Interviewees: Emira Woods, Institute for Policy Studies; Jim Noonan, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns; Medea Benjamin, CODEPINKâ€¨
** Statement on Libya attached below **
Washington DC – Libyan rebels recently overtook the coastal oil refinery in Zawiyah, reportedly with assistance from NATO bombers. As U.S. surveillance drones and NATO bombs continue to fly over Libya, a number of major national organizations and activists are calling for an end to U.S. military action in Libya, as well as calling on Congress to de-fund U.S. military and intelligence activities in the country. As fighting inches closer to the stronghold of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi in densely-populated Tripoli, the groups are calling for a new form of engagement to save lives, focusing on non-military and diplomatic solutions to the tension. In a written statement signed by 16 leading organizations and activists, the coalition says that U.S. hostilities for the purpose of regime change are not aiding Libyans, stating, “The U.S. policy of regime change first, peace later is prolonging the hostilities and adding to civilian casualties.”
“The best way in the short term to save civilian lives and in the longer term to achieve the stability in which the Libyan people can develop democratic institutions,” says the statement, “is to promote an internationally-led ceasefire and negotiations between the warring parties, provide generous humanitarian assistance, and maintain a strict arms embargo. To encourage this, we urge Congress to bar funding for any military or intelligence operations against Libya.”
With Qaddafi having vowed to “fight to the death,” and the Libyan opposition forces moving closer to Tripoli, casualties are likely to continue to rise. The organizations stress the urgent need for a negotiated, rather than military, solution, and an immediate end to U.S.-NATO military involvement.
“People are suffering through a civil war in Libya in which NATO is intimately involved. Our military engagement is costing money we can’t afford here at home,” said Emira Woods, Co-Director of Foreign Policy in Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies. “It’s time to bring those war dollars home and end U.S. military aggression in Libya.”
The organizations and individuals include Africa Action, Africa Faith and Justice Network, the American Friends Service Committee, CODEPINK, Fellowship of Reconciliation, Foreign Policy in Focus of the Institute for Policy Studies, the Friends Committee on National Legislation, Friends of the Congo, Global Exchange, the Maryknoll Office of Global Concerns, Pax Christi of Metro New York, Peace Action, and the U.S. Peace Council.
Institute for Policy Studies (www.ips-dc.org) is a community of public scholars and organizers linking peace, justice, and the environment in the U.S. and globally. We work with social movements to promote true democracy and challenge concentrated wealth, corporate influence, and military power.
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A Call to Congress for a Cease-fire in Libya, issued by U.S. Non-Governmental Organizations that Support Human Rights and Democracy in Africa
The undersigned organizations and individuals call on Congress to support peace, not war, in Libya. The four-month NATO military intervention in Libya, in which the U.S. Africa Command plays a vital role, has reached a stalemate, and is killing civilians rather than protecting them. The best way in the short term to save civilian lives and in the longer term to achieve the stability in which the Libyan people can develop democratic institutions is to promote an internationally-led cease-fire and negotiations between the warring parties, provide generous humanitarian assistance, and maintain a strict arms embargo. To encourage this, we urge Congress to bar funding for any military or intelligence operations against Libya.
We agree with the recent findings of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s special envoy to Libya, who “underscored the need for a political solution to the crisis that spares the Libyan people further suffering and meets their legitimate demands and aspirations for a democratic future.” Similarly, the African Union stated on June 15: “The correct way forward now is dialogue without pre-conditions… This dialogue should agree on the way forward in the direction of introducing competitive politics.” The U.S. policy of regime change first, peace later is prolonging the hostilities and adding to civilian casualties.
NATO and U.S. Africa Command military operations now far exceed the UN mandate to protect civilians and are clearly designed to oust the current regime. Some of the methods chosen for these operations — attempted assassination and attacks on economic targets — are patently illegal in themselves.
U.S. participation in NATO operations also violates the clear intent of the Constitution that Congress must decide when to go to war. We agree with Senator Richard Lugar, who dismissed the administration’s claims that “non-kinetic” intelligence and surveillance, attacks on air defenses, and targeted drone attacks do not constitute “hostilities” under the War Powers Resolution: “The fact that we are leaving most of the shooting to other countries does not mean that the United States is not involved in acts of war.”
The international community shares a “responsibility to protect” civilians threatened by mass violence, but the NATO operation in Libya shows that military force is often a poor instrument for putting these good intentions into practice. Going beyond financial sanctions, arms embargos, and non-recognition of governments substitutes violence for pressure and dialogue, and is often just as unlikely to be successful in saving lives.
The U.S. also has a long history of arming the very dictators whose repression later leads to calls for intervention. The United States backed the repressive regimes in Tunisia and Egypt, whose non-violent citizen movements launched the Arab Re-awakening. The U.S. continues to support abusive regimes in Bahrain, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Uganda, Ethiopia, and Equatorial Guinea.
For all of these reasons, we urge Congress to protect the Libyan people by cutting funds for military operations in Libya and pressing the Obama administration to end US/NATO operations. We further urge the administration to allow a cease-fire and negotiations to proceed.
Africa Faith and Justice Networkâ€¨
The American Friends Service Committeeâ€¨
Caleb Rossiter of the Institute for Policy Studiesâ€¨
Fellowship of Reconciliationâ€¨
Foreign Policy in Focus of the Institute for Policy Studiesâ€¨
The Friends Committee on National Legislation
Friends of the Congo
Horace Campbell of Syracuse University
The Maryknoll Office of Global Concerns
The New International Program of the Institute for Policy Studiesâ€¨
Pax Christi of Metro New Yorkâ€¨
The U.S. Peace Council