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Hussam has been a lifelong human rights activist who is passionate about promoting democratic societies, in the US and worldwide, in which all people, including immigrants, workers, minorities, and the poor enjoy freedom, justice, economic justice, respect, and equality. Mr. Ayloush frequently lectures on Islam, media relations, civil rights, hate crimes and international affairs. He has consistently appeared in local, national, and international media. Full biography at: http://hussamayloush.blogspot.com/2006/08/biography-of-hussam-ayloush.html

Saturday, March 26, 2011

In support of recent US military involvement: Let’s Stand against Gadhafi, We owe it to Libyans

By: Hussam Ayloush

[Hussam Ayloush is the Executive Director of the Greater Los Angeles Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-LA). Article represents my personal  views and not necessarily those of CAIR]


Published in:
Pasadena Star-News, Whittier Daily news, San Gabriel Vally Tribune

Over the years, I have strongly opposed war and in particular recent U.S. military involvement in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. However, I commend and fully support President Obama’s decision to engage our military in a limited role to help enforce the no-fly zone and protect the civilian populations in Libya. Nevertheless, I still oppose any deployment of U.S. ground troops.

For the record, I am not an absolute pacifist. I do believe that military action is permissible – and sometimes necessary – as a last resort under the doctrine of just war, such as in cases of defending one’s country from foreign military aggression or the prevention of atrocities against innocent people, even if requires military action in another country.
The situations in Iraq and Afghanistan on one hand, and Libya on the other are different, and not comparable.

In Iraq, our invasion was a unilateral, immoral and illegal action taken on the basis of false pretenses – basically Bush and his cronies lied to the American people and to the world about the weapons of mass destruction and Iraq’s association with al-Qaeda.

In Afghanistan, what started as a legitimate effort to track down and bring to justice Al-Qaeda militants who proudly took responsibility for the 9/11 terrorist attacks on our soil became a full-fledged invasion and occupation of a country and its people – an occupation that continues to bleed our resources, moral credibility, and any chance of a realistic victory in isolating the violent extremists. Obama has yet to introduce a new political and military strategy that will help us break out of the mess that Bush put us in.

Now, back to Libya.

Like many Americans, I am generally against our government spending any of our dwindling tax money on senseless wars at a time when our schools, homeowners, workers, and seniors are financially suffering. It is also important to recognize, though, that our current role in Libya is not a charitable favor to Libyans. It is a debt we owe them for our role and that of our allies in supporting the dictatorship of Gadhafi over many years in order to advance our economic and political interests via this oil-rich country (and I’m not even talking about the documented U.S. role in supporting Colonel Gadhafi’s coup in 1969).

For decades, European allies, especially Germany and Italy, established strong economic ties with the Gadhafi family and its regime. In 2003, soon after the Libyan government accepted responsibility for its role in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 and agreed to eliminate its weapons of mass destruction and long- range missile programs, the U.S. joined the U.K., Germany and Italy in readmitting Colonel Gadhafi into the community of respected world leaders.
There is no doubt that Western governments were aware all along of his ongoing dismal human rights record (including extra-judicial executions and torture), repressive autocracy, and corruption. Gadhafi’s bloody dictatorship was tolerated or ignored because we needed a share in Libya’s oil, his lucrative arms purchases, his cooperation in helping prevent illegal African migration to Europe through the Mediterranean, and his support for Bush’s “war on terrorism,” a role which mostly translated into a green light for Middle Eastern regimes to engage in torture and elimination of political opponents.

Our sins in Libya are similar to the ones we have been committing in most Arab countries. Today is our chance to undo many years of siding with the brutal dictators of the Middle East. It is our chance – rather, our moral responsibility – to side with the people and their legitimate aspirations for freedom, dignity, and justice.

After decades of supporting puppet and agent regimes that did our bidding in the world under the guise of protecting stability, or the immoral excuse of serving our national political and economic interests at the expense of other people’s lives and freedom, it is America’s historic moment to support the Arab world’s revolution against autocracy, repression, and economic injustice.

A new world order is possible: a world in which America leads by moral example, in which we recognize that the word “all” in “all men [and women] are created equal” and “liberty and justice for all,” really means all people and not just all Americans.

Italy' President Silvio Berlusconi and Colonel Muammar Gadhafi.
With Former British prime Minister Tony Blair

Hey, if Berlusconi can do it, why not Blair!

With French President Nicolas Sarkozy

With U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with Gadhafi's son Muatassim

With world leaders


Peter Attwood said...

I generally agree with your position. And quite apart from what the US ought to do, God is free to use anybody to bring judgment on the wicked, and Gaddafi qualifies. In my view, he forfeited the mandate of heaven in a whole new way by answering unarmed protestors with heavy weapons, to the point that evn members of his government were done with him.

But the people that are bombing Gaddafi's tanks and rocket launchers in Libya are the same people that slaughter little kids in Afghanistan and then tell Hamid Karzai that the kids are injured because the parents are doing it so they can blame the Americans. They're being careful not to kill civilians in Libya, but it's obviously not because they're opposed in principle. "out of the wicked proceeds wickedness" remains true, and the Libyans would do well to remember what to expect from their present benefactors.

دمشقي said...

