Coalition Air Strikes: Now the Body Bags Begin Piling Up in Libya
By Patrick Henningsen, 21st Century Wire
It was only a matter of time before gungho western audiences and pundits would have to face the harsh reality that overwhelming military power produces: 1,400 air sorties and 700 Tomahawk cruise missiles later, the civilian body bags are beginning to mount up. And the political ramifications for the acting war parties in Washington, Britain and Paris are inescapable.
According to yesterday’s report from Reuters, at least 40 civilians were killed in air strikes by Western forces on Tripoli, a top Vatican official in the Libyan capital told a Catholic news agency on Thursday, quoting witnesses. “The so-called humanitarian raids have killed dozens of civilian victims in some neighborhoods of Tripoli,” said Giovanni Innocenzo Martinelli, the Apostolic Vicar of Tripoli. Martinelli goes on to add, “I have collected several witness accounts from reliable people. In particular, in the Buslim neighborhood, due to the bombardments, a civilian building collapsed, causing the death of 40 people”.
NATO has said it will investigate reports that up to 40 civilians were killed in the Coalition bombing strike near Tripoli, a Press TV correspondent reported. In addition, medical sources said at least seven more civilians were slain in Wednesday’s raid on the village of Zawia el Argobe, 15 km (9 miles) from Brega. The airstrike also wounded more than 25 civilians and destroyed several nearby homes.
The Libyan government on Thursday night claimed close to 100 civilians had died in air strikes since Allied hostilities began last weekend.
The final bill in human lives cannot really be tallied until a much later date. There is little doubt though, that given the current frequency of Allied bombs and missiles and what we have learned from the West’s fabled “surgical strike” operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, that the final number of confirmed civilian body bags will certainly exceed 1,000 within a week or two.
COALITION USING DEPLETED URANIUM
Only a few days into the US-led attacks on Libya, there have already been reports of forty-five 2,000 pound bombs containing depleted uranium (DU) being dropped down on Libya by the U.S. B-2s during the first 24 hours of the attack, say Stop the War Coalition.
Additionally, American journalist Dave Lindorff reports, ”The British-built Harrier jets used by British naval air forces and also by U.S. Marine pilots, are often equipped with pod-mounted cannons that fire 20 mm shells–shells that often have uranium projectiles designed to penetrate heavy armor”.
The use of DU has been a major feature in US-led Coalition and Israeli war efforts since 2001, even though it has been banned through an international treaty signed by all UN security council member states at the Geneva Convention. The damage it does is well documented, long-lasting and horrific to say the least. Deaths could be calculated over many years, as radioactive dust continues to blow throughout the region. Its use is classed as a war crime under international law, so when will the US, Britain and Israel be called to explain these actions in the dock?
WESTERN POLITICAL DILEMMA
Here is where we come to the fundamental moral and legal dilemma for the Western aggressors in Libya. When the number of civilian deaths by Allied strikes exceeds the number of alleged civilian deaths by Libyan Leader Moumar Gaddafi, the political pressure cooker will begin to boil- some say it already has. Interestingly enough, all of the sensational reports of Gaddafi “gunning down his own people”, a rallying cry used by everyone from Barrack Obama to the BBC, have yet to be corroborated by any independent human rights or aid agency, leaving media audiences with mostly hearsay and rumour generated from White House and Whitehall press briefings a few weeks ago. The truth is, we will never know.
This also includes past allegations that the Libyan military had launched an air strike on demonstrators in the capital Tripoli, Al Arabiya quoted by witnesses in late February. Surprisingly, or not, we are left with the fact that an entire multi-billion dollar Coalition military operation has been based on these same, non-specific reports- about what Gaddafi has allegedly done, or is about to do.
According to the UN Resolution which effectively gave the green light to bomb Libya, “The Council specified that the flight ban would not apply to flights that had as their sole purpose humanitarian aid, the evacuation of foreign nationals, enforcing the ban or other purposes “deemed necessary for the benefit of the Libyan people”. What has actually transpired is, of course, miles away from the cloudy humanitarian intent which its writers have woven into the language of this UN document.
Legally speaking, aside from any civilians that Gaddafi is alleged to have “gunned down”, any armed rebels who met their demise during the initial days of the uprising, according to the newly revised American and British rule books, would be classed as “enemy combatants” and “domestic terrorists”- and not as civilians.
Using the same moral imperative, thus far, both the American and the British governments have been able to avoid the same UN disciplinary measures they have imposed on Libya, even though they have been found guilty of multiple documented incidences since 2001. The list is long: falsifying intelligence claims to the UN, false imprisonment of innocent civilians, the use of illegal DU munitions, mass torture and that little problem of over 1 million dead Iraqis since 2003.
It is obvious now that state participants in the recent UN Resolution 1973 were unable (or unwilling) make the intellectual or legal leap needed in order to differentiate who were, and how many of these so-called civilian victims there actually were in Libya.
Following the complete and abject failure on the part of Washington and London to convince the public that Saddam Hussein had massive caches of WMDs in 2003, spin doctors and speech writers have upgraded their public relations and public opinion-forming approach to fit their new, lighter framework for the out-dated “pre-emptive strike”. Enter the humanitarian strike, based on any number of unsubstantiated reports and guesswork, a new political term that is ultimately more profound than its predecessor because the term effectively disarms endless columns of liberal gatekeepers and mainstream pundits who previously targeted the Bush-led wars.
But do not be fooled. These contrived PR terms are designed to cover the same long-range foreign policy goal which we have already witnessed in Iraq and Afghanistan… regime change. Once this is achieved, the major players can begin carving up the natural resource and financial assets of this once sovereign nation.
Patrick Henningsen is a writer, pr/communications consultant and Managing Editor at 21st Century Wire.