An Open Letter to the British Political Establishment Opposing Colonial Intervention in Libya
While the catastrophic invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan hang heavy in the Muslim world, many people will be aghast that Britain has just embarked on its latest military “liberal interventionist” venture in the Muslim world.
While Hizb ut-Tahrir continues to stand with the oppressed people of Libya, as it has done for over four decades, we oppose the West’s intervention as this is nothing more than another colonial war in the Muslim lands.
The Legitimacy of Military Intervention
Military intervention has largely been justified to the British public on the grounds that it is for humanitarian reasons and that it has the legitimacy of a United Nations resolution as well as support from the Arab League.
These justifications are paper thin and exploit the goodwill and humanitarian instincts of people who are troubled by the suffering they see of ordinary Libyans.
That successive governments in Britain, France and the United States have accepted this known dictatorship in Libya, which has murdered countless numbers of civilians and political opponents, and have sold him the very weapons that he now uses against his own people, is on its own enough to blow away the idea that these governments now have the humanitarian interests of the Libyan people at heart.
The real acid test of whether the West has a humanitarian motive is to examine its relationship with the other despots of the Muslim world. The West continues to support and appease these dictators (Uzbekistan’s Karimov recently enjoyed the warm hospitality of the EU), supplies munitions to their armies and security apparatus and looks away when the Bahraini and Saudi regimes crush peaceful opposition. This is aside from their abject failure to intervene in humanitarian crises in Congo, Zimbabwe and elsewhere.
The Muslim world sees the hypocrisy that it is the United States bombing civilians in Pakistan’s tribal areas on a regular basis with no one from Britain or Europe calling for a no-fly zone there. Which of these interventionist states called for a no-fly zone in occupied Palestine, whilst Israel bombed Gaza? Or for the rule of law to be upheld when the US committed extra-judicial assassinations in Pakistan or when the CIA operative Raymond Davis escaped justice in Pakistan for murders he committed?
UN Security Council Resolution 1973 has as little legitimacy as the UN. It was, after all, the UN that sanctioned the Afghanistan war, enforced sanctions that led to the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children, legitimised the occupation of Iraq after a rogue invasion, looked away from the massacre of Srebrenica, sanctioned the occupation of Palestine and remained impotent against the atrocities committed by India, Israel, Russia, the US and Britain against Muslims for decades. The accusation of double standards gives too much credence to Western leaders as it assumes they have some belief in the concept of international law in the first place; they simply don’t. Conformity with international law only occurs when it coincides with national interests.
Whilst PM Cameron, President Sarkozy and President Obama have been at pains to highlight the endorsement of their intervention by the Arab League, it utterly lacks credibility. After all the Arab League is merely a conglomerate of despotic regimes that are currently fighting for survival against the force of popular opinion and widely viewed by Muslims as Western installed puppets.
The “National Interest”
Behind the veil of humanitarian assistance and freedom are the cold calculations about the British national interest. Following the PM’s statement to Parliament, he was reminded that “abuses of human rights and the oppression of civilians are not unique to Libya”, and asked “Is the Prime Minister now suggesting that we should develop a foreign policy that would be prepared to countenance intervention in other countries where there are attacks on civilians, such as Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman or Bahrain?” PM Cameron replied “Just because you can’t do everything doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do anything.”
There wouldn’t be a problem with this argument if PM Cameron just came out and said that dealing with nasty and brutal dictators really did depend on one’s political interests rather than this farce of pretending in some way that they have empathy and sympathy with the people who live under these dictators.
At the end of his statement PM Cameron finally admitted that the military intervention in Libya was “above all for the UK’s own national interest”. After all Britain and Europe have huge oil interests in Libya and the arguments about needing to secure Middle Eastern oil and gas have become more acute following the haemorrhage of confidence in nuclear power following Japan’s recent tragedy.
Others will argue that they fear a massive influx of refugees, as occurred after conflicts in Bosnia and Kosovo. Some will argue that there are strategic interests, wider than oil alone, which include the security of Israel.
A few, like Tony Blair, argue the old neocon line that ‘democracy’ and ‘capitalism’ are universal human values for all to ‘enjoy’ – overlooking the crisis of confidence facing global capitalism following the financial crisis in 2008 or the crisis of confidence in democracy at Westminster no less, never mind the corruption that exists in Pakistan or the failure of democratic institutions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Those of you against intervention in the national interest cite the economic cost, seeing budgets so tight that the armed forces are scrapping aircraft carriers and sacking frontline troops by email.
They also, rightly, acknowledge the risk of further alienating Muslim opinion across the world, as well as in Muslim communities in Britain.
Some have seen the language of regime change start before the ink had dried on Resolution 1973, which incidentally made no mention of such a goal. ‘Mission creep’ will almost certainly follow.
