Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Wars on Libya

The current attack on Libya by the United States is not the first. According to the authoritative Library of Congress, the attack is the second such war; the first was fought intermittently between 1800 - 1815 against the so-called Barbary States of North Africa led by Tripoli.

The war was never declared by the US House of Representatives as required by the U.S. Constitution. The Library of Congress study analyzed the 250 wars fought by the US and reported that Congress declared war in only five of them: the war of 1812, the 1848 war against Mexico, the 1898 war against Spain, the 1917 World War I, the 1941 World War II.

The Barbary States regular source of income was piracy. The young US paid cash tribute as did European nations to buy immunity for their ships and cargoes. When the Pasha of Tripoli raised the price for American immunity, US refused payment, negotiations failed, US set up a blockade. President Thomas Jefferson persuaded Congress to authorize the building of warships that saw intermittent action until the US blockade was lifted, the US considered resuming payments, a US ship and prisoners were captured and ransomed.

In the final settlement, Tripoli renounced all rights to halt or to levy tribute on US ships. It was not a brilliant triumph and did not end piracy until US Admiral Stephen Decatur scored a significant naval victory over the pirates.

In recent decades, Libya’s pirate/dictator Moammar Qaddafi has engaged in domestic and foreign terrorist actions earning the enmity of the US and other victims. A few years ago, a settlement was reached that satisfied the US and other affected nations: acknowledgment and payment was made by Libya for the destruction of a plane and passengers over Scotland, the responsible criminals were remanded for punishment, and Libya surrendered materials and plans for the manufacture of nuclear weapons they had imported.

Some Libyan tribes have revolted against the harsh Qaddafi regime. NATO and US military forces are helping them, mostly by bombing government installations. US participation has mainly been firing powerful, Tomahawk missiles from US ships in the Mediterranean Sea – an act of war but without authorization from Congress. Congressional resolutions demanding that the president adhere to the U.S. Constitution have failed by close margins despite receiving votes from both Democrats and Republicans.

The attacks on Libya continue. Libya’s prime oil export has been diminished, affecting the world price. Libya's assets frozen in US banks amount to $29 billion. American actions against Libya were acts of war by all international standards and are parallel to US military actions now in effect against Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, where we are currently fighting wars authorized by Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama in violation of our constitution.

Qaddafi and his regime can fairly be described as modern pirates who ought to be resisted militarily - but by methods that conform to our prized national document and heritage, the United States Constitution. Presidential wars are illegal in the United States and unwise everywhere else. Making war, wasting the lives of our youth, and spending the enormous cost are too important to be left to the responsibility of one person and his advisers.

While NATO and US intervention in the Libyan civil war is carried out in the name of human rights, it is not clear which intervening nation will benefit from the overthrow of the Qaddafi regime. And big money is at stake - from the oil funds frozen in the US and future revenues from Libya's oil wells in a world of diminishing supplies. The armed conflict in Libya has taken more than 1.3 million barrels a day off the world market, helping to support the current high price of oil.


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