The Libyan Crisis: Italy Humiliates NATO – Part I By Dr Michael J.K. Bokor

The writer, Dr Michael J.K. Bokor
At long last, the reality check that the war-mongers orchestrating NATO’s devastation of Libya need to do is here. Something is beginning to happen within NATO circles to confirm our claim that NATO’s military campaign is not the solution for the Libyan crisis.

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Italy, a NATO member, has begun taking the bull by its horns and, by this action, will set in motion the agitation that will force NATO out of Libya to make room for better solutions to be found for that country’s political crisis.

Sharp criticisms from Italy have emerged to suggest that all is not well within NATO circles as far as the persistent devastation of Libya and the abuse of the UN Security Council’s Resolution 1973 are concerned.

These criticisms underscore the tension that is mounting in NATO circles and which will eventually give way to the commonsense approach to solving the problem—something that has eluded the war-mongers orchestrating the devastation of Libya.

As reported by the BBC (June 22, 2011), the Italian Foreign Minister, Franco Frattini, has called for an immediate suspension of hostilities in Libya to allow for a corridor to be set up for humanitarian aid to be brought to the war-torn country. He also said NATO must provide data on results of its bombing campaign and guidelines on targeting errors.
That was not all. Mr. Frattini said NATO’s credibility was “at risk” after the residential area strike by NATO last Sunday that killed innocent Libyan civilians. Speaking to the lower house of the Italian parliament on Monday, Mr. Frattini said “With regard to NATO, it is fair to ask for increasingly detailed information on results as well as precise guidelines on the dramatic errors involving civilians.”

These utterances are a clear indictment on NATO and cannot be written off as inconsequential. Being the first time that a NATO member has openly voiced such concerns, the criticisms have the potential to throw into disarray NATO’s agenda on Libya and to shame those whose tunnel-vision approach has worsened the humanitarian problem in Libya and reduced to absurdity the UN Security Council’s Resolution 1973 authorizing the military action to enforce a “no-fly zone” and to solve humanitarian problems in that country.

Certainly, by overstretching that Resolution to mean regime change, and by bombing residential areas and killing civilians, NATO isn’t solving humanitarian problems. It is creating them. And that’s the problem which Italy is drawing attention to and wondering whether NATO has any credibility or legitimacy on that score.

The French and Wing Commander Mike Bracken, the NATO mission’s military spokesman, might be against any pause in the fighting, but what the Italian Foreign Minister has said will prove them wrong.

As the BBC’s Duncan Kennedy saw it, Mr. Frattini’s comments are important as Italy provides most of the land bases for NATO’s bombing missions, the command centre, as well as several aircraft for the strike operations. Mr. Frattini’s views definitely relate to the political impact of civilian casualties and are probably shared, if not expressed so openly, by other NATO members, he observed.

I am not surprised that Italy is the first NATO member to question the credibility and justification for the military campaign in view of the humanitarian problems that it has begun creating instead of solving as originally mandated. Signs have been on the horizon since March 19 when the International Coalition began bombarding Libya that Italy would be reluctant in participating in the military mission. For obvious reasons, Italy has been very cautious in its role in the military campaign.

After all, it knows more than the other NATO members what it takes for it to deal with Libya, having ever been that country’s former colonial master. Despite its own problems with Gaddafi, Italy has peculiar interests in Libya and maintains responsibilities that other NATO members don’t share. It won’t, therefore, want to do anything that will harm its own interests. Italy might be willing to provide facilities to support NATO’s bombing raids, but it has cleverly avoided any direct participation in such raids.

Now, it has found a good reason to make its voice heard and, using the events of last Sunday as the springboard, to question the legitimacy of NATO’s military mission in Libya, especially if it doesn’t lead to solving the humanitarian problems for which the NATO member states made commitments.

For the Italian government particularly, a bigger problem is rearing its head. There’s a new pressure, from the Northern League (the junior partner in Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s coalition). The BBC has reported that just this weekend, the league warned Mr. Berlusconi that if he wanted its continued support, then, he would have to look again at Italy’s role in Libya, because of its fears about the mounting costs of the mission and because of that historical legacy.

We don’t yet know what further action Italy may want to take to pressurize NATO or to register its discontent; but what it has said so far creates room for others to come out of their shells to take on NATO and the political forces backing its operations in Libya. It is not as if NATO’s military campaign has an overwhelming unconditional support worldwide. Voices of dissension are being raised and they have the potential to jolt the political leaders pushing on NATO to destroy Libya without any specific timetable being set for an end to the campaign.

The initiative by Italy to criticize NATO has serious implications not only because it hints at the possibility of cracks in the NATO front but also because it opens to serious scrutiny the justification for whatever NATO is doing in Libya.

As an immediate fallout, the Arab League Chairman Amr Moussa also urged a ceasefire on Tuesday, voicing reservations about the NATO campaign. In an interview with The Guardian newspaper (as reported by the BBC), he also cast doubt on NATO’s efficacy.

“When I see children being killed, I must have misgivings. That’s why I warned about the risk of civilian casualties,” he told the UK newspaper, adding that the military campaign on its own would not be successful.

“You can’t have a decisive ending. Now is the time to do whatever we can to reach a political solution,” he said. An internationally supervised ceasefire was necessary, he added, followed by a transitional period “to reach an understanding about the future of Libya.”
Although the African Union hasn’t been actively pursuing its “political road map” to resolve the Libyan crisis, it is also voicing concern over the matter. Its Chairman, Jean Ping, said he believed the West would ultimately accept the AU’s ceasefire plan, which paves the way for a transition but makes no mention of Gaddafi’s departure, which is the rebels’ main demand.

Jean Ping’s observation is as apt as will hurt the West: “The stalemate is already there. There is no other way,” he said, quoted by Reuters news agency (and reported by the BBC).

These developments point to one thing: that NATO’s military campaign will not solve the problem and has to be abandoned. If it persists, it will have a boomerang effect on those backing it.

Continued in the next installment…