Shame on you Husam...Do you mean what you say? do you see the destruction of Libya? the destruction of its military, air force, sea ships and the bombing of civilians??
You support Obama's decision, like your friend Qardawi. They will divide the country into 2-3 states and we are talking nonsense.
I am very disappointed with your views , specially when you represent CAIR.
I hate Qadafi and since when the US , France and England support freedom in our country.

Hussam Ayloush said...

Riad and Peter,

Until the Arab League or Arab countries can find a way to protect the Libyan people, we have no other option but to look for every option to protect those innocent people.

The sanctity of lives of human beings is more important than any tanks, ships, bases, or airplanes. Anyway, that military and the regime mercenaries are not but a gang of thugs armed and trained to protect the Gadhafi family and oppress the people of Libya. They are not there to protect Libya.

Peter, as I said, I am a strong opponent of war in general, especially the ones in Iraq and Afghanistan. I also don't think that NATO is in it because the West is feeling charitable. There is no doubt that oil is the main factor for that involvement as opposed to the complete silence in Rwanda or Palestine.

I am not naive, but I will not remain silent and allow for a massacre of Libyans by Gadhafi just because I mistrust foreign intervention.

From a Muslim and moral perspective, the saving of lives from a certain/assured death is more important than worrying about a risk that might result from such action.

When one is drowning, the least of his/her concern is worrying about the motives of the person helping.

دمشقي said...

With all respect to you, you are not going to make me believe that Islam tells you to ask USA, France and the Nato to save lives like they are doing now...You are waiting for Amro Musa to help or to Dr. Qardawi to show up on Aljazeera and give silly fatwas.. I am very disappointed with your statement and HOPE that it is a personal statement and that of CAIR.

Hussam Ayloush said...

With all respect to you too Akhi Said, Islam does not forbid cooperation with others to save lives of innocent people. Until someone can convince me of another way to protect the lives of Libyans, I will continue to ask the US (and all others) to take a lead in containing the butcher of Libya.

Yes, CAIR requested a no-fly zone over Libya.

Tareq Alzawi said...

Those who want the Libyan people to be subjected to the murdering actions from Qaddafi and not ask for help from anyone who can help are living in another world.

Mr. دمشقي, if your house was attacked by robbers and murderers who want to kill you and rape you family, would you hesitate calling the FBI or the police? Would you mind if the officers were not Muslim? Beggars can't be choosers.

Come on, give me a break. For over 40 years all those Arab nationalists did nothing but support those Arab dictators and now they are complaining when the Arab people are sick of them and want to get rid of them by any means possible.

Where were you Mr. دمشقي when Qaddafi was killing his people for over 40 years? Shall I ask my family in Libya to wait for another 40 years until the Arab revolutionaries decide to do something about it?

Asaad said...

As a Libyan-American, I remember very well how vehemently I opposed the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I attended every protest, signed every petition, and commented on blogs like this one. It was very clear that these were wars fought for the sake of oil, thinly veiled as struggles for freedom.

Although the situation in Libya is clearly not analogous, we would be naive to think that oil interests are not playing a significant role. They definitely are.

That being said, I could not agree more with Hussam.

Our understanding and criticisms of the US's history of oil-driven imperialism should not cause us to blindly oppose intervention in Libya. Instead, it should cause us to realize the immense cruelty of Gaddafi's regime and the terrible plight of the Libyan people that would drive them to consider foreign intervention a viable option.

My sister, my 1-year old niece, my grandmother, and almost all my extended family are in Libya now. The shocking and disturbing realities of their experiences as well as the more comprehensive reports coming out of Libya have made it very clear that foreign intervention is the lesser of two evils. This is not only my assessment, but it is the overwhelming sentiment of the Libyan people.

Hussam's analogy is an appropriate one. We are not in the best position to consider the motives of the lifeguard while we are drowning.

Hussam Ayloush said...

Here is a good article by Juan Cole.

An Open Letter to the Left on Libya

Motasem said...

Thank you for your thoughtful post, Hussam. As a Libyan American who is against America's involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, I strongly support the UN and NATO's support of the Libyan people. A massacre of tens of thousands was avoided in Benghazi due to this action. My family in Benghazi was saved as a result of UN action. The people would have been nearly defenseless against the brutal assault that was just about to begin. The Libyan people and the world for that matter are no longer safe with Gaddafi under power. The Libyan people have asked for help, the Arab League has agreed, followed by the UN.

As a Libyan American, I am truly honored that my people are helping my people.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Said (Damashki): I wonder if your position has changed now with situation in Syria and the slaughter of thousands of Syrians?
There is no doubt in any free Libyan's mind that NATO's intervention on March 19 saved thousands of lives and Benghazi from total distruction. Faced with security brigades that was formed, trained, nurished, and funded specifically to protect Gadhafi and his family and overwhelm any uprising. A population with only light arms that they were able to win with bare hands, had very little to defend themselves with except courage and determination to be free. We asked for help from our Arab brothers and they in turn asked for help from the International community. I hope u remember that this was voted on in the Arab league only 1-2 or governments opposed. One was Syria.

We have taken the natural position of wanting to save our families from slaughter. If the only force available to help is NATO then be it.