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Canada prepares to invade Libya: Whose interests? Who will stop it?

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.
Canada prepares to invade Libya: Whose interests? Who will stop it?

Last week, former Prime Minister Paul Martin called on the UN to invoke the policy of "Responsibility to Protect" in order to intervene in Libya.

"This is not the time for countries to think of their own national interests," Martin said one week ago. "They have really got to think now of the people of Libya."

But it is precisely Canada's "national interests" that Martin has in mind.

When Martin visited Libya in 2004, he was there for the announcement of a $1 billion contract that saw Montreal-based engineering firm SNC Lavalin hired by the Libyan government. 

In 2006, Colonel Gaddafi provoked fears of poltical violence, saying "Our enemies have been crushed inside Libya, and you have to be ready to kill them if they emerge anew."

But SNC Lavalin did not blink (though they are now defending their role in building a prison in Libya), and two years later, Petro-Canada (now Suncor) inked a multi-billion dollar oil deal with Gaddafi. The status of this deal is not known, for the moment.

Canadian investors are legitimately worried about what's going to happen to the $1 billion signing bonus Suncor paid out to the Libyan government, or whether SNC Lavalin is going to recoup its investments in the country, which is home to 10% of its workforce.

What if a new government of Libya, post-revolution, doesn't see Gaddafi's deals as legitimate?

Canadian warships are on their way to Libya. "Defence" Minister Peter Mackay has explicitly said that in addition to getting Canadians out, the military is there to "support, if need be, certain humanitarian efforts."

What kind of humanitarian efforts?

According to this article, NATO says that "One of the most extreme measures could be the use of ground troops to open avenues for the distribution of humanitarian aid."

Do we need to recount the invasions that have been conducted under humanitarian pretexts?

Meanwhile, many Libyans are taking a clear stand against foreign military intervention.

Will Canadians, Americans and Europeans allow their respective militaries to invade Libya?

So far, the Canadian Peace Alliance and the CPCML have taken a stand. If the invasion is to be prevented, many more will have to join them.

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dru (Dru Oja Jay)
Member since Janvier 2008


Writer, organizer, Media Co-op co-founder. Co-author of Paved with Good Intentions and Offsetting Resistance.

356 words


it's how Canada rolls.

As former head of the Canadian army, Lieutenant-General Andrew Leslie, noted in 2007: “Let’s not kid ourselves, the resources are not for Afghanistan alone. In the near future, we’ll be going somewhere similar to Afghanistan, doing the same sorts of things.”

Crying Wolf

Now I am as anti-war as the next bleeding heart social-democrat, however I think that this article is really grasping at straws with respect to Canada preparing to invade Libya. I mean really? For one we have an obligation with NATO and the UN to assist in any sanctions against Gaddafi. We're heading to the Mediterranean, not necessarily to Libya, in a support role only. Lastly, if the international community is to distribute aid to Libya I would hope they would be equipped to defend not only themselves but also the people they are giving aid to.

I find this article points out the everlasting propensity of those who jump the shark, especially when commenting on anything the Military or Government does. Not everything they do is super evil. I understand that Martin's dealings with Libya wasn't the most popular move, especially today. But it really deludes the anti-war and lefts credibility when people like Dru cry wolf when there's nothing but puppies in sight, referring specifically to Canada's role.

The wolf and straws in question

Canada is sending its military to Libya specifically. Peter Mackay said that.

Canada is not limiting its role to rescuing Canadians, and is contemplating a military role in humanitarian intervention. Peter Mackay said that.

Paul Martin called for an invasion using UN forces.

It's widely reported that NATO (of which Canada is a member) is considering a military intervention.

Your disagreement is with them.

Also: nothing but puppies in sight? Really?

I'm curious as to what your approach would be. Wait until the invasion comes and goes, and then silently admit years later that it was a human rights disaster characterized by Canadian-sponsored political repression? That's what a lot (but certainly not all) of "bleeding hear social democrats" did during Canada's invasion and coup d'etat in Haiti. The fact that a lot of social democrats (among others, but we expect better of them) are still silent -- even as bogus elections in which the most popular political party in Haiti was banned are legitimated -- is a big part of what enables that particular debacle to continue.