Those cavalier politicians like David Cameron who, as the heirs to Blair, argue the short term gains of Western interference in the Muslim world would do well to look at the long term consequences of Western intervention – whether dividing the Muslim world under Sykes-Picot in 1916, supporting the dismantlement of the Caliphate in 1924, installing the Zionist regime in Palestine in 1948, invading Afghanistan (so destabilising Pakistan) in 2001 or the “regime change” in Iraq in 2003. All of these interventions, which seemed so appealing to those with ‘Blairite’, ‘Cameroon’ or ‘Govish’ tendencies, have had long term damaging consequences for the people of the region specifically and for the world generally.
It should be remembered that many of these, for example the invasion of Afghanistan, started with modest, ill defined objectives and escalated into the disaster that prevails there today. Other military escapades were built on lies and false arguments and only exposed when it was too late.
Our principled objections to intervention
We definitely do not base our objection to intervention on the pros and cons of the British “national interest”. We are well aware that the whole concept of “national interest” or raison d’État has dominated European politics ever since Cardinal Richelieu prompted the French philosopher Jean de Silhon to argue that realpolitik necessitated that the national interest was “a mean between that which conscience permits and affairs require”. It was this lack of moral compass that fostered friendship between Gaddafi and the West over the last decade.
We don’t believe in straddling the middle ground between conscience and political expediency.
Ours is a principled position that argues against any Western intervention in Muslim countries.
Following these revolutions in the Arab world, there is, for the first time in decades, a debate emerging about the future of the Muslim world. It is universally acknowledged that people want change. We believe that people want an elected and accountable government but not the legislative power to introduce Hijab bans, the ‘freedom’ to malign the Prophets of God and a liberalisation of society that leads to the breakdown of family life.
Furthermore, we believe that people want a system that is based on their beliefs, values and common history across the Muslim world.
In the weeks and months ahead, we will continue to articulate our argument that the Caliphate is the best system that fits the aspirations of the Muslim masses and is in harmony with their beliefs. We will illustrate how Islam ensures people would elect their ruler and how Islam enshrines systems of accountability of the executive; how the Caliphate would rule so that the weak become stronger and how the economy will empower people to share in the prosperity and natural resources of the state. Islam’s economic system concerns itself not just with the few that are rich, as in capitalist societies, but with the many that are poor. It is a state that will unify the Muslim world – a common aspiration of Muslims the world over. Under an Islamic constitution, there will be no place for torture, spying on citizens or the repression of political criticism. It would ensure the rights of minorities and women are upheld as enshrined in the Islamic Shariah. Most of all, it would end colonial interference, and ensure that other global players have to engage with the Muslim world on a more level playing field.
We are well aware that many in the political establishment in the West will oppose our agenda – both in terms of addressing the Muslim community here but also in terms of these arguments being expressed in the Muslim world.
They continue to portray those who oppose their myopic interventionist plans or who argue for an Islamic political system and the Caliphate as ‘extremists’.
But we know that it is not Hizb ut-Tahrir or any particular political group that such people have a problem with but with Islam itself – only they lack the courage to be openly critical of Islam, and so instead attack Islamic symbols, attire, values and rules – and use pejorative words like ‘extremist’ against groups and proponents of Islam so as to close down debate. It is what organisations like Hizb ut-Tahrir stand for that they have a problem with i.e. the end of Western interference in the Muslim World.
They hate the fact we highlight the fact that the same US air force that enforces a no-fly zone in Libya, bombs civilians and undertakes extra-judicial assassinations in Pakistan’s tribal areas. They dislike that we will remind people that the United States capitalised on its previous interventions by making ‘liberated’ countries like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait foot the bill for decades, and till today maintains military bases in the Arabian Peninsula, Iraq and Kosovo. They cannot tolerate that we dare to propose the idea that the Muslim world could enjoy a more successful future without western style democracy, global capitalism and colonial interference and that the 450,000-strong Egyptian army could rescue the Libyan people without the US or British competing for influence in the aftermath of war.
There needs to be an intellectual debate about the relationship of the West with the Muslim world. The revolutions across the Arab world have one clear unified message – an end to the despots and tyrants the West have backed and continue to back in the Muslim lands. The Muslim world wants to liberate itself from these puppets that have served the West for decades. The Muslim world wants to chart its own political destiny free from the interference of Western states.
Politicians and intellectuals in the West need to realise the paradigm shift in the Muslim world. Rather than resorting to false propaganda, demonisation and harassment, it is time that a sincere intellectual debate took place in the West regarding the future of the Muslim world and the West’s relationship with the Muslim world.
The Muslim community in Britain is ready to have this debate in a mature intellectual way, the question remains will the leaders of this country have the courage to do so?
(The Liberation Party)
21st March 2011
16th Rabi al-Thani 1432