Libya will not forget this help

How are the numbers for UN resolutions chosen? I sincerely hope it’s just a poetic coincidence that the resolution authorising international assistance for the democratic movement in Libya bears the number “1973”.

This was the year that Muammar Gaddafi began his purge against the “politically sick” which saw students, professors, writers, judges, lawyers, military officers and anyone who questioned his authority hanged in public or murdered in private. How fitting then that the world should finally come to the assistance of the long-suffering Libyan population under this of all banners.

Not everyone is happy to help though. The Germans were joined by the usual suspects against resolutions aimed at protecting populations from their governments – Russia and China. It was, however, disappointing to see India and Brazil among the abstainers. Still, I suppose it’s not fun when your business dealings with unhinged mass murderers are rudely interrupted by people asking for basic freedoms.

We can’t celebrate too soon however. By definition, all UN resolutions are toothless. They simply provide international approval for intervention in national matters. Pressure must therefore be maintained for a swift and effective intervention. Personally, I am sceptical about the regime’s “ceasefire” announcement: my sources on the ground are saying that it is just a ploy and that the shelling of Misratah continues unabated.

There’s no lack of countries, including Turkey, wishing to slow the process of intervention. There are still many who insist that military intervention must only go ahead with the involvement of members of the Arab League and African Union. This outdated ethnic filter puts people into different jurisdictions based on race and cultural identity. The deference to Arab and African opinion is not a matter of geographical location – Libya is closer to Italy, Spain and France than it is to Saudi Arabia, Zimbabwe and South Africa. It’s frustrating as a Libyan to be told as you scream for help that your case is being referred to Syria and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

This is a genuine opportunity to cleanse the reputation of humanitarian military intervention. There is a clear mandate, credible counterparts, a well-defined mission with an obvious exit strategy. The Libyan Interim Transitional National Council has made it clear there is no need or desire for troops on the ground, which must make the job of convincing domestic constituencies in the US and Europe that much easier. Libya even has the means to pay for the cost of the intervention upon victory.

Those who don’t want to be involved should stay out of the way. Disruption of the process will cost lives. Turkey and others should be aware of their shortsightedness and remember that Libya will soon have a new government, freely elected and representative of people who fought tooth and nail for their freedom, no thanks to them.

Just as we will not forget those who stand against us, we will owe a great debt to those who have chosen to stand with us. The UK and France, regardless of previous dealings with the Gaddafi regime, have made an honourable stand. France is still the only country to formally recognise the Libyan Interim Transitional National Council as the sole legitimate representative of the Libyan people. The friendship and support of Lebanon, Qatar, the UAE and other allies across the world must not and will not be forgotten. Even though the US came late to the party, it was its involvement that helped to swing the security council resolution, and US forces will almost certainly be involved in the implementation of any no-fly zone. It is now the job of Libyans to live up to the confidence of those who have come to their aid, and to the aspirations of those who have died fighting for a future that many of us believed we wouldn’t see in our lifetime.

Alaa al-Ameri, the pen-name of a British-Libyan economist and writer.

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