There is no “mission creep” in the Western intervention in Libya. What is happening is “mission reveal”.
The contradictions show up in the battle for the city of Misrata.
As the US steps up its assaults on regime targets, and pro-Gaddafi forces increase shelling in response, the war is getting bloodier.
Instead of the US’s massive firepower bringing easy wins for the rebels, they are suffering heavy losses.
The original UN resolution that paved the way for the Western bombing talked of using “all necessary measures” to protect civilians.
At the time many Libyans, in sheer desperation, called for assistance from the West to combat Gaddafi’s assault.
This meant many supported the resolution, taking it at face value—maybe this time the West was merely trying to do the right thing, the argument went.
But this supposedly “humanitarian” motive was always a smokescreen for the real mission.
The hypocrisy of intervention has been exposed by the complete absence of any move against the cruelty of other dictators as they repress mass popular movements for democracy in the region.
Another signal that protecting civilians is not a priority was the arrival of pilotless US Predator drones last weekend.
These are now available round-the-clock to bomb at close quarters with their Hellfire missiles.
Britain’s foreign secretary William Hague has sent a “military liaison advisory team” to Benghazi—already awash with Western special forces and CIA agents.
The announcement that British soldiers will be operating in Libya confirms that assurances there would be no “boots on the ground” were lies.
Hague claimed the additional personnel would “support and advise the [National Transitional Council] on how to better protect civilians” and “how best to distribute humanitarian aid and deliver medical assistance”.
But we can be under no illusions. Intervention is not about ensuring food and medicines get to the needy. Nor is it about helping rebels challenge a brutal dictator.
US Republican John McCain is a case in point. He went on a day trip to Benghazi to cheer on the anti-Gaddafi forces. He said of Gaddafi, “The blood of Americans is on his hands because he was responsible for the bombing of Pan Am 103.”
This was despite the fact that Libya had accepted the false conviction of Abdelbaset al‑Megrahi—the Libyan framed for the bombing.
And McCain didn’t mention that only two years ago he was in Tripoli with other US senators to meet Gaddafi.
They arranged to sell him military equipment. McCain said afterwards that it was “an interesting meeting with an interesting man”.
McCain has recently compared the US intervention in Libya to the US arming the Afghans who fought the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.
Yet three decades later the US is fighting a war against the very people it originally armed and supported in Afghanistan.
This tells you everything you need to know about the West’s ability to switch sides in any conflict, according to what best serves its interests.
In Libya they are currently courting those challenging Gaddafi. But we have to recognise this is a cynical attempt to hijack the Libyan revolution to pursue Western interests.
This region is of immense strategic importance to the West, which is worried after revolutions brought down two US allies—Egypt and Tunisia. Still more are threatened.
Today Libya is seen as an opportunity for the West to regain the initiative in the region. It wants to appear to be on the side of progressive forces and to reassert its right to take action anywhere on the globe.
If Nato forces inflict a defeat on Gaddafi, it will allow them to dictate terms on who and what takes his place.
But if the people of Libya— who have demonstrated tremendous courage and resilience in the face of relentless attacks—prevail without the US, then it will be their victory and their victory alone.
Egypt and Tunisia show that revolutions from below can challenge the West and its puppet regimes.
Only such a revolution will give the Libyan people the ability to shape their own future—and avoid becoming pawns in the imperial great game of the West.