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'An influential activist' - The Guardian

'Iain Dale, without the self loathing' - Matthew Fox in The New Statesman

You are a tinker...' - Tim Farron

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Can someone please answer these questions about Libya please? They are not complicated...

Yesterday’s blog post was written in praise of naïve thinking. Today’s is in praise of naïve questions.

Because it is the most simple, basic, naive questions that seem to be flooring our leaders when asked about why we are bombing Libya.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I think there is an excellent case for the introduction of a No Fly Zone in order to prevent an unelected military leader using his weapons against his own people. And I respect the way in which David Cameron et al have gone about getting UN support and unequivocal legal advice for the action. It’s something of a change from Iraq.

But there are some very basic questions being hurled at our leaders which really should have been answered before all this started- and very much need answers now. Jeremy Paxman’s dismantling of Alistair Burt on Newsnight last night (starts at 27:28) illustrates the whole thing very well.

The three naive questions are:

1. Is Gadaffi a target?

Still no clear response on this, or indeed whether the UN resolution permits it or not. And it’s not just our politicians (and just as worryingly , our Generals) who appear confused. President Obama said yesterday that there ‘was there was no contradiction between the Pentagon saying removal of Gaddafi was not a goal and the White House saying it was’. Once again, we are being treated like imbeciles.*

2. How much is all this costing and how are we paying for it?**

There’s a budget on Wednesday. The full effect of the cuts will begin to bite from the week after next with the start of the new financial year. How are we going to pay for all this and what else is going to be cut as a result? It’s no good saying its coming from ‘reserves’. Show me the money.

There was a brilliant factoid as well from Andrew Sparrow at The Guardian yesterday; flying a jet from the UK to Libya and back costs £200000. The same mission from an aircraft carrier in the Med. costs £5750. Hmm….

3. Who is next?

Having established that this action is being fought on principal, you would imagine that we will be gearing up to apply the same principal to other states where the unelected leaders are using weapons on their own people. Yemen springs to mind. The shame of inactivity over Dafur also raises its head again.

But of course no action will be taken over countries like Yemen, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, because they have ‘friendly’ governments to the West. So really, it’s not about principal at all. It’s about control. Why can’t anyone be honest enough to say that?

Apparently, that would be naïve.


* the line started by Obama, that the removal of Gadaffi is a political aim but not a military one, is now being repeated ad nauseum by everyone who gets asked. Someone's obviously thought of a clever line that keeps everyone happy. But I don't think this sort of naked spinning does anyone much credit. There's more than a touch of whoops your briefs are showing to all this....

** Osborne has just told the HoC the costs will be met from the reserve and will be in the tens of millions of pounds, not the hundreds of millions. Hmmm...that could be a hostage to fortune.

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