Saturday, March 12, 2011

An Exchange Between Der Kosmonaut and Avaaz

Recently, I received an electronic petition from the online NGO Avaaz. Avaaz proclaims itself to be a progressive institution agitating for peace and justice throughout the world. I joined as a member during the Israeli attack on Gaza at the end of 2008. I have signed many petitions since then on various campaigns for human rights and justice internationally. Earlier this week, I received a petition from Avaaz advocating the imposition of a "no fly zone" over Libya. Below is the original petition, my letter of protest, and an exchange between myself and the director of the organisation.

Dear friends,

The UN Security Council will decide in 48 hours whether to impose a no-fly zone on Libya's deadly air force to stop attacks on civilians. United global pressure from people around the world has helped push the Council to a unified position before -- we need it now:

As Qaddafi's jets drop bombs on the Libyan people, the UN Security Council will decide in 48 hours whether to impose a no-fly zone to keep the government's warplanes on the ground.

Together, we've sent 450,000 emails to the UN Security Council, "overwhelming" the Council President and and helping to win targeted sanctions and a justice process for the Libyan people. Now, to stop the bloodshed, we need a massive outcry for a no-fly zone.

If Qaddafi can't dominate the air, he loses a key weapon in a war in which civilians are paying the heaviest price. But as long as his helicopter gunships and bombers are in the air, the death toll will rise. We have just 48 hours left -- let's hit 1 million messages to stop Qaddafi's deadly attacks before it's too late:

(URL link to the petition)

The Libyan opposition has called on the international community to help "protect the Libyan people from the crimes against humanity being committed on them". The UK Foreign Secretary says "there are credible reports of the use of helicopter gunships against civilians by government forces."

The head of NATO, meanwhile, has said that any effort to create a no-fly zone would first require a resolution from the UN. In many crises like this one, one UN country or another has vetoed strong positions -- but with Libya, something different has already begun. The Security Council's sanctions are real. UN Ambassadors say that representatives are "substantially united" that Qaddafi has to go. What's needed now is another push from the world's people.

A resolution wouldn't be a silver bullet -- the enforcement of a no-fly zone would be dangerous and complex. But even the serious threat of one could show Qaddafi that his time is up. Our governments need to know that we stand with the people of Libya, and we won't accept delay. Send them a message and forward this to friends and family:

(Petition link URL)

The non-violent movements for democracy in the Arab world have inspired people everywhere. Qaddafi, however, chose the darkest path -- of violent repression to crush a brave and peaceful uprising. In this moment, we can see two futures for Libya: one path of prolonged violence by a dictator against his population, and one in which determined international measures support the aspirations of the Libyan people.

In these crucial days, we must recognize that our own actions, as citizens around the world, affect the fates of our brothers and sisters in Libya. And we must come together in solidarity -- with those who have been lost, and for those who struggling to survive.

With hope,

Ben, Luis, Graziela, Benjamin, Ricken, Stephanie, Rewan, and the whole Avaaz team


CBS, "Libya rebels beg for no-fly as bombings persist; Bombing hits road taking CBS News to front line, killing 2 children in pickup truck, slashing survivors with shrapnel":

CNN, "Gadhafi launches airstrikes as civil war rages in Libya":

WSJ, "NATO Chief Says a U.N. Resolution Is Needed to Establish No-Fly Zone":

U.S. Seeks Consensus On Libya At U.N.

The following is my initial response to the petition.

This is a shameful petition, based on utter ignorance and moral corruption on your part. You have become NATO embedded and will carry co-responsibility for the atrocities that will be committed against Libya and its citizens.

You appear to have learned nothing of the disinformation campaigns that led to the US/NATO/attacks on Iraq (twice), Yugoslavia and Afghanistan, fully documented by critical thinkers and authors before, during and after. You rely on NATO-supporting sources only and have obviously never heard of Global Research, Counterpunch, Antiwar, Information Clearinghouse, and other independent news sites, which are LOADED with solid information of the real intent of western powers in Libya and the true nature of the information your petition for the bombing of Libya is based on.

Do you not know  — or is it that you pretend not to know so as to mislead naive individuals who will foolishly sign your petition? — that a declaration of a no-fly zone is a declaration of war against a country???

With this petition you have lost every ounce of credibility you have had, and will not recover from this colossal error that benefits the western aggressors.

Every person who forwards this petition to me will get this letter as well of a list of documentation about how wrong you are and whose interests you serve.

This was the reply to my letter from Benjamin Wikler 

Thanks for writing in, and thanks for your concern. Sorry that you felt we got this wrong. We're doing our best, but we don't always get thing everything right, and people of good will with similar values can sometimes disagree.

Avaaz is people-powered. Our member community makes the calls. We use polls to gauge members' views; 84% of members supported this campaign, while 9% opposed it. Since launching it, we've found intense support for the campaign from around the world. 

However, a number of members have written in with serious objections to this campaign. Here are the main issues that people have raised, and where we're coming from regarding them. 

Would imposing a no-fly zone really be a Western military intervention motivated by oil? 
If Western powers use the no-fly zone as a pretext for self-interested military action, Avaaz would be among the first groups to campaign against it--just as Avaaz has campaigned to end the Iraq conflict and ensure that Iraq's oil rights are reserved for the Iraqi people. The call for a no-fly zone originated from Libyans -- including the provisional opposition government, Libya's (defected) ambassador to the UN, protesters, and youth organizations. The same Libyan groups have strongly opposed any western military presence on Libyan soil. They clearly feel that a no-fly zone is not equivalent to or a step towards invasion.  Avaaz staff are in close and constant contact with activists inside Libya and have been repeatedly asked to move forward on this campaign. Meanwhile, among governments, Gulf States have demanded the no-fly zone, and the US government appears deeply divided on the idea--which is why it's a key target of advocacy. 