The burden of proof is on the government to prove that they're not going to do the same or worse in Libya.

A rebuttle

I know what Mackay said, I watched that interview on power and politics with Evan Soloman. What I meant was their mission was not to land in or invade Libya. I also understand that he didn't limit Canada's role. That is the language of politics. Vague enough in language to allow flexibility, specific enough to move forward if no variables come into play and claim good policy. That is politics, and that is something I think you don't quite understand. Political language and posturing is vastly different then interpersonal language and conduct. You have to account for anyone twisting your words, misquoting you, jumping and expanding on the slightest of mis-steps (See your blog for example). Politicians are very careful about what they say because they know within a few minutes what you said is on the web. I am not a supporter of the current government, I dislike Conservative ideology and policy. But in this instance I believe that Canada is taking a strong tone against Libya and their leader. Something that we have lacked for some time, if we ever had it to begin with.

Paul Martin was referring to the UN's policy on the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP, R2P), which outines a norm or set of principles based on the idea that sovereignty is not a privilege, but a responsibility. That document outlines the prevention of four key crimes: genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing. If the state fails or even causes these atrocities the UN will intervene to protect the population within. For a general outline here is the Wiki Article:

NATO is considering military intervention, but in the article which you cited in your blog goes onto quote "NATO secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen has said the military alliance wouldn’t be taking any action without UN Security Council approval" Thereby only intervening militarily if the UN Security Council approves. I am not sure if you understand that the UN and NATO act according to agreed upon policy which starts off slow with sanctions and increasing slowly in punishment with the very last course being military intervention.

It looks as if you're cherry picking your information and not representing the facts in an objective manner. Which was my criticism of your blog in the first place. Your speculation on unproven and uncited policy serves only to inflate conspiracies, and leads to nothing more then misinformation. I also don't think you have a well enough understanding of how the UN, NATO, or Canada functions. They function on policy, in slow and incrimental steps. Which is the biggest criticism of the UN, that it's too 'bloated' and 'sluggish' in preventing genocide and crimes against humanity. It's almost as if you somehow believe that these decisions are made aribitrarily, and without discussion. I am here to say that is completely untrue, and if you actually understood how the UN and the world at large works you likely would not be blogging the manner you do.

I would suggest if you want to cite information from articles you read through them in full and forego looking only at information which serves your purpose. Ignoring information that does not support your preconceived and prejudged opinon only decreases your credibility as a journalist and makes you seem like yet another 'naive socialist blogger'. When someone like me comes along and actually reads up on more then a few articles and looks at the grand scope of things don't take it personally. Take it as an opportunity to improve your research, report objectively, and not simply react to a few articles and ultimately cry wolf.

As for what I would do? I would do exactly what the UN, NATO and other allies are doing right now. Incremental steps toward a resolution. Gaddafi is killing his own civilian population with war machines, and you're sitting here safe and sound in Canada audaciously arm chair citing a couple opinions against intervention, while Gaddafi's forces continue to kill people in the streets. Are those people which you quoted qualified to understand the scope of allowing Gaddafi to continue without the world intervening? It can almost be construed that you'd rather Gaddafi continue to use the military against his people rather then have the world intervene or "invade" as you would put it. Leaving Gaddafi in power may very well lead to another Rwanda, or Sudan. Those instances are painful examples for the world not acting when it not only should have but was justified in doing so. The world is not interveining, yet. I strongly believe that with the policy infrastructure in place in both the UN and NATO, that only when a consensus is agreed upon will the world intervene. And only if Gaddaffi is seen to be crushing the rebels and continue using their military to bomb civilians from the sky. Sec. Gen. Gates in the US stated very bluntly that intervention is the last course of action, stating that even a no fly zone starts with bombing and destroying Libyas fighter jets which means that NATO would become a belligerent. That, it appears, is a step the US does not want to take at this time, starting first off with sanctions and slowly moving up in actions dictated by UN and NATO policy.

