So Liam Fox, the Coalition’s defence secretary, has let the cat out of the bag. The aim of the air strikes on Libya is to kill Colonel Gaddafi and bring about regime change, whatever the UN Security Council resolution says.
Asked if Gaddafi might be considered a target, Fox told BBC Radio 5: "That would potentially be a possibility." Then today a senior UK military source told Sky News: “As head of Libyan armed forces, Colonel Gaddafi is a 'legitimate military target'.”
And it is already obvious that the ferocious bombardment of Tripoli and the Libyan coast by hundreds of missiles fired from submarines and destroyers is devastating large swathes of Libya and killing untold numbers of civilians.
The gung-ho Fox and prime minister David Cameron have, of course, the slavish support of Labour leader Ed Miliband in Parliament. He and the rest of Parliament, with a few honourable exceptions, have backed military action against oil-rich Libya.
All the rhetoric of standing by the civilians who rebelled against Gaddafi’s rule is a prime example of the use of weapons of mass hypocrisy, as many have pointed out. No one at the UN is talking about a no-fly zone over Israel, in particular, which has defied UN resolutions on Palestine for many decades.
Just as “weapons of mass destruction” were the excuse for invading Iraq so “humanitarian concern for the rebels” is the excuse for attacking Libya – and it as phony as last time. Regime change to take control of large areas of the Arab oil field is the real reason.
Whether Gaddafi stays or goes, the military intervention could have disastrous consequences for the people on the ground and could easily lead to a non-functioning state of warring tribes as in Somalia and elsewhere.
Whilst services around Britain are being slashed on the grounds that money must be saved, no expense is being spared in the assault on Libya. Tornado pilots are flying 3,000-mile round trips from Norfolk, refueling several times in mid-air. The fuel bill alone must be staggering. But there is always money for a war. This squandering of resources is doubly striking when you think the reason they want to control whoever leads Libya is because the country’s so-called “sweet” oil is particularly good for production of jet fuel on which the military relies.
The very same regimes, who as part of the Arab League backed the UN resolution to enforce a no-fly zone, are now furiously backpedaling as the scale and real intention of the attack on Libya emerges and with it the anger of their own people against them grows.
But it is clear they see that the attack on Libya potentially benefits autocracy and undermines the revolutionaries. The King of Bahrain today confidently predicted that the uprising there is over, and that a “foreign plot” to overthrow him has been foiled. And three top Yemeni generals claim to have defected to the opposition, clearly seeing an opportunity to form a profitable military junta.
The war on Libya has another and even more crucial aim – co-opting and undermining the wave of revolutions against pro-Western autocracies throughout Africa and the Middle East. The Libyan uprising was inspired by the mass revolt that began in neighbouring Tunisia in December has, as we know, been spreading to Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Syria and deep into the Middle East.
As one British resident in Tobruk told the BBC, the major powers are desperate to compromise not only the uprising against Gaddafi but the revolutions in the eyes of the Arab people. Yes, the rebels in Benghazi called for Western intervention and the no-fly zone. Many sympathetic to their struggle have supported this call.
But as some in Benghazi are now admitting, this was a serious mistake. Self-determination, democracy and human rights cannot be imposed by naked force at the end of a bayonet – or in this case by Cruise missile bombardment. Any such regime that comes to power in Libya will be tainted from the outset.
A World to Win editors