The people who were willing to see the Libyan rebels massacred by Gaddafi in Benghazi and have been calling for an end to Nato’s bombing ever since, have been scratching around for their reason(s) for the last three months.
These people come from both the isolationist right and the “anti-imperialist” “left”, but in practice it is usually impossible to distinguish between the two. Their “reasons” have ranged from the simulataneously preposterous and banal idea that by saving the rebels, Nato in fact wishes to strangle the revolution, to the bourgeois argument about regime change being “illegal”. For most of the “left” opponents of Nato’s campaign, however, it seems to come down to:
a/ a residual (but increasingly overt) sympathy with the Gaddafi regime as in some way “anti imperialist”;
b/ an ahistorical, thoroughly un-Marxist opposition to all “intervention” under any circumstances.
Until the last couple of days, however, the anti-intervention forces have not (outside the pages of the Daily Mail, anyway) used the worst and most reactionary argument of all: cost (to the taxpayer).
Now Ian Katz , deputy editor of the Graun and one Daniel Martin of the Daily Mail have both seized upon Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander’s comments on the true cost of the operation running into “hundreds of millions,’ contradicting previous government estimates of “tens of millions”.
At a time of cuts, it is suggested, the money could be better spent upon the (British) health service or (British) housing or (British) education…etc, etc.
Naturally, this loathsome, reactionary “case” against the Nato intervention has been taken up by Ms Lindsey German of the so-called “Stop The War Coalition“: it was always a bad argument, even against clearly unnecessary wars like Iraq. It is nationalist, isolationaist, and parochial. It’s an argument that could be (and is) used against foreign aid and immigration. Which is why the BNP have exactly the same position on Libya as the ‘Stop The War Coalition’ (I don’t like linking to fascist sites, but if anyone doubts what I say, and has a strong stomach, here‘s the proof).
A much more principled argument against the Nato intervention is provided by the deaths of civilians as a result of a botched airstrike in the Souk al-Juma district of eastern Tripoli yesterday. It was a tragedy in which many civilians, including children, died. Those of us who do not oppose what Nato are doing have always known that such an incident was virtually inevitable, have taken that into account in our decision and are willing to answer for it. But only absolute pacifists (ie not people like Ms German who run “Stop The War”) can honestly use it as an argument against what Nato is doing.
Meanwhile, rebel forces in Misrata are complaining that “Nato will not allow us to get weapons and they will not finish the war themselves” (Colonel Salah Badhi, to Tom Coghlin in today’s Times).