Wednesday, February 15, 2012

What Moral Authority?

Last year, I caught some grief from some people when I insisted that United States had no business intervening in the Libyan Civil War. That Qaddafi ended up dead and the country is slouching toward something that resembles a more representative form of government is a good thing, but hardly proves wrong those who, like me, insisted we had no business and even less reason to get involved.

One argument that got tossed at me concerned American "moral authority" to intervene in order not only to defend the citizens under attack from elements of their own country's armed forces, but also to uphold the principal that the US will side with the people against dictators.

The argument is laughable on its face, in general. The US has no moral authority on the international stage, and every time someone in one or another US administration claims we do, the hoots of laughter are deafening. For good reason.

Prior to the uprising, the United States had enjoyed steadily improved relations with the Qaddafi regime since it had sworn off its WMD program, dealt with outstanding matters relating to the Pan Am Flight 008 bombing, and emptied out the camps it had previously left open for terrorists to use for training. It appears, however, that the rapproachment went a bit further than was on the public record.
Last month Scotland Yard and the Crown Prosecution Service announced that the operations, in which two leading Libyan dissidents were abducted and taken to Tripoli with their families, were to be the subject of a criminal investigation.

A few days later lawyers for both families began civil proceedings against Sir Mark Allen, the former head of counter-terrorism at MI6, accusing him of complicity in their "extraordinary rendition", torture and inhuman and degrading treatment. Proceedings against the government, MI6 and MI5 are to follow.

The case is based in large part upon a batch of documents discovered in an abandoned Libyan government office last September. These showed that the abductions were plotted with the help of MI6: it was all part of the rapprochement between Gaddafi and the UK and US that saw the dictator abandon his WMD programme and open oil and gas exploration opportunities to western firms.

When a researcher for Human Rights Watch stumbled upon the documents, no attempt was made to deny MI6 involvement in the rendition operations they described.

Instead, Whitehall sources immediately said the operations were part of "ministerially authorised government policy". The statement was intended as a clear signal that a secretary of state had signed off a "clause 7 authorisation" under the Intelligence Services Act.

Section 7 is entitled Authorisation of Acts outside the British Islands, and says: "If, apart from this section, a person would be liable in the United Kingdom for any act done outside the British Islands, he shall not be so liable if the act is one which is authorised to be done by virtue of an authorisation given by the secretary of state under this section."
A couple words about this. Yes, it is a case of British as opposed to American acts. As much of a lapdog as the British have been since the election of Tony Blair, however, I would hardly be surprised if it were only the British who had decided it was OK to send folks to Libya to be tortured. Concerning the Americans have been spreading the wealth around, with folks going to Egypt, eastern Europe, and some Central Asian nations, sending folks to Libya for interrogation certainly isn't outside the realm of possibility.

Furthermore, the UK is viewed abroad as a wholly-owned subsidiary of the United States. Their actions follow on our own, and have done so for quite a while. Where else would the British have learned of such a brilliant idea as sending Libyan dissidents back to Libya where they would be tortured, but from the US?

It is long past time to set to one side the idea that the US has anything resembling "moral authority" on pretty much anything. These latest revelations, as disgusting as they are, are not in the least surprising. As a demonstration of "Business As Usual", it shows just how hollow the sudden conversion to regime change in Libya came last year, and how ridiculous and ad hoc the military response. As Duncan writes by way of introductory commentary, they're our bastards until they aren't. In this case, the only reason they suddenly became NOT our bastards was the Arab Spring. Don't fool yourself for one minute; if there had been no uprising in Libya, the Brits and the Americans would still be shipping folks there.

Virtual Tin Cup

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