedia:

    … and can simultaneously track 600 targets at more than 250 km (152 miles)…  Data processing allows the APY-7 to differentiate between armored vehicles (tracked tanks) and trucks, allowing targeting personnel to better select the appropriate ordnance for various targets.

    The Guardian Libya: air strikes move from ‘static’ to ‘dynamic’ targets

    The initial attacks were directed at such “static” targets as Libya’s military command and control centres, air defence installations and air bases.

    Surveillance planes are now seeking what officials call “dynamic” targets – mobile equipment including tanks, anti-aircraft guns and radar.

    I’m guessing this is where the non-US coalition will carry out the destruction of loyalist armor. We don’t need another ‘Highway of Death’ on our watch.

    Also, AJE recc’d a source, David Cenciotti’ weblog, which is a good summary of the strategy and sequence of the air war so far.

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