POSTSCRIPT / March 24, 2011 / Thusday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Gang war on Libya is pure interference

MAD DOG: Every morning, a lot people around the world wake up and ask if the Tripoli redoubt of Libya’s Moammar Kaddafi has fallen and if the “mad dog of the Middle East” is still around.

Not excluded from this global watch are the Big Boys in the United Nations Security Council who have all the reasons, right or wrong, to hate this maverick of the Arab world.

The fear and loathing may be mutual. In 1981 Gaddafi talked about assassinating then US President Ronald Reagan and applauded when world leaders he did not like were killed. Reagan, who tagged him “mad dog,” forbade travel by Americans to Libya and the importation of Libyan oil.

As followup, Reagan sent US bombers to wipe out military targets (which happened to include the household compound of Kaddafi) in Tripoli and Benghazi on April 14, 1986. The “surgical strikes” failed to get Kaddafi, who then turned the plot around and told the world the US killed innocent civilians including his “adopted daughter.”

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UN RESO: This preoccupation with protecting non-combatants was again at the center of the recent debate at the Security Council which eventually approved Resolution 1973 authorizing military action by UN members to protect civilians from Gaddafi’s rampage.

The resolution expressed the world body’s “grave concern at the deteriorating situation, the escalation of violence, and the heavy civilian casualties,” condemning “the gross and systematic violation of human rights, including arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances, torture and summary executions.”

It said that the attacks against civilians “may amount to crimes against humanity” and pose a “threat to international peace and security.”

It also established a no-fly zone over Libyan airspace as “an important element for the protection of civilians as well as the safety of the delivery of humanitarian assistance and a decisive step for the cessation of hostilities.”

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MANILA END: A number of small-time players like the Philippines halfway around the globe have their own good reason to want a regime change in Tripoli, if that be the end result.

Libya has backed the Moro Islamic Liberation Front attempting to carve out a separate Bangsamoro in our Minsupala area in the South. Even the Abu Sayyaf kidnap-bandit band has been reported to have been receiving support from Libya.

In 2002, Kaddafi reportedly paid tens of millions of dollars for the release of a number of tourists kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf. He made it appear like an altruistic act although it looked like laundered contribution to the terrorist group.

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TRIPOLI PACT: Way back in 1976, Kaddafi was asked by then President Ferdinand Marcos to help settle the long-festering problem in the South. He sent a delegation led by no less than his “secret weapon,” first lady Imelda R. Marcos, and then Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile.

In Tripoli, the delegation was made to wait for days, it seemed because of the presence of Enrile, whose thinking was that the Constitution be the bedrock of the Philippine position.

Apparent solution: Send Ernile to Rome muna, while Mrs. Marcos tried her luck. When finally she was received, she had to stay for a long time in Kaddafi’s tent in the desert explaining the Philippine position.

When the delegation returned home, Marcos, himself a legalist, called Kaddafi and explained to the tent-dwelling Bedouin why the Constitution had to be followed. To his credit, Kaddafi agreed, resulting in what is now called the Tripoli Agreement and a referendum in the area that later became the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

The Tripoli Agreement had in mind the Moro National Liberation Front as the Muslim’s legitimate voice. In fact, the MNLF is the only Philippine observer recognized by the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

But that role appears to have been grabbed by the splinter group Moro Islamic Liberation Front that Washington had asked Manila to recognize.

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MISADVENTURE: But even with all that, this observer still cannot see sharply the correctness of the allied invasion of Tripoli and other targets in Kaddafi’s home ground.

Just what exactly is the end goal of the invasion? Is it just to cripple military targets so they cannot be used to launch attacks on civilians? Or is “regime change” the ultimate objective with the physical elimination of Kaddafi?

Even US President Barack Obama cannot seem to spell out clearly what the US wants to accomplish in joining France (the most aggressive) and Great Britain (the usual partner, as it was in Iraq) in bombing and strafing targets and patrolling Libyan airspace.

A significant segment of the American population may not want to see a repeat of that misadventure in Iraq that cost lives and dollars.

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INTERFERENCE: The main reasons for my hesitating to agree with the invasion is that whatever we think of Libya, it is a sovereign state whose problem is one of rebellion, a domestic conflict.

When a segment of the population takes up arms against the government, it should expect to get hurt. When the state, with its right and obligation to defend itself, reacts and in the process maims or kills some of the rebels, that is to be expected.

Rebellion is not a picnic. Rebels cease to be innocent civilians, they are combatants. When government forces shoot back, rebels should not complain to the outside world of being attacked. They have to be attacked. How else can the government defend itself?

Now when outsiders, especially countries that have an axe to grind against Libya or its leader, use the rebels’ pleas as an excuse to come in not to separate the combatants as in a peacekeeping effort, but to side with one party and shoot at the other, I think that is not right.

And when the United Nations, which sadly is in the grip of the Big Boys, allows itself to be used for this blatant interference in a domestic conflict, that is even worse.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of March 24, 2011)

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