Would imposing a no-fly zone lead to a full-blown international war?
No-fly zones can mean a range of different things. Some analysts and military figures have argued that it would require a pre-emptive attack on Libya's anti-aircraft weapons. Others, however, contend that merely flying fighter planes over the rebel-controlled areas would ensure that Qaddafi wouldn't use his jets to attack eastern Libya, because he knows his air force is weaker than that of Egypt or NATO states. The best solution is the one that reduces civilian deaths the most with the least violence. Things might not turn out as expected, but while there are potential dangers to an international war, there are certain dangers to civilians if things continue without a no-fly zone.

Is Qaddafi really killing civilians with this air force? 
Based on reports from our partners on the ground, from the Red Cross, and from a variety of local and international news reports, we believe Qaddafi's bombing runs are indeed killing civilians. Qaddafi's air power is a key advantage over those fighting to remove him: as long as he has control of the air, a civil war seems likely to continue for months or even longer, with disastrous consequences for civilians. 

Wouldn't a UN resolution for a no-fly zone violate national sovereignty?  
We believe that the international community has a responsibility to protect civilians when national governments threaten their fundamental human rights. National sovereignty should not be a legitimate barrier to international action when crimes against humanity are being committed. If you strongly disagree, then you may find yourself at odds with other Avaaz campaigns as well.

All told, this was a difficult judgment call. Calling for any sort of military response always is. Avaaz members have been advocating for weeks for a full set of non-military options as well, including an asset freeze, targeted sanctions, and prosecutions of officials involved in the violent crackdown on demonstrators. But although those measures are moving forward, the death toll is rising. Again, thoughtful people disagree -- and we hope you'll stay with us, and will keep writing in and trying to help us get these questions right. 

Respectfully and with appreciation, 


This was my final riposte.

Dear Benjamin,
Thank you for your timely reply. It shows character and integrity that you have replied personally to my letter.
I believe Avaaz is misguided and sadly misinformed about events in Libya. You should really question who, in fact the "opposition" is. The fact that many of the self-proclaimed opposition leaders are the very same people that have been with the Gaddafi regime for 40 years is highly dubious. Most suspect is that they have reintroduced the old monarchist flag of Libya; a regime which was just as corrupt and brutal as the Gaddafi regime.
Are you informed that most of the "opposition" is committing acts of racial murder against Black Africans in the regions that it controls? Black Africans have been and continue to get lynched by these groups. This is a vital piece of information that has been neglected in your analysis. By supporting the "opposition", you are supporting a potential genocide against Black Africans in Libya. This is as unconscionable as much as it is irresponsible.
I must add that there is a certain element of hypocrisy in the stance of Avaaz. For decades the state of Turkey carried out military campaigns using air force fighters, bombers and rockets against Kurdish rebels. It's well known that Turkey has long been engaged in a campaign of genocide against the Kurds. Not once has Avaaz ever called for a campaign for international intervention, let alone a "no fly zone" over Turkish Kurdistan. I believe this stems from the complete media blackout of the situation in Turkish Kurdistan. Neither the American nor British media have reported on it. Nor have any of the Western European media outlets. 
In your petition drive, you cite media sources which have long been discredited. It was these very same media outlets which peddled the flagrant lies about "weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq. They were also responsible for the propaganda campaign accusing Serbia of committing "genocide" against Kosovar Albanians. In the latter, the call for international "humanitarian intervention" killed more the double the amount of innocent civilians of the very people the West was supposedly protecting. It has long been known in Serbia and among informed international intellectuals that the Kosovo Liberation Army and its political leaders are the largest international terrorist organisation in the world. Recently, some of the Western media has reported this more than a decade after the fact. By supporting the "opposition" in Libya, this may very well lead to another case of supporting another criminal gang of bandits.
You may ask, what then is the solution to the conflict in Libya? My answer to that is to let the Libyans sort it out themselves. Either way, innocent people are going to die. However, it is absolutely certain that Western military intervention will kill far greater numbers. You cite that the Gulf States are calling for a "no fly zone". Surely you must know that nearly all the Gulf States are the most repressive, barbaric and reactionary regimes in the world today. They are not democracies. Women are reduced to the status of chattel. For Avaaz to support these dictatorships in imposing a no fly zone over Libya is as wretched as it is absurd. The very reason why these states are keen to intervene militarily is precisely because they face the very same revolutionary threat from their masses as Libya, Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria.
I believe that the initiative taken by Venezuela and the ALBA nations of Latin America and the Caribbean for mediation between the Libyan government and the opposition is the most productive solution to the Libyan crisis that the international community can do. The Libyan people and they alone are the only ones that can solve their own problems. The international community should intervene using maximum diplomatic means available. Any military intervention by means of a "no fly zone" or supplying arms to the "opposition" will turn an already deadly situation into a regional and possibly global conflagration.
I cannot express my revulsion for the position taken by Avaaz. I have signed many petitions in the past and have forwarded them. Avaaz is not a progressive organisation. It is simply a tool of imperialism, deception and misinformation. Even worse, it is an organisation which is not only ignorant of geopolitics, but encourages and induces that very ignorance to the general public.
I hereby withdraw my support and endorsement of your organisation. I request to be removed from your mailing list and that you cease any further correspondence with me.
Der Kosmonaut

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent reply to a bunch of warmongering hypocrites. I just told them to go fuck themselves.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011  

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