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February 23, 2011

Libya: Canadians call for action now

The Canadian Charger

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(Ottawa) A delegation met opposition parties, the Liberals, NDP and BQ, to demand immediate action by the Canadian government and NGOs to save the pro-democracy revolution in Libya. The delegation included Dr. Mohamed Elmasry, Ms. Safia Aghliw, a young Libyan Canadian, Mr. Ahmad Zarrug, a Libyan Canadian businessman who has just returned from the Libyan capital Tripoli and Mrs Faizah Ghadban-Kandar, an active member of Ottawa's Arab and Muslim communities.

The delegation called the Canadian Red Cross to work with their counterparts in both Egypt and Tunisia to provide safe haven areas and medical services at the boarders.

The delegation also asked the Canadian government to press the International Criminal Court (ICC) to hold Gaddafi, his family and his regime responsible for crimes of genocide.

The delegation pointed to the fact that sanctions work against the people of Libya not against the regime.

“Establishing a no-fly zone will prevent Gaddafi from using the air-force against the Libyan people,” the delegation stressed, “We also call on our government and other governments to freeze the assets of Gaddafi, his family and his senior officials.”

As of today Moammar Gadhafi and his men killed more than 1,000 civilians and wounded more than 10,000.

The NDP issued a strong statement calling on “the Canadian government to use all available diplomatic channels to help put an end to the Libyan regime’s violent oppression.”

“Canada should also be working with its international partners to bring the issue to the UN Security Council and work to establish a no-fly zone in Libya’s airspace,” the NDP statement added.

Gadhafi earlier this week put his son on television to do his talking for him; and when that only made protesters more defiant, the ageing tyrant himself took to the airwaves.

After coming to power in 1969, in a military coup, at the age of 27, he'd survived numerous assassination attempts.

But Gaddafi learned nothing from the recent revolutions of his neighbours: Tunisia and Egypt.

Like the other tyrants Ben Ali and Mubarak, the world around them had changed, but they didn't change with it; and why should they have: they had absolute power; or so they thought.

The internet had made the world a global village, which espoused the values of the liberalism of the enlightenment: democracy, pluralism, human rights, and respect for each individual human being, regardless of social status.

Yes people can and are denied their basic human rights, but those doing the denying  can no longer be seen to be doing so and still maintain their credibility with their constituents and the rest of humankind.

Because the world is now so interconnected and interdependent, without this credibility, the use of brute force will no longer ensure power in the long run, which - in the digital age - is becoming much shorter than it used to be.

Mubarak, in particular, would have had the troops open fire on the people demonstrating in the streets of Egypt, if he could have; but Egypt's military leaders understood that in today's world, they could not have slaughtered their own citizens and continued to hold their positions of power for very long.

Moreover, none of these leaders wanted to find themselves in front of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague – as other tyrants like former Serbian President Milosevic did so, for Egypt's military leaders, the decision was easy: either he goes or we go.

Ironically, many of Gaddafi's military leaders and diplomats have come to the same conclusion, as the defections from the ranks escalates on a daily basis; and - as in Egypt – most, if not all, of these defectors are people who owe their lofty stations in life to the brutal tyrants, whose dirty work they did for so long.

Former Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin once said of Gaddafi: “He's a man with an obvious sense of history,” but then MacKenzie King said similar things about Hitler. When will they, or should we say we, ever learn?

After sacrificing so much to be accepted into the international community, Gaddafi shut down the internet and telephone lines and tried to prevent foreign journalists from entering the country,  because even he realized it couldn't be “business as usual,” if the brutal images got out to the world.

As witnesses stream across the Libya border from Egypt, a common narrative is emerging: Gaddafi's forces are opening fire on large crowds of people, with hollowed out bullets designed to kill, and hunting down and indiscriminately slaughtering anyone they can, using tanks and warplanes, all the while aided by planeloads of “mercenaries “ - no doubt poverty stricken young men from other African countries, willing to kill anyone for a little money.

“What we are witnessing today is unimaginable,” said Tripoli resident Adel Mohamed Saleh, on a live broadcast on al Jazeera television. “Warplanes and helicopters are indiscriminately bombing one area after another. There are many, many dead. Anyone who moves, even if they are in a car, they will be hit.”

Meanwhile, Gaddafi's delegation to the UN pleaded for intervention to stop the genocide as troops and warplanes mowed down the protesters in Tripoli.

“He will kill as much as he can,” said Libya's Deputy UN Ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi, urging foreign governments to impose an immediate “no-fly zone” over Libya to forestall a large-scale massacre.

In response, leaders of the international community – the ones the world is looking toward to do something – is issuing the same old time-worn hollow rhetoric.

British Prime Minister David Cameron called the slaughter “appalling and unacceptable.”

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper displayed his eloquence, and not much more, when he said: “We find the actions of the government, firing upon its own citizens to be outrageous and unacceptable, and we call on the government to cease this kind of violence immediately. We encourage the government of Libya to engage in peaceful dialogue with its people, towards political and economic reform.”

Lawrence Cannon, Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, said in a statement, “Canada strongly condemns the violent crackdowns on innocent protesters that have resulted in many injured and killed. We call on the Libyan security forces to respect the human rights of demonstrators and uphold their commitment to freedom of speech and the right to assembly. The Libyan authorities must show restraint and stop the use of lethal force against protesters.”

Liberal Foreign Affairs Critic Bob Rae said in a statement, “The people of Libya are calling for change. Before more innocent civilians are needlessly killed, the Qaddafi regime must immediately and unreservedly cease its lethal tactics and listen to the will of the people.”

In a statement, U.S Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said: “Now is the time to stop this unacceptable bloodshed. We're working urgently with friends and partners around the world to convey this message to the Libyan government.”

Subsequently, the UN Security Council held a closed door session, and then condemned the use of violence and called for those responsible for attacks on civilians to be held to account. Does this sound familiar?

The White House said global powers must speak with one voice in response to the "appalling violence" in Libya and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States would take "appropriate steps" in time. This, of course, means – like Rwanda - after the massacre, not before.

Meanwhile, Peru suspended diplomatic relations with Libya and British Foreign Secretary William Hague said there were "many indications of the structure of the state collapsing in Libya." Britain and other nations have said they are trying to evacuate nationals from Libya by plane and ship.

The reports of the bloody crackdown have put pressure on President Barack Obama to intervene, with U.S. politicians criticizing his silence and calling for military action ranging from bombing Libyan air fields to imposing no-fly zones. But don't expect much from Obama.

He's wonderfully eloquent with highbrow rhetoric, which belies a vacuous, hollow man, who’s really nothing more than a Harvard-educated imbecile, like his Secretary of State.

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