I am telling you this for your own good, from one lefty to another, stop misrepresenting the information. If people with our ideology are ever to win back support in this country we need to stop overexaggerating and approach a balanced policy and consensus driven solution. If you want to continue in this manner of grasping at straws and crying wolf when none are in sight, by all means. But do not be surprised when you're criticized and held as an example a naive lefty.

I am not commenting on the Haiti situation because it's leading to a can of worms, and also beyond the scope of my criticism of the premise of your blog.

Responsibility to Project


Do you know the first time that Canada invoked R2P to justify an invasion? It was in Haiti. I noticed that in your little essay, you didn't get around to mentioning that example once.

Security council? Peter Mackay? Your thing about what Mackay's words mean is totally confused.

But none of that matters, because politicians lie and go back on their words all the time.

What matters is that the US and Canada are projecting force in the region, and clearly are mobilizing opinion to open the possibility of some kind of military intervention.

You seem to be implying that there's some way that that could be a good thing.

I maintain that the overwhelming evidence of recent examples suggests that "humanitarian intervention" is a load of horsedung (nothing against horses). It's been consistently used to project force in the perceived interests of the agressor, at a grave human cost. Give me a counterexample and that might be an interesting discussion.

You telling me at great length that you know better is boring. Speaking of which, you must really have some special knowledge of the region, to go on about me in my "armchair". I'm in a desk, and you spelled "rebuttal" wrong, but anyway.

Finally, what do you say to the many Libyans who are rejecting any talk of a western military intervention?

Hmm, yes I did make a small

Hmm, yes I did make a small spelling error, glad you pointed that out rather than addressing the bulk of my criticism. It seems you're more concerned about pointing this out and the fact that I used the common phrase "arm chair opinion" and the fact that you're actually at a desk rather than trying to genuinely debunk what I have pointed out, that you're spin on the story departs from objectivity and accurate reporting. Basically what you're doing here is akin to Fox News. By misrepresenting and putting this absurd spin on the facts, quoting out of context, and speculating on alarmist intensions of our and the worlds role, you go against the spirit of the Media Coop guidelines of fair, accurate, objective, and honest reporting.

I stated that I was not going to comment on Haiti, since it goes beyond the scope of my criticism of this blog post. The information I have tried to assess from the 2004 ouster of aristide is conflicting at best. In order for R2P to intervene militarily the UN security council and general assembly must agree.

"what do you say to the many Libyans who are rejecting any talk of a western military intervention?"

The Libyans are not in solidarity about outside military intervention. I found examples about how the eastern rebels want Bombing runs and a no fly zone implemented but no boots on the ground "Ahmed Jabreel, an aide to ex-justice minister Mustafa Abdel Jalil who heads the council, also told the news agency that air strikes to set up a "no-fly" zone were needed to help topple Gaddafi." Also I found that Western Rebels in the city of Zawiya are pleading for help and humanitarian aid:

"Rebels defending Zawiya pleaded for international help, saying that only about two weeks of food and medical supplies remained for the estimated 100,000 residents.

'If they (the international community) have some way to help us, don't wait. Time is running out. Our children are suffering now,' said Hesham, a fighter reached by telephone. 'We haven't the power to stand more.'"

So it seems that there is not a 100% consensus on the issue of military intervention or humanitarian aid. Those in the east want bombing runs and no fly zones, but no boots on the ground, while those the in west need and even plead for help and aid. Sec Gen Gates says that a no fly zone is unlikely, and cautions against sabre rattling. "Senior U.S. defense officials tried to lower expectations of an international military intervention in Libya, as rebels, fighting off a key offensive by forces loyal to Col. Moammar Gadhafi, called for foreign airstrikes." Mr. Gates's words were the strongest public indication of skepticism within the administration about establishing a no-fly zone, especially without broad international support.

This issue is not cut and dry. It's not absolute, it's complex and has many facets. I understand this; however by charging Canada and others that we're in this to invade is disingenuous to the international community which is positioning itself to help out the Libyan resistance in any capacity depending on how the situation fluctuates.

"Give me a counterexample and that might be an interesting discussion."

No intervention is perfect, but by far peacekeeping efforts have prevented more deaths then they had caused, and like I cited before, when Peacekeepers have not been deployed the results have been mass genocide (Sudan, Congo, Rwanda, etc). Like any institution the UN peacekeepers are continuously improving. Bottom line is when the international community does not intervene the results are devastating with respect to the human cost. When the US goes at it alone that's when  trouble arises. Iraq, Vietnam, (staying in) Afghanistan, are prime examples, although many others exist. But when there is a UN consensus that intervention is better than allowing massacres to continue, there is no argument, and the evidence is behind me on this one (Congo, Rwanda, Sudan, etc).

" must really have some special knowledge of the region..."

No, but I research and from evidence make objective claims when I need to. Not speculate, cherry pick, and spin facts.

"You seem to be implying that there's some way that that could be a good thing."

You're right, I amin a way. This is not a black and white issue. There is no absolute answer to this problem. But I would not sit back and allow the possibility of Gaddafi continuing in his massacre of his own people for the sole purpose of self aggrandizement. Especially when the people have organized a ragtag revolution. As I just mentioned above there are more examples of greater atrocities when the world does not intervene. Look no further then Hitler in the 1930's, the greatest atrocity of them all. That was in a time when the US was isolationist and considered it a European problem. The reason why the UN acts now is to prevent this from happening, when it doesn't genocide or massacres follow, which is a far greater cost then sitting back and allowing the atrocities to continue.

What I would like to know from you is, what would you do? Would you sit idly by if Gaddafis forces overrun the rebels, or starve an entire city like they're doing in Zawiya? Would you sit by and rather no one intervene ("Invade") no matter what happens inside Libya? Granted there is a possibility the Rebels will do this on their own, but as I have shown depending on where you are in Libya there is differing opinion on military intervention and humanitarian aid, and discussion in what capacity the UN, NATO, and the US will serve.

You seem to do a good job at spinning facts but provide no solution yourself. I have made a clear stance and backed it up with examples and articles to support my case. I hope that if you reply you do the same and not simply point out minor spelling errors while skirting an actual rebuttal.




If humanitarian need was ever a priority for the Canadian or US governments, then lots of things would have happened. For example, we would have put a freeze on Canadian mining in the Congo, stopped Suncor from conducting business in Libya, not participated in a devastating bombing campaign against the former Yugoslavia, not invaded Afghanistan, not backed Israel to the hilt when they invaded Lebanon or bombed Gaza. But they didn't. There are reasons for this, and there are books about those reasons.

UN peacekeeping is improving? You seem to think it's some kind of technical issue. When UN troops fire live ammunition in densely populated neighbourhoods in Haiti, killing women, babies, and young people, what is that an improvement over, exactly? Military intervention does not improve through technical means; it has to be judged by moral and political criteria.

There are reasons why western governments didn't intervene in Rwanda, etc. They are the same reasons why they didn't stop backing the people who started that devastating civil war when it was still preventable.

Indeed, you will find Libyans who support a no fly zone but not an invasion. Do you actually think that governments will listen to Libyans when it comes to spending tens or hundreds of millions on a military invasion? No. In the absense of concerted opposition from their own populations, they will apply their own plans. In every case to date, those plans prioritize profit and geopolitical power over humanitarian criteria.

I note that counterexamples are still not forthcoming from you. Surely there is one actual humanitarian intervention that you can point to to discuss this kind of thing concretely.

Your position is untenable: it consists of saying "trust the politicians, and don't intervene as the population they represent, because they know better." That position ignores all the lessons and evidence since the dawn of Canadian foreign policy.

Petro-Canada (Suncor) Syria Assad Ad


Note Petro-Canada (Suncor) pro Assad picture ad at (bottom left).
The English version of it is at that links to Suncor website.

i find it amusing that the

i find it amusing that the rebels are flying the flag of corporate sellout king idris. i'd say we've already invaded clandestinely. 


You have to laugh when you read Paul Martin's phoney comments about thinking about "the people of Libya" and some of the naive comments saying Canada is only going into Libya as a support to administer aid.

These people must be as deluded as Gaddafi.

Why are we not invading Yemen, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Zimbabwe. Human rights abuses on a daily basis and no military action.

The West has a vested interest (I will let you guess what is it is. It beginns with O and ends with L) and anyone who tells you differently is a fool.

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